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

Thursday, November 13, 2003
Year IV, Edition 175

This front page features 9 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for the rest of today's news.

"This is my mission, and I embrace it. I enjoy it."

--David G. Miller, a disability rights advocate from Knoxville, Tennessee (Fourth story)

"The time has come to face the gut wrenching possibility that conscious cognitively disabled people whose feeding tubes are removed -- as opposed to patients who are actively dying and choose to stop eating -- may die agonizing deaths."
--Wesley J. Smith, writing about the claims by Michael Schiavo that his wife would feel no pain if she were ordered to starve to death (Second story)



High Court's First Ruling Is Against Worker With Disabilities

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--In its first decision of the new term, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal government does not have to pay disability benefits to people who are only able to do jobs that no longer exist.

The case involved Pauline Thomas who operated an old, manual elevator in a county building in Jersey City, New Jersey, until the elevator was replaced by an automatic model in 1995.

Thomas applied for Social Security Administration disability benefits claiming that her heart and back problems prevented her from doing any other job.

The federal government denied Thomas' benefits because she was able to do her previous job -- even though that job no longer existed. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled in her favor, but the Supreme Court overturned the Appeals Court's decision.

In Wednesday's unanimous ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the SSA's guidelines allow the federal agency to penalize workers who find jobs in a declining industry if the job later disappears.

The SSA is obligated to determine whether or not the person is unable to do their previous job because of a disability, regardless of whether the job is obsolete.

"Court limits disability claims for workers in obsolete jobs" (San Francisco Chronicle)
Barnhart v. Thomas, 02-863 (U.S. Supreme Court) Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader



Michael Schiavo Moves To Block Bush Appeal

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2003

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Michael Schiavo on Wednesday asked a judge not to delay his suit against Governor Jeb Bush for ordering a feeding tube reinserted into his wife, Terri.

Mr. Schiavo sued Bush on October 21, the same day the governor signed "Terri's Law", which gave him authority to over-ride several court decisions and have Terri's feeding tube reinstalled just six days after it had been removed. Attorneys for Mr. Schiavo and the American Civil Liberties Union claim that the legislature and the governor overstepped their constitutional bounds by passing the law last month specifically to save Terri's life.

An attorney for Bush tried to block Mr. Schiavo's suit on Monday by filing an appeal with the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Bush's office claims that Schiavo's attorney failed to properly notify the governor of the suit. They also claim that the suit should have been filed in Leon County, where Bush is based, rather than Pinellas County, where Schiavo lives.

Bush's appeal prompted an automatic stay, which means that Terri cannot be forced off the feeding tube until after both sides present their positions through the appeal process.

Terri Schiavo's case has been watched closely by disability rights advocates for several years. Her husband and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed from an apparent heart attack in February 1990 at age 26. The courts have supported Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri cannot recover from her injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live. A local judge ordered doctors to remove the gastronomy tube that provides Terri with food and water on October 15.

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, believe that she is alert and responsive and that she might improve with rehabilitative therapies that Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the past 10 years. They also suspect that Terri's husband wants her to die so that he can marry another woman with whom he has fathered two children, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment.

The Schindlers and advocates have defended Terri's right to live, noting that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. With their urging, Governor Bush championed the bill that gave him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 21, and to appoint an independent guardian to review her situation and provide the governor with recommendations.

Columnist Wesley J. Smith on Wednesday looked at the claims by Mr. Schiavo and others that Terri's death by starvation would be painless.

"A 'Painless' Death?" column by Wesley J. Smith (Weekly Standard)
IDE Archives "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live"
IDE Archives "Robert Wendland"
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation



"Right To Life From A Nonreligious Disability Perspective" by Betsy MacMichael

November 12, 2003

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA--The following five paragraphs are excerpts from the most recent column by parent-advocate Betsy MacMichael:

Many people with disabilities, especially significant physical disabilities, are dependent upon others in a way that many people seem to consider unacceptable.

They often have personal care needs ranging from assistance with eating, bathing, toileting and dressing. The unavoidable dependencies thus created may appear as extremely undignifying.

But many people with disabilities view the assistance as practical and convenient, and in the best cases they are in charge of the service offered (or purchased).

Better off dead? People with disabilities are generally not queried on this issue; instead the bioethicists are the ones invited to define morality which guides legal policy.

People with disabilities have witnessed how society has judged them as human beings. They know they are considered burdensome, even pathetic, by some. Why then should they trust a system willing to quickly allow for "assisted suicide" based upon "compassion?" Has contempt morphed into compassion somehow?

Entire article:
"Right to Life from a nonreligious disability perspective" (Durham Herald-Sun)



"Disability Has Become His Mission"

November 13, 2003

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE--Wednesday's Knoxville News-Sentinel featured disability rights advocate David G. Miller.

Miller, who has used a wheelchair since 1985, is a consultant with the Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, which focuses on helping businesses and governments to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Miller also headed up the Tennessee Disability Coalition's VOTE!! Campaign in Knox county, and recently visited 50 polling places to see whether they were accessible to voters with disabilities.

"One of the main misconceptions is that disabilities are visual, that if you don't see a wheelchair or a missing limb or something, there is no disability," he said. "There are people with sight impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive impairments, who might have needs."

"Believe it or not, I feel blessed," said Miller. "I feel like this is what I am meant to do. This is my mission, and I embrace it. I enjoy it."

Entire article:
"Disability has become his mission" (Knoxville News-Sentinel)



State, Community Providers And Advocates Spar Over Cuts

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2003

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA--Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities, along with family members and advocates for community-based supports, protested Wednesday outside the offices of Florida's Department of Children & Families. They were protesting changes in the way the state contracts with services providers -- changes that have left some providers receiving much less than in the past.

Until recently, the state negotiated contracts and rates with each provider on an individual basis. This summer, however, the state standardized the rates so that all providers would receive the same pay for the same type of service. This meant that some providers would receive more than they used to while others would receive less.

DCF Secretary Jerry Regier, backed by Governor Jeb Bush, responded to the protests by accusing some service providers of billing many more hours in order to make up the differences. Some providers billed as much as 158 percent more in July and August than they had in previous months.

"We cannot have a system where providers manipulate the system," Bush said Wednesday. The governor also accused the providers of scaring people with disabilities and their families into believing the state was going to begin shutting down programs.

The state currently serves about 25,000 people with developmental disabilities, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Another 12,500 people are on a waiting list for services. The change in the rate structure was intended to help the state start reducing the waiting list.

Related article:
"Protests follow decision to cut funding for programs for the disabled" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)



Paratransit Riders Tired Of 30-Minute Waits

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2003

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--People who use The Ride, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's paratransit service, told the Boston City Council Thursday that the door-to-door service's pickup times are unacceptable, the Boston Herald reported.

The MBTA claims that its accessible van and taxi service picks up and drops off riders "on time" nearly 98 percent of the time. But the service defines "on time" as within 30 minutes of the time scheduled.

Speakers from the Ride Advocacy Project told the council that 30 minutes either way from the scheduled pickup times has presented a hardship for them.

"If the ride is 29 minutes late, the person (at home) helping me (out of my wheelchair) is not going to consider that on time," said Karen Nurt of Boston.

Other riders told of drivers arriving and dropping them off several hours early, leaving to wait in their wheelchairs in front of unopened buildings.

The Ride serves people with disabilities in dozens of cities and towns in the region. While Boston has no direct authority over the service, it does contribute a significant amount of funding for it, Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey reminded transit representatives.



The Center for Housing and New Community Economics

The development of community housing and services for people with disabilities has been a major national policy direction for the past 20 years. Unfortunately, the administrative structures supporting community services typically promote congregate and agency controlled approaches to housing and personal assistance services. While the number of people living in institutions and large facilities has decreased, the vast majority of individuals residing "in the community" live in residences owned and controlled by someone else. Housing and personal assistance services are dictated far more often by government and agency preferences than by the needs and desires of persons with disabilities. Current approaches have not assured that people with disabilities are afforded control over, or even a voice in, the most basic decisions regarding where they live, with whom they live, the nature of the assistance they receive, and how they spend their time.

ADAPT and the IOD intend to collaborate with a broad coalition of people and organizations concerned with housing, economics, personal assistance services, and advocacy. The coalition will include people with disabilities and their families, as well as people from federal, state, and local agencies. Collaboration between the private and public sectors will be encouraged and facilitated.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives -- One year ago:


Erstad Honored By New Coworkers And Employer

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2002

MADISON, WISCONSIN--Last week, the employees of Vitaplus honored one of their own, Steve Erstad, for his hard work and enthusiasm over the past year.

"(This) is the award presented to the employee who consistently displays enthusiasm everyday that they come to Vitaplus, and brightens the day of others around him," said Jeff Winkler, production leader for the animal feed supply company. "The person who was voted by all the Vitaplus employees to win that award this year is Steve Erstad!"

"I was surprised," Erstad told WISC-TV. "It was a good surprise."

It appears he has finally found a workplace that appreciates and values him.

About two years ago, Erstad was fired from his custodial job at CUNA Mutual -- a job he had held for 20 years. The company said Erstad, who has a developmental disability, was a safety threat to coworkers. The firing had to do with an incident in which Erstad, frustrated by changes in his shift, began pounding his fist into his open hand. When Erstad's boss disagreed with the company's decision, he lost his job, too.

Erstad sued CUNA Mutual, claiming it discriminated against him because of his disability. Erstad's former boss joined the suit.

In February of this year, the company settled out of court with Erstad and his former boss. The amount and terms of the settlement are secret.

As part of the employee award at Vitaplus, Erstad received a gold watch and his name will appear on a large plaque in the front of the lobby.

More details, along with related stories, are available from the WISC-TV Website:


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