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News Highlights For August and September 2007
From Inclusion Daily Express Disability Rights News Service

News Highlights For August & September 2007
From Inclusion Daily Express Disability Rights News Service

Accessibility
OSU Stadium To Add More Wheelchair Accessible Spaces
Justice Department: Law Office Failed Deaf Client
Customers Accuse Apple Store Of Discrimination
Pedestrians Seek Changes In Roundabout Plans
"The Sheriff" Loses Appeal
State Agrees To Make Social Service Agency More Accessible
Auto Dealers Must Have Hand Controls On Hand
Advocate's Unpopular Accessibility Campaign Gets Results
Group Claims iPhone Design Excludes Many

Advocacy
Advocates' Efforts Help Shape New Yankees Stadium
Advocates Unite To Press For Sidewalk Improvements
NY Advocates Pleased With New Protections
AAPD Calls On Advocates To Challenge Chamber's Opposition To ADA Restoration
ADAPT In Chicago Challenge Status Quo In Housing And Long-Term Care
For Jackson Protesters, Timing Is Everything

Community Living
Retirement Housing Provider Agrees To Settle Housing Discrimination Case
Kentucky Gets OK To Divert Funds To Community
Advocates Encouraged To Contact Senators About Community Choice Act
Man Sues To Leave Institution
Citing Olmstead, Nursing Home Residents Take Legal Action For Community Options

Crimes Against People With Disabilities
Woman Faces Charges Of Illegally Adopting, Then Abusing Children
Wrestler's Murder-Suicide Now Blamed On Brain Injury
Couple Charged Over Chaining Son To Bed
"Ringleader" In Murder-Torture Case Pleads Guilty
Couple Faces Charges For Imprisoning People In Basement

Criminal Justice System
Wrongly Deported Man Returns Home
Groups Sue Youth Commission Over Pepper Spray Policy
Officers Use Taser To Subdue Teen In Traffic

Education
Video Of Girl's 3-Hour Seclusion Prompts Parents To Call For Statewide Changes
High Court Says State Can Investigate Hearing Dog Refusal
State Sides With School District In Closing Segregated Centers
Teen's Seven-Day Bus Wait Ends With News Coverage
High School Seniors Could Graduate Without Passing 2008 State Exam, If Governor Signs Bill
District Repairs One Stadium Lift, With Two More To Go
Kindergartener Charged With Assault

Employment
Workers Must Prove They Are Qualified In Discrimination Cases, State High Court Says
EEOC: 7-Eleven Improperly Disclosed Worker's Confidential Information
Employee Claims McDonald's Failed To Consult Job Coach
Former NBA Pro Tarpley Sues Over Employment Discrimination
Commission Refuses To Toss Firefighter's Request For Testing Accommodation

Institutions
Justice Department Investigates Conditions At Howe Developmental Center
State To Close Psych Facility, Move Residents To Community
Advocates Push To Reverse Fernald Ruling
Violence Up At County Facility
State To Pay $2.5 Million Over Rape At Eastern State Hospital
Protection And Advocacy Sues For Hospital Death Records
State Plan Switches To Renovating CVTC
Newspaper Reveals Conditions At Two Wisconsin Psych Facilities
Governor's Office Tells Advocates Facility Will Not Open As Developmental Center
Massachusetts Governor: We Will Close Fernald
Rats, Cockroaches, Sewage, And Neglect Lead To New Ban On Rosewood Admissions
Visiting Lawmakers See Few Rosewood Residents; Say They Need More Information
Institution Had Unwritten Agreement With Law Enforcement Over Allegations
Appeals Court Rules "Class Action" Justified For Institution Suit
Nursing Homes: Great For Investors. Not So Great For Residents.

In Other News
Advocates Sue City For Flawed Disaster Planning
Mayor In Hot Seat For Parking Blunder
Famous Playwright Hid Son With Down Syndrome
Family Says Preacher Dad Sat In Wheelchair Outside Airport, Ignored For Days
Experts: Connecting Cho's Disability And V-Tech Shootings Sets Back Progress On Stigma
Court Says Guardianship Does Not Automatically Limit Right To Vote
Son's Quick Thinking Saves Family From Blaze
Cited For Parking Illegally, Lady McCartney Shows Cop Her Prosthetic Leg
Jury Clears Nursing Home Owners In Post-Katrina Deaths
Senator Johnson Tells Colleagues Brain Hemorrhage Has Improved Him
Drive Wheelchair With Your Thoughts. No Joystick. No Electrodes.
Study: Youths With Disabilities Feel Good About Themselves, But Worry About Future
Soldier Fights To Keep Service Dog At His Side
Passenger Says Airline Told Him He Could Not Fly Alone
Governor Pardons Convicted "Drug Trafficker"
Taxi Drivers Accused Of Refusing Service Animals

ACCESSIBILITY

OSU Stadium To Add More Wheelchair Accessible Spaces
Stillwater, OK--Oklahoma State University has agreed to add 175 new spaces that are accessible to wheelchair users at Boone Pickens Stadium, in order to settle a lawsuit from OSU alum James Lawson and the disability rights firm Access Now. Lawson alleged that the college violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide enough accessible seating at the same ticket prices and locations that are available to the general public. The school must make the needed changes either by September 1, 2008, or the first football game of the 2008 season, whichever is later.

Justice Department: Law Office Failed Deaf Client
Albuquerque, NM--The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Albuquerque attorney Joseph David Camacho agreed to provide a qualified sign language interpreter for clients that are deaf or hard of hearing in order to settle a complaint filed by the National Association of the Deaf. Camacho also agreed to adopt and enforce a policy on providing other auxiliary aids, free of charge, to such clients, and to pay former client Carolyn Tanaka $1,000 in compensatory damages. Tanaka alleged that Camacho refused to provide an interpreter when she was his client, and instead tried to rely on written notes, emails and sign language interpretation by Tanaka's 9-year-old son.

Customers Accuse Apple Store Of Discrimination
San Francisco, CA--Two customers of an Apple store in San Francisco have sued the computer giant claiming their experiences there were "humiliating" because of a lack of "full and equal" access to them and other wheelchair users. Nicole Brown-Booker and Jana Overbo alleged that the Apple retail store at One Stockton Street had service desks, elevator buttons, restrooms, credit card payment systems, and aisles that were not accessible to them. The pair also alleged that, in separate visits in May and July of this year, Apple employees ignored them, leaving them to ask fellow customers for help.

Pedestrians Seek Changes In Roundabout Plans
West Bloomfield, MI--Three people have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit against the Oakland County Road Commission over alleged accessibility and safety problems with intersection roundabouts. Jason Turkish, and Garret Gersin, who are blind, and Michael Harris, who uses a wheelchair, claimed that the county's plan to build traffic roundabouts violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their attorney, Richard Bernstein, who is also blind, said that the roundabouts are unsafe for blind pedestrians because they listen for cross-traffic to stop and vehicles are not required to stop at any point in roundabouts. Bernstein added that U.S. courts should establish guidelines for roundabouts across the country.

"The Sheriff" Loses Appeal
San Francisco, CA--In late August, a three-member panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's 2004 ruling that ordered disability rights attorney Jarek "The Sheriff" Molski to seek a judge's approval before filing ADA lawsuits. The district judge had called Molski a "vexatious litigant" who used "systemic extortion" after he filed more than 400 lawsuits over accessibility problems in restaurants, wineries and other businesses.

State Agrees To Make Social Service Agency More Accessible
New Haven, CT--The Connecticut Department of Social Services has agreed make its facilities, equipment, employees and practices more accessible to people with disabilities in order to settle a January 2003 class action lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz approved the settlement after hearing testimony from several people who said they struggled to obtain or maintain disability and other benefits after the state had closed several DSS locations and cut back on staff. Kravitz said the agreement was the first of its kind in the country.

Auto Dealers Must Have Hand Controls On Hand
Boston, MA--Ernie Boch Jr., one of Massachusetts' largest auto dealers, recently decided to offer hand controls to customers in all of his dealerships. The decision came as part of an agreement between Boch and wheelchair user Betsy Pillsbury, after she filed a discrimination complaint against the dealer. Pillsbury argued that automobile dealerships are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to have hand controls available so people with physical disabilities can test drive vehicles.

Advocate's Unpopular Accessibility Campaign Gets Results
San Diego, CA--According to the September 18, San Diego Union-Tribune, most of the 1,000 or so accessibility lawsuits that attorney Theodore Pinnock has filed against businesses in Southern California have either been dropped or settled, with the business owners making the changes that he demanded. Pinnock, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, says he is providing a public service, forcing businesses to comply with a law that they otherwise would not follow, or even pay attention to.

Group Claims iPhone Design Excludes Many
Bethesda, MD--The Hearing Loss Association of America has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission over the design of Apple's new iPhone. The group claims that Apple failed to make the popular device compatible with hearing aids and cochlear implants in violation of the Communications Act. Section 255 of that law requires manufacturers of telecommunications equipment to make their products accessible to users with disabilities.

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ADVOCACY

Advocates' Efforts Help Shape New Yankees Stadium
New York, NY--Disability rights advocates have been working with New York Yankees officials for the past couple of years, advising them on how to make the new ballpark accessible. After the U.S. Department of Justice said that the existing Yankees stadium violates the ADA, the club contracted with the United Spinal Association to make sure the new park would have accessibility features such as wheelchair accessible seating, and a ticket policy that would give priority to wheelchair users for those seats.

Advocates Unite To Press For Sidewalk Improvements
Boston, MA--Advocates with the grassroots Neighborhood Access Group, Boston Center for Independent Living, and Disability Policy Consortium are joining forces to pressure the City of Boston to take seriously the safety and access rights of thousands of residents and visitors with disabilities. The advocates want city officials to follow federal and state disability discrimination laws, and to follow through on promises that have been made over the years to improve sidewalks and curb cuts in neighborhoods across the city.

NY Advocates Pleased With New Protections
Albany, NY--Following more than a decade of intense advocacy work, disability rights advocates in New York applauded the passage of a new state law that expands protections against discrimination. The legislation, which brings New York law more in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, makes it illegal for public facilities to refuse to "make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures necessary to afford facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations to individuals with disabilities"; "ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded or denied services because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services"; or "remove structural architectural or communication barriers in existing facilities, and transportation barriers in existing vehicles and rail passenger cars, where removal is readily achievable".

AAPD Calls On Advocates To Challenge Chamber's Opposition To ADA Restoration
Washington, DC--The American Association of People with Disabilities strongly encouraged disability rights advocates to respond to a recent announcement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which condemned efforts to restore the intent of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. H..R. 3195, the "ADA Restoration Act of 2007" would change the language in the civil rights law so that it would prohibit discrimination "on the basis of a disability" instead of "against an individual with a disability" as it currently reads.

ADAPT In Chicago Challenge Status Quo In Housing And Long-Term Care
Chicago, IL--About 500 members of the grassroots disability rights group ADAPT were in Chicago during the week of September 9 demanding that housing officials make good on past promises; challenging doctors with the American Medical Association to examine their part in the bias toward institutional services in the nation's long-term care system; and pressuring Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to reverse his decision to open four 10-bed facilities on the former campus of Lincoln Developmental Center.

The activists held a national forum on accessible housing, during which they accused U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson of failing to follow through on several commitments he made in earlier this year related to housing vouchers for people with disabilities.

Later in the week, about 120 ADAPT activists were arrested after confronting one of the nation's largest labor unions over institutional treatment. When the advocates asked American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees to endorse the Community Choice Act of 2007, AFSCME tried to turn the tables on the advocates, asking them to endorse a joint statement supporting institutions.

For Jackson Protesters, Timing Is Everything
Jackson, MS--On the morning of September 18, about 40 disability rights advocates gathered -- along with a number of reporters -- outside the office of Mayor Frank Melton to demand that he follow through on promises he made earlier regarding the city's transit system, and to implement an ADA grievance policy and designate a person to deal with ADA complaints. The mayor surprised the crowd by walking up to them, then sitting down and addressing their concerns. Christy Dunaway, Executive Director of Living Independence for Everyone, told Inclusion Daily Express that the action was timed for 10:30 in the morning because it was too late for reporters to prepare a story for the 12 o'clock.

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COMMUNITY LIVING

Retirement Housing Provider Agrees To Settle Housing Discrimination Case
Washington, DC--Covenant Retirement Communities, Inc., a national provider of retirement housing, has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over housing policies that allegedly discriminated against residents with disabilities. A retired couple initiated the case, saying that Covenant implemented policies that required residents who used motorized mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and scooters, to obtain personal liability insurance; demonstrate their ability to operate the motorized devices; and provide documents from physicians showing their need for such devices. Covenant also prohibited residents and visitors from using mobility aids in certain common areas, including dining rooms, and steered persons with mobility-related disabilities toward assisted living rather than independent living, the couple claimed.

Kentucky Gets OK To Divert Funds To Community
Frankfort, KY--The state of Kentucky has been granted permission to use federal and state Medicaid money to help an estimated 10,000 people with disabilities to live in their own homes or other community-based settings instead of nursing homes or other institutions. Under the $50 million dollar a year project, the state will evaluate the needs of each person currently on the waiting list for services, such as housekeeping, personal care, and employment services.

Advocates Encouraged To Contact Senators About Community Choice Act
Washington, DC--On, September 25, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on the need to expand in-home and community-based supports for people served in the nation's long-term care system. Those testifying included Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, who in March of this year introduced S. 799, the "Community Choice Act of 2007". The measure, known as H.R. 1621 in the House of Representatives, would change Title 19 of the Social Security Act to allow people receiving long-term care funds to have equal access to community-based, in-home services as alternatives to nursing homes and other institutions.

Man Sues To Leave Institution
Charleston, WV--A 27-year-old man with intellectual, vision, hearing, and psychiatric disabilities is suing the state of West Virginia, claiming that the state's decision to deny him the chance to live outside an institution violates his rights. Shawn Sumbera has been housed at the Mildred-Bateman Hospital for the last six years. A suit filed on his behalf claims the state has twice denied his application for a Medicaid MR/DD waiver program, which provides in-home supports for people with intellectual disabilities. The suit, which was filed August 24, seeks class action status for other West Virginians in similar situations.

Citing Olmstead, Nursing Home Residents Take Legal Action For Community Options
Chicago, IL--A group of five Cook County nursing home residents have sued the state of Illinois, claiming that the state is discriminating against them, in violation of federal law, by failing to provide them the option of receiving long-term care services in their own homes or in community-based settings. The lawsuit cited the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, in which the court ruled that states couldn't unnecessarily institutionalize people with disabilities.

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CRIMES AND ABUSE AGAINST PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Woman Faces Charges Of Illegally Adopting, Then Abusing Children
West Palm Beach, FL--A Florida woman could face a sentence of up to 190 years in prison if convicted of 10 felony counts related to alleged abuse and neglect of children she illegally adopted more than a decade ago. Authorities say that Judith Leekin, 62, used four different false names to adopt the 11 New York City children with disabilities between 1990 and 1996. Prosecutors accuse Leekin of, among other things, beating the children, binding their wrists and ankles with plastic handcuffs at night, making them sleep on towels on the floor, and prohibiting them from using the toilet.

Wrestler's Murder-Suicide Now Blamed On Brain Injury
Charleston, WV--A West Virginia University researcher, who examined tissue from the brain of late professional wrestler Chris Benoit, says he found extensive damage consistent with dementia and depression. Dr. Julian Bailes, from the WVU Department of Neurosurgery, says might be an explanation into why Benoit strangled his wife Nancy and suffocated their 7-year-old son Daniel before hanging himself in June. Bailes' research showed brown clumps of dead brain cells deep in all lobes of Benoit's brain, presumably destroyed from years of head butting and other pro-wrestling stunts. While traumatic brain damage does not predict such behavior, Bailes pointed out that some professional football players that also experienced years of brain injury have also committed suicide.

Couple Charged Over Chaining Son To Bed
White Township, PA--State Police have charged a couple with reckless endangerment for chaining their 30-year-old son to his bed. Jerry Ross Ewing, 63, and Nancy Eileen Ewing, 61, have admitted to using locks to secure one end of a 12 1/2 foot stainless steel chain to a bed and the other end to the ankle of their son, Thomas, who has an intellectual disability. The Ewings said they did it to keep Thomas from climbing out his bedroom window at night and peeking through the windows of neighbors at their trailer park.

"Ringleader" In Murder-Torture Case Pleads Guilty
Butler, PA--Three defendants have pleaded accused of torturing and killing a man with intellectual disabilities. Melissa Adams, Timothy James Caldwell, and Russell Hilliard admitted to harassing Jason Michael Rizert, then forcing him to wear a t-shirt soaked in lighter fluid, which they set on fire. Caldwell and Hilliard agreed to testify against Adams, whose attorney said has intellectual disabilities and might not be able to understand the difference between right and wrong. Prosecutors argued that Adams was the ringleader in the crimes.

Couple Faces Charges For Imprisoning People In Basement
Lancaster, PA--James Gordon Dickinson, 61, and Stephanie Lutz Dickinson, 57, were arrested September 18 and charged with false imprisonment, recklessly endangering others and endangering the welfare of children with disabilities. Investigators said that the couple forced three adopted sons age 5, 11, 13, two boys age 14, and two women with disabilities age 54 and 57, to live in their basement, with little food or freedom.

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CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Wrongly Deported Man Returns Home
Los Angeles, CA--A Los Angeles man, who was mistakenly deported to Mexico, has returned home on August 5 after missing nearly nine months. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials picked up 29-year-old Pedro Guzman when he tried to cross the border at Calexico, Mexico. His family told reporters that Pedro, who has intellectual disabilities, was traumatized by the ordeal, during which he ate out of garbage cans, drank from rivers, and walked nearly 100 miles. The family and the American Civil Liberties Union contend that Guzman was serving time in an L.A County jail for misdemeanor trespassing when authorities questioned him about his citizenship. Even though he told officials that he was born in California, they transported him to the border with Mexico and let him out at Tijuana, the family said.

Groups Sue Youth Commission Over Pepper Spray Policy
Austin, TX--Two advocacy groups, representing three teenagers with psychological disabilities, are suing the Texas Youth Commission, asking a court to order the Commission to stop using pepper spray as a "first response" in its facilities. In the September 12 complaint, Advocacy Inc. and the public interest law firm Texas Appleseed claimed that TYC Acting Executive Director Dimitria D. Pope violated the Texas Administrative Procedures Act when she changed the pepper spray policy on August 1 or authorize staff to use pepper spray before other methods have been exhausted.

Officers Use Taser To Subdue Teen In Traffic
Tustin, CA--Orange County sheriff's deputies used a Taser stun gun on September 17 to subdue 15-year-old Taylor Karras, who has autism. The officers said they stunned the teenager because he ignored their instructions and ran away from them -- and into traffic on a busy street -- when they shouted at him. A sheriff's department spokesperson defended the use of the Taser, calling it "the right thing to do."

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EDUCATION

Video Of Girl's 3-Hour Seclusion Prompts Parents To Call For Statewide Changes
Waukee, IA-- Doug and Eva Loeffler recently won a decision by an administrative law judge in a complaint in which they alleged that the Waukee Community School District and Heartland Area Education Agency had failed to provide an education to their daughter in the least restrictive setting. The couple pulled 8-year-old Isabel, who has autism, out of school after watching a videotape of her in a timeout room -- for more than three straight hours. The district and the agency have admitted no wrongdoing, and are appealing the decision.

High Court Says State Can Investigate Hearing Dog Refusal
Albany, NY--The New York Supreme Court has ruled that the state's Division of Human Rights can investigate a school district's decision to prevent 14-year-old John Cave Jr. from bringing his hearing service dog Simba to class. The Cave family sued East Meadow Union School District, claiming that the dog needs to be with John 24 hours a day in order to do his job most effectively, and that the district is violating the ADA. In February, a federal judge ruled against the family, saying the dog might become disruptive and that the school has already accommodated John's disabilities.

State Sides With School District In Closing Segregated Centers
Baltimore, MD--The Montgomery County Public School District can move forward with its plans to close eight "secondary learning centers" for students with disabilities, following approval by the Maryland Board of Education. Superintendent Jerry D. Weast wants at least 80 percent of students receiving special education services to be included in regular classrooms. His plan calls for closing the specialized SLCs over the next six years. A group of parents and a civic association had challenged that plan, saying the segregated programs are better suited for children with "special needs".

Teen's Seven-Day Bus Wait Ends With News Coverage
Detroit, MI--After six mornings of waiting for a bus to take her to school, 16-year-old Anna Falkner finally got a ride on the seventh day. Falkner, who uses a wheelchair, got ready for school each day and waited for a Detroit Public School bus that did not come. After her mother turned to the local news, the bus finally arrived. It was 45 minutes late.

High School Seniors Could Graduate Without Passing 2008 State Exam, If Governor Signs Bill
Sacramento, CA--The California Legislature has approved a measure that would allow students with disabilities to graduate in 2008 without having to pass the otherwise mandatory California High School Exit Exam. If Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the bill into law, it would extend exemptions that have been in place over the last two years allowing tens of thousands of seniors receiving special education services, who completed all other graduation requirements, to receive a diploma without having to pass the test.

District Repairs One Stadium Lift, With Two More To Go
Seattle, WA--KING-TV reported in September that the wheelchair lift at Nathan Hale High School stadium is finally working -- seven years after the Seattle School District spent $20,000 each for lifts to help wheelchair users get to and from sports fields at three high schools. According to the district's own records, the wheelchair lift at Hale High had not been working since it was installed. Repairs are scheduled for the lifts at the other two school stadiums.

Kindergartener Charged With Assault
Brooksville, KY--Nathan Darnell was arrested in late September and charged with fourth-degree misdemeanor assault. This story would not have made headlines, if not for the fact that Nathan is six years old and has autism and other intellectual disabilities. The person he allegedly assaulted was Glenda Schiltz, a teacher's aide in Nathan's kindergarten class at Taylor Elementary School. Schiltz claimed that on September 5 the boy pushed her, pulled her backward, and punched and kicked her, causing bruises on her arm and cuts on her knee. A judge dismissed the charges after Nathan's public defender pointed to the boy's age and disabilities.

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EMPLOYMENT

Workers Must Prove They Are Qualified In Discrimination Cases, State High Court Says
San Francisco, CA--The Supreme Court of California ruled on August 23 that employees -- not employers -- must prove they are qualified to perform the essential functions of a job with accommodations in disability discrimination cases. Dwight D. Green, who was injured on the job when he worked for the California Department of Corrections, claimed he was told he could not return for work until he was cleared for "full duty". Green was awarded $597,000 in economic damages and $2 million in non-economic damages. The state appealed the decision, but the appeals court rejected the appeal.

EEOC: 7-Eleven Improperly Disclosed Worker's Confidential Information
Honolulu, HI--The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing 7-Eleven of Hawaii, claiming the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by disclosing confidential medical information about an employee to another company. The suit involves Robert Galam, who worked as a sales associate at a Haleiwa 7-Eleven store when he applied for another job at Turtle Bay Resorts. Galam claims that a resort employee that called 7-Eleven was told about Galam's heart condition. The ADA prohibits employers from giving out information about employees' disabilities or medical conditions.

Employee Claims McDonald's Failed To Consult Job Coach
Albany, NY--The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued the owners of an Albany McDonald's restaurant, claiming they discriminated against a former employee with intellectual disabilities by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC filed the suit on behalf of Gladys Jones, accusing the restaurant violating the ADA when it fired her for poor performance without warning or consulting with her job coach to give her a chance to correct her mistakes. Jones reportedly seeks back-pay and damages, and asks the franchise owners to implement new programs and rules to protect the rights of workers with disabilities.

Former NBA Pro Tarpley Sues Over Employment Discrimination
Houston, TX--Roy Tarpley, a former power forward and center for the Dallas Mavericks, has sued the team and the National Basketball Association on Wednesday, accusing them of violating his employment rights under the ADA. The NBA first banned Tarpley from the sport in 1991 for breaking league rules on drug abuse after he used cocaine. He returned three years later, but was banned permanently in 1996 for alcohol abuse. Tarpley has argued that the permanent ban is discriminatory, noting that during the past four years, he has passed all of the drug and alcohol tests that the NBA requested.

Commission Refuses To Toss Firefighter's Request For Testing Accommodation
Stamford, CT--The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities has denied the city of Stamford's motion to dismiss a discrimination claim by Lt. David Lenotti. The firefighter, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, accusedsthe city of denying his request for extra time to take the promotional test in 2002 and in 2005 as an accommodation under the ADA. The city argued that reading and interpreting information quickly is an essential function of the job.

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INSTITUTIONS

Justice Department Investigates Conditions At Howe Developmental Center
Tinley Park, IL--Reports of abuse and neglect at Howe Developmental Center have prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to start its own investigation into conditions at the state-run facility, which houses about 363 people with developmental disabilities. Equip for Equality, the state's federally mandated protection and advocacy system, this March called for HDC's closure after the federal government pulled Medicaid funding to operate the institution and following the deaths of three residents.

State To Close Psych Facility, Move Residents To Community
Harrisburg, PA--Mayview State Hospital will close before the end of 2008, and most of its 225 residents will move to homes in the community, Department of Public Welfare officials have announced. Officials said the closure is in line with the state's commitment to rely less on large institutional facilities while working to improve home and community-based services for Pennsylvanians that have mental illness. DPW Secretary Estelle B. Richman said the money saved from closing the 114-year-old institution would be reinvested in improving the mental health service delivery system.

Advocates Push To Reverse Fernald Ruling
Waltham, MA--Advocates for community living in Massachusetts are putting pressure on Governor Deval Patrick to appeal a judge's decision that -- if not challenged -- could leave Fernald Development Center open for years, perhaps decades. On August 14, U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled that the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation cannot decide on its own to close the 159-year-old facility, and must give the 180 residents with intellectual disabilities and their families the choice to stay. Disability rights advocates have called Tauro's decision a setback for people with intellectual disabilities both in and out of institutions.

Violence Up At County Facility
Wauwatosa, WI--The August 28 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on a 50 percent jump in patient attacks on staff at Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex over the past four years. The union that represents professional staff at the facility says that several nurses have been severely injured, some to the point of hospitalization. This has had a negative impact on staff morale. It has also made it difficult to recruit new staff.

State To Pay $2.5 Million Over Rape At Eastern State Hospital
Medical Lake, WA--A Spokane woman who was raped by a nurse at Eastern State Hospital will receive $1.5 million from the Department of Social and Health Services, in what is reportedly the largest settlement ever because of patient abuse or neglect at the psychiatric facility. Guylin M. Johnston is currently serving time for the rape, which took place in an ESH laundry room in June of 2004. At the time, Johnston had been assigned to directly supervise the woman, who had a psychiatric disability and was on suicide watch.

Protection And Advocacy Sues For Hospital Death Records
Charleston, WV--West Virginia Advocates filed a lawsuit on August 28 to get state officials to recognize that federal law gives the state's protection and advocacy system the authority to investigate incidents of abuse and neglect or violation of the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities, particularly those housed in institutions. WVA sued several state health officials, including the current administrator of William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital, claiming that the agencies have either ignored or denied several requests for information concerning the recent death of a psychiatric patient.

State Plan Switches To Renovating CVTC
Lynchburg, VA--The Lynchburg News & Advance reported in early September that state officials have given in to pressure from family members of people housed at Central Virginia Training Center, and decided to keep the 97-year-old institution operating indefinitely with the current population of 500 or so residents. The state will spend millions of dollars to renovate the aging buildings and correct such problems as a lack of sprinkler systems and generators. To start out, at least $17 million is being earmarked to renovate three buildings.

Newspaper Reveals Conditions At Two Wisconsin Psych Facilities
Madison, WI--The Wisconsin State Journal recently looked into the deaths of six patients since 2002 at Mendota Mental Health Institute and Winnebago Mental Health Institute. Inspectors blamed the deaths, including at least two suicides, on poor care and treatment. The newspaper reported that over the past 10 years the two state-run psychiatric institutions have nearly doubled the number of patients and allowed increasingly more dangerous patients.

Governor's Office Tells Advocates Facility Will Not Open As Developmental Center
Chicago, IL--On September 11, a representative from the Illinois Department of Human Services told a crowd of ADAPT activists that the four 10 bed homes located on the former campus of Lincoln Developmental Center would never be used to house people with developmental disabilities, under the leadership of Governor Rod Blagojevich. The governor also pledged to have ADAPT members at the table when the state develops protocols for its Money Follows the Person Demonstration Program. That program would allow Illinoisans with disabilities who are in nursing homes to spend their Medicaid long-term care money on in-home and community-based supports instead.

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Massachusetts Governor: We Will Close Fernald
Waltham, MA--The administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced on September 12 that it would follow through on plans to move the remaining 180 people out of Fernald Developmental Center while it appeals a federal judge's ruling that the facility stay open indefinitely. One month earlier, a federal judge ruled that the state must give the residents with intellectual disabilities the option of staying at the 159-year-old facility. Patrick's office has long argued that the judge does not have the legal power to order the state to keep the institution operating.

Rats, Cockroaches, Sewage, And Neglect Lead To New Ban On Rosewood Admissions
Owings Mills, MD--For the third time this year, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene placed a ban on new admissions to Rosewood Center, the state's largest institution housing people with developmental disabilities, after inspectors found conditions threatened the health and safety of its 170 residents. In an annual report released September 12, health officials said that during an August visit they found black mold on some walls, dead cockroaches and rat feces in a cafeteria area, and raw sewage leaking from pipes onto medical equipment. Outside the cottages they found a razor blade, batteries, cigarette butts, rubber gloves, nails and screws on the ground, even though some residents have an eating disorder that compels them to eat non-food items. Inspectors also learned that one resident had up to 13 broken ribs from staff repeatedly using the Heimlich maneuver to prevent choking, but failed to seek treatment for the man, even after X-rays showed the fractures.

Visiting Lawmakers See Few Rosewood Residents; Say They Need More Information
Owings Mills, MD--When a group of eight state legislators visited Rosewood Center on September 25, they saw very few residents -- and no reporters. John M. Colmers, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said he banned reporters from the tour out of concern for the residents' privacy and routine. The lawmakers toured the state-run facility to see for themselves why inspectors continue to report that conditions are jeopardizing the health and safety of the people with developmental disabilities that are housed there. After the 45-minute tour, however, members of the delegation said they needed more information.

Institution Had Unwritten Agreement With Law Enforcement Over Allegations
Madison, WI--Swamped with trying to work their own cases on a limited budget, local police and prosecutors have apparently worked out an informal, unwritten agreement with Mendota Mental Health Institute, in which facility officials decide which cases are "worthy" of reporting and prosecuting, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Todd Winstrom, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin, said it is "very problematic" for an institution or agency to be in charge of policing itself.

Appeals Court Rules "Class Action" Justified For Institution Suit
San Francisco, CA--Disability rights advocates in California declared a "significant victory" in late September, as the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District in San Francisco allowed "class action" status for a case that could affect more than 7,000 people served through the state's Department of Developmental Services. The advocates claim that the state has violated the federal and state rights of thousands of people with developmental disabilities who are housed in state institutions, or are at risk of being institutionalized, by failing to provide less restrictive, community-based supports. The suit was filed to force the state to do away with policies and practices that block people from moving out of institutions.

Nursing Homes: Great For Investors. Not So Great For Residents.
Tampa, FL--Since the beginning of the millennium, thousands of nursing homes across the country have been bought up by investors, such as private equity firms. After increasing profits by slashing budgets and cutting staff, many of those investment firms have turned around and resold the nursing homes for even greater profits. According to the New York Times, the treatment of residents at such facilities worsened measurably after the sales. Family members of residents who have been neglected or abused at the facilities have tried to take the owners to court. However, the corporate structures of these investment firms make it nearly impossible for even state and federal regulators to figure out who is responsible.

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IN OTHER NEWS

Advocates Sue City For Flawed Disaster Planning
Oakland, CA--In the first case of its kind in the country, disability rights groups are suing the city of Oakland for failing to include the needs of people with disabilities in disaster planning. The suit claims that the city has failed to conduct surveys to determine which potential shelter sites are accessible; has not updated its emergency shelter plan since the 1980s to include the needs of people with disabilities; and has not made arrangements to provide necessary medical supplies, equipment, and accessible transportation for the estimated 84,000 residents of the city that have disabilities.

Mayor In Hot Seat For Parking Blunder
Toledo, OH--The Toledo Commission on Disabilities approved an August 7 resolution condemning Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's decision to park his city-leased GMC Envoy in a space reserved for motorists with disabilities, while he went for a 45-minute massage. A spokesperson from Finkbeiner's office told reporters that the mayor has taken full responsibility for the error, and has paid the $100 parking fine.

Famous Playwright Hid Son With Down Syndrome
New York, NY--September's Vanity Fair Magazine featured a story on the little-known son of famous playwright Arthur Miller. According to the story, Daniel Miller was born in 1966 to the Pulitzer Prize-winner and his third wife, Inge Morath. But, because Daniel was born with Down syndrome, Miller sent him to Southbury Training School to live with about 300 other children with developmental disabilities. After that, Miller rarely spoke of his son. There are no known pictures published of him. It also described how Miller virtually shut his son out of his life -- something that was not so unusual for parents to do at that time.

Family Says Preacher Dad Sat In Wheelchair Outside Airport, Ignored For Days
Orlando, FL--A 72-year-old minister from Wichita, Kansas, sat in a wheelchair for up to three consecutive days outside Orlando International Airport, without clean clothes, medical attention, food, or water. Kenny Davis had flown to Orlando via AirTran on Monday, August 13, to attend the Gospel Music Workshop of America. At some point, airport personnel found a wheelchair for him, after he said he was not feeling well. Then another worker wheeled Davis to a curb, where he sat unnoticed for days. The family has asked for permission to review recordings from airport surveillance cameras taken during the week.

Experts: Connecting Cho's Disability And V-Tech Shootings Sets Back Progress On Stigma
Blacksburg, VA--The connection being drawn in the popular media between Seung-hui Cho's anxiety disorder diagnosis and the April 16 shooting deaths of 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty members, is reinforcing the stigma that people with similar psychiatric disabilities experience, causing many to avoid treatment. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cho was referred to his high school's special education program, which developed a structured behavior and treatment plan, and implemented classroom accommodations to help him deal with his "selective mutism". Records of the plan and modifications were not passed along to Virginia Tech officials when he started attending the college, reportedly because of confidentiality laws.

Court Says Guardianship Does Not Automatically Limit Right To Vote
St. Louis, MO--Missourians who have been assigned a guardian after being declared "mentally incapacitated" do not necessarily lose their right to vote, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on August 23. In the case of Robert Scaletty, who has schizophrenia, the court determined that state law does allow for individual citizens to retain their right to vote, even if they have otherwise been declared incapacitated and a guardian has been appointed.

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Son's Quick Thinking Saves Family From Blaze
Covington, KY--Local news sources declared 8-year-old Gregory Bridwell a hero after his quick actions likely saved his family from harm. Gregory, who has cerebral palsy, was sitting in his living room watching television on September 1 when the set caught on fire. The boy crawled outside to alert his grandfather, who came back inside to wake Gregory's father, who was asleep on a sofa. His father escaped with just a small burn on one hand.

Cited For Parking Illegally, Lady McCartney Shows Cop Her Prosthetic Leg
New York, NY--Heather Mills McCartney, the estranged wife of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, was recently fined $250 for parking her rented Bentley in a parking zone reserved for motorists with disabilities. McCartney reportedly explained to the New York traffic cop that her left leg was amputated below the knee after a 1993 motorcycle accident. Onlookers said she even went so far as to show her prosthetic leg -- and thump on it. The officer went ahead and wrote the ticket anyway, noting that she failed to display the necessary parking tag. McCartney was apparently photographed sticking out her tongue at the officer as he walked away.

Jury Clears Nursing Home Owners In Post-Katrina Deaths
St. Francisville, LA--After a three-week trial, a jury took just four hours in deliberation on September 7 to acquit the owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home of negligent homicide and cruelty charges related to the deaths of 35 residents who perished in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Sal and Mabel Mangano had been accused of failing to fully evacuate the facility as the hurricane approached in late August 2005. Several residents ended up drowning while sitting in their wheelchairs or lying in their beds. The couple's defense attorneys argued that the couple could not have predicted how dangerous the storm would be, nor that the levees surrounding St. Bernard Parish, where St. Rita's is located, would crumble or be "topped" by storm water. Jurors said they believed there were many people to blame for the deaths, including federal, state and local officials in St. Bernard Parish, who failed to order an evacuation of the area.

Senator Johnson Tells Colleagues Brain Hemorrhage Has Improved Him
Washington, DC--On September 5, member of both parties of the U.S. Senate stood to applaud as South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson returned to the chamber following a nine-month absence after he experienced a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. As he stood at his desk, Johnson read a speech to his colleagues, in which he said the experience had made him more aware and compassionate toward individuals and families who face hardships, whether they are the consequence of "catastrophic health issues, economic hardship or lack of an opportunity to reach one's full potential in life."

Drive Wheelchair With Your Thoughts. No Joystick. No Electrodes.
Champaign, IL--Researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago have developed new technology that allows people to operate power wheelchairs simply by thinking of words such as "left", "right", "stop" and "go". Through a computerized band that the user wears around the neck, the Ambient technology "grabs" nerve impulses that go from the brain to the larynx, or voice box, turning them into commands.

Study: Youths With Disabilities Feel Good About Themselves, But Worry About Future
Washington, DC--A long-term study of American students with disabilities from age 15 through 19, has revealed that most felt good about themselves and were confident that they would graduate from high school with a diploma. Researchers with the National Center for Special Education Research found, however, that the youths generally were not confident that they would attend a college or university or that they would earn enough money to live independent of government benefits. Among other things, the findings revealed that there was little difference between how students with and without disability felt about themselves and their relationships with their family members and teachers.

Soldier Fights To Keep Service Dog At His Side
San Antonio, TX--Pfc. Adrian Garcia is fighting the U.S. Army to keep his service dog with him while he recuperates from injuries he sustained while fighting in Iraq. Garcia, who lost both legs during combat last year, has been staying at Fisher House at Fort Sam Houston while receiving treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center. But hospital officials told him that Mookie, his pit bull terrier, couldn't stay at Fisher House. Garcia has told reporters that Mookie helps him with his balance and his mood. A base spokesperson said that the hospital is working with Garcia to find a place -- on or off the base -- that will accommodate his service dog.

Passenger Says Airline Told Him He Could Not Fly Alone
Jacksonville, FL--Andy Gates has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Airlines, claiming it refused to let him board a June 7 flight without an attendant because his neuromuscular disability would keep him from being able to evacuate on his own in case of emergency. Gates had checked his luggage, had his boarding pass, and was sitting in his wheelchair at Jacksonville's airport ready to board a U.S. Airways flight home to Wisconsin, when an airline employee told him he could not fly alone. Gates said he had flown on his own many times before, including on U.S. Airways. He said he wants the airline to change its policies, so that other passengers will not have to go through the humiliation and frustration he faced.

Governor Pardons Convicted "Drug Trafficker"
Tallahassee, FL--Richard Paey was released from Tomoka Correctional Institution at Daytona Beach on September 20, just hours after Governor Charlie Crist granted him a full pardon. The former attorney had served more than three years of a mandatory 25-year sentence for drug trafficking. Paey was arrested after he collected seven prescriptions of 100 tablets each of the pain killer Percocet over a three month period. Prosecutors said the sheer volume of the narcotic meant he intended to distribute the drug. Paey's defenders argued that he needed the high doses to hold off chronic pain in his back and legs from a 1985 car accident and a later back surgery that went bad.

Taxi Drivers Accused Of Refusing Service Animals
Milwaukee, WI--The Milwaukee chapter of the National Federation of the Blind has accused taxi drivers in the city of deliberately refusing to transport people who use guide or service animals -- in some cases driving away when they see the animals. Red Christensen, the general manager of American United Taxi, which has a $1.25 million contract with the county to provide about 500 rides for people with disabilities each day, admitted that some of his drivers prefer not to transport dogs out of fear or for cultural or religious reasons, or because of allergies to dogs.

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