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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Year V, Edition 896

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.

"Can I please meet with you on the weekend? Or maybe if you are free one week or day you can come here, because we really have to talk."

--Nine-year-old Rasha Kawar, in a recent letter to President George W. Bush, asking to discuss the problem of inaccessible restrooms on airliners (Second story)

"You've got to really want it or it's not going to happen. I really have wanted my own home for a long, long time."
--Indianapolis resident Michelle Porter, who recently purchased her own, fully-accessible home (Third story)



Alaskan Students Sue State Over Graduation Exam

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2004

JUNEAU, ALASKA--A group of five high school students with disabilities has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Alaska Board of Education, claiming the state's new high school exit exam discriminates against them by making it more difficult for them to graduate and get a diploma.

The suit, filed Tuesday, claims that the new exam will mean that more than two-thirds of students with disabilities in the state will not be able to graduate this June.

Federal law requires students with disabilities to be given accommodations on school tests -- to have the questions read to them, or to use calculators, for instance. While schools do allow accommodations on most tests, the suit accuses Alaska of not allowing such accommodations on the exit exam.

Sid Wolinsky, an attorney with the legal firm Disability Rights Advocates, which is representing the students, said that students are flunking the test at a 3-to-1 ratio.

"We're not seeking to stop the whole test, we're not seeking to set aside standards, we're not seeking damages," Wolinsky told the Associated Press. "We're seeking that the safeguards required by both federal and Alaska law be implemented."

A number of discouraged students have already dropped out of school, the suit claims.

Disability Rights Advocates, based in Oakland, California, has already sued the states of Oregon and California, in 2000 and 2001 respectively, over their use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement. The issues brought up in the California case have not yet been resolved.

Keith Gayler, associate director of the Center on Education Policy, told the New York Times that 20 states require exit exams for graduates this year, and that four more states will soon be adding them.

Disability Rights Advocates



Nine-year-old Advocate Pushes For Accessible Airline Restrooms

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2004

COPPELL, TEXAS--A nine-year-old girl has launched a petition drive to draw attention to the need for accessible restrooms on airliners.

A recently-launched Internet petition includes a statement written by Rasha Kawar, a third-grade student "in a regular classroom" in Coppell, Texas, who drives "a cool power wheelchair".

In the statement, Rasha wrote that she has had trouble using the restrooms in airplanes because they are too small for her and her mother, who must help her.

"I hit my head maybe one hundred times, maybe more, and it really hurt a lot," she wrote.

A letter raising the issue to President George W. Bush got Rasha a nice reply, along pictures of the president, Mrs. Bush, and their dogs.

"This was very nice, but he did not solve my problem yet," Rasha concluded.

"I will write him back so he will care about all people, and I mean all of them, even if they use a wheelchair."

"Can you help me please? If you agree with me, can you sign my petition and tell all your friends all over the world to sign it too?"

As of this writing, 1982 people had participated in Rasha's on-line petition.

The results of the petition will be sent to "the responsible officials of federal, state, and international regulatory agencies, the President of the United States, members of the United States Congress and the responsible executives of airline companies and airplane manufacturers to mandate the provision of at least one accessible restroom on each airplane made available for the transportation of the general public."

Rasha’s Petition : Accessible Restrooms on Airplanes
"Rasha Contacts President & Airline; Presents Resolution on Accessibility" (Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities)



Indianapolis Housing Program Helps People Purchase, Instead of Rent

March 17, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA--Wednesday's Indianapolis Star ran a brief story about a recent decision by the Indianapolis Housing Agency to allow residents to use housing vouchers to purchase homes rather than pay rent.

In the past two years, eight Indianapolis residents with disabilities have chosen to take part in the new program.

One of those is Michele Porter, 44. She is purchasing her own one-story, fully-accessible home, with housing funds and a low-interest loan.

Housing officials hope her situation will be a model to other residents who want to purchase their own homes.

Entire article:
"Disabled find homeownership more accessible" (Indianapolis Star)



Judge Baird Again Denies Schindlers' Request To Intervene In "Terri's Law" Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2004

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Attorneys representing Bob and Mary Schindler said that they may appeal a ruling by a local judge rejecting their request to intervene in a suit over the law that has kept alive their daughter, Terri Schiavo.

Pinellas Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird on Thursday ruled for the second time that the Schindlers could not be involved in Michael Schiavo's court battle against Governor Jeb Bush over "Terri's Law". Last October, Bush championed the law through the Legislature, giving him permission to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed under a court order.

"The litigation will resolve whether the decision regarding her life belongs to Mrs. Schiavo or to the governor," Baird wrote in his decision. "In either event, the Schindlers will not gain or lose by the direct legal operation and effect of the judgment."

Last month, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered Judge Baird to hold further proceedings to re-examine his earlier decision denying the Schindlers the right to join Bush in the case. The appellate court said that Baird refused to follow judicial rules when he refused to allow the Schindlers to intervene.

"We are disappointed with the decision and will consider all options including another appeal to Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has previously overturned Judge Baird on this very issue," Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, which represents the Schindlers in the state case, said in a statement. "It is our belief that the decision is legally flawed and ignores the fact that the parents have legally sound reasons for intervening directly in this case."

"The court failed to acknowledge that the Schindlers meet the proper legal standard for intervention. The decision is not only disappointing, but troubling as well."

Michael Schiavo sued the governor, claiming that he and the Florida Legislature violated his wife's privacy and overstepped the state's constitutional bounds when they passed "Terri's Law".

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 she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. The courts have consistently 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 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 have claimed that Terri's husband wants her to die so that he can remarry, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment. The Schindlers want him removed as Terri's guardian and have pushed for an investigation into their allegations that he has 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, Governor Bush championed the measure which allowed the legislature to give him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted to save her life.

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



Are We Smart Enough To Mess With DNA?

March 17, 2004

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA--The following six paragraphs are excerpts from an opinion piece in Wednesday's edition of The Australian:

This hatching of babies in bottles business is a real worry -- at least when it involves genetic tinkering to produce upgraded models.

The concern is not that creating designer infants offends the laws of nature or is the medical equivalent of mooning God. It's simply that we, as a species, can't be trusted not to be idiotic.

Think about it. We vote for celebrity bodybuilders as our rulers. We believe plastic surgeons who tell us our genitals require makeovers. We watch reality television.

Critics say new developments in biotechnology represent the triumph of "reproductive rationalism", in which embryos have to compete in a DNA talent contest to avoid being flushed. Defenders respond by arguing that nature is a flawed designer and improving our lot has been a central theme in human development.

Fact: Many of the world's worthiest citizens would never have seen the light of the hospital delivery room if glamour and physical buffness were prerequisites for their births (hello professor Stephen Hawking).

In the meantime, let's hear it for chaos, imperfection and the genetic lottery. Let's hear it for weird-looking geniuses and weird-looking non-geniuses who at least are nice to old people on buses.

Entire article:
"Flawed nature preferable to reproductive rationalism" (The Australian)



The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities

Welcome to the website for the State of the States in Developmental Disabilities, a research project administered by the University of Colorado. The project, authorized by the Federal Government's Developmental Disabilities Act as amended, is funded as a Project of National Significance by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities in the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Established in 1982 to investigate the determinants of public spending for mental retardation/developmental disabilities (MR/DD) services in the United States, the project maintains a 26-year longitudinal record of revenue, spending, and programmatic trends in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States as a whole. Analysis of the rich detail of the data base reveals the impact over time of federal and state fiscal policy, and illustrates important service delivery trends in the states in community living, public and private residential institutions, family support, supported employment, supported living, Medicaid Waivers, demographics, and related areas. These financial and programmatic trends are presented in The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities: 2004, by Mary C. Rizzolo, Richard Hemp, David Braddock, and Amy Pomeranz-Essley.


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

Player Shines After Revealing Disability

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 15, 2001

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK--Last year, Josh Sankes, the star center for the Holy Cross Crusaders basketball team, averaged 14.1 points per game. He set a school record for blocked shots in a season with 69. More impressive, however, is that he ended the season as the second-leading rebounder in the nation with an average of 11.9 per game.

Until a year ago, Sankes spent most of his time warming the bench and was thinking about giving up the game. It wasn't until he shared a certain secret that the 7-foot athlete started to blossom.

Sankes has cerebral palsy.

Now, the senior says he is relieved he finally told his secret. Not only has his self-confidence improved, but so has his skill. For example, two years ago he only made 4 of 16 baskets at the free throw line -- an average of 2.5 per game. The problem was that when he tried shooting in the traditional manner, his tremors would throw off his shot. Once he made his cerebral palsy public, his coach helped him develop a one-handed shooting technique that has served him well.

Earlier this season, in a victory over Navy, Sankes sank 7 out of 10 at the line.

This afternoon the 15th-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders will play second-seeded favorite Kentucky in the first-round game of the NCAA East Regional Tournament.

Sports writers are making a big deal out of Sankes' accomplishments.

Sankes seems to take it in stride. "I'm just a great competitor, I love to compete, I try to overcome everything in my life and this is just another thing I have to overcome."


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