Friday, November 17, 2006

Please join the disability community in remembering the life of baby Allen Bollinger and all the victims of ableism that dominant culture would forget; lives terminated in the name of compassion and care, perfection and progress, tenderness and trust.
Disability History Conservators
Our Lives, Our History: They Matter!
Remembering Baby Allen Bollinger
b. [Nov. 12, 1915, Chicago], d. [Nov.17, 1915, Chicago]
"Baby Bollinger” (first name: Allen) was born to Anna and Allen Bollinger at the German-American Hospital, then located at Diversey and Halsted. The seven lb. baby was diagnosed with multiple physical anomalies [1] and became the first victim in a string of public infanticides of disabled babies committed by the head of staff at the hospital, Dr. Harry Haiselden. The doctor declared the baby a “monster;” a “pitiful bundle of semi-life." [2] Anna Bollinger was encouraged to allow her baby to die by withholding life-saving surgery, "I want my baby. But the doctor has told me...I want him to live-but I couldn't bear to think of how he would suffer…how he would so often curse the day he was born. So I agreed with the doctor."
Many, including Jane Addams and Director of the National Children’s Bureau, Julia Lathrop, denounced the infanticide. Anna’s friend, Catherine Walsh, testified “It was not a monster, that child, it was a beautiful baby”. Yet on Nov. 17, Allen Bollinger, to his mother’s undying grief, and to Chicago’s shame, died as the result of treatment denial. [3]
On the day of Allen Bollinger’s death, the Chicago Tribune newspaper printed the following: “A pink bit of humanity lay upon the white cloth.
Its blue eyes were wide open. Its hair was brown and silky, it dug at its face with little fists. It cried lustily as it drew up chubby legs and kicked out. It seemed quite vigorously informed with life.” [4]
[1] Pernick, Martin S, The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of “Defective” Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, p3.
[2] Chicago Tribune, 11/17/15
[3] Chicago Daily News, 11/17/15
[4] Chicago Tribune, 11/17/15

Disability History Conservators
Our Lives, Our History: They Matter!
This case is one of the stories in the media last year that inspired FRIDA members to start thinking we needed a women's group to respond to stories like this. Read on. Get pissed off. Join FRIDA. (Next meeting is December 18, 2 to 4 pm at Access Living.)

Former suburban nursing home worker pleads guilty in patient's rape
Thu Nov 16, 2006 9:03 am (PST)
WHEATON, Ill. -- A former suburban Chicago nursing home worker chargedwith raping a profoundly brain-damaged resident who later gave birth changed his plea to guilty Wednesday in DuPage County Circuit Court. Authorities said Reynaldo Brucal Jr., 19, of Schaumburg, raped the23-year-old woman, who suffers from cerebral palsy, at the AldenVillage Health Facility for Children and Young Adults in Bloomingdaleearly last year. In accepting the guilty plea to a count of aggravated criminal sexualassault, Circuit Judge George Bakalis said Brucal faces a sentenceranging from 6 to 30 years in prison. Bakalis set a presentencing hearing for Dec. 13, at which time he saidhe would set a sentencing date for sometime in January.The baby's mother, who cannot walk or talk, and her twin sister hadlived at Alden Village since they were 10 but were removed from thefacility when the pregnancy was discovered, five weeks before the babywas born.Bloomingdale police took DNA samples from all the male workers at thenursing home and matched Brucal's to the infant, who was delivered byemergency Caesarean section on July 20, 2005.Brucal, a nurse's aide, worked at Alden Village from September 2004until his arrest Nov. 1, 2005."What I find especially disturbing ... is that he sexually assaulted aseverely handicapped woman who was unable to fight back or to evencommunicate to others what had happened," DuPage County State'sAttorney Joseph E. Birkett said in a statement.The Illinois Department of Public Health fined Alden Village $10,000for lacking oversight and mishandling its investigation of the incident.State officials said the facility failed to conduct a completeinvestigation into the alleged assault, and treated the swelling ofthe woman's abdomen as constipation despite nursing staff reports thatsaid she showed signs of pregnancy.As a result, the woman didn't receive prenatal care and tookanti-convulsive medication until she was seven months pregnant, theagency said.The victim's mother now has custody of the baby, and filed a lawsuitlast year in Cook County against the facility, the management company,her daughter's doctor and Brucal.Copyright © 2006, The Associated Press

Teen admits raping patient - Ex-aide pleads guilty in assault ondisabled womanNovember 16, 2006A former nurse's aide for a Bloomingdale nursing home pleaded guiltyWednesday to raping a profoundly brain-damaged resident who later gavebirth to a daughter.Reynaldo Brucal, 19, faces 6 to 30 years in prison at sentencing forassaulting the 23-year-old woman, who suffers from cerebral palsy andcannot walk or communicate. She was 7 months' pregnant before staffersat the Alden Village Health Facility for Children and Young Adultsnoticed in June 2005. Police were called after doctors confirmed the pregnancy. Her baby was delivered by emergency Caesarean section in July 2005. DNA tests were ordered for all male staff members of the facility andthe results indicated Brucal was a one-in-356 million match to thechild, said DuPage Assistant State's Atty. Robert Berlin. When police confronted Brucal, he initially denied any sexual contact. In November 2005, he confessed, claiming that a latex hospital glovehe improvised as a condom failed, Berlin said. Brucal pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated criminal sexual assault. DuPage County Judge George Bakalis told Brucal, who is Filipino, "I can assure you that after any jail sentence you will be deported."Brucal, a Schaumburg resident, is being held without bond as he awaitssentencing. Bakalis will set the sentencing date Dec. 13, when apresentencing report is due.Brucal never looked toward his parents or the victim's family onWednesday as he answered Bakalis' routine questions. The woman, who is now living in another nursing home with her similarly disabled twinsister, was not present."We're glad he might get his due," said her grandmother, JoElla Gerdes.Looking at photographs of her granddaughter sitting in a wheelchairwith her infant on her lap, Gerdes said: "There's no communication between the two. And my granddaughter just wonders what is this lump on her lap."The victim's mother, Cheryl Hale-Crom, is raising the 16-month-oldchild. Gerdes said her family remains concerned about the child's slow development, saying she has had seizures.The Illinois Department of Public Health fined Alden $10,000 for lackof oversight and mishandling its investigation of the incident. The family has filed a civil lawsuit against the facility.DuPage County State's Atty. Joseph Birkett said Brucal "was entrustedwith [the patient's] care. He betrayed that trust by raping her. It isespecially disturbing that he sexually assaulted a severelyhandicapped woman who was unable to fight back or even communicate toothers what had happened."abarnum@tribune.comCopyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Monday, November 13, 2006

Study Finds Discrimination Against Disabled Patients (women)

Multiple Medical Problems Make Breast Cancer Treatments Harder forSome
M.D.Nov.6, 2006- Audrey Robinson, now in her 50s, was a 10-year stroke survivorwhen she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. The stroke left Robinson visibly disabled. One side of her body is entirelylimp and motionless. Robinson walks with a complex cane, and uses herworking arm and leg to drag and support her weak side. Although Robinson's disability made her a veteran of the health care system,she was unprepared for the way the breast cancer surgeon treated her. She waited more than four hours to enter an examination room.But even when the doctor did arrive, he didn't treat Robinson with therespect she might have expected. "After making us wait. the door swung open, the doctor swooped in andproceeded to make me feel worthless," Robinson says. "No apologies weremade. He was abrupt, impatient, and never looked me in the eyes. I could'vebeen there with horns on my head and he wouldn't have noticed."I'm not the kind to speak up but I did," she says.Her story came as a real surprise to me - I happen to know the offendingsurgeon and have always known him to be caring and respectful. But, as a newstudy suggests, the surgeon's poor manners might have been related toRobinson's disability. Women with early stage breast cancer who are also disabled are less likelyto be offered today's best treatment options, according to researchpublished in today's Annals of Internal Medicine.For example, lumpectomy (removal of the breast cancer) followed by radiationof the rest of the breast is just as effective a treatment as mastectomy(removal of the whole breast). And a woman who undergoes lumpectomy doesn'tnecessarily lose her breast the way she would from a mastectomy. But women with disabilities were 20 percent less likely to be offeredbreast-saving treatment, according to the study. And the disabled women whounderwent lumpectomy were about 20 percent less likely to be given necessaryradiation after lumpectomy. Every woman's life is precious and deserves the best care possible. So, whydoes this happen? Unfortunately, the research is somewhat true. Patients with multiple medicalissues need a lot of attention in the doctor's office, and doctors tend tobe impatient. It turns out that many complex factors influence these health caredecisions. * Related:<> * Related: Health Problem? <>Concern? Ask Us

Women who are disabled tend to have limited financial resources, insurancecoverage, social networks, transportation options and back-up plans. Adisabled patient may have nowhere to turn in case of bad weather, a brokenwheelchair or a no-show transport team. Disabled patients also tend to have other medical problems and emotionalchallenges that can be almost as threatening and all-consuming as theirbreast cancer. For example, dialysis patients have to juggle hours ofdialysis treatment with their daily radiation therapies.Many of these challenges can make the logistical demands of regulartreatments hard to meet. So what can a woman do?Each woman who faces breast cancer - fully able or disabled - needs to workcarefully with her doctor to figure out her best treatment options againstbreast cancer. While weighing the pros and cons of any treatment option, ask your doctorabout other medical issues.You, as a patient, own your choice. Any given treatment decision may requirespecial arrangements - assisted transportation, coordination with othertherapies like dialysis, etc. It may help to ask for a social serviceconsultation, to find out all of the resources that are available to you. Dr. Marisa Weiss is president and founder of

Monday, October 09, 2006

The wrong diagnosis, the wrong operation, the wrong medication (or the right medication, in the wrong dose) - preventable medical errors kill an estimated 100,000 Americans each year. It's the eighth leading cause of death in this country!
Two million of us pick up infections each year at the hospitals that are supposed to make us well. Some 90,000 die from those infections. Many more suffer needlessly, are injured or worse.
Research has found that Americans today have a 50/50 chance of getting the right care at the right time. That's no better than a toss of a coin. And for women and people of color, the chance of getting poor care is even greater.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In case you didn't catch it earlier, the following story was posted about a month ago about disability reproductive rights. Anyone got follow-up? Please contact us.

August 24, 2006

NEW YORK — C-FAM) The government of Nicaragua led a charge of 23 nations at UN headquarters this week objecting to the inclusion of "sexual and reproductive health services" in what will become a treaty on the rights of the disabled. Nicaragua's UN Ambassador objected to the phrase because he said it was vague and undefined. He also called the phrase too controversial to include in the document.

Negotiators are meeting in New York for what they hope will be the final two weeks of a multi-year negotiation that will lead to a hard-law treaty protecting the rights of the disabled. Following Nicaragua's objection was a wide range of governments including United States, Honduras, Egypt, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Tunisia, Qatar, Kenya, and the Philippines. In a move that surprised everyone in the room even usually liberal Norway joined in the objection to including "sexual and reproductive health services" into the document.

The controversial nature of the phrase is that though the UN has never defined the phrase, it has been used by radical non-governmental organizations and by some UN committees to get governments to legalize abortion. "Reproductive health" has only ever been defined once as including abortion and that was in the non-binding document produced by the Cairo Conference on Population and Development. It has never been defined in a hard-law treaty which would be binding on nations that ratify.

Despite the overwhelming opposition, the committee chair, Ambassador Donald McKay of New Zealand, insisted that nations continue to negotiate the matter. Peter Smith, UN representative of the London based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children remarked "even the chairman seems to be negotiating.

" Traditionally in UN meetings if even a few countries object to certain language it is removed since the UN works by consensus. It was clear as the afternoon progressed that the chairman wanted to retain the controversial language even though so many countries objected. At one point he was even admonished by the Egyptian delegate for not remaining impartial.
A number of governments spoke in favor of the language, including the European Union, Canada, Peru, Cuba, and Brazil.

Another surprising development at this negotiation was the active participation of non-governmental organizations in the actual governmental negotiation. Traditionally, NGOs are allowed into the room and are allowed to press their case with delegates between sessions. In this meeting, however, the chairman is allowing NGOs to speak during negotiations on the specific paragraph being negotiated, just like governments.

The other controversial language the negotiators have to decide by the end of next week is whether the disabled have to the right to "experience their sexuality." Though one knows what this phrase really means, it is being supported by the European Union and other liberal governments. In negotiations Thursday afternoon, 21 countries objected to this phrase.
It is likely that the debate on these phrases will continue into next week and will likely not be decided until the wee hours on the final day.

Copyright 2006 - C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute).
Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You gotta get girls with disabilities started early on understanding themselves and their rights. Check out the workshop posting below. How fabulous can this get? This training will be run by two FRIDA members. Get in touch with them ASAP if you're interested because they've been getting calls from around the world about this. It doesn't matter if you're from Smalltown USA or outside the US though. Just call these guys today to see what's up.WORKSHOP ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Between Me You and Liberation:
Starting a Group for Girls with Disabilities

The creators of a groundbreaking program for girls with disabilities are hosting a 3-day intensive national workshop for women interested in learning more about how to build a gender-conscious, disability proud, safe space for girls.

This very interactive workshop will take you through everything you need to think about to start your own group for girls with disabilities including:
-curriculum development
-group dynamics
-capacity building
-and more!

When: May 2007 (exact days to be announced)

Where: Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
(one of the country's best known Centers for Independent Living)

Cost: FREE ($500 stipend available to help you cover costs of attending)

Only 12 participants accepted.

It will be designed and facilitated by the co-coordinators of the Empowered Fe Fes (Fe Fes is slang for female), an ongoing group for girls with disabilities since 1999. The Fe Fes are best known for their award-winning movies about disability identity, bullying, and sexuality.

Are you interested?
call Susan Nussbaum or Ana Mercado
Voice: 1-800-613-8549
TTY: 1-888-253-7003
or email:

Monday, September 25, 2006

I'd rather go to jail than die in a nursing home, because in jail at least you'd get some pads! Mary in Chicago let us know that she visited THREE bathrooms in the Chicago jail at 26th and California, and each one had a nice big box of pads. So women in real jails get this, and women in jails masquerading as "nursing homes" and "institutions" get...what? Talk about oppression! Now see, we have nothing against individual workers, but we sure do have something against the people at the top who dictate how the system's run. You wanna know what the grassroots see? Check out this page of first-person testimony from ADAPT, collected earlier this year. It's gonna make you cry tears of rage, cause NOBODY deserves to be treated like this:
In response to some questions about the Pad Patrol, FRIDA is fully aware that in cases where nursing homes or institutions fail to provide sanitary napkins as dictated by federal law, legal recourse is necessary in case where informal negotiation is not successful. We are in full agreement that systemic change is the only way to ensure long term justice. We do, however, feel that systemic change can be achieved on multiple levels. Some folks have asked whether, in distributing sanitary napkins and tampons to nursing homes, we would enable the nursing homes to continue evading the law. Our viewpoint is as follows...

First, in conducting outreach for a pad drive (which has reached as far as Australia) we are exposing a problem in a system, a problem that many feel a personal connection to. Anyone would be shocked by the idea that someone would have to blow their whole allowance on sanitary napkins or else sit in a crust of their own blood. Add to that the fact that showers are often regulated and you must bathe on a schedule. Sometimes, by relating to something so graphically everyday, we can push awareness of the problem to a critical mass of public opinion.

Second, the larger problem beyond the lack of sanitary napkins and the suppression of periods is the entire system of nursing homes and institutions in which so many people with disabilities become trapped. While the average person will be shocked by the pad issue, they will hopefully also learn a little to care about the wider problems of institutionalization. FRIDA feels, as does ADAPT and many other groups, that we would much prefer to live in our own homes with community supports for our needs, rather than in nursing homes, institutions or group homes.
In the end, we see that a feminist issue is really a human issue.

Third, and maybe most pragmatically, the woman who is having her period in 3 days cannot wait for a lawsuit to be settled in five years. There is a final question which FRIDA needs to answer to the public, and that is whether this problem really exists, and whether there are women who are willing to speak out about this issue. There are in fact such women but at this time their identities are protected by confidentiality.

FRIDA is working to identify women who are willing to speak out. If you or someone you know is willing to testify and let people know what's really going on with women's rights in nursing homes and institutions, get in touch with Monica at (312) 253-7000.
So, what's the deal with Open Wide and the Pad Patrol? FRIDA has two new campaigns being initiated in this very busy month of September. The first, Open Wide, is a campaign to survey and increase the accessibility of hospitals in the Chicago area. That includes physical building accessibility but also covers the accessibility of diagnostic equipment and the accessibility of services provided. The second campaign, the Pad Patrol, addresses the underground problem of women in nursing homes and institutions being forced to pay for sanitary napkins out of their SSI money (they only get a $30 allowance each month). In addition, the Pad Patrol seeks to bring to light the fact that many women with disabilities are still being sterilized or put on a birth control program without their full consent, so as to lessen or eliminate their periods. They are being denied their right to choose how to manage their menstrual cycles. The Pad Patrol is initiating a drive to collect the stories of these women and to collect pads and tampons to distribute to women with disabilities in need of them. If you would like to donate some pads or tampons, please send them to FRIDA c/o Sarah Triano, 614 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago IL 60607. FRIDA can also take checks or cash to pay for these items; checks should be made out to FRIDA with a note for "pads and tampons". Smile. Thanks for listening out there.
Womyn around the world, many apologies for the lack of regular updates this year. Many thanks to FRIDA members who have been posting stuff in the name of getting info out there to womyn who need it! Everybody's incredibly busy so any time anyone has to give to FRIDA is very precious. Thank you. I want to make sure that people know that our very next FRIDA meeting is on Tuesday, October 17 from 2:30 to 4:30 pm at Access Living, 614 W. Roosevelt Road in Chicago. For newbies, our meetings are just once a month, but our committees are on a separate schedule. For accommodation needs, please contact Sharon at because a) you need the accommodation and b) she's fabulous. For general info about FRIDA, try calling Monica at (312) 253-7000 during work hours.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Local Medical Practice Discriminates Against More Deaf Patients
After Lawsuit Filed, More Patients Complain

- Today the Center for Rights of Parents with Disabilities at theColorado Cross-Disability Coalition ("CRPD"), filed an amended lawsuit inthe federal district court of Colorado against a Lakewood medical practiceon behalf of CRPD and several members. The suit alleges Cohen & Womack,M.D., P.C., doing business as Red Rocks OB-GYN, refuses to provide signlanguage interpreters for deaf patients.Annette Guerrero is a Red Rock OB-GYN patient who is deaf. Ms. Guerrero and her husband, who is also deaf, went through her entire pregnancy without knowing simple facts about the progress of her pregnancy. She never knew her weight or the size of her baby. When she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the doctors and sta ff were unable to explain how she was to manage her condition."After we filed the first complaint, Dr. Cohen was reported to claim thelawsuit was based upon a miscommunication," said Carrie Ann Lucas, thedirector of the CRPD and lead counsel in the case. "It's certainly amiscommunication - an intentional miscommunication caused when Red Rocks OB-GYN refused to provide sign language interpreters for its patients. ""It's shocking that Red Rocks OB-GYN provides Spanish interpreters to ensureSpanish speaking clients have effective communication, but that they don'tdo the same for Deaf patients," said Jennifer Pfau, one of the plaintiffs inthe case. "It's not simply shocking, it's shameful," she said.The ADA requires health care providers to ensure effective communicationwith patients through the provision of interpreters, assistive technology,and other auxiliary aids and servicesThe plaintiffs ask the Court to order the medical practice to provide signlanguage interpreters to deaf patients to ensure that they understandmedical communications. The complaint also requests damages for theplaintiffs. The CRPD combats discrimination that affects parents with disabilities.The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition is Colorado's largest state-widecross-disability organization and has several thousand members acrossColorado.A copy of the amended complaint can be found at /cohen_womack

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Are you a woman with a disability? Are you sick and tired of discrimination? Then Feminist Response in Disability Activism (FRIDA) is for you. FRIDA knows things aren’t right when:

Women with disabilities can’t get Pap smears because most doctors’ examining tables aren’t accessible

Women with disabilities get left on the curb by bus drivers who don’t want to stop for wheelchairs

Women with disabilities who live in nursing homes have to pay for pads and tampons out of the $30 left out of their SSI each month

Women with disabilities are given the wrong information by their doctors, sometimes resulting in catastrophic health situations

Women with disabilities who receive home services are sometimes told their children should be acting as their personal care assistants

Women of color with disabilities are treated like they are stupid and don’t know their rights

Women with disabilities are not provided with interpreters

Women with disabilities aren’t treated respectfully on paratransit

Women with hidden disabilities don’t get the respect they deserve

Women with disabilities go to jail because no one understands their disability

Women with disabilities don’t receive the proper medical care or accommodations in jail

Women with disabilities are considered not sexy and asexual

Women with disabilities have doctors who won’t listen to them

Women with disabilities aren’t told about birth control

Women with disabilities don’t know where to get help on sex issues

Women with disabilities don’t have access to diagnostic test equipment that fits them

Women with disabilities are easy victims for rape and domestic violence

Women with disabilities who need to exit a bus are forgotten by bus drivers, who say “Oops! I forgot you were there!”

Come to a FRIDA meeting and let’s do something about this! Bring your concerns for women with disabilities to our next meeting on Monday, August 21, from 2 to 4 pm at Access Living, 614 W. Roosevelt Road. An ASL interpreter will be present. For accommodations, please contact Sharon Lamp at For more info about FRIDA, call Monica at (312) 253-7000 (v) or Amber at (312) 253-7029 (TTY) or

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

`This was a tragic family situation'

Mom held in slaying of 34-year-old woman with cerebral palsy

By James Kimberly and Angela Rozas, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter William Presecky and freelance reporter Rita Hoover contributed to this report
Published April 5, 2006

Kane County authorities Tuesday charged a St. Charles woman with the stabbing death of her disabled 34-year-old daughter, calling the incident that also involved their car plunging off an embankment a family tragedy.

First-degree murder charges were filed against Betty C. Whitten, 57, who was pulled from the mangled wreckage of the car Monday in downtown St. Charles along with the body of her eldest daughter, Nyakiambi Whitten.

The daughter, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities at age 2, had been stabbed three times with a kitchen butcher knife in the family's home in the 42W500 block of Hawk Circle in unincorporated Kane County on Monday morning, Sheriff Kenneth Ramsey said.

Soon afterward, Betty Whitten crashed the family's 2002 Hyundai sedan through a guardrail near the Prairie Street Bridge. It flipped on its roof in Mt. St. Mary's Park along the Fox River. Police said they believe Nyakiambi Whitten was dead before she was put into the car.

Ramsey would not discuss a possible motive for the crime other than to say that Betty Whitten was under pressure from circumstances in her life and from caring for her disabled daughter.

To read more please see,1,528938.story.

`This was a tragic family situation'

Mom held in slaying of 34-year-old woman with cerebral palsy

By James Kimberly and Angela Rozas, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter William Presecky and freelance reporter Rita Hoover contributed to this report
Published April 5, 2006

Kane County authorities Tuesday charged a St. Charles woman with the stabbing death of her disabled 34-year-old daughter, calling the incident that also involved their car plunging off an embankment a family tragedy.

First-degree murder charges were filed against Betty C. Whitten, 57, who was pulled from the mangled wreckage of the car Monday in downtown St. Charles along with the body of her eldest daughter, Nyakiambi Whitten.

The daughter, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities at age 2, had been stabbed three times with a kitchen butcher knife in the family's home in the 42W500 block of Hawk Circle in unincorporated Kane County on Monday morning, Sheriff Kenneth Ramsey said.

Soon afterward, Betty Whitten crashed the family's 2002 Hyundai sedan through a guardrail near the Prairie Street Bridge. It flipped on its roof in Mt. St. Mary's Park along the Fox River. Police said they believe Nyakiambi Whitten was dead before she was put into the car.

Ramsey would not discuss a possible motive for the crime other than to say that Betty Whitten was under pressure from circumstances in her life and from caring for her disabled daughter.

"Reviewing the totality of the circumstances, this was a tragic family situation," he said.

On Tuesday, Betty Whitten's husband, Earstin, 57, struggled to make sense of events, saying it is out of character for his wife. He has not talked to her since the crash, he said.

"There are different emotional stages in a person's life. Clearly ... something was not right," he said.

"I would like to know why this happened. I would like to see my wife get whatever assistance she needs to become whole."

Ramsey said Betty Whitten is "remorseful and emotional" and under suicide watch in the Kane County Jail, where she was being held in lieu of $2 million bail. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Wednesday morning in Kane County court.

Earstin Whitten said his family had "normal issues" but no extraordinary problems. Nyakiambi, whose name means "first daughter" in Swahili, was "an innocent, loving, caring person," who was keenly perceptive, he said.

She was educated in special education programs in St. Charles schools and at Elgin Community College until she was 21. Her father said she loved music, eating at restaurants, and helping him in the vegetable garden and the kitchen, but she required care at all times. Cerebral palsy and vision problems made her prone to falling, so she needed help walking, he said.

"It is hard," Earstin Whitten said, his voice breaking. "I know how much she cared for me. She just enjoyed my company and the interaction. I would speak to her like she was an adult, and she enjoyed it."

Friends said Betty Whitten is a creative artist who enjoyed knitting and quiltmaking and was rarely seen out of the company of her daughter. She taught craft classes part time, her husband said.

"She certainly seemed like she had patience with her daughter whenever she came in here," said Annie Kordesh of the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, where Betty Whitten frequently attended classes in knitting and other crafts.

She also was active in her community, organizing a knit-a-thon at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles to benefit the Snug Hug for Kids clothing drive. The hats, mittens and scarves go to the Children's Home & Aid Society of Illinois.

"She never seemed out of sorts or expressed anything negative about her [daughter] or anything like that," Kordesh said.

Earstin Whitten said he learned of trouble in his home Monday morning from a frantic telephone call made by his 24-year-old daughter who was home with her mother and sister.

"She was in fear for her life when she ran from the house. She flagged down somebody and called from their cell phone," Whitten said. She also called police.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the 911 call and found blood at the home. By the time Earstin Whitten arrived from his job in Northbrook, police had cordoned off his house and refused to let him inside, he said.

While sheriff's police were at the well-kept raised ranch house in a cul-de-sac of similar homes on large lots, a St. Charles police officer happened upon the Whitten family car stopped on Prairie Street just west of the bridge over the Fox River.

The officer thought the car had stalled, police said. He turned on his emergency lights and tried to approach the driver, but Betty Whitten put her car into gear and sped off the side of Prairie Street, police said.

The officer radioed for help, and rescue workers took Betty Whitten and her daughter to Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva.

Nyakiambi Whitten was pronounced dead in the hospital. An autopsy Monday determined she had died of stab wounds, but found no defensive or self-inflicted wounds on her body, said Kane County Coroner Charles West.

Her mother was released from the hospital Monday afternoon, a spokesman said.


Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Monday, April 03, 2006

Jones' Secretary Was Not Cool.

Women, I called IL Speaker of the House Emil Jones' office the other day to request an increase in asset allotments for seniors, on a designated call in day, and the secretary tried to swat me down!

I called in using NexTalk, which if you are unfamilar with it is a software program that functions like a TTY. When I called, the secretary goes, "A relay call? Oh, I don't have time for this. I am guessing you are calling about the senior issue?" How dare she assume why I am calling, and how dare she say she doesn't have time for a relay call? I am perfectly aware that my calls take a long's taking some of my sweet time away too! And I am feeling a little hearing people-Jim Crow about this. Hearing Calls Only. So I gave her an aggrieved response but added that she should remind Speaker Jones to support an increase in allotments. Can you retaliate and advocate at the same time? Hmm.

I wonder if she heard me.
FRIDA as Public Testimony....Every Day.

Today I was at the Chicago Foundation for Women's Summit on Reproductive Rights. While getting my vinegar stirred up there, I've also noticed lately we haven't been posting on this poor site so today marks my effort to get some more vinegar out in the public discourse...and piss and spit and what have you.

One of the panelists speaking today was a current member of the Empowered Fe Fes. Among other things, she related the story of going to the ob-gyn with her mom and having the doctors mistake her mom for the person who needed services. Now, this girl is a wheelchair user, and basically, she said, the doctor couldn't believe she was actually having sex and might actually need some of the ob-gyn services.

I know lots of women with disabilities will say that's not the first or last story of discrimination they've ever heard, but my point in briefly relating it right now is that WE MUST TESTIFY. The barriers we encounter every day are unfair, unjust and all about bias. If we don't speak up about it though, it never happened.

So, I am calling on you WWDs out there (Women With Disabilities...kinda like WMDs, huh?) to share some of your experiences and insights on this site.

I, for one, could really do without the communication stress and hearing bias involved in going to the doctor. To the receptionist: "I'm deaf, make sure I see you when you call me!" To the nurse: "I'm deaf, can you face me so I can read your lips?" To the doctor: "Can you face me so I can read your lips, and also, can you spin that stool up a few inches so I can see your mouth better?" To the accounts person: "Can you show me to whom I need to address this check?" Yeah, I'm still someone who is in an ongoing process of becoming empowered, so I haven't yet seen the doctor with an interpreter. In low-stress situations like getting my sinuses checked, I'm not too worried, but you can bet I'll call the interpreter if, for some, reason, I get wind that I need surgery. I don't focus well when I'm really stressed out.

I will add this observation on functioning in a hearing environment in this kind of situation: yes, I am constantly guessing as to what the doctors will say. In lipreading it's all about the context. So, basically when I visit the doctor, I have two visits: the one I guess at, the one that happens, and possibly also a third...the one I missed cause I wasn't using an interpreter.

Maybe I should just go see the signing doctors at Mt Sinai, but then I wouldn't get to fight AND get checked up too. Piss and vinegar...well. I just want to go see a doctor in a place that is geographically convenient for me, which Mt. Sinai is not. But next time I go see the doctor, I'll request an interpreter and report on how THAT works out.

So I'm not talking about a jaw dropping instance of discrimination here...but I am TESTIFYING. WWDs, FRIDA wants to hear from you!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Comatose Mass. Girl Responds to Stimuli

By ADAM GORLICK, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 25 minutes ago
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Doctors say new tests are needed on a severely beaten 11-year-old girl, who officials said was responding to medical stimuli and breathing on her own a day after Massachusetts' highest court ruled the state had the authority to remove her from life support.

Denise Monteiro, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Social Services, which has custody of Haleigh Poutre, said doctors will perform more tests "to see what the movements mean."
She would not say how Haleigh was responding or to what tests. The girl has been in a coma for four months and thought to be in an irreversible vegetative state.
"There's a possible change in her condition," Monteiro said Wednesday. "She's having some responses."
Haleigh's stepfather, Jason Strickland, is charged with beating the girl and could face a murder charge if she dies. He has fought to keep her on life support but lost his appeal Tuesday in the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts' highest court.
The court ruled that the social services department had the authority to remove the ventilator and feeding tube after doctors said the girl was in an irreversible vegetative state.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, doctors told the social services agency that Haleigh's condition had changed, Monteiro told the Boston Globe in its Thursday editions. She said Haleigh was breathing on her own and the agency had no immediate plans to remove her feeding tube.
One of Strickland's lawyers said Wednesday he wants more time to decide whether to bring the case before a federal judge.
"This is exactly the point we were trying to make. What's the rush? Just give her a chance," attorney John Egan said. "Medical science is not that certain. We would hope the whole process will slow down, and everyone will step back and end the compulsion to end her life."
Haleigh's doctors have said her brain stem is damaged and she would die within a few days without a feeding tube.
Some patients with severe brain stem injuries may partially recover from a persistent vegetative state, but they rarely recover fully enough to communicate, feed themselves and live ordinary lives, Dr. Steve Williams, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Boston Medical Center, told the Globe. But he said recovery is more likely with children than adults.
"There's more plasticity to their brain. There's potentially other areas of the brain that can take over," he said.
Haleigh's aunt and adoptive mother, Holli Strickland, also was charged with assault but was found dead less than two weeks later alongside her grandmother in a possible murder-suicide.
The girl's biological mother, Allison Avrett, had supported removing Haleigh from life support. She said she met with state officials and doctors Wednesday but would not comment on reports of her daughter's responses.
Along with deciding that Jason Strickland has no say in Haleigh's medical care, the state's highest court also denied his request to unseal court documents related to Haleigh's life support.
The documents were not made public because of confidentiality laws. That has led to some concerns that the social services agency is making life-and-death decisions without any outside review.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

FYI: IDEA Experts Expense Case Before the Supreme Court

Recently, the Supreme Court decided that parents of children with disabilities have the burden of demonstrating their child's needs, which we all know is screwed up because most people don't exactly have cash on hand to get lawyers and experts to advocate for their kid. Yesterday, the Court agreed to hear the case of a LaGrangeville, NY family who won an IDEA lawsuit...but weren't awarded money to pay for their expert witnesses. Should the Court award expert costs to the family, under the IDEA? Read about the case at The Poughkeepsie Journal.
Call for Campaign Ideas

What issues do you feel FRIDA should concern itself with? We're looking for your ideas and expertise. Reproductive choice? Parents' rights? Memorializing fighters/heroes in the disability rights movement? Jobs for people with disabilities? Educating "progressive" groups about disability rights? What is pressing to YOU? Please respond by commenting or e-mailing
Update on Johnson Case

We continue to await a public announcement regarding the status of the Kirsten Johnson case. As mentioned previously, the proceedings are sealed. We hope that the outcome will be favorable for Ms. Johnson.

Nevertheless, FRIDA continues to feel ongoing concern for those people with disabilities who are prevented from making their own reproductive choices. If a person has communicated their desires concerning reproductive choice, then that person's wishes should be respected.

What you can do: keep an eye to the media for similar cases reported around the world. It is difficult to take action on this issue as it is a private one, but we must educate ourselves in order to educate others. If you have ideas on taking action on this issue, please alert FRIDA asap.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


We have learned that George W. Bush will be speaking at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, on Friday, January 6th. We plan on protesting there beginning @ 11 AM, but are providing the full info we have so that people can plan whatever creative protests they choose.

In typically cowardly fashion, Bush will be speaking before a hand-picked audience -- only members of the elite Economic Club of Chicago and selected guests will be allowed the "privilege" of paying $125 to hear W in the Hilton's International Ballroom. Members of the Club are being told to show up at 10 am, presumably for security clearance. Doors of the Ballroom open at 11 am, with a luncheon at noon.We invite you to join the Gay Liberation Network, Chicago Area CodePINK, HammerHard Media Works and other individuals and organizations to PROTEST against the President:11 AMFriday, January 6thChicago Hilton & Towers720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago ,,

I hope to see more Frida activist there.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Johnson Case Update

I was informed by Equip for Equality today that the Johnson court proceedings are sealed and sensitive, so all we can do is wait until Judge Riley makes his decision.

When we do hear what the final decision is, let's make sure people know about it! If he rules in favor of Kirsten Johnson, send letters of congratulation to the media and the disability community. If he rules against, let's get the word out. The important thing is to spread the word as quickly and as far as possible, to make our response known. That's what FRIDA is for.

FRIDA will post more info as it comes up. Good luck to Kirsten and her attorneys as they pursue this important case.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Disability Presence at the Johnson Ruling Thursday, January 5

The court case of Kirsten Johnson has concerned Chicago activists for several months now. To learn more about the case, see the links in the right sidebar.

Judge James Riley has ordered a gynecologist to testify on January 5 on the most appropriate method of birth control for Johnson. If the gynecologist recommends permanent sterilization, and Riley decides to go with that recommendation, they will disregard Johnson's expressed desire to be able to have children.

The controversy here is not over birth control or sterilization per se. Millions of people with and without disabilities have made the decision either to use birth control or get sterilized, as a matter of personal choice. Instead, the issue is whether the court will respect Kirsten Johnson's basic human right to make her own reproductive choices, or give that right to her guardian.

The gynecologist is set to to testify Thursday, January 5 at 55 W. Washington. The disability community needs to demonstrate its concern. For those who would like to join FRIDA activists in a rally at Daley Plaza, we will be meeting at the Picasso sculpture. We will post the exact time in the next 24 hours.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why 2005 Was a Year of Shame...Could FRIDA Make 2006 Better?

Here in Chicago, 2005 looked like a fairly good year for disability rights. We've got a CIL with connections and a new building slated to open in late 2006, we've got well-known disability advocacy groups in the area, we've got an annual Disability Pride Parade and heck, this year we're going to have a disability arts festival. We've got a lot of good women advocates with disabilities around town and some good programs for girls with disabilities. i.e., the Empowered Fe Fes and the RIC M&Ms.

That's nice. all were watching the news in 2005, right?

People around the world are still killing women and girls with disabilities who they believe to be "suffering." Remember how Terri Schiavo was starved to death in March?

In New Zealand, an immigrant was suspected of trying to kill his Deaf daughters in a car accident. New Zealand does not allow people with disabilities to become citizens. Somebody, somewhere, assumed the family would be better off without them...

An Illinois nursing home employee raped and impregnated a young female resident, whose mother took her new grandchild home in August. The female resident has lived with her sister in nursing homes since she was a child and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of countless women with disabilities, both in nursing homes and in the community. Remember how wheelchair users being airlifted out of the area had to leave their wheelchairs behind? And remember spotting folks with disabilities either dead or at the point of death at the Superdome?

Forced sterilization came back in the spotlight this year with the case of Kirsten Johnson, a young woman with a TBI who has stated that she would like to be able to have children. Instead, she is fighting her guardian in court for the right not to be permanently sterilized.

Jerry's Orphans staged a brave confrontation with Jerry Lewis at his November book signing at the Chicago Public Library. The rage and abuse directed at our activists there, especially the women, demonstrated a particularly ugly side of human nature. The abuse came not only from Jerry but from audience members as well.

Oh, and 2005 was the year Million Dollar Baby won a squad of Oscars... and we continue to have a disability unemployment rate of about 70%.

With these events and many more in mind, it's clear that 2006 is yet another year in which we *must* continue to actively resist, whether by letter writing, protest, lobbying, advocating, suing and so on. However we can make 2006 a new year...we can unite and take action as women with disabilities, and allies.

Together, FRIDA declares 2006 "open season" on gender and disability oppression.