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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

Settlement OKs Laguna Honda Renovation
SAN FRANCISCO, DEC. 26, 2003 -- Aging San Francisco institution Laguna Honda will be rebuilt, despite the lawsuit filed by disability advocates three years ago to prevent just that. In a settlement reached earlier this week, San Francisco, which runs the aging institution, agreed to create a process for screening and assessment and discharge planning taht will in theory give residents and potential residents a choice of receiving services in their homes rather than in the institution "pending available funding." The process must be in place by the end of March, according to a news report in Wednesday's San Francisco Chronicle. A court hearing to approve the agreement is scheduled for July. According to the newspaper, "disability advocates can refile a part of their case seeking additional community-based services to address the potentially higher demand after the case management program has been in place for six months." In turn, the city will move forward with renovation plans, including erecting three new buildings.

A 30-page letter sent to local officials last spring by the U.S. Dept. of Justice said the city was violating San Franciscans' civil rights by putting them in Laguna Honda when they needed attendant services, rather than allowing them to get those services at home. The letter noted that it cost nearly $127,000 to keep someone at Laguna Honda, saying in-home services would be much cheaper.

Press release: "California Settlement Takes First Step Toward Olmstead Compliance" (Bazelon Center For Mental Health Law)
Read "Advocates applaud Laguna Honda settlement" (Dec. 24, 2003 San Francisco Chronicle)
Advocates to Laguna Honda: "Just Say 'NO!'" (D. R. Nation, Oct, 2001)

Judge To Rule Soon on "Terri's Law"
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TAMPA, DEC. 24, 2003 -- Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird said Tuesday that he is ready to rule on whether the law keeping Terri Schiavo alive is unconstitutional.

Baird did not say which way he would rule on the constitutionality of "Terri's Law", but indicated that he had enough facts to do so without a trial. Governor Jeb Bush and the parents of Terri Schiavo had hoped for a jury to hear the case.

The judge will have to wait, however, until appeals filed by Bush are settled before he can issue his ruling. One of those appeals centers around whether Michael Schiavo should have challenged the new law in Pinellas County, where Terri lives in a hospice, or in Tallahassee, the state capital.

If the 2nd District Court of Appeal rules in favor of Bush, Baird's decision -- whichever way he may rule -- could have little consequence.

Terri collapsed in February 1990 at the age of 26 from what doctors have said was a heart attack. Her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. She came out of a coma a short time later but has been in what some doctors consider a "persistent vegetative state" from which they say she will not recover. She breathes on her own and regulates her own blood pressure, but currently relies on a gastronomy tube installed through the wall of her stomach to provide food and water.

Her husband, who is also her guardian, claims that Terri told him she would not want to live "by artificial means". He was given permission by the court on October 15 to have the feeding tube removed.

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought Michael Schiavo in court to keep their daughter alive. They believe that Terri is alert, that she responds to them and tries to communicate. They have affidavits from a number of medical professionals who agree and say that Terri would benefit from rehabilitative therapies which Michael has refused.

Disability rights and right to life advocates put pressure on Governor Bush to intervene in the case this fall, including flooding his office with tens of thousands of messages. Bush then pushed the Florida Legislature to pass the law which gave him authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed.

Michael Schiavo sued the governor arguing that "Terri's Law" violated her right to privacy and the state constitution's separation of powers.

Attorneys for the governor said Tuesday that they expect Baird to rule against Bush -- because of previous comments he made -- and that they plan to take the case to the Florida Supreme Court if necessary.

On Friday, Bush learned that a judge had dismissed the temporary guardian appointed through Terri's Law to represent her interests. Chief Circuit Judge David A Demers in St. Petersburg had discharged Jay Wolfson on December 17.

Wolfson, a lawyer and University of South Florida professor, had been selected by the court in late October to investigate Terri's situation and report back to the court and the governor with his findings. Wolfson reported earlier this month that, while there was no medical evidence Terri would fully recover from her disability, tests should be done to determine if she learn to swallow and eat on her own.

Demers said in his order that Wolfson had completed the task assigned to him and was no longer needed.

"The governor is disappointed," said Bush spokesperson Jacob DiPietre, who added that the governor's lawyers were working on a request to reinstate Wolfson.

Terri's parents have wanted an independent guardian appointed to oversee her medical care. They believe that Michael Schiavo's role presents a conflict of interest because he stands to gain what's left of an insurance settlement once Terri dies, he is engaged to a women with whom he has fathered two children, and he may have brought about Terri's injury in the first place. They have pushed for an investigation into their claims that Michael Schiavo has abused his wife and exploited her resources -- resources which he was supposed to have used for her care and treatment.

Terri's case has been of interest to disability rights advocates for a number of years. Many believe that allowing Terri to die of starvation would send a message to others that it is acceptable to kill people with certain disabilities who cannot speak for themselves.

"Judge ready to rule in Schiavo case; Bush lawyers predict defeat" (Associated Press via Bradenton Herald)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (IDE Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation

DC Crips Sue Radio Shack
WASHINGTON, DC, DEC. 23, 2003 -- Shoppers with disabilities in our nation's capital sued Radio Shack's DC-area stores Monday, saying that the electronics giant's stores all contain barriers that make it nearly impossible for people in wheelchairs to shop there. Plaintiffs cite "steps that block entrances; aisles so crowded with merchandise and displays that persons in wheelchairs or similar devices cannot move through the stores; and counters and interactive computer and cell phone displays that are placed out of reach or sight of persons in wheelchairs.

"These conditions have only worsened during the holiday shopping season," says the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, which, along with two wheelchair users, filed the suit Monday.

Last New Year's Eve, Stephen Rosen, one of those suing the store, went to the RadioShack in the DC suburb of Bethesda, only to find a step barred entrance. Employees told him they were "too busy" to help him from the front door. He "was forced to sit outside the store in 30-degree weather while a stranger helped him purchase the adapter he needed," says attorney Elaine Gardner. Selene Dalton-Kumins, who's also suing the store, says when she's tried to go into a RadioShack store she has, several times, "toppled stacks of boxes placed dangerously in the aisles." She also charges that she can't reach any of the interactive computer displays in the store as they are designed for people standing, not wheelchair users .

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, charges that the stores violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Memphis polling site poll finds lack of access -- still
MEMPHIS, DEC. 23, 2003 -- The Memphis Center for Independent Living's Dec 12 survey of 40 of the city's 233 polling sites found not one of them in compliance with accessibility guidelines, according to MCIL's Randy Alexander.

"Every one of them had some issue," Alexander told a reporter.

  • 26 of the 40 had parking sites that violated access requirements
  • 16 sites didn't even have any "handicapped parking" spots
  • 17 sites had steps at entrances stairs
  • 10 of those with ramps had ramps that were too steep.

"I went to a polling site a few months ago during an actual polling day, and the ramp was too steep. Everybody was trying to help push me up, but they shouldn't have to touch me in order for me to vote," said Alexander. "Then when I tried to get in the doors, I couldn't get my chair inside because they only had 24-inch doorways." Alexander could not even get into the polling site, despite the ramp.

"The very thought of having a disability keeping you from voting goes against the essence of democracy," said Alexander. "It's a real tragedy that we still have to fight for equal access to voting. You'd think after 13 years [after the passage of ADA], basic access would be much better."

Tucson Inclusive Home Design Wins In Court
TUCSON, DEC. 19, 2003 -- Tucson's "Inclusive Home Design Ordinance" is not "unconstitutional." That's the ruling handed down today by the Arizona Court of Appeals in its unanimous opinion affirming the decision of the Superior Court, upholding the Inclusive Home Design Ordinance.

When Tucson's Pima County Board of Supervisors last year passed the "Inclusive Home Design Ordinance" it was almost immediately taken to court by the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association. They claimed county officials had no right to pass such a law; that it was "unconstitutional." The move was simply an attempt to stop the law from taking effect. The builders lost their suit at every level; each time they appealed. Today's ruling from the state's highest court means that "inclusive home design" is now the law. A county does have the authority to adopt wheelchair access requirements for buildings, said the court.

The ordinance requires all new houses in the unincorporated areas of the county around Tucson be built with at least one entrance with no step, and doors at least 32 inches wide. It also requires

  • lever door handles
  • reinforced walls in ground-floor bathrooms so it's easy for an occupant to install grab bars.
  • switches no higher than 48 inches
  • hallways 36 inches wide throughout the main floor.

The Pima County ordinance, the first in the nation to require a zero-step entry in a single-family home, passed in February 2002,. When the Washburn Company, Inc. a local building firm, applied for a permit to build a single-family home, and their proposed design failed to comply with the ordinance and the county denied the application, they sued the county, saying it "lacked statutory authority to adopt the ordinance and that it violated both the Equal Protection and Privacy Clauses of the Arizona Constitution."

Writing the opinion for the Arizona Supreme Court, Judge Eckerstrom wrote that "the uncontested evidence established that approximately one percent of the population is confined [sic] to wheelchairs, but the county points out that a much larger percentage will suffer [sic] a disability at some point in their lives. Although all age groups are affected by disability, the county introduced evidence that approximately forty-one percent of people over the age of sixty-five have some form of disability. Disability is a growing problem both nationally and locally, and the county also introduced evidence that Arizona's population of people over the age of sixty is expected to triple by 2025. Although many of these disabled people will not be confined [sic] to wheelchairs, the county concluded from these figures that the number of people confined [sic] to wheelchairs is rising. For these reasons, the county addressed a legitimate governmental interest when it adopted a building code designed to increase the number of homes accessible to those in wheelchairs."

The builders also complained to the court that the ordinance "places the financial design burdens on homeowners who will probably never be confined [sic] to wheelchairs." Dismissing this argument, the court noted that the county had "submitted to the trial court the results of a study suggesting that complying with the ordinance would cost only about $100....Indeed, the Board of Supervisors found that the cost of including the ordinance's designs into a new home was substantially less than the cost of renovating a home to accommodate a person confined [sic] to a wheelchair. On this record, the Board of Supervisors could have rationally concluded that the benefit to the community in providing for the disabled justified the comparatively minimal cost of implementing the required design features."

The case is Washburn v. Pima County, #2 CA-CV 2003-0107. To download a copy of the Court's opinion in WordPerfect, go to http://www.apltwo.ct.state.az.us/ODSPlus/recentDecisions.cfm, click on "civil" and Submit.

Read more about the ordinance at the Solar Institute website.

Home Builder Associations nationwide have fought home access for years. Read our May, 1998 story "Living In The Past" from our archives.

AL Paratransit Riders Settle With Bus Company
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

BIRMINGHAM, AL, DEC. 19, 2003 -- Over 1,000 riders with disabilities who use the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority will benefit from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

The suit was filed two years ago by 12 residents that rely on the paratransit service, claiming that they had to wait hours for rides or ride in buses with broken wheelchair lifts.

U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre approved the settlement during a Thursday hearing. Under the agreement, BJCTA will provide a five-step grievance procedure for service delays and will subcontract with another company to provide accessible service at the regular fare. The 12 plaintiffs in the suit will each receive $2,000 and a free bus pass for three months.

According to a story in the Birmingham News, the 1,038 class members will each receive a free pass to ride the para-transit service for one day.

Related article: "Transit authority settlement OK'd" (Birmingham News)

CA Gov Backs Off Cuts Following Protests
SACRAMENTO, DEC. 19, 2003 -- Bowing to protests, CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneger has announced that his initial proposals to suspend the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act and to cut services for people with developmental disabilities "was a mistake on my part."

In a press conference early Thursday, it was announced that the governor would rescind the proposed cuts to services to people with developmental disabilities, including respite -- and rescind his proposed suspension of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, caseload caps and waiting lists for regional center services. "The status of the proposed elimination of In-Home Supportive Services residual program, which employs parents or spouses to assist individuals to remain in their own homes is uncertain," says a press release from the Caifornia Disability Community Action Network.

Scharzenegger told the Los Angeles Times that he did not think the cuts would be "consistent with my record as an advocate for the developmentally disabled." Times reporter Carl Ingram wrote that " Schwarzenegger is an international representative of Special Olympics, a Kennedy family member and a recognized advocate for children and people with mental and physical disabilities."

"The Governor's reversal means that the Lanterman Act -- at least officially -- will not be suspended -- a proposal that outraged people with disabilities and families and other advocates," says the Network press release. "The landmark Lanterman Act, considered by advocates as the civil rights act for people with developmental disabilities, was authored by Republican Assemblyman Frank Lanterman, passed by a Republican controlled Legislature in September 1969 and signed into law by then Governor Ronald Reagan. Since the enactment close to 35 years ago, no governor or legislature has ever called for the official suspension until Governor Schwarzenegger proposed it on on November 24.

"The reversal means that -- at least for now -- the respite services and other regional center "non -- core" services that the Governor originally proposed for elimination is off the chopping block."

However, said the network, "it appears that proposals to eliminate In -- Home Supportive Services residual program, the caseload cap and waiting lists for other health service programs including Healthy Families are still being considered and were not withdrawn."

NJ Funds Families To Reduce Waiting List
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TRENTON, NJ, DEC. 18, 2003 -- Under a pilot program called Real Life Choices, New Jersey will next month begin offering up to $65,000 a year to families to help people with developmental disabilities live in their family homes, officials announced at a press conference Monday.

The state Division of Developmental Disabilities will take 100 families in selected counties from the group home waiting list, which currently has about 7,000 people. Another 200 will begin the program before June, said Kathy Palsho, the division's director for new development.

State officials say the waiting list is so large because most of the families signed up simply because the state offered no other alternatives.

The Real Life Choices program will allow the families to obtain whatever services their relatives need to live at home, including respite workers. Officials said the project should save the state money because group homes cost about $90,000 a year per person. Approximately 21,000 of the 33,500 people with developmental disabilities that the state currently serves live with their families.

"Now we can listen to Matthew and give him the kind of program that he wants," Ellie Byra said about her 27-year-old son. "He needs a companion -- someone closer to his age to take him bowling," Byra said. "I could hire someone I know and pay them through an intermediary, instead of asking a relative to do me a favor all the time."

TN "Trying to Knock ADA's Teeth Out," Says Prof
WASHINGTON, DEC 16, 2003 -- "The Americans with Disabilities Act is critical to fighting discrimination, but states like Tennessee keep trying to knock its teeth out," says Harvard Law School's Samuel Bagenstos. Bagenstos is the author of the brief filed by three dozen disability groups in the Title 2 ADA case Tennessee V. Lane. The Justices will hear the case Jan. 13.

Plaintiffs George Lane and Beverly Jones sued Tennessee for failing to ensure that courthouses are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Both plaintiffs were denied access to courtrooms on the second floors of buildings lacking elevators. Beverly Jones worked as a court reporter; George Lane was a defendant in a criminal case. "The state arrested Lane for 'failure to appear' when he refused to crawl or be carried up the stairs," says the Bazelon Center, which is one of the groups filing the court brief in support of the two disabled people.

Lane and Jones filed suit under Title II of the ADA in 1998. "The Tennessee Attorney General moved to dismiss the case on sovereign immunity grounds, arguing that Congress did not have the authority to subject the state of Tennessee to suit. The U.S. District Court denied the state's motion and ruled that the case could go forward. The Tennessee Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed the trial court's decision, and again said that the case could proceed. The Tennessee Attorney General then appealed again ­ this time to the United States Supreme Court. Five years after filing their lawsuit, Lane and Jones have yet to have their day in court," says the Bazelon Center.

"The wrong ruling in this case could rob people with disabilities of one of the most important means to enforce their rights and call into question the very notion that the federal government has the power to make states respect those rights," says Bagenstos.

"What the court will decide in this case might well be the gutting of the ADA."

Title 2, Bagenstos explains in an interview on the Harvard Law School website, "applies to issues like whether people with disabilities can vote, whether they can attend court, serve on juries, whether they can have education in an equal way, and whether they can have equal access to everything that state and local governments do."

"If the Supreme Court were to rule that Congress lacked the power under the 14th Amendment to enact that title of the ADA, then that would potentially eliminate a huge portion of the ADAšs protections."

Groups signing onto the brief include ADA Watch, the American Association on Mental Retardation, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American Bar Association, the American Council of the Blind, The Arc of the United States, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Easter Seals, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, the National Council on Independent Living,, the National Organization on Disability, Paralyzed Veterans of America, People For The American Way Foundation, the The Puerto Rican legal Defense and Education Fund, the Tennessee Disability Coalition and United Cerebral Palsy Associations. A complete list can be found at the Bazelon website.

A decision is expected sometime this summer. The case is No. 02-1667.

More about the case, including the text of the briefs filed, is available online at http://www.bazelon.org/lane/.

Read more of Bagenstos interview on the Harvard Law School website.

Texas is another state arguing that Title 2 is unconstitutional. See next story, below.

Crip TX Official Says ADA Title 2 Unconsitutional
AUSTIN, TX, DEC 16, 2003 -- "Despite using a wheelchair himself, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is fighting the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 federal law that requires public buildings to be accessible to people with disabilities." This sentence, from the Associated Press, sums up the problem activists in Texas are facing with Abbot, who is arguing that Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilties Act is unconsitutional.

"Our argument is that Congress lacks the authority to dictate how states operate," Ted Cruz, who works in the state attorney general's office, told the Austin American-Statesman.

Nearly 10 years ago, Abbott had praised the ADA when the Texas Civil Rights Project settled a lawsuit to make the Texas Supreme Court building accessible to wheelchairs. Abbott became disabled in 1984 when a tree fell on him, crushing his spine. He sued, and won $10 million in damages. Later, he supported the suit to make the Supreme Court accessible.

"It is kind of ironic that the Supreme Court Building, the gatekeeper of the law, had to be sued," he told the Austin American-Statesman at that time. "Unfortunately, there are occasions where you do have recalcitrant business owners or entities that do not understand the requirements of the ADA, or, even worse, who do understand the requirements of the ADA and refuse to comply despite attempts at negotiations. And in those circumstances, a lawsuit is certainly warranted." In 1999, according to Civil Rights Project diretor Jim Harrington, Abbott wanted the project to sue a Houston hotel that Abbott had personally found inaccessible.

But today, Abbott's office argues in a Title 2 ADA case that the law should not apply to the states. The case the state opposes is one filed in Sept. 2002 arc Arc of Texas and Advocacy Inc., suing the state under Title 2 becasuse it did not provide community-based services as arequired under the Olmstead ADA Supreme Court decision. The suit says that more than 25,000 people have been waiting years for services; the suit argues that the state should be forced to expand services for disabled people.

Abbott's spokeswoman, Angela Hale, told reporter that this suit and the earlier suits against inaccessible buildings were "totally different. "The State of Texas is a public entity with limited resources."

Abbot now champions limits on damages as well. During his campaign for attorney general, he harshly criticized trial lawyers, even though he had sued and received a tax-free multi-million dollar settlement himself.

Read more from the Dec. 15, 2003 Longview (TX) News-Journal

Postal Worker Leads Multi-Million Settlement For Disability Class-Action Suit
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

DENVER, DEC. 15, 2003 -- An estimated 25,000 current and former postal workers are eligible for awards of between $5,500 and $25,000 each under the December 3 settlement of a disability discrimination class-action suit.

The case, Glover/Albrecht v. Potter, was filed on behalf of Chandler Glover, now 65, who sued the U.S. Postal Service 10 years ago claiming it denied him advancements because of his disability. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administrative judge Dickie Montamayer gave preliminary approval to the settlement.

Glover lost about 25 percent of his hearing on the job in 1991 while using jackhammers and sledgehammers to repair large metal containers that postal trucks use to carry mail. Glover was taken off the job for about a year without pay, but was reinstated as a "rehabilitation-status" janitor in 1992, a position that Glover considered a "dead end".

"I got to keep the same salary, but I was denied any promotions, any transfers, or anything of that nature," said Glover. "I wasn't given those opportunities. I couldn't even apply for (them). I had a promotion that came up about the time they gave me the (new) job, and they wouldn't give me that, either."

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from denying workers opportunities for advancement because of their disabilities.

All USPS employees who were placed in rehabilitation positions since Jan. 1, 1992, and who were denied promotion and advancement opportunities are covered in the class-action. The amount to be awarded to each claimant depends on the year the promotion was denied.

"Whether it is single-digit or double-digit, we won't really know until we see how many claims are filed," said Brad Seligman, an attorney with the California-based nonprofit The Impact Fund, which helped represent Glover and another postal worker in Florida. "But it is safe to say that it will be millions of dollars."

"After all the suffering I went through, knowing that 20,000-something people are going to be helped and some of the policies are going to be changed . . . makes me feel real good," Glover told the Denver Post.

DOJ Slow To Enforce Anti-Discrimination Laws
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WASHINGTON, DC, DEC. 12, 2003 -- In the nearly three years since John Ashcroft was appointed Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Justice has slowed down its enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, has abandoned lawsuits and settlements begun by prior administrations, and has filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing affirmative action and calling for a narrow interpretation of disability rights law, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

Lawyers in and out of the Justice Department have expressed disappointment in how its civil rights division has let up on enforcing housing, employment and disability discrimination laws.

During the Bush administration, the department has brought just 16 employment discrimination suits, compared to 24 during the last three years of the Clinton administration. The Free Press cited a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, noting that the disability-rights section initiated 701 investigations in fiscal year 2002 -- a decrease of 181 from the year before -- and filed 28 cases -- down from 37.

In many cases, Ashcroft's Justice Department has failed to follow up past investigations with lawsuits. In a few others, the department has simply refused to honor settlements arranged by past administrations.

Related article: "U.S. backs off discrimination cases" (Detroit Free Press)

Advocates Protest Schwarzenegger Budget Limits
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

SACRAMENTO, DEC. 12, 2003 -- More than 600 disability rights advocates gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday to protest Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to limit services for Californians with developmental disabilities.

Schwarzenegger, who for years has been a vocal supporter of Special Olympics and other disability programs, has proposed suspending the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act -- the 35-year-old law that currently guarantees certain community-based services for about 200,000 people with developmental disabilities. The new governor says that placing a cap on the services, while creating a waiting list for those not currently served, is needed to help fill a multi-billion dollar budget gap.

Schwarzenegger has also proposed saving $250 million over two years by eliminating art and music therapy, equestrian therapy, camp experiences and respite care.

Disability advocates and others are particularly angered that these and other services are being cut at the same time that Schwarzenegger is repealing a vehicle license fee -- amounting to a $7.4 billion tax cut.

"Governor Schwarzenegger did not reveal the details of his spending plan during the election campaign," said Shirley Dove, a parent and President of the Arc of California, in a press statement. "The reason has now become obvious: Californians would have rejected such a mean-spirited plan."

Related articles:
Governor's proposed cuts draw fire (Sacramento Bee)
"People with developmental disabilities protest at Capitol tree lighting" (Press release)
Governor's Ax Hangs Over My Disabled Child (Los Angeles Times - free registration required)

United Airline Fined by DOT for discrimination
WASHINGTON, DC, DEC. 9, 2003 -- United Airlines has been fined $1.1 million by the Transportation Dept. for the lack of wheelchair access at its hub airports. The settlement involved complaints filed since 2000 under the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act. Disabled travelers complained of lack of wheelchair access, lack of TTY service and other problems for deaf travelers, and a host of other access issues.

This is the 11th fine issued by DOT against air carriers this year. In November, Delta Airlines was fined $1.35 million for "failing to provide adequate help to passengers using wheelchairs." Delta failed to provide wheelchairs in some cases, or was slow to help passengers, or left passengers stranded in wheelchairs or on planes for extended periods.

Earlier, American Airlines was fined $1.2 million. Other fined airlines include:

  • America West - $150,000 fine
  • Southwest Airlines - $500,000 fine
  • JetBlue - $100,000 fine
  • US Airways - 550,000 fine
  • RyanAir - $400,000 fine
  • AirTran - $125,000 fine

None of the airlines will have to pay more than $100,000 of their fines -- the remaining money is to be spent on making access improvements. Under the terms of the settlement, the airlines did not admit to any wrongdoing.

United has pledged to hire supervisors to oversee wheelchair service at its hubs in Chicago, Denver, Washington Dulles and San Francisco.

New Schavio Guardian Wants to Remain on Case
CLEARWATER, FL, DEC. 2, 2003 -- Jay Wolfson, appointed guardian ad-litem for Terri Schiavo, says he wants to remain on the case in hopes of brokering some agreement between her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and husband Michael Schiavo. In his report to FL. Gov Jeb Bush yesterday, Wolfson, a Univ. of South FL professor whom a judge appointed last month, said he did not believe Terri Schiavo would "improve" but recommended that swallowing tests be conducted to see if she could eat on her own. The Schindlers have repeatedly asked for such tests. Read story from Miami Herald
Earlier coverage on Terri Schiavo.

Town Must Allow Group Home, Commissioner Rules
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

RUSH, NY, DEC. 1, 2003 -- Four young women with developmental disabilities will be able to move into a group home in Rush, despite opposition from some neighbors and a previous ruling by the Town Board.

Thomas Maul, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, ruled last week that the Arc of Monroe County could purchase a ranch-style house to make it into a group home for the women.

The Board had opposed the home on the grounds that it would "alter the character of the neighborhood. Rush, a Rochester suburb with a population of 3,600, currently has three group homes in its northwest quadrant.

Arc officials said they plan to renovate the ranch-style house so the women, ages 17 to 23, would be able to move in by this coming spring.

"It's a beneficial living environment," Arc President Jim Mroczek told the Democrat & Chronicle. "Like any young person, to live with their peers is the next step to independence."

Some neighbors said that, while they had nothing against people with disabilities living in their neighborhood, they were concerned about the location.

"I don't think it's a good spot," said neighbor Mary Anne Brice. "It's right on the corner, and it's hard to get in and out."

"I'm not opposed to a group home, but I'm concerned about the changes they'll make to the property," said next-door neighbor Carol Laniak. "I'm concerned how it'll affect mine."

Town officials said they probably would not appeal the Commissioner's decision. The town had already spent $7,000 in its attempt to keep the group home from being established.

Federal housing laws do not allow towns and cities to prohibit housing for people with disabilities.

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