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 9, 2004
Year V, Edition 855

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 37 more news items.

"It's like, let's pass the Americans with Disabilities Act, let's create equal access, let's reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and then let's also pass a state initiative that allows physicians to give someone with a disability three grams of Phenobarbital if that's his wish. There are too many Jack Kevorkians out there rubbing their hands and wanting to assist you with your death wish."

--Disability rights advocate Joni Eareckson Tada (Fourth story)

"Ninety-eight percent of the people who ride the bus can get on the bus. The other 2 percent are like me. Why can't we get on the bus? Why are we always the person at the bottom of the totem pole?"
--Donald Stancile, who was arrested Wednesday when he took a Pittsburgh bus hostage after its wheelchair ramp wouldn't work (Second story)



Taft And Lawmakers Compromise On Crime Prevention/Institution Closure Bill

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 9, 2004

COLUMBUS, OHIO--Under a compromise reached between Governor Bob Taft and Ohio lawmakers, a bill that would provide protections for crime victims with developmental disabilities will move forward, even though it includes provisions that that would slow the closure of two state-run institutions.

Senate Bill 178 is a modified version of last year's Senate Bill 4 which Taft vetoed on December 12. Like the previous measure, SB 178 would make it a crime to endanger a person with a developmental disability, in much the same way that endangering a child is a crime.

The compromise legislation still keeps the decision to close institutions in the governor's hands. It leaves in a commission to review his plans to close facilities, but shortens the review period from 180 days to 120 days. It also adds a sixth member to what would have been a five-member commission.

Family members of institution residents, along with employees of the facilities, hope the provisions will give them time to find ways to keep the governor from closing Springview Developmental Center and Apple Creek Developmental Center, which he had scheduled for closure in June 2005 and June 2006 respectively.

Legislators had intended to over-ride Taft's veto, and may still do so if SB 178 is not passed by February 3.

Taft has said he will okay the measure.

Taft had announced his plan to close the facilities in January 2003 as a way to save $23 million over the following four years. Ohio houses more than 1,000 people with developmental disabilities in its 12 institutions.

"Bill could save Apple Creek center" (Akron Beacon Journal)
"Ohio Governor's Attempt To Close Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Activist Jailed After Taking Bus Hostage

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 9, 2004

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA--Beware of Donald Stancile: He takes hostages.

To date -- by his own admission -- Stancile has held three Port Authority buses hostage.

Wednesday night, he was arrested and jailed for his latest crime.

"I'm going to continuously break the law," Stancile said late Thursday after he was released from jail.

Stancile explained that he has encountered buses with malfunctioning lifts or ramps about 50 times since he began using a motorized wheelchair in 2001.

"I don't feel like I'm the defendant," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'm the victim."

When Stancile tried boarding the 86B Frankstown bus Wednesday night, the hydraulic wheelchair ramp would not work. For some reason, the driver refused to get out and operate the ramp manually. Instead, by Stancile's account, she allowed the other passengers to angrily confront him.

Stancile moved his wheelchair to the front of the parked bus, then used his cell phone to call a fellow activist at ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, located just across the street. His colleague put together some make-shift protest signs and joined Stancile at the curb.

A swarm of police soon showed up. They arrested Stancile and charged him with obstructing traffic and disorderly conduct. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for next Friday.

"Ninety-eight percent of the people who ride the bus can get on the bus. The other 2 percent are like me," he said. "Why can't we get on the bus? Why are we always the person at the bottom of the totem pole?"

Related article:
"Man blocks bus, is jailed" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)



Sisters Claim They Were Treated Unfairly By Coach Driver

January 9, 2004

LEEDS, ENGLAND--Sharon Simon, who is blind, and her sister Iris Rosenfield, who uses a wheelchair, had planned to enjoy a nice week-long coach trip with their 81-year-old mother last November.

But, they claim, their National Holidays driver turned out to be inconsiderate and refused to help any of them get on the bus.

They say their trip was cut short on the first day when the driver stopped and told the women to get out.

"We couldn't believe what was happening to us," said Simon.

According to a BBC News story, the women claim that they were treated unfairly because of their disabilities. They want National Holidays to compensate them for their loss and to formally apologize.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has filed a claim on behalf of the women. The organization also wants the government to add legislation that would protect people with disabilities from discrimination in public transportation.

Officials with National Holidays said the women were removed from the bus because of Simon's "disruptive behavior" toward the driver and other passengers. The company said it has provided "appropriate reimbursement" and that it regrets "any upset caused by these circumstances".

Related story:
"Disabled sisters 'thrown off coach'" (BBC News)



Joni Eareckson Tada Continues Her Advocacy Work

January 9, 2004

AGOURA HILLS, CALIFORNIA--Friday's edition of Christianity Today featured a story about Joni Eareckson Tada.

Tada is a nationally-known artist, writer, actor, and public speaker. She hosts a daily Christian radio program and has operated her own non-profit, Joni and Friends, since 1979.

Tada, who is now in her mid-50s, broke her neck at age 17. Since then, she has become an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities, including acting on the National Council on Disability when the Americans with Disabilities Act became law.

"It's a schizophrenic society we live in," she said. "It's like, let's pass the Americans with Disabilities Act, let's create equal access, let's reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and then let's also pass a state initiative that allows physicians to give someone with a disability three grams of Phenobarbital if that's his wish. There are too many Jack Kevorkians out there rubbing their hands and wanting to assist you with your death wish."

"There's such a huge premise in this society that you're better off dead than disabled. People have such huge fundamental fears of disability."

Tada traveled to Florida in October to be with Terri Schiavo's parents and supporters, just before Terri's feeding tube was removed.

"I can't explain it, I just had to be there," she explained. "This was so important to the lives of thousands of Americans with disabilities. I had to be there to stand with the parents and bring as much attention as I could rally to this case, helping people to understand that this is a bias against disability."

"The media will convey it as an end-of-life story: Why don't you just let her die?," she said of Schiavo's situation. "That's not the point. She's not terminally ill. She's not brain dead. She's disabled. Like many disabled people, she is unable to tell us what future she'd prefer."

"Should we not err on the side of caution, and on the side of life?"

"A Heaven-made Activist" (Christianity Today)
"Joni Eareckson Tada joins vigil for Terri Schiavo" ( October 14, 2003)
Joni and Friends



Teen Graduates After Family Battles With School & State Over Tests

January 9, 2004

FALMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS--The following five paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Friday's Cape Cod Times:

Tracey Newhart donned a cap and gown yesterday for a special graduation ceremony at Falmouth High School. She was the only student graduating, and maybe more tears were shed for her than will be for her fellow classmates in June.

Newhart, a high-functioning, articulate girl with Down syndrome, has been tossed on the turbulent seas of the state's graduation policy, which requires all students - even those with special needs like Newhart - to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System math and English exams in order to graduate high school.

She had been promised a high school diploma, only to have that promise withdrawn not once, but twice. It was only after persistent complaining by her family that the Falmouth School Committee worked out a method to give her what they're calling a local diploma.

"Thank you for coming to my graduation," Tracey said through her tears of joy. "I will be going to Johnson & Wales and I would like to one day open my own restaurant. I hope you will come and let me cook for you."

Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., agrees she's ready for college.

Entire article:
"Down syndrome student graduates in Falmouth after battling state policy" (Cape Cod Times)



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# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives - Three years ago:

Man Confessed To Please Police, Expert Says
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 8, 2001

AUBURN, MAINE--A psychiatrist testified Friday that a man charged with starting fires last October has mental retardation and confessed because he wanted to please the police officer.

Tracy John Smith, 30, confessed to Lewiston Detective Marc Robitaille that he set the three fires between October 23 and October 29. According to the detective, Smith did not appear to have a disability. "I was able to understand him clearly," Robitaille testified in Androscoggin County Superior Court. "And he was able to understand me clearly."

Smith's defense attorney, James Howaniec, says Smith is "basically a 5-year-old" and wants the confession thrown out because he "didn't have the competence to make voluntary statements." Howaniec brought in Dr. James Jacobs who testified that he determined Smith has an IQ of 55 or lower after testing his vocabulary and problem-solving skills.

"He appeared to want to please me," Jacobs said. "I certainly had a feeling that I could ask him anything, and he would say that he did it."

According to an Associated Press report, Jacobs added that Smith told him he felt pressured by the detective at the time of the confession.


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