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, July 13, 2004
Year V, Edition 970

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 30 more news items.

"We have been following the situation for some time and the letter from Ms. Rowling was one reason we decided to act now."

--Aneta Kupkova, a Czech Republic health ministry spokeswoman, talking about the government's decision this week to ban the use of caged beds for children and adults in psychiatric facilities, after receiving a letter condemning the practice by "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling (First story)

"This case reflects whether our society and legal system value the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities."
--Max Lapertosa, an attorney representing 18 disability groups that support a Florida law which has kept Terri Schiavo alive since last October (Second story)



Letter By "Harry Potter" Writer Sparks Changes In Czech Caged Beds Policy

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2004

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC--After years of work by international human rights groups and pressure from international bodies, it appears that a letter from a writer of children's books has caused the Czech government to reverse its position on caged beds in mental institutions.

According to several sources, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, wrote to Czech President Vaclav Klaus calling on him to ban the use of caged bed for children and adults in his nation's psychiatric hospitals.

Rowling wrote the letter after reading about six children with developmental disabilities who were discovered last month in wire cages at a facility near Prague. The Sunday Times had reported that the children were let out briefly each morning to be fed and washed, but spent the rest of their time in the cages.

The noted author told President Klaus that she was "horrified beyond words" and asked him to end the "torture" of these and other children.

The next day, the Czech health ministry announced that it would immediately remove all caged beds from the country's mental health facilities. Czech authorities have said that there are about 20 caged beds and about 100 net-covered beds in psychiatric centers.

Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations all have pressured the Czech government to stop restraining people with disabilities in the enclosures made from metal bars or wire mesh.

"We have been following the situation for some time," said Aneta Kupkova, a health ministry spokeswoman, "and the letter from Ms. Rowling was one reason we decided to act now."

Kupkova said that the caged beds would be banned immediately, and that the use of net-covered beds would be forbidden by the end of the year.

In a related story, last week the BBC Radio 4 featured two stories about a man who was held for a week against his will in a caged bed at a Czech psychiatric hospital.

"Out of sight, out of mind" (BBC News, July 8)
"Czech man's week in a cage" (BBC News, July 8)



Disability Groups File With Governor Bush In Schiavo Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--A coalition of 18 disability groups filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief Monday supporting Governor Jeb Bush in the upcoming Florida Supreme Court case over "Terri's Law".

The brief asked the court to reverse a decision by a lower court which ruled in May that the governor overstepped his bounds when he urged the Legislature to pass the law in October, thereby sparing the life of Terri Schiavo. The law directed a feeding tube to be reinserted into Terri's stomach six days after it had been removed under a court order at the request of her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo.

Mr. Schiavo sued the governor, claiming the law violated the Florida Constitution, along with Terri's right to privacy. Michael has insisted for several years that Terri told him -- before her brain injury 14 years ago -- that she would not want to live "by artificial means". Mr. Schiavo and several doctors insist that she is in a "persistent vegetative state", is not aware of her surroundings, cannot respond to others and will not improve.

Others, including Terri's parents, insist that she responds to them and tries to interact with her environment. They claim that Mr. Schiavo wants her to die for his own benefit, not Terri's.

Disability groups have been actively following Terri's situation for several years. Many see her case as one of thousands in which the rights of a person with a disability to continue living are compromised or ignored by third parties -- such as guardians and health care professionals -- who would rather let them die for their own reasons, and by courts that have placed privacy concerns above a persons right to live.

The brief reads: "This case raises a significant question of law: whether the Florida Legislature may act prospectively to protect the civil rights of persons with disabilities when a court has ordered withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment of an incapacitated, disabled woman in a manner the Legislature -- and the overwhelming majority of people with disabilities -- viewed as contrary to the woman’s fundamental constitutional rights."

"In their respective roles as representatives of and civil rights advocates for the disability community and people who have had similar experiences to Ms. Schiavo's, proposed Amici have been intimately involved in the issues before this Court concerning the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from people who are incompetent as a result of a medical condition or disability."

Max Lapertosa, an attorney representing the groups, said in a press statement, "A judge's order to terminate the life of a woman with severe disabilities is not a private family matter."

"Terminating Ms. Schiavo's life support would not be possible without the authority of the courts," Lapertosa added. "This case reflects whether our society and legal system value the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities."

Twelve of the organizations had filed a brief with Pinellas County Circuit Court on behalf of Terri's parents on October 6, just 10 days before her feeding tube was removed. Those organizations are Not Dead Yet, ADAPT, American Association of People with Disabilities, Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, Center for Self-Determination, Hospice Patients' Alliance, National Council on Independent Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, TASH, World Association of Persons with Disabilities, and World Institute on Disability.

They were joined in this amicus brief by The Arc of the United States, Disability Rights Center, Freedom Clearinghouse, Mouth Magazine, National Disabled Students Union, and the Society for Disability Studies.

Arguments are scheduled to take place before the Florida Supreme Court on August 31.

"Motion for leave of Not Dead Yet et al. to file brief Amici Curiae in support of Appellant and requesting reversal" (Florida Supreme Court)
[Note: PDF format requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader]
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Advocates Call On Media And Government To Focus On Advocacy, Not Charity

July 13, 2004

TAMALE, GHANA--Disability advocates in the Northern Region of Ghana recently organized a press gathering to call on the government to guarantee equal rights for citizens with disabilities. They also called on the media to focus on human rights and advocacy rather than charity or medical approaches to disabilities.

According to the Accra Daily Mail, Madam Mercy Apoe, a disability rights advocate and Chairperson of the Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities, urged lawmakers to quickly pass a Disability Policy Bill. Apoe said that parliament's delays in passing the measure are a form of discrimination.

"We are citizens of Ghana and so we must enjoy equal rights and equal opportunities as other citizens," she told the group, "the denial of these rights by society sometimes makes us aggressive in our quest to fight for them".

Felix Dery, a representative of Action on Disability and Development, said that many organizations designed for people with disabilities -- as opposed to those made up of people with disabilities themselves -- had created a system of segregated services. He added that governments, along with donors, aid agencies and other groups, have seldom asked members of the "disability community" about their needs before developing a disability agenda.

"Many do not have or practice policies of disability equality and thus exclude disabled persons from their activities," he said.

Dery concluded that this type of exclusion was the primary cause of poverty among people with disabilities.

"Disability bill is our life blood" (Accra Daily Mail)



Suit Accuses Skeptical Police Of Dragging Paraplegic Man Out Of Car

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2004

LAS VEGAS, NEW MEXICO--A 66-year-old man is suing New Mexico State Police officers, accusing them of pulling him out of his car and dragging him across the ground after they refused to believe that he was paraplegic.

Amador Quintana filed a suit in state court Friday against State Police Officers Jody Kerr and Paul Chavez, along with State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

According to the lawsuit, Quintana went to the state police office in his home town of Pecos last September to file a complaint against a neighbor. Because of a record-keeping error, the two officers believed that there was a warrant for Quintana's arrest, even though he had actually satisfied his court obligations.

After Quintana told the officers he had the court documents at home, they said they were placing him under arrest. Then they ordered him to get out of his car and get into a police car that was 20 to 30 feet away.

Quintana's wife told the officers that her husband was paraplegic and needed a wheelchair. One officer took the keys, without asking permission, and searched the trunk for the wheelchair, which the couple had left home.

Quintana alleges that the officers then pulled him out of the car, allowing his body and legs to hit the ground. Then they dragged him across the gravel to the police car.

Quintana's wife went home to get the wheelchair. When she returned, Mr. Quintana was still on the same spot on the ground.

The officers allowed Quintana to go home about two hours later.

Quintana was treated for cuts and abrasions on his back and torso at a nearby hospital, the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks damages from the state Department of Public Safety. Chief Maldonado is named as a defendant for allegedly failing to provide the officers with adequate training.

"It suggests to me that there is a serious lack of training when it comes to how to deal with paraplegic and quadriplegic citizens," said Richard Rosenstock, the attorney representing Quintana. "I can't believe that they actually are trained to do this."

The department refused to comment on the suit.



"Disability Is A Normal Part Of Being Human"

July 13, 2004

ST. GEORGE, UTAH--The following three paragraphs are excerpts from an editorial in Tuesday's edition of The Spectrum:

July 26 marks the 14th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On that day, many will gather to march together to Bluff Street Park to both celebrate and encourage the progress of civil rights for all of America's citizens.

There you'll find people rallying to "belong" in a world that is still coming to terms with imperfection and differences -- be they race, religion, sexuality, or abilities. Elitism has been practiced for centuries, including tragic cases of genocide, but more subtle examples persist even in today's more enlightened world.

More than anything else, the world needs to rediscover what's normal. Disability is a normal part of being human. People with disabilities are ordinary people, of undeniable worth and very much a part of the human race.

Entire article:
"Tolerance a simple sign of humanity" (The Spectrum)



RESNA: Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America

We are an interdisciplinary association of people with a common interest in technology and disability.

Our purpose is to improve the potential of people with disabilities to achieve their goals through the use of technology.

We serve that purpose by promoting research, development, education, advocacy and provision of technology; and by supporting the people engaged in these activities.


# EXTRA!!! From the IDE Archives -- Four years ago:

"Don't Fear Hiring The Disabled"
July 13, 2000

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI--"What the law doesn't -- and can't -- mandate is attitude readjustment to make employers less fearful of the costs of that accommodation or less fearful of integrating workers with disabilities into their work forces," wrote Diane Stafford in today's Kansas City Star Business section about the ADA.

Stafford pointed out that most workplace accommodations are inexpensive -- some costing as little as $5 -- and that workers who have disabilities tend to stay on the job longer and have equal or better performance appraisals compared to their counterparts who do not have disabilities.

She also pointed out that more needs to be done to get people with disabilities into higher education and high-tech training. The Association of Higher Education and Disability is holding an international conference this week in Kansas City, to increase participation in higher education by people with disabilities.

Entire article:
"Don't fear hiring the disabled" (Kansas City Star),business/37749a31.712,.html


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