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, June 3, 2004
Year V, Edition 947

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 37 more news items.

"By any standard this is an old case, and it's simply time to get it over one way or another."

--U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell, who will decide whether the suit George Lane and Beverly Jones filed against the State of Tennessee over courthouse accessibility will get class-action status. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled that they had a right to sue the state for damages (First story)

"I’ve always wished -- and prayed -- that for once at least, people would be able to magnanimously put aside their personal and self-serving views and wants to see things totally from a disabled person's perspective and appreciate their genuine needs."
--The Star (Malaysia) Wheelpower columnist Anthony Thanasayan, writing about a recent trip to the mall with Soo, his service dog (Fifth story)



Judge Says Courthouse Accessibility Case Will Move Ahead Quickly

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 3, 2004

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--People with disabilities scored a victory on May 17 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals could sue states for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to make courthouses accessible.

The high court did not mean that George Lane and Beverly Jones, who had tried to sue the State of Tennessee in 1998, had won their suit. It just meant that they had the right to sue. Then the court sent the case back to Tennessee for the actual suit to move forward.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell said the case would move quickly, like "a forced Roman march".

"By any standard this is an old case, and it's simply time to get it over one way or another," Campbell said during a status hearing in his Nashville courtroom, the Associated Press reported. "There won't be much tolerance for casual delay."

Before moving on with Lane's suit, Campbell will have to decide whether to grant class-action status to the case. If so, as many as 250,000 Tennesseans with disabilities could become part of the suit. He has scheduled a July 12 hearing on the matter.

Campbell must also determine whether the state can be sued separately from 25 counties who are being sued because their courthouses are not accessible. A trial on the lawsuit against the counties is set for November 2, but lawyers for Lane and Jones, along with those representing the counties, said they need the state's participation in the current case. Campbell is expected to rule quickly on a motion to consolidate the state and county cases.

On Tuesday, Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers argued in a court filing that Lane and Jones are not entitled to damages from the state. Summers also said that the judge should deny the requests for class-action status.

George Lane tried to sue the state for $100,000 for violating his right to equal access to Polk County Courthouse. Because there was no elevator or other accommodations at the courthouse, Lane, who lost a leg in an auto accident, had to crawl up two flights of stairs for an arraignment on misdemeanor traffic charges in 1996. When a pretrial hearing was rescheduled, Lane refused to again crawl up the stairs to the courtroom. He also refused to be carried by court employees. Lane sent word to the judge that he was downstairs, but the judge ordered him arrested and jailed for failing to appear in court. Lane later said the judge and court staff stood at the top of the stairs and laughed at him.

Beverly Jones, a court reporter who uses a wheelchair, joined Lane's suit, claiming that the state's failure to make county courthouses accessible created a hardship and limited the jobs available to her. Jones said she was unable to enter four county courthouses where lawyers had hired her to record court proceedings. She listed another 19 Tennessee counties that had inaccessible courthouses.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that states must follow Title II of the ADA -- which guarantees accessibility of public facilities and services -- when it comes to the courts, or face potential lawsuits from individuals.

Disability rights advocates called the decision a victory, following a series of high court rulings that had limited the scope of the federal 1990 anti-discrimination law. The ruling meant that Congress had the authority to order states to make sure citizens with disabilities are not denied their rights to "equal protection under the laws" as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Judge says disabled courthouse access case will continue quickly" (Associated Press via
"High Court Upholds Access To State Courts: State of Tennessee v. Lane et al" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Panel Backs Governor Taft's Plan To Close Two Institutions

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 3, 2004

COLUMBUS, OHIO--The Associated Press reported Thursday that a state legislative committee has recommended the closure of two institutions housing people with developmental disabilities.

The review committee had been formed in reaction to Governor Bob Taft's announcement in January 2003 that he would close Springview Developmental Center in Springfield and Apple Creek Developmental Center near Wooster in June 2005 and June 2006 respectively.

Family members and institution employees who resisted Taft's plan pressured lawmakers to add the review committee to a bill providing protections for crime victims with developmental disabilities. Some had hoped the review process would give time for opponents to come up with ways to defeat the plan.

After months of review, the committee released its report Monday saying the state Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities had proved it needed to close the two facilities to save $23 million.

"Given the difficult and tenuous nature of what will happen during and after the closures, we found that the planning and execution of this decision to date to be correct and that it is an ever-changing process," the report said.

As expected, the two members of the committee who represented institution employees and family members of institution residents disagreed with the rest of the panel.

Taft is not required to follow the committee's recommendations.

During the past decade, Ohio has been slow to downsize its institutions and move people into the community. The most recent information from the annual State of the States in Developmental Disabilities report showed that 1,936 people with developmental disabilities were housed in Ohio's 12 state-run institutions in 2002. That number was down from 2,261 in 1993 -- a reduction of about 14 percent over ten years.

In the same time period, the population of people with developmental disabilities in state-operated institutions across the country dropped by more than 39 percent.

"Ohio Governor's Attempt To Close Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express)
State of the States in Developmental Disabilities



Son Given Suspended Sentence For Assisting Mom In Suicide;
Judge Says Ban On Assisted Suicide Discriminates Against People With Disabilities

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 3, 2004

HOBART, TASMANIA--On May 26, the Supreme Court of Tasmania gave John Stuart Godfrey a one-year suspended sentence for the crime of assisting in a suicide -- his mother's suicide.

Godfrey, a 63-year-old, internationally-recognized oceanographer, had faced up to 21 years behind bars for helping his mother to kill herself.

Supreme Court Justice Peter Underwood said Mr. Godfrey had acted "solely by compassion and love" when he gave Elizabeth Godfrey, 88, a crushed paste of sleeping pills, along with whiskey and plastic bags to tie over her head on December 16, 2002.

During the trial, the court heard testimony that Mrs. Godfrey had physical disabilities and had been in pain, and that she could not take morphine because of allergies. Family members also stated that she considered it repugnant that she could be "a burden" to others, and that she opposed plans to move her to a nursing home.

Mr. Godfrey's actions were supported by his family which had decided to help her commit suicide because they did not want to see her accidentally injure herself trying to do so on her own.

Justice Underwood suggested that the law banning assisted suicide actually discriminates against people with disabilities.

"It may be noted that although aiding suicide is a crime, attempting to commit suicide has not been a crime in this state for almost 50 years," he said. "Curiously, it might be said that those who wish to end their life but are physically unable to do so, are discriminated against by reason of their physical disability."

Mrs. Godfrey became popular in the 1970s and 1980s as host of the television show "Carefree Cooking". For the last 20 years of her life she had been a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Tasmania. More recently she had joined the pro-euthanasia organization Exit Australia.

Groups that oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia called the ruling "disturbing" and "dangerous", adding that the law needs to be enforced.

"We have to look at the palliative care issues to prevent the premature ending of someone's life," Dr. John Ozolins, head of the philosophy school at Australian Catholic University, told the Mercury.

Disability rights advocates have opposed making assisted suicide legal because the practice has been strongly influenced by society's view that the lives of people with certain disabilities are pitiful and undesirable, and by health care systems that continue to limit options such as providing in-home supports. The U.S. advocacy group Not Dead Yet, which has been joined by more than a dozen other major disability groups, calls attempts to legalize assisted suicide "a deadly double standard for people with severe disabilities, including both conditions that are labeled terminal and those that are not."

Research conducted on the dozens of people who were aided by Michigan assisted suicide campaigner Dr. Jack Kevorkian found that most were not in the final stages of terminal illness, but were afraid of becoming disabled and, like Mrs. Godfrey, worried about becoming a burden on others or being housed in a nursing home.

Not Dead Yet



Traveler Refuses To Pay Airline's Hefty Wheelchair Lift Fee

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 3, 2004

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA--Russell Vollmer got a surprise last Saturday when he prepared to take the two-hour flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg on Nationwide Airlines, the news agency Independent Online reported.

Vollmer, who is quadriplegic, knew from his travel agent that he would have to pay extra -- he was told about 300 rand ($47 US) -- for the discount air carrier staff to lift him and his wheelchair on and off the aircraft.

What he hadn't expected was that the actual cost of the service would be more than the air fare itself -- 1,580 rand ($248 US) for the round-trip.

"I normally travel with other airlines but I thought I would try Nationwide for a change because their fees are very cheap," said Vollmer, who is Commodore of the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

"That made the additional cost of the passenger assistance unit more than my air fare," he said.

Vollmer refused to pay the fee. He cancelled his ticket with Nationwide and bought another from a different airline that did not charge for using its passenger aid unit.

Nationwide Airlines operations manager Johan Borstlap told IOL that the company charged wheelchair users because the airline does not have its own passenger aid unit.

"This is an unfortunate situation but we do not have a lift of our own, Borstlap said. "It is a direct cost to us and we are passing it on to the passenger."

Mzolisi Toni, secretary-general of Disabled People of South Africa, said he was shocked that the airline charged such passengers for the service.

Earlier this year a British court found discount airline Ryanair guilty of discriminating against passenger Bob Ross because it charged him a £18 fee (about $28 US) each way to provide him a wheelchair at Stansted Airport in England. In January, the court ordered Ryanair to pay Ross £1,336 ($2,435 US).

Ryanair immediately announced that it would add 50 pence to every passenger ticket -- regardless of whether they use a wheelchair -- to cover the cost. One member of Parliament accused the airline of "blatant profiteering", noting that the actual cost to Ryanair would be closer to 2 pence per passenger.



"Mall Roaming"

June 3, 2004

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA--The following four paragraphs are excerpts of the latest column by The Star's Wheelpower columnist Anthony Thanasayan:

My service dog (SD) Soo, the Golden Retriever, and I were special guests with two other animal expert panellists at a public forum on pets a couple of months ago. About 800 people attended the forum at the Atria Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya.

I had a blast talking about how people with disabilities could successfully build a meaningful and lasting bond with their canine companions provided also that some help came from the community, including veterinarians, dog breeders and food suppliers in helping the handicapped care for their pets – and even offering to absorb some of the costs.

The speech presentation that afternoon, however, was only half of the heart-warming (and heart-pounding) story!

Despite the extraordinary invitation to bring my SD along with me as my helper into the shopping complex, I was still doubtful (and pretty nervous) as to whether it would truly be allowed to happen.

Entire article:
"Mall Roaming" by Wheelpower columnist Anthony Thanasayan (The Star)



Transition Projects Home Page

These Transition Projects are a part of the Rural Institute on Disabilities at The University of Montana:
1. Project Wiser -- To develop an innovative model of transition planning in the Bitterroot and Mission Valleys which promotes individualized customized employment for students with severe disabilities and on-going support needs.
2. Graduate to Work -- To increase access to community employment for students with developmental disabilities graduating from Montana Schools by creating a model transition-to-employment program in Missoula Schools that can be replicated by other locales.
3. Linkages -- To expand the model of Transition planning created through Project WISER to include self-employment as a career exploration strategy and a post school employment option for students with ongoing support needs, and to increase the access of workforce investment resources as part of transition planning.


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

Just Look For The "Happy Toilet" Logo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 3, 2003

SINGAPORE--Singapore is the first country in the world to rank the quality of its public restrooms, in a new national initiative to improve toilet conditions, the Straits Times reported Tuesday.

The Restroom Association of Singapore will grade the nation's public toilets based on cleanliness, daily maintenance, supplies, and design.

Each will be given a grade of three, four or five stars. Those that are regularly cleaned and whose design makes them accessible to people with disabilities, can proudly display a "Happy Toilet" logo.

Officials hope the program will not only increase the cleanliness standards of the nation's toilet facilities, but also will prompt people to "practice better toilet etiquette."

Last month, the National Environment Agency cleaned up 29,000 public restrooms as part of an effort to contain the spread of SARS.


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