Thursday, July 31, 2008

Passing Around the Recognition....

The writer of The Strangest Alchemy ( nominated the FRIDA blog as one of her favorites, in a sort of collective/exponential awarding process. We won the award pictured below. I would like to say that much of the credit of this blog's success on a weekly basis is due to Linda from Rochester, who keeps things up to date with her links. Thank you Linda!!!

Here's what you have to do to participate in this collective blog awarding:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to these blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog

OK so our nominees (but these are only some of our friends!) are: (Emi Koyama)

Keep up the speaking out!!! Thank you!!!
Parents plead not guilty

KVBC News and the Las Vegas Sun report that Stanley and Colleen Rimer have pleaded not guilty to 2nd degree murder, child abuse and neglect in the death of their 4-year-old son, Jason, who was found dead on June 9 after being left in the family's vehcile for 17 hours. According to the Rimer's arrest reports, Jason had myotonic dystrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy, and did not have the strength to open a car door. The coroner ruled that he died of environmental heat stress and his death has been ruled a homicide. The parents have also been charged with the abuse, neglect or endangerment of their four other children, who have been placed in protective custody.

For earlier media coverage, see:
Murder charges filed against parents of 4-year-old boy who died after 17 hours in car
Jason Rimer's death ruled a homicide

H/T to the editor over at ICAD for these latest developments.
A conjoined twin who was separated from her sister in 2001 has died

The International Herald Tribune reports that Ganga Shrestha, age 8, who was separated from her sister, Jamuna, seven years ago, died on Tuesday in Nepal from a severe chest infection. Ganga and Jamuna were 10 months old when doctors operated on them in Singapore to separate their fused brains. Ganga, who doctors have described as the "weaker" of the twins, has not made good progress since the surgery, it is reported, but Jamuna is doing well.

Some readers might be familiar with the feminist disability studies crtitique of the surgical separation of conjoined twins as an example of the "pervasive-will-to-normalize the nonstandard body." Rosemarie Garland-Thomson argues, for example, that conjoined twins contradict or threaten our cultural conceputualization of the individual as discrete, singular and autonomous, and as a consequence, they are almost always surgically separated. Quoting Garland-Thomson:

So intolerable is their insult to dominant ideologies about who patriarchal culture insists we are that the testimonies of adults ... who say they do not want to be separated are routinely ignored in establishing the rationale for medical treatment. In truth, these procedures benefit not the affected individuals, but rather they expunge the kinds of corporeal human variations that contradict the ideologies the dominant order depends upon to anchor truths it insists are unequivocally encoded in bodies.

(Garland-Thomson, "Integrating disability, transforming feminist theory," 2002)

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering women with mental illness who die without proper care, respect or dignity

Bob Sharpe, the president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, based in Tallahessee, has written this op-ed about Esmin Green, who died on June 19 after waiting nearly 24 hours in the emergency room of the King County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, because noone came to help her. As his article reminds us, the treatment of Ms Green is not extraordinary. Here is an excerpt from his article that also discusses the case of Edith Rodriguez, who "bled to death" on the emergency room floor of the Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles a year ago, and of Primrose Jackson, a mentally ill woman who lived in a tent outside her mother's house and is now missing.

The treatment - or rather, lack of treatment - that Esmin received is nothing new. Such an uproar was raised this time only because a disturbing video was found showing it happen. Just one year ago something very similar happened to Edith Rodriguez at Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles. Edith bled to death on the emergency room floor - a death that also was caught on video. She had been seen at the hospital at least six times in the month before her death and had spent 14 hours there the day before. In Miami, Primrose Jackson - a woman with severe mental illness - has lived for years outside her mother's house in a makeshift tent. She is now missing.

These are just a few of the many tragic accounts of people with mental illness who re alone, forgotten and facing death without proper care, respect or dignity. Every day, hundreds of thousands in the United States suffer in the same way that Esmin, Edith and Primrose have suffered. They are the faceless and forgotten Americans. They live on the streets, in shelters, in substandard housing, in jails and prisons. Why do we allow it?

Man charged with motor vehicle homicide and operating under the influence of alcohol, third offense

The charges follow an incident in Boston (MA) last Monday when a 59-year-old woman was killed when her motorized wheelchair was struck and thrown 140 feet by the man's truck.

The man has pleaded not guilty.

From this CBS story, and here in The Republican.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quest article on crimes against people with disabilities

The May/June issue of Quest magazine, which is published by the MDA, included an article on "Crimes Against People with Disabilities." It notes, amongst other things, that the rate of violent crime is from four to five times higher for people with disabilities than for the general population; that many victims with disabilities do not report abuse to authorities; that support for them is much less available from social service providers; and that abuse against people with disabilities is more commonly accepted and less frequently punished than for other victim groups.

The article can be accessed here. Here is an excerpt:

Yesterday I was battered,” begins an entry in the blog of a man with ALS myotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

In a series of such entries over a period of months, the writer (now deceased) described how his hired caregiver abused him, including taking away the bell he used to summon help, ignoring him when he did ring and ridiculing his efforts to communicate as his paralysis spread.

A woman with limb-girdlemuscular dystrophy had it worse. In October, 60-year-old Sherry Taub of Green Valley, Ariz., and her husband set out on an RV trip. David Taub originally told police his wife had been robbed and fatally beaten in their RV
when they parked at a New Mexico truck stop. Later, he admitted he himself was
the assailant.

Crime and violence against people with disabilities is “an invisible epidemic,” said Daniel D. Sorenson, chairman of the California Coalition on Crime Against People with Disabilities, in a 2001 speech entitled “Hate Crimes Against People with Disabilities.”

These crimes include rape, assault and murder, as well as economic crimes. Sorenson noted that “most experts agree that the rate of violent crime is from four to 10 times higher for people with disabilities than for the general population.”

In his paper “Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities” (1994), Gregor Wolbring, research professor at the University of Calgary (Canada), characterized the types of people most frequently guilty of abuse:

0-5 percent are strangers
15 percent are acquaintances and neighbors
15-25 percent are natural family members
30 percent are disability service providers

People with learning disabilities are being forced into marriage, in some cases as a means to gaining a passport, according to a report in The Independent

From The Independent (UK):

Scores of young people with learning disabilities are being forced into marriages, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

More than one in five of the forced marriages reported to the Government involve disabled people, but experts fear that the true scale of the problem could be far worse.

Last week, senior police officers, lawyers, social workers and campaign groups held urgent talks in London as the scale of the problem emerged.

The Foreign Office's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 400 cases last year – and more than 80 of these involved people with learning disabilities.

Support groups believe that the stigma attached to disability in some ethnic communities, together with social and cultural isolation, is adding to the problem. They warn that forced marriage is being used as a way to ensure that children with disabilities will be looked after as ageing parents struggle to cope. A person with learning disabilities may also be seen as biddable by foreigners in search of a visa.

The majority of cases reported involve families from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Spouses are not always told about the disability and only discover the truth when they first meet, often at the wedding, or even after.

Rape, domestic violence and abandonment are common consequences of such marriages as opportunities to escape or seek help can be limited, according to support groups.

A growing awareness of the problem has resulted in scores of community workers coming forward after a series of court cases brought under the Human Rights Act which ensures the right to marry freely.

And many care workers are reluctant to oppose the forced marriages for fear of being branded "culturally insensitive."

Mandy Sanghera, a social worker with Voice UK, a charity which helps people with learning disabilities, believes that the emphasis must be on protecting vulnerable individuals rather than on the communities which are failing them.

"In 15 years I have worked with more than 100 people with learning disabilities forced into marriage, from south Asian, African and Middle Eastern communities. Forget the political correctness: these human rights abuses are very real and need to be stopped," she said.

Ms Sanghera worked with Rani, a woman in her twenties with learning difficulties and mental health problems. Rani's mother felt under pressure from the community to arrange for her to marry an Indian man who needed a British passport. Her mother decided this would be a good match, believing that no one else would marry her.

After a year of marriage, Rani suffered a miscarriage and it was discovered that Rani's husband was physically abusing her and stealing her benefits to send to his family. But her family pressured her to stay with him for the sake of honour.

According to Saghir Alam, of Equality 2025, the Government's disability advisory body, social services must become more culturally sensitive so parents do not feel that marriage is the only long-term care option. Asian families are consistently less likely to seek or receive outside help.

"The Government's social care reforms must involve these communities, or we will never solve this shocking problem," he said.

Teertha Gupta, a barrister who specialises in forced marriages, believes most families are just trying to do their best for their children. He said: "These are generally families from law-abiding communities who think this very old fashioned and illegal practice is their only choice."

Monday, July 28, 2008

A business of her own

Five years ago, Tracey Newhart was not allowed to graduate because she did not pass the state's MCAS exam.

Last week, Ms Newhart, who is 25 years old and has Down syndrome, opened her own baked goods business, Tracey's Kitchen, in Falmouth, MA.

The full story is here.

The airing of a video that shows four youths making fun of a teen with Down syndrome is defamatory and an invasion of privacy, say Italian prosecutors

Via Reuters:

MILAN — Italian prosecutors are preparing to file charges against four current or former Google Inc. executives over a 2006 video on the Internet provider's Italian-language site, court sources said on Friday.

The video shows a teenager with Down syndrome taunted by other youths.

Prosecutors have concluded an inquiry that could lead to the executives being charged with defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under Italian law, the conclusion of an inquiry is usually preparatory before the case goes to a judge to decide whether charges should be filed. The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

The former and current Google executives include the top legal representative and chairman of Google's Italian unit at the time, a now-retired Google Italy board member, an executive responsible for Google's privacy policies in Europe, and the then-head of Google Video for Europe.

An Italian advocacy group for people with Down syndrome, Vividown, and the boy's father lodged a complaint over the video in November 2006.

The video was filmed from a mobile phone in late May or early June 2006. It shows four male high school students in the Italian city of Turin humiliating the youth with Down syndrome.

The four teens face charges in Turin over the case. Charges could be dropped if they show a judge they have straightened themselves out, Vividown attorney Guido Camera told Reuters.

A Google spokesman said the company would continue to co-operate with Milan prosecutors “to show that all Googlers under investigation have no involvement in the Vividown case.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

Frida links

for the week 07/18/2006 to 07/25/2008

Amputee athletes are ready to participate in the Extremity Games that begin Thursday near Detroit, the Associated Press reports.

A teenage boy with multiple disabilities died when his ventilator stopped working during a power outage in East Boston. A backup battery appears to have malfunctioned, it is reported here.

A Palestinian woman wants to stay in the more accessible USA.

Judges in Washington have ruled that disability laws protect those that are unable to have sex, the Houston Chronicle reports.

A woman sues over discrimination against a service monkey.

Over 700 people participated in the annual march and rally of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) in Washington DC, according to this post at the JFA blog.

"Weird, wicked and wonderfully perverse," is how film reviewer Jeannetee Catsoulis describes the film Death and Disability that opens in Manhattan today.

Students with disabilities in Maryland are celebrating a new law that grants them the right to compete alongside their peers in mainstream athletics, its reported here.

A former medical student is suing the University of Calgary for allegedly discriminating against him because he has a mental illness, according to this report.

The death of a 99-year-old woman in Chicago "appears to be the result of elderly abuse," according to authorities.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Karina Neff Murder

The National Post (Mississauga, Ontario) reports that the body of missing Mississauga resident, Karina Neff, has been found in an area of the Erin Mills Parkway. Ms Neff, who was 31-years-old and had a developmental disability, has been missing since Monday evening. Her body was discovered just after noon on Tuesday showing "obvious signs of trauma."

According to the report, police have charged a 22-year-old-man with her murder.

The Neff family issued this statement through police:

It is our family's wish not to be disturbed during this very difficult time. We are a very close family and find ourselves in a state of shock.

Karina Neff was a ray of sunshine and saw the good in everyone and everything. “She was our little angel on earth”, as her mother would say. “She was loving and caring daughter, sister and friend and we will miss her every minute of the day.”

On behalf of the whole family, we would like to express our sincere thanks to the entire police staff at Peel 11 Division. They were extremely professional and supportive, and had every available officer and resource dedicated to finding our Karina.

Words cannot express our thanks for finding her and apprehending the accused so quickly. Thank you.


Demonstrate your support
Condemn human rights violations

Posted: July 23, 2008

Contact: Lauren J. Tenney, MA, MPA, Psychiatric Survivor

Cell: 516-319-4295


WE THE PEOPLE Call For An End Of Abuse, Torture, And Neglect In The Wake Of Ms. Green's Death On June 19, 2008, While Detained At Kings County Hospital Center's Psychiatric Emergency Room.

The death of Esmin Green is indicative of a failure in the system that was supposed to be there to care for her. The solution to protecting the lives and dignity of people with psychiatric histories is not simply to increase staff and services and/or to improve staff training. As evidenced by Ms. Green’s death, these measures are nothing more than temporary band-aids that consistently fail. Fully implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a real solution that will promote respect, human rights, and dignity of people who have a psychiatric history. The principles of the CRPD include respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices; non-discrimination; the respect for differences; and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity. Clearly, several articles in the CRPD contain protections that might have saved Esmin Green’s life.

Other International law has been violated as well including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. (For more information about the CRPD and other protections see;

Daniel Hazen, of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights®) and Stop Force said, "This could only happen within a system that uniformly ignores complaints of physical problems by people who have been labeled with serious mental illness. This is particularly dangerous because of the extremely harmful nature of psychiatric drugs. Was Ms. Green's medical emergency in any way related to the toxic and debilitating psychiatric drugs she might have been taking, possibly through intimidation, coercion, or force? This seems likely in light of the known connection between such drugs and fatal leg blood clots. A thorough investigation is necessary."

The experience of involuntarily detainment in a psychiatric emergency room or in a psychiatric institution is tantamount to torture. Human rights and feminist activist Kate Millett during the negotiations on the UN Convention on the subject of forced treatment and confinement of persons with disabilities stated, “The power of an entire civilization massed against one lone individual. Every phone and lock and guard and drug . . . Everything conspires to make you completely alone and terrified. Malleable. These are the conditions of torture”.

David Gonzalez, founder and Senior Consultant of the Recovery x-Change and a former patient of the “G” Building at Kings County Hospital Center will be speaking at the demonstration. Gonzalez states, “What has brought Ms. Green’s appalling death to public scrutiny is not that it was unusual or uncommon in any way, but that it was caught on video. The lack of compassion, callous indifference, and subsequent cover-up exposes not only the hypocrisy which allows this type of systemic abuse to take place under the guise of treatment, but more importantly exposes the perversion of institutional psychiatry”.

On July 25, 2008, we invite all people to join us and stand united in support of the demand that everyone receive the full benefit of their human rights and the preservation of their liberty, dignity, and respect. There are vigils happening all over the world for Ms. Green on July 25, 2008 to stand in solidarity with New Yorkers. If you can attend the vigil or not, on Friday, July 25, 2008, call Governor Patterson (518) 474-8390, Mayor Bloomberg, (212) NEW-YORK, and your elected Representatives to express your outrage about Ms. Green's murder and insist that the City of New York stand in full compliance with International law and Human Rights.

Who: All People.

What: A demonstration and candle light vigil to mourn the loss of Ms. Esmin Elizabeth Green and condemn human rights violations.

Why: WE THE PEOPLE call for an end of abuse, torture, and neglect in the wake of Ms. Green's death on June 19, 2008, while detained at Kings County Hospital Center's Psychiatric Emergency Room.

Where: Kings County Hospital Center, Psychiatric Emergency Room, Building G. 606 Winthrop Street Brooklyn, NY 11203

Date: July 25, 2008

Time: Demonstration begins at 5 PM, Candle Light Vigil, 8:30 PM


If you would like to co-sponsor or endorse this demonstration, vigil, and its follow up forums, please contact us.


Special thanks to Myra Kovary, UN Representative of MindFreedom International, for drafting this press release For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Contact: Lauren J. Tenney
Cell: 516-319-4295

Contact: David W. Oaks
Phone: 541-345-9106

(for information about co-sponsors, individual endorsers, and directions to the vigil, see here.)
A woman with Asperger's files a discrimination complaint against McDonalds

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

An autistic woman who had worked at the McDonald's in downtown Berkeley for 21 years showed up at her job in March, after a change in ownership, and was told that she and two other disabled workers were no longer needed, she says.

"I was devastated ... then I was really just angry," Lisa Craib said after filing a discrimination complaint Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After she was fired, the complaint said, the fast-food restaurant at Shattuck and University avenues posted a sign: "Help Wanted - Equal Opportunity Employer."

Craib's claim was filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which has its 18th anniversary on Saturday. Under the law, "if someone's a qualified individual with a disability, they have to be treated equally alongside other people ... and they're entitled to reasonable accommodations," noted Craib's attorney, Claudia Center of the Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center in San Francisco.

The food outlet's new owner, Nick Vergis, said he hadn't received a formal notice of the complaint but has a strict policy against discrimination.

"I comply with all applicable laws - including the Americans With Disabilities Act - and continually strive to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted," Vergis said in a statement released by McDonald's.

Craib, 43, has Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism that typically causes people to have trouble interacting with others and to become preoccupied with narrow topics.

"They can usually function like others but tend to have a hard time in social situations, and don't pick up nonverbal clues," said her mother, Karola Craib, a former Chronicle food writer whose stories appeared under the byline Karola Saekel.

Lisa Craib attended high school and community college, was an award-winning horseback rider and served as an assistant coach in the Special Olympics, her lawyers said.

She worked the morning shift at the McDonald's outlet for more than two decades, preparing salads, busing tables and cleaning up, her lawyers said. They said she became such a fixture that two regular customers called her "Miss McDonald's." A job coach, funded by the state under the disability law, visited once or twice a week to see how she was doing, Center said.

According to the discrimination complaint, Craib came to work a day or two
after Vergis bought the downtown franchise and was told by her supervisor, "You're no longer part of the team." The other two developmentally disabled employees were also dismissed but at least some of the nondisabled staff kept their jobs, Center said.

It's somewhat uncommon, fortunately, that such a dramatic and seemingly blatant situation of discrimination occurs," the attorney said. But she said disabled Americans have a high unemployment rate and have a particularly hard time getting hired.

The claim filed Tuesday asks the federal agency to make a finding of discrimination, hich would clear the way for a damage suit, Center said. In the meantime, Craib's mother said, her daughter has enrolled in an arts-and-crafts project for the disabled in Berkeley and has been accepted in a new job training program at Children's Hospital in Oakland.

More News Coverage of Michael Savage's Comments on Children with Autism

From the Boston Herald, via AAPD/JFA Blog:

By Jessica Heslam

The furor over shock jock Michael Savage’s autism rant intensified yesterday as parents of autistic kids called for his firing and at least one advertiser yanked its ads from his syndicated show.

About 40 parents and grandparents of autistic children protested yesterday outside WOR-AM (710) in New York City, one of the more than 350 radio stations - including WRKO-AM (680) - that airs his program. Another protest is planned for tomorrow at the San Francisco station where his show is broadcast.

“What he said is reprehensible,” said John Gilmore, executive director of Autism United and the father of an 8-year-old autistic boy...

Read more.



Not only did Michael Savage claim that children with autism are a fraud, he used offensive language, referring to them as "idiots," "morons," and "brats."

Let's send a message to Michael Savage, his talkshow, and all his syndicators and commercial supporters. Tell them that people with disabilities, including children with autism, make up 1 in 5 Americans, and that his comments are inaccurate, offensive, and tantamount to hate speech. Encourage sponsors to pull their advertising dollars. Tell broadcasters that this sort of hate-filled rant is unacceptable.

Michael Savage

Talk Radio Network
P.O. Box 3755
Central Point,
Oregon 97502
Phone: 541-664-8827
Fax: 541-664-6250

The Savage Nation

The Paul Revere Society
150 Shoreline Hwy, Bldg EMill Valley, CA 94941
Fax: 415-339-9383

Buckley Broadcasting/WOR Radio
General Phone Number: 212 642 4500111
Broadway 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10006

Home Depot
(770) 384-4646

Sears Public Relations And Communications
(847) 286-8371
contact through their website:

Media Relations
Riverfront Campus _Mail Stop #CF7-130_300 RadioShack Circle _Fort Worth, TX 76102-1964_
Phone: (817) 415-3300
Fax: (817) 415-2585

AFLAC1-800-99-AFLAC (1-800-992-3522)
Laura Kane, 2nd Vice President External Relations Aflac Incorporated
Mechell Clark, Media Relations Manager

BudweiserAnheuser-Busch, Inc.
One Busch Place
St. Louis, MO 63118
Email through their site:
1 800 DIAL BUD(1 800 342 5283)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Police say a male psychiatric patient raped a fellow female patient in a psychiatric hospital

From the Fort Mill Times, Kansas City (via this post, partially titled "Still No Need for Single Gender Option Virginia? by Hymes over at Charlottesville Prejudice and Civil Rights Watch. If you have any thoughts on this topic, please join the discussion here)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man is charged with sexually assaulting a woman when both were patients at a psychiatric hospital.

Jackson County prosecutors on Thursday said 20-year-old Darius Maggard is jailed on $100,000 bond on a sexual assault charge. Police said the 47-year-old woman told investigators that she was asleep in her room at Research Psychiatric Center on June 13 when she was attacked.

The woman said she awoke to find Maggard having sex with her, and that she was groggy from medication she was taking and unable to fight him off. Court records say the woman reported that Maggard repeatedly asked, "This isn't rape is it?" and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

Police said hospital staff told them that the woman's medication might have a similar effect as GHB, a drug often cited in rape cases.

Some businesses are actively recruiting people with disabilities

From The Wall Street Journal:

Lucy Shi, a job seeker who has a genetic condition that causes short stature, says she's happy to be singled out as a disability candidate as she hunts for a position in New York.

A graduate of New York University, Ms. Shi, 25, recently interviewed with several Wall Street firms at a recruiting event geared toward people with disabilities who aim to develop professional business careers. "It's hard to have a disability that's so visible, and it's just nice to be able to talk to recruiters without competing with the rest of the world," says Ms. Shi, who believes many interviewers view her as a child because of her height.

There are 22 million working-age Americans with disabilities who have come of age under the Americans With Disabilities Act -- passed 16 years ago this month -- which helps to prevent job discrimination against qualified disabled individuals. But only 38% of the nation's working-age disabled have a job, compared with 78% of able-bodied people.

Over the past few years, companies have begun taking bigger steps to bring more of the disabled into the professional work force. The latest effort is partly due to the efforts of Rich Donovan, a former Merrill Lynch trader who has cerebral palsy, a disability that limits his speech and movement.

Mr. Donovan recalls the resistance he met from many recruiters who weren't sure he was nimble enough to perform the physical aspects of a busy trader's job. Even his mentors at Columbia University's business school tried to talk him out of it, saying he'd make a "fine risk manager." He was hired at Merrill and quickly hatched a plan to get more disabled people hired at the firm.

Mr. Donovan's idea was based on the premise that corporate America should recruit and give qualified people with disabilities the same sort of opportunities that his firm -- and most big companies -- already had in place for minorities and women.

Merrill agreed to give it a try, and in 2006 Mr. Donovan founded LimeConnect, with the company as its first partner. Today, the organization matches disabled college-level and professional candidates through private recruiting efforts led by its four major partners: Merrill, Goldman Sachs, PepsiCo and Google.

Last fall, Lime helped its partners source more than 300 disabled internship candidates from two dozen universities, including Harvard, M.I.T., Princeton and Georgetown. In May, Lime invited 60 candidates for job interviews in New York; at least a dozen have been invited back for further interviews.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ethics of Pediatric Mastectomy

One of the bloggers over at the blogspot What Sorts of People posted these thoughts about the logic behind and the ethics of the mastectomy that was performed on Ashely X. It follows this earlier post called "Mastectomy, not mastectomy" that discusses the elision of a reference to the mastectomy in the original report and its later euphemization as the removal of her breast buds. Go check out both posts - the writer would appreciate your comments.

Here is an excerpt:

No six-year-old child, whether or not she has a developmental disability is considered competent to assess this risk and decide to have her breasts removed. (1) Might the parents of of a healthy, typically developing six-year-old girl be allowed to ask for and consent to a bilateral mastectomy as a means of protecting their daughter against these very real risks? (2) Has the ethics community ever addressed this issue? If so, does a child’s disability in some way change these considerations?

The answer to the first question is pretty clear. Parents would not routinely be allowed to ask for and consent to a mastectomy of their child as means of controlling a very real and substantial risk. If anyone out there knows of any exceptions to this rule, please let me know.

Secondly, the issue of prophylactic pediatric mastectomy has been addressed in the scholarly ethics community. it has been discussed in such mainstream journals as the The American Journal of Bioethics [I haven’t linked to his because it is only available to subscribers) and the Journal of Medical Ethics (UK). Surely, the ethicists that were involved in the Ashley X case would have known or could have known about these discussions and opinions. The doctors and ethicists involved in the Ashley case repeatedly pointed out that this was such a novel procedure that there was little to guide them, so presumably they actually looked for this information.

Hodges, Svoboda, and Van Howe (2002) point out that for women in the highest risk categories prophylactic mastectomy has been estimated to increase life expectancy by 2.9 to 5.3 years “For most women, however, a lifetime of disfigurement is too high a price to pay for a chance of having a few extra years of life.” There point is that if most women in the highest risk category do not choose or consent to this procedure for themselves, it is inappropriate for substitute decision maker to make this decision for another individual. They suggest that pediatric mastectomy can only be justified in the “presence of clinically verifiable disease, deformity, or injury” AND when it is “least invasive and most conservative treatment option.” This has particular relevance since one of the reasons given in the Ashley case was that her positioning belt on her wheel chair rubbed across her breasts. Perhaps a better belt would have been a bit less invasive than removing her breasts. Their conclusion is clear:

“Prophylactic mastectomy is problematic and has a number of grey areas. The best one can say is that it may be acceptable for competent adults who have given informed consent, free of any force, coercion, manipulation, or undue influence from any source. Prophylactic mastectomy cannot be sanctioned on infants or children who have not yet attained legal competence or the age of majority.” In their view, Prophylactic mastectomy of a child is a serious human rights violation.

How is it any different for a child with a severe disability? In most respects, it isn’t. One difference is the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It states (1) children with disabilities have exactly the same rights as all other children, (2) that because these children’s rights are so frequently violated, they need a higher standard of protection. While the US government hasn’t endorsed the convention, the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed it, so children with disabilities in the American health care system should be protected by it.

Another report of exclusion

An Aiken County (Georgia) woman says she was "kicked out" of a restaurant in Jackson because one of her daughter's, 4-year-old Alyssa, who is autistic, was crying. According to the woman, another customer who was eating in another part of the restaurant, Jackson Police Chief Dennis Rushton, told her that her daughter was "irritating [him], getting on [his] nerves and beginning to make [his] head hurt."

NBC Augusta has the full story here. And to read the eclectic range of comments following a post about the incident over at Autism Vox, see here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Death and Our Movement

There is no nice way to say it: death pervades the disability rights struggle. It’s like saying the sky is blue. If there is a heaven, and this is only a metaphor, I’d like to believe that our fallen are somewhere where they live the lives they die for. But as it is, our people die every day, deaths of unfulfilled human promise, sometimes deaths of great pain and agony. Here on earth, they died as they struggled, while the living struggle on in their name.

These days I find myself thinking about Emmett Till and Dorothy Dixon. Till’s gruesome death, and his mother’s allowing his open casket portrait to appear in the media, fired the Black civil rights struggle. You can see pictures of Emmett at There are no pictures of Dorothy after she died---only a police mug shot.

And yet Dorothy’s death story is every bit as awful and stomach churning as Emmett’s. Burning, beating, starving a pregnant woman with a developmental disability… The horror neither begins nor ends with her. What about Ruben Navarro, who allegedly was administered Betadine while still alive, while a doctor waited to harvest his organs? Or Terri Schiavo, who was starved to death? The stories of the deaths are endless, stomach churning. And the truly nauseous thought is that a lot of people think that it is ok to let these things happen.

These crimes are never things that happen to “other people.” These crimes are things that happen to US. They happen inside homes and hospitals and courts of law. They happen in the media. I think they happen for very complicated reasons. Poverty is one. Privilege is another. Ableism definitely factors in. Often, sexism is also involved---whether a person is a “real” man or woman. Our people are being martyred for these things.

If I wanted nightmares, I could have them every night just thinking about Jaylen Brown. Jaylen was a 13 year old in Chicago who died this May of extreme neglect from his mother and his two 24-hour nurses. Besides bedsores, his tongue was covered with a blackish mold. Read his story at,0,6874643.story. He was being monitored for at least five years by outsiders…and still he died.

And there are other kinds of martyrdom whose victims are still alive. I think of the transman with a developmental disability who was raped in a New Mexico barbershop. I think of the Chicago area woman with cerebral palsy who was raped by a nursing home attendant. I think even of the high school girl who was raped by a gang in Melbourne, Australia, and whose rape was filmed, copied and distributed for sale.

I am sometimes sad that FRIDA has had to take up campaigns in response to some of these horribly terrible situations---and then I am heartened by remembering that that is what we are supposed to do. We mobilize on these issues because we must. And there is no one person who dictates that we must mobilize. Whoever wants to take up the fight can do so. It is a very tiring struggle, and a nauseating one, but the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters reminds us always that response is the opposite of silence. Speaking, we live; silent, we die.
CFP: Special Issue of Disability Studies Quarterly on Autism

Submission deadline: Jan. 1, 2009

Projected publication date: Summer 2010

Co-editors: Emily Thornton Savarese, University of Iowa, and

Ralph James Savarese, Grinnell College

We are looking for completed articles, from a disability studies perspective, on what the medical community refers to as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). We are especially interested in pieces that engage the so-called “low-functioning” end of the spectrum, where increasingly those presumed retarded and lacking social awareness are writing back to the empire of science. As the field of disability studies has theorized cognitivedifference, it has had to refine its cherished social-constructionist approach, making sure to account for physiological distinctiveness in the organ of sensibility, a distinctiveness that has been interpreted in a myriad of ways, most quite prejudicial. We are interested in the burgeoning neurodiversity movement, which has self-consciously resisted such prejudicial interpretations, often revealing the “science” of autism to beanything but reliable and objective. How to talk about autistic difference? How to represent it? How to convey its gifts and challenges? Who can talk about it? What role should parents play in this representational arena? What role should teachers, doctors, researchers, therapists, media entities, and academics play? What kind of interdisciplinary approaches are needed to understand, respect, and even cherish autism?

We are open to the widest array of progressive approaches and topics. The latter include, but are not limited to issues of:

movement and cognition
perceptual acuities
popular cultural representations
the arts
treatments, cures, prevention
disability rightsemployment
perseveration, echolalia

Questions or queries may be sent to

Friday, July 18, 2008

Frida links

for the week 7/11/2008 to 7/18/2008

A substitute teacher who taped a special-education student to his chair has been sentenced to 2 years probation, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Investigators for Equip for Equality are probing the deaths of two more patients at the Tinley Park center for people with disabilities (Chicago, Ill), according to this report.

A University of Texas researcher has received $1.3 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health for a study that will compare white and Hispanic women's experience with disabilities, its reported here.

As employment in home care rises, so does the abuse, neglect and fraud of the elderly who receive home care, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to this report, a British woman has won a landmark legal case which gives carers the same rights against employment discrimination as people with disabilities.

HIV positive children throughout the United Kingdom are being excluded from primary and secondary schools, which is against the UK's anti-discrimination laws, according to an investigation by the National AIDS Trust.

The death of woman's rights activist, advocate for people with disabilities and anti-racism activist Mirlande Demers has been reported here. Demers was 26 years old.

The Pocono Record reports that an art teacher in the East Stroudsburg Area School District (Canadensis, NE Pennsylvania) has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the school district violated state and federal law when it allegedly harassed her because of her mental illness.
H/T to Media Dis&Dat)

ADA Restoration: Frequently Asked Questions - see here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's not ok to tell someone they are not allowed to place an order at a McDonald's drive-thru window if that person has a hearing impairment

The Chicago Tribune reports:

OMAHA, Neb. - A hearing-impaired woman has filed a federal lawsuit against a local McDonald's, saying workers there refused to let her order food at the drive-thru window.

Karen Tumeh of Lincoln says they insisted she either order at the electronic speaker along the drive-thru lane or come inside to order.

Tumeh wears a hearing aid but still cannot hear while using the drive-thru ordering box at fast-food restaurants, according to the lawsuit.

At least three times since September 2007 workers at a Lincoln McDonald's refused to let her place her order at the drive-thru window, Tumeh said. In denying her service, McDonald's violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, she said.

Tumeh's lawsuit seeks to force McDonald's to make accommodations for hearing-impaired people to order food in restaurant drive-thrus. She also seeks unspecified damages and attorney's fees.

McDonald's corporate headquarters did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Tumeh is physically capable of walking inside to order, but that's not the point, her attorney, Shirley Ann Mora James, said Tuesday.

"She has children who are autistic, and if they're having difficulties, it would make it problematic for her," Mora James said. "It's not appropriate for a hearing-impaired person to be forced to go inside because of their disability, when ... other drive-thru, fast-food restaurants have a policy to allow deaf and hard-of-hearing people to order at the drive-thru window.

"Other McDonald's restaurants in Lincoln have accommodated Tumeh, Mora James said.

"We have attempted to resolve this on many occasions and have unfortunately been unable to resolve this," Mora James said. "So we were forced into litigation."

New York woman's adoption fraud and abuse:
"Neglect leads to neglect ... Adoption is a privilege, not a right."

From the Associated Press (USA Today); The New York Times:

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman from Trinidad who lied to adopt 11 disabled children whom authorities say she abused while she raked in more than $1 million in subsidies was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 11 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said Judith Leekin engaged in "a heartless, dangerous money-driven scheme" when she used fake names and lies about the children to defraud social service agencies in New York City and New York state.

Leekin, 63, has been accused of treating the children like prisoners, subjecting them to beatings and handcuffs while they stayed in a locked room without food, depriving them of medical and dental care and not sending them to school. Authorities said the children were so physically and emotionally abused they can never recover.

Leekin looked down and repeatedly dabbed her eyes and nose with tissues as Berman ordered her to serve 10 years and 10 months, nearly three years above the maximum penalty she had agreed to in a plea deal with prosecutors.

The judge also ordered Leekin to forfeit $1.68 million to benefit the children.

"This fraud turns the philosophy of adoption and the need to provide long-term care to children — so important to our social services system ... it turns that system on its head," he said.

Before Leekin was sentenced, she sobbed and apologized for committing wire and mail fraud and promised to surrender all her assets. She pleaded guilty in May.

"I love my children," she said, "and I miss them."

The children, now ages 16 to 28, suffer from a variety of severe mental and physical disabilities, including autism and Down syndrome. Leekin began adopting them in 1988, when she lived in New York City. A decade later, she moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Florida authorities have charged her with aggravated child abuse and aggravated abuse of disabled adults, and she could face as much as 120 years in prison if she is convicted of those and other charges.

Prosecutors say the high school dropout from Trinidad lived lavishly while forcing the adopted children to sleep on the floor of a storage room next to a garage and banning them from entering the house except to use the bathroom or kitchen.

Attorney Howard M. Talenfeld, speaking on behalf of 10 of the children, told the judge that none of the children could testify before him because they were too damaged by the abuse. Nine of the children are now in foster or group homes. Another lives on his own in Florida. One child is missing and presumed dead.

Talenfeld said one child was afraid to face Leekin again while five others who were capable of speaking were not brought before the court because social-services professionals advised that they would be further emotionally and psychologically damaged by the experience.

Leekin's lawyer Diamond R. Litty noted that her client was cooperating and surrendering all her assets. She said many of the allegations are uncorroborated
and at least six of the children have said they "miss their mother and still love her."

Talenfeld said he was most troubled by the 2000 disappearance of a child who
suffered from Down syndrome, autism and sickle cell anemia.

He said some of his siblings were told the child, who would be 19 today, was taken to a hospital, while others were told he was buried in the backyard.

The judge recommended that adoption programs use mandatory fingerprinting of prospective parents and a wider investigation of backgrounds before children are placed, and suggested surprise visits to adoptive parents and active monitoring by government agencies.

Berman also noted that Leekin had been abused as a child.

"Neglect leads to neglect," he said. "Adoption is a privilege, not a right."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What kinds of strategies are schools using to deal with students who have behavioral problems?

According to this article in the New York Times, some experts say that the use of seclusion and restraints on children with developmental and psychiatric problems might be increasing.

For more than a decade, parents of children with developmental and psychiatric problems have pushed to gain more access to mainstream schools and classrooms for their sons and daughters. One unfortunate result, some experts say, is schools’ increasing use of precisely the sort of practices families hoped to avoid by steering clear of institutionalized settings: takedowns, isolation rooms, restraining chairs with straps, and worse.

No one keeps careful track of how often school staff members use such maneuvers. But last year the public system served 600,000 more special education
students than it did a decade ago, many at least part time in regular classrooms. Many staff members are not adequately trained to handle severe behavior problems, researchers say.

In April, a 9-year-old Montreal boy with autism died of suffocation when a special education teacher wrapped him in a weighted blanket to calm him, according to the coroner’s report. Two Michigan public school students with autism have died while being held on the ground in so-called prone restraint.

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have recently tightened regulations governing the use of restraints and seclusion in schools. California, Iowa and New York are among states considering stronger prohibitions, and reports have appeared on blogs and in newspapers across the country, from The Orange County Register to The Wall Street Journal.

“Behavior problems in school are way up, and there’s good reason to believe that the use of these procedures is up, too,” said Reece L. Peterson, a professor of special education at the University of Nebraska. “It’s an awful combination, because many parents expect restraints to be used — as long as it’s not their kid.”

Federal law leaves it to states and school districts to decide when physical restraints and seclusion are appropriate, and standards vary widely. Oversight is virtually nonexistent in most states, despite the potential for harm and scant evidence of benefit, Dr. Peterson said. Psychiatric facilities and nursing homes are generally far more accountable to report on such incidents than schools, experts say.

In dozens of interviews, parents, special education experts and lawyers who work to protect disabled people said they now regularly heard of cases of abuse in public schools — up to one or two a week surface on some parent e-mail lists — much more often than a decade ago. “In all the years I went to school, I never, ever saw or heard of anything like the horrific stories about restraint that we see just about every day now,” said Alison Tepper Singer, executive vice president of Autism Speaks, a charity dedicated to curing the disorder.

The issue is politically sensitive at a time when schools have done a lot to accommodate students with special needs, and some have questioned whether mainstreaming has gone too far. “Some parent organizations, they’re so grateful
to the schools that their kids have been mainstreamed that they don’t want to risk really pushing for change,” said Dee Alpert, an advocate in New York who reports on the issue in the online journal

For teachers, who have many other responsibilities — not least, to teach — managing even one child with a disability can add a wild card to the day. “In a class of 30 to 35 children, there’s a huge question of how much safety or teaching a teacher can provide if he or she is being called on to calm or contain a student on a regular basis,” said Patti Ralabate, a special education expert at the National Education Association. “The teacher is responsible for the safety of all the children in the classroom.”

The line between skillful conflict resolution and abuse is slipperier than many assume. Federal law requires that schools develop a behavioral plan for every student with a disability, which may include techniques to defuse the child’s frustration: a break from the class, for instance, or time out to listen to an iPod.

RIP, Dona Spring

Lots of LA newspapers are reporting the death of disability rights advocate, animal rights activist and Berkeley City Councilmember, Dona Spring. Spring died in Alta Bates hospital on Sunday, July 13, from complications of rheumatoid arthritis. She was 55.

Zelda Bronstein, a Berkeley community activist, has written this tribute to Spring. And this remembrance appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here is an excerpt from this remembrance in the Mercury News:

Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring, a trailblazer for disabled rights who championed for the cause even when she was in such intense pain that she couldn't leave her home to attend council meetings, died Sunday evening at Alta Bates hospital of complications from rheumatoid arthritis. She was 55.

"Most of the progressive causes I've worked on in the last decade I didn't really know about or understand until she talked about them and made it clear why they were important,'' said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, her closest ally on the council for more than a decade.

Spring fought for affordable housing, the environment, recycling, and more services for people battling drug and alcohol addictions.

"She was always very progressive. Her grandmother was very progressive," said Spring's mother, Paula Althoff, on Monday. "She also got interested in animal rights and even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on that issue."

Spring was elected to the council in 1993. She was re-elected to represent central Berkeley in November 2006 with 71 percent of the vote.

"She was the first severely disabled person to be elected to any of the Bay Area city councils. She has been a true champion for people with disabilities and for people who are disenfranchised," said Gerald Baptist Sr., deputy director of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley who knew Spring for 25 years.

Most recently, Spring was advocating to keep the warm water pool open and make sure the tree sitters at UC Berkeley had sufficient food and water.

"It's been a very sad day," Worthington said. "She was a visionary, on the cutting edge and pushing Berkeley to do these things. I've spent years trying to keep up with her. She was always just a fountain of creative policy ideas."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Police believe a burglar murdered two nursing home residents because he found nothing to steal

Two nursing home residents were murdered by a teenage burglar possibly because "he lost his temper when faced with having to leave empty-handed," according this report in the British Telegraph. One of the women, aged 56, was beaten to death, and the other, age 72, was smothered with her bedclothes. Both women, both of whom were disabled and required full time care, were also found partially dressed. The teenager, who admitted two charges of murder, will be sentenced on July 30.
An educator has won a case against her employee for demoting her based on a perceived disability

Here is an excerpt from the story in the Valley Courier (Alamosa, CO).

DENVER — In an unusual case in U.S. District Court on Thursday, a jury found in favor of Alamosa educator Candy Wilson who claimed her employer, the Alamosa school district, had downgraded her from associate Alamosa High School principal to classroom teacher based on a perceived disability.

Wilson contended that Alamosa Superintendent Henry Herrera demoted her because he believed she had a disabling condition related to severe anxiety attacks. John Culver, an attorney representing Wilson, said on Friday that although his client is not disabled she was discriminated against as if she were. He said he has never handled a case quite like this before.

Culver said the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. “Candy did not have a disability but was suffering pretty severe anxiety attacks,” Culver explained. He said the school superintendent jumped to the conclusion that Wilson had a serious anxiety disorder and downgraded her from associate principal. “She was discriminated against because the district believed she was disabled even though she was not actually,” Culver said.

The jury agreed with Wilson that if a person is discriminated against because of a perceived disability - even if the person is not disabled - it is as illegal as if the person suffers from a disabling condition.

The seven-person jury on Thursday awarded Wilson $240,000 in emotional
distress damages.

A state audit has found that institutions for people with disabilities in Texas have hired employees who should have been ineligible because of previous abuse and neglect records

The audit also finds that state institutions are failing to find community-based homes for many patients who want them. The South Dallas Morning News has the details here.

Monday, July 14, 2008


July 25, 2008

VIGIL and Demonstration - Kings County Hospital Center, Building G, New York, USA

Please POST


Contact: Lauren J. Tenney, MA, MPA, Psychiatric Survivor


Cell: 516-319-4295 e-mail:

WE THE PEOPLE Call for an End of Abuse, Torture, and Neglect in the Wake of Ms. Green's Death While Detained at Kings County Hospital Center's Psychiatric Emergency Room.

Advocates, human rights activists, and community members are holding a vigil and demonstration to mourn the death of Ms. Esmin Elizabeth Green. WE the PEOPLE are calling attention to the reported horrific inactions and complete neglect that Ms. Green was subjected to while detained at the Kings County Hospital Center's Psychiatric Emergency Room, 451 Clarkson Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11203.

According to the Associated Press, after being involuntarily committed to the institution, Ms. Green sat waiting for a bed to become available for nearly 24 hours before she collapsed on to the floor. She lay there helpless for nearly an hour until she received medical attention, which came too late[i]. Further, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, facility staff possibly falsified documents, stating that Ms. Green was "up and went to the bathroom" and was "'sitting quietly in the waiting room' - more than 10 minutes after she last moved"[ii]. The surveillance tape shown on CNN Video portrays Ms. Green dying on the floor as people pass her by[iii]. In fact, on the Internet, one can find a mass of comment on this tragedy by individuals all over the world - a question repeatedly asked, "Where is the humanity?"

All people must be treated with dignity, humanity, and respect. We must not tolerate violations of human rights that individuals who are assigned psychiatric labels often endure.

We ask you, wouldn't you be depressed and possibly even 'agitated' if you were going to lose your home and employment? Reportedly, this is what led to Ms. Green's commitment[iv]. Any one of us could be labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis and subjected to inhumane 'treatment' if we are thought to be 'agitated', particularly if we are poor.

How many more people labeled with "mental illness" will be subjected to torture and neglect before something is done to protect human rights within psychiatric systems? David Oaks, Executive Director of MindFreedom International states, "I encourage us all to reflect on the need for a deep nonviolent revolution in the field of mental health, far beyond the "reforms" that have gotten us to where we are today, with televised death via neglect of a mother of six".

In 1875, a New York Times article cites abuses of inmates at the Kings County Asylum, spurred by Mr. Nelson Magee, a former inmate. Then-Commissioner Norris reacts to the investigation, "This sort of thing is very common among lunatics; they are always imagining themselves in great danger of being killed by their keepers"v. How many more centuries have to go by before action is taken to end these abuses and neglect?

WE the PEOPLE stand for change. We have been abused by the psychiatric system. Our brothers and sisters continue to be abused and murdered, as evidenced by Ms. Green's untimely demise. Massive human rights violations happen every day in psychiatric institutions but this horrific inaction was captured on videotape. We will call attention to the every day tortures committed in the name of psychiatric "help" including diagnosing life's challenges as ''illness," forced pharmaceuticals, restraint, seclusion, and electric shock treatment (ECT) with a Vigil to honor Ms. Green's memory beginning at 2 PM.

There are many questions as to what led to Ms. Green's death. Was it in any way related to the toxic and debilitating drugs that people labeled with "mental illness" are intimidated, coerced, and forced into taking? A thorough investigation is necessary to determine the extent of the torture, ill treatment and other human rights violations involved in this case and in the practices of the institution as a whole. We must stand united to demand social justice, equal rights, and environments free from torture and detention.

On July 25, 2008, we invite all people to join us and stand united in support of the demand that everyone receive the full benefit of their human rights and the preservation of their liberty, dignity and respect.

Who: All People.

What: Candle Light Vigil to mourn the loss of Ms. Esmin Elizabeth Green and condemn violations of human rights.

Why: WE THE PEOPLE call for an end of abuse, torture, and neglect in the wake of Ms. Green's Death on June 19, 2008, while detained at Kings County Hospital Center's Psychiatric Emergency Room.

Where: Kings County Hospital Center, Psychiatric Emergency Room, Building G. 606 Winthrop Street Brooklyn, NY 11203

Date: July 25, 2008 Time: 5 PM - 10 PM, Candle Light Vigil, 8:30 PM

We welcome your involvement as an organizational co-sponsor or an individual endorser of this effort. If you would like to speak at this event, please contact us.


### For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Contact: Lauren J. Tenney
Cell: 516-319-4295

Contact: David W. Oaks, Director, MindFreedom
Phone: 541-345-9106
Excluded: Sorry, it’s not your right

That's the title of a recent post by the blogger Kristina Chew which discusses the recent exclusion of special needs children from public spaces such as a Minnesota church, more than one airplane, a kindergarten classroom. To read Kristina's take on these incidents, go here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Call for papers

The Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies is seeking proposals for Blindness and Literature, which will be guest-edited by Georgina Kleege; and Disabling Postcolonialism, which will be guest-edited by Clare Barker and Stuart Murray. For more information please visit
Frida links

for the week 7/4/2008 to 7/11/2008

Its reported here that a certified nursing assistant (Escambia County, Florida) has pleaded no contest to charges that she physically abused a female patient with developmental and physical disabilities at a Pensacola nursing home.

The title of the Department of Mental Retardation will be changed through a provision of the state budget by the Legislature. The new name will be the Department of Developmental Services, it's reported here.

The House Speaker's rostrum will be reconstructed to provide accessibility for wheelchairs, the Washington Post reports.

"People want a perfect world and a perfect baby, but the world is not perfect," says Diana Sanderson, a university educated English woman with spina bifida who has spoken out against terminating pregnancies simply because the baby may not be perfect.

A Seattle family have alleged that they were left stranded at Sky Harbour Airport over the weekend when Southwest Airlines refused to allow them to board a connecting flight because their children, both of whom have disabilities - one has cerebral palsy, the other is autistic - were too disruptive.

A British woman has claimed a NHS hospital "starved" her elderly mother rather than continue her care, the BBC reports. Her 88-year-old mother was being treated for dementia and C.difficile.

A Dutchess County (NY) teacher has been charged with the statutory rape and and sexual abuse of a developmentally disabled student who attends the school for special needs in which she teaches, WABC reports.

A man is accused of leaving his elderly and disabled parents in a locked car for three hours, causing the death of his father, it is reported here.

A Brooklyn (NY) bus driver has been arrested on charges that he sexually abused a 14-year-old student with developmental disabilities, its reported here.

Disability advocates have spoken out in support of a 15-year-old girl with quadriplegia who was not allowed to fly with WestJet using her personal comfort harness, Canada's Leader Post reports.

The UK Telegraph reports that a British couple may have made a joint suicide attempt because they were unable to manage the care of their daughter, who is autistic.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another incidence of the rape and sexual assault of a girl with developmental disabilites

The Democrat and Chronicle and News 10 (Rochester, NY) report here and here that a 58-year-old man has been charged with raping and sexually assaulting a 15 year-old-girl with developmental disabilities in his home over the past year.

What begs for attention in this case, however, is the magnitude of the charges: according to the press, the man faces 17 charges of rape and sexual assault, including second and third-degree rape, second and third-degree criminal sexal act, third-degree sexual abuse, endangering the welfare of a child and endangering the welfare of a developmentally disabled person.

Sadly, this young woman's experience is not uncommon. According to an information sheet produced by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, "49% of people with developmental disabilities who are victims of sexual abuse will experience 10 or more abusive incidents."

Here are some of WCASA's other findings with regard to the sexual abuse and assault of people with developmental disabilities:

. Among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are victims of sexual assault.

. 15,000 to 19,000 people with developmental disabilities are raped each year in the United States.

. Only 3% of sexual abuse cases involving people with developmental disabilities are ever reported.

. 33% of abusers are acquaintances, 33% are natural or foster family members, and 25% are caregivers or service providers.
In a historical ruling, an Italian court authorises the removal of a woman's feeding tube

The International Herald Tribune reports:

Milan: An Italian court for the first time authorised a man on Wednesday to remove the feeding tube which has kept his daughter alive for 16 years, but the Vatican condemned the ruling as justifying euthanasia.

Eluana Englaro has been in a vegetative state and receiving food and water artificially at a hospital in the northern Italian town of Lecco since a 1992 car crash. Her father has been seeking an end to the life support for nearly 10 years.

The Milan appeals court said it had been proven 37-year-old Englaro's coma was irreversible and that before the accident she had stated her preference to die rather than being kept alive artificially.

"I feel that I can now free the most splendid creature I have ever known," Beppino Englaro, Eluana's father, said in an interview posted on Italian newspaper La Repubblica's website.

"She simply wanted to be left to die, (she wanted) nature to take its course."

Euthanasia is illegal in Italy and is strongly opposed by the Vatican.

"A grave verdict," Vatican radio said on its website. "No court had ever authorised this type of request," it said.

Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a Vatican department which advises the Church on bio-ethical issues, said he was saddened and surprised by the ruling, which he said justified "de facto euthanasia."

Last September, the Vatican said it was wrong to stop administering food and water to patients in a vegetative state even if they would never regain consciousness.

The verdict, hailed by pro-euthanasia activists as historic, divided Italy's political leaders and was criticised by several members of the ruling centre right.

Health Ministry undersecretary Eugenia Roccella said it amounted to a "death sentence".

The Catholic Church refused a religious burial for Piergiorgio Welby, a man who campaigned for euthanasia as he lay paralysed with muscular dystrophy. He died in Rome in December 2006 after a doctor agreed to unplug his respirator.

The Englaro case has been compared to that of American Terri Schiavo, who spent 15 years in a persistent vegetative state and was allowed to die after a long court battle.

Beppino Englaro could now ask doctors to remove the tube immediately or he could wait 60 days for state prosecutors to appeal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Delaware House of Representatives has passed a resolution in support of “protections for persons with severe brain injury, impaired consciousness or who are otherwise mentally disabled” from being involuntarily refused food and water

The impetus for this resolution is the case of Lauren Richardson, whom readers might recall is a 24-year-old Delaware woman who, after suffering severe injuries to her brain from a drug overdose, is now the at the centre of a court battle between her mother and father over the removal of her feeding tube.

To read the resolution, see here.

To read why the resolution doesn't "establish anything in terms of legislation or enforceable standards," see Stephen Drake's (from over at Not Dead Yet) synopsis of it and his discussion of its implications for the case of Lauren Richardson here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Another incidence of the sexual assault of a passenger with disabilities by a para transit driver

According to media reports here and here, a para transit driver in Toronto has been charged with sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman with cerebral palsy and threatening to kill her. This is the third time that a Toronto paratransit driver has been charged with sexually assaulting a passenger in the last six months.

The problem, of course, is not unique to Toronto - as one of the bloggers at the blogspot What Sorts of People reminds us is this post, over the years, hundreds of people with disabilities have reported being sexually abused by transportation providers and many more, perhaps the vast majority of cases, go unreported. What's not widely recognized, however, is that the "most frequent disability among passengers with disabilities who are assaulted by transportation providers are intellectual" or developmental disabilities. One of their findings, based on their data of 622 passengers with disabilities who reported being sexually assaulted by a transportation provider is that almost half "were described as having intellectual or developmental disabilities." One of the reasons they are often selected is because they are viewed by their offenders as unable or unlikely to report it or to be believed if they do.

To read the rest of their post about this problem, see here. There's lots more ...
Words matter

The Dayton Daily News reports that The Ohio Association of County Boards of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities will vote on October 27 about whether to take the words "mental retardation" out of its name and ask the Ohio Dept. of MRDD to do the same. At issue is the "perception that modern usage of the slang variant, 'retard,' has a demeaning connotation and negates the legitimate use of the word 'retardation,'" according to the state MRDD department's July 25 newsletter.

Of course, disability activists and advocates have been campaigning for some time to educate and inform the public that when the word “retard” or “retarded” is used to describe someone or something negative it can be hurtful to individuals and families of those with intellectual disabilities. For example, see here to read about the efforts of The "R" Word Campaign to raise awareness, at the grass roots level, of the harmful effects the use of these words can have when they are used describe someone or something negative. And to read the "My Words Matter" Pledge by the writer Jenna Glatzer, see here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The German upper house has passed a motion calling for the laws on assisted suicide to be tightened

The impetus being the death by assisted suicide a week ago of a 79-year-old Hamburg woman, Bettina Schart.

As noted last week, Bettina Schart was not in chronic pain or suffering from a terminal illness at the time of her death from the deadly combination of drugs she prepared and drank at the advice of Roger Kusch, an ex-senator in Hamburg. She was healthy and simply wanted to avoid moving into a nursing home.

According to this Associated Press report, helping someone to kill themselves is not illegal in Germany as long as someone does not physically help the person to end the person's life.

Under the proposed new legislation, which has been passed by the upper house, it will become illegal for any organisation to help someone kill themselves or even to give them advice on how to do so. After the upper house, the bill must then go to the lower house, the Bundestag.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Frida links

for the week 6/27/2008 to 7/4/2008

A caregiver at a group home in Fond du Lac County (Wisconsin) faces charges for the alleged sexual and physical abuse of female patient with developmental and physcial disabilities, according to the FDL Reporter.

Recent statistics indicate that the incidents of elder abuse in Canada may be grossly under reported and the actual victimization of the elderely may be closer to 10 per cent of its senior citizens, according to The Daily Observer.

The father of a ten-year-old disabled girl who died after she was scalded in a bathtub has been convicted of murder for failing to seek medical help for her for more than a week, CNN reports. The young girl, who was blind and had cerebral palsy, was burned after her father's partner placed her in a scalding bath.

Several charges have been filed against an Oakfield (Wisconsin) man accusing of sexually assaulting a 28-year-old woman with developmental and physical disabilities, it's reported here.

Australia's "sexual predator laws" have been broadened to include people with cognitive impairments, The Australian reports. Carers and others found committing sexual acts against people with cognitive impairments now face up to 10 years in jail.

State Senator Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati) is introducing a bill that would grant people with disabilities protection under Ohio's hate crime law, it is reported here.

It's reported here that an investigation is underway into allegations that an employee at a Toledo (Ohio) home for people with developmental disabilities has been stealing money from patients.

According to Variety magazine, HBO is developing a one-hour drama based on the bestselling Terri Cheney book “Manic, A Memoir,” about a successful female attorney with bipolar disorder.

Around 1,000 people marched in downtown Dallas to advocate for people who are blind or have visual impairments, the Dallas Morning News reports. (h/t to PatriciaEBauer)

A recent court ruling that a rural Minnesota church may bar a teen with autism has stirred new debate about the proper role in society for people with disabilities, according these reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and USA Today. (h/t to PatriciaEBauer)