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.

Thursday, April 8, 2004
Year V, Edition 909

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 41 more news items.

"It's amazing."

--Mike D'arcy, of Plainfield, Illinois, talking about his new stair-climbing iBot wheelchair (Second story)

"We too have feelings, the same as the rest of society."
-- Ralph Conde, a disability advocate in Croydon, England, explaining why he is worried that an exhibit on circus "freak shows" will glamorize the practice of publicly displaying people with disabilities and other differences for entertainment purposes (Fourth story)



Fernald Supporter Threatens To Open Old Federal Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 8, 2004

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--An attorney representing parents and others who want to see the oldest institution in the Western Hemisphere stay open is claiming that budget cuts for state programs violate the settlement of a three decades old federal lawsuit.

Beryl Cohen sent a letter Tuesday to Gerald Morrissey, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Retardation. In it, Cohen reportedly gave detailed examples of inadequate staffing, facilities and equipment for Massachusetts residents who receive services from the department.

The Daily News Tribune reported that the letter is intended to stop the movement of people from the 156-year-old Fernald Developmental Center.

The letter is Cohen's first step toward reopening a 1972 class-action lawsuit which charged that the state's five institutions -- then housing 5,000 people with mental retardation -- were understaffed, that staff were not properly trained and that conditions were inhumane.

That suit ended in 1993 with an federal court order requiring that residents be provided with "equal or better facilities" in the "least restrictive, most normal, appropriate residential environment."

Cohen, who was involved in the original case, is now claiming that the state has "systemically violated" the court order, and that proposed budget cuts will only make things worse for people scheduled to be moved out of Fernald.

Morrissey has 30 days to respond to the letter before Cohen takes his case back to federal court -- unless if an agreement can be reached. Such an agreement would likely include keeping Fernald open.

Governor Mitt Romney announced in February of last year that the institution would shut down by October 2004 and its 302 residents moved to other state-run facilities or into homes in the community. The governor hinted that closing Fernald was his first step in de-institutionalizing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Fernald employees and parents of institution residents have enlisted local support to slow the moves. With less than six months to go before Romney's target date, there are still 250 people housed at Fernald.

The Daily News Tribune noted that Romney's budget this year includes significant cuts to services for people with mental retardation. Those who support keeping Fernald open say that Romney's plan would cause nearly 800 people to lose day programs or transportation services, and 2,400 people to lose residential supports.

Fernald Development Center, originally called the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded", was founded by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. It was later renamed for a former superintendent of the facility.

"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Illinois Man First In Midwest To Own An iBot

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 8, 2004

PLAINFIELD, ILLINOIS--A Plainfield man recently became the first person in the American Midwest to own an iBot 3000 Mobility System, known by many as the "stair-climbing wheelchair", ABC7Chicago disability reporter Karen Meyer reported Thursday.

"I've looked at several other wheelchairs but never a piece of equipment like this that can go up and down steps. It's amazing," said Mike D'arcy, whose new iBot was unveiled last week at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

"You know, you're always looking up at people in day-to-day work areas, at a cocktail party everyone always has to look down at you," he said.

The iBot is considered revolutionary because it can safely climb stairs and curbs, and can bring the user to a full standing position to be eye-to-eye with people who do not use wheelchairs. It also shifts into 4-wheel drive to roll over grassy fields, sandy beaches or just about anywhere the user wants to go.

The iBot, designed by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, balances the user on two sets of rear wheels that lock while lifting the person to an upright position. A system of gyroscopes make it relatively simple for the user to guide the iBot by leaning forward or backward.

The FDA approved the iBot last summer, but required that it be sold only through prescription and that users be trained in its operation. Few insurance companies cover its $29,000 price tag. The manufacturer, Independence Technology, is negotiating with Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers to see if they will cover the iBot as a "medically necessary" expense.

Since the iBot was first introduced in 1999, disability rights advocates have cautioned that the introduction of a stair-climbing wheelchair does not mean that wheelchair ramps, curb cuts and other accessibility features are no longer needed. In fact, the iBot itself has several limitations beyond its sticker price. For example, the device is only available to people who weigh under 250 pounds, can grab a hand-rail to assist themselves up and down stairs, can lean forward or backward, and can operate a touch pad controller.

"Midwest man is first person to own iBot wheelchair" by disability issues reporter Karen Meyer (
The Independence iBot 3000 Mobility System (Independence Now)

Past iBot articles with video clips:
"A whole new set of wheels" by John Hockenberry (Dateline NBC -- Oct. 26, 2003)
"Super wheelchair tackles stairs (BBC News - June 2, 2000)



New Voting Machines Tested For Accessibility

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 8, 2004

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA--Allen County plans to buy 200 new, accessible electronic voting machines at a cost of about $2,500 each over the next two years.

It's quite an investment.

It will also help the county to comply with federal law that requires voting systems which allow voters with disabilities to independently cast a secret ballot.

So the county's director of elections, Pam Finlayson, decided to test the new machines to see how accessible they truly are.

She took the machines to Turnstone Center to let about 20 people with disabilities try them.

According to a brief item from the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, the machines passed the test, but not with flying colors.

Among the suggestions given included setting the machines' legs wider apart for easier wheelchair access, increasing the volume of the electronic voice, and making the screen darker so it could be more easily read.

A man who has Parkinson's disease said a protective screen should be developed so people who cannot easily control their hand movements won't accidentally make the wrong selection.

One participant said that the new machines will encourage her -- and others -- to come out and vote on Election Day.

Related resource:
Help America Vote Act of 2002 (U.S. Federal Election Commission)



Advocates Worried About "Freak Show" Exhibit

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 8, 2004

CROYDON, ENGLAND--Local disability groups are concerned that an exhibition featuring circus "freak shows" might glamorize the practice of exploiting people with disabilities and other differences for entertainment's sake, the South London Press reported.

"Pleasurelands", an historic exhibit of fairground history, is scheduled to run from April 24 through September 5 at the Croydon Clocktower. Organizers said that the section displaying photographs on freak shows is just one small part of the exhibit.

The show will feature photographs of such acts as conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, Lionel the 'Lion-faced Boy', and Joseph Merrick, who had Proteus syndrome and whose story was made famous by the 1980 film 'The Elephant Man'.

Freak shows were a common part of circus side shows in Britain until the 1960s when they lost favor with the public. Such exhibits still exist in some countries.

"It never was and never will be right to exploit a person's deformities," said Marc Peters, a former chairman of the Croydon Disability Forum. "This exhibition must be very careful that it does not glamorize the exploitations of the past."

Ralph Conde, vice-chairman of Disability Croydon, said: "Disabled people should not be held up to ridicule in any way."

"It won't occur to many visitors that they are taking the mickey out of real people's suffering," added Conde, who has cerebral palsy. "We too have feelings, the same as the rest of society."

The Croydon Council defended the exhibit.

"We are ensuring that the freak show element is put in balance and we are quite sure it won't cause offence," a spokesman said. "We feel people will find the experience a positive one."



"'The Bus Rider' Teaches Disabled How To Get Around"

April 8, 2004

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI--The following five paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Wednesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Jerry Eddington leaned on his cane last week, his bum ankle aching from a 34-degree wind chill.

He stood next to a bus stop on the 400 block of North Kirkwood Road. Across the street, Kevin Jenkins whizzed by, his wheelchair rattling atop the sidewalk bumps.

"There he is now," Eddington said.

Eddington, 48, teaches everything about public transit to people with any kind of disability. Jenkins, who has cerebral palsy, was about to take one of Eddington's big exams - a first bus ride alone to West County Shopping Center.

Eddington helped Jenkins pull on mittens that are really black ankle socks. Eddington, who looks nothing like the caregiver he is, filled out a faded black "Bad to the Bone" T-shirt under his black leather jacket. Sleeves hid the naked-lady tattoo on his right forearm.

Entire article:
"'The Bus Rider' teaches disabled how to get around" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)



Attainment Company: Augmentative Communication

Attainment Company is located in Verona, Wisconsin which borders Madison (our state capital) to the southwest. Attainment was originally established in 1979 and we moved to our current location in August of 1989. We are a small company that is committed to creating quality products for people with disabilities.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (Two years ago):


Lost Toddler Found Rescuer

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 8, 2002

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA--Little Kyle Morgan-Leheny, 2 1/2, was rescued Monday morning after he found a rescuer.

The toddler, who has autism, wandered away from the family farm Sunday afternoon. He was wearing only training pants and a shirt.

Kyle's family and volunteer searchers from several nearby towns combed the area on horseback and on foot throughout the night. They were joined by the police dog squad and officers with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

The massive toddler-hunt failed to find Kyle.

But Kyle found a rescuer just a few hundred yards from his home.

About 8:00 Monday morning, a neighbor who was going to feed her horses saw Kyle walking toward the tractor she was driving.

"He loves tractors . . . he actually sought her out," Kyle's grandfather, Roger Morgan, told News Interactive.

"He was quite happy to sit down and watch his Spot video and cuddle up to his dad."

State Emergency Service spokesman Lance Jannison said the child appeared unharmed. "He was quite alert and bright . . . his feet were a little dirty," said Jannison.

Last week the family had been getting quotes for a chain link fence to put around their property to prevent Kyle from easily wandering off.


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Today's list includes 41 items. Some sites may require registration.
Editor's picks -- those considered particularly interesting, newsworthy or well-written -- are noted by the number sign (#).

Links are listed alphabetically by country, then by state, province or territory.
Scroll down or click here to jump to:
United Kingdom
United States

Yukon Territory

(Transportation) Transit body needed, city council told

(Children) JRF expands outreach of awareness campaign

(Misc) Ask the expert: Help for carers

Click here for top of this page

(Advocacy) May 21-23: Fourth Annual Retreat for Disability Activists and Allies
(Health care - not specific to disabilities) U.S. Adults Face 'Health Literacy' Crisis
# (Service Animals) April 14 Webcast: Service Animals and the Law: Which Animals do the ADA & State Law Recognize?

# (Advocacy / Children) Autism film triggers touching replies -- "Normal People Scare Me"
(Health care / Families) New clinic will be first in the region
(Misc) Board asked to rethink cuts to Mental Health

# (Advocacy / Laws) Terri Schiavo case divides voters, new poll shows

(Employment) Job-help agency branches out

(Awareness / Children) April for autism awareness

# (Education - special / Laws) Felix case oversight may end next year
(Safety) Surfer, 22, last seen chasing the waves -- friend says Marcher has epilepsy

# (Arts) Art studio aims to sculpt new lives Chicago Tribune registration required - free
(Crime) Mom accused in son's death is free on bail
(Misc) Help for disabled closer to home

# (Community living / Advocacy) Harkins calls on Medicaid law changes

(Health care) Murphy to scale back prescription drug law

(Institutions - nursing homes) Commissioners debate replacing nursing home
(Misc) Leaders on Loan finds land for Green Beginnings project

(Sports) Marathon Legends Return To Race

(Criminal justice system / Children) Courts can't mandate mental care for kids
# (Employment) Clinton Township company sued by former employee

(Children / Communication) Language clinic can take the words right out of children’s mouths

# (Crime) Severely disabled teen hospitalized, weighing just 40 pounds
(Education - special) Graves, educators discuss issues
# (Education / Abuse) Hannibal school chief steps down under fire

New Mexico
(Misc) Manner of speaking: When did rudeness become acceptable - and commonplace? by Albuquerque Tribune columnist Barbara J. McKee

New York
(Children) Program Cuts for Children with Disabilities
(Misc) Book Review: Songs of the Gorilla Nation -- My Journey Through Autism New York Times registration required -- free

North Carolina
(Misc) Program aids autistic adults

(Bioethics) Tests Detect Down Syndrome Sooner
(Education / Employment) Helping others for the Easter holiday
# (Employment) Press release: DPW to Increase Awareness of Health-Care Benefits So People With Disabilities Can Work
(Misc) 2 officials to leave Schuylkill posts; Moves come as county is to announce MH-MR financial probe results

(Education - special) Family withdraws child, action against OR schools

(Children / Recreation) Volunteers gear up for KidZone -- accessible playground
(Death penalty) Appeal filed to halt execution of Lubbock murderer -- defense says Michael Rosales has mental retardation

(Education - special) Task force on special needs bill sets goals

# (Health care / Children) 'Hassle factor' forcing children off Medicaid Spokesman-Review registration required - free

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