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Supreme Court integration case briefs filed

"For too long, disabled persons have been shut away, out of sight. How this Court decides ... the ADA's 'integration' requirement will decide whether or not many people with disabilities will have the choice to live in the community or be unnecessarily segregated," says a brief filed by American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, the National Council on Independent Living and TASH.

Briefs filed by disability rights groups in the Supreme Court Case Olmstead v. L.C. also include a brief by The National Council on Disability, the independent federal agency that played a lead role in drafting the legislation ultimately enacted as the ADA.

Several amicus briefs on Olmstead are available at the website of The Bazelon Center.

See more on Olmstead, below.

Judge rules for access in fair housing suit

March 23 -- A Baltimore condominium complex violated the 1988 Fair Housing Act by failing to build its units to be accessible to disabled people, said a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore. The complex did not have curb ramps, edoorways wide enough for wheelchairs, kitchens or bathrooms that could be negotiated in a wheelchair.

ON March 15, the court granted a summary judgement against Rommel Builders of Baltimore for the violations. A trial date will be set for April.

More on this story

Dillery innocent, says court

Sandusky, Ohio March 11 -- Kelly Dillery, the woman who travels around Sandusky, Ohio in her wheelchair with her young daughter strapped to her lap, was found innocent Thursday of endangering the girl by sometimes wheeling around in city streets. Ms. Dillery, 30, hugged her lawyers and wiped away tears; supporters cheered as the verdict was announced.

Dillery cannot use sidewalks due to Sandusky's hit-or-miss curb cut policy which activists say violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Background on this story

Another Supreme Court Win

March 3 -- The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that disabled students must be provided some attendant services during the school day if required because of the disability. The court, by a 7-2 vote, said this was not "medical treatment" as the school district had contended, and therefore under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act it must be provided.

Despite the usual histrionics from school officials contacted by reporters -- schools claim attendant services such as the highschooler Garrett Frey needs is going to cost upwards of $40,000 -- Charlene Frey, Garret's mother told reporters the win "will mean everything for other kids" with disabilities. Frey says costs are more like $18,000 a year for someone who could also serve as a teacher's aide.

There is no need for a registered nurse for these services, say disability advocates.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said the "case is about whether meaningful access to the public schools will be assured."

Olmstead Supreme Court Case
to be heard April 21

Feb. 25 -- On April 21, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W. Disability rights activists across the nation say this watershed case under the Americans with Disabilities Act may set the clock back for disabled people. The Court will decide whether the ADA requires states to allow disabled people to live in the community, rather than forciing them to receive services in nursing homes and state institutions.

More on the Olmstead case from D.R. Nation
Olmstead activism from Mouth magazine

NDY protests at Kevorkian trial

March 1 -- Not Dead Yet is protesting the inaccessibility of the courtroom where the trial of Jack Kevorkian is set to begin on March 22. According to NDY's Diane Coleman, the courtroom's aisles are too narrow for wheelchairs.

More on this issue

PA doctors accused of manslaughter in institution

Feb. 27 -- Six doctors have been accused of manslaughter in the deaths of three people with mental retardation incarcerated in the Polk Center, a 101-year-old state-run facility in western Pennsylvania. A 2-year investigation of deaths at the institution has resulted in charges ranging from manslaughter to "sewing up patients' wounds without anesthesia." According to news reports, one of the doctors, 68-year-old Cesar Miranda "did not examine a man with a blocked intestine for hours, until his body temperature had dropped to 82 degrees, and sent a vomiting, feverish woman whose skin had turned blue for an X-ray."

Four other doctors, including former Polk medical director Samir Moussa, were charged with assault and neglect.

ADAPT accuses bus lobby of bad faith

Feb. 23 -- A scheduled conference call between the American Bus Association, the lobbyists of over-the-road bus companies such as Greyhound, and ADAPT was rejected by ADAPT after the group learned that the ABA had tried to prevent the disability group from filing a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the ABA's lawsuit fighting federal rules requiring lifts on buses.

In a Feb. 18 letter to the ABA's Peter Pantuso, ADAPT's Linda Anthony wrote, "Your organization not only chose to oppose the implementation of regulations that would finally ensure the civil rights of our people, but you worked to block us from having any voice in the matter at all.

"This was done just two weeks after a meeting with ADAPT members during which you continually tried to assure us that you were acting in good faith in your desire to provide access to people with disabilities," she wrote. "ADAPT cannot and will not sit at the table with you or your members to discuss anything as long as you refuse to withdraw your lawsuit.

"It seems you and your members have failed to understand the importance and significance this issue holds for the civil rights and future of people with disabilities," she said.

Accessible gingerbread house draws news

Dubbed by the Wall Street Journal "the first-ever handicapped-accessible gingerbread house," a creation by the Rochester NY Center for Disability Rights has won widespread attention including a mention in the Nov. 17 Wall St. Journal as the first-ever "accessible gingerbread house." The confection is one of 35 gingerbread houses entered this year in the city's annual gingerbread art display. It sports not only a ramp, but a bathroom with a marzipan sink and commode and a candy grab bar.

Disability advocate Bruce Darling, who helped craft the house, says that many of the thousands touring the display pause to read the architectural guidelines for a "visitable" homes, which are posted in macaroni letters on a sign beside the house. "The idea is to let the public know that homes can welcome disabled visitors. It really gets people thinking," said Darling.

See photos of the house

Austin, Texas becomes second city in the nation to require basic access in single-family homes

Newly-constructed single family homes, duplexes and triplexes which receive financial assistance from the City of Austin, Texas, must now provide basic access, thanks to a new "visitability" ordinance passed by the Austin City Council Oct. 7 to take effect Nov. 1.

The ordinance requires:

1. One no-step entrance at the front, back, side or through the garage

2. Doors (including bathroom) at least 32 inches wide

3. Passageways (halls, small rooms) at least 36 inches wide

4. Reinforcements in bathroom walls around the toilet and bathtub/shower to permit installing grab bars when needed 5. Light switches and other environmental controls between 15 and 48 inches from the floor.

Austin is the second city in the U.S, after Atlanta, to pass a "visitability" ordinance. (Legislation requiring new 1- and 2-bedroom homes be "visitable" passed the British Parliament in March, making the UK the first nation in the world to mandate basic access in single-family homes.

See "Visitability now law in UK," D.R. Nation, July/August)

Austin ADAPT organizer Cathy Cranston says the law "leads to the day when renting a house, growing older in onešs own home, becoming temporarily disabled or having a child with a disability will be that much easier because more and more homes will have this basic -- visitability -- level of access."

Austin ADAPT used Atlanta's law as a model and were helped by the activists of Atlanta-basedConcrete Change. Concrete Change first developed the idea of "visitability" a number of years ago.

"wheelchair accessible housing is both inexpensive to construct and practical in almost 95% of all new homes built," contractor Paul Locascio of Decatur, Georgia says. For the Atlanta ordinance effort, Locascio figured average cost for making a new home visitable at $265.

Austin ADAPT worked with city staff to hold public hearings, conducted a focus group for builders, developers, realtors and spent several months working out details before the ordinance was introduced.

Multi-family housing of four or more units built after 1991 must already meet a somewhat stronger degree of accessibility, often referred to as adaptability, under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. Housing with five or more units that received any federal financial assistance must meet more stringent access requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as outlined in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, UFAS.

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