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.

Friday, April 30, 2004
Year V, Edition 925

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.

"I was just shocked and very hurt that people with disabilities would be called freaks."

--Linda Theisen, from Lynchburg Depressive Disorders Associates, talking about a local morning radio show host who referred to an open city forum, in which several people with disabilities showed up to protest transportation budget cuts, as a "freak show" (Third story)

"Disabled folks cannot be expected to put their lives on hold. Our transportation needs must be met."
--Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, commenting on a class action lawsuit filed against Green Bus Lines and the city's Department of Transportation for violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws (Second story)



E-Voting Provider Accused Of Fraud; 14,000 Touch-Screens Banned In California

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 30, 2004

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--In a decision that could affect voters with disabilities around the world, California's Secretary of State has banned one-third of the state's newly-acquired electronic voting systems, and has accused the machines' manufacturer of criminal misconduct.

On Friday, Kevin Shelley asked California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate Diebold Election Systems Inc. for fraud, claiming the company lied to state officials about its AcuVote-TSx Voting System.

The new touch-screen systems, such as those manufactured by Diebold, have been favored by voters with disabilities. The systems have accessibility features that allow many people with disabilities which affect mobility, reading, hearing and vision, to independently cast a private ballot. Federal law requires voting sites to have accessible voting systems in place by 2006.

The systems have been criticized in the past, however, for not creating a paper record of each vote -- making recounts impossible-- and for not being tamper-proof, thus allowing computer hackers to change election results.

Shelley's decision is based on recommendations from a state advisory panel which conducted hearings earlier in the month.

"I'm asking the attorney general to pursue criminal and civil actions against Diebold in this matter, based on finding of fraudulent action," Shelley said."They broke the law. Their conduct was absolutely reprehensible."

Shelley accused Diebold of using aggressive marketing to deceive the state into installing 14,000 of its touch-screen systems, by falsely stating that the machines had been approved by the federal government.

"We will not tolerate deceitful tactics engaged in by Diebold and we must send a clear and compelling message to the rest of the industry: Don't try to pull a fast one on the voters of California because there will be consequences," Shelley said.

Diebold immediately responded with a lengthy statement denying Shelley's accusations. Company officials also said they planned to work with the state to handle any problems.

A spokesperson for Lockyer said the attorney general's office would review Shelly's allegations.

The decision means that up to two million voters in four California counties will have to use optical scan voting systems, in which voters mark their choices in ovals on paper ballots, in the November general election.

"I anticipate his decision will have an immediate and widespread impact," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. "California is turning away from e-voting equipment, and other states are sure to follow."

Diebold provides electronic voting systems to counties around the world, including the world's largest democracy, India.

Key Documents On Electronic Voting Systems (California Secretary of State)
Press release: Moving Forward After California Secretary of State Action (Diebold Election Systems)
Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Federal Election Commission)



New York Bus Riders Sue Green Bus Lines & Transportation Department

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 30, 2004

NEW YORK, NEW YORK--A group of bus riders with disabilities have filed a class action lawsuit against Green Bus Lines, along with the City of New York, for providing "grossly inadequate" service and violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday by Martin J. Coleman, Esq., on behalf of a group of individual riders and the advocacy group Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York.

In the suit, Green Bus Lines is accused of failing to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law, according to Anthony Trocchia, President of Disabled In Action. The New York City Department of Transportation is also named in the suit because it is responsible for overseeing privately-run bus companies.

"The service is horrendous," Trocchia told Inclusion Daily Express in an email.

The private bus company is accused of having many buses with no wheelchair lifts or lifts that are broken; buses that can only accommodate one wheelchair user; and a lack of emergency evacuation procedures for wheelchair users. The plaintiffs also claim that bus drivers are disrespectful to riders with disabilities and that the company does not take seriously complaints made by those riders.

New York City Transit, the main transportation provider in the city, is scheduled to take over Green Bus Lines and the other 6 privately run bus companies on July 1.

"Their bus service is great," Trocchia said of NYCT. "However, it will take two years for NYCT to replace the junky buses of the seven companies."

"Disabled folks cannot be expected to put their lives on hold. Our transportation needs must be met."

Trocchia commented that the city has given the private bus lines millions of tax dollars in subsidies over the years, and that taxpayers' money has been wasted in the process.

Inclusion Daily Express readers learned about Anthony Trocchia last July, when he staged an impromptu "rush hour" protest in front of a Green Lines bus.

After Trocchia had waited through four Green Line buses without a working lift, he parked his electric wheelchair in front of the bus -- at one of the busiest intersections in Queens -- and refused to move.

Trocchia then pulled out his cell phone and called newspaper and television stations to report his own act of civil disobedience.

Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York
"Disgusted Bus Rider Stages Impromptu Protest" -- July 1, 2003 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Advocates Hot Over "Freak Show" Comments

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 30, 2004

LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA--Disability rights advocates here want WLNI radio morning man, Brian Weigand, to apologize for insulting them and other people with disabilities on the air Wednesday.

Members of the Lynchburg Area Center for Independent Living and the Lynchburg Depressive Disorders Associates said that Weigand described a recent City Council open forum as a "freak show". Several people with disabilities had showed up at the forum to protest proposed transportation cuts in the city's budget.

"I was just shocked and very hurt that people with disabilities would be called freaks," Linda Theisen, of Lynchburg Depressive Disorders Associates, told local TV station WSET Thursday.

Dana Jackson, who is with LACIL, wrote on a WLNI website forum, "I was one of the people at the open forum using a wheelchair and do not consider myself a "Freak". I question if Mr. Weigand has come up to the 21st Century."

"People with disabilities are allowed out of our houses, allowed to work and allowed to speak when we want," Jackson added.

"I believe that anyone with Mr. Weigand’s total lack of regard for people’s feelings should not be allowed on the air. At the very least he owes all people with disabilities an apology for being behind the times and not aware enough to apologize in the first place."

The director of the Lynchburg Center for Independent Living told WSET he will ask the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Weigand's comment.

WSET reported Friday that Weigand had not apologized and that WLNI station management said only that his comments were taken out of context.



Judge As Much To Blame As Terri Schiavo's Husband

April 30, 2004

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Wesley J. Smith, a regular contributor to the Weekly Standard, wrote a piece Friday condemning Michael Schiavo, the husband and guardian of Terri Schiavo, and Judge George Greer, the Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge who has repeatedly supported Mr. Schiavo's position in a number of legal challenges.

Smith notes that Mr. Schiavo has "shirked" his responsibility as Terri's guardian numerous times since her 1990 brain injury. In spite of evidence showing Terri has been abused and exploited by her husband, Greer has continued to find in his favor.

Most recently, Schiavo has tried to keep Terri's family from visiting her.

Smith points out that Schiavo's legal ground is shaky, however.

State law requires guardianship plans to be reviewed every year. Mr. Schiavo has failed to write a new plan since July of 2001.

"Under the law, Greer should have hauled Michael into court to explain why he has failed to file a plan for court approval," Smith explained. "Instead, Greer granted each of Michael's repeated (and often tardy) requests for extra time to file his plans. Meaning Judge Greer has permitted Michael to act as guardian of Terri for nearly three years without a guardianship plan in effect, even though under Florida law, this means that Michael has no legal authority over her."

"This entire travesty must come to an end," he concluded. "Not only is the life of a helpless human being at stake, but so too are the rule of law and the application of ordered justice."

"The Assault on Terri Schiavo Continues" by Wesley J. Smith (Weekly Standard)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)



"A Case For Change"

April 30, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Thursday's Independent:

When Sophie Needham found a secondary school that would welcome her as a pupil, her mother, Claire, breathed a sigh of relief. Sophie has cerebral palsy and Claire had battled since Sophie's early schooldays to keep her in a mainstream school, following the same educational path as her peers.

The respite didn't last long, though. At first, the school adapted accommodation and made the premises easier for Sophie's wheelchair, but a difficulty quickly arose over her two full-time teaching assistants. Both left, and Sophie had to try and continue school life with a series of temporary appointments. "She had a total of 14 different staff," says Claire. "I couldn't train any of them . . . I had to leave my part-time job and go in nearly every day to look after her."

But Sophie has now won a case at a special educational needs and disability tribunal, which ruled that she had been discriminated against. The school, the tribunal says, failed to provide continuity in the recruitment of support staff.

With more than one million young people under 24 with a disability (as defined under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995), there are many like Sophie who are finding it difficult to get an education.

Entire article:
"A case for change" (The Independent)




Welcome to Scope, the disability organisation in England and Wales whose focus is people with cerebral palsy. Our aim is that disabled people achieve equality: a society in which they are as valued and have the same human and civil rights as everyone else.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (From one year ago):


"Disabled Vets Should Not Bear the Costs of War" by Mike Ervin

April 30, 2003

UNITED STATES--The following three paragraphs are excerpts from a Knight Ridder opinion piece by disability rights advocate Mike Ervin that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune:

The last group of people the American public would have expected to bear the cost of President Bush's war are the soldiers he sent to fight it. But as soon as the war began, the House Budget Committee unveiled a budget proposal that would have cut $25 billion over the next decade in spending on disability benefits and health care for veterans.

Fortunately, PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) and other advocacy organizations for disabled vets were able to prevail upon the Senate to eliminate the cuts in their budget proposal. Even though Republican House leaders like Speaker Dennis Hastert continued to defend the drastic reductions, the final budget that emerged from the conference committee actually contained a funding increase for the programs.

That should be a relief to U.S. soldiers wounded in this latest war, as well as to the disabled vets who for years have depended on the government for health-care and other benefits.

Entire article:
"Disabled Vets Should Not Bear the Costs of War" by Mike Ervin (Salt Lake Tribune)
Related resource:
"Disabilities And The 'War On Terror'" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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