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, May 6, 2004
Year V, Edition 929

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 33 more news items.

"The show is not over yet."

--Patricia Anderson, attorney for the parents of Terri Schiavo, talking about a judge's decision Thursday to toss out the law that had Terri's feeding tube reinserted after it had been removed last October (First story)

"Now I'm feeling absolutely pumped up and very excited."
--Miles Hilton-Barber, a blind pilot and adventurer who set a new high-altitude record in his microlight plane Wednesday (Fourth story)



Judge Baird Rules "Terri's Law" Unconstitutional

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 6, 2004

TAMPA, FLORIDA--A local judge ruled Thursday that the law passed last October to keep Terri Schiavo alive, violates her right to privacy along with the state Constitution.

In his decision, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird wrote that "Terri's Law" improperly gave Governor Jeb Bush authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted after it had been removed under a separate court order. Baird added that the measure "unjustifiably authorizes the governor to summarily deprive Florida citizens of their constitutional right to privacy."

"By substituting the personal judgment of the governor for that of the patient, the act deprives every individual who is subject to its terms of his or her constitutionally guaranteed right to the privacy of his or her own medical decisions," Baird concluded.

The governor's office immediately filed an appeal. It is likely the case will eventually work its way to the Florida Supreme Court.

Disability rights advocates have been watching the legal battle over Terri's life for several years. Terri, 40, breathes on her own, but is given food and water through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach.

Michael Schiavo, who is her husband and 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 brain injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, believe that she is alert and responsive and that she could improve through 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 marry a woman with whom he has fathered two children. 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. Under pressure from disability rights and right-to-life advocates, Governor Bush championed the measure rapidly through the Legislature, giving him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed.

Mr. Schiavo, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately filed the suit which Judge Baird ruled on Thursday.

Pat Anderson, who represents the Schindlers, said Thursday, "It is not surprising, but it is saddening, especially since Terri's parents have not been allowed to see her since March 29. This puts a particularly tragic aspect to all of this."

"The show is not over yet."

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



Senate Approves Family Opportunity Act

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 6, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--With a voice vote, the U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the Family Opportunity Act of 2003 which would make it easier for families that have children with disabilities to receive Medicaid benefits without being forced into poverty.

S. 622, also known as the "Dylan Lee James Act" received bi-partisan support. Sponsored by Senators Charles Grassley, Edward Kennedy and Max Baucus, the bill would amend Title XIX of the federal Social Security Act, to give states the option of letting such families buy into Medicaid on a sliding scale, based on their income.

Currently, families often lose Medicaid coverage for their children unless if they are very poor, or turn over custody of their children to the state.

"Many parents of disabled children have to drop out of the workforce or keep themselves in a low-paying job just to remain eligible for Medicaid. In effect, the government is forcing parents to choose between near-poverty and their children's health care," said Senator Grassley.

Senator Kennedy said, "To obtain vital health services for their children, families are being forced to become poor, stay poor, or to do the unthinkable -- put their children in institutions or even give up custody of their children -- all so their children can qualify for the health coverage available under Medicaid."

The measure's companion piece, H.R. 1811, still must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dylan Lee James Family Opportunity Act of 2003 (U.S. Congress)



Court Rules Death Row Inmate Does Not Have Mental Retardation

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 6, 2004

AUSTIN, TEXAS--The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that Michael Wayne Hall has mental retardation, and therefore will face the death penalty.

In a 7-2 opinion, the court rejected Hall's mental retardation claims, even though it has been documented that he has an IQ of less than 70.

"While there was significant evidence in favor of a finding of mental retardation, there was also significant evidence against such a finding," the court wrote in its decision.

Hall, 25, was convicted and sentenced to be executed for abducting and shooting to death Amy Robinson, a supermarket checkout employee who was also described as "mentally challenged", in 1998.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2002 ruled that executing people with mental retardation is "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The court left it up to states to define mental retardation. Most experts agree that people with IQ scores below 70 have mental retardation.

The two dissenting judges on the Texas court said that Hall has not had a full hearing on whether he has mental retardation, and that the decision should not have been based entirely on affidavits and the trial transcript.

The evidence in Hall's appeal included an affidavit from a fellow death row inmate who said that Hall had to be reminded every day to do tasks such as washing himself and cleaning his toilet.

A member of Hall's defense team said the ruling was not based on the facts, and his case might be taken to the federal court system.

"There was no doubt Michael Hall was retarded until the state figured out they couldn't kill him if he was," said Reagan Wynn.

Robert James Neville Jr., 29, is also on death row for Robinson's murder.

"Killer not retarded, state high court rules" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
"The Death Penalty And Mental Retardation" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Blind Pilot Smashes Altitude Record

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 6, 2004


So cold Miles Hilton-Barber had to keep his eyes closed to prevent them from freezing.

But the 55-year old blind adventurer endured wind chills of -60 C (-72 F) at a height of 20,020 feet to break the British microlight altitude record Wednesday.

"My hands are very painful now and my eyelashes were freezing together," he said after landing.

"Now I'm feeling absolutely pumped up and very excited."

According to a story by BBC News, Hilton-Barber's microlight aircraft is equipped with speech output technology.

A corporate motivational speaker, Hilton-Barber has several accomplishments under his belt since he became blind 20 years ago, according to the London Speaker Bureau website.

In 1999, he completed the Marathon Des Sables, a 150-mile foot race through the Sahara Desert. The following year he climbed to a height of 17,500 feet in the Himalayas, and set a world record as the first blind person to pull a sledge 250 miles across Antarctica. Two years ago, Miles-Barber climbed to the 19,340-foot summit of Kilimanjaro and competed in the Siberian Ice Marathon, known as the "Coldest Marathon on Earth".

In his spare time, the married father of four scuba dives, para-sails, sky-dives, and hot-air balloons, among other things.

"Blind pilot sets altitude record" (BBC News)
Miles Hilton-Barber (London Speaker Bureau)



School Would Let Student Graduate If Parents Pay $10,000

May 6, 2004

BEACHWOOD, OHIO--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story published in Thursday's Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Scott Kendis, who developed a brain tumor when he was 6 and has endured years of health problems as a result, has waited a long time for a slow, 50-foot walk across an auditorium stage to get his high school diploma.

But the Beachwood School District will not let Scott graduate, even though the Ohio Department of Education has ruled that he is entitled to march with his senior class.

Scott, 18, has severe learning and physical disabilities. A series of surgeries removed the tumor but left Scott blind in one eye and partially blind in the other. He suffers from narcolepsy, a disorder that results in periods of deep sleep during the day, and catatonia.

Through his special education plan, he earned enough credits to graduate from high school June 6. But because his parents are demanding that he receive vocational training, the district won't let him graduate.

Entire article:
"Dispute keeps disabled student from graduation" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)



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


Virginia Governor Apologizes For Eugenics

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 6, 2002

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA -- Last Thursday, Virginia became the first state to officially apologize for sterilizing thousands of people with disabilities during the last century.

"Today, I offer the Commonwealth's sincere apology for Virginia's participation in eugenics," said Governor Mark R. Warner.

This may be particularly fitting, because the Commonwealth of Virginia designed the law that other states -- and other countries -- used as a model during the American Eugenics movement. Eugenics attempted to cure all of society's problems by reducing the number of people with disabilities and other differences through sterilization. The movement, which began in the early part of the century, was later discredited, but not before over 60,000 Americans had been forced to undergo surgery to make them sterile. Nearly 8,000 of those were housed in Virginia's institutions.

Historians have suggested that Adolph Hitler used Virginia's law as a model for forcibly sterilizing thousands of people with disabilities during the Nazi era.

Warner's statement was timed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Buck v. Bell decision, which made sterilizations legal across the nation.

Here are excerpts from Warner's statement:
"In 1924, Virginia, like many states, passed a law permitting involuntary sterilization. In 1927, Carrie Buck was the first person sterilized by the Commonwealth pursuant to that law. Virginia's actions were upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the government ultimately sterilized approximately 8,000 people."

"Last year, the General Assembly passed a resolution expressing profound regret for the Commonwealth's role in the eugenics movement. Today, I offer the Commonwealth's sincere apology for Virginia's participation in eugenics. As I have previously noted, the eugenics movement was a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved."

"We must remember the Commonwealth's past mistakes in order to prevent them from recurring."

"Virginia's Eugenics Apology" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)


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