Monday, June 30, 2008

A bill currently before the Ohio Senate would grant people with disabilities protection under Ohio's hate crime laws.

According to this report in the Cincinnati Enquirer. If the bill is passed, it would put disability in the same category as race, color, religion, and national origin.

The impetus for adding disability to hate crime laws was the violent attack, in February, of Ashley Clark, a Ohio high school senior, by two teenage boys. Clark, who has intellectual disabilities, was allegedly tied up, robbed and beaten with a baseball bat. Her hair was cut off and her prom dress destroyed. Her disability appears to be a key reason why she targeted.

"This will put people on notice that the state of Ohio views those actions with the same severity as they do crimes against any other group," said Lin Laing, executive director for Center for Independent Living Options in Cincinnati.

The blogspot What Sorts of People also has a post about the bill and raises some important questions about it. How for example, do we determine when a crime committed against a person with a disability is a hate crime? You can read the post in full here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Frida links

for the week 6/20/2008 to 6/27/2008

A federal judge has ruled that the Wichita County Heritage Society violated the ADA when it denied a young girl who uses a wheelchair access to the Kell House to see Santa Clause, Times Record News reports. (h/t to Patricia E Bauer)

Samuel Golubchuk, the patient in the Winnepeg futile care lawsuit, has died while on life support, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. RIP Mr Golbuchuk.

Eight women with disabilities will compete to become a model in a BBC reality TV show called "Britain's Missing Top Model." The BBC3 series will begin next week on Tuesday.

"An estimated 3.5 million displaced people live with disabilities in refugee camps around the world," and these refugees have limited access to resources, according to the most recent report from The Woman's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

"Displaced, disabled, and in need of our care" is the title of The Boston Globe's story about The Woman's Commission's report noted above.

Disability dolls are becoming popular, according to this report in The Times, UK.

Elder abuse is on the rise in Florida. According to WCTV News, the department of elder affairs says that it has received 42,000 reports of abuse and neglect already this year, which is up nearly 15% from last year.

Nearly 1,200 elderly or disabled Alabamians will lose state-funded homemaker services in August because of budget constraints, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.

House leaders have announced plans to install wheelchair lifts in their chamber so that people with disabilities will have access to the speaker's podium, the Associated Press reports.

The father of a ten-year-old girl with disabilities who died after she was left in a scalding bath, has been convicted of third-degree murder, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child, the Associated Press reports.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

FRIDA Will Roll at the Chicago Dyke March

On Saturday, June 28, FRIDA will be in the Dyke March in Chicago. The Dyke March is an annual non-disability event celebrating dykes, queerness and transgender people. FRIDA will march to represent the disability community, show we are an ally, and celebrate our members and friends who are LGBTQ and intersex.

We will meet with the rest of the march at 18th and Halsted at 1 pm, and step off to march at 2:30 pm. We will march on 18th Street to Damen (Harrison Park). There will be live events till 5 pm. Join us if you can! Just look for the FRIDA t-shirts.
A man has been accused of raping and sexual abusing a developmentally disabled teenage girl in his home in Odgen

The man, 57, is charged with 17 counts including rape, sex abuse and endangering the welfare of a developmentally or physically disabled person, according to this report from Ogden, Utah.

The girl, who is 16-years-old, has told police that she was raped and sexually abused over the past year in the man's home in Odgen.

Information about the man's relation to the girl - was he employed as her caregiver? - is not provided.
The House has passed a major bill that will make it easier for workers with disabilities to prove discrimination

The bill, which was approved 402 to 17, "would explicitly relax some stringent standards set by the court" and says that disability is to be "construed broadly to cover more physical and mental impairments."

The White House said that although President Bush "supports the overall intent" of the House bill, he was concerned that it "could unduly expand" coverage and significantly increase litigation.

The full story, from The New York Times, is here.
The very unfriendly skies

That's the title of this post by Kristina Chew at Autism Vox about the removal of 2-year-old Jarret Farrell and his mother, Janice Farrell, from an American Eagle flight at the Raleigh-Durham (NC) because of Jarret's behavior. This is part of what Kristina writes:

There’s many a judgment about the “behavior problems” of autistic children, and about their stubborn parents who just don’t get that they should stay at home.

... What is more disturbing is the negative and sometimes vitriolic tone in some comments about the boy, his mother, how disabled people should behave, what utism is, what people who are differenced are entitled to, and passenger comfort.

... Still, from reading the ABC News report, the response of the flight crew (those requests to tighten a seatbelt could evoke not only sensory distress in Charlie, but also agony at the barrage of words and orders directed to him) does not sound like it helped. Just today in New Jersey legislation calling for autism
training for first responders
(Bill A-1908/S-1217) passed and it seems that this kind of training—including more understanding about disabled individuals and the accommodations they need—-is more than called for. Janice Farrell has noted that “had the flight crew been more patient and understanding, the situation might not have escalated”: As parents of autistic children know, more patience, more nderstanding, can go a long way when you’re at the beginning of a long trip.

Read the whole thing - there's lots more.
A mother has been accused of on suspicion of abusing her disabled daughter after her daughter suffered burns to much of her body when a fire broke out in the house while she had been left alone

The Associated Press reports that the woman has been arrested "on suspicion of abuse of a vulnerable adult." According to the report, the 40-year-old woman locked her 23-year-old daugher, who uses a wheelchair, in her room by "tying a bedsheet to the outside door knob to the room." That made it impossible for the young woman to escape when the fire broke out.

The women suffered burns over 30 percent of her body and is still recovering in an Omaha (Nebraska) hospital.

Her mother will make her first court appearance next Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A "caregiver" has been charged with raping and impregnating a woman with developmental disabilities

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that the 44-year-old woman, who is blind, has a seizure disorder and developmental disabilities, lived in a Kent (Auburn, WA) assisted-living facility. She had a miscarriage in March.

The 31-year-old man, who had been the woman's "caregiver," had worked at the facility since September 2006. He has been charged with second-degree rape.

The full story is here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The case of a woman locked up by her family for 18 years highlights the widespread stigma attached to people with mental illness and physical disabilities in rural Italy.

"But this measure is often taken with the mentally ill, also because there is little access to health care in the most isolated areas," according to the prosecutor in the case.

Investigators are also trying to find out why authorities were not alerted earlier. It's reported that the woman has been receiving a monthly disability check since the late 1980s, and that health officials should have been paying her ocassional visits.

The full story is here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Frida links

for the week 6/13/2008 to 6/20/2008

State officials have offered a woman with lung cancer the option of having the Oregon Health Plan pay for an assisted suicide, but not for the chemotherapy prescribed by her physician, according to this report.

Newborn babies with Down syndrome are being turned away from a leading disability service in the UK and adults with intellectual disabilities are also being left homeless because of a funding crisis, it is reported here.

It's reported in this story from the UK that a man and two youths jailed for life for killing Brent Martin, 23, who had learning difficulties, have had their minimum sentences reduced. The disability group Scope said the decision sends out the wrong message about crimes against people with disabilities. (h/t to Patricia E Bauer)

A Hobart (Australia) woman is hoping the Tasmanian Premier will intervene in her fight to have her autistic son attend school, the ABC (Australia) reports. (h/t to BA Haller)

An Australian jury has convicted two women of manslaughter in the death of an Australian man that Swiss authorities had refused to legally euthanize because it was unclear if he had the cognitive ability to decide, the International Herald Tribune reports.

The mother of a child with a disability who uses a wheelchair is angered by a seating snafu at a Cinemark movie theater.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Frida links will be posted on Monday

I'm heading off to a conference today - I will post the links for this past week on Monday.

Until then, have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In Florida, a mother and a husband disagree over the treatment over a disabled woman

From the Palm Beach Post:

Seven months ago, Karen Weber had a stroke. Weber, 57, is in a nursing home, now, and her family members are battling over whether to remove the feeding tube that keeps her alive. She is paralyzed on her left side and cannot speak, but she is breathing on her own.

Weber's husband, Raymond Weber, says his wife is in a vegetative state. He is seeking to have her feeding tube removed and his wife moved to hospice care, where she might die.

But Weber's mother, Martha Tatro, and other members of her family, say she is alert and responsive and "there is no doubt she is aware of what's going on."

An Okeechobee County judge has issued an injunction blocking the removal of the tube until he decides whether Mrs. Weber is capable of making her own decision.

the full story is here
Alex Barton testified yesterday in an internal school investigation

according to this CBS 12 news report. It’s noted that Alex’s mother, Melissa Barton, “is not primarily seeking monetary damages. She wants autism awareness and training for district employees.” Alex plans to return to another elementary school this fall as a first grader.

(h/t to Kristina Chew over at Autism Vox)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

FRIDA Chapter Guidelines Now Available!

Go visit and check out our chapter guidelines! If you have been thinking about starting your own FRIDA chapter, read over the guidelines and get in touch! I know I keeping typing exclamation points but I am so excited!!!!

The Society for Disability Studies is holding its annual conference this week in New York City

Just passing on to readers that the Society for Disability Studies (SDS) will host scholars from around the world at its annual conference June 18-21, 2008, at Baruch College, 55 Lexington Avenue, New York City.

The complete program is available for viewing here.

SDS will also bring together an exciting line-up of disability culture performances on Friday, June 20, among them - British actor, performer and host of the BBC’s Ouch! Disability Talk Show Mat Fraser, the Heidi Latsky Modern Dance Company, performance artist Lezlie Frye, the rap group 4 Wheel City and deaf actress Alexandria Wailes.

More information is available, courtesy of BA Haller, at her blog Media dis&dat.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Call for papers

9th Annual Second City Conference onDisability Studies in Education
in partnership with the Syracuse University Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies

Conference on Disability Studies and Law

May 1-3, 2009

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

Righting Educational Wrongs:
Disability Studies in Education, Policy & Law


This jointly sponsored conference will explore the relationship between disability studies in education, policy and law. The conference is co-sponsored by Disability Studies in Education, the Syracuse University Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies, the SU College of Law Disability Law and Policy Program, and the SU School of Education.

Disability Studies involves the critical examination of the role of"normalcy" in society. It requires us to recognize, appreciate, and most importantly, value difference. To the extent that legal education examines how to recognize, legitimate, and allocate differences--different rights, responsibilities, resources, and even justice within society, DisabilityStudies provides a lens through which we can analyze the meaning of such differences within our legal and educational systems, and in the larger society. Further, putting law and disability studies in education in conversation provides a rich context from which to question issues of power, privilege, and to consider how differences are defined within education and legal systems.

Syracuse University is particularly well suited to host this precedent-setting conference. Syracuse University is home to one of th enation's first graduate programs in Disability Studies and the first joint degree program in Law and Disability Studies. SU's School of Education has been a pioneer in the inclusion and deinstitutionalization movements in the United States, making way for all learners to participate fully in schools and in the community.

The Disability Studies in Education (DSE), a special interest group of AERA, seeks to cultivate interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the phenomenon of disability. DSE is an interdisciplinary field of scholarship that engages in research, policy, and action that contextualizes disability within political and social spheres; privileges the interest, agendas, and voices of people labeled with disability/disabled people; promotes social justice, equitable and inclusive educational opportunities, and full and meaningful access to all aspects of society for people labeled with disability/disabled people; and rejects deficit models of disability. This year's conference will bring together scholars in disability studies in education and disability law to explore both the history of disability advocacy and continued struggles for disability rights in educational contexts.

We welcome conference proposals that engage one of the embedded conference themes:

(1) Histories of exclusion & activism;

(2) Discourses & practices that shift the conversation from inclusion to belonging;

(3) Critical & theoretical perspectives on disability studies, law & policy;

(4) Global perspectives on disability studies in education & law.

We welcome joint proposals from presenters representing more than one constituency or that combine multiple fields of study. We welcome a range of presentation formats including:

. Workshop Sessions - Generative spaces that encourage collaboration and active participation directed toward the creation of policy imperatives or action plans/projects;

· Paper and Panel Presentations - To stimulate further thought and action;

· Alternative Formats - That engage multiple modalities &/or audience participation.

Often a highlight of the conference, we will again be honoring a Senior and Junior Scholar on the opening night of the conference. We will also hold a town hall meeting at the close of the conference where the conference attendees will meet to discuss future conferences and plans. We also have anumber of plenary sessions planned featuring leading scholars in the field. All presenters will be expected to pay the conference registration fee. Inaddition, if your proposal is selected, you may be requested to forward handouts or copies of papers several weeks ahead of time (April 1st) to facilitate preparation of alternative formats.

Proposal Guidelines

Submissions must include the following:

1. A proposal cover sheet including for each presenter, the name, institutional affiliation, address, paper title, phone number, email address, preferred format: workshop, paper presentation, panel presentation, alternative format (please describe).

2. A 2-3 page double-spaced proposal including a summary of your paper; a statement about how it relates to one of the four embedded conference themes; a list of alternative formats that you will provide (large print, electronic copy of presentation on CD; etc.).

3. A brief abstract (100-200 words) of your presentation for the conference program.

4. Proposals must be submitted electronically as a WORD attachment or PDF tothe Conference website:

Proposals must be received by November 1, 2008 in order to be considered. Presenters will be notified in early December.
The family of a mentally ill woman kept her locked up for 18 years, according to Italian police

From One News (New Zealand); see also the Associated Press

A 47-year-old mentally ill Italian woman was locked up in a room by family members for 18 years, Italian police said after freeing the woman on Friday.

The woman was found in a crumbling room with "indescribable" sanitary conditions, police in the southern Italian town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, near Naples, said.

The woman was apparently locked up 18 years ago after giving birth to a son out of wedlock.

She has been admitted to the psychiatric ward of a Naples hospital while her mother, brother and sister were arrested on charges of mistreatment and sequestration, the Ansa news agency reported.

The woman's son, a student, was found to be living with her relatives, but has not been charged, the news agency said.

Police are investigating whether the woman's mental illness began before or after her period of captivity, it said.

(Thanks to Hymes over at Charlottesville Prejudice for the link)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Parents sue school district for not protecting their daughter

The parents of a sixth-grade girl with autism are filing a lawsuit against the Fort Wayne Community Schools, on the grounds that the district failed to protect their daughter.

As reported in The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana), the girl, a special education student, was allegedly sexually molested by another student on two occasions on April 25, 2007, during a classroom movie session, according to court documents.

After each incident the girl told her teachers, school principal and bus driver about what had happened, the document said.

When the girl’s mother called school officials, she said she was told that an “incident happened at school … but nothing had occurred and that the student’s hormones were involved,” according to court documents.

"The girl’s family is seeking damages for her emotional suffering, medical and psychological treatment, and payment for the expense of attending another school, according to court documents."

Read the full story ...

(Thanks to Austism Vox for the link)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Frida links

for the week 6/6/2008 to 6/13/2008

The state Supreme Court (Wisconsin) will allow a tape recording of a school bus driver threatening to beat a boy with Down syndrome as evidence in a child abuse case, the Associated Press reports.

In an incident that highlights the ethical problems doctors face in deciding when an organ donor is really dead, a man whose heart stopped beating woke up just as transplant surgeons were about to remove his organs for donation.

A women with multiple sclerosis in the United Kingdom has won the right to mount a challenge to the High Court to force the country's top prosecutor to clarify the law on assisted suicide, the UK Press Association reports.

Mary Lee Brookshire, who worked to improve the live of people with disabilities, died last week from complications of pancreatitis at DeKalb Medical in Atalanta. She was 87. RIP, Mary Brookshire.

A British woman, Josie Pearson, will make sporting history as the first British woman to play wheelchair rugby for her country on the Paralympic stage at the 2008 Paralympics in China.

The Medical Board of California is seeking to revoke or suspend the licence of Dr. Hootan Roozrokh, the surgeon accused of administering substantial quantities of pain medication to 25-year-old Ruben Navarro, a prospective organ donor, in May 2006. He also faces trial in October on a felony charge of dependent adult abuse in the death of Navarro, who suffered from a wasting neurological condition and was in a coma.

A Manitoba judge has moved up the date for a trial that will determine whether Samuel Golubchuk should be kept on life support, the Canadian press reports. The case surrounding his care, which was set to start in December, will now start in mid-September. Golubchuk, 84, has been on life support since last November and is using a feeding tube and ventilator.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Alex Barton's mother plans to file a lawsuit against the Port St. Lucie School District

Melissa Barton, the mother of Alex Barton, the boy who was “voted out” of his kindergarten classroom after his teacher polled students to see if they wanted him to stay, is planning to file a lawsuit against the Port St. Lucie school district on the grounds that “‘physical and mental abuse’” were inflicted on her son. According to Melissa Barton, Alex has been diagnosed with autism and school officials were aware of his condition.

The following excerpt is from the Palm Beach Post (Thanks to Christine Chew over at Autism Vox for the link)

Port St. Lucie - An attorney representing the child voted out of kindergarten class at Morningside Elementary has notified the St. Lucie County School District the boy's mother intends to sue the district for "physical and mental abuse" reportedly inlicted on her son.

Stuart attorney Jeff Vastola filed a notice with school officials and that state's Department of Insurance Tuesday, alleging the School Board was negligent in training and supervising employees who had contact with children at Morningside.

Teacher Wendy Portillo admitted she polled students to see whether they wanted 5-year-old Alex Barton to remain in the classroom after he had twice disrupted the class April 21. The students explained what they disliked about Alex and voted 14-2 for him to leave, sending Alex to the nurse's office for the rest of the school day.

A report by the New York's state inspector general says "two agencies neglected their duties in investigating alleged abuses of an autistic and developmentally disabled adolescent while he was in the care of a Dutchess County school"

And in particular, says that the state Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for People with Disabilities conducted a "shoddy child-abuse investigation, failing to fully address allegations" that the child "was neglected, inadaquately fed and left to lie naked on a urine-soaked bed."

"The case of Johnathon Carey teaches us that our disabled children deserve a better system," the state inspector general said in releasing his report.

Read the Times Union's coverage of the NY state inspector's report here.
Wal-Mart Settles Disability Suit

From the Wall Street Journal

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $250,000 and make policy changes to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The agency accused Wal-Mart of failing to accommodate, then firing, a long-time pharmacy technician disabled by a gunshot wound.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland, the commission said Glenda D. Allen had worked as a Wal-Mart pharmacy technician since July 1993 and was shot during a robbery at a different employer in 1994. She suffered permanent damage to her spinal cord and other problems and had to use a cane to walk. Despite what the EEOC said was a successful job performance, Wal-Mart declared Ms. Allen incapable of performing her job with or without a reasonable accommodation, denied her a reasonable accommodation, then fired her, the EEOC said.

The company will provide Americans with Disabilities Act training to salaried supervisors and managers of its Abingdon, Md., stores and pharmacies and list all employees there who have complained of such problems.

This is the EEOC's second settlement this year with Wal-Mart about the ADA. In April, it settled a lawsuit about the company's failure to hire a person with cerebral palsy for $300,000 and agreed to make policy changes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wear Purple for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

A reminder that the Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is Sunday, June 15, 2008.

To learn more about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, visit

Amputees fight caps in coverage for prosthetics

The following is an excerpt from USA Today (thanks to What Sorts of People for the link)

BURLINGTON, Vt. — After bone cancer forced the amputation of her right leg below the knee, Eileen Casey got even more bad news: Her insurer told her that she had spent her $10,000 lifetime coverage limit on her temporary limb and that the company wouldn't pay for a permanent one.

"It was shocking to find out I was going to have to take out a loan to buy myself a leg so I could keep working and living independently," Casey said. At the bank, she said, she burst into tears when they asked what the loan was for.

Since then, Casey has joined a nationwide fight by amputees and the prosthetics industry to get the states and Congress to require fuller coverage for artificial limbs. The insurance industry is fighting the effort, saying such mandates drive up costs and reduce the flexibility customers want.

Monday, June 09, 2008

About 50,000 of the people injured in China's May 12 earthquake are likely to have permanent disabilities, including many with amputated limbs. They face a social stigma and hurdles getting rehabilitation and counselling, according to government and health industry sources.

Read more here.
A woman in a wheelchair falls 30 feet down a an elevator shaft

For reasons that are not clear, the woman's chair hit the closed doors of an elevator at the Claridge Tower at Balley's Casino in Atlantic City (N.J), forcing them to open. But the elevator car was not there - it had already begun its ascent - and the woman, who has not been identified, plunged some 30 feet down the shaft. Her chair landed on top of her. The woman, I've heard, is going to be ok. Let's hope that investigators are able to ascertain how this happened so as to prevent it from happening again.

Here is the full story as reported by the Associated Press.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Harriet McBryde Johnson tribute web site

A tribute site about Harriet has been created by Laura Hershey of Crip Commentary.

You can access it here:

Friday, June 06, 2008

Call for contributions


Vol. 3, no. 2, Spring, 2010

From the Margins to the Center: Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

Guest Editor, Shelley Tremain

In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.

A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression.

While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central. Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics.

This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make.

The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to):

• Critiques of bioethics by feminist disability theorists from within feminist bioethics

• The relevance of feminist disability studies in developing countries

• What’s still missing from feminist arguments in the debates about stem cell research and other forms of biotechnology

• The importance of perspectives of disabled embodiment in feminist bioethics

• How the critiques of bioethics advanced in disability studies are gendered

• The integration of political analyses of disability into feminist bioethics

• The critique of notions of normalcy embedded in (feminist) bioethics

• The reevaluation of feminist approaches to care from a feminist disability studies perspective

Articles should be 3,000 - 8,000 words in length. Shorter pieces written for the Commentaries section of the issue should be 2,000-3,000 words in length.

All submissions should be double-spaced, prepared for anonymous review (no identifying references in the body of the text or bibliography), accompanied by an abstract of 150 words, and prepared in accordance with the journal’s style guidelines which are posted on the IJFAB website ( .).

Contact information – email address, street address, and affiliation (if applicable) – should appear on a separate page which also includes a statement verifying that the work has not been previously published and is not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Submissions should be sent as email attachments in Microsoft Word or rtf to Shelley Tremain at

The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2009. The guest editor strongly encourages authors to contact her before completing their submissions.
Frida links

for the week 5/30/2008 to 6/6/2008

CBC Canada reports that an intensive-care specialist, Dr. Anand Kumar, has resigned from a Winnipeg hospital rather than obey a court order to continue treating an elderly man on life support because he believes efforts to keep him alive are "grotesque" and "immoral." The man, Samuel Golubchuk, 84, has been on life support since last fall. Kumar and others doctors wanted to remove him from life support, but Golubchuk's relatives have argued that would violate his beliefs as an Orthodox Jew.

A man has been arrestd for allegedly raping a woman with spina bifida and developmental disabilities in her Orem (Salt Lake City, Utah) home, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Channel 7 (Australia) has apologized for an episode of the hospital drama "All Saints," in which a woman pregnant from an incestuous relationship with her brother is told her child may have Down syndrome as a result, the Melbourne Age reports. The episode prompted an outcry by Down Syndrome Australia, who is considering legal action if a correction is not aired on the program. "There is absolutely no increase in the risk of Down syndrome or of other chromosomal conditions for the offspring of incestuous relationships," said the leader of clinical genetic research at Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

South African amputee Natalie Du Toit qualified for the Beijing Olympics last Saturday after she finished fourth in the 10km race in the Open Water World Championships, Reuters reports.

A Northeast Philadelphia mother is angered by the way her son, who has autism, has been treated by Stephen Decatur School. According to Dawn Elliot, while the rest of his class went on a field trip, her son, who was supposted to enjoy a day of learning, sat in class practically alone, CBS3 reports.

Disability rights advocates are urging Governor Rod Blagojevich to shut down the Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park for adults with developmental disabilities, the Chicago Tribune reports. Since 2005, 20 people have died at Howe due to substandard care and neglect, according to the non-profit group Equip for Equality. The US Department of Justice is now investigating the institution for civil rights violations.

An investigation continues into a Dale County (Ozark, Alabama) woman who allegedly exploited the assets of at least one women with a disability, the Dothan Eagle reports.

A British couple who have learning difficulties were awarded 97,000 pounds in damages after being attacked and humiliated by a gang of youths in their home over a weekend in late 2000, the Richmond Twickenham Times (UK) reports.

The Washington Post profiles prima ballerina Rossana Peñaloza, who decided to spend six months in a wheelchair, and then created a performance from that experience to bring attention to Mexico's attitudes toward disabled people (thanks to media-dis-n-dat for the link).

Thursday, June 05, 2008

RIP, Harriet McBryde Johnson (1957-2008)

Very sad news: disability rights activist, lawyer, and writer Harriet McBryde Johnson died on Wednesday night. She was 50 years old.

The following notice comes from The Post and Courier of Charleston, SC:

Harriet McBryde Johnson, a well-known Charleston disability and civil rights attorney, died Wednesday.

"She worked yesterday. It's a shock to everybody," said friend and attorney Susan Dunn.

She was born July 8, 1957, and had been a Charleston resident since age 10.

She told The Post and Courier that she became an attorney because her disability-rights work had taught her something about the impact of law on how people live.

She specialized in helping people who couldn't work get Social Security benefits.

She was chairwoman of the Charleston County Democratic Party executive committee (1988-2001); city party chair (1995-2000); secretary of city party (1989-95); national convention delegate (1996); president, Charleston County Democratic Women (1989-91); County Council candidate (1994); and a certified poll manager.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Fielding Home For Funerals.

Johnson, who was born with a neuromuscular disease, drew national attention for her opposition to "the charity mentality" and "pity-based tactics" of the annual Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon. Lewis told the Chicago Tribune he had no intention of making peace with opponents such as Johnson. He likened the idea of meeting with them to entertaining Hezbollah or insurgents in Iraq.

The protests started after Lewis wrote a 1990 Parade magazine article in which he imagined being disabled. Among his conclusions, "I realize that my life IS half, so I must learn to do things halfway. I just have to learn to try to be good at being half a person."

Beth Haller, a friend and collegue of Johnson, has written this post about her at Media Dis&dat, and pulled together the following list of some of her writings:

"Unreasonable Conversations" in The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2003.
"The Disability Gulag" in The New York Times Nov. 23, 2003. After its publication, the NYT reported: "A torrent of letters cheered Harriet McBryde Johnson's 'courageous' article, which inspired wide-ranging meditations on life and death."
"The Way We Live Now: Stairway to Justice" in The New York Times, May 30, 2004.
"Wheelchair Unbound" in The New York Times, April 23, 2006
"Alas for Tiny Tim, He Became a Christmas Cliché" in The New York Times, Dec. 25, 2006.
"Overlooked in the Shadows" in The Washington Post, March 25, 2005.
"Not Dead at All, Why Congress was right to stick up for Terri Schiavo" in Slate, March 23, 2005.
Her memoir Too Late to Die Young in 2005, which garnered many positive reviews including this one in The Washington Post: "Harriet McBryde Johnson's witty and highly unconventional memoir opens with a lyrical meditation on death and ends with a bold and unsentimental sermon on pleasure. Born with a congenital neuromuscular disease, Johnson has never been able to walk, dress, or bathe without assistance. With assistance, she passionately celebrates her life's richness and pleasures and pursues a formidable career as an attorney and activist. Whether rolling on the streets of Havana, on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, or in an auditorium at Princeton debating philosopher Peter Singer, Harriet McBryde Johnson defies every preconception about people with disabilities, and shows how a life, be it long or short, is a treasure of infinite value."
The youth fiction book Accidents of Nature in 2006, which follows 17-year-old Jean, who has cerebral palsy, to a summer camp for kids with disabilities where she questions her earlier years spent with little contact with other people with disabilities. I read the book last summer and found it gives fantastic insight into the lives of teens with disabilities, something rarely seen in literature. I hope it becomes a children's literature classic, especially among kids with disabilities, because it truly gives voice to their experience.
"A Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing a Protest Against the Jerry Lewis Telethon" in Crip Commentary.
An interview she gave to BBC's Ouch! May 18, 2008.

Harriet McBryde Johnson was named the New Mobility Person of the Year in 2004.

The University of Notre Dame has a biography of Harriet McBryde Johnson on its Web site.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"It's a terrible case ... I've never seen anything this bad"

The Fort Mill Times (Kansas City) reports that a Lee's Summit woman assaulted and neglected her elderly mother and did not seek medical attention, resulting in her death in February. The woman, Glenda I. Grimes, 55, faces charges of second-degree murder, second-degree domestic assault and misdemeanor elder abuse.

According to this report in The Kansas City Star, the Missouri Division of Senior and Disability Services received a hotline call about the condition of the woman, Glenda Stevens, who was 72-year-old, at least three times, but it did not take action on the case. It was "not immediately clear why."

Ms Stevens suffered a stroke in late 2005, and moved in with Grimes in March 2006, it is reported.

From the Fort Mill Times:

Prosecutors allege that Grimes restrained her 72-year-old mother, Glenda Stevens, to a portable toilet and hit her with her fists. They say Grimes didn't get Stevens medical care, relying instead on home remedies of corn starch and honey, which she used to treat the mother's bed sores.

Stevens' ribs, vertebrae and left leg were broken. In all, she suffered 25 fractures, including multiple rib fractures dating from less than two weeks old to more than a month old, prosecutors said.

Her death has been ruled a homicide caused by multiple blunt force injuries.

"It's a terrible case," Jackson County prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said Tuesday when announcing the charges. "I've been (a prosecutor) for 15 years. We get elder abuse cases presented to us from time to time. I've never seen anything this bad."

Grimes called police in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit on the evening of Feb. 20 to report that her mother had died. She later told officers that her first call was to a funeral home, but that the person she spoke with there told her to contact the police instead.

The officers went to the apartment where Grimes and her mother lived, and they found Stevens dead on a bed in the home's only bedroom. Her body was bruised and had several severe bed sores on it, and her broken leg was wrapped in tape.

Grimes told the officers that her mother was still alive when she left her locked in the apartment earlier that evening. Grimes had gone to McDonald's about 5 p.m. She brought her food back and ate it before checking on her mother about 7:30 p.m., when she found her dead, police said.

Stevens suffered a stroke in late 2005 and moved in with Grimes in March 2006, prosecutors said.

Kanatzar said more charges could come. He said Stevens, a former Wal-Mart employee, had a retirement fund of about $40,000. But Grimes had legal control over it and the account "has been exhausted and cleaned out."

"From the living conditions, it's pretty clear that none of that money was being spent on the care of the victim," Kanatzar said.

Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15

For more information about the 3rd Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) visit The National Center of Elder Abuse (NCEA), directed by the US Administration on Aging, and also the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NPEA).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for not attempting to stop her husband from sexually abusing a developmentally disabled girl for 11 years

From Northwest Arkansas News

Bentonville - A Siloam Springs woman was sentenced to five years in prison after admitting she knew her husband had sexually abused a girl for 11 years, but the woman didn't take any action to stop the abuse.

Carol Sue Lykins, 49, pleaded guilty Thursday to permitting the abuse of a minor, a class B felony. Her plea came under an agreement that attorney Herb Southern reached with Deputy Prosecutor Mike Armstrong.

Lykins' husband - Jefferey Ray Lykins - was sentenced in October 2007 to 30 years in prison after admitting to raping a mentally disabled girl.

More ...
Hospital agrees to pay $1 million for leaving a homeless man with paraplegia on a downtown street in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times reports that Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center has agreed to pay $1 million and be monitored by a former US attorney for up to five years following charges that it left a homeless man with paraplegia on LA's skid row in a hospital gown and colostomy bag. The resolution marks the largest settlement so far in LA's efforts "to crack down on hospitals and other institutions" that leave patients along skid row. As part of the settlement, the hospital has agreed to adopted new discharge rules and to "enhance services for homeless patients."

Read the full article ...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dorothy Dixon Memorial Day a Success!

First, to see some pics from our trip, click on this Flickr link: We hope to collect more soon.

The events of May 31, 2008, would not have been possible without the hard work of many FRIDAs and staff members at IMPACT Inc. Thank you so much Cathy Contarino and Missy Kichline and staff for working with us and taking your Saturday to help remember Dorothy. Everyone had a seriously great community day. The FRIDAs who attended were: Barb Bechdol, Larry Bechdol, Aerin Jung, Sharon Lamp, Veronica Martinez, Alva Rodriguez, Amber Smock, Jody Thomas and Christine Wilk. I gotta say, Christine was definitely the one who was pushing the little "We Gotta Do This!" button to make something happen. Anything. So Christine, thank you for motivating us!

So what, exactly, happened?

From the FRIDA end of things, it was a bear just getting to Alton on Friday, May 30. Two of us took Amtrak---and folks, we need to do something about Amtrak access. Not cool, some of the things going on with Amtrak. Because Alton is a smaller town, it also lacks a lot of sidewalks where we visited, so our two early birds actually had to have the police assist them when trying to get around in their power chairs! The other seven of us drove from around 2 pm till 11 pm (NINE HOURS!) from Chicago to Alton. A trip that should have taken half the time was delayed because we were driving through a giant storm system. As a result, the FRIDAs in my car named our rental wheels "Tornado Car," or TC for short.

The next morning, FRIDA went over to IMPACT and set up the community hall with memorial signs and created a memorial circle for folks to sit in. Christine helped emcee. We had scheduled remarks from Cathy, Barb Bechdol, Sharon Lamp, Cynthia Campbell (Marlin Thomas' mom), and Christine read some remarks from Ann Ford, Executive Director for the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living (INCIL). The 30 or so people gathered also had open time for anyone to share remarks.

Probably my favorite parts of the open period were from Michelle Steger of St. Louis ADAPT and from Marie, who is the director of OASIS, a battered women's shelter in Alton. Michelle read a poem submitted by someone she knows that lists the names of many people with disabilities who passed on. Then she asked us to go around the circle and name someone we were remembering today. People named everyone from family members to buddies who died in Vietnam. I appreciated Marie's remarks because her work is so close to Dorothy's situation, and also because her work is not disability-specific. We need as many allies as we can get.

After the memorial, we canvassed the group on the best way to proceed to the house where Dorothy died. We agreed that folks willing to walk would go first, and vans with otehr folks would follow. It was sweltering HOT and HUMID, and we knew the route was hilly, but we shot for the moon anyway. And it was....GREAT. We shouted and chanted our lungs out! We went through a residential neighborhood that had a mix of working class and poor homes. We saw a few other folks with disabilities. And a LOT of people watched us passed by...slowing down their bikes or trucks, coming out to the front of their homes. We were very loud and determined too.

When we finally arrived at 2957 Hillcrest, I'm not sure what others felt, but I had that ADAPT urge to go storm the building, that adrenalin rush of here we are!! and no one can stop us! We were very fortunate in that the family currently in the home sympathized with the situation and even stood with us for our moment of silence, once we had all caught up. Three of our group were Harley riders and had beaten us to the house and helped give the family a heads up. We took about half an hour to take a pic, take a look, and take a moment to remember Dorothy and all victims with disabilities.

What is it like looking at the house where someone was tortured to death? I know I felt pretty grim. It's just a small house and the basement level is pretty clearly visible. It doesn't look like the basement would be all that warm. It doesn't look like enough space for six people to live, but we know folks can live pretty much anywhere. The houses are definitely close enough that someone would have heard yelling and screaming---maybe. It also did seem like the kind of neighborhood where folks might just say, "Oh, those people in that house...they're kind of odd. Just stay away." And no one would think anything of it. I've lived in that kind of neighborhood myself.

In fact, the neighborhood where Dorothy lived in Alton reminded me a lot of the first house I lived in when I was growing up. People didn't have a lot of money, and I know for a fact that at school we had families living in the motels and shelters. If your neighbors gave you a funny vibe, you stayed away. People would have labeled a lot of folks as "lowlifes"---a lot of crystal meth, a lot of folks who don't do anything in the daytime. As FRIDA was marching, a woman who appeared to have a cognitive disability came out and yelled at us---growing up, my reaction would have been "stay away from that person because who knows what they'll do?" (These days, my reaction is more like "Is that person known to the local CIL? Are they getting community supports?") I could see how this might be a place where Michelle Riley felt she could stay unbothered and do what she liked with her household, including Dorothy.

Back to the house, however---it's just a house. And yet, it's not. The picture of the house is burned in my head---as I think of it, I think of Mother Jones: "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living!"

FRIDA next regrouped and marched back to IMPACT, where Cathy treated us to pizza and we then loaded into cars to visit the grounds of the old state hospital, which is now the Alton Mental Health Center. At the back of the grounds is a field where they used to bury people who died there. The graves do have headstones with names and dates up till the 1970s. The older ones from the 1940s have serial numbers. IMPACT Board member Susan Shobe gave us a tour, with two guards from the Department of Human Services on hand with a grave map and answers for questions. We do not know where Dorothy's remains are, and so this was possibly the next best thing we could do.

At this point we were all sunburned and petrified with heat and humidity, so after saying goodbyes, some of us made their way home. My car, including Veronica, Aerin and Jody, made just one more pit stop---at the memorial for Mother Jones at the United Mine Workers Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois. None of the three knew anything about Mother Jones, and they were very excited to learn about this famous woman organizer. On her memorial is the quote, "We count it death to falter, not to die," by Simonides of Ceos. I felt this is a quote appropriate of the disability rights movement, not just the labor movement. I know Mother Jones was myopic about women's rights, but she still poses an exciting and inspirational model for women leaders of all ages.

Atthis point, we drove back to Chicago and dropped off all our FRIDAs. At the end of the day, I was still enormously angry and sad, but I also felt incredibly empowered and powerful. We hurdled SO MANY barriers to get this done---and we made it. And believe it or not, we planted a seed. Cilla Sluga of Springfield said, "We should do this every year! We should have a Dorothy Dixon Memorial Parade right here in Alton." Absolutely!!! Perhaps such an event will get us thinking about systemic change as well...from tiny acorns grow mighty oak trees. What do you think?
Video of Dorothy Dixon Memorial from the Telegraph

Check this out:

This is a nice two minute sum-up of some of our activities from yesterday. A longer write-up from a FRIDA's eye view to come later today...

"We want to make the statement that Dorothy Dixon will not be forgotten." FRIDA protests violence against women with disabilities

From the Telegraph (Alton, Illinois)

ALTON - They caused quite a scene marching down East Broadway early Saturday afternoon. Some were on foot, in wheelchairs, in vehicles or on motorcycles, with police cars at the front and back of the line. They proudly displayed signs and chanted as they journeyed up the hills of Sering Avenue.

"What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" they yelled.

People along the way stood at their front doors to watch the commotion, while others peeked out of windows. Motorists honked in support and others pulled off to the side of the road to watch.

The group of nearly 30 people had gathered to honor 29-year-old Dorothy Latrice Dixon, who died from her injuries after being shot with a pellet gun, beaten and scalded over several weeks' time. She died in January. Dixon, who had moved to Alton from Quincy, Ill., was six months pregnant and developmentally disabled.

Six people, including two minors, face nine counts each in Madison County Circuit Court in Dixon's death. One of the people facing charges was Dixon's caregiver, who also had the authority to cash Dixon's disability checks. Authorities believe money sparked the abuse.

Dixon suffered her injuries inside her home at 2957 Hillcrest Ave., where she lived with five of the six people responsible for her injuries. A May 14 Madison County coroner's jury ruled the deaths of Dixon and her unborn son as homicides. Dixon also had a 1-year-old son, who was placed in protective custody with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She was unmarried.

Dixon's death hit close to home for the people that gathered Saturday, most of whom are disabled or know someone who is. Members of Chicago-based group Feminist Response in Disability Activism (FRIDA) organized the memorial, procession and moment of silence at Dixon's former home. FRIDA is a "group of radicalized women with disabilities" who represent themselves.

"We felt it was really important when we heard about the life and death of Dorothy Dixon," said FRIDA member Sharon Lamp. "We want to make the statement that Dorothy Dixon will not be forgotten."

The group organized at IMPACT Inc., 2735 E. Broadway, a "self-help, advocacy organization" for people with disabilities. Attendees sat in a large circle, where several people shared poems, stories and their thoughts about Dixon and other disabled people suffering from abuse. They talked about people they knew and mourned for Dixon. One woman commented that disabled people, particularly women, are invisible in society.

Christine Wilk and Amber Smock, FRIDA members who organized Dixon's memorial, said their goal was to make a statement and get people talking. They want change - and they want it now.

The group marched and drove to Dixon's old home on Hillcrest. The current homeowners - Jessie Sr. and Robbin Hicks, and son Jessie Jr., 13 - walked outside to greet the mob of people who stopped in front of their house. Their 12-year-old daughter, McKayla, was not there. The family welcomed the group and participated in the moment of silence.

"I support any of this because I hate to see this happen to any female; it's just wrong," Robbin Hicks said of how Dixon died.

She said she knew Dixon, but not very well.

"I knew who she was and I spoke with her and I played with her baby," Hicks said. Hicks said she had not heard about Dixon's death until after her family had moved into the house. People still stop by the house, she said.

"A lot of people come and look at the house, stop for a second," she said. "Nothing comes out at night; it's pretty peaceful here. (Dorothy's) in a better place."