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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Year V, Edition 857

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 39 more news items.

"Justice for all! We won't crawl!"

--Demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, as arguments were heard in the case of Tennessee v. Lane and Jones (First story)



Justices Hear Tennessee Court Accessibility Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 13, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--People in wheelchairs filled the aisles at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, while demonstrators outside chanted "Justice for all! We won't crawl!"

They were at the high court to let the nine Justices know how important the Americans with Disabilities Act is to them and more than 50 million other people with disabilities.

The Justices heard arguments in the case of Tennessee v. Lane and Jones, which will be decided in a few months. To be answered is the question of whether Congress had the power to allow individuals to sue a state for damages when the state fails to follow the 1990 anti-discrimination law's accessibility provisions.

George Lane sued Tennessee for $100,000 in 1998 for violating his right to equal access to state and county courts.

Because there was no elevator or other accommodations at the Polk County Courthouse, Lane, who lost a leg in an auto accident, had to crawl up two flights of stairs for an arraignment on misdemeanor traffic charges. When a pretrial hearing was later scheduled, Lane made his way to the ground floor of the courthouse. Once there, he refused to again crawl up the stairs to the courtroom. He also refused to be carried by court employees. Lane sent word to the judge that he was downstairs, but the judge ordered him arrested and jailed for "failure to appear" in court.

Lane sued the state under Title II of the ADA which prohibits government entities from denying public services, programs and activities to individuals on the basis of a disability. Title II also allows people to seek damages from government entities, including states, when those access rights have been violated.

Beverly Jones, a court reporter who uses a wheelchair, joined Lane in his suit. She claims that the state's failure to make county courthouses accessible to her and her wheelchair has presented a hardship for her by limiting the jobs available to her. Jones contends that she was unable to enter four county courthouses where lawyers had hired her to record court proceedings. She listed another 19 Tennessee counties that have inaccessible courthouses.

After lower courts ruled for Lane and Jones, Tennessee's Attorney General Paul Summers appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Summers is arguing that the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution does not allow individual citizens to sue states or local governments for damages, except in specific circumstances. That argument worked two years ago in the case of Alabama v. Garrett when the high court ruled that a state employee with a disability could not sue her employer under Title I of the ADA.

A ruling in the case is important because it could determine if people have the ability to sue states or local governments under the ADA if those governments have discriminated against them. This ability has been seen as a powerful tool to get governments to change how they serve their citizens that have disabilities. Without it, citizens would have little influence in such matters.

"Congress has the power to ensure all of us have rights as citizens," William J. Brown, an attorney for Lane and Jones, told the court Tuesday. "All of us have a fundamental right of access to the courts."

By various accounts from those in the court room, Justice Antonin Scalia seemed the most aggressive toward those arguing for the Lane and Jones.

"The handicapped not getting an elevator may not be a constitutional violation," Scalia said at one point. "An inaccessible voting place means nothing at all. It merely means the state didn't go out of its way to accommodate the handicapped."

One observer mentioned that Scalia referred to those protected by the ADA as "handicaps".

"Crawling up stairs at a courthouse near you" (
"Can disabled woman sue state?" (Knight Ridder News via Bradenton Herald)
"Tennessee v. Lane: The Legal Issues and the Implications for People with Disabilities" (NCD Policy Briefing Paper)
"Tennessee v. Lane and Jones" (Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law)
"State of Tennessee v. George Lane and Beverly Jones" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Woman Charged With Driving Wheelchair While Drunk

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 13, 2004

SPRING HILL, FLORIDA--A woman appeared in Hernando County Court last Wednesday charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. This wouldn't have been unusual except for the fact that Cynthia Christensen, 45, was not driving a car or SUV -- she was driving her wheelchair.

On September 21, 2003, Christensen was talking with her fiancée in her driveway when, she claims, her battery-operated Hoveround got stuck in some loose sand. Christensen tried to use her joystick to maneuver the wheelchair onto solid ground, but it hopped the curb and entered the roadway, she said.

The incident would have gone unnoticed if she hadn't collided with a 1992 Ford van that was traveling about 30 mph on the road.

When emergency medical personnel took Christensen to the hospital for stitches on her toe, nurses took routine blood samples. Several weeks later, toxicology reports showed that she had a blood alcohol level of 0.12, which exceeded the legal limit of 0.08.

"This is ridiculous," Christensen told the St. Petersburg Times. She said she drank four beers that evening but does not remember taking her prescribed dosage of Percoset earlier in the day.

Under Florida law, a motor vehicle is defined as any self-propelled vehicle, including a bicycle, motorized scooter or assistive mobility device that runs at 3 mph. This may include a wheelchair like Christensen's.

"At first blush, it appears to meet the definition in the statute," said Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, whose office is handling the case.

Christensen is scheduled to return to court for her arraignment on February 2.

Related article with photo of Christensen and crash site:
"Wheelchair DUI case fought" (St. Petersburg Times)



Youth Camp Accused Of Allowing Assaults
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 13, 2004

MUDJIMBA, AUSTRALIA--Concerns are being raised this week over the lack of supervision provided to children with disabilities attending a youth camp in Mudjimba.

According to Sunday's Sunshine Coast Daily a woman claimed that her 7-year-old granddaughter was bullied and physically assaulted by other children at Apex Youth Camp. The woman said a group of 8 and 9-year-olds forced the girl, who has autism, to strip and show her genitals and drink from a bottle filled with another girl's urine. Then they beat her on the buttocks. On two other occasions, children allegedly tied the girl's hands and held her under the water in a pool.

The Maroochydore Juvenile Aid Bureau confirmed Monday that it is investigating the grandmother's complaint.

On Tuesday, the paper reported the allegations of another woman, Karen Palmer, who removed her daughter from the vacation camp. Palmer said that one time in September she arrived to pick up her daughter, who has autism and ADHD, to find her wandering nude with no supervision. Another time she found her daughter alone, eating day-old sandwiches off the ground.

Palmer had been assured that program staff were qualified to deal with children that have disabilities.

''The carers were looking after other kids or mucking around among themselves and not worrying about where she was," said Mrs. Palmer. "They are very young, very immature. They're only kids themselves, half of them, and they wouldn't know what they're doing."

Palmer said she does not know what else might have happened to her daughter, but she will not be taking the girl back to the camp.

"She doesn't talk much but she gets up every morning and says 'no camp, no camp'," Palmer explained.



Respite House Still Not Accessible Or Safe For Children

January 13, 2004

TAMUNING, GUAM--The Rays of Hope Home, a respite and day care home for children with disabilities, is supposed to be noisy with the sounds of children.

But the house, which was purchased over a year ago for half a million dollars, is still empty.

According to a brief report by KUAM-TV, the two-story house is not accessible to children who use wheelchairs.

Guam Legal Services director Attorney Daniel Sommerfleck said that there are also safety concerns that have not been addressed, including an open balcony and marble floors in the bathrooms which are slippery when wet.

"The delays in the opening and the difficulties in getting that program up and running I think are indicative of the failures we're seeing to provide service to children here on our island," said Sommerfleck.

Related article:
"Hope for whom? Home for disabled children remains unoccupied" (KUAM-TV News)



"Still On The Move"

January 13, 2004

HOPKINTON, MASSACHUSETTS--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story that ran in Tuesday's MetroWest Daily News:

Chad Shepardson still likes nothing more than taking his wheels on the familiar trails through the woods behind his home. Only now, instead of the dirt bikes he once loved, he takes a four-by-four wheelchair.

"I'm still going out in the woods and getting into trouble," he says with a laugh.

It was nearly five years ago, on Jan. 20, that Shepardson returned home after 13 weeks of physical rehabilitation, following a September 1998 accident that broke his neck and nearly killed him. While riding his dirt bike on Cape Cod, he hit a rock, flew off the bike and slammed into a tree. The accident damaged his spinal cord and left Shepardson a quadriplegic, without use of his body below his chest and his elbows.

While Shepardson has lost the use of much of his body, he hasn't lost his love of adventure or his sense of humor.

Entire article:
"Still on the move: Five years after accident, Shepardson looks ahead" (MetroWest Daily News)
Related website:
Chad's Pages



CIBRA: Children Injured By Restraints And Aversives

CIBRA is a fledgling organization in the first stages of development. Founded by families whose autistic children were severely traumatized in well known programs of discrete trial (ABA)and other various settings utilizing dangerous behavior modification techniques, we are an integral part of the fast growing civil rights movement in the autism community.

Our central mission is to provide a national/international support network for parents whose children (including adult children) have been traumatized, injured or killed by abusive behavior modification (ABA) and restraint . This mission includes raising public awareness of the abuses taking place in the treatment community.


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

FDR Statue Shows Him In His Wheelchair
January 12, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Wednesday, President Clinton unveiled a life-size bronze statue of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, depicting him as he was for much of his life in the White House -- seated in the wheelchair he designed for himself.

"It is grand and beautiful, all right, but it is so accessible in a way that, I think, would have pleased President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt," Clinton told the crowd gathered at the FDR Memorial.

"The power of the statue is in its immediacy, and its reminder for all who touch, who see, who wheel and walk around, that they, too, are free."

The fact that FDR had contracted polio long before his bid for the presidency was hidden from much of the world during his life. In fact, only four photographs of him in his wheelchair are known to exist.

This story from CNN website has links to video and audio segments of Clinton's speech, along photographs of the statue itself:


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