Friday, February 27, 2009

Sign Petition Against Forced Sterilization in Illinois!

Help us pass HB 2290 in Illinois! This bill will provide legal protections against forced sterilization of people with disabilities under guardianship. Here is an easy way to show you care.

If you support ending involuntary sterilization in Illinois by passing HB 2290, please sign the FRIDA petition at We will pass this petition to the Illinois state legislature!

What Has Been Happening without HB 2290
- One guardian (the mother of the ward) did not seek the court’s authority to consent to her daughter’s involuntary sterilization. The intent of the guardian to have the woman sterilized was discovered when her father received notice that his insurance policy would not cover such a procedure. The father then interceded on his daughter’s behalf.

- The guardian of a young woman with a traumatic brain injury filed a petition to have her involuntarily sterilized. The woman had no knowledge of the pending petition, even though she had been using different kinds of contraception successfully for years, and expressed the desire to get married and raise a family one day.

For more information, please visit Call your Illinois state representative and ask them to support HB 2290 today! If you call, here is what you can say:

Hello Representative __________, I would like to ask you to sponsor House Bill 2290. This bill helps create a legal process that would protect people with disabilities who have guardians from being sterilized against their will. I believe that sterilizing people without their consent is a violation of their human rights. I would like the House Judiciary Committee to approve this bill as soon as possible so it can come up for a vote. Thank you!

Please sign our petition and call your state representative today!

Feminist Response in Disability Activism (FRIDA)

Committee members on this campaign thus far are: Jenny Choi, Sharon Lamp, Michelle Robbins, Amber Smock and Kimberly Wilson. Please contact Michelle at or (915) 496-5468 to help or for details.
Friday roundup

From MSNBC, Broward County, South Florida (February 26) - A 44 year-old woman employed by United Cerebral Paly in Sunrise has been charged with exploiting four disabled residents of a South Florida care facility. According to investigators, the woman, who had access to the accounts of the four disabled adults, began using their credit and debit cards to remove funds from their accounts in September 2008. She also fraudulently used a credit card issued to the United Cerebral Palsy at three local Walmart Stores in November 2008. If convicted, she faces up to 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

From MSNBC, Baltimore, Atlanta (February 26) - A doctor was arrested as part of an investigation into assisted suicide in Georgia. The investigation concerns the death of a 58-year-old man in Georgia last year and an organization called the Final Exit Network. Four people face charges. As is the case in most states, assisted suicide is illegal in Georgia. Investigators said the Final Exit Network used helium inhalation as its methods.

From WOWT-TV in Omaha, Nebraska (February 25) - Cherie Harbour has been found guilty of abuse of a vulnerable adult resulting in the death of her disabled daughter, Tawnisha Harbor. As conveyed in an earlier FRIDA posts, Ms Harbour was charged with locking 23-year-old Tawnisha in a room when their house caught fire in June 2007. Tawnisha, who used a wheelchair, died days later from burns she suffered in the fire. According to police, the bedroom door was shut and tied with a sheet and there was no inside door knob. Ms Harbour wiill be sentenced on May 5th and faces up to five years in prison. According to her defense attorney, an appeal will be filed.

From the Associated Press/Fort Worth Star-Telegram Atalissa, Iowa (February 25) - Iowa’s social service agency acknowledged on Tuesday that it looked into Henry's Turkey Service's treatment of its disabled workers twice, once in the 1970s and again in 1997, but did not act, because, officials, they lacked jurisdiction or sufficient evidence to proceed. As conveyed in an earlier FRIDA post, twenty-one men with intellectual disabilities were evacuated from a battered and padlocked bunkhouse at Henry's Turkey Service near the town of Atalissa earlier this month after a fire marshal concluded it was unsafe. State officials say the men had been living there for decades and were paid little for their work. An investigation is continuing.

From WTNH in Wilton, Connecticut (February 23) - Two women with developmental disabilities fied in a fire on Saturday morning at a Wilton condominium complex. Cynthia Timmins, 54, and Dana Conley, 57, both died from smoke inhalation. They were both clients of STAR Inc., a non-profit group that supports people with developmental disabilities. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

From, Belleville, Illinois (February 23) - A metro-east attorney appointed as a pubic guardian has been accused of using $6,300 of a disabled adult ward's money on himself.

From the Union Leader in Concord, N.H. (February 22) - A Concord woman was charged with felony theft after taking more than $6,000-worth of goods over a five year period from an senior person with disabilities she was hired to take care of.

From The Associated Press (February 22) - South African double-amputee sprinter and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius sustained head and facial injuries in a boat accident on Saturday, but according to his manager will be back on the track soon. Pistorius had surgery on Sunday and was in stable condition in the intensive care unit of a Johannesburg hospital where he was airlifted after the accident.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

RIP, Christopher Nolan

Acclaimed Irish writer Christopher Nolan died on Friday in Dublin. Mr Nolan, who had cerebral palsy, produced a highly praised volume of verse and short stories when he was 15 years-old, and then went on to receive the prestigious Whitbread Prize for his autobiography, Under the Eye of the Clock. According to family members, the cause of his death was food trapped in his airway. Mr Nolan was 43.

Mr Nolan had been able to communicate only through eye movements until the age of 11, when he began to take a new drug to relax his neck muscles. He began writing with a “unicorn stick” strapped to his forehead, typing a letter at a time on a keyboard as his mother held his chin in her hands.

Here is an extract from his obituary in the New York Times:

A prominent Los Angeles producer wanted to make a film of Mr. Nolan’s life story.

Mr. Nolan turned the offer down.“I want to highlight the creativity within the brain of a cripple,” he wrote to the producer, “and while not attempting to hide the crippledom I want instead to filter all sob-storied sentiment from his portrait and dwell upon his life, his laughter, his vision, and his nervous normality. Can we ever see eye-to-eye on that schemed scenario?”

The full obit is here ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Act Now! End Involuntary Sterilization in Illinois

An opportunity for FRIDA Fighters!

What would you do if you were a person with a disability, and your legal guardian decided to have a doctor operate on you so you couldn’t have babies? What would you do if your guardian didn’t even tell you about this, or tricked you into doing it? This is called involuntary sterilization, and in Illinois it happens more often than you think. Involuntary sterilization is when your guardian and your doctor agree to tie your tubes or do a hysterectomy without your permission or knowledge. We are one of 16 states nationwide with no laws to protect people with disabilities who have guardians from sterilization.

Now we have a chance to change that. Today, there is a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives called H.B. 2290. This bill would update a law called the Probate Act of 1975. H.B. 2290 would add to the Probate Act by saying that a guardian would need to get a court order to have a doctor do a sterilization on a ward with a disability. The exception would be if you might die or be seriously harmed without it. Otherwise, a court would have to say that sterilization is ok, and the court would have to do their best to figure out whether the person with a disability is ok with it or not. Right now, we do not have that kind of protection at all. H.B. 2290 is an important Illinois bill that protects the bodies of people with disabilities who have guardians.

Remember, not every person with a disability has a guardian. Most people with disabilities make decisions about their own lives. A guardian makes decisions for a person with a disability who needs help with decisions. A person with a disability who has a guardian still can often make their opinions known, and it is important to respect that opinion.

So what can you do to help? We need this bill to pass the Illinois House of Representatives NOW! If you live in Illinois, contact your state representative and ask them to sponsor H.B. 2290 TODAY! You can find out who your representative is at the Board of Elections webpage. Right now, we especially want to reach representatives who are on the Judiciary;s Civil Law Committee—look them up here. If you are with an organization, have your organization join our list to support H.B. 2290! Let’s make this happen today! Check back at for updates.

Organizations Supporting H.B. 2290:

FRIDA, Equip for Equality

For more information, or to sign onto our list of organizations supporting H.B. 2290, contact FRIDA member Michelle Robbins at (915) 496-5468 or To read the bill, go to the bill online.
Videos of Jerry Lewis Oscar protest on you tube

The You Tube videos, along with background and links to news coverage of the weekend's protests are also provided by The Trouble With Jerry.

Oscar 2009 protest of humanitrian award, Jerry Lewis, YouTube.

Jerry Lewis Award Protest On Oscar Eve, YouTube.

Cure Jerry Lewis, YouTube.

And to read Not Dead Yet founder and president Diane Coleman's account of the protest in Rochester, New York, with links to local media coverage, see here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Presenter scares children, parents tell the BBC

From This is London (UK):
DOZENS of parents have complained to the BBC that a disabled television presenter is scaring their children.

Cerrie Burnell, who was born with one arm, and co-presenter Alex Winters took over the popular Do and Discover slot and The Bedtime Hour programme on the CBeebies channel last month.

But the decision to hire her has prompted a disturbing campaign which has become so vicious that some comments on the BBC message boards have had to be removed.

One father said he would ban his daughter from watching the channel because he thought it would "give her nightmares".

Others said it had prompted difficult conversations with their children about disabilities. Some even accused the BBC of hiring the 29-year-old because of "political correctness" solely to meet employment quotas.

One blogger wrote: "Is it just me or does anyone else think the new woman presenter on CBeebies may scare the kids because of her disability?" Another parent who wrote to the message board said: "What is scary is the BBC'sdetermination to show 'minorities' on CBeebies at every available opportunity."

Miss Burnell, who has a four-month-old daughter, said she was upset at the "small-minded" and "terrible" comments.

Miss Burnell said: “It can only be a good thing that parents are using me as a chance to talk disability with their children. It just goes to show how important it is to have positive disabled role models on CBeebies and television in general.”

Michael Carrington, Controller of CBeebies - “It's a big ask to entertain millions of children every day. Cerrie is warm and natural and we think that in time all mums and dads and children will love her as much as we do”.

See also stories in the [UK] Daily Mail and Sky News.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Torture case in Hamilton: another update

The couple accused of kidnapping and torturing a 22-year-old man with intellectual disabilities for nearly three weeks were charged on Friday (February 22) with beating and robbing and another intellectually disabled man two months ago. According to the Globe and Mail:

Superintendent Bill Stewart said officers were able to quickly link the two crimes because of their similarity, and are now looking into the possibility that there was a wider pattern of preying on the vulnerable.

"There were similarities in the type of victim, being disabled, and similarities in some of the circumstances surrounding the incident," Supt. Stewart said.

"We're already looking to see if other cases can be linked to these individuals."

Stanley Brown, 30, and his girlfriend, Dakota Thompson, 20, were given additional charges of robbery with a weapon, administering a noxious substance and assault causing bodily harm, according to the report. As conveyed in earlier FRIDA posts, the couple, along with 22-year-old Nathan Jug and a 17-year-old male who can't be identified, allegedly held the 22-year-old man captive and tortured him for more than three weeks in a room in a Hamilton triplex. Money was also taken from his bank account. The man suffered a fractured skull, burns across large parts of his body, and was close to death when he was found by police, who were responding to a 911 call made by his alleged captors.

There is some good news - although he's still got a long recovery ahead of him, the man was released from hospital last Thursday. As reported by

"I'm sure he's been traumatized by this," Hamilton police Supt. Bill Stewart said. "He's got a lot of visible injuries and he's still got a long recovery to go. As we mentioned before, he's got some mental disabilities and that's obviously aggravated and compounded what he's been through."

Friday, February 20, 2009

A roundup

From KETV (February 19) - The trial has begun in Omaho, Nebraska, for Cherie Harbor who has been accused of causing the death of her disabled daughter, Tawnisha Harbour. As conveyed in an earlier FRIDA post, Ms Harbour is charged with locking 23-year-old Tawnisha in a room when their house caught fire in June 2007. Tawnisha, who used a wheelchair, died days later from burns she suffered in the fire. According to police, the bedroom door was shut and tied with a sheet and there was no inside door knob.

From The Guardian (UK) (February 19) - A British woman with multiple sclerosis lost her court of appeal case to have the law on assisted suicide clarified. Debbie Purdy, 45, wanted to know if her husband, Omar Puente, would be prosecuted if he helped her travel to die in a country where it is legal. Under British law, aiding and abetting suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

From The New York Times (February 18) - Peter Ash, a Canadian man with albinism is working to stop the killing of albinos in Tanzania for their body parts - more than 40 albinos have been killed since 2007 by gangs of men who hack off their legs, heads or genitals and run away with them.

From the Des Moines Register (February 16) - Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is planning congressional hearings over the alleged exploitation of 21 workers with intellectual disabilities for decades at a meat processing plant in Iowa. The scandal began last week when it was reported that Henry’s Turkey Service, a Texas company, was paying the men as little as 44 cents an hour to work at the plant, and was housing them in a 106-year-old bunkhouse with windows that were boarded up to keep out the cold. (h/t to Patricia E Bauer)

From KPTV (February 14) - A former special education teacher's aide in Vancouver resigned recently amid an investigation into whether she sent a string of sexually suggestive MySpace messages to a 13 year-old male student with Asperger's syndrome.

From MSNBC (February 12) - The siblings of Amelia Ramirez were convicted of forcing her to live in a backyard shed without electricity and stealing her government checks for years. As reported earlier by FRIDA, 58-year-old Ms Ramirez, who is developmentally disabled, was found freezing and nearly naked in their Redwood City, CA backyard in November. Her siblings, Lozano and Cano Ramirez allegedly told her there was no room for her in the house — but let their seven pit-bull terriers share the residence. Sentencing for the siblings is set for April 8.

Lancaster OnLine (February 11) - A nurse in charge of a 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and elipesy appeared in court yesterday in connection with his death from a lethal dose of morphine.

Torture case in Hamilton : an update

The two men and a woman charged with torturing a 22-year-old man, described as "mentally disabled" and "vulnerable, for three weeks appeared briefly in court yesterday (February 19), the Toronto Star reports. Dakota Thompson, 20, Stanley Brown, 30, Nathaniel Jug, 22, were charged with forcible confinement, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, threatening death and robbery. A 17-year-old boy has also been arrested in connection with the man's abuse. Dakota Thompson, 20, Stanley Brown, 30, Nathaniel Jug, 22, were charged with forcible confinement, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, threatening death and robbery. According to the Toronto Star:

The attacks were primarily sadistic, Beech said. “It would be fair to say it was a power trip.”

Police allege the “very trusting” man was lured to the Corktown apartment and held captive for weeks. He was burned, beaten with fists and martial arts-style weapons and sexually assaulted.

Officers found him lying prone in a back room with a fractured skull, burns and bruises all over his body and blood poisoning.

Police have refused to reveal what caused extreme “toxification” of his blood.

There are very few details reported about the victim, who is said to have lived alone on “disability assistance” and had not been reported missing. Although he was reported to be near death when discovered by police, he is now reported to be recovering quickly in hospital and may be released in the next few days.

For additional details, see this story in the Globe and Mail.
Jerry Lewis humanitarian award demonstrations set for this weekend

via Media-dis-n-dat

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Janine Bertram Kemp 503-622-6387,
Anne Finger 510-593-6412

OSCARS: Disability Advocates Protest “Humanitarian”Award Recipient, Jerry Lewis. Learn why…

Los Angeles, Ca. - Disability community leaders from across disability advocacy will protest the decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to grant Jerry Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this Sunday's Oscar Awards ceremony. Lewis has described disabled individual is “half a person” and referred to a wheelchair as "a steel imprisonment.

"For more than two decades, disability rights advocates have objected to Lewis' portrayal of life with a disability as tragic and pathetic. In response, Lewis snarled, “You don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!”

Dismissing the disability community's objections, the Academy has decided to proceed with the award. In a letter to the activist group The Trouble with Jerry, Academy director Bruce Davis compared Lewis’ insulting, outdated attitudes to "some scratches in the paint job... of a Lamborghini."

"To outsiders, Jerry Lewis may be perceived as a humanitarian, but to us Lewis personifies one of the biggest barriers facing people with disabilities: outdated attitudes," said author and activist Laura Hershey, a protest organizer. "While the Motion Picture Academy has chosen to award Lewis the Hersholt award due to the money he has raised on his MDA Telethons, we counter “The cost is too high. Money can’t buy respect,” said Hershey. “We experience the side-effects of Lewis’ pity-mongering every day, when people see us as victims rather than as contributors, as recipients of handouts rather than equal citizens Every dime raised has been at cost of our dignity.”

Over 30 organizations endorse The Trouble with Jerry campaign, and to date over 2600 individuals have signed a petition protesting the award. The petition states in part, “Rather than working for equality and social inclusion of disabled people, the MDA Telethon portrays us as hopeless, pathetic, eternal children.'”

Demonstrations will take place during Oscar weekend in Los Angeles and around the US. Local LA protest schedules and locations are as follows:

▪Friday, February 20, 12 noon, Motion Picture Academy, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.
▪Saturday, February 21, 12 noon, Kodak Theatre, Highland & Hollywood Blvd.
▪Sunday, February 22, 2:00 p.m., near the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood & Vine

Correspondence between the Trouble with Jerry and the Motion Picture Academy, as well as some history of disability rights protests against Jerry Lewis, and current protest information, can be found at .

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Torture case

Hamilton, ON, Canada (February 18) - Three adults and a juvenile have been charged in Hamilton, Ontario with the torture of man described has having mental disabilities whom police believe was held captive and abused for almost a month after being lured to an apartment. The man's skull had been fractured and he had a variety of other life-threatening injuries. In the Toronto Star, Police Superintendent Bill Stewart is quoted as saying:

"In 32 years of policing, these are the most disturbing and disgusting acts I have ever seen," Hamilton police Supt. Bill Stewart said yesterday.

"The motive can be best described as sadistic in nature."


"The victim's skull was fractured from repeated beatings with several hard objects and he was deliberately burned and beaten over much of his body," Stewart said.

Along with severe injuries, "his blood was so toxified that it could have resulted in his death in a very short period of time." The toxin was not alcohol, drugs or chemical in nature, Stewart said, without elaborating.

Stanley Brown, 30, Nathaniel Jug, 22, and Dakota Thompson, 20, were charged with one count each of aggravated assault and forcible confinement. According to, a 17-year-old boy has also been arrested. It is expected the four will also face further charges of aggravated assault, robbery and threatening death.

The man remains in hospital at this time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Florida special education teacher acquitted of abuse charges

Sarasota, Florida - According to MSNBC, a jury has acquitted special education teacher Diana O'Neill of child abuse charges after hearing testimony from classroom aides and other school employees that she had hit, kicked and ridiculed four students with severe developmental disabilities.

The verdict followed a weeklong trial during which prosecutors attempted to prove that O'Neill's actions could have caused physical injury or mental harm to her students.

That standard was made more difficult to prove than in some other cases because all of the students involved are so severely disabled that they cannot speak.

They also have so many physical problems that there is no way to know whether she would have seriously injured them when aides say they saw her hit them on the head with objects, kick and push them.

Although prosecutors argued some of the children received bumps on the head, ruises and scratches in O'Neill's classroom, the defense said that those do not qualify as injuries.

Now the criminal charges against Ms O'Neill have been resolved, the local school district must now consider whether to give her her job back and the state may revoke her license. Additionally, the parents of the children say they intend to file a law suit against the school district.

The full details are here.

Stephen Drake: new blog, "Water on the Brain - And Lots on My Mind"

Many readers will be familiar with Stephen Drake as the research analyst for the disability rights group Not Dead Yet. According to Stephen, his new blog, called Water on the Brain - and Lots on My Mind, will also be disability-oriented, but will cover (but not necessarily limited to) hydrocephalus, nonverbal learning disabilities, and neurodiversity." To check out his first post, click here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

David Coronado: an update

A few weeks ago, FRIDA reported on the case of David Coronado, a 6-month-old boy who suffered severe brain and spinal injuries as a result of parental abuse. Initially, David's court appointed guardian had requested that his life-support be removed, but that hearing was cancelled due to "a change in his condition". Last Friday (Feb. 13) there was some good news: the Dallas Morning News reported that David's condition has improved and he is now breathing on his own. Here is an excerpt:
Just last month, attorneys were considering whether to withdraw life support from 7-month-old David Coronado Jr., whose parents are accused of inflicting scars too numerous to count.

Now the brain-damaged Dallas boy is breathing on his own, and authorities are looking into who might eventually get custody of David should he survive.

"He is off life support at this time, but the prognosis is still uncertain," Michael Kotwal, an attorney representing Child Protective Services, told a judge Friday morning at a status hearing in Dallas County juvenile district court.

"We're asking for about 90 days to see exactly what's going to happen," Kotwal said. "And possibly if there's any – not that the child is ready to be moved or transferred to any kind of relative placement – but if the child's condition does improve and that becomes an option, we need some time to explore the possibilities."

It's noteworthy that, according to the report, the court-appointed guardian who originally petitioned for the removal of David's life-support did not return a call for comment on Friday.

Thoughts are with you, David.

Call for papers : William Carlos Williams and the Problems of Embodiment: Disability, Medicine and Trauma Studies

MLA CFP: William Carlos Williams and the Problems of Embodiment:
Disability, Medicine and Trauma Studies

William Carlos Williams Society announcement of CFP for panel entitled William Carlos Williams and the Problems of Embodiment: Disability, Medicine and Trauma Studies.

MLA convention, Philadelphia
27-30 Dec, 2009.

Papers are invited which focus on Williams's view of poetry as diagnostic, restorative, medicinal, or ameliorative. We especially seek papers centering on illness/disease/trauma/disability as embodied states of being as well as social, theoretical, critical, or conceptual figurations in Williams's writings. Please submit an abstract of one page and a short CV to before 15 March 2009.

Edith Morris-Vásquez, PhD
Assistant Professor
English and World Literature
Pitzer College
1050 N Mills Avenue
Claremont CA 91711
(909) 607-2633

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday roundup

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 12) - The waiting list for disability services for some people in Georgia is as many as eight years, while others can't get help until their parents or caregiver dies, according to David Blanchard, the coordinator of the Unlock the Waiting List Campaign.

From the Fremont tribune (February 12) - The death last month of an 18-year-old woman with developmental disabilities at the troubled Beatrice State Developmental Center in Lincoln, Nebraska was due to medical negligence, according to her family. David Manes, who filed a claim against the state on Thursday, says his daughter died after at least 10 missteps by staff, and blames the center's management.

From the San Francisco Chronicle (February 12) - Two Bay Area residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente, accusing the health maintenance organization of refusing to treat children with autism in order to save costs. The suit said Kaiser Foundation has a legal duty to treat autistic children.

In this post, Ruth at Wheelie Catholic discusses "wheelchair rage". An excerpt: "Much like road rage, wheelchair rage occurs when someone decides he or she wants to be first or someone else does something that annoys him/her or gets in their way. Due to the common misperception that wheelchairs will slow others down (when actually wheelchairs go faster), wheelchair rage can happen upon the mere sight of a wheelchair. Unfortunately, this can lead to overreactions that create problems and situations."

To read "Wheelchair rage - the other side" by Wheelchair Dancer, see here.

From the International Herald Tribune (February 11) - Ms Eluana Englaro, who has been at the center of a right-to-die battle in Rome, Italy, died on February 9 in a private clinic. Ms Englaro, 38, who has been in a coma since a car accident in 1992, was moved last week to a private clinic in Udine, northeast Italy, that agreed to remove the feeding tube after other public clinics refused.

From Canwest News Service (February 10) - Health Canada is investigating the deaths of five people, including several children with cerebral palsy, who had been injected with Botox to treat medical conditions such as neck and muscle spasms.

From The Associated Press (February 9) - The friends of an 18-year-old autistic man charged with attacking his mother who later died say that she "would want people to know that autism doesn't equal violence."

From the Des Moines Register (February 9) - An Iowa meat-processing plant (Henry's Turkey Service), has been accused of exploiting 21 male workers with intellectual disabilities. The men, who were evacuated from the premises, had worked for at least 20 years at the facility. According to an Iowa inspections administrator, the conditions there were “deplorable.” In this Feb 12 update by reports that the men's employer has been profiting from the labor of the men, earning as much as $40,000 a month.

From the Daily Dunkin Chronicle (February 9) - A Dunklin County (Missouri) man has been sentenced to to 30 years in prison in connection with the rape of a 16-yar-old girl with developmental disabilities. The 43 year old man will be required to serve at least 25 and a half years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alexis Glover: an update

Manassas, Virginia - In this update on the death of 13-year-old Alexis Glover, Inside Nova reports that Alexis' mother, Alfreedia Gregg-Glover, allegedly "dumped her adopted daughter—who was possibly still alive—in [the] freezing creek and then made up a story about the girl running away". As conveyed in previous FRIDA posts, the body of Alexis Glover, who is said to have had been autistic, was found in a creek on Friday 9 January, 2009.

According to the report, police think that Alexis may have had some kind of medical emergency on the morning of January 7 and that Ms Gregg-Glover "did not get her proper medical attention." Ms Gregg-Glover was released from jail on Monday (January 9) after the court granted her a $5,000 bond on the child neglect charge. The full story is here ...

See also Social workers, strangers, honor alexis glover.

Sentencing for woman accused of abusing adopted children

Fort Pierce, Florida - According to the Associated Press, Judith Leekin, who was accused of abusing 11 disabled children she adopted, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison:

Circuit Judge Robert Belanger on Wednesday called Judith Leekin's actions "reprehensible" and handed down the maximum punishment allowed in the plea agreement. Leekin, 63, pleaded no contest to four counts of aggravated child abuse and four counts of aggravated abuse of disabled adults. The adoptees are now in their mid-teens and 20s.
As conveyed in earlier FRIDA posts, the children, who were found severely malnourished in July 2007, were often handcuffed together and forced to soil themselves because they were not allowed to use the bathroom. They told authorities they had never seen a doctor or a dentist and had not been allowed to attend school or leave the house. According to court records, Judith Leekin used four aliases to adopt from different agencies and created fake report cards to show the children's progress, even though they were not attending school, according to court records and officials. The children were adopted in New York City before Judith Leekin moved to Florida in 1998.

According to this report in the Fort Pierce Tribune, the whereabouts of one of the children Judith Leekin adopted, Shane "Moo" Graham, a boy with Down syndrome, is is still unknown. It is alleged that Judith Leekin took Shane from their apartment in July 2000 and returned a half-hour later without him. Some of the adopted children have told police they believe that Shane, who would now be 20-years-old, is dead.
Baltimore police are seeking the killer of a disabled man

From WBAL-TV in Baltimore, Maryland:

Police are trying to find the person who killed a disabled man who was found in a bathroom at Leakin Park.

Lemuel Wallace, 37, was found Wednesday by officers who were patrolling the area near the 4500 block of Franklintown Road.

Investigators said they believe that Wallace knew the person responsible for his slaying.

Residents said that the Wallace was well liked in the Pikesville neighborhood where he lived. Wallace was known to take walks in the area.

Officers are combing the neighborhood with his photo to see if anyone caught a glimpse of whoever convinced Wallace to go miles away with them to Gwynns Falls Park -- known to many as Leakin Park.

"I saw him. I don't think he caused any harm. He was right over at that house over there. I saw a dark-skinned male that looked like that on the picture," Pikesville resident Devin Cheese said.

Wallace was disabled and lived in a group home in the 4500 block of Maryknoll Road.
Cheese said that he saw Wallace a few days ago. The man claims that Wallace came out of the home and got into an adult day care van.

Police found Wallace's body Wednesday inside the park bathroom near the Gwynss Falls Trail. He had been shot multiple times.

"It doesn't appear to be a robbery and it doesn't appear there was a struggle. We believe because of his disabilities he was manipulated into going with this person," Detective Nicole Monroe said.

The group that runs the home where Wallace lived said that he was a fairly independent person. Wallace was known to have lots of friends and that he had just moved to the home eight months ago.

Investigators said that Wallace must have trusted his killer or considered the person a friend.

"That's why we believe whoever murdered Wallace manipulated him and tricked him into going with him and took his life," Monroe said.

They also think it was someone who has been seen with Wallace.

"We do believe there are people in the neighborhood who saw Wallace with the suspect. We want phone calls. Let the detectives sift through the information," Monroe said.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Note to readers

Dear readers, until my schedule settles down, I will posting at FRIDA three times a week - on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. See you all on Wednesday, and best wishes.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday roundup

From The Standard-Times (February 5) - A New Bedford (Mass.) woman has been charged with abandoning a 24-year-old man with cerebral palsy in a van for nearly two hours while she visited people in New Bedford and Fairhaven. Kim Borges, 50, a former bus driver for Community Connections, is charged with permitting abuse on a disabled person.

From CNN (February 4) - British woman Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, is attempting to clarify the law on assisted suicide, an option she has said she wants if her pain becomes unbearable. Ms Purdy, who wants the option to travel abroad to have an assisted death should her suffering become unbearable, is appealing an October judgment from the High Court, which refused to clarify the law.

Disability activists who will be protesting at the Academy Awards on February 22 have created The Trouble with Jerry Web site. More than 2400 individuals have now signed a petition calling on the Motion Picture Academy to cancel its plans to give Jerry Lewis a humanitarian award. The petition is available on the Web site. (h/t to Media dis&dat)

From the New York Times (February 3) - Four Google executives are being tried this week in an Italian court on criminal charges of defamation and privacy violation over a cellphone video posted on a Google site in 2006. The video showed four youths in Turin taunting a boy with Down syndrome.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (February 2) - Parents of St. Louis students with severe disabilities are suing the state of Missouri, asking a federal judge to close 35 state-run schools because of a “continued and persistent failure” to properly educate students.

From Air Force Times (February 3) - Disabled Iraq war veteran Major Tammy Duckworth will soon be nominated to be part of the President's team at the Veterans Affairs Department. Ms Duckworth, who lost both legs in 2004 after the helicopter she was flying was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, will be nominated to be assistant veterans secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Michael Reynolds (of Independence Today) has created a blog about the "Disability Pride and Power Ball" at the Inaugural. It has lots of pictures and videos. (h/t to Media dis&dat).

From the Chicago Tribune (January 31): Mental health care advocates say the calling of Rod Blagojevich "crazy," "psychotic," and delusional is offensive and blames mental illness for alleged criminal behavior.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Call for Papers: Religion and Disability

American Academy of Religion
Annual Meeting
November 7-10, 2009
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Proposal Deadline: Monday March 2, 2009

The Religion and Disability Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion invites papers on the following topics:

1) Spirituality and disability - we invite papers that explore the spirituality of people with disabilities, as well as papers that reflect more generally on intersections of spirituality and disability theory;

2) Disability and leadership - recognizing that people with disabilities are not only found in the congregation, or behind a student desk, or in the audience of an AAR session, we invite papers that explore the roles and experiences of people with disabilities in leadership positions, such as clergy, professors, and scholars;

3) Different disabilities - we invite papers that highlight religion in a wider range of disability experiences, including mental illness, cognitive difference, and hidden disabilities;

4) For a joint session with the Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Group, we invite proposals responding to McRuer and Berube's Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability;

5) Finally, we invite paper proposals on any topic related to intersections of religion and disability.

Proposal (not more than 1000 words) and abstract (not more than 150 words) are due Monday March 2, 2009. Each presenter must be a member (or willing to become a member) of the American Academy of Religion.

For more information, see or send an e-mail to AAR R&DS Group

Chair: Debbie Creamer, Ph.D., Iliff School of Theology,

Reports in the news of sexual abuse

Here are summaries of some of the reports in the media this past week of sexual assault against people with disabilities (20 January-1 February, 2009). In all reports, the assailant is a male; the youngest man is 26-year-old and the oldest, 74. In three out of the four cases, those assaulted by him are female, and in one report, it's suggested that numerous women may have been abused. In two cases, the abuse occurred in a housing facility for people with disabilities.

Waukesha, Wisconsin (28 January, 2009) - A 34-year-old man was arrested for allegedly forcing his way into the home of 70 year-old women with physical disabilities and sexually assaulting her. More here ...

Louisville, Kentucky (22 January, 2009) - A 42-year-old man was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy at his sister's home. More here ...

Hamilton, AB, Ca (21 January, 2009) - The 74-year-old operator of a downtown care facility for disabled and developmentally disabled women was charged with sexually assaulting his residents. More here ...

Bixby, Oklahoma (20 January, 2009) - A 26-year-old former nursing home worker was charged with caretaker abuse and sexual abuse amid accusations that he sexually assaulted a physically and developmentally disabled male resident while he was bathing him. More here ...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Action Alert: Offensive autism advertising in the Action for Children ad campaign

Many bloggers are writing posts protesting the imagery and message of the Dan the Autistic Monster advertisement by the UK charity Action for Children. For information/critiques/analyses of the ads and links to further analyses and information about action alerts, see posts here and here by Shiva from over at Biodiverse Resistance and this post by abfh at Whose Planet Is It Anyway. This is a link to an action alert started by the Autistic Self Advocy Network (ASAN) and here is a link to a video of the advertisement. Below is a small excerpt from this post by abfh, entitled Destroying the Intolerance Monster:

A charity in the UK called Action for Children has created a truly appalling short film called Dan's Story, which is being shown on TV as an advertisement. It depicts a boy as having been eaten by a wicked autism monster and suggests that the monster must be destroyed. Several bloggers already have written about this horrid imagery, including Mike Stanton, Socrates, Bev, Sharon, and Shiva.

The ASAN campaign ends on Apr 25.

SDS - DSQ Winter 2009 issue is now online

See here.

from Brenda Brueggemann, Co-Editor, Disability Studies Quarterly
This issue features a special section of selected papers from a conference immediately following the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in May 2008. "A Call for Action on Poverty, Lack of Access and Discrimination" was the focus on the international conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and hosted by Leonard Cheshire Disability, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. See:

As usual, there are also excellent peer-reviewed articles. This issue features a trio of those: a thorough examination of the human rights of children with disabilities in Israel by Dina Feldman; a critical discourse analysis of how one special education teacher deconstructs disability, her pedagogical practice and work with students who are labeled as having disabilities by Jong-Gu Kang; another critical discourse analysis, this one by Margaret Price, of 17 accessibility policy documents produced by 8 different professional organizations about their conferences and materials with regards to access and accommodations (and attitudes) for people with disabilities as
participants in their professional spaces.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Jared Greenwood - an update

Farmington, New Mexico (February 2, 2008) - The trial of Jared Greenwood's mother, Sandra Greenwood, who is charged with his death, was restarted this month after psychological testing found her to be fit to stand trial. As noted in an earlier FRIDA post, Sanda Greenwood, 61, is accused of leaving 26-year-old Jared, who was autistic and developmentally disabled, to die covered in feces and refuse on the bathroom floor of their home in September 2007. According to the criminal complaint, Jared was cared for by his mother, although payments for his care were stopped in March 2007 after she stopped requesting continued disability assistance. Ms Greenwood is charged with neglecting a health care resident and involuntary manslaughter and if convicted, faces more than 16 years in prison. The story in full is here ...
Arc study: doctors are reluctant to treat adult patients with disabilities

‘Left out in the cold’ says MDs’ attitudes pose barrier to health care access

An excerpt from this article in yesterday's Boston Globe:

The incidence of adult disabled patients staying with their pediatricians long after their 18th birthday is one of many issues raised in a report released today by The Arc of Massachusetts, an advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The study, "Left Out in the Cold: Health Care Experiences of Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Massachusetts," found that many disabled adults face longer waits than most people finding good internists, and that prevents them from get ting the best care for common adult conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, or thyroid disorders.

The report found that, among other reasons, many internists avoid disabled patients because of uneasiness with them.

Also, many doctors feel that insurers do not pay enough to compensate them for the longer time it often takes to listen to - and care for - these patients.
The full article is here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

BBC Ouch Column: Disability Bitch vs Presidents

see here. Here is an excerpt:

Um. Blimey. I was unaware until reading all this that using a mobility aid signified so many disastrous things. There was I thinking that a wheelchair was nothing more than a useful means of getting around when one's body fails to co-operate with one's life. Apparently I've been wrong all this time, and in fact it signifies total economic meltdown and failure. I stand corrected and have since been looking at all my Abnormal friends in a new light. I'm certainly not going to trust them with my handbag or lend them any money.

To be honest, I'm glad the commentators spelt out what the wheelchair symbolises. If they hadn't done so, I would've imagined Cheney's injury represented other things more commonly associated with disabled people. Perhaps that America was incontinent, useless, committing benefit fraud and leeching off the state. Good luck, President Obama.

see also Injured Cheney spurs negative response. Here is an excerpt:

Is it just me, or is anyone else still troubled by the world's reaction to Dick Cheney in a wheelchair?

The former U.S. vice-president has long been a metaphor for everything wrong with the administration of George W. Bush.

But when Cheney appeared in a wheelchair at this month's inauguration of Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, it was the chair that commentators seized on as a symbol of failure, corruption and distaste.

I'll leave to your imagination the reason that Cheney, like disgraced financier Conrad Black, felt he had to personally deal with boxes being moved out of his soon-to-be-vacated quarters.

The upshot, it seems, was a back injury that impeded his ability to walk.

But there was no mistaking the immediate public connection between the mobility device and malfeasance. The evil wheelchair, it seems, was the perfect manifestation of the inner man.

Commentator Chris Matthews, who hosts a weekly political panel show on NBC, called it "a metaphor for the low esteem with which (Cheney) is held in this country."