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.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Year V, Edition 936

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 22 more news items.

"It’s a lot easier to show the positive view of a person with disabilities to a child than try to change the negative attitude of an adult."

--Rebecca Thacker, talking about visiting West Virginia elementary schools in her wheelchair to teach children about disabilities (Fifth story)

"I just enjoy it all."
--Mary Bentley, who has been working at a Toccoa, Georgia Wendy's restaurant for the last 25 years (Third story)



New Zealand To Toss "Outdated" Sheltered Workshop Pay

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 18, 2004

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND--People with disabilities that work in sheltered workshops will receive the same pay and employment rights as other workers under a measure introduced into New Zealand's Parliament on Tuesday.

Disabilities Issues Minister Ruth Dyson announced in a statement that the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Bill would repeal the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act 1960 (DPEP) which allows sheltered workshop providers to pay less than the minimum wage -- and avoid holiday pay -- to some workers with disabilities.

"The DPEP Act has been a long-standing source of dissatisfaction," she explained. "Its repeal is a significant contribution to the government's commitment to an inclusive society."

"The Act does not comply with domestic and international human rights legislation as it embodies outdated and inappropriate concepts about the ability, potential and rights of people with disabilities."

Dyson said that a transition period would allow sheltered workshops to adjust to the new wages, and added that some had already started that process.

Workshops will continue to receive government assistance in developing their businesses to support employment, along with government funding.

"What will change is the standard of the employment environment in which people with disabilities work," she said.

Sheltered workshop providers have claimed that paying "sub-minimum" wages allows them to employ workers who would not be hired elsewhere.

Critics have compared sheltered workshops to "sweat-shops" that segregate and isolate people and devalue them by paying less than what they are worth.



Terri Schiavo's Parents Still Banned From Visits

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 18, 2004

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--Terri Schiavo's parents are going to court to challenge a visitation ban imposed by their son-in-law.

Bob and Mary Schindler told the Associated Press that they were turned away from the nursing home where Terri now lives when they went to visit Friday.

Michael Schiavo, who is also Terri's guardian, prohibited his in-laws from seeing Terri on March 29 after unidentified puncture marks were found on her arms. Mr. Schiavo said he suspected the Schindlers of trying to inject Terri with something.

Last week, police said no crime had been committed, and that toxicology tests found no foreign substances in Terri's system. Investigators said the puncture marks were likely caused by the lift used to transfer Terri in and out of her bed.

"It's mean and it's cruel," Bob Schindler said Monday. "It's just something else to harass us."

Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos said Terri's family can visit -- as long as they pay for extra security to accompany them. Felos said the March incident "raises questions and suspicions" to warrant the restrictive policy.

Terri, 40, breathes on her own, but is given food and water through a tube installed through the wall of her stomach. Her husband 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 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 "Terri's Law" rapidly through the Legislature, giving him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed on October 16, 2003.

The Pinellas Circuit Court last week upheld Mr. Schiavo's challenge to the law, which claimed it violated Terri's right to privacy and the Florida Constitution's separation of powers provisions. On Wednesday, the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal asked that Bush's appeal be moved quickly to the state Supreme Court.

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



Worker Celebrates 25 Years At Local Wendy's

May 18, 2004

TOCCOA, GEORGIA--Tuesday's edition of the Toccoa Record featured a story about Mary Bentley, who recently celebrated 25 years working at the local Wendy's restaurant.

Mary's husband, Gary, credits the restaurant's manager, Pete Curry, for taking the step of hiring her even though he "had never had anyone handicapped there".

At first, Mary, who has cerebral palsy, only cleared tables. But she stayed on and learned new skills. Now she takes orders and runs the cash register.

Why has she stayed for all these years?

"I just enjoy it all," she said.

"A gamble that worked" (The Toccoa Record)



Lotter Seeks 'Mental Retardation' Status;
Triple Murder Inspired Movie "Boys Don't Cry"

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 18, 2004

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA--John Lotter, who was convicted for killing three people on New Year's Eve 1993, should undergo tests to see if he has mental retardation and be spared the death penalty, his attorney said in a legal petition filed last week.

Lotter and co-defendant Marvin Nissen were convicted of murdering Brandon Teena, a cross-dresser who had lived as a man but was born female and named Teena Brandon. Prosecutors said the two killed Teena because she had reported being raped by them a week earlier. They killed Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine because they had witnessed the murder, prosecutors asserted.

Nissen testified against Lotter in exchange for a reduced sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison, while Lotter received three death sentences.

The murders inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry". Hilary Swank won a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Teena in the film.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, attorney Paula Hutchinson filed requests on May 11 in Richardson County District Court and U.S. District Court asking that Lotter be tested to determine his intelligence.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing inmates considered to have mental retardation is "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A 1998 Nebraska law banned the execution of the those considered to have mental retardation, defined as "exhibiting significantly subaverage intellectual functioning . . . as well as deficits in adaptive behavior" or functioning in day-to-day situations.

Lotter's IQ has been measured at 76. Most experts consider a score of 70 or below to indicate mental retardation.

Hutchinson claimed that earlier IQ tests "strongly indicate that Mr. Lotter possesses significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior."

She said a psychiatrist is preparing an affidavit testifying that Lotter probably meets Nebraska's definition for mental retardation.

If Lotter's death sentence is changed to life in prison, he would be the third Nebraska death-row inmate to successfully use the mental retardation claim since the 1998 law.

In January 1999, Jerry Simpson's death sentence was commuted to life in prison after a judge accepted reports placing his IQ at 67 or 68. Simpson had been sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of another inmate.

Five months later, Clarence Victor was spared execution when a judge accepted tests that showed he had an IQ of 65. Victor had been sentenced to death for the 1987 killing of an Omaha woman. He had previously been convicted of manslaughter in 1964 and second-degree murder in 1976.



"Couple Paving Way For Others With Disabilities"

May 18, 2004

HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Tuesday's Herald-Dispatch:

When most people walk along Huntington’s sidewalks or visit a restaurant or business, they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to step next.

It’s a different story for Rebecca and Ray Thacker. Both use wheelchairs, which sometimes makes journeying Huntington’s streets a daily struggle. But rather than accept their disabilities as setbacks, the Thackers are using them to promote disability awareness throughout the city.

"If you’re disabled, people have a tendency to make you believe that you have to take what you get in life," Rebecca said. "Ray and I know that’s not true."

For nearly five years, the married couple has rolled along Huntington’s streets evaluating curb cuts and crosswalks and informing businesses of changes they can make to accommodate people with disabilities.

Entire article:
"Couple paving way for others with disabilities" (Herald-Dispatch)



ADA Home Page (U.S. Department of Justice)


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


Judge Says State Must Pay Abuse Victims
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 18, 2001

TACOMA, WASHINGTON--Pierce County Superior Court Judge Karen Strombom ruled last week that the state of Washington is responsible for paying a record $19 million to three men who were abused while living in a Bremerton adult family home. Strombom's decision means the state's insurance companies may not have to pick up $13.8 million of the judgment as officials had hoped.

A jury in March 2000 decided that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) had failed to protect Damon Beckman, Eric Busch and William Coalter from being physically and sexually abused in the state-licensed home. The jury then ordered the state to pay the men and their families $17.8 million -- the largest personal injury verdict ever won against the state of Washington.

The Attorney General's Office had planned to appeal the decision, arguing that, among other things, the three men were not competent to stand trial because of their developmental disabilities. But state attorneys missed the 30-day deadline for filing the appeal because a notice had been misplaced within the office.

Attorney General Christine Gregoire later lost her attempts to have the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court extend the deadline. In mid-October, the state paid the men the full amount, plus $1 million interest, and assured tax-payers that its insurance companies would pick up $13.8 million of the judgment.

The insurance companies, which include Zurich Specialties and Lloyds of London, refused to pay. They sued the state in November, claiming that they were not responsible after the state missed the appeal deadline.

Judge Strombom apparently agreed with the insurance companies.

A spokesperson from the Attorney General's Office said the state has not decided whether it will appeal Strombom's decision.


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