Ragged Edge 




See our Election 2004 Vote News


Sept., '04
August, '04
July, '04
June, '04
May, '04
Apr., '04
Mar., '04
Feb., '04
Jan., '04
Dec., '03
Nov., '03
Oct., '03
Sept., '03
August, '03
July, '03
June, '03
May, '03
April, '03
March, '03
Feb., '03
Jan., '03
Dec., '02
Nov., '02
Oct., '02
Sept., '02
August, '02
July, '02
June, '02
May, '02
April, '02
Mar., '02
Feb., '02
Jan., '02
Dec., '01
Nov., '01
Oct., '01
Sept., '01

Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

Two Courts Refuse To Hear Appeals Over Keeping Terri Schiavo Alive
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TALLAHASSEE, FL, Oct. 27, 2004 -- October 27, 2004 -- One year after Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was reinserted and her life was spared, two separate legal rulings have dealt what are at least temporary set-backs to those who support her right to continue living.

On Thursday, a year to the day after Terri's feeding tube was reinstalled under a legislative directive, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, without comment, that it would not hear an appeal by Governor Jeb Bush over it's September 23, 2004 decision. The court had ruled that the Legislature violated the state Constitution's separation of powers when it gave Bush the authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 22, 2003, just six days after it had been removed under a Pinellas County Circuit Court order.

Governor Bush said Friday that his office would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They have 15 days to do so. Bush said he might request a stay, which would keep Terri alive until, or if, the high court agrees to hear the case. MORE.

Woman Wins $1.29 Million Employment Discrimination Suit Against Dupont
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 26, 2004 --A former employee of DuPont has won a $1.29 million jury verdict against the international chemical giant for discriminating against her because of her disabilities.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the jury came to its decision after a two and a half day trial, awarding Laura Barrios $1 million in punitive damages, $200,000 in front pay, and $91,000 in back pay.

"The jury's verdict should signal employers that they should abandon paternalistic and discriminatory ideas about people with disabilities," EEOC General Counsel Eric Dreiband said in a press statement. "Employers should engage in dialogue with employees with disabilities so that their employees receive effective and reasonable accommodations."

Barrios worked for DuPont in several positions, the most recent being a member of the secretarial staff, from 1981 to 1999. She was able to perform all of the essential functions of her job, despite having "severe scoliosis of the lumbar spine, lumbar disc disease with sciatica, lumbar spinal stenosis with compression neuropathy, neurogenic bladder, cervical spondylosis, previous cervical disc disease with surgical fusion, and reactive depression", the statement said. Barrios experiences severe and chronic pain, walks slowly with a distinct limp, and has trouble lifting things.

The EEOC, which is responsible for enforcing employment provisions in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, filed the lawsuit against DuPont in June of last year. The suit alleged that DuPont violated Barrios' rights under the ADA by requiring her to take a functional capacity exam which had nothing to do with her job. The exam tested her performance on a number of strenuous physical tasks such as climbing, standing for hours on end, lifting more than 20 pounds, doing straight leg lifts, and working overhead.

Barrios passed the test, even though it caused her both physical and emotional harm.

The results of the test were used, however, as an excuse to say she presented a danger in the work place because she could not evacuate the building safely in an emergency. The company put Barrios on short term disability leave and then on total permanent disability retirement, which effectively ended her employment.

"The evidence we presented to the jury showed Ms. Barrios was qualified, ready, willing and able to perform her job and could safely evacuate the plant, even though she had substantial physical impairments," said EEOC Regional Attorney Keith Hill. "A goal of the ADA is to dispel myths, fears, and stereotypes related to one's disability. The message the jury sent to employers with this verdict is that disability does not mean inability."

Ms. Barrios said: "All I wanted was to do my job."

Board Approves Large 'Group Homes' On LDC Grounds
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

CHICAGO, Oct. 22, 2004 --Advocates for community living demonstrated Thursday at a

meeting of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, as the board approved a plan to build four, 10-bed "group homes" on the grounds of the former Lincoln Developmental Center.

The Board, which is currently missing two members, voted 3-0 to allow the state Department of Human Services to build what is being called "Lincoln Estates" on the 103-acre LDC campus.

Board chairman Glenn Poshard said he sympathized with the protesters, who carried signs saying, "People before politics" and "No to Lincoln Estates". He would not allow them to comment, however, explaining that the board meeting was the wrong place and time to make their complaints.

According to the State Journal-Register, Poshard said, "If I were one of those folks, I'd probably want to be living at home and getting support from the state or the federal government in helping me to do that. But there are a lot of folks who can't do that and who want to come back to the Lincoln facility."

The vote allows the state to begin accepting construction bids on the $3.8 million project. No timeline has been set for that construction to begin.

Governor George H. Ryan ordered the facility closed in August 2002, and the 250 residents with developmental disabilities moved to other institutions or homes in the community. The move came because the state had been losing federal money over allegations of staff abuse and neglect, and because of investigations into deaths at the institution.

During his successful campaign for governor, Rod Blagojevich promised to reopen LDC, and get its 400 employees back to work. The union representing those workers, along with local civic leaders, have supported his efforts to reopen the facility, which was the largest employer in the area before it was shuttered.

Blagojevich's original plan to reopen the 126-year-old institution was scaled back to building the "community" of buildings on the campus to house just 40 people.

The revised plan was approved last October by a 22-member statewide task force, which included just one person with a disability. That person, along with a representative from United Cerebral Palsy and the state's Developmental Disability Council, were the only members that voted against the plan, according to the Lincoln Courier.

"Our plan is to create a new model of care that will offer something for all sectors of the community and not segregate persons with disabilities," Blagojevich said in a press release Thursday. "This is certainly not going to be the LDC of the past."

The protesters, most in wheelchairs, chanted "Shame on you! Shame on you!" after the planning board's vote, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

"This sets a very bad precedent for the state and the nation," said Sheila Romano of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.

"We have such an imbalanced system, and that didn't come out," Romano explained. "People are not having the opportunity to choose living in the community, and to build another institution is just extremely upsetting to me."

Related: "Lincoln Developmental Center -- Illinois Governor Strives To Return To The Past" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

UPS Must Let Deaf Employees Be Drivers, Says Judge
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 21, 2004 --A judge has ruled that delivery giant United Parcel Service has discriminated against its deaf and hearing-impaired workers by refusing to let them drive delivery trucks. This week's ruling comes in a class action suit filed against UPS under the Americans with Disabilities Act by Disability Rights Advocates, a legal services firm from Oakland, CA. The decision could affect as many as 1,000 UPS employees.

Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that hearing-impaired drivers should "be given the same opportunities that a hearing applicant would be given to show that they can perform the job of package-car driver safely and effectively."

This ruling resolves the last contested issue in the class action suit which UPS settled last year for $10 million.

UPS has not decided whether to appeal.

More from the Associated Press.

Message loud and clear to UPS on deaf drivers ( Oakland Tribune)

Candidates Point Fingers Over Offensive Flier
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

NASHVILLE, Oct. 14, 2004 --Nobody seems to know who designed a political flier that managed to insult President George W. Bush and people with developmental disabilities at the same time.

The flier features a picture of an athlete running in a Special Olympics event, with Bush's head pasted on the athlete's body. The caption at the top reads: "Voting for Bush is Like Running in The Special Olympics." At the bottom it reads: "Even If You Win, You're Still Retarded". (VIEW FLYER.)

Republicans responded with outrage earlier this week when copies of the flier were discovered in the campaign office of Democratic state Representative Craig Fitzhugh. That office is shared with the local presidential campaign for Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry.

Fitzhugh's staff, on the other hand, claimed that the Republicans are "playing dirty tricks", and that they planted copies of the flier in the Democratic campaign office to make Fitzhugh look bad.

"I had nothing to do with it," Fitzhugh said Wednesday.

Republican challenger Dave Dahl said of Fitzhugh, "He needs to say 'they're in my headquarters. I don't know how they got there, but I'm sorry'".

The flier reportedly has been posted on Republican-based Internet websites and circulated widely through email. Regardless of who produced the flier, they likely were not aware of the response it would bring from disability groups.

"We see this communication as an egregious, gratuitous insult to our almost 2 million athletes in over 150 countries around the world and a stunning affront to the more than 200 million people in the world who have intellectual disabilities," said Timothy P. Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, in a press release.

"Sadly, this type of ignorance and bigotry is not uncommon . . . Our commitment in this political season and in every other is to reverse this ignorance and bigotry and to replace them with the stunning realization that many people with intellectual disability are, in fact, among the most gifted within our communities. Their valuable skills for promoting acceptance and understanding are most desperately needed in the political process and in the world today."

"I don't even know what to call it," Matt Nalker, executive director of The Arc of Mississippi, told WLBT-TV. "Garbage."

Cindy Dittus, Arc of Mississippi associate director, pointed out that people with developmental disabilities do vote. "In a close political race like this, it would tickle me to death to see people with disabilities make the difference," she said.

"Statement in Regards to Derogatory Portrayal of Special Olympics Athletes" (U.S. Newswire)
"Political Flyer Crosses the Line" (WLBT)
"Offensive flier presents case of 'whodunit' in state House race" (Associated Press via Jackson Sun)

Bioethicist apologizes for 'right-to-die' views
LANSING, MI, Oct. 11, 2004 -- "I wish now to apologize publicly for the teaching and writing I did around some cases that involved persons with disabilities who requested the 'right to die' by refusing life-sustaining therapy. There were a number of such cases, most notably that of Elizabeth Bouvia in Riverside, CA, a sufferer from cerebral palsy who wished to starve herself to death"...and David Rivlin, who "appealed to a county court to be allowed to die by having the ventilator disconnected."

Michigan State University bioethicist Howard Brody's unusual -- and welcomed -- apology appeared in his Oct. 6 column for the Lansing City Pulse alternative weekly. Brody, identified in the paper as a "University Distinguished Professor in the College of Human Medicine at MSU and a family-practice physician," had been a target when Not Dead Yet protested in the 1990s at a conference put on by MSU's Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences.

In last week's apology, Brody wrote, "I am now embarrassed to realize how limited was the basis on which I made my decisions about David Rivlin. In hindsight, it has been very well documented that there was no medical need for Rivlin to be effectively incarcerated in a nursing home. . . .

"This is the key lesson that disabilities advocates are trying to teach the rest of us. . . . There's every reason to believe in hindsight that David Rivlin died unnecessarily, and that we who claimed to care about his 'rights' should have been demanding that services be made available for him rather than that he be allowed to die."

Read Brody's Oct. 6 column.

Read a 1996 article by Brody on his "mixed feelings" about Not Dead Yet, and NDY Research Analyst Steve Drake's 1996 response.

Deaf Walmart supervisor awarded $27,000 in harassment case
WILMINGTON, DE, Oct. 8, 2004 --Lily Spencer began working for WalMart in 1999, stocking shelves, then moved to the accounting department. Hearing impaired, she endured taunts of co-workers, creating, she said, a hostile environment. She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled that there was evidence of discrimination. On Thursday, a federal jury in Wilmington, DC, awarded Spencer $27,000, saying that the company was responsible for a "hostile work environment." However, the jury refused to awared Spencer punitive damages.

Spencer's attorney had told jurors that Wal-Mart employees harassed her until she became suicidal and was forced to quit in 2002, adding that the company had refued to hire a qualified sign-language interpreter for company meetings and allowed fellow employees to taunt her.

More from the Wilmington News Journal.

Crips sue life insurer over exclusions
OAKLAND, CA, Oct. 7, 2004 --A disability rights group in California sued the UNUM Life Insurance Co. of America in September over the company's insurance application form, which asks people whether they "use mechanical devices, such as: a wheelchair, walker, quad cane, crutches or hospital bed," or "currently need or receive help in doing any of the following: bathing; eating; dressing; toileting; transferring; maintaining continence." Anyone answering "yes" to any of these is told, "DO NOT SUBMIT THIS APPLICATION."

"UNUM's refusal to insure people with disabilities is an irrational denial of basic societal benefits, and it is both unfair and short-sighted," said Patrick Connally, head of DREES, the group bringing the suit. "This is exactly the type of discrimination that modern disability, fair business and insurance laws were designed to stop," said Sid Wolinsky, litigation director of the Oakland-based Disability Rights Advocates, which is handling the suit. Under California law, it is illegal for an insurance company to deny insurance someone because of a physical or mental disability unless the decision is based on actuarial principles or other hard data. "This is a clear case of discrimination," said Wolinsky.

Quadriplegic Inmate Dies For Lack Of Ventilator
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 5, 2004 --Jonathan Magbie, 27, died on September 24 at a Washington-area hospital. Magbie had been rushed to the hospital from the district's Correctional Treatment Facility, where he was four days into serving a 10-day sentence for marijuana possession. Magbie's family blames the sentencing judge for forcing him to serve time in a corrections system that was not equipped to handle his needs.

Magbie, who was paralyzed from the neck down, used a wheelchair that he operated with his chin, and needed a ventilator to breathe. At home, his family helped him with personal care tasks, and he had nursing staff available for his medical needs twenty hours a day.

The sentencing judge claims that she had been assured the Corrections Department could meet Magbie's needs. Just a few days after Magbie died, his family was told that the investigation into his death was already closed.

A Washington Post editorial criticized the judge and corrections officials for the "buck-passing" which led to Magbie's death.

"Disabled Man Dies In D.C. Jail; Family Says Judge to Blame" by Dave Reynolds (TheNewStandard)
"Editorial: An Inmate's Death" (Washington Post)

Universal Design projects' loss of NIDRR funding upsets advocates
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 4, 2004 --Recent funding decisions by the U.S. Dept. of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) have "dealt a severe blow" to the field of universal design, say activists. No funding was awarded to either the Center for Universal Design based in Raleigh, NC or the IDEA Center at SUNY/ Buffalo, NY. The lack of funding also threatens the existence of grassroots organizations like Concrete Change, the Georgia-based grassroots group whose founder, Eleanor Smith, developed the concept of "visitability" and work on Inclusive Home Design Act in Congress.

"This decision will have a dramatic effect on the future level of accessibility of this nation," says a widely distributed "call to action" email. " Universal Design, a revolutionary but practical leap forward in the evolution of building and design procedures, works to ensure that people with and without disabilities may freely engage in lifešs activities together. Universal Design, evolving out of the accessibility movement, and spear-headed by the late Ronald L. Mace, FAIA, is a design approach which holds that when the environment is designed to include people with disabilities, it provides a more supportive environment for us all. . . . This is not the time to stop funding this work!"

The email urges supporters to "send an email or fax" to NIDRR director Steven Tingus "expressing your concern about the future of universal design" -- fax (202)245-7630; email Steven.Tingus@ed.gov

'Free2Pee' effort brings attention to kick-in of British law
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

LONDON, Oct. 4, 2004 --Ordinarily, "pub crawl" makes one think of a rowdy group of party-goers drunkenly dragging themselves, or each other, to one pub or bar after another.

But this weekend, students from Bournemouth University embarked on a different kind of pub crawl -- to see if the drinking and other establishments are "disability friendly".

The students joined thousands of advocates across Britain as part of "Free2Pee", an accessibility awareness campaign launched in May by the cerebral palsy charity Scope. Free2Pee uses "traditional British toilet humour" to draw attention to the need for usable toilets and other facilities.

Friday's Free2Pee "Big Night Out" on Friday, Oct, 1 marked the day public houses (i.e. pubs) and other recreational facilities are to be accessible under the third and final phase of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Even small businesses with 15 or fewer employees, which had been exempt from the DDA for the last nine years, now will have to provide "reasonable adjustments" for people with disabilities.

"This is a light-hearted but serious attempt at making service providers aware of the difficulties disabled people have when accessing the toilet when away from home," Will Page, President of Bournemouth University Students' Union, told the BBC.

According to the campaign's website, "Free2Pee wants disabled people, non-disabled people and businesses to work together to eradicate disablism and ensure that disabled people are free to go out and have fun at any club, pub, cinema, restaurant, pool, park and bowling alley in the UK."

Disabled Set for Mass Toilet Survey (The Scotsman)
"Free 2 Pee - Lifting the lid on bad access" (Scope)

Britain Launches Final Phase Of Disability Discrimination Act
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

LONDON, Oct. 2, 2004 --Yesterday the third and final phase of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 took effect: Businesses that provide goods and services must be accessible to customers with disabilities. In some cases that means permanent, physical changes to buildings and other structures to accommodate Britain's 9.8 million people with disabilities.

Small businesses with 15 or fewer employees, which have been exempt from the law for the past nine years, will now have to comply.

Those businesses that are not accessible, or that treat customers with disabilities differently than other customers, could face heavy fines. The anti-discrimination law allows people with disabilities to lodge complaints that could lead to criminal charges and fees.

"Reasonable adjustments" will also be required for workers with disabilities.

Catherine Casserley, senior legal advisor to the Disability Rights Commission, told the BBC: "It's worth remembering that disabled people have been waiting an awfully long time to have these rights implemented. I think as a result, disabled people will want to use these rights."

According to The Observer, a test case against at least one, yet unnamed, business is being prepared.

How the law changes on 1 October by Geoff Adams-Spink (BBC News)
"Disability law to 'name and shame' shops" (The Observer)
Government Disability Website

Supremes take cruise ship ADA case
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 1, 2004 --The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it will take a case charging that foreign cruise lines sailing in U.S. waters must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disabled travelers sued Norwegian Cruise Line in Houston in 1998, charging that tship pools, restaurants and emergency equipment weren't accessible to them, and added that they were forced to pay higher fees.

Norwegian Cruise Line argued that the Afederal law is silent as to whether foreign cruise lines are covered by the ADA.

"Making cruise ships fully accessible to people with disabilities makes good business sense," says a brief filed by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and other groups. The case was appealed from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans, which ruled in January that foreign-flag cruise ships are not covered by the ADA. Both sides asked the Supreme Court to take the case, noting a conflict with an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 2000 saying foreign ships must obey the ADA. The case is Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, 03-1388.

Read article from Associated Press.

Washington State Study Finds Community Costs Less
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

OLYMPIA, WA, Oct. 1, 2004 --It is a lot less expensive to support people with developmental disabilities in the community than in state-run institutions, Washington's Department of Social and Health Services has learned. MORE.

Ruling That Website Is Not An "Public Accommodation" Stands
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

MIAMI, Oct. 1, 2004 --A lawsuit filed by a blind man, who had claimed Southwest Airlines' website violated the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, has been thrown out by a federal appeals court because of procedural problems.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling Friday that the issues raised in the case "are significant", regarding the ability of people with disabilities to access Internet websites.

Robert Gumson sued Southwest Airlines, the nation's 4th largest air carrier, in 2002 because he was not able to make a reservation through the Southwest.com. Gumson uses a "screen reader" computer program that scans text information on the screen and turns it into an electronic voice. The website did not include text descriptions for visual information to make it readable by Gumson's screen reader software.

Access Now, which represented Gumson, claimed in U.S. District Court that Southwest.com is a "public accommodation" and, therefore, must be accessible under the ADA's Title III, which requires public accommodations to be accessible. That court rejected the argument, ruling that Internet websites are not covered under the anti-discrimination law because they are not physical structures.

Gumson and Access Now took the case to the appeals court.

In their decision last week, the appellate judges wrote that Access Now's argument before them was different than that presented to the district court. In the appeal, the plaintiffs argued that Southwest.com is part of the airline's overall "travel service", which is a public accommodation under the ADA.

"We are unable to reach the merits of the plaintiffs' claim because, simply put, they have presented this Court with a case that is wholly different from the one they brought to the district court," wrote Judge Stanley Marcus for the court. "As we see it, the plaintiffs have abandoned the claim and argument they made before the district court, and in its place raised an entirely new theory on appeal -- one never presented to or considered by the trial court."

"Simply put, the plaintiffs' appellate brief and oral argument have not alleged that Southwest.com is itself a place of public accommodation. As such, we deem this argument abandoned and do not address its merits."

The judges noted in their 28-page decision that the question of whether the ADA covers websites has yet to be properly addressed.

"In declining to evaluate the merits of this case, we are in no way unmindful that the legal questions raised are significant. The Internet is transforming our economy and culture, and the question whether it is covered by the ADA -- one of the landmark civil rights laws in this country -- is of substantial public importance."

"Title III's applicability to web sites -- either because web sites are themselves places of public accommodation or because they have a sufficient nexus to such physical places of public accommodation -- is a matter of first impression before this Court. Unfortunately, this case does not provide the proper vehicle for answering these questions."

Access Now v. Southwest Airlines (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit) [PDF format)

Justice Department Settles Housing Suits
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 1, 2004 --The Justice Department earlier this week announced "its largest settlement agreement ever reached in a design and construction case." DOJ had sued Fugitt & Associates Architects, Inc.; Lindsey Construction Company, Inc.; Crafton, Tull & Associates; and Bond Consulting Engineers, Inc. for violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act "by designing and constructing multiple housing complexes in a manner that left them inaccessible to people with disabilities." The settlement affects over 4,000 ground floor apartments in 34 housing complexes in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kansas.

The DOJ also announced settlement of a lawsuit alleging a "pattern of discrimination" by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City against low-income persons with disabilities. "Under the agreement, HABC will implement changes to its housing facilities, programs, policies and practices; commit several million dollars to provide over 2,000 new housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities; and pay $1,039,000 in damages," says a Department press release.

More at http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2004/September/04_crt_657.htm

Last month's news


More news can be found at these sites:

The "Disabilities and the disabled" news from Yahoo Full Coverage provides news stories from mainstream media

A running "News Ticker" of stories is online at http://www.acdd.org/news.htm#search

For disability movement news, visit the JFA Newsgroup


© Copyright 2004 The Ragged Edge

This Website produced by Cliffwood Organic Works