Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Friday, February 7, 2003
Year IV, Edition 032

This edition includes 7 news items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.

"We don't have the money in our budget to keep the centers running."

--Kenneth W. Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, announcing which two of the state's 12 institutions will close by mid-2006 (First story)

"The history that's provided in support of the sterilizations is not a eugenics or genetic concern, but rather one that's really more institutional management."
--Jay Chalke, British Columbia's public guardian and trustee for people with mental disabilities, commenting on a suit filed by former institution residents who claim they were illegally sterilized by the provincial government during the last century (Second story)



Ohio Names Two Institutions Scheduled To Close

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 7, 2003

COLUMBUS, OHIO--The state of Ohio will close two state-run institutions housing people with developmental disabilities over the next three and a half years, Governor Bob Taft's office announced Wednesday.

Springview Developmental Center, which houses 86 people and employs 179 staff members, will close by June 30, 2005.

Apple Creek Developmental has 181 residents and 381 employees and is scheduled for closure by June 30, 2006.

Officials said the current residents would have the choice between moving into a home in the community or transferring to one of Ohio's 10 other state-operated institutions.

The announcement comes as Ohio faces a financial crisis that will cut agency budgets by $121 million this year and freeze or reduce growth to state budgets in the next fiscal year.

"We don't have the money in our budget to keep the centers running," said Kenneth W. Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, in a press statement.

The Springview facility, built in 1910, is the oldest in the state. Its annual budget is about $11 million, or $371 per person per day, according to MRDD statistics. The Apple Creek facility was built in 1931. The state spends an average of $364 per resident per day, or $24 million a year.

The state employee unions and parents of those housed in the two institutions vowed to fight the state in its decision.

Related article:
"Apple Creek to close" (Beacon Journal)



Sterilizations Were "Sexual Assault", Former Institution Residents Claim

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 7, 2003

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--Nineteen former residents of a BC mental hospital are suing the provincial government for sexual assault because it allowed them to be sterilized illegally.

The plaintiffs in the case -- 18 women and one man -- claim they were sterilized between 1940 and 1968 when British Columbia law allowed for people with mental illness or mental retardation to be sterilized if experts believed that they might pass their mental disabilities along to their children.

The law was passed during the eugenics movement, which was based on the racist belief that society would be improved if people with "undesirable" traits were not allowed to have children. More than 60,000 Americans were sterilized in the early and middle of the last century. Adolph Hitler is known to have used American eugenics laws for the blueprint of his Nazi policies calling for sterilization of hundreds of thousands of people with and without disabilities.

The legal action filed last year was initiated by Jay Chalke, the province's public guardian and trustee for people with mental disabilities. Chalke said that official hospital documents show these patients were sterilized for reasons other than eugenics -- reasons that were not allowed under the sterilization laws.

"The history that's provided in support of the sterilizations is not a eugenics or genetic concern, but rather one that's really more institutional management," Chalke said.

The suit, scheduled to go to trial March 17, is similar to one filed during the mid-1990s in neighboring Alberta, the only other Canadian province that allowed for sterilizations of people with these disabilities in institutions. As a result of that suit, Alberta paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to institution residents who were sterilized without their consent.

Thomas Berger, the attorney representing the group, explained that this case is different from the Alberta case because BC says the statute of limitations has run out for legal action based on its eugenics laws. So Berger plans to argue that these were victims of sexual assault -- a crime that has no time limit for prosecution in the province and that does not require "sexual gratification" on the part of the perpetrator.

"What is necessary is an act of 'power, aggression and control.' That is what we have in each of these cases," Berger said.

"There is, in fact, a smoking gun in this case," claimed Berger, citing a memo by Dr. W.J.G. McFarlane, clinical director of the mental hospital in 1971, which stated: "These cases were in all honesty not primarily referred for eugenics purposes."

Related article:
"19 in suit claim unlawful sterilization" (Vancouver Sun)



"Real Work For Those With Disabilities Is Essential" by Betsy MacMichael

February 7, 2003

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA--The following two paragraphs are excerpts from an article by columnist and parent-advocate Betsy MacMichael:

Until recently, most people with developmental disabilities were encouraged to view the "sheltered workshop" as their best work option. These were originally a good idea, as an antidote to isolation and a setting for some training. However, workshop employees' average pay is about $2.46 per hour, and the work can be quite monotonous. A friend is in a workshop rut, and wants out. He stuffs pantyhose into boxes all day long and is capable of much more. There are more than 100 workshops in North Carolina, and it remains an option.

Supported employment was the next step historically to broaden meaningful employment options for people with disabilities. People get help finding jobs in the regular community and earn minimum wage or better, while getting support from a job coach and others. Many of these jobs, however, are limited to a few employment areas: the "three F's," food, filing or filth. If you do not want to handle food, file papers or haul garbage, what then?

Full article:
"Real work for those with disabilities is essential" (Durham Herald-Sun)



Fire Was Set To Cover-up Boy's Neglect Death, Prosecutor Says

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 7, 2003

ANDERSON, INDIANA--On January 21, firefighters responding to a house fire in Elwood, Illinois found the burned body of 8-year-old Mark Adrian Norris II.

Officials believed at first that the boy, who had cerebral palsy and epilepsy and used a wheelchair, died in the blaze that consumed his family's single-story home.

But autopsy results tell a different story: The county coroner confirmed Friday that Mark died of pneumonia at least one day before the fire.

During a press conference Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay said there was no smoke in Mark's breathing passages, indicating that he was not breathing at the time of the fire. The autopsy also showed signs of malnourishment, extensive muscle deterioration and several bedsores. Additionally, toxicology tests found no traces of the medication Mark should have received to control his seizures.

Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said Jennifer Norris, Mark's mother, is suspected of letting her son die and then setting the fire to conceal the real cause of his death.

"The child died, and at some point -- probably a day or two before the fire was set -- the mother discovered her child had died, and the fire occurred as a mechanism to cover up the death -- that's what I suspect probably happened," Cummings explained.

Mark's mother, his 1-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother all escaped from the fire unharmed.

Cummings said he is considering filing neglect and reckless homicide charges against Jennifer Norris.



Soccer Fans To Protest Stadium Inaccessibility

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 7, 2003

CARDIFF, WALES--Hundreds of soccer fans with disabilities plan to boycott an up-coming game to protest the poor seating for wheelchair users at Millennium Stadium.

The 1,000 member Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association (MUDSA) claims that the stadium's 300 wheelchair accessible seats are situated behind regular seating.

Wheelchair users can view the action on the field . . . until the fans in front of them stand up. And while there are "Do Not Stand Up" signs fixed to those seats, the spectators tend to stand up during exciting periods anyway.

MUDSA has written to the Football League to try to get a platform temporarily installed at the front of the lower tier close to the field. They plan to boycott next month's Worthington Cup Final against the Liverpool team to bring attention to the issue.

The managers of Millennium Stadium have agreed to install raised platforms in the existing designated wheelchair seating areas.

Phil Downs, MUDSA secretary, said that would not take care of the problem.

"It is just a question of us trying to persuade the powers that be to put in a temporary platform for us to provide us with an unobstructed view of the pitch," Downs told the BBC News.



Parents Helping Parents

PHP is a family resource center serving parents and children with special needs.



TWO YEARS AGO (From the February 7, 2001 Inclusion Daily Express)

Ruling Allows Man With Down Syndrome To Become US Citizen

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 7, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH--Five years after he applied for United States citizenship, Gustavo Galvez Letona, 28, is finally a citizen.

Letona was born in Guatemala and was brought to the United States when he was 10 years old. Letona's mother Lily helped him apply for citizenship in 1996, but the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) refused to make him a citizen because Letona, who has Down syndrome, uses a wheelchair, and does not speak, would not recite the Oath of Allegiance.

In 1999, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said that since children who do not understand the pledge are not required to say it, Letona should not have to do so either. Kimball then ordered the INS to grant citizenship to Galvez.

The INS appealed Kimball's decision.

Last year, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and California Senator Diane Feinstein successfully sponsored a bill in Congress that allows the Attorney General to waive the oath requirement for people with certain disabilities.

So on Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, basing its decision on this new law, upheld Kimball's ruling, thereby making Letona's citizenship official. Now Letona is eligible for government benefits he could not receive before.

"This case has made a huge difference for the disabled," said Leonor Perretta, an attorney for the Letona family. "It is definitely a victory for our client."


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