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.

Monday, January 12, 2004
Year V, Edition 856

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 43 more news items.

"I will not have Michael transported like he is Hannibal Lector. Michael's not an animal and he won't be treated like one."

--Sandra Luce, who is battling her 12-year-old son's Quebec school because it refuses to transport him unless he wears a helmet with a plastic visor (Second story)

"Terri Schiavo yet again has been denied an independent voice in the proceedings that may very well determine the outcome of her life."
--From a statement by Florida Governor Jeb Bush after a judge refused his request to have a special guardian reinstated for Terri Schiavo (Fourth story)



Ten-Year Abuse Probe Leads To Federal Settlement With Louisiana Institutions

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2004

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA--The U.S. Department of Justice and the Louisiana Governor's Office filed a settlement in federal court Monday, stemming from a decade-long investigation into unsafe conditions for residents of the state's two largest institutions housing people with developmental disabilities.

In 1994, federal investigators began looking into allegations that the civil rights of residents at Pinecrest Developmental Center were being violated. Two years later, they began investigating similar claims at Hammond Developmental Center.

According to a DOJ statement, during its investigation the Department found evidence that residents were being neglected and both physically and verbally abused by institution staff. Specifically, investigators discovered that staff members dragged one resident across the carpet, causing abrasions; kicked a resident; placed a blanket over a resident's head and then hit him; slapped another resident on the head and put a rag over her nose and mouth; and pulled a resident's hair with such force that her head jerked from one side of the pillow to the other.

Additionally, the investigation revealed that staff at Hammond left residents without appropriate supervision until after they had soiled, drooled or vomited on themselves. The institutions also provided inadequate medical care, psychology and training services, and failed to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate for individual residents.

In recent months local police have arrested some Pinecrest staff workers and brought criminal charges stemming from confirmed physical or verbal abuse of facility residents.

Under the terms of the agreement, filed with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, an independent expert will monitor the conditions at the two institutions, along with the state's compliance with the agreement.

The state will improve practices to meet the basic care needs of the residents; provide a safe and humane environment for residents with zero tolerance for abuse and neglect of residents; provide adequate medical and dental care, nursing services, nutritional and physical support including therapy and communication supports, psychological and behavioral services, and psychiatric care; and ensure that residents are free from undue bodily restraint.

Louisiana will also provide community-based options for institution residents and make sure that each is served in the "most integrated setting" according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.



Boy Must Wear Helmet And Visor On Bus, School Says

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2004

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--Since this school year began, 12-year-old Michael Jarry has missed more than three months of class.

The New Frontiers School Board is refusing to bus Michael, who has autism, unless he wears a helmet with a plastic visor.

Officials at Peter Hall School, a specialized school for children with disabilities, have suspended Michael three times for hitting a bus monitor and yelling at other students on the bus. The officials say they want him to wear the visor because he spits.

Michael's mother, Sandra Luce, said that she is furious and has appealed to the school board. She said the helmet and visor may be appropriate for a serial killer, but not her son.

"I will not have Michael transported like he is Hannibal Lector," she said. "Michael's not an animal and he won't be treated like one."

Luce wants the school to figure out why Michael misbehaves on the bus.

An expert who visited Michael outside the school on two separate occasions said the boy was not aggressive either time.

Related article:
"Board bars autistic boy from bus unless he wears helmet and visor" (Montreal Gazette)



Supreme Court Asks Justice Department For Advice On Accessible Theater Suit

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked the Department of Justice for guidance on whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires stadium-style movie theaters to provide accessible seating at varied locations throughout their theaters.

The case involves three Oregon women who sued Regal Entertainment Group claiming its Regal Cinemas failed to comply with the ADA by putting wheelchair seating in the front rows. A federal judge had ruled in favor of Regal, saying that the 1990 anti-discrimination law only required theater patrons to have a clear view of the screen.

A U.S. Court of Appeals later overturned that ruling, saying that the first row seating areas are "objectively uncomfortable" because they require wheelchair users to "crane their necks and twist their bodies in order to see the screen." The appeals court said that theaters must provide wheelchair accessible seating in locations giving the same viewing angles offered to all other theater-goers.

A decision by the high court could affect thousands of movie theaters across the country that have been built since 1995 with stadium seating, which places most of the seats on stepped risers rather than on sloped floors.

The Justice Department was asked whether the Supreme Court should hear Regal's appeal. The Department is expected to file its opinion within the next several months.



Judge Refuses To Reinstate Independent Guardian For Terri Schiavo

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2004

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--An independent guardian for Terri Schiavo will not be reinstated as Governor Jeb Bush had requested.

Pinellas County Chief Judge David Demers on Friday turned down the governor's request to bring back University of South Florida Professor Jay Wolfson to advocate for Terri's rights. According to the Associated Press, Demers said he would not reappoint the guardian ad litem, and cited an appeal by Michael Schiavo over the constitutionality of the law that first allowed Wolfson to be appointed.

Wolfson was appointed temporary guardian as part of "Terri's Law", which the Florida legislature passed quickly on October 21. The measure was championed by Bush as a way to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted just six days after it had been removed under a court order sought by her husband. The law included a provision to have the independent guardian look into Terri's circumstances and to see if she could learn to swallow through rehabilitative therapies.

Wolfson told the governor on December 2 that Terri cannot recover from her disability, but that more tests need to be done before he would recommend removing the feeding tube. Demers dismissed Wolfson two weeks later, saying that he had completed the task assigned to him.

Bush then gave Demers a list of 10 areas he had wanted Wolfson to look into, but which he said were not investigated to his satisfaction. Among other things, the governor wanted the professor to look into what happened the night in February 1990 when Terri's heart stopped and her brain was without oxygen. Bush also wanted Wolfson to investigate statements made by Mr. Schiavo regarding her condition and how she was found, along with statements by law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and hospital staff where Terri was treated.

"Terri Schiavo yet again has been denied an independent voice in the proceedings that may very well determine the outcome of her life," the governor's office said in a statement Friday.

Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's legal battle for several years. Her husband, who is also her guardian, and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since her brain injury. 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 "by artificial means".

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, believe that she is alert and responsive and that she could improve with therapies which Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the past 10 years. They claim 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. They want him removed as Terri's guardian and have pushed for an investigation into their allegations that he abused, neglected and financially exploited her. They also suspect that Michael may have caused Terri's initial collapse.

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 and that of right-to-life advocates, the governor championed "Terri's Law". The measure allowed the legislature to give Bush permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted and called for appointing the independent guardian to review her situation and provide the governor with recommendations.

Michael Schiavo, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the governor claiming that the new law violates Terri's right to privacy, and the state constitution's separation of powers provisions.

"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation



"Web Site To Help Kids Find Options"

January 12, 2004

TORONTO, ONTARIO--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a column by disability issues reporter Helen Henderson in Sunday's Toronto Star:

What will it be like to come of age in 2004?

One particular batch of kids may have choices they never even imagined a year ago.

At least that's the plan being hatched by some young people with disabilities, their families and the community groups that help provide the tools for independence.

On May 1, the group (Transition Ontario Project) plans to launch a comprehensive Web site, a virtual meeting place where young people with disabilities can find information and exchange ideas on taking charge of their lives.

Entire article:
"Web site to help kids find options" column by Helen Henderson (Toronto Star)
Ability Online



Connections for Information and Resources on Community Living (CIRCL)

CIRCL's mission is to create opportunities for building and sharing individual, organizational and community strengths in supported living.


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


Fair Board Blocks Teen Because Of Disability

January 10, 2003

LAKE WALES, FLORIDA--Justin Ryan Kelly has been told he could not participate in the Polk County Youth Fair because he has cerebral palsy and uses a walker.

Kelly, a 17-year-old high school senior, has been involved in Future Farmers of American (FFA) since he was a freshman. He has been an important member of the steer-judging team and has been involved in other activities in the agricultural program.

He planned to show a pig named "Bacon" that he has raised, but the fair board considers him a liability because of his disability and will not allow him to participate.

"It's a liability thing," said one board member. "For kids on a walker, they can get hurt in a pen where there's 15 or 20 hogs in there at the time."

Justin's dad pointed out that Justin had no problems when he was in pens with 1,200-pound cattle as a member of the steer-judging team.

His family plans to meet with the board next Thursday to discuss the issue and try to get them to change their position.

Related article:
"'Bake A Cake', he's told" (Polk County News Chief)


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