Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Town planner says State not required to show floor plans of group home that may have helped firefighters save disabled residents

Further to my post last Tuesday about a fire that killed four disabled residents at a state run group home in Wells, New York (in the Adirondaks), The Times-Union is now reporting that the state was not required to get a building permit and that the home opened in June with no floor plans or blueprints on file with the town or the county. When a building inspector tried to work with the state about inspections, it is reported, he was told to "butt out". According to one of the volunteer firefighters, firefighters may have been more effective in saving lives if documents showing the layout of the home had been available.
A building inspector was told by the state to "butt out" after making inquiries in the months before the construction of a group home that caught fire and killed four disabled residents, Town Supervisor Brian Towers said.

March 29, Towers is questioning the state's decision to refuse an inspection and believes the tragedy at the Riverview group home will force state officials to involve municipalities in the building process.

The state "designed and installed everything" and wasn't required to get a building permit from the town, Towers said last week after an emotional service honoring the fire victims and rescue workers in this close-knit Adirondack town.

"We had almost zero to do with (the inspections)," he added. "We thought it was unusual, and my building inspector tried to work with the state but was told in a frank and polite way to butt out and it's not your business."

Also, the town and county never received floor plans or blueprints for the facility, which would have been helpful to firefighters and rescuers, Towers said.

The full story is here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday blog-a-round

Why we need the Community Choice Act by Wheelie Catholic.

William Peace's post entitled Community Choice Act and who is disabled

Special Olympics? Not 'Special' At All, an essay by Susan Senator, who is the mother of an autistic teen and the author of "The Autism Mom's Survival Guide: Creating a Balanced and Happy Life while Raising a Child with Autism," which is coming in April 2010. Susan Senator's blog is here.

Elesia Ashkenazy's post at Autism Change.org entitled "Blasting stereotypes in autistic females"

This post at Disability Studies, Temple University, which includes a link to an interview with R&B/soul singer and song writer Teddy Pendergrass.

This post entitled "Explaining Disability" by Emma over at Wheelchair Princess.

This post over at Disability Prejudice and Civil Rights Watch, entitled "Anna Nicole Smith: Finally Charges Brought Against Her Psychiatrist"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday round-up

From the Associated Press in Mancester, England (March 26) - Natalie du Toit, the first female amputee swimmer to qualify for the Olympics, will compete in the Paralympic World Cup and against able-bodied swimmers at the World Championships.

From the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio (March 26) - A 41-year-old man and his 65-year-old mother are under investigation for attempted murder for allegedly trying to remove life support (turning off the oxygen and removed the oxygen tubing) from an 89-year-old Cleveland Clinic patient who is the grandma and mother of the suspects. (h/t Medical Futility)

From the [UK] Guardian (March 25) - A UK investigation into six deaths has found that the national health system failed to protect patients with intellectual disabilities and left families who complained about the health care “drained and demoralized.”Among those who died was Martin Ryan, a 43-year-old man with Down syndrome, who was admitted to a hospital following a stroke and went without food for 26 days. By the time the mistake was recognized, he was too weak to be helped. According to the report, Ryan’s death could have been avoided had “the care and treatment provided not fallen so far below the relevant standard.”

From the AP/Houston Chronicle (March 24) - The family of Hasib Chishty is seeking permission to sue the state of Texas for a 2002 attack at the Denton State School that left the 34-year-old developmentally disabled man paralyzed. Chishty’s attacker went to prison and his family has been seeking to sue the state for years, but has been blocked by the Texas sovereign immunity statute. (h/t PatriciaEBauer)

From the Associated Press/Houston Chronicle (March 23) - Nine more employees at Corpus Christi State School are under investigation for allegedly failing to intervene in new fights between residents last Wednesday and Thursday. As noted in an earlier post, authorities had issued six arrest warrants earlier this month for current and former state workers accused of staging “flight-club” style brawls among residents with intellectual disabilities.

From DiversityInc. Magazine (March 23) - Internationally recognized disability-rights leader Kathy Martinez was nominated for assistant secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) by President Barack Obama on March 20. Martinez, who has been blind since birth, specializes in employment, asset building, independent living, international development, and diversity and gender issues from her work as executive director of the World Institute on Disability (WID). (h/t Media dis&dat)

From the Sacramento Bee in California (March 22) - A former Davis resident has been convicted of stealing from her disabled adult daughter and using the funds to buy antiques.

From the New York Times, Boston Globe (March 20) - Melvin D. Levine, a pediatrician and best-selling author of books about learning disabilities, has surrendered his medical license amid charges of sexually abusing as many as 50 boys in his care. Levine signed an agreement with the medical board of North Carolina that bars him from ever again practicing medicine anywhere in the world.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Terri Schiavo documentary released as DVD

Beth Haller over at Media dis&dat reports that a documentary about Terri Schiavo has been released as a DVD. Entitled "The Terri Schiavo Story," its hosted by author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada and features interviews with participants on both sides of the story:
“The story remains relevant because there are countless people like Terri Schiavo whose lives are in grave danger because of unclear custody and guardianship laws,” Tada said. “Plus, more states (under futile care policy directives) are quietly removing the feeding tubes from brain-injured people when families abandon their responsibilities. Feeding tubes are providing basic care, not medical treatment.”

“I hope that people understand that Terri Schiavo’s story is really our story,” Tada said in the release. “We have a special obligation to protect the weak and vulnerable in our society. We have a responsibility to uphold their human dignity—because we are of equal dignity, we are not at each other’sdisposal. The weak and the vulnerable need their rights safeguarded and protected... we must not allow them to become eroded. For when we do, we are jeopardizing the rights of us all.”

Here is a link to the film site, which includes a video.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Torching incident

Via KSPR News, Gravois Mills, Illinois (March 23)

A 23-year-old Gravois Mills man has been charged with arson and adult abuse in connection with the terrorization of a disabled man with a propane torch. According to the report:

Morgan County sheriff's officials say [Christian] Lepper and a juvenile walked into the disabled man's home on March 16 and "began burning things in the home including walls, eilings, and furniture."

From a police news release: "They also allegedly pointed the torch at the man's head, singing his hair and causing a minor burn to his ear. When he resisted them one of the men reportedly hit the man in the face with the bottle to the torch."
Sheriff's investigators say they don't know a motive for the crime. But according to this report they did find several thousand dollars worth of stolen items while investigating Lepper.

The nature of the man's disability, nor his condition following the attack, are not known.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beating death in Korea

Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea - The Dong-A Ilbo in Korea reports the torture and killing of a 17-year-old teenager with developmental disabilties in Seongnam, near Seoul. According to the report, the young woman, identified only as Yoo, was beaten almost daily for 21 days by 4 teeanagers with whom she lived until she died last Thursday. Yoo had met the suspects through an online chatroom and moved in with them in January. After her death, they allegedly wrapped her body in a bed sheet and buried her at a mountain about a mile away from the house where she was killed. Police suspect that Yoo’s disability pension may have played a role in her killing.

According to The Dong-A Ilbo:

They allegedly tied the victim, identified only as Yoo, to a chair for two to three hours and dropped a knife with the blade facing down or poked her with needles under the guise of giving her a tattoo. They also confessed to whipping her with a jump rope.

Wednesday night, Yoo was beaten for cheating with another man. She lost consciousness after being burned with metal spoons and chopsticks that were heated up in a microwave oven.


Police said the four teens may have been after Yoo’s monthly disability subsidy of 400,000 to one million won (280 to 711 U.S. dollars). A day after Yoos death and her secret burial, Lee and his friends wore masks, hats and gloves to an ATM and withdrew 380,000 won (270 dollars) with Yoos debit card.

The four teens are known to have lived off Yoos subsidy since she began living with them in January, so police are tracking down where the money was spent.

(h/t to Media dis&dat and ICAD)

Four residents die in fire at NY group home

Wells, New York - Two men and two women living at a state-run group home for people with developmental disabilities in the Adirondacks were killed when a fire broke out early on Saturday morning.

According to wcbstv.com they are: 52-year-old Anthony Vitti, 60-year-old Theresa Williams, 43-year-old Gloria Bonilla, and 32-year-old Corey Desotelle.

A fifth resident, 71-year-old Blaine Edwardswas injured in the blaze and is recovering in a hospital in Utica. Two staff members were also injured as they tried to evacuate the Riverview group home in Wells (about 56 miles northwest of Albany, New York, in Hamilton County).

According to this report by the Associated Press yesterday (Monday March 23), the New York Civil Liberties Union has called for the state attorney general to investigate whether there was adequate staffing at the group home and whether proper safeguards were in place to protect residents in case of a fire. The group said that officials had said the blaze appeared to have started as an electrical fire and had knocked out the home’s sprinkler system. The New York State Police is also investigating.

See also Desperate scramble, deadly result

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday blog-a-round

For today's blog-a-around, links to some of the posts responding to President Obama's quip on “The Tonight Show” on March 19 (video here) comparing his modest bowling skills to those of athletes who have disabilities.

Planet of the Blind: Special Olympics in the White House basement
Bad Cripple: Obama and the Special Olympics: an off-hand remark?
Big Noise: Dear Mr President
Wheelchair Catholic: The question
In bed with Frida Kahlo: Oh Please, Obama! - "special” olympics comment critique misses the mark!
Change.org: Special Olympics: For Who?
All4myGals: Obama's gaffe
Finding My Way: It was like the Special Olympics or something
Walking is Overrated: Obama makes crass Special Olympics joke during Jay Leno interview
Scothoser's Corner: Deriding the Special Olympics: a window in our society
Leaving Treadmarkz: President Obama bashes Special Olympics

See also journalist John Hockenberry's discussion of the incident on his radio show, The Takeaway

(thanks to Media dis&dat for some of these links)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday roundup

From the BBC, Britain, UK (March 19) - A new law widening the definition of hate crimes to include attacks on gay or disabled people has been passed in principle. MSPs voted unanimously in favour of making them aggravated offences that can be more severely punished.

From the AP/Seattle Times (March 19) - North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue has proposed spending $250,000 from her budget to set up a foundation aimed at providing justice and compensation for the victims of the state’s eugenic sterilization program. North Carolina was one of more than two dozen states that ran programs of forced eugenic sterilization. The programs targeted women who were considered — sometimes inaccurately — to be mentally deficient or genetically inferior. From 1929 until 1974, more than 7,600 people were forcibly sterilized under North Carolina’s program. (h/t Patricia E Bauer)

From CNN (March 19): Oscar Pistorius will compete at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England, in May after recovering from a boating accident in South Africa. (h/t Media dis&dat)

From AP/Seattle Times and the Chicago Tribune (March 18) - Kurt Perry, 26, a Chicago man diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), whose February 26 assisted suicide plans were put on hold after the Final Exit Network arrests last month, says he has found a new reason to live: defending the right-to-die movement. CMT is described as a painful inherited neurological disorder that weakens his limbs and breathing. According to the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, the condition usually isn’t life-threatening.

From National Public Radio: The arrests over the alleged “human cockfights” at the Corpus Christi State School are only the latest in a long history of abuse in Texas institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. Just last Friday, a 53-year-old woman died of a head injury after being hit by another resident in a hallway collision at a facility in Denton. State officials say it was an accident. A county coroner ruled it a homicide. The Justice Department found there had been 450 cases of abuse over just the previous year. And in four years, more than 800 state employees had been suspended or fired.

From The Daily Mail in the UK (March 17) - British mother, Lucy Baxter, is appealing for help in finding a sexual partner for her 21-year-old son, Otto, who has Down sydnrome. She says she is prepared to pay for a prostitute for Otto.

From the [Canadian] National Post and CBC (March 16) - A Quebec couple is suing Montreal Children’s Hospital for $3.5 million for putting their daughter back on life support without their permission. According to the couple's lawyer, had withdrawn life supports from their infant daughter at the recommendation of doctors. He said the hospital’s ethics committee overruled their decision and resumed her feeding without consulting them. The little girl is described as “severely disabled.” (See also this post by Thaddeus Mason Pope over at Medical Futility)

From The AP, Coos BAY, Oregon (March 15) - A Coos County teenager with severe autism has been charged with murder in connection with the death of a 59-year-old woman who lived with his father.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


For today, a link to this article I came across at Media dis&dat about a new modern dance company that calls itself Gimp, which will be performing in New York March 19-21. See also this article with video in the New York Times. And also, this post by Wheelchair Dancer, entitled "All things GIMP".

Here is an excerpt from the company's website, The Gimp Project:

Embracing its Oxford definitions, GIMP brings audiences a visceral and emotional experience with performers whose unique attributes, physical and otherwise, are honored and utilized in highly dynamic, virtuosic and provocative performances, discussions and workshops and outreach activities. The dancers in GIMP have unique limbs ranging from overly agile joints, absent limbs, foreshortened limbs, crooked limbs to exceptionally overdeveloped muscles.

GIMP is about beauty, not the photo-shopped, airbrushed kind, but a harsher more unexpected one that comes from the ultimate sexiness of risk-taking and utter commitment. It is about framing each person as a photographer would and then weaving those frames together in sensual and intimate ways and drawing the viewers in to see each person’s unique beauty as each performer sees theirs. In GIMP, both audience and performers are aware of being watched. That provocative exchange in which our gaze is being reflected both ways leads to a shift, a questioning, and a deep sense that the frame/lens through which we view the world has somewhat changed.

People go to dance events to see what they cannot do themselves. Dancers are generally perceived as limitless; disabled persons as essentially unable. Bringing these two groups together in GIMP challenges conventional notions of dance, performance and body image. GIMP’s unique palette of limbs offers an edgy landscape of uncommon beauty that examines the uncompromising ways we are often identified or defined by our physicality.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recent cases of caretaker abuse and neglect

From the News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina (March 13) - Four employees at a state home in Goldsboro for people with severe developmental disabilities have been placed on leave following the death of a resident Wednesday night. Although abuse is not expected in the case, the investigations will center on whether the employees neglected the resident and whether that neglect contributed to the death.

From the Mercury News, San Rafael, California (March 11) - A Marin County nurse will plead guilty to felony abuse after admitting she injected her 80-year-old mother with a massive dose of liquid morphine solution in May of 2007. Her mother survived after authorities were called and she was taken to a hospital.

From the LA Times (March 10) - The live-in caretaker of an 84-year-old Huntington Beach woman who uses a wheelchair allegedly took out fraudulent loans in her name, bilking the older woman out of about $200,000 and putting the woman's home in danger of foreclosure, according to authorities. Cindi Dee Powell, 54, has been charged with financial elder abuse, grand theft, identity theft, vehicle theft, fraud and forgery and remains in custody.

From SC Now.com in Marion, South Carolina (March 9) - A 97-year-old Marion woman is in a critical condition in hospital and her granddaughter was arrested on Monday for neglecting to provide her with the care that she needed. According to the police, the woman's injuries, which include infected bedsores, could have been prevented if she had been turned over properly.

From the Dothan Eagle in Dothan, Alabama (March 6) - Dothan police investigators arrested Darren DeVaughn Martin on Thursday on an allegation he left an elderly and bedridden person alone in their home unattended. According to a Dothan police statement, investigators charged Martin, 48, with elderly abuse and neglect.

From the Chicago Tribune, Itasca, Illinois (March 4) - A 23-year-old Itasca nursing home assistant was charged with criminal neglect and obstruction of justice in connection with the death of an 89-year-old woman with Alzhiemer's disease. According to the report, Heidi Leon failed to respond to an alarm that went off indicating that Sara Wentworth, a two-year resident of The Arbor of Itasca nursing home, had wandered outside of the facilitiy into freezing conditions early one morning last month. The woman's lifeless, frozen body later was found in the facility's courtyard after she had been outside for as many as five hours. Ms Leon is also accused of lying about an early morning check she claimed she made on Ms Wentworth, records show.

From cfnews13 in Brevard County, South Florida (March 3) - A woman has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for neglecting to care for a 55-year-old man with quadriplegia, who died six days later. According to investigators the man hadn't been cared for in three weeks, and the smell was so bad that officers had to wear hazmat suits inside the house.

From KFSM.com in Tulsa, Oklahoma (February 27) - A Tulsa man has been arrested for allegedly beating and threatening to kill his 96-year-old mother. Police arrested 63-year-old Kenneth Allan Thomson Thursday on felony complaints of caretaker abuse and neglect. According to an arrest report, Thomson said he wants his mother to die and told a detective - quote - "even milk containers have an expiration date."

From the Associated Press in Los Angeles (February 18) - Three elderly Alzheimer's sufferers are believed to have died after being injected with psychotropic drugs by nursing home staff trying to keep them quiet, California authorities say. Attorney General Edmund Brown revealed the deaths after announcing the arrests of a nurse, a physician and a pharmacist from a nursing facility in Lake Isabella, 140 miles north of Los Angeles. "These people maliciously violated the trust of their patients, by holding them down and forcibly administering psychotropic medications if they dared to question their care," Brown said in a statement.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alexis Glover: an update

Further to my post on March 4 about the indictment of Alfreedia Gregg-Glover in connection with the murder of her daughter, 13-year-old Alexis Glover, Inside Nova is now reporting that a trial date for Gregg-Glover has been set for July 6, 7 and 8. Alfreedia Gregg-Glover has been charged with murder, felony murder, child abuse and filing a false police report. Furthermore, allegations have surfaced that Alexis, who had sickle cell anemia and other disabilities, was abused and neglected by Gregg-Glover during the months leading to her killing, and that neighbours and others who knew her reported incidents of abuse to the police and social services officials. As reported here in the Washington Post:

In the two years before her death in January, Lexie's school bus drivers and their attendants said they reported seeing her mother drive off with her in the trunk of her car. They also said Lexie went to the bus in the morning in her underwear and boarded the bus with physical injuries. Neighbors reported to police that she went to their house barely clothed and with a head wound, saying her mother had hit her with a stick.

In light of these allegations, a review has been ordered to investigate how well police department handled the case. According to the Washington Post, it will examine "all police actions, policies, and procedures related to this case," as well as "how the Department can better recognize situations of children in extreme need and to equip our officers with additional approaches and resources to assist in these types of cases".

As conveyed in earlier posts, Alexis was reported missing on January 7. Sadly, her body was found submerged in a shallow creek two days later. It is alleged that Gregg-Glover placed Alexis in the creek while she was still alive.

Homicide at Denton State School

Denton, Texas (May 16) - The death on Friday (May 13) of a 53-year-old woman living at the Denton State School for adults with developmental disabilities has been ruled a homicide, according to the Associated Press. Janice Campbell died in a Fort Worth hospital of a closed head injury suffered on March 3 after being pushed by another resident and falling on the floor. According to a state official, the incident was an accident.

According to the Denton Record Chronicle, the incident will be investigated by the aging and disability department and the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, which would decide if a local law enforcement investigation is necessary.

The state is considering a major overhaul of the state school system after an investigation last year found hundreds of cases of abuse and neglect, including at Denton.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday blog-a-round

Recommended readings in the blogosphere:

Goose and Gander Department by Stephen Kuusisto at Planet of the Blind

This post by Philsopher Crip, entitled Thinly Veiled Bigotry

The March edition of The Disability Blog Carnival posted at The Charming B Blogspot

William Peace's post at Bad Cripple, entitled Choices for people with a disability

Those first few steps, by Cilla Sluga at Big Noise

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday round-up

From the Associated Press, McAllen, Texas (March 12) - Police issued arrest warrants for six employees of a Corpus Christi state home accused of staging or failing to report after-hours fights between intellectually disabled residents. All six are charged with causing injury to a disabled person. As conveyed in an earlier post, police learned of the fights after someone gave an off-duty officer videos that show intellectually disabled male residents fighting each other while the employees watch. Gov. Rick Perry has ordered a moratorium on new admissions to the Corpus Christi facility and demanding the installation of security cameras. See also this report in the Dallas News which says that allegations of staff members forcing intellectually disabled residents to fight each other have been confirmed in at least two other Texas institutions.

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), (March 11) - Former students of a now-closed school for the deaf have filed a class action lawsuit against the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, alleging they were sexually and physically abused by employees at the government-funded residential school and other students. According to their lawyer, they were unable to report the abuse because the school had complete control over their lives.

From an ADAPT press release at the AAPD Justice for All blog (March 11) - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) will introduce the Community Choice Act (CCA) in both houses of Congress on March 24. The CCA will allow people with disabilities and older people to choose to stay in their own homes and communities with attendant care instead of being forced into nursing homes and other institutions by the current institutional bias in Medicaid. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden were CCA co-sponsors during their years in the Senate.

From The Times of India in Chennai, India (March 11) - According to a survey released on International Women's Day on March 8, less than 50% of women with disabilities hold jobs. Of the employed disabled women, nearly 40% are in craft-based and sheltered workshops (h/t Media dis&dat)

From The AP, Big Stone Gap, Virginia (March 11) - Federal officials say Advance Auto Parts Inc. will pay $50,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit that claimed the company refused to hire a man because he has cerebral palsy.The lawsuit said Jeffrey Scott Sanders completed a sales internship at the company's store in Staunton. But the company wouldn't hire Sanders for a part-time sales job at the Norton store in September 2004. According to the lawsuit, at least one other person less qualified than Sanders was hired.

From WZTV, Frankfort, Kentucky (March 10) - A worker at a home that cares for people with disabilities has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of an intellectually disabled patient in 2007. In addition, Matthew Bortles of Soldier also pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and knowing abuse of a vulnerable adult. Another caregiver at the home, Branden Starostka, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and wanton abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult.Under the terms of the plea agreement, Bortles will serve eight years in prison and Starostka five.

From Canwest News Service in Canada (March 10) - Canada's two largest airlines must give disabled and morbidly obese passengers an extra free seat on domestic flights, beginning in January, after the Supreme Court refused yesterday to consider the carriers' appeal of a federal order.

From Dallas News, San Antonio, Dallas, Texas (March 9) - The death of a 54-year-old woman with schizophrenia and mild intellectual disabilities has spurred criticism of San Antonia State Hospital's release policy. The woman, who was dropped off by a worker at a downtown greyhound station just before Christmas after workers decided to send her home, was found dead three days later in brackish water in a concrete ditch in San Antonio.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

RIP, Nancy Eiesland (1964-2009)

Image: a black-and-white portrait of Nancy Eiesland, from her faculty webpage

I've just read over at DSTU the sad news that Nancy Eiesland, Professor of Sociology of Religion and Disability Studies at Emory University, died this week from cancer. Her colleague, friend and former student Christian Scharen has written this memorial, and following is an excerpt of a piece she wrote last year in a campus publication about her experiences with surgeries and pain as she returned to teaching after a long illness:

For the last 18 months, I’ve been in the fight of my life to best a drug-resistant staph infection that had invaded my spine — where I had years before had metal implanted to keep me upright. Colleagues and acquaintances who knew my status as a person with a disability would often say, “I don’t think of you having a disability.” Of course, their misguided compliments gave me fodder for the truth-telling that they (like many) participated in the misapprehension that being capable and intelligent was incompatible with being a person with a disability. But over time, I have realized that I was a collaborator in those stories; many people trotted out this old saw because I didn’t think of myself as a person with a disability, though I had long identified as one. I had learned to overachieve, so that my competence was unassailable and my independence was a marker of a true blue American. As a toddler, I began the operations that were to eliminate my birth defect. But soon the one constant in my body was the register of pain. In the effort to first quantify and then control pain, the medical world created the insidious pain faces scale. If I’m an 8 am I obliged to drum up tears to begin to approach the picture to be truly convincing? I could never fix a number to pain, nor did I do well with the multiple choice approach. I always imagine a Freddy Krueger slasher scene during which he might stop and ask me if I’d prefer to be stabbed, burned or beaten.
Amongst her publications, the books:

A Particular Place: Urban Restructuring and Religious Ecology in a Southern Exurb (Rutgers University Press, 2000)

Human Disability and the Service of God (Abingdon Press, 1998), co-editor with Don Saliers

Contemporary American Religion: An Ethnographic Reader (AltaMira Press, 1997), co-editor with Penny Edgill

The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability (Abingdon Press, 1994)
Men used for caretakers entertainment at state-school in Texas

From the Associated Press

Houston, Texas - Seven employees of a state-run home for the mentally disabled have been suspended for staging fights between residents who were forced to shove, punch and strike each other, authorities said Friday.

Police learned of the fights when someone gave a cell phone containing videos of the brawls at the Corpus Christi State School to an off-duty officer on Friday, police Captain Tim Wilson said by phone from Corpus Christi.

"Workers were running their own fight club using clients. It's pretty appalling that someone would think of this," he said.

In the videos, which show several fights dating back to 2007, mentally disabled male residents can be seen fighting each other while the employees watch. In one video, a disabled resident raises his hands in victory after a bout, Wilson said.

"It's pretty appalling. I've been in police work over 30 years and I've never anything like this," he said. "These people who were charged with caring for these clients were exploiting them for entertainment."

Police expect to file charges later this week, said Wilson. Most of the employees seen in the videos have been identified, he said.

Laura Albrecht, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the institutions known as state schools, said the videos show seven current and four former employees. The current employees have been placed on emergency leave pending the investigation.

"Any abuse or neglect of residents placed in our care will not be tolerated," said Albrecht.

In addition to Corpus Christi police, the abuse allegations are also being investigated by Texas Adult Protective Services, the Health and Human Services' office of inspector general, and the Nueces County District Attorney, Wilson said.

These are the latest in a spate of abuse allegations against state school employees in recent years.

A 2008 federal report cited negligent and abusive care that violated residents' rights. It cited 53 deaths linked to preventable conditions at the institutions.

The report also called hundreds of reports of abuse and injuries to patients "disturbingly high" and said more than half of state facilities are in danger of losing Medicaid funding because of care and safety problems.

The state Legislature is considering measures to tighten standards at the institutions, including requiring fingerprinting, background checks and random drug testing of all employees.

Lawmakers also want to create an independent ombudsman to investigate injuries and deaths and oversee an abuse-and-neglect telephone hot line.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Call for papers

Medical Anthropology at the Intersections: Celebrating 50 Years of Interdisciplinarity
An International Conference of the Society for Medical Anthropology

Sept 24-27, 2009 - Yale University

We are inviting participation in an organized session entitled:

Extending Disability Beyond Medicine’s Borders: A Five Fields Symphony
Lakshmi Fjord and Devva Kasnitz, Co-Organizers.Sponsored by the Disability Research Special Interest Group of the SMA

As more anthropologists include disability research in their field studies and populations, and as the interdisciplinary field of disability studies grows, the time has to come to make a better case for the significance of disability theory to anthropological canon in the five fields: cultural, linguistic, biological/physical, archaeology, and applied. An historic tie between disability and medicine, between notions of stigma and medicalization, has characterized the study of disabled people and their personhood in American anthropology. However, for people whose bodies are all too often reduced to a medical interpretation and rarely recognized for the critical lens they offer onto social inequalities and injustices, the role of critical disability theory to anthropological and interdisciplinary scholarship needs to be better understood and applied.

Over several decades, anthropologists working in diverse geographic regions have linked their field research on disability to the bread and butter issues of anthropology, including gender, “race,” ethnicity, nationalism, indigeneity, kinship, globalization, sexuality, and religion. In this session, panelists will link their current research to one or more of anthropology’s five fields, and to more encompassing interdisciplinary issues. Our aim is to initiate conversations about what disability theoretical and methodological frameworks bring to the table for anthropologists and others working within the humanities, social science, and science regarding research design, methods, and fieldwork; to theoretical understandings of social disparities and inequalities; and how different groups, from families to nations, cope with perceived embodied differences in abilities to perform linguistically, in work, in kinship expectations, in art, and all meaningful cultural domains.

Some possible topics:

* Linguistics: signed languages and identity or national language politics; speech and communication adaptations; discourse analysis; sociolinguistics; how “slowing down” for disabled people’s needs links to larger fieldwork issues about listening, watching, and being patient with respondents; ethics when working across language systems

* Citizenship and disability: the relation between nation-building projects and notions of “us” and “them”; indigeneity and personhood;

* Kinship and disability: families with disabled children, disabled parents; courtship and marriage; cross-ability marriages;

* Advocacy and “the field”: when the field is “home,” learning about disability through firsthand experience; participation in social justice movements; United Nations Treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the discourse of human rights in local contexts; allyhood; links with feminist and race advocacy and histories; why advocacy is not for “special needs,” but for to redress systematic inequalities;

* Political economy of disability: links with gender, “race,” and ethnicity and immigration currently and historically; disability and work; transportation needs and economics;

* Inclusive design or universal design: architecture currently; archaeological examples from the past (or why stairs were not always the built answer); how disabled people locate cracks in systems and offer creative strategies towards inclusion for all members of societies;

* Fieldwork and ethnographic writing: autoethnography and experimentations with writing about experiential expertise;

* Applied work: medical clinics; occupational therapy and field schools; how we apply critical disability into everyday life.

Abstract information: Abstracts for papers and media presentations should be no longer than 200 words. Please send you proposed abstract to: Lakshmi Fjord: lakshmi.fjord@gmail.com; and Devva Kasnitz: devva@earthlink.net.

Deadline for first drafts is April first so we can submit the session by April 15th to SMA

Once we have created the session, as per the conference instructions, we will submit your abstract as part of our session. “Abstracts for presentations to be included in pre-organized panels and workshops should be submitted together by the organizer(s), along with a panel/workshop abstract.”

Everyone submitting an abstract must complete the online registration individually by April 15th. Notification about the status of submissions will be sent out by June 30, 2009 to the e-mail address provided in the abstract.

Cell Phone: 510-206-5767

Devva Kasnitz, PhD
Institute of Urban and Regional Development
University of California, Berkeley
EMAIL: devva@earthlink.net

Eureka Home Mailing Address:1614 D St
Eureka, CA 95501
Voice: 707-443-1973

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Man found locked in a room in family's home

Chandler, Texas — Authorities in eastern Texas say the family of an intellectually disabled relative were keeping him locked in a room in their home so as to keep him from stealing their food. As reported by the Associated Press, Kerry Cotten, who is estimated to be in his 40's, was found emaciated in a "filthy" room wearing an adult diaper that was "hanging to his knees" by Chandler police officers a during a visit to the home to serve an outstanding warrant for another resident. Upon being released from the room, Mr Cotton, it is said, ran to the kitchen and tried to eat frozen bacon and a tv dinner through the box.

Mr Cotten's sister, Lea Johnson, her husband Roy Johnson and their daughter Alyssia Johnson were arrested on Friday and charged with injury to the disabled. Alyssia's 19-year-old boyfriend, who lives next door, was also arrested on a charge of failing to report a felony.

Mr Cotten was taken to a hospital and later placed in the custody of Adult Protective Services.

An APS spokeswoman confirmed that APS is conducting an investigation but declined to provide details, citing privacy concerns. She also said that a call concerning the residence was made to the statewide hotline in 2005, but it dealt with the building's condition and not an individual.

Injury to the disabled is a first-degree felony that carries a prison term of five to 99 years.

The story in full is here. See also Police describe living conditions as filthy, abusive

Homicide in Grange Grove, TX

Grange Grove, Texas - Numerous newspapers reported over the weekend that 46 year old Donna Slater was found dead last Thursday afternoon on the kitchen floor of her home off Shingle Mill Landing Road. According to the Mississippi Press, Ms Slater, who had spina bifida and used a wheelchair, died from stab wounds to the back of her neck with a sharp object. The body of Ms Slater who lived in the home with her teenage son, was found by her father, who lives next door.

According to this report by WLOX yesterday, robbery appears to the motive for Ms Slater's murder.

For further details and to view a video, see here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday blog-around

Some recommended reading in the blogosphere:

Cilla Slug's post over at Big Noise entitled Stand up for education

Not dead yet post entitled Times Magazine article misrepresents Final Exit Network and who they help and Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist asks all the wrong questions about lessons to be learned from Final Exist Network

Post by Bad Cripple entitled This is to be expected

Mike Danger's post over at Coffee and Gender entitled Realizing medical bodily difference

Wheelchair Dancer's post entitled How we are friends with each other

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday roundup

From WACH-TV in South Carolina (March 5): Hundreds of disability advocates rallied at the statehouse on March 4 protesting budget cuts over the last six months that have resulted in drastic service cuts. Among them, a small summer camp for young people with disabilities that advocates say is too important to lose.

From CBS 12 in Florida (March 5): A Palm Beach Gardens mother of twin boys with autism has started her own school for children with autism.

From The Star in Shelby, North Carolina (February 5): A 77 year-old man died the day after two men two men entered his home, robbed him and beat him with what police believe may have been his own cane. The man, who used a cane and sometimes an electric scooter, appears to have survived the attack but was found dead the next day.

From MSNBC (March 4): A report released by the Canadian corrections ombudsman into the death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith has found that her death was due to a break down and lack of coordination and cohesiveness of mental health care servicies.

Via the UK Guardian (March 2): A 68 year-old man has been arrested in connection with the killing of a 62-year-old disabled woman in Harlow, Essex. The woman was found by police in the driving seat of her car on Saturday suffering from multiple stab wounds and died from her injuries a short time later.

From the [UK] Daily Mail (March 2): Cerrie Burnell, a co-host on the BBC children's television channel CBeebies, says she is pleased she has sparked a national debate about people with disabilities on television, but wishes it hadn’t been necessary. As noted in an earlier FRIDA post, the BBC has received complaints and scores of emails from parents who oppose Burnell, saying she is frightening children. Ms Burnell was born with a right arm that ends at the elbow.

From WVEC in Chesapeake, VA (March 2): According to police, Constance Stepney, 55, gave her 19-year-old grandson, Terrel Stepny, who was autistic, a fatal dose of medicine before taking a fatal dose of her own. See also Kristina Chew's post What Terrell Stepney Liked (h/t ICAD)

From The AP (March 2): The term "mental retardation" will no longer be used in new Washington state laws, under a bill that has passed the state House. Under the measure, the phrase "intellectual disability" will be used in all future state laws in place of "mental retardation". Supporters say the term "mental retardation" is an outdated and insulting way of referring to people with intellectual disabilities. (h/t Media-dis-n-dat)

From the Savannah Morning News and Dawsonville [GA] Times.com (March 1): More than a thousand disability rights advocates rallied on the steps of the Georgia Capitol this week, insisting that legislators improve state funding to help people with disabilities live in their own homes instead of institutions. (h/t Patricia E Bauer)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Recommended reading

This artice in yesterday's UK Sunday Times by columnist Dominic Lawson. It reflects on the meaning and legacy of six-year-old David Cameron, the son of British Tory party leader David Cameron who died recently from complications of Ohtahara Syndrome, a severe form of cerebral palsy which also involves a rare type of epilepsy. Here is an excerpt:

While we are no longer a country in which children with congenital disabilities are institutionalised and for ever hidden from view, there remains a visceral public fear and even horror of what appears to be the “otherness” of such conditions. This can be seen in the number of formal complaints to the BBC by adult viewers upset by the appearance of a presenter of CBeebies, Cerrie Burnell, who was born without a lower half to her right arm. Apparently some of the comments on the CBeebies website - a children’s channel, for heaven’s sake - were so vicious that the BBC felt compelled to remove them. This is actually very similar to racism, when fear of otherness mutates into repulsion.

Yet even those who think of themselves as sympathetic can be astonishingly insensitive - in the nicest possible way. I couldn’t help noticing how many people expressed the view that the death of a totally dependent child with multiple disabilities, including an undeniably distressing form of epilepsy, must also have come as a relief to Mr and Mrs Cameron.

I too am the father of a child with a congenital disability - my younger daughter, Domenica, has trisomy 21, also known as Down’s syndrome. When she was born, an acquaintance who had a child with cerebral palsy told me: “Your problem won’t be that you will not love your new daughter, but that you will love her too much.” He was right, of course: it was a salutary warning not to neglect the needs of siblings.

Love should never be confused with pity, a sentiment we feel only for those whom we really don’t know at all. It infuriates me that children such as Domenica are invariably described as “suffering from Down’s syndrome”. In what way are they suffering? They have no disease. They have no ailment to “cure”, except - via the process of antenatal screening - their very existence.

The essay in full is here ... See also: The funeral of Ivan Cameron from the UK Times

(h/t to Patricia Ee Bauer)
Sexual assault

Following are some of the cases of sexual assault against people with disabilities, not previously covered by FRIDA, that were reported in the news during the month of February, 2009.

Via the Pocono Record (February 27) - A 69-year-old Pocono Lake, Pennsylvania man has been charged with raping and sexually assaulting his developmentally disabled granddaughter from February 2004, when she was 14 years-old, until this past January.

Via Delmarva Now (February 25) - A 41-year-old Salisbury, Maryland man was found guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault in connection with the rape of a 15-year-old girl with developmental disabilities.

From News 10 (February 20) - A Woodland (Sacramento, Ca.) man has been found guilty of multiple sexual assault offenses in connection with the rape of a 17-year-old girl with developmental disabilities whom he befriended on the streets.

From News 2 (February 13) - A Nampa care-worker in Eagle, Boise, Idaho, is suspected of sexually assaulting a resident of an assisted living home . The 42-year-old woman was arrested for having sexual contact with a developmentally disabled woman in her 50s. The owner of the facility has also been cited for failing to report the abuse in a timely manner.

From Wicked Local News (February 12) - A Sudbury (Massachusetts) nursing home employee was arrested and charged with assaulting a 62-year-old disabled woman at Sudbury Pines Extended Care between last Wednesday and Friday. While the assault occurred, another patient was in the room, but was asleep when the incident occurred, it is reported. The assault was discovered when another aide noticed the woman acting strangely toward the man.

From KCENTV (February 10) - A 51-year-old Falls County man was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 75-year-old developmentally disabled woman. According to the woman, the incident happened at his home last month. Investigators say he has an extensive criminal history, and detectives are looking into the possibility of more victims.

From The Star (February 6) - An Oshawa (Ontario, Canada) woman working for the Association for Community Living, a non-profit agency that provides support for people with mental disabilities, was charged with sexually assaulting a man with developmental disabilities. Police are trying to determine if there were any other victims.

From Online Athens (February 2) - A 48-year-old Athens man has been indicted for allegedly raping a 26-year-old woman with physical disabilities three times over an 18 month period. The woman, whom reportedly knew and trusted the man, didn't report the first two assaults because the man assured her it wouldn't happen again. He has been indicted on three counts of rape and one count of aggravated sodomy with force.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Alexis Glover: an update

Manassas, Virginia: According to this report in Inside Nova, a jury indicted Alfreedia Leona Gregg-Glover yesterday on four charges in the killing of her 13-year-old daughter, Alexis Glover. She is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, felony child abuse and filing a false police report.

An indictment means that there is a enough evidence for a case to go to trial. It is not a finding of guilt or innocence.

As conveyed in previous FRIDA posts, Alexis, who was developmentally disabled, was reported missing by her mother on Wednesday January 7, 2009. Her body was found two days later submerged in a shallow creek. According to the findings of an autopsy, the cause of her death was drowning and exposure to the cold. There is an earlier report here.

The latest reports are here and here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Fighting for her rights

From The Times of Malta:

An 18-year-old girl is fighting for her right to access clothes shops, restaurants and cinemas with her wheelchair as she is determined to lead the same kind of life as any other teenager.

"Like others, I enjoy shopping and going out with friends. However, most of the time I end up disappointed when I realise I can't enter the premises because the only way in is by going up steps. I feel this lack of access is shameful and erodes my rights," Roberta Magri said.

A few days ago she had to give up watching a film at the Eden Century cinemas in Paceville because it was being shown in a theatre that was not suitable for wheelchair users.

The experience was the last straw for the teenager. When she got home, disappointed and angered, she wrote a letter to the Prime Minister expressing her frustration in the name of all wheelchair users.

Ms Magri has had enough of going to stores or cafes and having to turn back or wait outside because there is no ramp or it is too steep. She is also tired of trying to manoeuvre her way through bumpy pavements that force her onto the road, often pitted with potholes.

She is asking the authorities to take the issue of accessibility seriously as it is turning the lives of wheelchair users into a hectic obstacle race.

Speaking at her home in Ibrag, Ms Magri said that before going to the cinema she had phoned and was assured that the film she wanted to watch was accessible to her - only to be disappointed when she turned up. She was told she would have to get up from the wheelchair if she wanted to see the film there and a staff member offered to help her out. When she asked to stay by the door, she was not allowed due to safety regulations.

Nine of Eden's 17 cinemas are not accessible to wheelchair users. The ones that are accessible are located in the new part of the complex, which was built after the Equal Opportunities Act came into force in 2000. But Ms Magri insisted: "Don't I have the right to watch a film in a cinema because I am in a wheelchair? Do I have to be constrained as to which films I choose?"

The young woman stressed she would not allow her disability to take over her life.

"People often complain and don't do anything about it. I decided to try and do something, so I wrote this letter... I hope that it will not fall on deaf ears."

The chairman of the National Commission for People with a Disability, Joseph Camilleri, said the letter had been forwarded to him by the Prime Minister's office and the commission would be looking into Ms Magri's complaints.

The issue will be discussed during a meeting of the commission's legal unit tomorrow. However, he explained that buildings built before the Act came into force were not bound to ensure wheelchair access.Mr Camilleri added that, according to an agreement with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the commission was to vet buildings "of major use" for accessibility.

However, he said, not all plans were forwarded to the commission for vetting. Also, due to a lack of resources, the commission was not always able to ensure that buildings were built according to the approved plan.

Ms Magri's cry to developers is to keep people like her in mind: "These occurrences can have a negative mental impact on an individual... Without wanting to, you feel different despite the fact that you try to lead a normal life," she said.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"Halting the slaughter of Albino innocents"

Photo description: Albino children take a break on Jan. 25, 2009 in a recreational hall at the Mitindo Primary School for the blind, which has become a rare santuary for albino children.

Following is an excerpt from this story in Canada's National Post about the killing of albino people in Tanzania for their body parts, and the efforts of philanthropist Peter Ash's foundation Under the Same Sun to help stop them. According to official numbers, at least 45 albino people have been killed but the real number may be closer to double that. See also this earlier article in the New York Times.

To the vicious hunters of northwestern Tanzania, she is "zeru zeru" -- invisible, inhuman, a ghost.

Under cover of darkness, a group of men charge into young Viviana's room in the middle of the night, pin her pale form immobile, and hack off one of her little legs as her sister screams in horror.

Viviana, shockingly, is among the lucky ones. The commotion draws the attention of neighbours, and the attackers slip off into the night without finishing the job. She is left an amputee, but alive.

The single albino leg will fetch upwards of $1,000 in a gruesome market controlled by powerful Tanzanian witch doctors, who grind the bones into potions and repurpose them as good luck charms for struggling miners and fishermen.

The story sounds apocryphal, yet albinos are shunned and subject to social discrimination in many parts of Africa. There are reports of albinos being murdered in Burundi, and in Tanzania many albinos fear being kidnapped, dismembered, murdered.

The full story here ...