Friday, August 29, 2008

Torment Not Treatment: Serbia's Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities

That's the title of a program that will be airing today, August 29, 2008, on NBC Dateline. The program was made in cooperation with Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI). Check your local listings for times.

Curtin University woman attacked

An international student at Curtin university (WA, Australia) who has cerebral palsy was robbed and beaten by a group of three men as she was making her way home from the University to student accommodation this week. The 35-year-old woman was hit in her head and her face until she was unconscious, and sustained chipped teeth and serious bruising as a result of the attack. She is recovering in a Perth hospital. Police have now arrested two men in connection with the attack and are looking for a third man. They are also investigating whether a gang of men are responsible for a number of attacks around Curtin University, including this one.

For further information, see here, here and here.
Palestian police find a girl and her brother who having been locked away for 20 years because of their disabilities

From this Associated Press report. Here is an excerpt:

BEIT AWWA, West Bank - A Palestinian couple locked their disabled son and daughter away for decades out of fear they would ruin the marriage prospects of a healthy child if discovered, police said Wednesday.

The case highlights the shame felt by families who have children with disabilities in Palestinian society — made worse because of poor services and the practice of marriages between first cousins.

"This is sad, shameful and awful," rights activist Imad Abumohr said.

Few people in the rural town of Beit Awwa knew of Basam Musalmeh, 38, and his sister Nawal, 42. They were kept since childhood in two concrete rooms that stank of sweat and urine adjoining the family's house.

Police found them Tuesday night while searching for Hamas loyalists and criminals, said an official who asked not to be identified because the Palestinian Authority publicly denies it cracks down on the militant group.

Palestinian police commander Samih Saify said officers heard noises while searching the house and found the brother naked and the sister wearing a flimsy nightdress.

Their father was detained. Their mother died a few years ago, the family said. Police returned the siblings to the home because there was no other place for them. The family said their stepmother would care for them.

Call for papers - Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion & Disability: Change, Challenge, & Collaboration

Ninth Annual Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion & Disability:Change, Challenge, & Collaboration

April 28 and 29, 2009

The Ohio State University Columbus Campus

Conference information past programs and updates can be found at:

To be on the mailing list for the conference, send e-mail to <>


(Proposals are due November, 2008 ) The Ninth Annual Multiple Perspectives conference continues the university’s efforts to bring together a diverse audience to explore disability as both an individual experience and social reality that cuts across typical divisions of education & employment; scholarship & service; business & government; race, gender & ethnicity.

This year’s theme “Change, Challenge & Collaboration” reflects the critical place in history we occupy. Between last conference and this call for papers the United Nations has adopted the Convention on Disability, Congress passed a new GI bill and the Higher Education Opportunity Act which include a significant focus on disability; the Access Board is proposing changes in Section 508, the Department of Justice is in the final stages of a comprehensive review and update of the regulations for the ADA’s Titles II and III; and the ADA Amendments of 2008 are working their way through Congress. The theme and the quotes below are offered as a guide to framing your proposals and considering your topics from a fresh perspective.

“Disability Studies should serve as an access ramp between the disability community and research universities." Paul K. Longmore

“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken

“Congress acknowledged that society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment”. Justice William J. Brennan

“Continue to surprise those who would put you in a neat demographic. Be insistently curious." Gordon Gee


Proposals are due November 1, 2008

By e-mail as an attachment (Word, Word Perfect, TXT, or RTF formats)
to <>

* By Fax at 614-688-3665 (FAX)

In the mail: Uiversity ADA Coordinator’s Office1849 Cannon Drive Columbus, OH 43210.

Proposals must include: Names and (as appropriate) titles and institutions for each presenter.
Contact information (phone, mailing address, and e-mail) if there is more than one presenter please indicate one individual as the lead presenter.
Title of Presentation (12 words or less)
Short Description (30 words or less)
FULL DESCRIPTION In 700 words or less please describe the structure, content, focus and desired outcomes for the presentation using these questions as a guide.
1. What is the format of the presentation (Lecture, Panel, Discussion, Poster*, Performance, Other)?
2. What are your three main goals for the presentation?
3. What will your participants learn?4. Who is the intended audience (educators, employers, businesses, advocates, students, consumers, researchers, etc.?
5. How familiar should the audience be with the topic (beginner, intermediate, advanced)?

Please Note:The full conference fees will be waived and lunch provided for presenters of accepted proposals. Presenters are responsible for their own travel and lodging.

*Poster sessions proposed by currently enrolled students (graduate & undergraduate) will be accepted through March 30, 2009.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Away from the blog until Friday

Just to let readers know that I've been unable to post this week and that 'll be back to posting this Friday (August 29) - See you then.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Real Lives of Girls with Disabilities

Looking over Linda's posts over the last week or two, I am struck by what feels to me to be a common thread in three different stories. The first story was the suicide of Emily Chapman, age 20, who had a psychiatric disability. The second was Patricia Bauer's write up of witnessing her 24 year old daughter with Down Syndrome being called "retard." The third was the story of the LA area twins with a developmental disability, age 16, who ran away from home and ended up allegedly being picked up and raped by a 23 year old man.

The question that kept popping up in my mind was this: what is it really like to be a young woman with a disability? What expectations does society have of young women, and in what ways do our lovely, diverse, unique, complicated young sisters with disabilities "fail" to meet those expectations? Why does society fail to support and appreciate all the experiences that young women with disabilities have to offer? Why do our young sisters have to suffer so much pain?

I think that the average person fails to fully appreciate the reality of young women with disabilities. I think there is a lack of appreciation for the pain our sisters feel, and a lack of common human decency. When I see efforts made to appreciate and support our young sisters, I wish I didn't have to think of a lot of those efforts as unique and one-time-only.

At Access Living, where I work, we have a fantastic program for girls with disabilities called the Empowered Fe Fes. This group not only provides peer support and information, but helps the girls build skills and take actions and make decisions on things that are important to them. Every girl with a disability deserves an opportunity like that. See

I think it is critical that young women with disabilities not only be affirmed as people, and people with disabilities, and as human beings, but also as females, as sisters. But when I see news stories such as the ones I mention above, I am reminded of how hard we have to fight for that affirmation. We truly do have to fight all kinds of systems and perceptions that inherently judge and discriminate against girls with disabilities.

I think this is a struggle that needs to be about people working together. The Fe Fes are an example of a positive effort in this struggle. FRIDA is also a positive example. Truly, to take up this cause, we have got to ask ourselves, and the media, and society as a whole, what can we do to work together to affirm our young sisters with disabilities? And then we have to take ACTION.

Have you supported and affirmed a young woman with a disability today?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nurse's unsympathetic comments about a patient may have contributed to her subsequent suicide

From this report in the Sydney Morning Herald (via Charlottesvillle Prejudice and Civil Rights Watch):

ALLEGED comments by a senior nurse that a patient’s attempt at suicide was “attention-seeking” may have contributed to the patient’s subsequent death, an
inquest has heard.

Emily Chapman, 20, took her life in February 2006 while being treated at the Cumberland Hospital psychiatric unit for a serious mental disorder.

It is alleged that following Ms Chapman’s earlier suicide attempt, a senior night nurse, Margot Gattenby, said she was “just an attention-seeker”.

“If she was serious she would not have pressed the [emergency] button,” Ms Gattenby is alleged to have told another nurse within Ms Chapman’s earshot.

Ms Gattenby denies the allegation, as well as the claim that she had told Ms Chapman she had “run out of compassion” for her and that she was not really ill.

Dr Phillip Brown, an independent psychiatrist who examined Ms Chapman’s case, yesterday told Glebe Coroner’s Court that if the allegations were true, Ms Chapman would have developed the perception that her nursing staff believed she was attention-seeking and she would shy away from interacting with them.

Under questioning, Dr Brown accepted that Ms Chapman had interacted on several occasions with some nurses after the alleged comments. However, he said she may have had particular trouble coping at night, shying away from certain nurses.

The court heard that Ms Chapman, who had frequent suicidal thoughts, had told a nurse that she would not warn staff members if she had the opportunity to take her own life.

She had written a letter complaining about Ms Gattenby, but did not send it for fear of retribution.

Patient dies after waiting 22 hours for assistance at a NC hospital

The Associated Press reported yesterday that a psychiatric patient died after workers at a North Carolina hospital left him for 22 hours without food or bathroom assistance. According to an investigator's report released on Monday, Steven Sabock, 50, died in April after sitting in a wheelchair, unattended, for four work shifts. The report also found that Mr Sabock had nothing to eat on the day he died, and had little food in the three days before his death. It also said that workers were supposed to be closely monitoring Mr Sabock's condition, and may have forged documents that said they had. A hospital surveillance video shows Mr Sabock, at one point, choking on his medication while a nurse stood by without helping him. The video also shows hospital staff watching television and playing cards only a few feet away. The state has until August 23 to file a report with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services detailing what changes officials are making, it is reported - if the report is rejected, federal funding to the facility will be cut off.

For other reports in the media, see here and here ...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Op-ed on the "r-word"

John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete and a Global Messenger from Fairfax, VA, has this op-ed in the Roanoke Times. Mr Stephens, 26, has Down syndrome. Here is an excerpt:

So, what's wrong with "retard"? I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the "in" group. We are someone that is not your kind. I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here -- alone. Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world that moves so much faster than I do.

You don't mean to make me feel that way. In fact, like I say in some of my speeches, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," and it works out OK most of the time. Still, it hurts and scares me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the bus and young people start making "retard" jokes or references. Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who are different from you. Imagine that they start making jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.

Last, I get the joke -- the irony -- that only dumb and shallow people are using a term that means dumb and shallow. The problem is, it is only funny if you think a "retard" is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things, but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.

That is why using "retard" is a big deal to people like me.

Woman with muscular dystrophy has to crawl off plane

Ruth over at Wheelie Catholic has written this post by that title in response to this article in the Consumerist. It begins:

On July 20th, Julianna's (delayed) Delta flight landed in Atlanta at 7:30pm, with a connecting flight scheduled for 8:05pm. Julianna, who has muscular dystrophy, missed the connecting flight because nobody came with a wheelchair until 8:05—the same time the connecting flight took off. To make matters worse, the plane crew told Julianna she might make the flight anyway if she stopped waiting for help and got off the plane right now, so she crawled down the stairs on her own. When the wheelchair came she was "wheeled into a back room and advised" that her plane had taken off. But that was just the first half of her ordeal, and the next eight hours only got worse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Does disability hate crime exist?

In this article by that title in yesterday's BBC news, Geoff Adams-Spink reviews a series of crimes that have been widely reported in the UK press, and attempts to determine whether they are isolated cases or evidence of intimidation and violence directed at people with disabilities. Here is an excerpt:

For Katharine Quarmby, a journalist who works for Disability Now magazine, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) place too much emphasis on a person's vulnerability, which means that they fail to look for evidence of hate crime.

It is very difficult to get at the extent of the problem: the CPS's own figures have been gathered in such a way that they include crimes committed by, as well as against, disabled people.

Whether it is "bullying", "harassment", "intimidation" or "hate crime" depends upon your perspective.

What is clear is that there are people who despise others for their difference and who behave in ways that make them feel victimised, excluded and afraid.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Patricia Bauer op ed: A movie, a word, and my family's battle

Patricia Bower has written this op ed in the Washington Post about the "Tropic Thunder" controversy. Patricia Bauer is a veteran journalist and mother of an adult daughter with Down syndrome. She also reports and provides commentary on disability issues at her blog PatriciaEBauer.

Here is the beginning of her article:

Margaret and I were lingering in front of the multiplex one evening last summer, a mom and her adult daughter laughing about the movie we'd just seen, when a gaggle of cute pre-teen girls sauntered past.

The one in the lead jerked a thumb in our direction and made a goofy face to her friend. "Look. Retard," we heard her say, and Margaret wilted. Her chin trembled. One by one, the other girls turned to look, nudging one another and whispering. The last girl spun all the way around as she slowly walked by, eyes fixed on my daughter.

In her size 6 jeans and Old Navy shirt, Margaret hadn't done anything to attract that unwanted attention. But then, my blond, blue-eyed daughter lives every day behind a face that can be a lightning rod for such talk. The beautiful face I've loved for 24 years displays some of the characteristic signs of Down syndrome, a chromosomal anomaly associated with varying degrees of cognitive impairment.

Last week lightning struck again, not just for Margaret, but for millions of Americans with intellectual disabilities. Ben Stiller's highly anticipated "Tropic Thunder" hit screens across the country...

More here....

Call for Abstracts: Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules in Public Spaces

Call for Abstracts

Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules in Public Spaces

Co-Editors, Chris Bobel, University of Massachusetts Boston and Samantha Kwan, University of Houston

This edited collection will assemble scholarly yet accessibly written works that explore the dimensions of resistance to embodied taboos of all sorts. We are interested in pieces that describe and analyze the many ways that humans subvert the social constraints that deem certain behaviors and bodily presentations as inappropriate, disgusting, private and/or forbidden in various cultural and historical contexts. Empirical, historical, theoretical and narrative contributions are equally welcome. This book, intended as a supplemental text for use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms, aims to advance and deepen our understanding of the motivations, experiences and consequences associated with the bodies that break the rules through the (intersecting) lenses of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, religiosity, class and nation. The editors welcome submissions from scholars in a range of disciplines, including but not limited to sociology, women’s and gender studies, anthropology, science studies, cultural studies, literary studies, disability studies, psychology, and history. We especially encourage scholarship which focuses on areas outside the US and the West.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, practices that challenge:

- Traditional attire norms, e.g., older women who do not “dress their age,” fat women who “show skin,” and parents who refuse to dress their children in traditional gender attire

- Conventional hair and body norms, e.g., women who conspicuously do not shave, youth who experiment with hair colors and cuts, and individuals with numerous and various forms of body art

- The binary construction of gender, e.g., various practices and performances by individuals who identify as transgender, queer, or metrosexual

- Biological processes considered contextually taboo, e.g., mothers who conspicuously breastfeed in public and women who do not hide the fact of their menstruation

- Physical conditions that carry stigma, e.g., cancer patients who do not conceal their hair loss, people with HIV/AIDS who speak openly about their infection status, and intersex individuals who publicly discuss their condition

- Cultural, religious, and/or ethnic norms, e.g., Muslim women who wear hijab in spite of policies or laws that forbid veiling and Falun Gong practitioners who meditate in public demonstrations

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: We invite authors to submit an abstract on or before December 19, 2008. Submissions should take the form of a 250-500 word abstract outlining the intent and scope of the paper, and where appropriate, author’s theoretical, empirical, and/or methodological framework. Authors will be notified by February 13, 2009about the status of their proposal. Full papers are expected by May 29, 2009.

Please direct inquiries and submissions to BOTH editors at:

Chris Bobelchris.bobel@umb.eduSamantha Kwan

Monday, August 18, 2008

Missing twins have been found

The Los Angeles News reports that the sixteen-year-old twins with developmental disabilities, who went missing from their home in Malibu (Ca) last weekend have been found. They were found on Thursday in the Los Angeles home of Alejandro Mora, 23, who has been charged with child abduction and rape. He is being held on $380,000 bail.
Deplorable conditions plague worst-run adult homes

That's the title of this article about a Times Herald-Record investigation that has found a disturbing piciture of neglect, abuse and indifference to residents in many of the Hudson Valley's adult care facilities. Despite reforms over the past few years, state oversight has been ineffective in regulating these homes, whose population comprises the elderly, infirm and mentally ill. The article begins:

The morning of Feb. 11, 2007, Karen Preston walked away from the Roscoe Manor Adult Home, headed north on Rockland Road. She stumbled into the woods about a mile away.

She fell repeatedly. She walked in circles. She curled up under a pine tree.

And that's where police found her frozen body two days later - her socks next to her body, no shoes on her feet. A medical examiner ruled that she died of hypothermia.

Karen Preston was 54 years old and suffered from severe schizophrenia. She had lived in Roscoe Manor because she needed help with daily activities and self-care that an adult home is supposed to provide.

Preston's death, while an extreme, underscores the deplorable conditions at some of the Hudson Valley's worst adult homes, a Times Herald-Record investigation found. In too many homes, the Record found, residents are routinely subjected to neglect, filth and indifference.

Inspections at 22 licensed adult homes in Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties from 2001-07 turned up 846 violations deemed to directly affect the safety or well-being of residents - with two-thirds of those citations recorded at the seven adult homes operated in Sullivan County.

A year after Preston disappeared, another Roscoe Manor resident, Ella Maye, walked away from the home.

Maye, 78, had dementia and heart disease. State police believe she suffered a fatal heart arrhythmia while walking on Rockland Road early on Feb. 23.

They believe she was trying to crawl back to Roscoe Manor when she collapsed on a neighbor's front lawn and died.

The adult home was supposed to do hourly bed checks, but Roscoe Manor owner Charles Benson said at the time that an employee had failed to do so.

No one noticed Ella Maye was missing.

more here ....
Employees with disabilities allege bias at SSA

See this article by that title. It begins:

Barbara Penny, a former supervisor at the Social Security Administration, says employees with disabilities at the agency are passed over for training and are viewed as a costly burden because they often require special accommodations, such as interpreters or electronic readers. As a result, they aren’t promoted as often as other employees.

In at least one instance, Penny, who lives in Auburn, Wash., said she and other members of a panel charged with reviewing top candidates for a job opening at the agency were provided details on each candidate’s race, gender and disabilities — factors that shouldn’t be considered in personnel decisions. The list was shredded after the selection panel made its decision, she said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that disability was a factor in decision-making because it was more convenient for SSA not to pick the disabled person who needed an expensive accommodation,” she said. Penny’s account is laid out in a new discrimination complaint that charges Social Security with systemic discrimination against employees with disabilities. More than 40 current and former employees who say they were denied promotions at the agency have provided statements in support of the complaint, which was filed June 27 before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Parents sue school over suicide of student with disabilities

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Jonathan King told teachers at his north Georgia alternate public school that he couldn’t stand being locked within the four concrete walls of a small seclusion room.

In 2004, just weeks after threatening suicide, the 13-year-old eighth-grader hanged himself in the room, using a cord a teacher provided him to hold up his pants, court records show.

Now, four years later, as the Alpine Program in Gainesville starts its new school year, Jonathan’s parents are suing the program and the agency that oversees it. Don and Tina King of Murrayville, just outside Gainesville, say the treatment their son received at the school was unconstitutional and the school failed to protect him from self-harm. A north Georgia judge is expected to decide soon whether the King’s case should be dismissed or sent to a jury trial.

full story is here ...

Friday, August 15, 2008

On-line petition protesting "Tropic Thunder"

via American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

Dear Entertainment Industry,

As people with disabilities, their friends, families, and supporters, we affirm the value, equality, and dignity of every member of the cross-disability community, including those of us, our family members, and peers with intellectual disabilities.

We, like all Americans, connect with the humanity of TV and film characters to add levity to our lives. We talk about what they do with our friends and co-workers. We laugh with the characters, cry with the characters, imitate their fashions, their haircuts, and their words. While we enjoy sharing joys and bearing pains with them, we are stunned when they insult, disrespect, and misrepresent us.

What constitutes hate speech can only be defined by the community it seeks to reference, and as a community of people with disabilities, we adamantly declare the "R-word" and its prolific use in the film "Tropic Thunder" a prime example of such hate speech...

...Read the rest and sign the petition.
Frida links

for the week 8/8/2008 to 8/15/2008

Two women with disabilities in New Hampshire are seeking an apology and considering court action against a store in Manchester after being told by an employee that their service dogs were not allowed inside, it is reported here.

The US Justice Department filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan (NY) yesterday (Aug 12) against Avalon Bay Communities, one of America's largest apartment developers, saying it unlawfully discriminated against people with disabilities while designing and constructing a 361-unit apartment complex on the the Lower Eeast Side, The NY Times reports. According to the lawsuit, the building has common areas that are not readily accessible to people with disabilities and lacks wheelchair-accessible routes to and from bathroom and kitchen areas within individual units.

The Utah State University press office reports that Gary Kiger, former dean of Utah State University’s College of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, died Monday, Aug. 11, in Salt Lake City at University Hospital. “Utah State University is greatly saddened by this news,” USU President Stan Albrecht said. “The Utah State University family has lost a valued and much-loved member. Gary’s accomplishments were many, and he will be missed ..." Kiger, along with three other graduate students, was the founder of the Society for Disability Studies (SDS).

According to an internal affairs report released on August 12, two deputies resigned, a third was fired, and another six have been suspended without pay over the incident in which Brian Sterner, a man with quadraplegia, was dumped onto the floor from his wheelchair in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida, while being booked by sheriff's deputies, the AP reports.

The Boston Globe features this story about a landmark settlment that will allow for people with brain injuries in Massachesetts to move from nursing homes into community care. The settlement is expected to greatly expand the community-care exception for people with brain injuries and redirect Medicaid money from nursing homes into community care. It envisions that new living arrangements would be developed for people with brain injuries in group homes, special apartments, or at home with their families, with intensive help.

HBO is planning a biopic of autistic author and animal expert Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes, Reuters reports. The movie has been nine years in the making. (via Autism Vox)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Woman in custody, accused of attempting to murder her sister in apartment fire

Yesterday's KSBY reported that an Orcutt (Santa Barbara, CA) woman has been accused of setting her apartment on fire with her sister, who has a disability, inside. According to investigators, the 50-year-old woman was seen leaving the area just before the flames came through the window. Her sister was inside at the time. The woman is being held in Santa Barbara County Jail on $500,000 bail.
National and international exhibitions planned for Beverly Baker's artworks

Before coming to Latitude's Art Studio in Downtown Lexington (Ky), most people regarded Beverly Baker's art as doodles, or as a way to pass the time.

This fall, Ms Baker, who has Down syndrome, will have her work on exhibit in Paris, France, followed by a solo exibit in New York. A few months ago, one of Ms Baker's works sold for $1,300.

Full story here...

(h/t to media-dis-n-dat)
Eugenics 2008? The deportation of Lucy Chapman

That's the title of this post over at What Sorts of People about 7-year-old Lucy Chapman: as reported earlier, Lucy Chapman and her parents were deported from Canada in July, 2008, because, her parents claim, Lucy has a disability.

Here is part of Professor Sobsey's post about the case:

When Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, both former police officers, arrived in Canada with their two Children to move into their newly purchased home in Fall River, Nova Scotia in July, 2008, however, they were turned away.

The story has received considerable coverage in the UK and quote the Chapmans who claim the Immigration Official explicitly told them that they were being denied because their daughter’s disability meant they were banned for life.


Canadian News sources have not given the story much coverage and Canadian officials claim that the couple was deported for other reasons but refuse to specify those reasons. See, the following story, for Canadian coverage. Brit family being deported but the question is why: Family thinks it’s because their child is disabled; MP told there’s more to it

Canadians and people with disabilities need a proper explanation. If there is no truth to these allegations, the air needs to be cleared. If there is even a bit of truth, it needs to be told and something needs to change. It is shame that it took a Supreme Court Decision in 2005 to get this policy changed, but it would be much greater shame if Canada continued to deft the court ruling through deceit.

This is only part of a much longer post. The full post is here...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The death of Danieal Kelly: an update

The New York Times reports that the parents of Danieal Kelly are suing the City of Philadelphia, arguing that the actions of several municipal employees and contract workers contributed to her death. As reported in earlier posts, Danieal Kelly, age 14, had cerebral palsy, and died in 2006 from starvation and neglect. Her mother, Andrea Kelly, 39, has been charged with her murder, and her father, Daniel Kelly, has been charged with child endangerment. The wrongful death lawsuit seeks reimbursement for medical bills, funeral costs and other expenses. An attorney for the parents said they filed the suit to protect the interests of siblings. According to this UPI report, prosecutors are outraged by the parents lawsuit, and have filed a motion to dismiss it.
Update: Ochoa Trial

United Press International (UPI) reports that a jury has found Cecilia Ochoa guilty of murdering her son, Matteon Ochoa, aged 3, in 2003. As noted in an earlier post, Matteo, who had an intellectual disability as a result of hydrocephalus, died after being struck in the head by a door pushed by his mother, who waited hours before calling authorities. Ms Ochoa, who has been charged with second-degree murder and assault causing death, faces at least 25 years in prison. She argued that Matteo's death was an accident, but admitted in court to having left the house knowing the boy was dead, it is reported.

More here...
Family of Rebecca Mullins file a wrongful death lawsuit

The Bay City Times (Michigan) reports that the family of Rebecca Mullins, whose body was found dead in an abandoned house three months after she left a Bay City group home, is suing a social services agency, the group home and a worker for wrongful death, pain, and suffering and loss of companionship of their family member. Accoding to the lawsuit filed in the Bay County Circuit Court, Ms Mullins, who was 57 and developmentally disabled, had a history of running away from the home, and that a "behavior treatment plan" drafted for her prescribed that staff should remain in the same room with her. Ms Mullins died of dehydration after falling through a rotted floor in the home and becoming entangled in a rafter.

more here...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Canada asks a British family to leave the country because their daughter has a disability

This story comes via Beth Haller over at Media-dis&dat. And William Peace over at the Bad Cripple has posted this about it.

Here is part of what he writes:

Last month a British family tried to move to Canada. Paul and Barbara-Anne Chapman, their two children, Jack and Lucy, as well as their dog, planned to move to Nova Scotia and open a business. Three years of careful planning was undermined on July 12 when they met with a Canadian Border Guard in Halifax. Apparently the Border Guard told the Chapman's they could not legally enter the country because their daughter was disabled. Lucy, 7 years old has Angelman Syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder. The Border Guard stated her daughter was banned from ever entering Canada under section 38 of the Federal Immigration Act. Despite concerted efforts to appeal this ban, the family was forced to return to Britain on July 30.
Words and Able-ism

Is the title of this post over at the Feminist Philosophers blogspot. Its good to see disability perspectives being discussed at a feminist blog. And there's lots of discussion going on in the comments.

Here is an excerpt:

... This reminded me of Shelley’s argument that terms like ‘double-blind’ are offensive (see the comments here). But it also reminded me of one of the things I promised to discuss eventually– a talk at the recent SWIP conference by Jackie Leach Scully. Part of Scully’s discussion was about the many metaphors based on bodily abilities. Her focus was on the different ways that these metaphors may be understood by people whose bodies work in different ways. Scully, for example, is profoundly deaf, and reported that she spent many years misunderstanding the phrase “I hear what you’re saying”. It’s meant to convey a fairly deep level of understanding, but for Scully, hearing is about piecing something together very uncertainly from fragmentary clues– leading to a very different understanding of the metaphor. She listed many other such metaphors: “stand on your own two feet”; “stable”, and so on, noting each time how the metaphor might be understood by people with various different sorts of bodies. I thought of both the very widespread feminist discussion of ’silencing’. Interestingly, Scully explicitly did not want to argue that all metaphors like these were offensive, despite the fact that they present being able to stand and being stable as positive, and being unable to speak audibly as negative (and equivalent to being unable to communicate). Instead, her take was that the experience of one’s own body is so fundamental that basing metaphors on it is inevitable; but that we should be aware of the potential for miscommunication when we do this. It’s perfectly compatible with this thought, of course, to find some particular such metaphors offensive, and I imagine that she does, though this wasn’t her focus. How to distinguish between the offensive and non-offensive metaphors would then become an important issue.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Update: Tawnisha Harbour case

Action 3 News, Omaha, Nebraska reports that Tawnisha Harbour's mother, Cherie Harbour, 40, has waived her preliminary hearing, and will go to trial on the charge of abuse of a vulnerable adult.

As reported in an earlier post, Tawnisha Harbour, 23, died after suffering burns to her arms, legs and face in a house fire. It is alleged that Tawnisha, who used a wheelchair, was left unattended in the house and was unabled to escape when the fire broke out. According to police, Wendy Harbour locked Tawnisha in her bedroom by tying a bedsheet to the outside door knob to the room. That made it impossible for her to escape when the fire broke out.

See here for an earlier report.
Caregiver to stand trial for sexual assault

The FDL Reporter reports that a 52-year-old man (Oshkosh, Wis.) has been charged with sexually assaulting his stepdaughter. The 28-year-old woman, who suffers from a serious heart problem and uses a ventilator, told authorities that her step-father assaulted her two years ago, at least 15 times, and that he threatened not to suction her breathing tube if she resisted. The woman, who also has a developmental disability, alleges that he once turned off the power to the room, which affected her breathing equipment. The man has been charged with five counts of second-degree sexual assault, and will face a jury trial in late October.
Negligent Homicide Verdict

This report via ICAD

The Tuscon Citizen reports Diane Lynn Marsh, 41, was convicted of negligent homicide and four counts of child abuse, in the death of her 5-year old son, Brandon Williams, who had autism. The jury did not register any decision on the first-degree murder charge against Marsh, leaving open the possibility that she could be retried on that charge.

Evidence presented at the trial indicated that the child died from a severe blow to the head resulting in a 3.5 inch skull fracture. Autopsy results suggested the fatal injury had occurred in the 24 hour prior to the boys death but found there were also signs of previous injuries. He had also been tied to his bedposts, overdosed with medication, and scaled with hot water. He had numerous burn scars on various parts of his bodies and the burns on his feet were infected. Ms. Marsh is expected to be sentenced on September 2nd.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Conference Announcement: Cognitive Disability and Moral Philosophy

The Stony Brook University Department of Philosophy presents:

Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy

September 18 – 20, 2008
Stony Brook Manhattan 401 Park Avenue South (Between 27th and 28th Street)

Rethinking and revising traditional assumptions about personhood, autonomy, agency, justice, care, human relationships, classification, and moral light of Alzheimer’s, autism and ‘mental retardation.’

Keynote Speakers:

Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University;
Leslie Francis, University of Utah;
Ian Hacking, Collège de France, University of Toronto;
Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago;
Peter Singer, Princeton University;
Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University;
Anita Silvers, San Francisco State University;
Daniel Wikler, Harvard University School of Public Health;
Jonathan Wolff, University College London


Douglas Biklen, School of Education and Facilitated Communication Institute, Syracuse University;
Jeffrey Brosco, M.D. University of Miami and the Mailman Center for Child Development;
Licia Carlson, Harvard University;
James C. Harris, M.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine;
Agnieszka Jaworska, University of California, Riverside;
Bruce Jennings, Yale University School of Medicine;
Eva Kittay Stony Brook University/SUNY;
Hilde Lindemann Michigan State University;
Victoria McGeer Princeton University;James Nelson Michigan State University;
Henry Richardson Georgetown University;
Cynthia Stark University of Utah;
David Shoemaker Bowling Green State University;
Anna Stubblefield Rutgers University, Newark;
Sophia Wong Long Island University.

For additional information see
For questions contact

Co-sponsored by The Center for Discovery, New York University Center for Bioethics, and Metaphilosophy (Wiley-Blackwell), the Office of the Provost at Stony Brook University/SUNY, Forest Laboratories. Also NYC AHRC, Alzheimer's Association, College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University, Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, Philosophy Department at Southern Connecticut State University, Templeton Research Lecture Series at Stony Brook University, S. Donald Sussmann, The Abelson Company

For disability-related accommodation contact Licia Carlson at (617) 496-4349. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Frida links

for the week 08/01/2008 to 08/08/2008

A 64-year-old Oregon woman with lung cancer has been told by her health insurance company that they will not pay for the drugs that her doctor has prescribed her, but will cover the cost of the drugs for a physician-assisted death, ABC news reports.

A careworker (UK) has been sentenced to a least 30 years in prison for planning the murder of a man with disabilities so she could inherit his money, the Telegraph reports.

It's reported here that a Glenwood Springs (Colorado) man has been accused of sexually assaulting a intellectually impaired woman, for whom he was a "job coach."

An Australian airport has been asked to explain why a 86-year-old woman was required to stand for a wheelchair scan, the Herald Sun reports.

In this story, Felicia Simms talks about her raising and care for her one-year-old conjoined twins, Krista and Tatiana, and why the termination of her pregnancy was not an option for her.

A woman in a nursing home has died from asphyxiation after her neck became caught in the safety belt of her wheelchair, the Irish Times reports.

The jail terms for the three men who pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the manslaughter of a developmentally impaired man were too lenient, says the man's aunt.
Charlotte Docherty turns five

When Charlotte Docherty, from Eston, Teesside (UK), was born with Patau Syndrome, also known as trisomy 13, doctors told her parents that she would live for only a few weeks.

Charlotte, who is blind and has various disabilities resulting from the syndrome, celebrated her fifth birthday last month, and a neurologist has told her parents she is healthy and might live to adulthood.

More here.
We can't ignore the AIDS plight of the disabled

See this article by that title that appeared in yesterday's Globe and Mail.
Deliberations begin in the Ochoa trial

Deliberations have begun in the trial of Cecilia Angelita Ochoa, 31, who is charged with first-degree murder and assault resulting in great bodily injury in the death of her 3-year-old son, Matteo. Matteo had an intellectual disability as a result of hydrocephalus. It is alleged that Matteo died after being struck in the head by a door pushed by his mother, and that his mother waited hours before getting help after she injured him. It is also alleged that Ms Ochoa waited six hours before contacting authorities about Matteo's death. If convicted, Ms Ochoa faces 40 years to life in prison.

More here.

An earlier report is here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"The fact is that people with disabilities are dying silently from AIDS" because they are being excluded from HIV/AIDS programs and initiatives

"Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection"

This report from the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City:

People with disabilities are at a greatly heightened risk of HIV infection, but they are excluded from HIV/AIDS data collection and research - and largely ignored by providers of HIV prevention, treatment and care. This is a gross violation of human rights said AIDS-Free World and Disabled Peoples' International at a press conference August 4 at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. The organizations are calling for the immediate inclusion of people with disabilities in national and global AIDS surveys and in all AIDS research, data collection and programming.

"We have no idea exactly how many people with disabilities are HIV positive, how many are educated about the risks of HIV/AIDS or how many are able to access treatment," said Rachel Kachaje, Deputy Chairperson of Disabled Peoples' International. "This lack of data highlights the neglect of people with disabilities, and makes it extremely difficult to obtain funding, or to strategically design policies and programming to reach this population. The fact is that people with disabilities are dying silently of AIDS."

One in ten people - 650 million individuals worldwide - have a disability that affects their daily lives. Four-fifths live in developing countries, mostly in rural areas. They are among the most stigmatized, poorest and least educated of the world's citizens. Anecdotal evidence suggests a risk of HIV infection twice as high as that faced by the non-disabled population, and most of the risk factors for HIV are increased for people with disabilities. Incorporating people with disabilities into all data and research on HIV/AIDS will reduce the vulnerability of a large, but often invisible, segment of society.

"If people with disabilities are left out of AIDS research, policies and programming, then we are relegating 10 per cent of the world's population to the far margins of the AIDS response," said Professor Nora Groce, Chairperson of the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre at University College in London.

Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection since they are often wrongly assumed to be sexually inactive. Because it is also frequently presupposed that girls with disabilities will not marry, many families and communities fail to give them information on sexuality, leaving them especially vulnerable to HIV. Women with disabilities, the vast majority of whom have been denied educational opportunities, have exceptionally low levels of literacy - around 1% - and are up to three times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and rape.

"Disability, like HIV/AIDS, disproportionately harms women and is intricately intertwined with poverty and social and economic marginalization," said Myroslava Tataryn, advisor on Disability and AIDS for AIDS-Free World. "Women with pre-existing disabilities are often already dependent on caregivers, whether physically, economically or both. Contracting HIV only worsens their situation. Some may be punished for having the ‘nerve' to be sexually active, and may lose what little social support they have. This additional layer of stigma further exacerbates their poverty and marginalization."

Representatives from AIDS-Free World and Disabled Peoples' International called on the United Nations, governments, and delegates attending the XVII International AIDS Conference to end a decades' long pattern of neglect and discrimination that has rendered people with disabilities ‘invisible' at all levels of the response to the pandemic.

New information released in the Jason Rimer case

In an earlier post, I reported that Colleen and Stanley Rimer had pleaded not guility to charges of 2nd degree murder, child abuse and neglect in the death of their 4-year-old son, Jason Rimer, who had myotonic dystrophy, and whose body was found dead in the family SUV from heat stress. He is believed to have been inside the car for 17 hours.

Since then, new information has been reported about the case. According to this report, since 1988, Child Protection Services had 21 contacts or referrals involving the Rimers following various allegations of abuse and neglect and complaints about the health and well being of Jason, as well as his brothers and sisters. Of those, fourteen were unsubstantiated.

It is also reported here that Jason's body was moved before investigators arrived on June 9. According to the grand jury testimony, "...The right front passenger door and the driver's door were approximately rolled down about halfway. And then the rear seat bench seat, the windows on both of those doors were about twenty-five percent or about a fifth of the way down."

The murder trial for Colleen and Stanley Rimer begins September 8.

There is additional information here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Utah man pleads guilty to killing Lisa Chambers 26 years ago

The Idaho Statesman reports that Wesley Allan Tuttle, aged 55, has pleaded guilty to the killing of Lisa Chambers, age 14.

The body of Ms Chambers, who was intellectually disabled, was found in a frozen cornfied on November 25, 1982. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

A blood test in 2007 identified the DNA of Tuttle as a match with the bodily fluids found on Ms Chambers. At the time of the test, he was serving a sentence in a Utah prison for an unrelated 1983 murder. Tuttle has been sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder of Ms Chambers.

When questioned by the judge about the murder, Tuttle said, it is reported, "I don't know," ... "I don't remember'' ... "What my intentions were, I have no idea," adding only that he was full of rage at the time.
More on Danieal Kelly

Professor Sobsey over at the International Coalition on Abuse and Disability blog (ICAD) has posted these thoughts about the death by starvation and neglect of Danieal Kelly and the recent charging of nine people in relation to her death. He blogs:

Two things make this case stand out:

1. While it is not rare for parents to be charged in the death of a child through neglect, it is very unusual for criminal charges to be brought against child protection or social workers for failure to protect a child.

2. In some cases, a child’s disability has been used as a convenient excuse for not holding caregivers responsible. There have been a number of cases of children with disabilities being starved and neglected to death or near death before, and the death has often been blamed on the child’s disability, rather than fatal neglect. In this case, the unnecessary death of a child with a disability was taken seriously.

Both of these things are good signs. They will help wake up people in the system and in the general public to a higher level of accountability and that is good. We should be glad to see weaknesses in the system exposed because it is an essential step in improving the system. However, exposing these weaknesses, or even punishing a handful of people, is not enough to ensure that meaningful change takes place. These actions only have meaning if they are followed up by system reform.

To read the rest of Professor Sobsey's post about what is happening with this case, see here:
Woman's request to abort her fetus with a congenital heart diseases is rejected by Indian court

Via the Associated Press

MUMBAI, India (AP) — An Indian court on Monday rejected a woman's petition to abort her 25-week-old fetus with a congenital heart problem, saying the law does not permit such late-term abortions.

Last month, Niketa Mehta, 31, her husband, Haresh, and their gynecologist, Dr. Nikhil Dattar, petitioned the court to allow an abortion. Their lawyer, Amit Karkhanis, says the couple can't afford to pay for the frequent change of pacemaker that the fetus' condition would require.

The Mehtas, who found out after 24 weeks that the fetus had congenital heart disease, fear the quality of the child's life would suffer, Karkhanis said.

But the Bombay High Court said that it was up to Parliament and not the court to change the provisions of Indian law, which specifies that a pregnancy cannot be terminated after 20 weeks unless the mother faces a medical risk.

India's attention has been riveted on the case, which has sought to challenge the country's 37-year-old Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act that permits abortions after 20 weeks only if there is a risk to the mother.

Abortions are legal in India until the 12th week of pregnancy. Between 12 and 20 weeks abortions are allowed if either the mother or the fetus faces a health risk.

Dattar said he believes the option should have been left to the parents.

"My plea was that the decision is best left to the parents who will take care of the child," he said. "We sought the opinion of many doctors and we were worried about the quality of life the child would have."

The Mehtas did not indicate on Monday whether they would appeal the case in India's highest court, the Supreme Court.

Jayesh Kamath, a member of the Indian Medical Association, described the court's verdict as a victory. "Children with pacemakers can lead full lives," he said. "If this case was accepted, then people could abort babies on any ground."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's not funny

"An ugly story" accompanied by "a disgraceful set of comments" - that's how the blogger Wheelchair Dancer describes this story about a women who charges she was ridiculed by firefighters sent to assist her when her self-powered wheelchair chair got stuck in the up position. The basic story: when FDY arrived at the woman's home, according to the lawsuit she has filed against NY city, they laughed at her openly because she was stuck in her chair. And then one of them broke her shoulder. The woman, who is paralyzed down her left side and does not speak English, also alleges that a Spanish-speaking firefighter ignored her requests to be careful before grabbing her by the wrist and yanking her.

Here is more of Wheelchair Dancer's response:

This is an appalling story; it and the comments at Gothamist reveal the ease with which weight and disability become the targets of humour. I don't know why fat is so funny. I long ago ceased to find fatsuits funny (teenage years?) -- feminism and other teenage girls do that for you. I don't find being stuck in your mobility technology funny, either. Why are fat and disability funny? Honestly, I don't get it.

I hope that the suit is successful. Because a fat woman stuck in her chair *is* an emergency -- no, I don't think she should have called the chair service people. Because a fat woman in a chair is a human being. And because all citizens deserve some dignity.

You can read her entire post here.
Trans woman with disability fights to use indoor pool's women's locker room

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a disabled trans woman has filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission following the insistence of city officials in Cleveland that she change her clothes in the men's locker room of the indoor pool at Cudell Recreation Center. According to the report, Karen Deamons, 53, who uses a wheelchair since suffering three strokes in 2003 and 2004 , used to change in the private stall of the women's locker room without conflict. However, after about five months, a few women complained they felt uncomfortable. After meeting with city officials and telling them she has not had sex reassignment surgery, she has been required to change her clothes in the men's locker room. According to Ms Deamons, a doctor has told her she must swim in order to help keep her left arm and leg mobile. Moreover, she is reliant upon public transport and Cudell is the most convenient pool from her Cleveland home. Ms Deamons, who cannot switch to another city pool because the mandate applies to all them, and who cannot afford to join a private club, is also fearful she will be beaten by gangs when they see her coming out of the men's room. "I want the city to let me go through the ladies room as a normal woman," she said.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Her new role is fighting old label

That's the title of this interview with Michelle Colvard, 32, who was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair America. Ms Colvard, who was born with spina bifida, has a master's degree in public health and is the executive director of the mayor's office for people with disabilities in Houston. In her interview, she says that the Ms. Wheelchair competition is not a beauty pageant, but aims to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about women who use wheelchairs and women with disabilities more generally. She would like everyone, but especially children, to see Ms. Wheelchair America as "a strong, confident, attractive woman who just happens to have a disability." Here is part of what she says about the effects of negative stereotyping and the representation of women with disabilities in the media:

Q: What are some misconceptions about women with disabilities?

A: They're two main ways that the media portray women who have disabilities. It's either kind of passive, needing help, victim, suffering. You hear a lot of those words, wheelchair-bound, these negative-word connotations ... On the other hand, women with disabilities who have done pretty well for themselves are put up on a pedestal. I think sometimes that's a bad thing, too.

Q: How do stereotypes translate to how the public treats people with disabilities?

A: I think people have good intentions and want to help. I will be in a Wal-Mart and somebody will come up behind me and start pushing me. And I'll say, "No, I've really got it." And they'll argue with you about it. But on the other hand, if you see somebody who looks like they clearly need some help, like they're struggling, you should help them.

There's lots more. And quite a lot of discussion in the comments section.

See also Kay Olsen's reference to the interview in this post over at The Gimp Parade.
Residential-care cottage suspends worker charged in Danieal Kelly's death

From The Delco Times (Philadelphia, PA)

A 51-year-old Upper Darby man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the August 2006 death of a disabled Philadelphia girl has been suspended from his job at Elwyn, a human service organization for the developmentally disabled in Middletown.
Elwyn President Sandra Cornelius said Julius Murray, who Philadelphia police records show as living on the 200 block of Heather Road in Upper Darby, was suspended Friday, the same day he was arraigned in Philadelphia Municipal Court and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly.

A Philadelphia grand jury report released last Thursday concluded that Murray, who worked for a private agency, Philadelphia Department of Human Services case workers, and the girl's parents, could have prevented her from dying of starvation and infection. All are facing charges in connection with the death of the teenager, who was only 42 pounds when she died.

A cerebral palsy victim, Danieal was malnourished and suffering from maggot-infested bedsores when paramedics found her dead Aug. 4, 2006, in a stifling room on a mattress on a feces-covered floor in her mother's West Philadelphia home.

Cornelius said Murray's application to Elwyn did not mention his involvement with the Danieal Kelly case. Cornelius declined to discuss Murray's duties at Elwyn, but according to Philadelphia police records, he was a supervisor. He is reportedly a second-shift supervisor at a residential-care cottage on Elwyn's main campus in Middletown.

"He's innocent until proven guilty," said Cornelius. "We're cooperating with (Philadelphia District Attorney) Lynne Abraham, for whom we have the utmost
respect. We felt the best action for everyone's interests is to suspend Mr. Murray.

"Danieal had been in the care of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services who, in 2005, had contracted the now-defunct MultiEthnic Behavioral Health agency to handle the case.

Murray, an employee of the private agency, was required to visit the family twice a week, but investigators believe he may have gone to the home only once to have the child's mother, Andrea Kelly, sign pre-dated forms attesting to future visits he never made to check on Danieal's welfare.

In addition to involuntary manslaughter, Murray has been charged with records-tampering, forgery, fabricating evidence, endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 11. It was not clear Saturday night whether he had made bail that was set at 10 percent of $50,000. Mickal Kamuvaka, director of MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Andrea Kelly, 39, has been charged with murder and her 37-year-old husband, Darby resident Daniel Kelly, with child endangerment. Two Philadelphia Department of Human Services social workers assigned to Danieal's case, Dana Poindexter and Laura Sommerer, have been charged with endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.

Three friends of Andrea Kelly are charged with perjury for allegedly trying to protect Mrs. Kelly by lying to the grand jury about Danieal's emaciated condition.According to the 258-page grand jury report, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services received at least five reports about the mistreatment of Danieal between 2003 and 2005. She was described as a "helpless child sitting unattended, unkempt and unwashed, in a small stroller in her own urine and feces" whose mother ignored her screams.

The stroller served as a wheelchair and apparently never left the house.

On Friday, city officials announced the resignation of Philadelphia Assistant Health Commissioner Carmen Paris, who, the grand jury maintained, interfered in the investigation of Danieal's death while she was acting health commissioner.Last Thursday, newly installed Philadelphia Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose vowed to improve child safety and worker accountability in the agency.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Nine people have been charged in the death of Danieal Kelly

The Associated Press reports that nine people have been charged in the death of Danieal Kelly, a 14-year old girl with cerebral palsy who was only 42 pounds when she died from starvation in August, 2006.

Danieal Kelly's mother has been charged with murder, and her father has been charged with child endangerment. Seven other people have also been charged.

These include two social workers from the Department of Human Services, who have been charged with child endangerment for failing to act upon reports that Danieal was not receiving medical care, social services or schooling, and two social workers who worked for a company hired by the DHS to provide services to Daniel; they have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and for falsifying records to cover up the fact that they rarely checked on her, it is reported.

Three friends of Danieal's mother were also arrested and charged with perjury for telling grand jurors on the day before Danieal's body was discovered that she was doing fine.

District Attorney Lyne Abraham is quoted as calling the DHS's handling of the case "callous, indifferent, unconscionable" and all too familiar. According to Abraham:

Daniel did not fall through the cracks ... It was a failure of institutional inclination. Saving Danieal was just too much trouble.

Excerpts from the 258-page grand jury report recommending the charges include:

In the final weeks of her life, Danieal's brother - himself only a child - kept telling his mother that something was wrong, but she dismissed him. Shortly before his sister died, he begged his mother to call an ambulance. She refused. Only the next day, with flies buzzing all over her body, was 911 contacted.

During this investigation we found a tall, filthy cardboard box in [DHS social worker Dana] Poindexter's cubicle, big enough to hold a file cabinet. The box was filled to the top with random case files, food wrappers, and unopened business envelopes (some with four-year-old postmarks). At the bottom of the pile was Danieal's file.

Even when she personally visited the Kelly apartment, [DHS social worker Laura] Sommerer failed to check on Danieal; on the last occasion, five weeks before the child's death, when she had already lost 50% of her weight and at times was left sitting in her own urine and feces, Sommerer noticed nothing amiss at all.

At least one [DHS] administrator herself back-dated reports about Danieal, some by more than a year, with false dates and determinations to make it look like they had been properly completed. She said this was a common practice at DHS.

On the afternoon and evening of Danieal's death, [part-owner/director of MultiEthnic Behavior Health Mickal] Kamuvaka convened what in essence was a forgery fest in her office. She directed [employees] to concoct almost a year's worth of false progress reports, to substitute for all the work that had never actually been done.

For more excerpts, see the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Frida links

for the week 07/25/2008 to 08/1/2008

Charges were filed this week against a Sarasota (Fl) elementary school teacher who is accused of abusing her special education students. According to police, there were dozens of instances in which the woman kicked, slapped and hit her students.

Michigan's hate crime law would broaden to include gays, lesbians and people with disabilities under changes urged by civil rights groups, the Detroit Free Press reports. The changes will be debated during the fall.

"In Switzerland, an easier path for the disabled" is the title of this NPR story. (h/t to Media dis&dat)

A Government inquiry has found that people with learning disabilities across England are not treated fairly by the NHS. According to the inquiry's Chairperson, "existing guidelines and laws - such as the Disability Discrimination Act - aimed at making sure people with learning disabilities got equal treatment were not being followed."

Two posts by Kristina Chew over at Austism Vox: Home-care Worker Caught Abusing Autistic Man and Strapped to a Toilet in a Darkened Room.

Two care home nurses in Glasgow (UK) have been suspended over allegations that elderly residents were tortured and sexually abused, the Sunday Mail reports.

"Out, proud and disabled" via Media dis&dat.