• Class action suit filed against Ames stores
  • Voter News Service may consider disability question
  • Not Dead Yet reacts to Hawaii suicides
  • Super Tuesday exit polls -- no disability question asked
  • Not Dead Yet offers resolution
  • Disability activism gets Title II cases settled; Supreme Court Title 2 test this spring unclear
  • Colorado crips win access to tacos
  • Not Dead Yet activists slam Oregon Rept. on assisted suicide

  • Class action suit filed against Ames stores
    March 23 -- Two shoppers in the Washington DC area unable to shop at Ames sued the store last summer; now the suit as widened as the DC area Disability Rights Council has brought a class-action lawsuit to force the national discount retailer to change its stores -- and to pay damages to the class of people harmed by the stores' inaccessibility.

    Katie Savage and George Aguehounde have both had problems trying to get into the stores. Savage told The Washington Post that she had had trouble getting past the gate used to keep shopping carts in.

    Ames was told of the access problems in 1998 but did nothing for 15 months -- when an initial lawsuit was filed last summer. Some improvements were made; but attorneys then surveyed Ames stores in 11 states and found similar problems and other would-be customers with access problems, said the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

    Ames Department Stores, Inc. is the largest discount retailer in the Northeast. It operates over 450 stores in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, with annual sales of almost $4 billion. States affected by the class-action suit include: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, D.C., Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.

    People who have had access problems in Ames Stores are urged to call the class-action hotline at 1-800-299-8308 to see if they are eligible to be part of the lawsuit.

    Voter News Service to talk on disability question
    March 15 -- The Voter News Service has requested a meeting with the National Organization on Disability to discuss the inclusion of disability in exit poll questions, according to information from Justice for All.

    "We are hopeful that this meeting will have an impact on how VNS designs future exit polls," says National Organization on Disability's Jim Dickson.

    The request from VNS for a meeting comes in the wake of complaints by advocates that disability is routinely not included in demographic information collected by exit polls, such as age, gender, race, party affiliation, income level, education leve

    Readers wishing to know more about this issue are urged to contact Dickson at the N.O.D. VOTE! 2000 Campaign at (202) 298-5960 or by email at vote@nod.org

    More on this story

    Not Dead Yet reacts to Hawaii suicides
    March 8 -- Activists with Not Dead Yet say they are "deeply saddened" by yesterday's news that two Honolulu residents had killed themselves after watching Derek Humphry's "Final Exit" how-to suicide video on TV.

    "Two depressed people used the same method to kill themselves as described on a controversial guide to committing suicide that was aired on public access television Friday," according to a story in the March 7 Honolulu Star Bulletin. The video "Final Exit" was shown on Olelo Channel 52 twice the previous week, reported the newspaper.

    "Humphry told the world in his book Final Exit that legalizing assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses is but the first step toward a 'more tolerant attitude' toward death for people with disabilities," says Not Dead Yet. .

    In their recent book Freedom to Die Humphry and co-author Mary Clement note that many people would rather die than live in a nursing home. "Rather than acknowledging the need for in- home support services, they suggested that offering those people a choice between a nursing home or death might be a way to cut costs," says Not Dead Yet. " And all along, Humphry and Hemlock have worked to educate the public on how to commit suicide."

    "We regret the death of anyone before their time," Humphry, a co-founder of the Hemlock Society, said, according to the ERGO press release, "but life is personal responsibility and people who find their mental torment unbearable have the right to leave."

    Surgeon General David Satcher has called suicide a "serious public health problem."

    Says Not Dead Yet, "Humphry's program - which would give people the 'right to die' and ignore what they need to live - is no solution."

    Read the story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

    Not Dead Yet offers resolution opposing assisted suicide

    Exit Polls don't ask disability question
    March 7 -- Thousands of voters today will be quizzed by pollsters as they exit voting booths on Super Tuesday. They'll be asked their age, gender, race, party affiliation, income level, education level. But one question they're never asked.

    Exit polls never ask if the voter has a disability.

    Jim Dickson of the National Organization on Disability's "Vote 2000" campaign wants that to change. "Exit polls are used by candidates to decide what issues to talk about, what events to attend and how to frame their advertising and speeches," he says. Pollsters "note if the voter is a veteran or belongs to a union, and whether he or she watched the Presidential debates. In South Carolina, the voter was even asked if he or she thinks a Confederate flag should be flown over the state capitol," says Dickson. But they're never asked about their disabilities. "People with disabilities need to be identified as a voting block. Issues of concern to people with disabilities need to be addressed by candidates."

    When Dickson contacted the Voter News Service, which conducts all U.S. exit polls, he was told that pollsters "must limit the number of questions which identify voter demographics" and there was "no room to address disability." Yet "19 out of 42 -- almost half -- of South Carolina's exit poll questions ask for demographic information about the voter," says Dickson.

    Dickson is urging readers next Tuesday to contact the Voter News Service -- " a private company created and controlled by ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC, and the Associated Press," says Dickson -- to push for "disability" in the demographic breakdown in the exit polls.

    "On Tuesday, March 14th, contact William Headline, Executive of Voter News Service at (212) 947-7280 or by email at bill.headline@vnsusa.org to demand that people with disabilities be addressed in exit polls," says Dickson.

    Readers wishing to know more about this issue are urged to contact Dickson at the N.O.D. VOTE! 2000 Campaign at (202) 298-5960 or by email at vote@nod.org

    More about N.O.D.'s Vote 2000 Campaign

    Not Dead Yet offers resolution
    Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights and advocacy group opposed to legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, is making available a "resolution opposing the legalization of physician-assisted suicide". The resolution is being provided, in part, to help groups organizing against bills in state legislatures to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

    "No bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide applies to all citizens equally, but singles out individuals based on their health status in violation of the American with Disabilities Act," says Not Dead Yet. "The legalization of physician-assisted suicide gives physicians the power to decide who will be given suicide prevention and who will receive suicide assistance and is, therefore, not based on individual choice and autonomy."

    The resolution can be used by any group who wishes to go on record against the practice. NDY points out that the Supreme Court ruled that physician asisted suicide was "not a constitutional right."

    Read and download a copy of the resolution

    Activism pushes lawsuit settlements; no Supreme Court test for ADA Title II this year
    March 2 -- News reports this morning in The New York Times and on National Public Radio suggest the national media has taken note of the disability rights nation's activism as a factor convincing both Arkansas and Florida to settle the two Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits that were to have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this April. Both Alsbrook v. Maumelle and Dickson V. Florida. have now been settled.

    Disability rights attorneys had hoped the Court would take up another Title II case in place of the Alsbrook case, but the Court has decided not to do that and the earliest a Title II case will be heard by the Court is next fall.

    Scholars and historians who were preparing a brief showing the history of discrimination intend to continue their work; a Title II case will sooner or later go before the Supreme Court, they say.

    Why have states suddenly backed away from the Title II ADA constitutionality fight? Disability rights attorneys and activists say that the Arkansas Attorney General, Mark Pryor, was concerned about being "saddled" with taking a case to the Supreme Court that would have gutted the ADA. Pryor's father, who served in the U.S. Senate in 1990, voted to pass the ADA.

    Similar concerns, say activists, prompted Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush to decide that the Dickson case must be settled. The Fla. attorney general was "ringing Dickson's attorney's phone off the hook" to get them to agree to a settlement, said Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law attorney Ira Burnim.

    And Marylanders for Civil Rights of Persons with Disabilities re-upped their pressure against Gov. Parris N. Glendening in early Feb. to settle the suit before its oral arguments, scheduled for Feb. 29. Their efforts succeeded in getting the state to settle with the inmates at a Hagerstown prison -- a suit that had run on for nearly a decade.

    "Activists say they have enough to worry about trying to defend the ADA in the Supreme Court and in Congress, not to mention working on getting the 'Movement to the Community/ Olmstead' plan funded," Maryland ADAPT's Gayle Hafner told activists last week as the group pushed for the settlement. A story in Sunday's Baltimore Sun reported that the settlement "marked the latest effort by disability rights activists to end states' claims" that the ADA is unconstitutional.

    With no Supreme Court ruling to occur this year, the adverse ruling in the 8th Circuit is still in effect; the Alsbrook settlement did not vacate the Circuit Court ruling that the ADA is unconstitutional.

    About the Alsbrook and Dickson cases.

    More about the Amos case and its settlment

    Mrs. Amos sends a letter.

    More about the Title II constitutionality questions

    Colorado crips win access to tacos
    Denver, March 1 -- A federal judge today settled a lawsuit filed by The Colorado Cross Disability Coalition against Taco Bell for refusing to make its queue line and countertops accessible to patrons in wheelchairs. Taco Bell has agreed to make the queue lines and countertops in all 40 of its company-owned Colorado restaurants accessible. The settlement does not address non company-owed Taco Bells. The Coalition's 1997 lawsuit charged Taco Bell with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    This settlement follows one a few years ago in which Wendy's fast foot restaurants also agreed to make its queue lines accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Other activists applaud the settlement, but some say Taco Bells and other fast-food restaurants have more access problems, including a lack of accessible parking and no curb cuts to even get into the restaurants.

    Not Dead Yet Activists Slam Oregon Report
    Members of Not Dead Yet had no words of praise for the report issued by the Oregon Health Division in late February concerning the state's assisted suicide law. "Fear of disability was a driving factor" in decisions to use assisted suicide, said the group. "Concern over being a burden, loss of autonomy, decreasing ability, and loss of control over bodily functions topped the list of concerns alleged to come from patients who killed themselves."

    Not Dead Yet is national disability rights and advocacy group opposed to legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

    Oregon's latest report "serves to promote the illusion that there is real accountability in the Oregon health system's oversight of assisted suicide," said Not Dead Yet director Diane Coleman "In fact, there is nothing available that even approaches the level of meaningful research," she said.

    Not Dead Yet pointed out that the report showed:

  • Lethal prescriptions were given by physicians who had known the individual for as little as two weeks.

  • The official number of lethal prescriptions has almost doubled in the space of one year.

  • Over two-thirds of the individuals who committed suicide using lethal prescriptions were turned down by the first doctor they approached, suggesting that subsequent physicians were less critical and careful in deciding who should get lethal prescriptions. None of the physicians who refused the initial requests were contacted to give their reasons for refusals.

  • In 1998, physicians who participated in the assisted suicides were asked if they were connected to a pro-assisted suicide advocacy group. A majority of the respondents indicated they had ties to these groups. The Division omitted the question in the 1999 project.
  • "The greatest public service the Oregon Health Division could provide is to admit there is no accountability and no way to know what is really happening with assisted suicide in Oregon," said Coleman.



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