Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Disability and Poverty Story by Mike Ervin

Mike is a friend of mine and this article is pretty good, but one thing I would add: IT IS OVERWHELMINGLY WOMEN WHO ARE AFFECTED BY DISABILITY AND POVERTY. 3/4 of caregivers are women, and 2/3 of nursing facility residents are women. Disability and poverty are WOMEN'S REALITIES.,0,3993221.story

Poverty and disability greatly correlated, new study shows

Hard economic times are even harder when you have a disability. But poverty and disability don't have to be synonymous if we design our policies well.

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (a Washington-based think tank) titled "Half in Ten" states that almost 50 percent of working-age adults who experience poverty for at least a 12-month period have one or more disabilities.

People with disabilities, the report says, account for a larger share of those experiencing poverty than people in all other minority, ethnic and racial groups combined and are even a larger group than single parents.

The extra costs associated with living with a disability such as purchasing expensive equipment like wheelchairs and catheters or obtaining specialized medical attention keep many disabled people and their families in poverty, the report notes.

The report also astutely observes that direct care workers who assist people with disabilities in their homes and communities are often themselves in poverty. The median income for the 3 million direct care workers in the United States is only $17,000 a year, the report says.

Fortunately, there are several steps we can take to ensure that disability doesn't spell poverty.

The first step is universal health care. The report stresses "the fundamental importance of health care reform, especially the provision of universal coverage, to anti-poverty efforts." The lack of good health insurance, the report says, "is one of the most significant drivers of income poverty and severe disadvantage." Another important step is for the United States to adopt "the kinds of paid-sick-day and paid-sick-leave policies that are already in place in all other similarly wealthy nations."

At least 40 percent of private sector workers in the United States have no paid sick days or leave, the report says.Third, we should ease the ridiculously harsh restrictions on assets and earnings imposed on those receiving Social Security Disability Income. The current Social Security policy basically requires you to impoverish yourself before you can get disability aid from the government.

And, fourth, we should pay a decent wage to the health care providers who do such a superb job in tending to the needs of the disabled.It's clear that the current economic hardship is being made much worse for many people than it needs to be due to the disregard politicians and policymakers have for the well-being of Americans with disabilities and those who work in providing them with assistance.

It's time for that to change.


Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT ( He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; e-mail:; Web site: For information on PMP's funding, please visit article was prepared for The Progressive Media Project and is available to MCT subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.(c) 2009, Mike Ervin Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Monday, November 02, 2009

LGBTQ Long Term Care Survey! Check it out!

Dear Colleague:

The National Senior Citizens Law Center, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), are working together to raise awareness of the issues facing older adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ("LGBT") and live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities. We hope to identify areas where policy changes will improve care, and to find other older adults, advocates and providers interested in these issues.

The survey is only 16 questions. It should take no more than ten minutes to fill it out. The survey completely protects your confidentiality. (However, we are looking for volunteers willing to be interviewed, so please consider checking that box!)

Click here to fill out the survey: ; or if you would like to fill out this survey manually, you can print it out from the link above and mail it to:

Nancy Arevalo
National Senior Citizens Law Center

1330 Broadway, Suite 525
Oakland, CA 94612

The deadline for responding to the survey is December 15, 2009.

Whether you are an older adult living in a long-term care facility or a family member, caretaker, social worker or friend, your answers to these questions will help as we work together to fight discrimination, abuse and neglect against LGBT older adults. Specifically, you should fill out this survey if you are:

· A lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender older adult who lives or has lived in a long-term care facility;
· A caregiver of an LGBT older adult who lives or has lived in a long-term care facility;
· A family member or friend with knowledge of an LGBT older adult's experience in a long-term care facility;
· A social worker or other helping professional who works with older adults.

Long-term care facilities include nursing homes, assisted living communities and senior living facilities.
Again, click here to fill out the survey: ; and share the survey with your colleagues!

If you have any questions, please contact Heather Wollin at: hwollin(at)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

FRIDA Update; Dixon Killer Pleads Guilty; O'Leary Case Indictments; Hate Crimes Bill Signed

Since this past July, the FRIDA blog has been on hiatus due to the retiring of our regular blogger, Linda Edwards. However, have no fear, FRIDA Fighters! We continue to look for regular contributors and I will post myself as time allows. Sometimes life can get in the way of FRIDAs, but we will never desert our cause. If you are interested in being a FRIDA blogger, please e-mail me at ambity (at) aol dot com.

A key update, for those who may have missed it, is that Michelle Riley, who was accused of being the ringleader of the group that tortured Dorothy Dixon to death, pled guilty last week. See the story at this link: We do not yet know what her sentence will be, but may it fit the crime.

In New Jersey, a grand jury indicted a care giver and a state employee in the neglect-related death of Tara O'Leary, a woman with a developmental disability. See the story at

I am sickened at the continuing neglect and abuse of people with disabilities of all ages and gender identities. It bothers me deeply that the overwhelming majority of people who can claim the title of "caregiver" are women and people who identify as women, and that women attendants and caregivers are often the perpetrators of neglect and abuse of people with disabilities. I feel very strongly that if society really valued and understood the role of attendants and caregivers, we would see much less of these abuse and neglect cases. In addition, if state case workers really knew how to do their jobs and report abuse when they see it, many of these deaths would not happen.

Can these cases be considered hate crimes? Given that we now have a new hate crimes law that covers people with disabilities as a protected class, this is a question worth considering. Would Tara O'Leary and Dorothy Dixon have died if they did not have disabilities that made them easy targets for abuse? I can only guess that they would not. Did their murderers intentionally kill them just because they had a disability? That gets foggy. Were they tired? Did they have a disability themselves? Was financial stress a cause that could be cited? Seems hard to prove and I'd love to hear feedback from the community on what you think about this issue. Any lawyers or victims advocates out there with an angle on the issue?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nov 12: FRIDAfest 2009!

Join us as we celebrate our 4th Anniversary!
$15 admission, $12 if you're not working
6 to 9 pm
115 W. Chicago, Chicago IL 60654

We have a really amazing double bill of speakers! We can't even begin to imagine all the conversations we'll have with Eli and Jenni....

Writer, speaker, and activist Eli Clare weaves together hope, critical analysis, and compassionate storytelling in his works on disability and queerness, including Exile and Pride. To learn more about Eli, see .

ChronicBabe Jenni Prokopy discusses ways to live well with a chronic illness on her website, in podcasts and in person. To learn more about Jenni and ChronicBabe, see .

6 p.m. Reception and Silent Auction
6:30 p.m. Program
8 p.m. Eli Clare Exile and Pride Book Signing

And....this is a costume party with a prize to the person who dresses most like Frida Kahlo!

ASL interpreters and PAs will be available. Access Living is a green, universally designed space. For more info and RSVP, contact Cecilia at 773-621-1718 or cmreyes21(at) Come get your FRIDA on!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Roundup

From the Los Angeles Times in Los Angeles, California, July 9, 2009 - Twenty people were arrested this morning in a $4.6-million Medi-Cal fraud scheme that allegedly used unlicensed individuals to provide in-home nursing care for disabled patients. According to the United States Attorney's office, about 75 patients, many of them children with cerebral palsy or developmental disabilities, were treated at home or at school by the unlicensed individuals who stole identities to pose as licensed nurses.

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in Seattle, Washington, July 8, 2009 - A disability watchdog organization has filed a law suit against Washington state, claiming that hasty budget cuts threaten to push some 900 adults with disabilities into nursing homes. The law suit seeks to delay funding cuts to a nursing care program that allows adults with disabilities to live in a state-run group home and still receive Medicaid-supported health care services.

Press release from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, July 8, 2009 - A coalition of disability advocacy organizations has sent a letter of support for Supreme Court candidate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter is signed by more than twenty disability rights organizations, including the Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the United Spinal Association, and cites Sotomayor's "extensive experience in, and careful approach to, deciding disability rights cases," as well as her life experience managing diabetes.

From BBC News, July 7, 2009 - According to a report by the cerebral palsy charity Scope, hate crimes against people with disabilities in Wales (UK) are unreported or unrecognised for what they are. While police recorded 132 such crimes last year, charities and campaigners said the true figures were much higher. According to Scope, of 50 serious assaults against disabled people, only one was recorded as a hate crime.

From Newsday and the Associated Press, July 7, 2009 - At the annual Little People of America (LPA) conference, the organization called for the Federal Communications Commission to ban the word “midget” from broadcast TV. The group said it had filed an official complaint with the FCC. The request was prompted by an episode of Donald Trump’s NBC reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” in which contestants created a detergent ad called “Jesse James Dirty with Midgets.” Contestants, including Joan Rivers, used sexual innuendo in talking about little people actors and suggested that they be hung up to dry.

From CBC in Canada, July 6, 2009 - Four Winnipeggers will be sentenced next Monday July 13) for their part in abusing a 23-year-old woman with developmental disabilities in early 2006. According to the report, the woman was subjected to beatings, pushed down a flight of stairs, and starved to the point of emaciation. She was also repeatedly burned with lighters, cigarettes and even a kitchen tool heated red hot on a stove. Thelma Hendricks, 63, and Amanda O'Malley, 21, have pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of assault causing bodily harm and are seeking conditional sentences that will keep them out of jail. Dale Hendricks, 34, faces 6 years in prison for his part in the abuse, and April Armstrong, 33, between four to five years.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The killing of Donna Slater: an update

Pascagoula, Mississippi, July 8, 2009 - Further to my earlier posts about the arrest of Johnny Townsend and Joe Loggins on charges of the death by stabbing of 46-year-old Donna Slater on March 5, 2009, the Associated Press reports that a third person, Nancy Scott, has been arrested and charged with her murder. Ms Slater, who had spina bifida and used a wheelchair, was found dead on the kitchen floor of her home. She had been stabbed in the neck during an apparent robbery.

For earlier reports, see WKRG-TV and here.
Arrest made in the murder of Chicago Heights woman 16 years ago

Chicago Heights, Illinois, July 7, 2009 - Police have arrested 45-year-old Van Buren Hutchinson on charges of murdering and raping 25-year-old Jeanette Reeves, a disabled woman who went missing in December 1992 from Chicago Heights and was found dead in April 1993 in the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan. As reported by the Southtown Star, Hutchinson, a private contractor who became a suspect in 1995, was arrested in South Bend, Indiana, on Friday and is being held in a South Bend jail. According to a detective with Michigan's Allegan County sheriff's office, Hutchinson is refusing extradition from Indiana to Michigan.

The story in full is here.
Abuse trial date set

South Dos Palos, California, July 7, 2009 - Martha Franco, 44, who is accused of beating her her 5-year-old autistic son until he was unconscious on May 22, 2007, will stand trial for the alleged crime on September 14. Ms Franco faces many charges, including attempted murder, torture, aggravate mayhem and child endangerment. The trial is expected to take eight days. As reported in the Merced Sun Star:

According to a sheriff's investigation report, Franco admitted abusing the boy, but was careful not to kill him so she wouldn't lose a $2,000-a-month government subsidy she received.

Investigators described the boy's injuries as horrific. For example, after the boy was transported to the hospital in a coma, doctors said he suffered a massive head injury that pushed the left side of his brain to the right side of his skull.

He also had several burn marks on his face and bite marks, scratches and bruises across his body, according to a sheriff's investigation report.

If convicted, Ms Franco faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Her husband, Jose Franco, pleaded no contest in 2007 to charges of failing to intervene in the alleged abuse. He was sentenced to 90 days jail and two years of probation.

According to Merced County Deputy District Attorney Marit Erickson, the boy is recovering and doing well.

Exploitation charges

Lexington, Kentucky, July 7, 2009 - According to WYMT, Daisy Edwards, who is the legal guardian of her sister, Ivalene Smith, who is developmentally disabled, has been charged with three counts of knowingly exploiting her. From the article:

In court Tuesday, police testified Edwards used hundreds of dollars of her sister's money to pay rent and utilities after Smith had moved to Georgetown with another family member.

Edwards is also accused of using $6,000 of her sister's money to bond a boyfriend out of jail and another $8,000 for his attorney.

Police say when questioned, she admitted to those crimes. Then, a few days later, officers say Edwards spent more than $10,000 on new furniture for her home.

Edwards' attorney says she was simply borrowing money the money and had every intention of paying it back. If she's convicted Edward's could face 15 years behind bars. She's in jail on $30,000 bond.

Caretaker abandonment charges

West Valley City, Utah, July 7, 2009 - The Salt Lake Tribune reports the arrest of a 35-year-old woman who is accused of abandoning her caretaker duties for a 91-year-old woman who died in June.

The victim suffered from renal failure, pneumonia, multiple bed sores and considerable weight loss, police wrote in charges filed Tuesday. The victim's home was found in poor condition, with black mold in the refrigerator, no appropriate food supply for the victim, empty prescription bottles and a mattress covered in stains believed to be caused by the victim's bedsores.

One of the victim's bedsores was estimated to have gone untreated for weeks, possibly months, police wrote.

A 35-year-old woman had been the victim's caretaker for three years, police wrote. She and her children were receiving mail at the victim's home, police said.

The woman was charged with aggravated abuse or neglect of a disabled or elder adult, a second-degree felony.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Alexis Glover: an update

Manassas, Virginia, July 7, 2009 - Further to my posts of March 4 and March 17 about the indictment of Alfreedia Gregg-Glover in connection with the murder of her daughter, 13-year-old Alexis Glover, the Washington Examiner reports that Ms Gregg-Glover pleaded guilty on Monday to her killing. From the article:

Alfreedia Gregg-Glover, 45, admitted Monday in Prince William County Circuit Court to felony murder, felony child abuse and filing a false police report. The Manassas woman faces up to 51 years in prison at her sentencing, which is set for October 2.

According to the Washington Post, after the plea, county police released the findings of an internal audit that found "deficiencies" in their response to reports concerning Alexis over the years.
Despite reports made to several county agencies over six years, the girl, Alexis "Lexie" Agyepong-Glover, was not removed from the home, and the case has highlighted shortcomings in the county's policies on child abuse and runaways.

The audit called for reforms in how officers train, respond to abuse reports and communicate with other agencies. From the Washington Examiner:
The report found that Glover lied to authorities; police and county social services failed to communicate with each other, and county employees did not follow proper procedures in response to abuse and neglect reports. The police department disciplined three officers for failure to follow department policy. Last month, a senior social worker was fired and two managers were disciplined.

As conveyed in earlier posts, Alexis, who was developmentally disabled, was reported missing on January 7, 2009. Sadly, her body was found submerged in a shallow creek two days later. Police said Alexis' body was placed in the creek bed the day she disappeared and before her disappearance was reported. Medical examiners determined that she drowned.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Attempted murder charges

Salem, Massachusetts, July 6, 2009 - According to the Associated Press, Kristen LaBrie, who is accused of witholding life saving cancer treatment from her dying son, Jeremy, who was autistic, was charged on Friday with attempted murder and other related charges. From the article:

LaBrie's son, Jeremy, was 9 when he died in March. He had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2006.

Prosecutors say LaBrie canceled at least a dozen appointments for chemotherapy treatment and did not fill at least half the prescriptions her son had been given.
As reported in the Boston Globe, Ms LaBrie, who had custody of Jeremy between October 2006 and February 2008, was arrested on Sunday night, and was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday.

Jeremy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2006. He died days after his father, Eric Fraser, took him to a hospice.

If convicted of attempted murder, LaBrie faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison.
Texas school fight-club trial begins

Update- According to this later report by the Associated Press, District Judge Sandra Watts said that she planned to keep a cell phone containing videos of the orchestrated fights at the facility out of evidence unless prosecutors find case law to change her mind. She said she "would likely grant a motion by a former employee at the Corpus Christi State School to suppress the evidence because it was essentially stolen property." The full report is here.

From the Associated Press/Dallas Morning News, Corpus Christi, Texas, July 6, 2009:

Trials are scheduled to begin for four former employees of the Corpus Christi State School accused of orchestrating and allowing fights among their mentally disabled residents.

In March, police announced they had obtained cell phone videos of bouts of a late-night "fight club" organized for the staff's entertainment. Six former employees were charged.

Jury selection begins Monday for three of those former employees charged with multiple counts of causing bodily injury to a disabled person. A separate trial in front of another judge is scheduled to begin for a former employee facing a lesser charge for not intervening in the fights.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Drowning charges

Las Vegas, Nevada, July 3, 2009 - The Associated Press and Fox 5 report that Raven Gibbons, 24, has been arrested in connection with the death by drowning of her 5-year-old daughter, D'Amber Myles, who had cerebral palsy. Metro police said Ms Gibbons was arrested on charges of second-degree murder and child neglect with substantial bodily harm. According to the articles, police said the drowning occurred on June 30 in an apartment complex in Las Vegas.
Japanese court orders school to make accommodations so that girl can attend junior high school

Shimoichi, Japan, July 4, 2009 - After a provisional injunction by the Nara District Court, 12-year-old Meika Taniguchi, who uses a wheelchair, and who could not be admitted to her local junior high school because of its inaccessibility, finally attended the school for the first time on July 3. From The Mainichi Daily News:

The Shimoichi Municipal Board of Education allowed the girl to attend Shimoichi Municipal Junior High School after the Nara District Court issued a provisional injunction ordering that she be admitted to the school.

The education board has appealed the decision to the Osaka High Court.

"I'm happy. I want to speak with my friends and learn English at the junior high school," said Meika Taniguchi, 12, just before heading to the school on Friday morning, as she was carried on her mother's back in front of their home in the town of Shimoichi.

Asked about the new school uniform she was wearing, Taniguchi said with a smile, "It's big for me now, but I think it will fit some day."

On July 2, Taniguchi had trouble sleeping because she was too excited -- "just like before going to a field trip," according to her mother.

Taniguchi finally met her friends again at the school on Friday, for the first time in about three months since their elementary school graduation.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday round-up

From the Baltimore Sun in Baltimore, Maryland, July 2, 2009 - The Rosewood Center, a Maryland institution that was founded in 1888 as an asylum for the “feeble-minded,” closed its doors for good this week after decades of criticism for substandard care and conditions. "It is a great thing for Maryland that this institution is closed," said Nancy Pineles, an attorney with the Maryland Disability Law Center, a watchdog group that promotes the civil rights of people with disabilities.

From the Boston Globe in Boston, Massachusetts, July 1, 2009 - The old Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation has adopted a new name for the start of the fiscal year: The Department of Developmental Services. The change marks a victory for people with disabilities and their supporters who lobbied for years against a word they perceived as offensive. Only five or six states still have the words “mental retardation’’ in the names of agencies serving the developmentally disabled, said Elin M. Howe, commissioner of the department.

From in Christchurch, New Zealand, July 1, 2009 - New Zealand police have shot and killed a male wheelchair user after he injured two people in a shooting spree in Christchurch. Shayne Sime, 42, was shot and killed late June 28, after he fired more than 100 shots indiscriminately from a shotgun and rifle in his quiet suburban street, police said.

From an American Association of People with Disabilities press release, June 30, 2009 - A study by Profs. Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse at Rutgers University has found that voter turnout among people with disabilities rose significantly in the 2008 presidential election. According to the study, 14.7 million Americans with disabilities voted in the 2008 election, compared to 10.9 million in the 2000 presidential election. Among the eligible voting population, 57.3 percent of people with disabilities voted, compared to 64.5 percent of people without disabilities. “While the voting numbers among people with disabilities in 2008 indicates that they continue to face barriers in registration and voting, the fact that 14.7 million people with disabilities voted shows that they play an important role in the political process,” said Schur.

From the Asheville [NC] Citizen-Times, North Carolina, June 30, 2009 - An editorial says it’s time for North Carolina to compensate victims of a historic state-sponsored eugenics programs. Under the program, some 7,600 people with disabilities and others who were deemed “unfit” to reproduce were sterilized. (h/t to Patricia E Bauer)

From the Lexington [KY] Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky, June 30, 2009 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a civil rights investigation into Kentucky’s Medicaid program after a family complained about a reduction in home care services for a man with multiple disabilities. Creasa Reed, who is herself disabled, filed the complaint after Medicaid cut her son’s budget for in-home care by 40 hours each week. The Reeds say their son is in danger of being sent to an institution if home care services are not restored.

From WHYY Radio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 30, 2009 - A Pennsylvania advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the state’s department of Public Welfare that claims they are not providing the community-based care mandated by the law. The suit was filed by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania on behalf of the over 1200 people still living in state-run institutions. It states that community based care provides better choices for people with disabilities, and is more cost-effective.

From the Boston Globe in Boston, Massachusetts, June 27, 2009 - Following complaints about inadequate equipment and ill-prepared medical workers, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hopital, both affiliated with Harvard University, have voluntarily agreed to spend millions of dollars to improve accessibility for patients with disabilities.

From the Seattle Times, June 27, 2009 - The families of three children with Down syndrome have sued in federal court to stop the state from cutting the hours of in-home care they receive. The families say budget problems cannot be used to justify cutting back on services the children are legally entitled to receive.

From JFActivist, June 26, 2009 - Kathy Martinez was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, June 25 as ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy) Assistant Secretary. Blind since birth, Martinez, who has worked as executive director of the World Institute on Disability (WID) since 2005, has worked in employment, asset building, independent living, international development, and diversity and gender issues in her work at WID.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Caregiver exploitation charges

Largo, Florida, July 2, 2009 - The St Petersburg Times reports the arrest of 61-year-old Peggy Friend, who is accused of defrauding the mentally ill man she was hired to care for of more than $20,000 over a 16-month period in 2007 and 2008. From the article:
According to the warrant, Friend offered to care for 52-year-old Mark Easter, who is bipolar and suffers from other mental illnesses. Easter let Friend come live with him in June 2007 so she could assist him with "paying his bills, scheduling his medical appointments and taking his prescription medicines," the warrant said.

Instead, she used Easter's credit cards without his permission and spent more than $3,000 on dental work, $2,000 for furniture, $6,000 on cookware, $1,500 on a big-screen television, $900 for a handgun and $900 for a refrigerator.

She also spent "thousands of dollars for emergency care for her pet cat," the warrant said.

The warrant does not give the exact amount that Friend allegedly stole, but said it was more than $20,000 and less than $100,000.

Friend has been charged with exploitation of a disabled adult and is being held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail. According to the article, court records show that Friend was arrested in 2001 on charges of title fraud and grand theft, but those charges were later dropped.
Sex crimes

Jackonsville, North Carolina, June 1, 2009 - JD News reports that 48-year-old Timothy Mark Gray was charged on Wednesday with raping a physically disabled woman on June 15, 2009. According to a Sheriff's Department press release, the woman, who is paralysed on the right side of her body from multiple strokes as the result of an automobile accident, stayed with Gray during May and June. She was unable to fight back, according to the release. Bond was set at $100,000 secured.

San Antonio, Texas, June 30, 2009 - San Antonio News reports the arrest of 46-year-old Guadalupe Esparza on the charge of sexually assaulting a woman with a neurodegenerative disorder that causes limited short-term memory and an unsteady gait on February 23 near a fire station. Esparza, who is homeless, was arrested after police used DNA evidence to connect him to the assault. His bond was set at $75,000.

New Orleans, Louisiana, June 29, 2009 - According to the New Orleans Metro, a mother has reported the repeated rape of her 14-year-old developmentally disabled daughter by "two known males" in recent weeks after a group of teenagers lured her to an abandoned building near her Uptown home. The girl was lured out of her home to the building while her mother is at work, it is reported. According to the New Orleans Police Department, detectives are investigating the case and believe they have identified a suspect.

Tampa Bay, Florida, June 28, 2009 - Tampa Bay News reports the arrest of 43-year-old William M. Reich of Holiday who is accused of sexually abusing a young developmentally disabled girl, whose age is stated as between 9 and 10 years old, in May. According to the Sheriff's Office, Reich "forced the child to use a sex toy by telling her she would be in trouble and punished if she didn't." Reich was released on $20,000 bail. According to the police report, Reich has "a history of this type of allegation" against him.

Grand Junction, Colorado, June 25, 2009 - The Grand Junction Sentinel reports the arrest on Wednesday of 46-year-old Roger Dale Smith on suspicion that he raped a developmentally disabiled woman in her room at Hilltop Community Resources, then broke into the facility 12 days later and attempted to rape another woman. He is being held on $200,000 bond on two counts of sexual assault, second-degree burglary and attempted sexual assault.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Teacher indictment alleges deliberate injury to a student

Allen, Texas (June 30, 2009) - Susanne Means, a special education teacher at Lowery Freshman Center, an Allen ISD school, was charged earlier this month with knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a 14-year-old boy with disabilities in early 2008 by using a cooking pan to burn his buttocks. As reported in the Dallas News:

An Allen police affidavit filed on July 9, 2008, says Means caused burns to the boy, and describes him as "mentally challenged."

The affidavit says the boy's father became aware of the boy's injuries in early March 2008 and took him to a physician.

The physician found a 12-inch diameter "scald" in a circular pattern on the buttocks.

The boy later told an interviewer that the teacher applied a hot pan once to each of his buttocks, the affidavit says.

The investigating officer found her classroom included a kitchen that had a stove and "various cookware," the affidavit says.

According to the report, Ms Means, 45, who posted bail after being book into the county detention center on July 30, 2008, had worked for Allen ISD since 1997. She resigned from the district earlier this month. A police spokeswoman said she did not know why it took almost a year for the grand jury to return an indictment.
HRW urges Rwanda to amend reproductive rights bill

From BBC World News America (July 1, 2009) -

Rwanda [east-central Africa] is being urged to drop a draft law which would forcibly sterilise people who are mentally disabled.

US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said the proposed law was deeply flawed and violated the government's obligation to uphold human rights.

It also requires people to have an HIV test before getting married.

"Provisions in the current bill that increase stigma, rely on coercion and deny... reproductive rights should be removed," HRW's Joe Amon said.

Forced sterilisation is regarded as a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Rwanda has successfully managed to lower the spread of Aids in recent years thanks to its HIV campaign.

Figures from the World Bank in 2007 put the prevalence of Aids in the country at about 3%, down from 11% in 2000.

"While Rwanda has made notable progress in fighting stigma and responding to the Aids epidemic, and has pledged to advance the rights of persons with disability, forced sterilisation and mandatory HIV testing do not contribute to those goals," said Mr Amon, the health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

"These elements of the bill undermine reproductive health goals and undo decades of work to ensure respect for reproductive rights."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Student lawsuit alleges teacher victimization

Frankston, Victoria, Australia (June 29, 2008) - Courtney Davis, a 13-year-old student at Karingal Primary School, is suing the Victorian State Government, claiming she was discriminated against by two teachers at the school between March 2006 and July 2007. As reported by The Age, Ms Davis, who has severe epilepsy and suffers from seizures during the day that affect her short-term memory, alleges that amongst other things, one of the teacher's deliberately kicked balls at her and told her she was using her disability "as a crutch," that she was sent to reception at the school when she was ill and told to lie on the floor with a pillow rather than being placed in the sick bay, and that a sport's teacher told her she was "nothing but a slacker." From the article:

Courtney was allegedly victimised by two teachers — one who told her mother the girl was "using her disability as a crutch" and she "didn't have time for that rubbish".

This teacher also kicked a ball at Courtney's head three times in the presence of other students, it is claimed.

Her lawyers say that when Courtney did not come to school because of increased seizures, a sports teacher told her physical education class: "She never does sport. She is nothing but a slacker."
The full story is here.
Scam charges

From WCPO in Union Township, Cincinatti (June 29,2009) -
Two women are facing charges for allegedly using disabled children to defraud Union Township residents out of money earlier this month.

On Monday, Union Township police filed misdemeanor theft charges on Amie McRoberts, 37, and Catherine Nickell, 41.

Investigators say the women sent the girls door-to-door requesting donations so the children could attend a special needs camp. Police say both girls suffer from learning disabilities and the money was never going to a special needs organization, it was going to pay their parents' bills.
Amandaw is guest blogging at Feministe

Here is a link to her first post. And this is a link to her personal blog, Three River's Fog. An excerpt from her first post:

I’ve been around the blogosphere for several years now, commenting under this name (case varied). I started my blog… to have a space to externalize and process my own thoughts on any number of issues, including my experience as a low-class kid being raised by a mentally ill single mother, in an agricultural area in central California where Latin@s actually outnumber whites, and struggling to come to terms with my increasingly-unavoidable disability as I grew older. Issues covered include feminism, disability, health care, class and race, and conventional white-male-higher-class “politics”…

Monday, June 29, 2009

Inmate lawsuit claims sexual assault and coverup

Tulsa, Oklahoma (June 26, 2009) - Four female former inmates of Delaware County jail have filed a lawsuit claiming they were sexually assaulted by jailers and a reserve jail officer. In this report by the Oklahoman, one of the four women is described as “mentally disabled.” The inmates’ allegations include rape, sexual molestation and other forms of sexual assault, death threats, and claims that initial complaints were covered up by Delaware County Sheriff Jay Blackfox rather than properly investigated. According to The Oklahoman:
The lawsuit states Blackfox rehired [jailor] Sanders despite prior sexual misconduct with female inmates and that the sheriff ignored complaints by female inmates. Blackfox denied the allegations.

The story in full is here.

Assault and attempted robbery charges

Bridgeport, Connecticut (June 27, 2009) - Acccording to the Connecticut Post, 19-year-old Roosevelt Webster was arrested and charged on Friday with beating and trying to rob a 24-year-old developmentally disabled man. His charges include attempted first-degree robbery, assault on a "mentally retarded person" and reckless endangerment. From the article:
The 24-year-old victim was walking along Iranistan Avenue on Friday morning, police said, when he was confronted by four men wearing hooded sweat shirts. One of the men, identified as Webster, fired a gunshot in the direction of thevictim and the four men began beating the victim until officers arrived.

Police said the assailants scattered on arrival of officers and Webster was arrested after a short foot chase. Officers found several cartridges in his pocket and a handgun was found stuck in a fence along the path where he was running, police said.
Roosevelt Webster is being held on $40,000 bond. The man he assaulted and attempted to rob was taken to Bridgeport Hospital, where he was treated for head and face lacerations.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday round-up

From the AAP, Australia (July 25, 2009) - The mother of a 7-year-old autistic girl who died of starvation on November 3, 2007, has been found guilty of her murder by a NSW Supreme Court jury. The same jury found the child's father guilty of manslaughter after a week of deliberations. The girl weighed just 9kg at the time of her death and had the bone development of a five-year-old.

From the Journal News, White Plains, New York (June 24, 2009) - In an opinion-editorial, Esther Gueft says people with disabilities constitute one of the nation’s largest minority groups, yet their needs are consistently overlooked.

From The Independent in the United Kingdom (June 23, 2009) - Cari Loder, a multiple scleroris sufferer who pioneered a treatment for the disease, has committed suicide in her home near Godalming, Surrey, using a "helium based suicide kit." In the days before her death, Ms Loder, aged 48, researched ways to kill herself as her health rapidly deteriorated, leaving her permanently housebound and unable to travel to a euthanasia clinic abroad.

From the Associated Press and the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina (June 23, 2009) - North Carolina unveiled a roadside marker yesterday representing the state’s decades-long eugenics program, which was intended to keep thousands of people considered mentally disabled or otherwise genetically inferior from having children.

From the Contra Costa Times in Contra Costa, California (June 23, 2009) - Columnist Kate Scannell says Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to cut services to people with disabilities will only create bigger and more costly problems.

From the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press (June 22, 2009) - In a 6-3 ruling decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a family who argued that their child’s special education costs should be paid by their local school district even though he had not first received special education services in public school.

From ProPublica/St. Louis Post-Dispatch (June 22, 2009) - Ten years after the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling intended to help people with disabilities move out of institutions, hundreds of thousands of people who want to leave institutions to live on their own are still waiting to be released from nursing homes, rehab centers and state hospitals.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Discrimination lawsuit claims KMART fired a greeter because he used a cane

From an EEOC press release (June 24, 2009) (h/t Wheelie Catholic)


Retail Giant Punished Worker for Back Impairment, EEOC Charges

NORFOLK, Va. – National retail giant Kmart Corporation violated federal law by firing an employee because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on behalf of a former worker who uses an assistive walking device.

The EEOC’s suit, filed in he U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Kmart Corporation, Civil Action No. 2:09CV291), asserted that around September 2004 Alonzo McGlone was hired as a greeter at a Kmart Super Center in Norfolk, Va. McGlone, who has a debilitating back impairment, uses a cane to assist him in walking and standing. The EEOC’s suit charged that McGlone was successfully performing his duties as a greeter when he was observed using his cane. According to the EEOC, McGlone was fired because of the use of his cane.

The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The EEOC's lawsuit seeks reinstatement of McGlone into his former position or an equivalent one, as well as back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks an injunction ordering Kmart to institute and carry out policies, practices, and training programs which provide equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, and a work environment free from disability discrimination.

“Mr. McGlone lost his job because he needed to use an assistive device to walk,” said Herbert Brown, director of the EEOC’s Norfolk Local Office. “It is unfortunate that many employers still deny people who are ready and able the opportunity to work simply because of a disability. The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of people victimized by such prejudices.”

During Fiscal Year 2008, disability discrimination charge filings with the EEOC nationwide rose to 19,453 -- an increase of 10 percent from the prior fiscal year and the highest level in 14 years.

Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which includes the Norfolk Local Office, added, “This lawsuit is a reminder that, although we have made great strides in educating employers and the public about disability
discrimination, some employers still judge applicants and employees based on a disability rather than on their proven ability to do a job.”

According to its web site,, Kmart is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation. As of January 31, 2009, Holdings operated a total of 1,368 Kmart stores across 49 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

Recent sex crime reports

Muskegon, Michegan (June 23, 2009) - The Muskegon Chronicle reports that 54 year-old Willie James Ferguson has been charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl with developmental disabilities. According to the article, Ferguson, who was an acquaintance of the family, was charged as "a fourth-time habitual offender." A preliminary examination is set for July 2 and bond was set at $500,000 cash or surety.

Gatesville, Texas (June 22, 2009) - KXXV News reports that 22 year-old Christopher Lace Mobley was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled man. He is charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault and is being held on $300,000 bond.

Appleton, Wisconsin (June 20, 2009) - The Post Crescent reports that 51 year-old Eliseo Corona Vargas was found guilty of multiple charges arising from the rape on June 7, 2008, of a disabled woman who called police with her medical alert necklace. Vargas was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault, burglary and bail jumping and is scheduled for sentencing on August 6. According to the report, broke into the woman's New London apartment early in the morning while she was sleeping and assaulted her. The two were not acquainted.

Lombard, Illinois (June 19, 2009) - The Daily Herald reports that Shreya Lal, 20, has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting on June 15 a 20 year-old girl with developmental disabilities. According to the report, the assault occurred in the home of Lombard's parents after he convinced the girl to meet him there. Lal, it is reported, took the girl's cellular phone and threatened to hurt her if she went to plice. Lal is charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, intimidation, unlawful interference with the reporting of domestic violence. He was also charged with unlawful violation of an order of protection barring him from having contact with her.

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (June 17, 2009) - The Ottawa Citizen reports that two male social workers have been charged with "verbally, mentally and physically" assaulting three developmentally disabled adults at a Rockland home run by Prescott-Russell Services to Children and Adults. According to Ontario Provincial Police, the alleged assault of three adult residents of the home were reported to the OPP by the director of services of PRSCA on May 7.
Patrick Labreche, 24, was charged with three counts of assault, mischief under $5,000 and sexual exploitation, and Dominic Laviolette, 35, was charged with four counts of assault and sexual exploitation. They are expected to appear in court on June 24.

Bainbridge, Washington (June 15, 2009) - According to the Seattle Times, a 62-year-old Bainbridge High School teacher's aide is being held in jail on $500,000 bail, accused of sexually touching a developmentally disabled 17-year-old girl at a community pool. According to a schoold district spokeswoman, the man has been a para-educator, or teacher's aide, in special education classes at the high school for approximately six years.

West Jordan, Utah (June 11, 2009) - According to the Salt Lake Tribune, 56 year-old Scott Olsen has been ordered to stand trial for allegedly tying a developmentally disabled 14-year-old girl to a bed and sexually assaulting her. Olsen, who lived in the same apartment building as the girl, is charged with first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping, four counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse and lewdness, a class B misdemeanor. According to the article, prosecutors said the crimes all occurred on one day during the last school year, when the girl was in ninth grade. Olsen is being held in jail in lieu of $200,000 and is scheduled to appear in court on June 25.

Sand Lake, New York (June 10, 2009) - According to the Troy Record, 57 year-old Hendrick Werkman, a former employee at the Center for Disability Services, has been charged with performing a criminal sexual act upon a developmentally disabled adult female. According to the report, the alleged incident took place on June 6, 2009. Werkman has been fired from his center job in light of the criminal charges.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ontario man dies after being shot by police

Elmvale, Ontario, Canada (June 23, 2009) - According to numerous news reports, Doug Minty, an Ontario man who is described as being in his 50s and developmentally disabled, died shortly after being shot outside his home by an Ontario Provincial Police officer on Monday night. According to the Barrie Examiner, Mr Minty was shot during an "altercation" with a police officer who had been called to his home in response to a report about an argument between a door-to-door salesman and Mr Minty. From the article:

Police were called to 21 Lawson Ave. shortly after 8 p. m. in response to an altercation between a door-to-door salesman and a resident of the home.

Upon arrival at the scene, OPP say one of the men became involved in a direct altercation with police. As a result, an officer discharged his service pistol.

The man was taken to Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The officer involved was not injured.

Neighbours say the resident shot was Doug Minty, a "very nice, well-liked" man who lived alone with his mother, Evelyn Minty, in the single storey house.
According to the report, Mr Minty's death is being investigated by The Special Investigations Unit. A post-mortem examination is planned for today (Wednesday).

The story in full is here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Police officer indicted in death of Otto Zehm

Spokane, Washington, June 22, 2009 - According to the Associated Press, a federal grand jury has indicted Officer Karl Thompson for striking and tasering 36-year-old Otto Zehm during a confrontation with police in a convenience store on March 18, 2006. Mr Zehm, who was developmentally disabled, never regained consciousness, and died two days after the incident. His death was ruled a homicide. From the article:

The indictment contends Officer Karl Thompson deprived Otto Zehm of his civil rights and made a false statement to investigators. He was accused of repeatedly striking Zehm with a baton and Tasering him in a convenience store.

City officials have said Zehm refused police orders to drop a two-liter bottle of soda he was holding, and fought with officers.

U.S. Attorney James McDevitt said Thompson will likely be the only officer indicted.
To read a Wikipedia article about the incident and the subsequent death of Otto Zehm, see here.

For more detailed coverage of the indictment of Karl Thompson, see this article by KXLY.
Two cases of caregiver abuse and one of theft in Baltimore, MD

From AP/WBOC News:

BALTIMORE (AP) - Two former caregivers at group homes for developmentally disabled adults have been charged with abuse. Thirty-nine-year-old Mary Arung of Laurel, who worked at a home in Washington, is accused of assaulting a disabled woman in November as she was being taken to a doctor's appointment in Lanham.

In a separate case, 55-year-old Aboyomi Ogundeyi was charged with assaulting a disabled man at a group home in Baltimore County.

The cases were investigated by the Maryland attorney general's Medicaid Fraud unit, which announced the charges Friday. In a third case, another former caregiver, 26-year-old Kera Pamela Heath of Baltimore, was charged with theft and forgery.

She is accused of stealing a check made out to an assisted living resident in her care.

Sexual assault lawsuit alleges inadequate supervision of residents

Austin, Texas - An Austin woman who alleges her 42-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted last year by a resident at the Willow River Farms home for adults with intellectual disabilities has sued the facility and its director for failing to properly supervise residents. According to the Statesman (June 19, 2009):

A lawsuit filed in district court in Harris County accuses Willow River Farms and its director of failing to properly supervise residents and seeks unspecified damages. Gloria Culpepper, whose 42-year-old daughter no longer lives at the facility, says her daughter was assaulted by a fellow resident.

According to the report, The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation, a Houston nonprofit that runs Willow River Farms, is also a defendant in the suit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Caregiver carelessness

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - Two employees of the St. Amant community home for people with developmental disabilities have been fired for leaving two female residents inside a van while they went to watch a movie. As reported by the Winnipeg Sun (June 19, 2009):

The incident occurred May 18 at the Cinema City theatres on McGillivray Boulevard, where the two women -- both young adult residents of a St. Amant community residence on Edelweiss Crescent -- were left sitting in a van in the parking lot as the employees charged with their care went to check out a flick.

"It violates every conceivable policy, common sense, and we believe, the law. We're taking this very, very seriously," said Carl Stephens, president and CEO of St. Amant.

"There was fortunately no harm to the young women but there was certainly potential for harm. Both have very significant intellectual disabilities."

The incident was discovered when police officers patrolling the area noticed the women sitting in the van and waited with them until the staff members exited the theatre.

According to the the article, the the Winnipeg police vulnerable persons unit is investigating the case to see whether the employees' actions were against the law, although a police spokesman could not confirm that late yesterday.

St. Amant has more than 500 employees in its community residential program, and about 1,400 overall.

The full article is here.
Prison sentence for neglect death

The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York, reports the sentencing of Amber Zuke to 2 1/3 years in prison after being found guilty last month of causing the death of her 6-year-old son Jacob by neglecting his nutritional and medical needs. Her husband, Timothy Zuke, whom the judge felt was less responsible for Jacob's death than Ms Zuke, took a plea deal and will serve one to three years in prsion. Jacob, who had cerebral palsy, weighed only 25 pounds when police found him dead in the family apartment on January 1, 2008.

The full story is here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday round-up

From the Peoria Journal-Star in Peoria, Illinois (June 18, 2009) - The father of a severely autistic man has sued the city and three police officers for tasing his son 12 times when they arrested him last December after a disturbance at a Parc group home.

From the Associated Press (June 17, 2009) - The American Medical Association has taken action to support a doctor's ability to discuss obesity with an overweight patient. Under a new policy adopted Tuesday, the AMA formally opposes efforts by advocacy groups to define obesity as a disability. Doctors fear using that definition makes them vulnerable under disability laws to lawsuits from obese patients who don't want their doctors to discuss their weight.

From the Daily News in Queens, New York (June 17, 20090 - The mishandling of greencard applications for the family of a teen girl with disabilities may cause the family to separate. Following a paperwork snafu, 15-year-old Hayoung Lee, her mother and her sister face deportation to South Korea, leaving her father and 5-year-old brother alone in the US. The family faced its first hearing Monday in immigration court. The next step is a legal conference at the end of next month.

From KABC-TV in Los Angeles, California (June 16, 2009) - An investigation by ABC7 News of the LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and its treatment of bus passengers with disabilities has uncovered has widespread disregard for disabled riders. "Undercover video showed broken equipment and drivers who say they're untrained - or too busy - to help wheelchair riders get secured on the bus as required by federal law."

From AP/KPAX in Helena, Montana (June 16, 2009) - A Missoula woman, who was unable to find a physician willing to prescribe drugs that would hasten her death, has died of ovarian cancer. Janet Murdock died Sunday at age 67. Her death was announced Tuesday by the Denver-based patients' rights group Compassion & Choices. The group was a plaintiff in a lawsuit that led to a judge's ruling that physician-assisted suicide is a right protected under the Montana Constitution.

From Chicago Town Daily News, Chicago, Illinois (June 16, 2009) - A Chicago Public Schools principal yesterday accused district officials of routinely denying disabled students access to specialized help, and at times, of barring them from evaluation for learning disabilities. Mary Ann Pollett, principal of Moses Montefiore Special Elementary School, testified before the City Council's Committee on Education and Child Development that officials have discouraged teachers at her school from reporting students' disabilities because it is too expensive to deal with them.

From the Los Angeles Times (June 16, 2009) - Marcella M. Meyer, a prominent deaf advocate who helped found the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness and ran it for almost three decades, has died. She was 84. Ms Meyer, who was deaf since contracting scarlet fever at the age of 6, fought to expand civil rights and establish social services for people with impaired hearing. She pushed for TV closed-captioning in the 1970s, and was instrumental in opening up jury service in Los Angeles County to the deaf and hard of hearing in 1981. (h/t Patricia E Bauer)

From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota (June 15, 2009) -
Ariel Wade, who uses an electric mobility scooter to get around, is charging a White Castle restaurant with discrimination after she was turned away when she attempted to use the drive-through window. The Minnesota Disability Law Center is weighing whether to take her case. The restaurant chain says it limits the drive-in window to licensed motor vehicles in the interest of customer safety.

From the News Tribune, Benton County, Washington (June 14, 2009) - A deaf man who was jailed in Benton County in late 2005 and early 2006 is suing the county for allegedly failing to accommodate his needs under provisions of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. William 30-year-old Michael Kral says the county did not provide an interpreter during several court hearings, and that corrections officers refused to allow him to use a phone designed for deaf people and cut his calls short when he did use the teletypewriter, or TTY phone. The lawsuit also alleges that jail personnel wouldn't turn on the jail television's caption for the man.
Teen beaten by two men in Seattle

Seattle, Washington (June 17, 2009) - Police are investigating the assault by two white men on June 1 of 19-year-old Hannah Geiger. Hannah Geiger, who has a seizure disorder and is a silver medallist in the Special Olympics, was viciously beaten and knocked unconscious by two men in their 20s near the Magnolia Community Center around 3:30 p.m. on June 1. According to, the men were muttering "racial slurs"during the attack, which police are calling a hate crime. As reported in the Seattle Times:

On June 1, the Haitian-born 19-year-old started out on her three-block walk from her home to one of her favorite palaces, Magnolia Community Center, when she was stopped by two white men who accosted her because of her race and disability before beating her unconscious. No arrests have been made.

"After we got back home, she told me what happened and her face was pretty red. She showed me her bruises and told the story," said her mother, Ruthann Geiger.

On Wednesday evening, a crowd of about 300 supporters and friends gathered at a community barbecue thrown in Hannah's honor in Magnolia.

For the first time since she was thrust into the local spotlight after surviving what police say was a violent hate crime, Geiger's game face cracked into an embarrassed, but resolute, smile.
Hannah, who has won 16 medals at the Special Olympics, is described by those who know her as a "leader and a natural born helper." In the words of Wayne Grytting, Hannah's teacher for four years at West Seattle High School, "She has been a teacher to all of us about how to care for each other."

The story in full is here and here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Netherlands special needs swimming teacher arrested on suspicion of large scale sexual abuse

Amsterdam, The Netherlands (June 17, 2009) - According to Earth Times, 59-year-old Benno Larue, a Dutch special-needs swimming teacher, has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing at least 98 girls with intellectual disabilities and other special needs. He was arrested on June 8 after police confiscated tens of thousands of pornographic photographs and video footage of "hundreds of girls" aged 6 to 16. From the article:

"We have confiscated tens of thousands of pornographic pictures and video footage of hundreds of girls," a spokesman of the police in Den Bosch in the southern Netherlands told the German Press Agency dpa.

"The pictures show the swimming teacher performing sexual acts on at least 98 girls, aged 6 to 16," he added.

Given the obvious difficulties in interviewing the special-needs children, due to their disabilities, estimates of the number of potential victims have ranged to possibly over 1,000.

Two girls have so far been identified. Police said that so far it appears all girls had been the victims of assault, not rape.

Larue taught in several swimming pools in Den Bosch and three nearby towns and villages.

According to the report, Larue had been under police investigation five years ago on suspicion of sexual abuse but a police investigation did not lead anywhere. More than 100 police detectives are now working on what "appears to be the largest sexual abuse case in the Netherlands in decades." Larue remains in police custody pending the investigation.

The full article is here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Justin Hamilton torture case: an update

Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota (June 15, 2009) - Further to my post on April 16, the Star Tribune reports that John Maniglia, 21, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Monday for his role in the kidnapping, assault and torture of Justin Hamilton (pictured) in October last year. From the article:
John Maniglia, 21, had pleaded guilty in April to one county each of kidnapping, third-degree assault and theft as his trial was about to begin. Seven other charges against him were dropped. The eight-year prison term, handed down by Judge Tim Wermager, is twice the recommended sentence.

"We are pleased that this defendant has been held responsible for his actions in this violent kidnapping and assault," County Attorney Jim Backstrom said in a press release issued today.

Backstrom has said the longer sentence was necessary because of the cruelty of Maniglia's crimes.
As reported earlier by FRIDA, Mr Hamilton was kidnapped on two successive days and kicked and beaten more than 100 times, tied to a tree and burned repeatedly with a lighter. In November, 2008, Maniglia's 16-year-old girlfriend, Natasha Dahn, who provoked the beating by lying to Maniglia and others, claiming that Hamilton had hit her, pleaded guilty to four felonies in exchange for extended juvenile jurisdiction. Another man, Johnathon Diepold, age 22, is scheduled for jury trial on July 27 for various charges in connection with the attack, including kidnapping, theft, third degree assault and false imprisonment. Two other men, Glen Ries, 34, and Timothy Ketterling, 22, have pretrial conferences scheduled for June 22.

For earlier reports, see here and here, and also here, here and here.
Settlement agreement in case involving treatment of disabled man in prison

Port Orchard, Washington (June 15, 2009) - According to the Seattle Times, Kitscap County has agreed to pay $4.7 million dollars to a man with developmental disabilities for his treatment during his stay in the Kitsap County Jail. According to the article, before he entered jail, William Trask was healthy and led an active life. But when he left prison he was severely dehydrated with gangrene and failing organs. From the article:

William Trask's relatives say he suffered brain damage after refusing to eat or drink in the jail. His lawyer Tim Rolland Tesh of Seattle says Trask became disoriented in jail and was not taken to Harrison Medical Center for 21 days.

Trask's family told KING5-TV that the man suffered from a developmental disability before he entered the jail, but was healthy and active. Relatives say he left jail with dehydration and organ failure.
In a statement released to the press, Sheriff Steve Boyer said that "Mr Trask's situation is very serious, however it is an aberration."

"The Kitsap County Jail is an excellent facility with professional staff. The experts cannot specifically identify the cause of his physical deterioration. However we are pleased that, through this settlement, Mr. Trask's present and future care and health needs will be met."
To read the story in full, see here and here.
Wednesday blog-about

Recommended reading:

Cara (Feministe, The Curvature) - U.S Polling Locations Remain Inaccessible

William Peace (Bad Cripple) - White Castle Miss the Point

Renee (Womanist Musings) - Using Lame As A Descriptor Is Always Ableist

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rise in crimes against Tennesseans with disabilities

From the Public News Service in Nashville Tennessee, June 15, 2009

Tennesseans with disabilities are being victimized by criminals looking for easy targets. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reports that crimes against people with disabilities in Tennessee, primarily thefts, assaults and burglaries, were up 88 percent so far in 2009.

Carol Westlake, executive director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition, says the rise in crimes against Tennesseans with disabilities could be tied to the current recession.

"It may have to do with the economy and money being tight in general. You know, if I'm going to commit a crime, people with disabilities are easier prey."

As the state legislature finalizes a budget this week, Westlake is concerned about Governor Phil Bredesen's proposed cuts, including the elimination of 718 state employees' jobs.

"That's three-quarters of those in the departments that serve people with mental retardation and mental illness."

Westlake says that adding to the problem is the attitude of some people that Tennesseans with disabilities are a burden during hard times, because there is a perception that they're not contributing to society and the economy of the state.

UK unlawful discrimination lawsuit claims Abercrombie & Fitch made employee work in stockroom because she didn't fit its "look policy"

From the Daily Mail in London, the United Kingdom, June 14, 2009

A disabled law student is suing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for discrimination, claiming it made her work in a stockroom because her prosthetic arm didn't fit its public image.

Riam Dean, 22, was just days into a part-time job at the U.S. firm's flagship London store when she says she was asked to leave the shop floor.

She claims she was told she broke the company's 'Look Policy', which dictates how members of staff are meant to present themselves.

The company has been criticised for recruiting only young and beautiful assistants and was recently forced to settle a £25million law suit over the issue in the U.S.

Shoppers entering its new Savile Row shop are greeted by two bare-chested young men, clad in low-slung jeans and flip flops.

Miss Dean applied for a job with the company last May to fund the final months of her law degree at London's Queen Mary University.

She was born with her left forearm missing and has worn a prosthetic limb since she was three months old but insists she has never allowed her disability to get in her way.

She said: 'I was never asked whether I had a disability at my interview and, to be honest, it never occurred to me to mention it.

'It wouldn't stop me doing my job and I certainly didn't want or expect any special treatment.

'All they seemed interested in was taking my photograph to make sure I had the right image.'

After being told she had got the job she went along to an induction day where she was issued a 45-page handbook listing in minute detail the company's strict Look Policy.

It stipulates that staff must represent a 'natural, classic American style' and instructs them on everything from how to wear their hair (clean and natural) to how long they should wear their nails (a quarter of an inch past the end of the finger).

She was also given a uniform of jeans and a polo shirt, although the company handbook does state that sales associates can wear their own clothing as long as it is in 'Abercrombie style'.

Miss Dean, who normally wears long-sleeved tops to disguise the join between her upper arm and artificial limb, says she was told to buy a plain white cardigan to wear over her uniform.

But matters came to a head a few days later.

'A worker from what they call the "visual team", people who are employed to go round making sure the shop and its staff look up to scratch, came up to me and demanded I take the cardigan off.

'I told her, yet again, that I had been given special permission to wear it,' she recalled.
'A few minutes later my manager came over to me and said: "I can't have you on the shop floor as you are breaking the Look Policy. Go to the stockroom immediately and I'll get someone to replace you."

'I pride myself on being quite a confident girl but I had never experienced prejudice like that before and it made me feel utterly worthless.

'Afterwards I telephoned the company's head office where a member of staff asked whether I was willing to work in the stockroom until the winter uniform arrived.

'That was the final straw. I just couldn't go back.'

Miss Dean, who has just sat her final law exams, is due to take her case to the Central London Employment Tribunal later this month and is seeking damages of £25,000.

Four years ago, Abercrombie settled the £25million lawsuit, in which nine former employees accused the firm of discrimination.

The litigants, all from ethnic minority groups, said they were forced to work in stockrooms or take night shifts because they did not fit the 'Abercrombie look'.

A spokesman for Abercrombie & Fitch said: 'A&F has a strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and is committed to providing a supportive and dignified environment for all of its employees.'

"Wrongful birth" lawsuit

Portland, Oregon, June 13, 2009 - A South Portland couple, whose two-year-old daughter was born with Down syndrome, are suing their doctor for more than 14 million dollars to cover the costs of raising her and providing her education, medical care and speech and physical therapy. Deborah and Ariel Levey, whom were reportedly given the wrong information after a prenatal test for Down syndrome, say they would have terminated the pregnancy if they had know their daughter had the condition. As reported by the Oregonian:

The Levys declined to be interviewed. Their attorney, David K. Miller, said the toddler is as dear to them as their two older children but they fear being perceived as "heartless."

"They feel very strongly that what happened to them was wrong," Miller said. "They were given incorrect information, and their lives have changed because of it."
Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said fewer than 10 such suits are filed in the U.S. each year. And in order for the suits to succeed, courts must be willing to rule that "it's better not to exist and give damages for having to exist," Caplan said.

The 1973 decision Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for such suits because parents generally must claim that they would have aborted the

The "wrongful birth" and "wrongful life" lawsuits are controversial. High courts in roughly two-thirds of states have allowed the suits. Some states -- including Michigan, Georgia and Utah -- have banned them.

The story in full is here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Danieal Kelly: an update

According to the Associated Press (June 13, 2009), 65-year-old Manuelita Buenaflor, a social-services employee with MultiEthnic Behavioral Services, admitted last Wednesday that she helped forge documents and failed to supervise case workers, a lapse that prosecutors say contributed to the death by starvation in 2006 of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly. Ms Buenaflor, who has doctoral degrees in theology and child development, pleaded guilty to two fraud counts and conspiracy. For readers unfamiliar with this case, Danieal Kelly, who had cerebral palsy, died of starvation while under the supervision of Philadephia's Department of Human Services. At the time of her death, she weighed just 46 pounds and her back was full of gaping bedsores infested with maggots. Her death and other failures by the DHS resulted in nine indictments, the firing of two DHS top officials and a number of reforms at the agency. As conveyed by FRIDA a few weeks ago, Danieal's mother, Andrea Kelly pleaded guilty at the end of April to third-degree murder and child endangerment in connection with her death. From the Associated Press article:

Manuelita Buenaflor, 65, of Philadelphia became the first official with MultiEthnic Behavioral Services to enter a plea in the case, although two underlings have signed guilty pleas.

The city paid MultiEthnic a $1 million a year to visit at-risk children like Danieal Kelly, a disabled girl who lived in a chaotic home with an unfit mother, and make sure they were receiving needed services.

MultiEthnic documents suggest they made the required visits with Danieal, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy. But she had severe bed sores, weighed just 42 pounds and had long stopped going to school when her maggot-infested body was found in the squalid, stifling home in August 2006.

The story in full is here.