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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

Appeals Court Upholds Wheelchair Suit Against Ryanair
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

LONDON, DEC. 29, 2004 --Britain's Court of Appeal has ruled that low-cost airline Ryanair and Stansted Airport must share the costs of providing wheelchair transportation within the airport from the airline check-in to the departure gate.

They must not charge passengers for the service.

The court's decision upheld an appeal by Ryanair over a county court ruling earlier this year which found the airline acted unlawfully by not making sure a wheelchair was provided for passenger Bob Ross. The 54-year-old has cerebral palsy and arthritis, but ordinarily does not use a wheelchair. However, Ross found that the one kilometer distance from the check-in desk to the airplane at Stansted Airport was too far for him to walk.

While other airlines cover the cost of such wheelchairs at all of their airports, Ryanair would not cover the cost at Stansted and five other airports. The airline charged Ross an £18 fee (about $33 US) for the use of a wheelchair each way. Ross and Britain's Disability Rights Commission, which represented him in the case, said the fee was a form of discrimination banned under the Disability Discrimination Act.

In its January 2004 ruling, the lower court awarded Ross £1,336 ($2,485 US), which included his original £36 for renting a wheelchair on a round-trip journey to France, along with the £300 purchase of his own wheelchair, and £1,000 for injury to his feelings.

Ryanair responded to the January decision by adding 35 pence to all passenger tickets. Critics accused Ryanair of making a substantial profit from the surcharge.

Ryanair's attorney said the airline was disappointed in the ruling, which came in late December, and maintained that that the airport's owner, British Airports Authority, should be responsible for providing wheelchairs for passengers in their facilities.

Ryanair then portrayed itself as a champion of persons with disabilities in its efforts to get the airport to cover all of the costs.

"It highlights again that Ryanair is fighting on behalf of disabled passengers to force those few airport managers, such as BAA, to provide free of charge wheelchair access in a manner similar to most other European airports," Ryanair's head of communications, Paul Fitzsimmons, told the BBC.

A Stansted spokesperson said the airport prides itself on providing accessible facilities for all of its passengers.

"Stansted Airport . . . apologizes to Mr. Ross for not doing more to prevent discrimination against him," he said.

The DRC hopes thes ruling means Ryanair will settle similar complaints by 35 other people who have had to pay the wheelchair fee. The charity has said that if the company does not compensate them, it would file a class action suit against the airline.

"They have the firm backing of the law to ensure that fair treatment prevails," said DRC chairman Bert Massie after the ruling.

Related: "Why is the Ryanair case important?" by Geoff Adams-Spink (BBC News -- January 30, 2004)

Agreement Should Lead To More Inclusion For Students in PA
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

HARRISBURG, PA, DEC. 27, 2004 --Education officials and advocates for children with disabilities are calling this week's proposed settlement of a 10-year class-action lawsuit a victory for both sides.

Under the settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, Pennsylvania's Department of Education would introduce policies and practices designed to put the students in regular classrooms and provide the support they need to be successful.

The suit was filed in 1994 on behalf of twelve students with disabilities, their parents, and six advocacy groups. Commonly known as the "Gaskin case" for a primary plaintiff, the suit was certified as a class action one year later.

"Kids with disabilities just benefit tremendously from being educated with their peers in a regular classroom," said Judith Gran, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia. Gran served as the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs.

Education Secretary Francis V. Barnes said the department is "delighted" with the settlement.

"We think it results in a win-win situation, ending years of protracted litigation and improving educational opportunities for some of Pennsylvania's most vulnerable students," Barnes said in a press statement released Thursday.

If the settlement is approved, the state would implement a new monitoring system to ensure students are being served in the least restrictive environment. It would also change its complaint investigation and resolution processes, provide technical assistance to school districts to provide inclusive education, and establish an outside panel made up of parents, educators and advocates to review the progress being made system-wide toward inclusion.

Suzanne O'Mullen told the Bucks County Courier Times that her son, who has autism, is an entirely different child because he spends his time around his peers that do not have disabilities.

"Regular kids can teach him so much more just from him being around them," she said. "In the autistic-support class, he just learned how to be more autistic. Adults would've said 'hands down' and he would've just kept doing it."

"Advocates for disabled hail decision to mainstream" (Bucks County Courier Times)
"PA Department of Education Reaches Agreement in Special Education Case" (Pennsylvania Department of Education press release)

Long-Term Care Plan Could "Blast" LA Into 21st Century
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

NEW ORLEANS, DEC. 20, 2004 --A plan to revamp Louisiana's long-term care services centers around moving from institutions and toward more community-based supports.

Department of Health and Hospitals Deputy Secretary Raymond Jetson presented the 22-page plan to Governor Kathleen Blanco's Health Care Reform Panel on Thursday. The proposal reportedly includes increasing money to community and in-home services for seniors and people with disabilities, along with speeding up the down-sizing of institutions that house people with developmental disabilities, here called "developmental centers".

Nursing home owners immediately criticized the plan as "punitive" because a proposed change in the state's funding formula could make it difficult for such facilities.

According to the Times-Picayune, Louisiana currently has more nursing home beds per capita than any other state. It also has one of the lowest nursing home occupancy rates. This is blamed on the funding formula in which the state charges nursing homes based on the number of patients they have. This effectively encourages the nursing home industry to get more people into such facilities. Other states charge nursing homes based on the number of total beds, whether or not they are filled, the paper explained.

State Senator Joe McPherson, a nursing home owner and head of the Senate health committee, said: "If you reduce direct-care costs, that won't be in the best interest of the patients left in those institutions."

Others said the changes signal a move in the right direction for Louisiana.

"You would be blasting your way into the 21st century," said panel member Carol O'Shaugnessy, a specialist in aging and disability at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C.

Related: "Panel offers plan to shift long-term care emphasis" (The Advocate)

Developer Sued over Inaccessible Apartments
WASHINGTON, DEC. 20, 2004 --One of the nation's largest residential apartment developers, the Archstone-Smith Trust was sued today in federal court for constructing inaccessible housing units, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, in more than 100 apartment complexes in 18 states and the District of Columbia. The American Association of People with Disabilities, the United Spinal Association and the Equal Rights Center are plaintiffs in the suit.

"The violations of law committed by Archstone could have been avoided, and were detected, by a simple tape measure. Archstone has misled the public by erecting dozens of apartment buildings over the past decade that have been advertised as open to the public but are inaccessible to people with disabilities," said the attorney for the group.

More about the lawsuit from Business Wire.

Surprise Visit Reinforces MA Gov's Resolve To Close Fernald
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

BOSTON, DEC. 20, 2004 --In early December, Diane Booher, president of the group that wants Fernald Developmental Center to stay open, hand-delivered an invitation to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney urging him to visit and tour the facility.

Booher's Fernald League for the Retarded hoped that Romney would then have a change of heart about his efforts to close the 156-year-old institution that houses more than 200 people with mental retardation.

Romney took them up on their invitation: He made a surprise visit a few weeks later.

State officials said the unannounced tour actually reinforced the governor's decision -- made nearly two years ago -- that the aging facility must be shut down.

According to the Boston Globe, Romney and Department of Mental Health Commissioner Gerald Morrissey visited two buildings at Fernald for about 30 minutes.

Morrisey said the governor was reassured that the state's plan to close large institutions and move people to smaller, community-based supports is the right move.

"I think it affirms that the policy direction we're taking is the correct one," Morrissey said. "We're looking at individual needs."

Booher said she was disappointed the governor didn't stay longer and that he didn't give some warning so that League representatives could plead their side. "Maybe he hasn't seen (Fernald) through the eyes he needs to see it (through)," she told the Globe.

Romney announced in February of last year that the institution would shut down by October 2004 and its then-302 residents moved to other state-run facilities or into homes in the community. The governor hinted that closing Fernald was his first step in de-institutionalizing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Since then, Fernald employees and parents of institution residents have effectively stalled the moves.

Advocates on both sides of the issue continue to meet to come up with an agreement that they feel will be in the best interests of Fernald residents.

The Fernald Developmental Center was originally founded as the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded" by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. It was later renamed for a former superintendent of the facility.

It is the oldest institution housing people with mental retardation in the Western Hemisphere.

"Romney visits Fernald, still wants to close it" (Daily News Tribune)
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express)

Judge Cuts ADA Jury Award
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

DENVER, DEC. 16, 2004 --An $8.6 million jury award under the Americans with Disabilities Act has been reduced to just over $1 million, the Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday.

Gregory Zolnick successfully sued his former employer, Graphic Packaging Corp. for disability-related discrimination.

Zolnick went on short-term disability leave in August 1998 when he was hospitalized for an aneurysm and fell into a coma. After going through physical and occupational therapies, Zolnick figured he was ready to return to his job in December of that year. His doctor agreed.

His employer, on the other hand, would not allow him to return to work.

Zolnick filed suit in 2000 against Graphic claiming that he was denied employment because he was still regarded as having a disability.

On September 24 of this year, a federal jury in Denver ordered the company to pay Zolnick punitive damages amounting to $7.5 million, $6,000 in back pay, plus a $500,000 compensatory award, attorneys' fees and related costs. Zolnick's attorneys said they believed it to be the largest ADA-related award in Colorado history at the time.

However, on Tuesday, Colorado U.S. District Judge John Kane reduced the award. Kane wrote in his decision that federal law limits jury awards to $300,000, not including back pay, when lawsuits claim certain civil rights laws were violated, including the ADA. State laws, however, have a higher limit on such awards, he said.

Kane added that attorneys on one or both sides of the case would likely appeal his decision. He said that that federal and state laws regarding award limits conflict with each other, creating "an impossible situation" for the courts.

Look Ma! No Hands! No Joystick! No Implant! Just My Thinking Cap!
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

NEW YOIR, DEC. 10, 2004 --Scientists are one step closer to devising a way for people to control objects using brainwaves -- without the need for intrusive electronic implants or surgery.

Researchers at the New York State Department of Health and the State University of New York have designed a system that monitors electrical impulses from the brain. It uses a super-sensitive cap with 64 electrodes, much like those used in a typical electroencephalogram (EEG), which is placed around the person's head.

The cap sends information about the brain impulses to a computer which translates them into direct action, such as moving a curser on a computer screen or, perhaps, directing a prosthetic or robotic hand, or guiding a motorized wheelchair.

More work must be done to make the software more powerful and reliable: So far, it has only been tested successfully on four people, two of whom have spinal cord injuries.

Developers said that once it is perfected the new technology may allow people who cannot move to live more independently.

Scientists at Cyberkinetics, Inc., have been working to perfect a system intended to achieve the same results. However, their system uses a device the size of an M&M candy that is surgically implanted into the brain.

Many hope the new technology will replace the need for implants.

"It is an impressive achievement," said John Donoghue, a senior neuroscientist at Brown University who was not involved in the New York project. "Such a device has great potential to improve the lives of paralyzed individuals."

"'Brainwave' cap controls computer" (BBC News)
"Paralyzed patients use brain waves to move" (USA Today via Arizona Republic)

Elaine Wilson Dies; Her Supreme Court Case is Landmark
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

ATLANTA, DEC. 6, 2004 --Elaine Wilson, known as "E.W." in the important Supreme Court case Olmstead v L.C. & E.W., has died.

According to an email from Harriet Harris, director of Circle of Support, the agency which had been providing her community-based services, Wilson died early Sunday morning at Grady County Hospital in Atlanta from complications developed after falling a few weeks ago.

The 53-year-old advocate is survived by her mother, who lives in the Atlanta area.

Wilson and Lois Curtis, known as "L.C." to protect her privacy, were the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in 1995 against the State of Georgia and Tommy Olmstead, the head of its Department of Human Resources.

Both women, who had developmental disabilities and mental illnesses, were institutionalized at Atlanta's Georgia Regional Hospital. They continued to be housed in the institution even though their treatment teams agreed that the women could be served in the community.

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court on their behalf. It claimed that the state had discriminated against the women in violation of Title II of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. That provision requires services be provided in the least restrictive environment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 22, 1999 that the women's rights and those of thousands of other people in institutions were violated because they were institutionalized "unnecessarily".

In its 6-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that "states are required to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions when the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities."

The decision was the most comprehensive victory for people with disabilities and community advocates since the ADA became law. While it has prompted the closure of some large facilities, leading to thousands of people being moved to community settings, several states still have not fully complied with the ruling, or to subsequent requirements set by the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before the 1999 decision, both Wilson and Curtis were placed in homes in the community.

According to an email distributed by Marty Omoto, director of California's Disability Community Action Network, Harris said that Wilson was doing well in her home, that she had been doing job readiness training, along with her own shopping.

"She enjoyed her life so much. She had her own her place, for three years, and she was so proud of that. She had moved so many places, but just wanted to have her own place, her own home and she had that," said Harris.

"People said so many years ago she couldn't live in the community, but they were wrong."

"If you knew Elaine, you knew a person who understood struggle, hope, and the willingness to try anything regardless of the odds," Harris said. "We were there when they issued the final [Olmstead] decision. And I remember Elaine saying after 'if I want to eat M&Ms, then I can eat M&Ms and nobody can tell me I can't' [in reference to the diet restrictions imposed at the Georgia State Hospital].

A 2:00 p.m. memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, December 12, at Medford-Peden Funeral Home in Marietta, Georgia.

Harris wrote that, in lieu of flowers, tax-deductible donations can be made in Wilson's name to: Circle of Support, Inc., P. O. Box 373499, Decatur, GA 30037, (770) 987-7355.

NCD: Time To Restore Strength Of ADA
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WASHINGTON, DC, DEC. 3, 2004 --The National Council on Disability said Wednesday that it is time for Congress to strengthen some provisions of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act which have been weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years.

In a 154-page analysis, entitled "Righting the ADA", the NCD proposed lawmakers pass an "ADA Restoration Act of 2004".

Among other things, the amendment would change language in the ADA to prohibit discrimination "on the basis of disability" rather than "against an individual with a disability" as it currently states. The existing language has often led courts to focus on whether a person's disability is substantial enough to receive protection against discrimination, instead of focusing on whether or how the person was discriminated against.

"Legislation is urgently needed to restore the ADA to 'assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency' for Americans with disabilities," says NCD Chairperson Lex Frieden.

In a press conference at the National Press Club, NCD members and other advocates explained that, while the ADA was written as the "preeminent" document supporting the rights of people with disabilities, several decisions by the Supreme Court have had negative affects on the law since 1999. Those rulings have narrowed the definition of disability, the coverage of the ADA, and remedies available under the law. At the same time, the high court has created or expanded defenses against people with disabilities under the ADA.

"The ADA rejects the medical model and has a social model of discrimination," said L. Robert Burgdorf, Jr., the University of the District of Columbia law professor who drafted the report.

"It is intended not to look at how different people are, but how people are treated differently, and it is supposed to prohibit unjustified treatment."

Those speaking at the press conference noted that access to transportation, technology, and buildings has improved dramatically since the ADA became law. Still, employment rates for people with disabilities -- an condition that the ADA was designed to correct -- have not substantially changed in the last 14 years.

"People with disabilities are not participating at nearly the same rate as people without disabilities," said Nancy Starnes, National Organization on Disability Vice President and Director of Partnership Programs.

The report was submitted formally to the Bush administration and members of Congress. Advocates hope to get support for the measure soon in the form of congressional sponsors.

The National Council on Disability is an independent federal agency responsible for gathering information about the ADA's implementation, effectiveness, and impact and reporting it to the government and public.

"When a ship or boat has gotten off course as a result of a storm, other environmental conditions, or other causes, it is necessary to 'right' its course," the report states. "When a vessel is listing (tilting) excessively or has tipped over, it is necessary to 'right' it by keeping it on an even keel so that the vessel can return to its upright position. Similarly, the ADA needs to be 'righted' so that it can accomplish the lofty and laudable objectives that led Congress to enact it."

Related: "Righting the ADA" (National Council on Disability) [PDF format -- requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader]

Governor Bush Takes Schiavo Case To U.S. Supreme Court
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TALLAHASSEE, FL, DEC. 2, 2004 --ttorneys for Governor Jeb Bush asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to decide whether the Florida Supreme Court violated Terri Schiavo's federal rights when it overturned the law that has kept her alive for the past year.

Bush's attorneys argued that, when it rejected "Terri's Law" earlier this year, the Florida court did not give the governor nor Terri a fair trial as guaranteed under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The state court ruled in September that Bush was wrong to champion the measure under which the Legislature gave him authority in October 2003 to override her husband's wishes to have Terri starve and dehydrate to death. The court said that the law violated Florida's Constitution by giving the governor and Legislature illegal power over the judicial system.

To the Supreme Court, Bush's attorneys explained that the governor's action to reinsert the feeding tube was meant to protect a woman with disabilities who could not speak for herself and who did not have an independent guardian to speak on her behalf.

"It has taken our nation many years to make good on its commitment to equal justice for persons with profound cognitive disabilities," they wrote.

"Unless the State of Florida retains the power to protect the rights of its most vulnerable citizens to due process and equal protection under the laws, the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees will apply only to those who are capable of defending them on their own."

The attorneys further declared that Terri is not in a vegetative state -- as her husband maintains -- that she has not been properly represented in the courts, and that the proceedings which allowed Michael Schiavo, who is her guardian, to have her feeding tube removed in the first place were "tainted".

If the Supreme Court agrees to consider the case, it could take several weeks or months before arguments are heard, with a decision later next year.

In 2001, the same court refused to hear an appeal by Terri's parents who argued that her feeding tube should not be removed.

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, accused Bush Wednesday of preventing Terri from carrying out her right to die.

Disability rights groups have been closely following Terri's situation for years.

Terri, who turns 41 on Friday, collapsed from a heart attack in February 1990 and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. She breathes on her own, but because she does not swallow, she receives food and water through the tube installed through the wall of her stomach.

Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer agreed with Mr. Schiavo and several doctors that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" -- that her brain is damaged the point where she cannot interact with her environment, does not feel pain, and will not recover -- and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means". Greer allowed Terri's feeding tube to be removed on October 15, 2003.

Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, claim that Terri responds to them, smiles, tracks movements with her eyes, and has even tried to stand up. They want Mr. Schiavo removed as guardian, saying that he has a number of conflicts of interest regarding Terri's welfare. They also contend that Terri, a Roman Catholic, would not want to violate a recent pronouncement by Pope John Paul II condemning the removal of feeding tubes.

With the help of disability rights and right-to-life advocates, the Schindlers pressured Bush and the Legislature to pass the law, which resulted in Terri's feeding tube being reinserted five days after it was removed.

Mr. Schiavo appealed that action to the state Supreme Court, claiming the law violated Terri's right to privacy and the state constitution. The high court did not address the privacy concerns, but said the governor and the Legislature had overstepped their legal bounds in passing and implementing the law.

Related: "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

Advocates, Educators Find Much To Praise And Condemn In IDEA Reauthorization
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WASHINGTON, DC, DEC. 1, 2004 --On November 19, the U.S. Congress passed H.R. 1350, the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004".

The measure introduces a number of changes to what was originally known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Perhaps the only element being welcomed by all concerned is a renewed commitment for the federal government to raise its level of funding to cover 40 percent of the cost of special education within the next six years. Currently, federal money makes up just 19 percent of special education cost.

States, school districts, administrators and educators are applauding the bill's increase in flexibility in how special education funds are spent. They are also praising the bill's provisions to cut down on paperwork for teachers, and to allow schools to spend more money to determine which children are eligible for special education services.

Educators and administrators are concerned, however, over more stringent guidelines regarding teacher qualifications.

Parents and advocates for children who receive special education services are worried about the bill's new discipline provisions. The law would effectively put the burden of proving that a child's "misbehavior" was related to a disability on the parents rather than schools.

The bill also would make it more difficult for parents to sue schools in order to get services they feel their children need. The bill supports a mediation process, which officials believe would give them a chance to solve disputes, but which parent and advocates believe would further delay getting results for children with disabilities.

Additionally, the bill allows districts to recover legal costs from parents or their lawyers if the courts determine that a suit is frivolous.

"For parents and children, this bill represents a step backwards," Calvin Luker, a lawyer and founder of Our Children Left Behind, told the New York Times.

"In a sense, we do feel that it's painting lipstick on a pig," Mr. Luker added. "It's still taking away rights, making it easier for the school districts to do what they want to do, and making it more difficult for parents to protect the rights of their children."

"Congress Backs Special-Ed Changes" (Washington Post)
"Changes to special ed law give states more leeway" (Stateline.org)
Text of H.R.1350: Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (U.S. Congress)
"American Foundation for the Blind Cautiously Applauds Changes to Special Education Law" (Yahoo! News)
"Parts of Special-Ed Bill Would Shift More Power to States and School Districts" (New York Times)
Council for Exceptional Children
Our Children Left Behind

Athletes With Intellectual Disabilities Allowed Back In Paralympics
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

CAIRO, EGYPT, DEC. 1, 2004 --Officials representing Paralympic groups in 78 countries have voted overwhelmingly to allow athletes with intellectual disabilities to again compete in Paralympic events.

About 200 officials attended the International Paralympic Committee's Extraordinary General Assembly meeting in Cairo.

They elected to allow the athletes to return to IPC competition, even though there has not yet been a process developed and endorsed to ensure that they indeed have intellectual disabilities.

The Assembly decided that the IPC would work with the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (INAS-FID) to develop an eligibility and verification system that both groups can agree upon.

"Despite the fact that INAS-FID has not met the conditions, the IPC membership has reaffirmed that the interest of the athletes comes in first place," said IPC President Phil Craven in a press statement. "Now, athletes with an intellectual disability should gradually be able to take part in IPC sanctioned competitions in order to test the new process."

The IPC stopped allowing athletes with intellectual disabilities to participate in January 2001 after it was learned that 10 members of Spain's gold-medal winning Paralympic basketball team at the 2000 Sydney Games had no disabilities.

One team member, Carlos Ribagorda, turned out to be a Madrid journalist who wrote about the deception and described how Spanish officials' failed to discover the scam.

The Spanish team was forced to return their gold medals.

After the 2000 games, the IPC said that it would not allow athletes with intellectual disabilities to participate as long as there was no way to keep bogus athletes from cheating the system. As early as two months ago, IPC officials were not expected to lift the ban in time for the 2008 Paralympiad in Beijing, China.

Athletes with intellectual disabilities and their supporters have been pressuring the IPC to change its ruling, calling the ban a blatant form of discrimination.

Related: "Paralympics: Sell it as sport, not charity" (The Indian Express)

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