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, July 2, 2004
Year V, Edition 964

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 40 more news items.

"The only visible minority that hasn't been represented in Parliament so far is the disabled. I'm happy that I have a unique perspective."

--Steven Fletcher, who was elected Monday to represent Manitoba as Canada's first quadriplegic member of Parliament (Second story)

"There are many more who haven't been informed that they were participants."
--Attorney Jeffrey Petrucelly, who is representing a man that was subjected to secret government radiation experiments during the 1940s and 1950s while at Fernald State School in Massachusetts (Fourth story)



Ohio Settles 1989 Lawsuit For Community Supports

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 2, 2004

COLUMBUS, OHIO--An agreement to settle a 15-year-old lawsuit was proposed Tuesday which would give people with developmental disabilities the option to move out of Ohio's state-operated institutions and nursing homes.

Press statements from the offices of Governor Bob Taft, Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Director Kenneth W. Ritchey, and the Ohio Legal Rights Service -- which represents 8,000 people in the case -- applauded each other for working together to settle the suit.

"This is a landmark settlement," said Taft in a press release. "I am pleased that all parties were able to work through the complex issues and come to a resolution without taking the case to trial."

The suit was filed in 1989 to reduce the number of people housed in institutions and to provide more supports to help them, and thousands others on waiting lists, to live in the community.

Since the suit was filed, more than 900 people have moved out of state-run institutions while thousands others have received funding to hire home health aides so they can stay at home or move out of nursing homes.

Under the agreement, which awaits approval by a federal judge, Taft would propose funding in his 2006-07 budget to allow people with developmental disabilities to choose between an institution and home-based care when covered by Medicaid.

Disability advocates also pledged to help persuade state legislators to approve the budget plan.

The agreement gives a boost to Taft, who announced 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 of institution residents, along with institution employees, resisted Taft's plan and tried to stop the closures. They pressured lawmakers to add a review committee to a bill providing protections for crime victims with developmental disabilities so they would have time to come up with ways to defeat the plan. After an extended review, Taft decided to move forward with his plan.

A spokesperson for the employees' union said that Tuesday's settlement would help officials to eventually close the state's institutions.

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.

Martin v. Taft Class Action Lawsuit Proposed Settlement (Ohio Legal Rights Service)
[PDF format requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader]
"Ohio Governor's Attempt To Close Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express)



Parliament Must Ready To Accommodate New Member

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 2, 2004

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--Steven Fletcher is bringing an agenda to Ottawa.

The Progressive Conservative says he plans to focus on health care, education, accountability in government and defense spending.

He will also be bringing his electric wheelchair -- which he operates with a switch he taps with his head -- and a 24-hour assistant.

Voters in his district of Winnipeg elected Fletcher on Monday to the House of Commons where he becomes Canada's first quadriplegic member of Parliament.

Before he can work on his campaign priorities, however, Fletcher will have to make sure he can get into Parliament buildings and chambers, which had not been made accessible when he visited two years ago.

"The codes are out of date in many cases and quite frankly, it's overdue," he said. "These changes should have been made a generation ago."

Parliamentary rules will also have to be adjusted so that Fletcher can have a personal assistant in the chambers with him to handle documents and possibly to help him vote. Those rules currently state that only members of Parliament are permitted on the floor of the House of Commons "when the House is sitting".

According to various media reports, Canadian disability groups are considering Fletcher's election win a victory for them as well.

"It's great that Steven's there," Laurie Beachell, a coordinator with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, told the Toronto Star. "What truly changes and removes barriers is a . . . policy approach to ensuring inclusion."

Fletcher accepts the role of being a national advocate for Canadians with disabilities.

"The only visible minority that hasn't been represented in Parliament so far is the disabled," Fletcher told the Winnipeg Sun. "I'm happy that I have a unique perspective."

"Fletcher wins praise" (Winnipeg Sun)
"Paralyzed MP plans to change attitudes in Ottawa" (The Globe and Mail)
"New MP expects equal access" (Toronto Star)



Appeals Court Shuts Parents Out Of Fight Over 'Terri's Law'

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 2, 2004

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA--Terri Schiavo's parents will not be allowed to intervene in a suit over the law that has kept her alive since October, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Pinellas Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird was correct when he refused in March to allow Bob and Mary Schindler to join Governor Jeb Bush in the suit Michael Schiavo filed against him.

Last October, Bush championed "Terri's Law" through the Legislature, giving him permission to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted six days after it had been removed under a court order. Mr. Schiavo, who is Terri's husband and guardian, filed the lawsuit against the governor claiming the law violated her right to privacy along with the separation of powers provisions of the state constitution.

The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on August 31.

Pat Anderson, the attorney representing the Schindlers, said her clients would still be able to file briefs in support of the governor.

"It would be a shame to shut them out of the process," she told the Associated Press.

Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's legal battle for several years. 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 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 with 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 remarry, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment. 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. With their urging, and that of right-to-life advocates, Governor Bush championed the measure which allowed the legislature to give him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 22.

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



Former Fernald Resident Sues Over Secret Radiation Experiments

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 2, 2004

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--A former resident of Fernald Developmental Center is suing the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation, claiming it secretly subjected him to radiation experiments in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Charles Hatch was 7 years old in 1946 when he was sent to what was then called the Fernald State School. Three years later, Hatch was selected for the "Science Club". He and dozens of other youngsters were told that participation in the "club" was a reward for good behavior. They were not informed that they were part of a government-sponsored Cold War experiment and that the Quaker Oats oatmeal to which they were being "treated" was, in fact, radioactive.

In 1995, a lawsuit was filed against DMR on behalf of 74 former residents of Fernald and the Wrentham State School. The state settled the suit and paid the former residents between $50,000 and $60,000 each.

Hatch was not part of the 1995 suit because the state did not have him listed as being involved in the experiments.

"They kept on telling him he wasn't a participant," Hatch's attorney, Jeffrey Petrucelly told the Associated Press.

An April 1 letter from DMR lawyer Peter J. Morin revealed that Hatch "may have been involved in the aforementioned experiments". Morin apologized for stating earlier that Hatch was not a participant.

"There are many more who haven't been informed that they were participants," Petrucelly said.

Hatch's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages.

In May of this year, six former residents of the Fernald Developmental Center visited Governor Mitt Romney and presented a petition to Commissioner of Mental Retardation Gerald J. Morrissey Jr., saying they represented thousands of people who were "wrongly" committed to the state's institutions which house people with developmental disabilities.

The group demanded an apology for being improperly labeled "morons" and placed at the institutions during the middle of the last century. They want the state to change their records to correct what they feel are inaccuracies. They are also asking for unspecified compensation.

Many details about the mistreatment of former Fernald residents have been revealed in the recently-released book "The State Boys Rebellion" by Michael D'Antonio.

Fernald Development Center, originally called the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded", was founded by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. It was later renamed for a former superintendent of the facility. It remains the oldest institution in the Americas.

Governor Romney's recent attempts to close the aging facility have met with resistance from institution employees and family members of those housed there.

"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Dignitaries, Celebrities Eulogize Mattie Stepanek

July 2, 2004

ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND--The following three paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Wednesday's online edition of The Gazette:

Former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter called him an angel and a messenger from heaven as he eulogized 13-year-old Matthew "Mattie" J.T. Stepanek during his funeral service at a Wheaton church Monday morning.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered to honor the life of the child poet and peacemaker from Rockville, including talk show host and media maven Oprah Winfrey, "Lord of the Rings" star Sean Astin, talk show host Montel Williams and young country singer Billy Gilman.

During his eulogy, Carter said Stepanek, who suffered his whole life from muscular dystrophy but whose positive attitude preceded him, was the "most extraordinary person I have ever known in my life."

Entire article:
"The world says goodbye to Mattie" (The Gazette)



Parents Helping Parents, Inc., The Family Resource Center

Founded by parents of children with special needs in 1976, PHP is one of the oldest and largest children's charities of its kind in the United States.

PHP's mission is to help children with special needs receive the resources, love, hope, respect, health care, education, and other services they need to reach their full potential by providing them with strong families, dedicated professionals, and responsive systems to serve them


# FROM THE IDE ARCHIVES -- One year ago:

Disgusted Bus Rider Stages Impromptu Protest
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 1, 2003

NEW YORK, NEW YORK--When he left home Thursday morning, Anthony Trocchia had no intention of becoming the center of a media event.

He just wanted to buy some books.

But when bus after bus came by with no working wheelchair lift, Trocchia, who is president of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York, decided it was time to take action.

He parked his electric wheelchair in front of the fourth Green Line bus that had a broken lift -- and refused to move.

As the bus sat idle at the corner of Queens Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, Trocchia pulled out his cell phone and called newspapers and television stations to report his act of civil disobedience.

Several members of the Queens Independent Living Center, which is across the street from the bus stop, heard about Trocchia's impromptu protest. Soon he was joined by two blind people and five people in wheelchairs from the center.

"I didn't plan on doing this," Trocchia explained. "We're just looking for the basic accommodations."

The traffic at the busy intersection was soon snarled as drivers and passersby stopped to see what all the commotion was about.

Over the next two and a half hours Trocchia and his cohorts were visited by several reporters -- even a news helicopter hovered overhead at one point.

"I was out here trying to take the bus," Trocchia told WNBC-TV. "Four buses came with broken lifts. I finally got disgusted and decided to block the bus."

When a Green Bus Lines executive asked for Trocchia's cooperation, telling him that three buses with working lifts were waiting for him, Trocchia refused.

"I want to bring embarrassment to this company that is long overdue," he told one reporter.

"This has been going on a long time. It's not just a matter of getting on a bus now and being whisked away. Now we have a chance to get it on the news."

When a police sergeant asked him to move the protest onto the sidewalk, Trocchia said he would stay in the street as long as news photographers were still arriving.

Then the police told the bus driver to back the bus up and steer around the protesters, but they quickly maneuvered their wheelchairs to keep it from moving.

Trocchia finally stopped his demonstration when he felt he had made his point.

Green Bus Lines is one of several private companies that provides bus service in the city. Company officials blamed the city for not maintaining lifts on the buses that the city owns.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires buses to have working wheelchair lifts.

The company issued an apology to Trocchia for any inconvenience it may have caused him.

Related resource:
Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York


Check in with other Inclusion Daily Express readers:


Have Google look for specific words or phrases in Inclusion Daily Express editions going back to December 1999:


Click here for the rest of today's disability-related news:


Tell your friends and colleagues about Inclusion Daily Express!

Inclusion Daily Express

© Copyright 2004 Inonit Publishing. Please do not reprint, post or forward without permission.
Reprint guidelines:

Inonit Publishing
3231 W. Boone Ave., # 711, Spokane, Washington 99201 USA
Phone: 509-326-5811
Dave Reynolds, Editor