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Nov., 2001


  • Atlanta Crips Sue Transit System
  • Sex Abuse Rampant at Schools for Deaf Kids
  • 'Better Dead Than Handicapped': Parents Compensated for
         Lack of Abortion
  • Teacher Who Fought For Students Wins Suit
  • Administration's Nursing Home Initiative Outrages Activists
  • Floridians Could Be Forced Back To Institutions
  • iCan Inc. Founder Dies
  • Disabled Voters Sue Florida over Access
  • Disability Rights Advocates Pleased With Ashcroft Decision

    Atlanta Crips Sue Transit System
    Atlanta, Nov. 28, 2001 -- Judge Stephanie Davis never thought she'd find herself on the other side of the bench, particularly in the plaintiff's chair. As a Fulton County Magistrate Judge, Davis is used to parceling out justice -- not being the one who seeks it. But when a bus driver for MARTA, the Atlanta-area public transit system, recently refused to help Davis, who has quadriplegia, deposit her fare in the slot, she said, "enough is enough!" More.

    Sex Abuse Rampant at Schools for Deaf Kids
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Over the last few decades, hundreds of deaf children across the country have been physically and sexually assaulted by staff members and fellow residents in taxpayer-funded residential Schools for the Deaf.

    It's a huge problem. But many states -- and the federal government -- have failed to stop the abuse or even acknowledge it exists.

    That's the conclusion of an investigation by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

    Data compiled by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reveals that 160 sex-related incidents were reported at the state-run Washington School for the Deaf in Vancouver, Washington in just the last three years.

    But similar results were found in other facilities from Oregon to North Carolina.

    The paper found that the problem has been made worse by that many deaf people and parents of deaf children were reluctant to publicly criticize these institutions for fear that they would be shut down. Some say it is the best place for these children to experience being around other deaf people and feel like they are accepted within their own culture.

    Now, many are realizing that feeling of belonging shouldn't come at the cost of torment from those who were supposed to protect them.

    "If we had a school system for hearing kids like this, there would be an uproar," said Donna Mertens, an education professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

    Now, some are not only demanding for the abuse to stop, but also want acknowledgement and apologies.

    This past spring, the governor of Maine issued a formal apology to people who were abused as children at the Gov. Baxter School for the Deaf -- twenty years after their stories of beatings and rapes were substantiated.

    Now, Maine is following up on that apology by compensating those victims, some of whom are now in their 50s and 60s.

    Here is the special report and three other articles related to this issue.

    'Better Dead Than Handicapped': Parents Compensated for Lack of Abortion
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    PARIS, FRANCE, Nov. 28, 2001 -- The Cour de Cassation, France's high court of appeals, has ruled that the parents of a boy who has Down syndrome should be compensated because he was born.

    The boy, identified in media reports only as Lionel, was born in 1995. His parents then sued the mother's gynecologist because the doctor had not detected during the pregnancy that the boy would be born with Down syndrome.

    A court agreed with the parents and ordered the doctor to pay around $100,000 for medical negligence.

    Now, the country's highest court has decided that the $100,000 is not enough. The court wants the amount increased substantially because the parents claim they would have had an abortion if they known he would be born with a disability.

    The decision reinforces another high court ruling made one year ago. The court ruled last November that Nicola Peruche, who was born with several disabilities, could sue his doctors because they had failed to diagnose that his mother had rubella during the pregnancy. His parents also claimed that they would have had him aborted if they had known he might have disabilities.

    Disability rights advocates who are trying to fight the Peruche ruling in the courts were further angered by this new ruling.

    "Certain judges in the high court of appeal still think it is better to be dead than handicapped," said activist Xavier Mirabel.

    For background on the Peruche case and other "wrongful birth" suits, check out this Inclusion Daily Express webpage: http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/advocacy/wrongfulbirths.htm

    Teacher Who Fought For Her Students Wins Discrimination Suit
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    PORTLAND, OREGON, Nov. 26, 2001 --A federal jury has ordered the Portland Public School District and two district administrators to pay over $1 million for unfairly firing a former adaptive physical education teacher that had refused to discriminate against her students who had disabilities.

    The jury found that the district fired Pamella Settlegoode from her job at the end of the 2000 school year, in retaliation for her claims that the district was not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and was forcing her to do the same.

    Soon after she started her job with the district in the fall of 1998, Settlegoode found that she was being directed to discriminate against her students who had disabilities.

    Settlegoode began writing letters to her bosses to point out that students with disabilities were being excluded from activities and areas that other students routinely enjoyed. Among other things, she noted that students with disabilities participated in physical education one day a week compared with five days a week for other students; school buildings did not have ramps or elevators for children and staff who use wheelchairs to get from one floor to the next; and that the district failed to provide services outlined in the students' Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

    "It was very unsettling." Settlegoode said. "Our kids got broken-down leftovers."

    District officials, including Settlegoode's supervisors, responded at first by telling her to stop writing letters. She claims that they then started taking certain responsibilities away from her, cancelled some of her classes, and even excluded her from students' IEP meetings.

    In the complaint filed in the U. S. District Court, Settlegoode alleged the district violated her free-speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, along with violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Oregon Whistle Blowers Act.

    On November 16, the jury ordered Portland Public School District to pay Settlegoode $902,000 and for two administrators to pay $50,000 each.

    "I feel renewed as an educator," Settlegoode told the Associated Press following the court's ruling.

    For more details on the case and the decision, check out this page from Wrightslaw: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/retaliate.settlegoode.htm

    Administration's Nursing Home Initiative Outrages Activists

    Nov. 16, 2001 -- "Selling out to nursing home industry," is how ADAPT's Bob Kafka has characterized HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's announcement of "a pilot program to help people covered by Medicare and Medicaid find the best nursing homes for their needs."

    A press conference to present the initiative is slated for Monday, Nov. 19 at an Alexandria, VA. nursing home, according to information sent out by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (formerly HCFA). The advance press release told members of the media that shuttle service to the event would be provided for them from the National Press Club.

    "Older advocates as well as people with disabilities want to change the institutional bias" to in-home services, says Kafka, who called the announcement akin to "Alice through the looking glass.

    "Unfortunately the President's Olmstead Executive Order seems to have had no effect on the strength of the nursing home lobby," he says.

    When will it end?" asks disability advocate Lex Frieden. "In my experience the best way to improve quality in nursing homes is to close them."

    Kafka is encouraging "advocates for community services to let CMS Administrator Tom Scully know that this is the wrong direction." Scully's email is Tscully@cms.hhs.gov. Individuals may also contact the CMS press office at (202) 690-6145.

    Floridians Could Be Forced Back To Institutions
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    MIAMI, Nov. 16, 2001--Advocates for Floridians who have developmental disabilities are worried that the state is cutting its budget at their expense.

    About 2,000 people may lose services entirely if Governor Jeb Bush approves a plan recently passed by state lawmakers.

    Another 300 who currently receive supports to stay in their communities might be forced to move to institutions. This is because Florida's legislature recently passed a rule limiting the amount the state will pay for community supports to $77,000 per person -- the same as the average cost of keeping a person in an institution.

    It cost the state much less than $77,000 to support most people in the community -- except for these 300 people.

    "It appears to us that the cap is clearly discriminatory to individuals who have serious disabilities but who could thrive in the community if given the necessary supports and services,'' Pat Wear, acting director of the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, recently wrote to the governor.

    Read article from The Miami Herald.

    iCan Inc. Founder Dies
    Heidi Van Arnem, founder and head of iCan, a website portal catering to people with disabilities, died this weekend in Detroit. Van Armen was one of a group of entrepreneurs who produced the web's "megasites" focusing on disabilities. More from the iCan website.

    Disabled Voters Sue Florida over Access
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    JACKSONVILLE, Nov. 9, 2001 -- The American Association of People with Disabilities has filed a class action lawsuit against Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris and the Duval County Supervisor of Elections claiming the county has purchased new voting systems that are not accessible to voters with disabilities.

    In its complaint AAPD says Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, has decided to purchase around 300 new voting machines, only four of which will be accessible. AAPD contends that this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Florida's own Constitution that guarantees each citizen the right to a "direct and secret vote".

    "We've been struggling for years to get local election officials to give us adequate voting access," said Jim Dickson, vice president of AAPD in a press release. "When it comes to accessible voting technology, we are told it is too expensive."

    "Why, more than ten years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is Duval County discriminating against disabled voters by replacing old inaccessible voting equipment with new inaccessible voting equipment? And why is the Secretary of State allowing it?"

    The Florida Department of State currently allows counties to purchase optical scan voting systems, which do not let voters who have visual or certain physical disabilities to cast a direct and secret ballot, and touch screen systems which can be made accessible to such voters only when modified. Duval County is planning on purchasing just four touch screen machines, the statement said.

    "Over half of all polling places in America are not fully accessible to people in wheelchairs," said Dickson. "And for the 10 million blind and low vision Americans, exercising the right to vote does not currently include casting an independent secret ballot."

    "Americans with disabilities should not have to sue every jurisdiction in the country just to exercise their right to vote," Dickson added.

    On a related note, the New York Times reported Thursday that Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have reached agreement on a bill to overhaul the nation's election system. The measure would provide $2.25 billion to the states over three years to purchase new equipment and registration systems and an extra $400 million to buy out old punch-card voting machines.

    The bill would provide money to the states to help overhaul their voting systems if the states met certain minimum standards. One of the standards would require that new voting systems provide "a practical and effective means" for voters with disabilities to cast ballots in secret.

    Disability Rights Advocates Pleased With Ashcroft Decision
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, Nov 6, 2001-- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has detailed his new drug enforcement policy that would essentially stop Oregon's four-year-old physician assisted suicide law.

    In a memo to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Ashcroft interpreted the U.S. Controlled Substances Act as prohibiting doctors from prescribing lethal doses of controlled drugs -- in this case barbiturates -- to patients seeking help in committing suicide. Oregon's law could stay on the books, but doctors would effectively be kept from acting on it.

    Members of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, which has actively opposed Oregon's law, were quick to applaud Ashcroft's decision.

    "We have condemned assisted suicide from the beginning as devaluing people with severe illnesses and disabilities by agreeing with their suicides, and even implying that some of us may have a duty to die," said Not Dead Yet president Diane Coleman in a press release.

    "This is true whether the disabilities are terminal or non-terminal in nature. Everyone deserves the equal protection of the law."

    "In fact, we've always felt that the Oregon law is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and would have liked to see the Department of Justice raise that as grounds for federal civil rights intervention" she added.

    Oregon lawmakers and supporters of the law condemned Ashcroft's decision as an "unprecedented intrusion" into how the state handles medical practices.

    On Wednesday, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers filed suit asking a federal court to block the DEA from implementing Ashcroft's policy.

    Here are two related stories from the Portland Oregonian: "ASHCROFT ACTS TO UNDO OREGON'S SUICIDE LAW" http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/red/1108a.htm

    "STATE CHALLENGES ASHCROFT" http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/red/1108b.htm

    This link should take you to Not Dead Yet's statement: http://www.dimenet.com/cgi-bin/getlink?hotnews,1982R

    More news


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