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

Friday, January 2, 2004
Year V, Edition 851

Today's front page features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for 45 more news items.

"I love it. I have my freedom."

--Carol Fath, who moved out of an institution and into her own apartment this past August (Second story)

"Segregated learning experiences lead to segregated life experiences. Inclusive learning experiences provide the skills to be out there and work and play and have fun and make friends and have families. "
--Doug Fisher, professor at San Diego State University (Fifth story)



State Appeals Court Upholds Visitability Ordinance

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 2, 2004

PHOENIX, ARIZONA--Advocates of "visitability" scored a victory in Arizona this week as the state's Court of Appeals backed a Pima County ordinance making new homes accessible to wheelchair users.

The ordinance, which was adopted by county supervisors in February 2002, requires all new single-family homes to be wheelchair accessible from the outside, have interior doorways wide enough for wheelchairs, have electrical outlets at wheelchair height and have bathroom walls designed to support grab bars.

Other such visitability ordinances have been showing up in cities across the country over the past couple of years. The idea is to make sure people with disabilities do not have physical barriers to visiting friends in their homes.

Washburn Custom Builders sued the county when it refused to approve plans for a building that did not comply with the new code. The Home Builders Association of Southern Arizona joined them in their suit, claiming that the new rule placed financial burdens on homeowners, and that the county lacked legal authority to impose such restrictions on single-family homes.

The appelate court rejected those arguments along with claims that the ordinance is unconstitutional.

Appellate Judge Peter Eckerstrom wrote that the government has a legitimate interest in increasing the number of single-family homes accessible to those in wheelchairs, because "approximately 41 percent of the people over the age of 65 have some form of disability." Eckerstrom added that although not all of those people will be using wheelchairs, the rapid growth of the older population gave the supervisors enough legal reason to impose the new rule.

The county also argued that the cost of complying with the new regulations would be between $100 and $200.

Washburn's lawyers said that they plan to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Regardless of the outcome at the higher court level, William Altaffer, an attorney who has been working on visitability rules across the state, told the Arizona Business Gazette that the appeal court's decision should help persuade other communities, such as Tucson and Phoenix, to enact similar restrictions.

Related article:
"S. Arizona builders lose appeal" (Arizona Business Gazette)



Former Institution Residents Succeed With New Freedom

January 2, 2004

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN--In May of 2002, the Department of Health and Family Services took over operations of Hearthside Rehabilitation Center, a 200-bed institution housing people with developmental disabilities. The non-profit company that had operated Hearthside and another intermediate care facility was charged with 11 criminal counts of abuse and neglect of residents.

Officials soon promised to close the facilities and find better places for the residents to live.

"We couldn't find worse," said Governor Jim Doyle.

Family members of many residents were skeptical that the community could support their loved ones, or that the residents could live without 24-hour supervision.

"When they told us Hearthside was closing, I was terrified," said Sandy Potter, whose sister, Carol Fath was a Hearthside resident for 14 years. "I didn't know what to do."

This past August, Carol moved into her own apartment where she watches her own movies, keeps her own food and decorated her own Christmas tree.

"I love it," she said Tuesday afternoon, while sitting on her futon sofa. "I have my freedom."

On Wednesday, the state officially closed Hearthside. Most of its other former residents now live in group homes and apartments.

According to a feature story in Wednesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they are adapting well to their new surroundings and new freedom.

Related article:
Residents adapt as former home closes (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)



Renner-Lewis Family Sues School Over Son's Restraint Death

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 2, 2004

KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN--Last week, the family of Michael Renner-Lewis III filed a $25 million "wrongful death" lawsuit against officials and employees of the school where he died this summer.

According to local media reports, the suit is against the Parchment School District, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency and several employees, including the principal. Family lawyers allege that the 15-year-old, who had autism, died because he could not breath while staff members had him pinned to the ground on his stomach.

When Michael became "agitated" in the early afternoon of the first day of school, August 25, at least four staff members "tried to quiet" him by holding him face-down on the floor. A family caregiver who arrived at the school to take Michael home found him unconscious. She started giving Michael CPR, but was too late to revive him.

An initial autopsy report showed "no obvious anatomical causes" of death. His death was ruled an accident, and no criminal charges were filed.

The final autopsy report listed the cause of his death as "prolonged physical restraint in prone position associated with extreme mental and motor agitation." Dr. Richard Tooker, Kalamazoo County chief medical examiner, said a contributing factor in Michael's death was an "underlying heart abnormality."

"A combination of the restraint and the underlying heart ailment was, unfortunately, a fatal combination," Tooker said.

The suit claims that the 6-foot, 165-pound teen had fainted and that school officials did not know how to handle the situation so they forced him to the ground on his stomach for at least one hour.

"I think it's clear that this is what happened in this case," said family attorney Paul Broschay. "Michael didn't just sit on the floor and die. He was held down to the floor by several people. If that's not a homicide, I don't know what is."

"You don't keep someone face down on their gut with a knee in their back for an hour," Broschay added. "Animals are treated better than that."

Broschay is with the law firm headed by Geoffrey Fieger, the personal-injury attorney that represented "assisted suicide" promoter Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

"The Death of Michael Renner-Lewis III" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



State Park Nature Trail Is Now Accessible To Wheelchairs

January 2, 2004

RIPON, CALIFORNIA--Caswell Memorial State Park, about one hour's drive south of Sacramento, now features a nature trail, picnic area and restrooms that are accessible to people with disabilities.

The park' recently-completed trail conforms with the Americans with Disabilities Act for wheelchair accessibility, including new wooden bridges and decomposed granite pathways. Visitors can use conventional wheelchairs for the three-quarter mile nature trail, or borrow wheelchairs with off-road tires for more rugged terrain.

Friday's Sacramento Bee included a brief story about the park's new features.

Related article:
"Nature trail for disabled is open" (Sacramento Bee)



"Segregated Learning Hurts Social Education"

January 2, 2004

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS--The following six paragraphs are excerpts from a recent story in the Fayetteville Morning News:

What Amanda George wants most of all is to get married and have babies.

The trouble is that Amanda, although she graduated from Fayetteville High School, was never really part of the class of 2000. While she was learning basic academics, she missed out on the social opportunities that teach youngsters how to make friends and build relationships.

That's where the "self-contained classroom" concept of special education failed her, her mother believes. Even though Amanda attended some regular classes, like physical education, and ate lunch with her "typical" peers, she spent most of her time in a classroom with other special education students and never enjoyed the full extracurricular experience that is high school.

"It's not about sitting in an algebra class to learn algebra," said Kerry George, who was for many years a special education teacher at Elmdale Elementary School in Springdale.

"She knew she was missing out on the things other kids did," George said. "I think she knows she'll always be on the outside looking in."

Segregated learning experiences lead to segregated life experiences," said Doug Fisher, a professor at San Diego State University. "Inclusive learning experiences provide the skills to be out there and work and play and have fun and make friends and have families.

Entire article:
"Segregated Learning Hurts Social Education" (Fayetteville Morning News)



Ability Hub: Assistive Technology Solutions

Assistive Technology for people with a disability who find operating a computer difficult, maybe even impossible. This web site will direct you to adaptive equipment and alternative methods available for accessing computers


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (One year ago)


High Court Throws Out "Wrongful Life" Suit

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 2, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH--The parents of a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome cannot sue a doctor for misreading prenatal tests designed to identify the disability, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a split decision, the court ruled that the state's 1983 Wrongful Life Act is constitutional. That law keeps parents from filing so-called "wrongful birth" or "wrongful life" lawsuits against doctors for failing to provide such information.

Marie Wood and Terry Borman claimed that they went to doctors specifically to find out whether their unborn daughter would have a genetic disability. The couple was assured that there was little risk.

After the girl was born with Down syndrome, Wood and Borman sued the hospital, saying they would have ended the pregnancy if they had known.

A lower court threw out the lawsuit based on the Wrongful Life Act. The Supreme Court upheld that decision.

Related article:
"'Wrongful Life' Statute Upheld" (Salt Lake Tribune)
"Wrongful Birth Lawsuits" (Inclusion Daily Express)


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