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 29, 2004
Year V, Edition 924

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 41 more news items.

"It's an oversight on our part . . . It makes it even worse because we are one of the enforcement-type agencies that say, 'You can't do that.'"

--Robert Bugg, interim director of Topeka's Human Relations Commission, who has had to reschedule a summit featuring presentations on accessible housing, because the summit itself was not accessible (Second story)

"Every time he walks by a poster avowing that autism must be eradicated, he teaches me grace. Every time he ignores one of the countless scholarly articles that tower above my desk, asserting he is disordered, he teaches me tolerance."
--Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher, whose 8-year-old son has autism (First story)



"Autistics Need Acceptance, Not Cure"

April 29, 2004

MADISON, WISCONSIN--The following five paragraphs are excerpts from an opinion piece in the Wisconsin State Journal written by Professor Morton Ann Gernsbacher who has a son with autism:

This month, which is Autism Awareness Month, I'm hiding my eyes and those of my autistic 8-year old son from the media.

National headlines that describe autism as an epidemic, or pandemic. Public service announcements liken autism to being kidnapped.

A government Web site defines autism as a "devastating scourge." An autism "expert" decrees that autism is worse "than Sept. 11 and AIDS combined." An Autism Society Canada board member proclaims that autism is worse than cancer -- because people with autism have normal lifespans.

They say that autism entails difficulty taking another person's perspective, appreciating how another person might feel. But when I read or hear such hate speech I wonder: Exactly who has a problem taking another person's perspective? Who can't appreciate the feelings of others?

My son surely can. He understands quite well that there are so-called autism "advocates" who despise autism, who march thousand-fold against it with placards calling for its defeat, its demise. His demise.

Entire article:
"Autistics Need Acceptance, Not Cure" (Wisconsin State Journal)



Commission Goofs On Conference Accommodations, Again

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 29, 2004

TOPEKA, KANSAS--The Topeka Human Relations Commission is who Topekans with disabilities are supposed to go to with their concerns about discrimination.

The commission had scheduled a housing summit for Thursday at the downtown Ramada Inn. Among other things, the "Keepers of the Dream Fair Housing Summit 2004" was supposed to include presentations on accommodations to make homes accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The commission, however, had to reschedule the summit -- because it was not accessible to people with disabilities.

"It's an oversight on our part," Robert Bugg, interim director of the Human Relations Commission, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "We were so anxious to get all of this together . . . but probably one of the most important groups that is discriminated against on a daily basis we overlooked."

Bugg decided to postpone the summit after several of those attending objected to there being no sign-language interpreter for deaf participants, and no Braille materials for blind participants.

"It makes it even worse because we are one of the enforcement-type agencies that say, 'You can't do that'," Bugg added.

Carolyn Hans, who is deaf, said: "They always say the same thing, 'We'll do better next year.' I did complain last year and still they did not provide. It's ADA law."

"It's not fair."

No date was set for rescheduling the summit, the Capital-Journal reported.



Student Claims School Violated ADA By Keeping Her Out Of Graduation

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 29, 2004

LAFAYETTE, LOUISIANA--The Louisiana office of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Vermillion Parish School Board, claiming the district discriminated against a former student with disabilities by not letting her participate in graduation ceremonies.

The case was filed Wednesday on behalf of Courtney Soirez, who has a low back condition called spondylolysis. The condition, caused by stress fractures in the bones of the spinal column, can be painful.

As a senior at Erath High School last year, Soirez missed one of two mandatory practice sessions for the May 2003 commencement, because she overslept after taking medication for her disability. School officials refused to allow her to go through the graduation ceremonies, even though she had a doctor's excuse for missing the practice, she claimed in the suit.

By keeping Soirez from participating in the graduation, the district violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the suit alleged.

"This person has gone to school for 12 years and missed one practice. It's like getting the graduation death penalty," said Louisiana ACLU director Joe Cook.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages from the school board and the high school principal.

"I just find this was a draconian sanction. It's a callous and cold disregard for the rights of students," Cook said. "It's more of this zero tolerance nonsense."

Both the school and Soirez refused to comment on the case when asked by reporters.



Australian Court Rejects "Wrongful Life" Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 29, 2004

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA--Doctors are not responsible for the costs of caring for a child if they did not inform the parents that the child might be born with disabilities.

That was the conclusion Thursday by the Court of Appeal of New South Wales in a so-called "wrongful life" case.

The suit was filed by the parents of, and on behalf of, Alexia Harriton and Keeden Waller. Harriton is in her early twenties, and has disabilities because her mother acquired rubella during her pregnancy. Waller is 3 years old, and has intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and seizures because his father had a congenital blood deficiency known as antithrombin III (AT3).

The parents of both children claimed that they would have ended their pregnancies if they had known about their children's disabilities. They sued their doctors for "the harm they (the children) suffered by being born in their disabled condition" along with the "needs and expenses that each has had to and will incur".

By a 2-1 majority, the court rejected the parents' argument, noting that the doctors had not caused the children's disabilities in the first place. The court also said that putting the blame on doctors in such a case would send the wrong message about the sanctity of life.

In writing the court's decision, Chief Justice James Spigelman said the law did not recognize conduct which could have led to terminating a pregnancy. He said an action by a disabled child involves "an assertion by the child that it would be preferable if she or he had not been born".

Spigelman added that such claims do not "reflect values generally, or even widely, held in the community."

Several courts in North America and Europe have allowed parents to sue doctors for negligence in not disclosing that a child would or might be born with disabilities.

The Australian Medical Association applauded the decision, which upheld a lower court ruling.

Harriton's lawyer said they may take the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Related court case:
"Harriton v Stephens; Waller v James & Anor; Waller v Hoolahan" (New South Wales Court of Appeal)



"60 Minutes" To Look At Abuses At Fernald

April 29, 2004

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--This Sunday, May 2, the CBS News magazine "60 Minutes" will feature a segment on abuses children endured while at the continent's oldest institution housing people with mental disabilities.

According to the program's website, the story will focus on former residents of the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded, now known as the Fernald Developmental Center.

The segment comes with the release of a new book by Michael D'Antonio, entitled "The State Boys Rebellion".

In the book, D'Antonio tells about the eugenic sterilizations that took place at the facility during the mid-part of the 20th century, along with government-sanctioned radiation experiments that were conducted on young residents.

Reporter Bob Simon talked with former Fernald resident Fred Boyce, whose story is featured in the book.

"They didn't have to look for homes for you so they could dump you off in these human warehouses and just let you rot," says Boyce, who spent 11 years at the state-run facility. "We thought for a long time that we belonged there, that we were not part of the species . . . [not]supposed to be born."

There are still around 250 people housed at Fernald Developmental Center, despite a February 2003 order by Governor Mitt Romney that the institution be closed by this coming October, and the residents be moved to other facilities or into the community. Parents and employees have used the courts and the local community to slow the moves to a trickle.

The 156-year-old facility is the oldest institution in the Western Hemisphere.

"Abuse Cited At Bay State School" (60 Minutes - CBS News)
Excerpt from "The State Boys Rebellion" By Michael D'Antonio
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express)



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

Civil Rights Leader Resigns From Gleitsman Panel Over Kevorkian Award

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 28, 2000

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA--Morris Dees, leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has withdrawn from being a judge for the Gleitsman Foundation, after disability rights advocates protested the foundation's decision to give its Citizen Activist Award to Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

"The controversy over the Kevorkian matter has caused me to give a lot of thought to lending my name to projects I really know little about," Dee wrote in a March 17 letter to foundation president Alan L. Gleitsman, indicating that his only involvement amounted to choosing from a list of pre-selected nominees.

"I do believe that terminally ill people should have the right to choose to die. But I have never thought of Dr. Kevorkian was a good representative for this very serious issue. He comes off as goofy and egocentric."

Dee resigned from the panel after his office received a number of letters and faxes from disability rights advocates and SPLC members protesting the award. A group also demonstrated in front of the building where the awarded was given earlier this month.

Last month panel member Robert Coles, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and famed Harvard University child psychiatrist, indicated that he had not agreed with Gleitsman's choice of Kevorkian.

"Such a melancholy and morally misguided story, that of Dr. Kevorkian and his various initiatives!" wrote Coles in a March 23 letter to disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

Other judges on the panel, including actor and environmentalist Ted Danson, feminist crusader Gloria Steinem and a founder of the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Candace Lightner, have remained silent on the issue.


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