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, July 22, 2004
Year V, Edition 976

Today's front section features 9 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the "Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 47 more news items.

"We have rallied around his cause because it is so rare for someone to have the courage to step forward."

--Elisabeth Bruckmann, member of a coalition of advocacy groups that have come together to support Peter Owusu-Ansah, who says he was assaulted by Toronto, Ontario police because he is black and deaf (Second story)

"We can only assume that the dogs rely on other senses to carry out their duties."
--Dr. Andrew Collins of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who found that at least one in ten guide dogs has vision problems (Sixth story)



Terri Schiavo Wouldn't Go Against Pope's Wishes, Parents Claim

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2004

TAMPA, FLORIDA--If she could speak for herself, Terri Schiavo would not want to die by starvation because it would violate the pope's recently stated position on euthanasia, her parents said Tuesday.

Bob and Mary Schindler filed a court motion asking a state judge to stop Michael Schiavo's attempts to have his wife's feeding tube removed. The Schindlers want Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's guardian. They claim that he has abused and exploited their daughter, and that he wants her to die for his own reasons, not hers.

Mr. Schiavo has insisted for years that his wife told him before her 1990 brain injury that she would not want to live "by artificial means". He petitioned the courts in 1998 to allow him to remove the gastronomy tube that provides Terri with food and water.

Her feeding tube was removed last October under a court order. It was replaced six days later under "Terri's Law", which was rushed through the Legislature by Governor Jeb Bush. Mr. Schiavo then sued the governor for violating Terri's privacy rights and the Florida Constitution. That suit has been accepted by the Florida Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on the case August 31.

In the court documents filed Tuesday, the Schindlers claim that Terri, a Catholic who was raised in the Church and who received 12 years of religious schooling and instruction, "does not want to commit a sin of the gravest proportion by foregoing treatment.''

They referred to a statement by Pope John Paul II on March 20 in which he condemned as immoral the practice of withdrawing food and water from people who are legally incapacitated because of severe brain injuries. Providing food and water is not artificial medical intervention, the pope said, but is natural, ordinary and appropriate for any person, regardless of disability or illness.

"If this is knowingly and deliberately carried out, this would result in a true euthanasia by omission," the pontiff said during a conference on ethical dilemmas in medicine.

Pat Anderson, the Schindlers' attorney said, "Terri wants to live. Terri wants to do what the pope has instructed her to do, which is basically what God has instructed her to do."

Mr. Schiavo's attorneys argued that it would be "pure speculation" to assume what Terri might say or think about the pope's position.

Also on Tuesday, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer ruled that the Schindlers can question under oath Mr. Schiavo and the fiancée with whom he has fathered two children. Greer said videotaped depositions from the two could be taken in early August, but that no copies could be distributed.

Mr. Schiavo and some doctors have claimed that Terri has been in a "persistent vegetative state" -- that she is not aware of her surroundings and cannot improve -- since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes 14 years ago. Terri's parents and other medical professionals believe that she is aware of her environment, that she tries to interact with them, and that she could improve with therapies.

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 certain disabilities 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 person's right to live.

"Pope Calls Removal Of Feeding Tubes 'Immoral'" (Inclusion Daily Express -- March 25, 2004)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Advocacy Groups Support Deaf Man Who Accuses Police Of Assault

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2004

TORONTO, ONTARIO--More than a dozen Toronto-area groups have banded together to support Peter Owusu-Ansah, a 25-year-old carpenter who claims he was assaulted by two police officers because he is black and deaf.

"We have rallied around his cause because it is so rare for someone to have the courage to step forward," lawyer Elisabeth Bruckmann, of Parkdale Community Legal Services, told the Toronto Star. The coalition supporting Owusu-Ansah includes the Canadian Hearing Society, the African Canadian Legal Clinic, ARCH: A Legal Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities, the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf and the Canadian Association for the Deaf.

Owusu-Ansah has filed a $60,000 civil lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service Board and the two officers. He has also lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission alleging police harassment and discrimination based on color and disability.

Both of the constables have pleaded not guilty to assaulting Owusu-Ansah, who moved to Canada from Ghana when he was a teenager.

According to Owusu-Ansah, he was talking with friends on a street corner on the evening of September 13, 2002, when Toronto police constable Wayne Taylor approached him and asked to see his identification. When Owusu-Ansah was not able to show identification, the officer asked for his name, birth date and address. He gave his first name, but not his last, he said, because he was tired of being stopped by police -- more than 17 times in the past few years.

Owusu-Ansah said that when constable Syed Moosvi arrived on the scene as backup, he told both officers to go ahead and arrest him if they thought he had done something wrong.

"He (Moosvi) just grabbed me and he twisted my arm on my back and he tried to break my arm," Owusu-Ansah testified in the assault trial this week. He said Moosvi also kneed him in the groin.

The constables allegedly handcuffed Owusu-Ansah, threw him in the back seat of a police cruiser, then drove him to a parking lot behind a school.

"He (Moosvi) started to punch my face," Owusu-Ansah told the court. "He kept punching my face and he kneed me and he slapped me and he took off his vest and asked me if I wanted to fight him."

Police records show that the officers released Owusu-Ansah unconditionally when they learned that he was deaf.

An attorney for constable Moosvi said Owusu-Ansah struck his client in the chest, so he arrested him for assaulting a police officer.

No court-appointed sign language interpreters were available for Tuesday's testimony, so a coalition interpreter volunteered to sign for Owusu-Ansah and the other deaf witnesses.

Judge Paul Robertson of the Ontario Court of Justice said future court dates would be scheduled for the Wednesdays and Fridays because that is when a court interpreter would be available.



Commissioners Reject Capitol Lighting Plan To Avoid ADA Upgrades

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2004

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA--Capitol Building Commissioners voted Tuesday to reject a plan for new lighting on the walkways connecting the east and west wings with the main structure, because they would then have to make them accessible.

The House of Delegates had wanted lights installed on the roofs of the second-story walkways so they could see better when they have night sessions.

According to a brief story in the Charleston Gazette, Commission members said new lights and posts would constitute a "substantial" upgrade, which would then mean the walkways would have to be made to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 1990 federal law requires older public facilities to be made accessible to people with disabilities when undergoing substantial upgrades.

Commission member Donna Lipscomb told the panel that upgrading the walkways would require lifts, ramps and other structural changes which would cost an estimated $165,000.

"That was a nice try," said Troy Body, acting commissioner of the Division of Culture and History, "and that's the end of it."



'Flipping Off' Trains Gets Man 'Flipped Out' Of His Wheelchair

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2004

APPLETON, WISCONSIN--Leland Laird was injured Tuesday when he got too close to a train that he was "flipping off".

Laird, 54, was making obscene gestures to the crew of a train when a gas tank on the engine clipped his wheelchair.

When the chair fell over, Laird was thrown to the ground where he scratched his left arm, the Post-Crescent reported.

He was treated at the hospital for an abrasion to his left arm and later released.

Local police ticketed Laird for violating traffic signals and getting too close to the train.

Police Lieutenant Pat Matuszewski said that Laird told officers he has used the wheelchair since a car he drove was struck by a train in 1989. He "gives the finger" to trains now, however, because he does not like the noise from their horns.

"He lives right near the intersection. That's his way of addressing the loud horns blowing," Matuszewski said.

When officers released Laird, they suggested he find less risky ways to express himself.



"Teresa, Interrupted"

July 22, 2004

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--Sunday's Boston Globe online featured a 7-page story about the tragic life Teresa O'Leary.

After her family was murdered by their father in 1973, Teresa spent much of the rest of her life in mental institutions.

She died last year, after nearly 30 years trying to gain her freedom. Her body had been ravaged, in part, because of years of powerful medications.

She was just 45 years old.

Ironically, it was when she ultimately chose to refuse life-saving treatment that she seemed the most free, the author wrote.

Entire story:
"Teresa, Interrupted" (Boston Globe)



Blind Dogs Leading The Blind?

July 22, 2004

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Thursday's BBC News:

Many guide dogs for the blind have impaired vision themselves, scientists have shown.

Seven out of 61 Labrador Retriever guide dogs were nearsighted, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand found.

Despite their impaired vision, the dogs were still able to act as good guides for their owners.

The dogs may rely on other senses to do their job, said the authors at the International Myopia Conference.

Entire article:
"Guide dogs have impaired vision" (BBC News)
"Study raises fears of a blind Spot" (The Telegraph via The Age)



The DRM WebWatcher: Abuse of People with Disabilities

People with disabilities are often more vulnerable to abuse and neglect than the general population. These sites deal with some of the issues involved.


# EXTRA!!! From the IDE Archives -- One year ago:

North Carolina Assembly Strikes Sterilization Law
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2003

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA--The General Assembly has voted to remove from the books a state law that allowed 7,600 people to be forcibly sterilized during the last century.

The law was used from 1929 until the 1970s by the state Eugenics Board to order the sterilization of people considered "defective". Most of those were young adults and teens with mental retardation or mental illnesses. Many of those sterilized during the 1960s were young black women and girls, some as young as 10 years of age.

North Carolina's sterilization law has not been used since the 1970s, and the Eugenics Board no longer exists.

Sterilization laws were used in 33 states and two Canadian provinces during the popular eugenics movement, which was based on a racist "false science" that promoted the idea that society's problems could be lessened if "undesirables" were not allowed to pass their "problems" to their children. In all, over 60,000 Americans were legally sterilized against their will during the 20th century.

Governor Mike Easley recently became the third governor to apologize on behalf of a state for the practice.

In addition to the legislation removing the law from the books, Easley appointed a committee to look at possible reparations for those who were victims of forced sterilizations.

Related resource:
"Against Their Will" (Winston-Salem Journal Series)


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