Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday round-up

From the New York Daily News in New York (May 29) - A 54-year-old woman died on Wednesday while trying to get her disabled daughter out of their 10th-floor apartment at Carlton Manor while it was ablaze, officials said. The fire has prompted local officials to call for changes to public housing laws that would allow disabled residentes to live near the ground floor.

From the Associated Press, Bay, Arkansas (May 28, 2009) - According to police, five people were killed and five more were hurt when a car traveling in the wrong lane collided with a van carrying adults with developmental disabilities at about 2.15pm on Wednesday. Authorities say the van involved was owned by Focus Inc., which provides services for developmentally disabled adults. The accident occurred when the driver of the car was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S. 63 between Bay and Jonesboro, about 5 miles southeast of Jonesboro.

From BBC News (May 28, 2009) - At least eight people have been arrested in Burundi in connection with a trade in human body parts from people with albinism.Those detained had fresh body parts in their possession, police say. Witchdoctors in the region tell clients that potions made with albino body parts will bring them luck in love, life and business. At least 10 albino people have been killed in Burundi in recent months and more than 40 in neighbouring Tanzania, according to the report. (h/t Media dis&dat)

From the AP/Houston Chronicle (May 28, 2009) - The Texas State Senate has approved a settlement with the federal Department of Justice to improve living conditions and medical care at the state’s troubled institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. The settlement still needs House approval. The plan calls for spending $112 million over five years, hiring more than 1,000 additional care workers, and improving investigations into abuse and neglect claims.

From the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, Arizona (May 28, 2009) - Five employees of the Tucson Unified School District have received warnings after an investigation found that a high school student with disabilities was routinely left tethered to a fence so he "wouldn't fall over or wander away while he waited for his escort." The student’s name was not disclosed.

From The Nation's the beat blog (May 27, 2009) - Sonia Sotomayor’s lifetime of managing Type 1 diabetes is a “big deal” that adds to her value as a potential Supreme Court justice - and not just as a role model, says John Nichols. Her experience is particularly important, he says, to a court that will be addressing a growing number of cases that focus on health-care access and medical research.

From the Times Union in Merchanicville, New York, US (May 27, 2009) - A judge today acquitted an O.D. Heck Developmental Center aide of endangering a severely disabled woman in her care. City Court Judge Joseph Sheehan found Christina Brandon, 47, of Troy not guilty of punching the woman for spilling Brandon's lunch salad. He deliveredhis verdict a day after a one-day bench trial.

From Disability Scoop (May 27, 2009) - Disability advocates are encouraged by President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, saying that the current appeals court judge’s rulings show an understanding of disability and the rights of people who have disabilities. Obama announced his nomination of Sotomayor Tuesday to replace Justice David Souter who plans to retire at the end of the court’s current session. Sotomayor now must be confirmed by the Senate, and if confirmed, will become the first Latino member of the court.

From AFP (May 26, 2009) - Disabled pedestrians in Jakarata, Indonesia are required to wear signs identifying them as handicapped under new traffic regulations passed unanimously by Indonesia's parliament on May 26.

From KABC in Los Angeles (May 26, 2009) - An investigation of the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by ABC7 Eyewitness News has uncovered widespread disregard for the rights of disabled bus riders. It's a violation of federal law - the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - not to provide equal access to public transportation for people with disabilities. That means all Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) buses must be equipped with working equipment to secure wheelchairs, and MTA drivers must be trained in how to use the securements.

From the Los Angeles Times ‘LA Now’ blog (May 23) - Three thousand state workers and advocates gathered in downtown Los Angeles yesterday to protest California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to the state home-care program. The state plans to cut wages for state workers from $12.35 to $8 per hour and reduce the number of hours. Parents of children with disabilities said the pay cut would force caregivers out of the profession.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nevada woman to stand trial for alleged sister abuse

From the Mercury News in Carson City, Nevada (May 27)

A Carson City woman is scheduled to stand trial in June on a misdemeanor battery charge while authorities continue to investigate felony abuse allegations in the death of her disabled sister.

A home health nurse reported allegedly seeing Patricia VonDracek, 50, slap and punch her disabled sister, 55-year-old Sandra VonDracek in April.

According to police reports, sheriff's Deputy Josh Stagliano said Patricia VonDracek denied hitting her sister, but Sandra, who has a brain injury from a traffic accident 15 years ago, said Patricia hit her often.

Stagliano called paramedics and had Sandra VonDracek, a Navy veteran, taken to the hospital. It was his understanding, according to police reports, that hospital staff would attempt to get her placed into the Veteran's Hospital in Reno and she would not be returned to her sister's care.

Based on the witness and victim's statements, Stagliano submitted a report to the District Attorney's office for a warrant.

On May 21, records show Stagliano and another deputy went to VonDracek's home to serve the arrest warrant. While there, Patricia told them her sister had been returned to her home and died May 15 while sitting in a recliner in the living room.

Stagliano arrested Patricia VonDracek on a single charge of domestic battery and she was jailed on $15,000 bail. He then contacted detectives.

"He was extremely concerned and asked me to look into it," Carson City sheriff's Detective Craig Lowe told the Nevada Appeal.

In his report, Lowe said he located Sandra's remains at a Carson City funeral home and was able to photograph "numerous contusions and what appeared to be scratch marks on Sandra's face."

Lowe had the body taken to the Washoe County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy.

Though a cause of death was not determined, the autopsy showed the woman suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding. Toxicology tests and a neurologist's report on a brain examination are still pending.

"According to the attending pathologist, there were signs of non-accidental injuries from numerous incidents," Lowe wrote in the report. He also said Patricia VonDracek's 14-year-old son told police that a week before his aunt died, his mother had stomped on her lower stomach as she lay on the floor.

The boy "claimed he restrained his mother and removed her from the room telling her to calm down and that he would care for Sandra," the report said.

Patricia VonDracek was interviewed by detectives and booked on suspicion of felony domestic battery with substantial bodily harm and felony abuse of a vulnerable person.

Her bail was set at an additional $100,000.

Three cases of financial abuse

From KCTV in Overland Park, Kansas (May 23) - Jamila Jackson appeared in court to face charges of stealing from a disabled woman who lives at the Manor Care Health Services in Overland Park. According to court records, Ms Jackson worked at the nursing home as an aide when she allegedly took the woman's credit cards to pay off some of her own bills, including telephone, utility and rent bills. According to prosecutors, Ms Jackson never took the credit cards themselves from the the woman. They said she wrote down the numbers on the credit cards so the victim wouldn't notice anything missing. Jackson was charged with identity fraud and mistreatment of a dependent adult.

From WAFB in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (May 21) - 47-year-old Rodney Thomas and 47-year-old Alyssa Thomas have been arrested for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from a man in their care. Both have been charged with felony theft and exploitation of the infirmed. They are accused of stealing more than $80,000 from a 56-year-old client they were taking care of in February. The Thomases own a business called Thomas Place Recovery, in which they care for the infirmed and mentally challenged.

From the Chicago Daily Herald (May 21) - 41-year-old Peter T. Jachim was arrested and charged with swindling about $5,000 from two women with develomental disabilities with whom he shared an apartment. Jacim faces charges of financial exploitation of an elderly person and financial exploitation of a disabled person, stemming from claims he began taking money from the women about six months ago. According to police, Jachim began living with one of the victims, a 46-year-old disabled Cary woman, in April 2008. Jachim, police said, would sometimes accompany the woman to her workplace, a restaurant in Island Lake where he met the second victim, a 66-year-old woman who for the previous 31 years had been a resident of an assisted living facility. Jachim, police said, arranged to have her moved out of the facility and into the one-bedroom apartment he shared with the 46-year-old woman. The eldest woman slept on a love seat in the apartment's kitchen, police said. Police declined to comment on how they believe Jachim took the womens' money, but said investigators believe there may be other victims. If convicted of both charges, he would face a maximum three to seven years in prison.
"On the Bench, With Fairness and Empathy"

That's the title of this article by Jim Dwyer in yesterday's New York Times that discusses Judge Sonia Sotomayor's decision in Bartlett v. New York State Board of Examiners (in short, Ms. Bartlett brought legal action against the New York board of law examiners under the ADA Act, The Rehabilitation Act (504), and the Fourteenth Amendment stating that she had been deprived of due process and equal protection under the law following the Board's refusal to provide accommodations for her learning disabilities - there is a summary of the case and the decision here). Judge Sotomayor, of course, has just been nominated by President Obama for appointment to the US Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter. Here is an excerpt from the article:

The woman sitting in the witness box was presented with a printed page, and asked to read it aloud. She used two hands and her lips. One index finger tracked the words left to right across the page; the other moved down the lines, from top to bottom. She mouthed the words to herself before speaking them. She read the word “indicted” as “indicated.”

The judge, Sonia Sotomayor, glanced at the clock. It was 11:13. At the end, she had a question for the witness, Marilyn Bartlett:

“What did you just read?”

“I haven’t got a clue,” Dr. Bartlett replied.

“Neither have I,” the judge said.

Although the passage was just 426 words, it had taken Dr. Bartlett — then a professor at the New York Institute of Technology, with a doctorate in education, a law degree and a verbal I.Q. measured as “superior” — 11 minutes to read it, the sentences so excruciatingly drawn out that no one could remember their meaning.

For 21 days in 1995, Judge Sotomayor heard testimony in the case of Marilyn Bartlett v. New York State Board of Law Examiners, a lawsuit brought under the Americans With Disabilities Act against the state agency that administers the bar exam. Because of her problems with reading, Dr. Bartlett wanted more time to take the exam and permission to use a computer to write the essays. The board turned her down.

The full article can be read here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

UK gang members sentenced in torture and terror case

York, The United Kingdom (May 26, 2009) - Four gang members in York, UK, have been jailed for tying up and then tormenting a 19-year-old disabled woman over a nine-hour period that they filmed on a mobile phone. As reported by the Press in York:

David Bradshaw, prosecuting, said the four made Kelly Saye, 19, lick a pair of trainers and drink washing-up liquid. They gagged her with toilet tissue and tape, tied her to a chair, used a mask and a battery with wires to terrify her and hit her. They even poured water over her so that her hearing aids would not work.

Her ordeal only ended when they took her out blindfolded, walked her about for a while, spun her round seven times and released her in Scarcroft Park, saying: “We will leave her to be savaged by a dog”. It was 5.30am.

The next day, two of the gang bragged about their deeds and showed off the photographs which at least one of them had taken on a mobile phone camera.

According to the article, Terry Spencer, 20, who was serving a community order at the time, was jailed for three years; Raymond Wilson, 28, who was on parole from a six-year sentence for ramming police cars with a forklift truck, was jailed for two years and ten months, and Victoria Brill, 21, was jailed for two years and six months. A 17-year-old girl who could not be named for legal reasons, was given a two-year detention and training order on top of the five months she spent in custody on remand. All four admitted false imprisonment and causing actual bodily harm.

As reported in the Yorkshire Post, the 17-year-old girl used to bully Ms Kelly at school. On the day she was attacked, she had been hanging around with the gang and went with them to Wilson's flat. They were laughing and joking together for about ten minutes before beginning their attack.

Wednesday blog-about

Recommended readings:

Wheelchair Dancer - Butch/Femme -- Crip

Planet of the Blind - Talk to Me When You've Got a Plan

Biodiverse Resistance - What would/could personal assistance look like in a mutual aid society?

Kristina Chew - Eugenics, Fear and Pain

Bad Cripple - Disability as a Positive Influence on Life

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Caregiver neglect and abuse cases

Below are descriptions of some of the cases of caregiver neglect and abuse that have been in the news this past week. Although by no means a full list of abuse/neglect cases, it does convey their diversity in terms of geographical location, age and the gender of the abuser and those abused by them.

Boynton Beach, Florida (May 22, 2009) - The Sun Sentinel reports that Richard Paul Anderson, 43, a Bethesda Memorial Hospital nurse was arrested on a charge he beat an elderly patient on the face. According to the arrest report, another nurse saw him punching an 85-year-old male patient several times on the face and that he stopped only after she yelled "stop" several times. The patient ended up with a black eye and needed nine stitches. Police said Anderson wouldn't explain to them what happened, but that he previously told another hospital employee that he hit the man twice in self-defense. Benson has been charged with abuse of an elderly person, and was in jail on bond of $3,000.

Carmel Valley, California (May 21, 2009) - According to CBS, a man 48-year-old Galen Fisher was arrested on suspicion of abusing his 70-year-old mother and keeping her in their Carmel Valley home against her will. According to the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, Fisher allegedly threatened to kill his mother while brandishing a pistol, kept her in her home against her will and slapped and punched her multiple times. He had been making threats, which escalated over the past couple days, the sheriff's office also reported. Fisher was charged elder abuse, false imprisonment, criminal threats, brandishing a weapon and possession of a concealed weapon.

Marshall County, Iowa (May 21, 2009) - WZTV reports the arrest of 61-year-old Gwendolyn Davidson on charges of abusing and stealing from an elderly woman and her intellectually disabled son in Lewisburg. Authorities say Davidson stole more than $12,000 from them while she was working as a their personal assistant. She was on 63 counts of theft and two counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult. Davidson was an employee at the Impact Centers in Columbia, TN.

Punta Gorda, Florida (May 20, 2009) - According to this news report, police arrested 58-year-old Letitia A. Calderwood for the abuse and battery of a 76-year-old resident at an elder care facility where she was formerly employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant. According to the report, Calderwood and another employee were summoned to assist in helping the female resident who had fallen in the bathroom. Calderwood and the two other facility employees had difficulty helping the resident to her feet and Calderwood subsequently kicked in her lower back while using a profanity. Once the resident was helped to her feet, Calderwood struck her in the face with an open hand. Calderwood was interviewed by detectives and admitted to kicking and striking the resident as originally reported. She stated that her actions were done out of frustration although she knew the patient was disabled and had limited ability to stand on her own. Calderwood was charged with battery on the elderly and abuse of the elderly and was being held in jail without bond.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Katlin Cousineau case goes to trial

Barrie, Central Ontario, Canada (May 23) - According to the Edmonton Sun, the jury trial of Paul Bradey, who is accused of the torture killing of 23-year-old Katlin Cousineau, began last week. The charred body of Ms Cousineau, who was intellectually disabled was found on November 15, 2005, in what has been described as "dungeon-like basement," along with containers of gasoline, a blowtorch and a pair of handcuffs. From the article:

Now on trial for her murder is Paul Bradey, who owned the rural two-storey home in Midland, Ont., where he lived with his girlfriend and another tenant, along with Cousineau and 19 cats.

On the witness stand yesterday, a former resident whose parents sold the house to Bradey told the jury that she grew up in the house and was always afraid of the shallow, dirty basement.

"My sister and I hated to go down there," said Deborah Mink.

"It was dark, it was dank. It smelled. There were spiders and mice."

The Crown has told the jury that in November 2005 Bradey and his tenant, Mat Sitte, went down into that basement and tortured Cousineau with a propane blowtorch.

The Crown also alleges that Bradey left the house while Sitte burned the house to the ground to destroy evidence.

According to the Toronto Sun co-accused Mat Sitte and Bradey's girlfriend, Susanna Balogh, are also expected to testify during the trial.The full stories are here and here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday round-up

From the Auburn Journal in Sacramento, California (May 21) - Approximately 2000 people with disabilities and their allies will be at the Capitol on May 27 for the 6th Annual Disability Capitol Action Day from 10am-3pm. The theme of this year’s event is based on the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead Decision which requires all states, including California, to implement an Olmstead plan that provides services which allow people with disabilities the choice of living in the community as opposed to institutions. For more information contact Christina Mills at, or, 916-325-1690 ext. 333. (h/t Media dis&dat)

From the Associated Press in Muskegon, Michigan (May 20) - Timothy Andrew Carl, a 27-year-old nurse’s aide who authorities say abused an elderly couple by urinating in the woman’s hair and pouring liquid soap on her husband’s head in February 2008 has been sentenced to one year in prison. He was also ordered to spend five years on probation and continue mental health treatment. Carl apologized in court to the victims’ family for “betraying their trust.”

From the Gwinnet Daily Post in Gwinnet, Georgia (May 20) - Marshae Brooks and Demarcus Crawford have been indicted as part of an alleged four-person robbing crew accused of killing 51-year old Tedla Lemma in a home-invasion in March last year. According to prosecutors say Brooks and Crawford allegedly beat, gagged and hog-tied the victim and left him for dead. Unable to breathe through the gag, Mr Lemma suffocated. Brooks and Crawford face counts of murder, felony murder, burglary and false imprisonment. Brooks is also charged with armed robbery, kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated assault stemming from three other incidents. Last month, a jury convicted Quincy Jackson, of murder and related charges in Mr Lemma's death. A key witness in Jackson's trial, Lorna Araya, is accused of masterminding the home invasion.

From the Washington Times (May 20) - A Government Accountability Office report shows that the use of seclusion and physical restraint in schools disproportionately impacts students with disabilities and has resulted in hundreds of possible abuse cases and at least 20 deaths. According to House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, who requested the report and held a committee hearing on Tuesday to highlight the findings, “This behavior, in some instances, looks like torture. The current situation is unacceptable and cannot continue.”

From the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Associated Press (May 19) - Five former employees of the Corpus Christi State School have pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from cellphone videos of fights staged between residents with intellectual disabilities at the Texas institution. Each of the five men are charged with causing injury to a disabled person. A sixth person, Stephanie Garza, is accused of failing to intervene and will be arraigned later this month. According to police, eleven employees organized the fights, which took place over the past two years.

From the Dallas Morning News (May 19) - According to state records, dozens of employees at Texas institutions were fired for serious abuse and neglect, such as whipping a resident in the mouth with a belt, during the same two-year period as the late night “fight clubs.”

From the Houston Chronicle (May 18) - Hundreds of abuse complaints involving the mentally disabled residents of Texas state schools are made to local police each year but rarely do they result in criminal charges, largely because the cases are too difficult to prove, according to a three-year snapshot of data obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

From Canwest News Service in Canada (May 18) - A major new study by Yale University scientists shows bias against obese people is growing. The scientists, who searched through medical studies on weight bias published between January 2000 and May 2008 found that more than half of 620 doctors surveyed view obese patients as "awkward,'' "unattractive,'' "ugly'' and "non-compliant.'' A third went further, painting the obese as weak-willed, sloppy and lazy. Even dietitians, personal trainers and doctors who specialize in treating obesity exhibit fat phobia.

From the Times-Union in Jacksonsville, Florida (May 18) - Local authorities say the number of people with disabilities being denied housing or the right to make reasonable modifications is on the rise. People with disabilities are covered under the federal Fair Housing Act, which also prohibits housing discrimination based on race, sex or family status.
Child cruelty charges

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Fox 5 Atlanta (with video):

Atlanta, Georgia - Police have arrested Laurie Peavy, 44, a special education teacher at Woodstock High School teacher and her teacher's aide, Nancy Cheek, 49, for allegedly abusing two children with disabilities. Ms Peavy has been charged with two counts of false imprisonment and cruelty to children, and Ms Cheek with one count of each. Both women are free on bond. According to the Sheriff's Office, Ms Peavy and Ms Cheek duct-taped a 17-year-old autistic boy to a chair as a disciplinary action. Ms Peavy is also accused of confining a 17-year-old blind girl under a table against her will for "talking and being chatty."

Both women have been removed from their teaching positions and reassigned to non-teaching positions pending an internal investigation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guardian charged with beating death of 12-year-old boy

Update: According to this report in the Chicago Tribune, A Will County judge has set Kevin Johnson's bail at $5 million. Authorities say no other family members showed up Friday for the bond hearing for 43-year-old Fred Johnson II, who is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery of a child and unlawful restraint in the beating death of Kevin Johnson.

Crete, Nebraska, USA - According to the Chicago Tribune, Fred D. Johnson 11, 43, was charged last Thursday (May 15) with fatally beating 12-year-old Kevin Johnson, his adopted son, over three days in July last year. Kevin Johnson, who was intellectually disabled, died on July 20, two days after he was taken to hospital unconscious.
According to the charges, Fred Johnson struck Kevin on his head and body between July 15 and 18, causing the boy's death. Fred Johnson is also accused of tying the boy to a bed frame with straps.

According to the article, at the time of Kevin's death, Fred Johnson, who took custody with his wife of Kevin and his three brothers after their adoptive parents died, was being investigated by the Dept. of Children and Family Services because of allegations of abuse. He has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery of a child and unlawful restraint. He was also charged with criminal neglect of a person with a disability for allegedly not taking one of Kevin Johnson's brothers to a doctor for needed medical attention, said a spokesman for the state attorney's office.

After Kevin's death, his brothers were removed from Fred Johnson and his wife's care, along with five other children. They are now in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

The full story can be read here.
Death by neglect trial begins

Farmington, New Mexico (May 20, 2009) - A jury trial began on Monday for Sandra Greenwood, 62, who is charged with failing to aid her 26-year-old son, Jared Greenwood as he lay dying on the bathroom floor of the family's home allegedly covered in his own feces, dirt and trash in September 2007. As reported in the Daily Times,

The Office of the Medical Investigator determined the cause of Jared Greenwood's death was a blood infection developed through several large, open bed sores on the man's body.

According to the article, Sandra Greenwood received state funding through March 2007 to care for Jared, who had intellectual disabilities and autism.

Those state payments ended after Greenwood failed to request continued assistance. Greenwood, however, continued to receive state funding for a second adult child who has Down syndrome, a factor which prosecutors allege makes Greenwood a health care provider.

Also, it is reported, arrest documents state that Ms Greenwood told officers during an interview with Bloomfield police when Jared was first discovered that "it was my fault," and that her kids were dependent on her alone. She is charged with second-degree neglect of a health care resident or fourth-degree involuntary manslaughter. If convicted of the more serious neglect charge, Greenwood could face as many as 15-years in prison.

The story in full is here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quebec man charged with sexual assault set free

Quebec, Canada - 47-year-old Serge Levac, who was charged with sexually assaulting a woman with Down syndrome, has been set free because the woman could not pick him out from a series of photos or from a physical lineup. As reported by Canwest News Service and the Windsor Star, a Quebec Court judge said last Thursday that there was no doubt the woman had been sexually assaulted and that Serge Levac, who is HIV positive, has probably assaulted her, but because she couldn't couldn't identify him with 100% certainty, he had to acquit him. Levac was charged with aggravated sexual assault, break and enter, making death threats and sexual assault with a weapon.

Illinois General Assembly passes legislation on sterilization

From an Equip for Equality Press Release:

Equip for Equality’s Judicial Victory Leads to Legislative Reform for Adults with Disabilities Under Guardianship

CHICAGO (May 18, 2009)— Today, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to ban the sterilization of adults with disabilities under guardianship without due process. In so doing, the reproductive dignity of adults with disabilities under guardianship has been preserved. The bill, HB 2290, will now be sent to Governor Quinn.

Previously, there was no requirement that a guardian of an adult with a disability petition the court to authorize a ward’s sterilization. In recognition of the fundamental rights at stake, and the history of involuntary sterilization of people with disabilities, most states have enacted statutes to provide due process protection for wards facing this life-changing, and potentially traumatic, situation. Prior to today, Illinois was one of only 16 states failing to provide statutory protections.

“Passage of this legislation is long overdue and critical to the protection of the fundamental rights of people with disabilities,” said Zena Naiditch, founder and CEO of Equip for Equality. “Despite having legal guardians, people with disabilities retain basic rights regarding their own bodies and irreversible reproductive decisions. We call on Governor Quinn to put an end to the tragic history of involuntary sterilization and take a giant step forward for human rights by immediately signing this bill into law.”

After obtaining a landmark decision in the Illinois Appellate Court upholding the denial of a petition for involuntary sterilization of a 26-year-old woman, Equip for Equality set to work on obtaining a permanent statewide policy change. In the court case, the young (more) Sterilization Bill/add one woman’s guardian sought to have her ward permanently sterilized. In the bench trial and in conversations with the guardian ad litem, the young woman, who had a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident at age eight, had made it clear she did not want to be sterilized.

“The legislation is very significant because before 2008, Illinois guardians and doctors could choose involuntary sterilization behind closed doors,” said Katie Watson, Assistant Professor in the Medical Humanities & Bioethics Program at Northwestern University who worked with Equip for Equality on HB 2290. “This legislation codifies many principles from the appellate court decision, such as guaranteeing men and women with disabilities a court hearing. That moves the decision into the light and keeps the focus on their interests.”

“Sterilization is an extreme, irreversible measure. It impacts an individual’s constitutional rights to procreation and privacy,” said Marsha Koelliker, Equip for Equality’s Public Policy Director. “Under the legislation, only a court may impose such a result on an adult ward with a disability, and, when a ward lacks capacity, only following a hearing on the merits in which the ward is afforded full due process protection.”

Among other things, HB 2290 amends the Illinois Probate Act by requiring:

• A guardian seeking to sterilize an adult ward to file a motion requesting the court’s authority to consent to such a procedure;

• Appointment of a guardian ad litem;

• A medical and psychological evaluation of the ward;

• A determination by the court of the ward’s capacity to consent or withhold consent to the proposed sterilization; and

• A court order that includes written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Representative Kathleen A. Ryg introduced HB 2290 and was Chief Co-Sponsor in the House, along with Representatives JoAnn D. Osmond, Barbara Flynn Currie,Lou Lang and Sidney H. Mathis. Senator Heather Stearns picked up the bill in the Senate and was Chief Co-Sponsor along with Senators Michael Noland and Pamela J. Althoff. Equip for Equality worked in coalition with the Cook County Office of Public Guardian; Office of State Guardian; Feminist Response in Disability Activism; and the ACLU of Illinois to draft the bill. Equip for Equality appreciates their work and that of other organizations in supporting passage of the bill. The Chicago Foundation for Women provided crucial funding to support Equip for Equality’s lobbying efforts.

Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit legal advocacy organization and is the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System designated to safeguard the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities. A copy of HB 2290 can be found at

CONTACTS: Marsha Koelliker, Public Policy Director (312) 341-7313,

Cheryl Jansen, Legislative Policy Manager (217) 544-6013,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Suicide of 15-year-old female resident at Texas state school under investigation

From ABC News (May 18, 2009):

The suicide of a 15 year-old resident at a Texas school for the mentally disabled is he latest incident to add to the growing concern over how the Texas state schools are run. The incident, which is now under investigation, comes on the heels of a report last week on ABC News in which cell phone video showed a 'fight club' allegedly run by employees of another Texas school who forced mentally disabled residents to brawl.

The female resident was found hanging in her room last week by staff at the San Angelo State school in Carlsbad, TX. According to State officials, staff members and on-site medical personnel attempted to resuscitate the resident. A report obtained from the Tom Green County Sheriff's office indicates local paramedics arrived and were able to get a heart rhythm after performing CPR. The patient was transported to Shannon Medical Center where she was pronounced dead and the manner of death later confirmed by the autopsy report as "suicide".

"We are investigating the matter and will interview employees who were on duty at the time to find out what they observed and witnessed," said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. "We will also determine if there was any neglect on behalf of the staff," he added.

Crimmins said the agency will also look at the girl's records to determine why she was at the school, her medical condition and if she was supposed to have additional supervision. The young woman's suicide is the only reported death of a resident at the school.

"Our agency and the staff at San Angelo school are deeply saddened by the sudden death of one our residents," said Cecilia Fedorov, press officer for the Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities Services (DADS) is charged with overseeing Texas' 14, state schools; including the discovered by police where night shift employees are accused of forcing the mentally disabled to take part in a brutal "fight club" sessions that were videotaped on their cell phones.

The six former employees were indicted earlier this month; five were charged with causing injury to a disabled person and the sixth was charged with failing to intervene.

Texas State Schools have received numerous complaints over the years. The concerns have heightened with the recent investigation into the "fight clubs" and now the death at the San Angelo State School.

The San Angelo State School is a state-funded residential facility that cares for nearly 300 mentally ill or mentally challenged individuals. According to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) the school has had 203 confirmed cases of neglect or physical abuse between 2006 and 2009. In fiscal year 2008 alone, San Angelo State School had 844 completed investigations. Within the past month, there have been 69 completed investigations.

The staggering number of confirmed abuse and neglect cases at the San Angelo school and throughout the Texas State School system has raised concerns about the effectiveness and safety of the institutions.

"The system is broken," said Beth Mitchell, Senior Managing Attorney of Advocacy Inc., an organization that works to protect the rights of Texans with disabilities. "It's very sad that you have a state that is repeatedly told there are problems with the system, yet they don't take actions to fix it."

Mitchell believes staffing issues are a large factor in why the schools are not succeeding.

"It goes back to untrained, underpaid and underqualified staff that are charged with caring for Texas' most vulnerable individuals," said Mitchell. "Without the right components in place, the schools become a haven for abuse and neglect."

"We strongly disagree with the broad statements made by Advocacy, Inc.," said Federov at the Texas Department of Aging and Disability. "Any instance of abuse or neglect of a state school resident is absolutely inexcusable, and we completely reject the claim that no changes or improvements have been made in our state schools in recent years. For example, we have extremely strict reporting policies, which require every possible instance of abuse, neglect or exploitation at state schools be reported to and investigated by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the agency charged with investigating all such allegations."

Federov also said that in 2007 the schools implemented a zero-tolerance policy for any employee who has a confirmation of abuse or neglect which results in any measure of physical harm to a state school resident. "An employee with such a confirmation from DFPS is fired." She also added that funding for state schools has been increased in each of the past two legislative sessions.

"Actions such as those of the former employees of the Corpus Christi State School are disgusting, unconscionable and inexcusable. In accordance with our zero tolerance policy, those employees were fired less than a week after we learned of the cell phone recordings," said Federov.

The investigation into the suicide at the San Angelo State School is on-going. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services have 14 days to file a report on the case which is classified as high priority because a death occurred. Cases reviewed by the DFPS are designated using priority levels one through four with one being "high" or the most serious.

New Zealand - Investigation into the death of a disabled woman finds that the hospital staff did not understand her needs

According to the New Zealand Herald, an investigation into the death from "an undiagnosed infection" of a 52-year-old woman with muscular atrophy at Hutt Hospital ( Hutt Valley, Wellington region, New Zealand) found that the hospital staff did not understand her needs. From the article:

Following her death in May 2008 an independent review was commissioned by the Hutt Valley District Health Board.

Having encountered problems during previous hospital stays, the woman had met with doctors, managers and health board members to create a support plan which would be implemented during future visits, The Dominion Post reported.

However, the review found that while staff had tried to provide nursing care, they had "little understanding" of her needs.

Staff considered her demanding and were reluctant to respond to her requests for help.

Six days into her stay a dietician noticed a naso-gastric tube was draining away food as she ate it.

Four days later the tube was still in place.

After two weeks a feeding tube was inserted into her intestine.

The woman complained of pain but there was no consideration of whether the procedure had caused a bowel perforation.

She died four days later from peritonitis, brought on by a small cut to her bowel from the tube.

According to the article, the report says that the woman, who worked as an analyst with the Health Ministry's disability policy team, was seen by 27 different people, including 15 nurses, during her stay in hospital. It also says that "it's not clear if the woman might have survived had her weakened condition being detected." The health board has since appointed more permanent workers and reorganised the medical ward to form smaller teams with a senior nurse to oversee the care of each patient.

The story in full is here. See also this report by the Dominion Post.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Four people charged with manslaughter in connection with the assisted suicide of Phoenix woman

The Boston Herald (see also Phoenix New Times) reports that four members of the Final Exit Network have been arrested in connection with the assisted suicide of 58-year-old Jana Van Voorhis. According to the report, Ms Van Voorhis was not terminally ill at the time of her death, but had a long history of mental illness and depression. Ms Van Voohis was found dead in her Phoenix (AZ) home on April 15, 2007. An autopsy showed she died of helium asphyxiation. An excerpt from the article:

Four people have been indicted in connection with the assisted suicide of a Phoenix woman.

According to a document from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Frank Langsner and Wye Hale-Rowe were indicted Thursday on charges of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit manslaughter while Dr. Larry Egbert and Roberta Massey were also indicted for conspiracy to commit manslaughter.

Authorities said the four were part of a right to die organization called Final Exit Network, which is currently under investigation by the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and police agencies in Arizona and seven other states.

The County Attorney’s Office believes Jana Van Voorhis placed a plastic hood over her head that was hooked up to helium tanks in April 2007.

Prosecutors accuse Langsner and Hale-Rowe of showing Van Voorhis how to use the hood and tank while Egbert and Massey’s involvement was through their work in processing applicants to the organization, which is suspected of assisting other suicides in Arizona.

The story in full is here. See also this post by Stephen Drake over at Not Dead Yet.

Assault charges against employee of facility for women with developmental disabilities

Vineland, New Jersey (May 15) - The South Jersey News reports the indictment of 21-year-old Tycole Higginbotham, an employee of the Vineland Developmental Center for women with developmental disabilities, for allegedly assaulting a resident of the center. According to the indictment, Ms Higgonbotham strangled the resident until she became unconscious because, in the words of Prosecutor Ron Casella, "she was acting out in some way." An excerpt from the article:

"In trying to control the victim, Higginbothom put her hands around the victims neck until the victim went unconscious," he said. "The defendant then did what she could to revive the victim by blowing on her face. The victim did eventually come to."

According to the report, the women did not suffer any permanent injuries as a result of the assault. Tycole Higginbothom was indicted for second-degree aggravated assault and third-degree official misconduct last month in front of a Superior Court grand jury in Cumberland County. She has been suspended from her job without pay pending resolution of the charges.
Disability Rights Wisconsin sues University of Wisconsin Hospital and clinic to change its policy on witholding treatment from patients with developmental disabilities

From the Wisconsin State Journal (h/t to Medical Futility and Wheelie Catholic):

Disability Rights Wisconisn has sued the UW Hospital and Clinic to change the hospital's policy for witholding treatment from patients with developmental disabilities. "Attorney Mitch Hagopian said he worried some UW Hospital doctors may be too quick to suggest withdrawing treatment from a developmentally disabled person they perceive to have a low quality of life." Here is an excerpt from the article:

In a case that could have broad legal implications for when some patients are allowed to die, an advocacy group is alleging that doctors at UW Hospital broke the law by withholding treatment from two developmentally disabled patients with apparent cases of pneumonia.

The guardian of one patient, who survived, at first went along with and then later disagreed with the decision to withhold care, the lawsuit by Disability Rights Wisconsin alleges. The parents of the other patient, who died, pushed for the withdrawal of treatment, according to the group’s complaint filed Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court.

One medical ethicist said the case could help to clarify a difficult question in state law: How much power do families and guardians have to make medical decisions for vulnerable patients such as children and the developmentally disabled?

Disability Rights contends state law prevents parents and guardians from withholding treatment from patients who can’t make that decision for themselves unless they are in a “persistent vegetative state,” a condition the group says did not apply to the two patients in the lawsuit.

The full story is here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday round-up

From The Associated Press, Trenton, New Jersey (May 13) - Disabled New Jerseyans are planning to protest Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposed budget outside the Statehouse May 14. The budget calls for cutting $125,000 from five of the state's 12 Centers for Independent Living.

From AP/Houston Chronicle (May 13) - About two dozen disability activists from three advocacy groups unfurled banners and protested at the Texas state Capitol yesterday, alleging the state legislature is “failing the disability community.”

From FOX News in Box Elder County, Utah (May 13) - A Box Elder County school bus driver is on suspension after a five-year-old autistic boy fell asleep on her bus and was later found wandering the streets. The boy, Dylan Snow, has autism spectrum disorder and dozed off as he was going to the early learning center preschool in Corinne. According to the Box Elder County superintendent's office, when the kids were dropped off at the school, neither the bus driver or aide checked to see if everyone got off.

From the Portland Oregonian (May 12) - 47-year-old Margie Tisdale been sentenced to a year in jail for stealing $5,000 from the bank accounts of the adults with disabilities she had been hired to assist. Ms Tisdale was employed by the nonprofit United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon and Southwest Washington. According to prosecutors, she stole money from five people and spent it on manicures, lattes and her rent.

From the San Jose Mercury News (May 12 - Mental health advocates are protesting against the recently opened Psycho Donuts store in Campbell, California, saying it encourages stigma against people with mental illness.

From the Philadelphia News (May 12) - Nicola Cantisani, a blind professional translator en route on a US Airways flight from Philadephia to Belgium was arrested, dragged off the plane and accused of faking his blindness after he stood up and questioned why his was delayed nearly two hours. Mr Cantisani, of Brussels, Belgium, who has been blind since birth, was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, police said.

From The Coloradoan (May 12) - Activists in Fort Collins, Colarado, are seeking a change in a city ordinance that would permit wheelchairs in bike lanes on city streets. The current ordinance requires wheelchair users, who are defined as pedestrians, to use sidewalks when they are available. When there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian may use the street but is instructed to stay as far to the right shoulder as possible. (h/t Media dis&dat)

From the San Jose Mercury News in Santa Clara, California (May 11) - A federal investigation has found that Millikin School in Santa Clara, the fifth-highest scoring elementary school in California, illegally discriminated against students with disabilities by discouraging them from attending. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said the Santa Clara Unified School District has been forcing students in special education who need a resource aide to choose between getting an aide or attending Millikin because the school does not routinely provide that service.

From in Corpus Christi, Texas (May 7) - A grand jury indicted six former state school employees on felony charges, accusing them of staging fight club-style brawls between residents. D’Angelo Riley, 22; Jesse Salazar, 25; Guadalupe Delarosa Jr., 22; Vincent Johnson, 22; and Timothy Dixon, 30; all were indicted Thursday on injury to a disabled person, a third-degree felony. Stephanie Garza, 21, faces the same charge but as a state jail felony.
Three people arrested for attacking a disabled man

Port Barre, Lousianna (May 14) - The Advocate reports that two young women and a male teenager were arrested and charged with "battery on the infirmed" in connection with the attack of a man with intellectual disabilities while he was walking to his home on May 8. According to a news release, Yolanda Andrus, 20, Kresada Pickney 19, and a 15-year-old boy allegedly began kicking and punching the man while they laughed and tormented him. There was no motive behind the attack other than to allow the trio to become bullies, the release stated.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Woman attacked and robbed in Manatee County, Florida

From ABC Action News:

MANATEE COUNTY, FL -- A disabled woman was attacked by two men as she rode her bicycle Wednesday night. The suspects were also riding bicycles.

Deputies say the victim, who lives in the Belmont Park Apartments on 20th Street, is physically disabled and has a medical condition that causes seizures.

She was in the process of leaving a friend's apartment when the pair knocked her to the ground. While lying helplessly, the two punched her and kicked her. Deputies say they stole her cell phone and no more than $40 in cash.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office sent a K-9 unit along with other deputies to search the area for the suspect.

They say a witness saw the duo leave on their bicycles heading south on 20th Street West. Both suspects were wearing ski masks at the time of the attack.

The woman's injuries left her with bruises and cuts but did not require a trip to the hospital.

Anyone with information that would help the Manatee County Sheriff's Office is asked to call Detective William J. Waldron at 941-747-3011 Ext. 2160.

Videos of fight club at Texas school for people with intellectual disabilities have been released

Corpus Christi, Texas - Following last week's news (May 7) that six former employees of a Corpus Christi state institution for people with intellectual disabilties had been charged with staging fight club-style brawls between residents for the "entertainment" of night shift employees, ABC News now reports that cell phone videos of the fights have now been released. Here is an excerpt:

Terrified residents at a Corpus Christi, Texas, state school for the mentally disabled were forced to be part of a brutal "fight club" operated by night shift employees, who made videos of the sessions with their cell phones, the newly released videos show.

On the videos employees can be seen and heard laughing and prodding the residents to fight.One resident is seen on the video trying to run away from his attacker and a large group of employees and residents tracking him through the halls. When cornered, he wails and moans and tells the employees, "I will behave."

The videos were discovered by police in March when one of the school employees left his phone at a hospital and it was turned over to police. In an effort to find its owner, officers saw the disturbing videos.

A judge ordered the tapes released to an attorney suing the state on behalf of a former resident also forced into the "fight club."

"It happened for over a year and it happened for many nights out of the week," said the attorney, Bob Hilliard.

Hilliard's client, Armando Hernandez, says he was told he would "go to prison" if he did not fight.

Hernandez, who is mentally disabled, says he was fearful to even tell his mother of what was happening inside at night.

"They say 'snitches get stitches,'" Hernandez told ABC News.

A Nightline report including video is here (trigger warning).
Lawsuit against Chicago nursing home claims it failed to protect a woman from sexual assault

From the Associated Press (May 13)

Chicago, Illinois (AP) — The family of a 69-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit against a suburban nursing home for failing to protect her from being sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old mentally ill resident.

Maplewood Care's administrator tried to cover up a rape by calling it consensual sex, aid attorney Pete Flowers, who represents the woman's family and called the case against the Elgin facility the most flagrant example of nursing home negligence he has seen.

It also is an example of how mixing frail senior citizens and younger mentally ill residents in nursing homes can lead to violence if facilities do not monitor potentially dangerous residents, Flowers said.

"The only possible reason that you would be in this situation is a profit motive," he said. "You want more residents in your facility, but you're unwilling to pay for the ecessary elements to protect all the residents."

Ron Nunziato, an executive with Lincolnwood-based S.I.R. Management, which operates the nursing home and seven other Chicago-area facilities, said he had no comment on the lawsuit or the alleged rape in January.

Christopher Shelton was missing at bed check, but "no search was made or alarm sounded to alert residents and staff that a young, aggressive, sexually frustrated, convicted felon was prowling the halls of the nursing home," the lawsuit alleges.

Later, a night shift nurse heard an elderly woman moaning and entered her room, a state investigation found. The nurse found the alleged victim crying and Shelton in her bathroom, where he was calling 911 to report that someone was attacking the woman.

Paramedics and an emergency room doctor later examined the woman and noted signs of sexual trauma, according to the state investigator's report.

Shelton had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with aggression when he was admitted to the nursing home in November. The state report showed he had told the nursing home staff in December that he was sexually frustrated, but the facility failed to monitor him more closely.

The state and federal governments fined the nursing home $44,400 for violations related to the incident.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of a resident identified only as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, seeks at least $50,000 in damages.

Named as defendants are Maplewood Care, S.I.R. Management and the facility's former administrator, James L. Doyle. A telephone number for Doyle could not be located and it was unclear whether he has an attorney.

According to the lawsuit, Doyle downplayed the encounter as consensual sex in a report to the state and encouraged employees to lie about it to cover it up.

Shelton, who was arrested at the nursing home, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts, including aggravated sexual assault, said Kane County public defender David Kliment. A trial date has not been set.

The civil lawsuit claims the woman's family was not told the nursing home had admitted young adult residents "with a history of violent and aggressive criminal behaviors."

Shelton, a convicted felon and a former resident of the Elgin facility, was readmitted to the nursing home without a proper review of his criminal history, the lawsuit says. Had the facility checked, it would have discovered Shelton had an outstanding arrest warrant on felony battery charges.

U.S. nursing homes have become dumping grounds for young and middle-age people with mental illness, according to an Associated Press analysis earlier this year.

In the analysis, Illinois ranked highest among the states in the number of mentally ill adults under age 65 living in nursing homes — more than 12,000 last year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Neglect and abuse cases

The following are short descriptions of some of the cases involving crimes of neglect and abuse against people with disabilities and the elderly that have been reported in the media since the middle of April. Though by no means an exhaustive list, it does convey the diversity of such cases in terms of the age, location and gender of the abuser and those abused by them.

From the Hesperia Star in San Bernardino County, California (May 12) - Deputies have arrested Ronald Rego, 59, and his wife, Miriam Rego, 45, on a charge of elderly abuse for allegedly keeping Ronald Rego's elderly mother in a woodshed with no electricity, no water and no heat or cooling. A house is being constructed on the property, and the Regos live in a travel trailer on the site, according to the sheriff's department. The 94-year-old woman was reportedly in good condition and is now staying with a neighbour.

From the Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer, Scranton, Pennsylvania (May 12) - Kimberly A. Holzein, 26, and Jill L. Hillard, 36, who were employed by the ARC to care for a woman with intellectual disabilities, have been accused of abusing her by tricking her into drinking urine and eating feces in a residential group home in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming County. They have been charged charged with assault, reckless endangerment, neglect of a care dependent person, harassment, disorderly conduct and criminal conspiracy. Both have been released on $20,000 bail, and both have been fired.

From TC in Port St. Lucie, Florida (May 9) - A 42-year-old certified nurse’s assistant, Shawn Thomas, was arrested and charged with elder abuse and misdemeanor obstruction for allegedly leaving an elderly woman inside a car where temperatures reached an estimated 110 degrees while she went shopping. According to the arrest report, the vehicle was not running and the temperature outside was 86 degrees while the interior temperature was an estimated 110 degrees. The elderly woman was reportedly left alone in the vehicle for about 35 minutes.

From the Daily Journal in Bridgeton, New Jersey (May 5) - Tycole J Higinbotham, 21, was indicted last week on charges of second-degree aggravated assault and third-degree official misconduct for allegedly attacking a disabled resident of the Vineland Developmantal Center. According to court records, Higginbotham is charged with strangling the resident until he became unconscious. Higginbotham is free on $50,000 bail and has been suspended without pay pending a legal outcome.

From Newsday in West Babylon, New York (May 4) - A 15-year-old nurse's aide at a West Babylon nursing home was charged witth abusing an 80-year-old disabled female patient by tying her legs together during an eight-hour shift, without supervision or authorization. Candice Pelzer, who was working at the Berkshire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, was charged with endangering the welfare of a physically disabled or incompetent person and violating the public health law. Pelzer was assigned to care for the patient on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift in November 2008, according to court papers. The patient suffered from Parkinson's disease and respiratory diseases, dementia, and hypertension, and "was incapable of caring for herself because of . . . [the] physical disabilities and mental diseases," according to court papers.

From the Courier Times in Bedminster, New Jersey (May 3) - 45-year-old Donna Hammerstone, a registered nurse from Bedminster, was charged with various felony charges for stealing more than $22,000 from an elderly Doylestown Township man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and then used the cash to pay for a trip to an Atlantic City casino, lingerie, delinquent tax bills and more, authorities said Friday. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

From My Valley News in Murrieta, California (April 25) - A 46-year-old man is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges of murder and cruelty to a dependent adult for the alleged slaying of his 81-year-old father, who died as a result of what authorities describe as several blows to the head.

From, Omaha, Nebraska (April 25) - 21-year-old Marcel Lovejoy, who was arrested and charged with attacking and shooting a 55-year-old disabled resident with a pellet in the lobby of North Park Tower after he wouldn't let him in is now also accused of making Terroristic Threats and that is a felony. Another suspect who is responsible for punching the man, has not been found.

From the Ottawa Citizen, (April 25) - Ottawa police have laid additional charges against 48-year-old Ricky Dean Broome now accused of defrauding two seniors, and say there may be more victims. Police said a man offered to help a 75-year-old woman who was his neighbour. After establishing a “relationship of trust” with her, the man allegedly defrauded the woman of several thousands of dollars over a number of years, police said. Broome is charged with theft under $5,000, fraud exceeding $5,000, along with 25 counts of uttering a forged document, unauthorized use of credit card data and criminal breach of trust. He is expected to appear in court on May 25. In September 2008, Broome was charged by police in connection with accusations of fraud against an elderly Ottawa man.

From the Barrie Advance, Barrie, Ontario, Canada (April 13) - Barrie Police officers have charged a 67-year-old woman after her mother was admitted to Royal Victoria Hospital Friday.
ER staff called police after an 88-year-old woman was brought in by ambulance with gangrene in her legs. Police said the patient later died from other health complications, but hospital staff was concerned about the lack of care given to her, and her daughter was investigated for elder abuse. Officers have charged her with failing to provide the necessities of life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Martha Mason (1937 - 2009)

Image description: Martha Mason with her friend, Mary Dalton, who produced a documentary about Ms. Mason's life in 2005.

Since my post last Friday about the death last week of Martha Mason at age 71, there have been numerous remembrances of her life. Here is an excerpt from a remembrance by Margalit Fox in the New York Times:

From her horizontal world — a 7-foot-long, 800-pound iron cylinder that encased all but her head — Ms. Mason lived a life that was by her own account fine and full, reading voraciously, graduating with highest honors from high school and college, entertaining and eventually writing.

She chose to remain in an iron lung, she often said, for the freedom it gave her. It let her breathe without tubes in her throat, incisions or hospital stays, as newer, smaller ventilators might require. It took no professional training to operate, letting her remain mistress of her own house, with just two aides assisting her.
Ms. Mason's memoir, “Breath,” was published by Down Home Press in 2003. As well as being the subject of Mary Dalton's documentary film, “Martha in Lattimore,” released in 2005, Ms. Mason also appeared in “The Final Inch,” a documentary about polio that was nominated for a Academy Award this year.

There are other memorials here, here, here, and here.

Rest in peace, Martha Mason.
A Premio Dardos award

Thank-you Media dis&dat for awarding the FRIDA blog a Premio Dardos award.
The Prémio Dardos is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.
In short, Premio Dardos is a tagging meme that provides an opportunity to tell other bloggers you appreciate their blog. And now, here are a few blogs I would like to pass the award along to:

Whose Planet is it Anyway?

Wheelie Catholic

Diary of a Goldfish

Disability Prejudice and Civil Rights Watch

Three Rivers Fog

Biodiverse Resistance

ICAD (International Coalition on Abuse and Disability)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homicide suspected in the disappearance of Jason Holley

Colorado Springs, Colorado - A body suspected to be that of 22-year-old Jason Holley, who had Klinefelter's syndrome and intellectual disabilities, and who has been missing since January 5, was found Friday in a ravine in Cheyenne Canyon, west of Colorado Springs. According to The Gazette, Kyle Stott, 18, and Derek Hernandez, 21, one of whom led police to his body, have been arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in his disappearance. According to the theory of Dale Kelley, a private investigator who has been working with Jason's family, the men may have killed Jason for his Xbox:
He said the suspects befriended Holley through acquaintances at school and picked him up the morning he went missing, telling him to bring his Xbox.

Kelley said the mother of one of the suspects told investigators she saw the Xbox that night.

Jason Holley was studying to be a car mechanic at Pikes Peak Community College, according to his mother, Jan Holley. He had been receiving help with his classes from a learning specialist and took just one class at a time because of problems with writing and memory. “I have never seen him so happy as when he comes home from school,” his mother wrote on a Web site,

Stott and Hernandez are being held without bond and are scheduled to appear in court on Monday May 11 at 1:30 p.m.
New report underscores gender disparities in mental health and illness

An excerpt from this article by CNN about a new report by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services that examines the role gender plays in mental health and illness:

"Action Steps for Improving Women's Mental Health," a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health (OWH), explores the role gender plays in the diagnosis, course and treatment of mental
illness. It calls for specific actions to counteract the inadequacies in this field.

According to the report, women are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from major depression. They are three times as likely to attempt suicide, and they experience anxiety disorders two to three times more often than men. While these statistics are not new, their importance is generally underplayed, says Wanda Jones, Dr.P.H., health scientist and director of the OWH. She notes that whereas past reports have focused on bringing mental health to the forefront of concern -- such as the 1999 publication "Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General" -- few have focused primarily on the specific mental illness issues specific to women, hence the need for such a publication.

Among the actions recommended by the new report are the needs to underscore the essential importance of women's mental health to overall well-being, improve how primary care doctors and mental health professionals interface with each other, develop a greater understanding in the role of gender in mental illness, recognize the role of trauma and violence against women and its subsequent impact on mental illness and address cultural biases that serve as barriers to treatment for many women.

Reasons for the gender disparities in mental health are still unclear, according to Jones. Part of the difference is based on biology. Female hormones, thyroid disease and brain biochemistry have all been cited as possible reasons. Genetics also play a part, as family history has proven that mental illness repeats itself across multiple generations. Socio-cultural reasons also contribute to the difference.

Jones stresses that the "one-size-fits-all" approach to diagnosing and treating mental illness is not an effective approach and that acknowledging the gender differential is key to adequately and appropriately treating women.

The new report also underscores the relative young age at which mental illness often sets in for both males and females. Half of all mental illnesses occur before age 14, and three-fourths occur by the age of 24, according to the publication. Among the more common mental illnesses seen among young women: eating disorders,
which can start in advance of puberty and yet last a lifetime.

The full article is here.

(h/t to Media dis&dat)
Monday blog-about

Recommended readings:

The homeless in Philadelphia by Wheelie Catholic

Disability as a Complex Cultural Construction and Ableism and A Watershed Experience by Bad Cripple

Can You Tell This Child Is Autistic? by Biodiverse Resistance

Dove Ad revisited and Disability is Man-Made ... for Real Dove Women by Wheelchair Dancer

What if I'm not There? at Bums & Belly Buttons: The View From Here

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday round-up

From The Associated Press (May 7) - In an appearance on NBC's "Today" program, 46-year-old Connie Culp, the nation's first face transplant recipient, said she wants to help foster acceptance of those who have suffered burns and other disfiguring injuries."When somebody has a disfigurement and don't look as pretty as you do, don't judge them, because you never know what happened to them," she said. "Don't judge people who don't look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away."

From The Shelby Star in Lattimore, North Carolina, (May 7) - Martha Mason, 72, who lived in an iron lung for 61 years, died early May 4 at her home in Lattimore. Ms Mason told an ABC News reporter just before her 71st birthday, "My story's been one of joy, one of wonderful experiences. It has not been perfect. But that's what people need to understand - that I have had a good life."

From the Boston Globe (May 5) - A controversy is growing over the use of physical restraints in schools, triggered by a surge in the number of students of who have behavioral issues and a teacher population that is nervous about increasing school violence. Lack of teacher training and budget-driven staffing shortages have compounded the problem, critics say. Advocates say students in special education are especially vulnerable to mistreatment.

From Reuters (May 4) - The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 in 5 Americans have a disability and that will increase as baby boomers age. The number of Americans with a disability rose 7.7 percent, or by 3.4 million people, to nearly 48 million between 1999 and 2005, the report says.

From the Austin American-Statesman (May 4) - Owners of an Austin-area clinic which treats children with autism using controversial techniques say the center is facing a financial crisis in the wake of investigations by three major insurers. The Texas Medical Board is also investigating the clinic’s medical director. Among charges disputed by insurers is the clinic’s use of chelation, which is not approved by the FDA for treating autism. Doctors say it is risky and has not been proven effective.

From Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio (May 4) - Columnist Connie Schultz commends Ohio for moving toward banning the word “retardation” from state and county agencies that serve those with developmental disabilities. Ohio’s bill has already passed the state senate. Forty other states have approved the change.

From The Hindu in New Delhi, India (May 3) - The advocacy of an Indian women with disabilities who uses a wheelchair has led to great accessibily for wheelchair users in New Delhi's Central Park. (h/t Media dis&dat)

From the Guardian in the United Kingdom (May 2) - According to a report by the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission, people with disabilities are more than four times likely to be victims of physcial and verbal abuse and urgent action is needed if a “hidden catastrophe” of violence and hostility towards disabled people is to be tackled. The report paints a bleak picture of disabled people’s experience of physical and verbal abuse and reinforces persistent warnings from disability campaigners that the problem has not been taken seriously enough.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Plea of reckless homicide in connection with daughter's death

Lebanon, Indianapolis, USA - According to the Indy Star, Elizabeth Fairfield has pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in the 2007 death by of her 14-year-old daughter, Brittany Fairfield, who died from overdosing on pain medication.
The agreement calls for Elizabeth Fairfield, 38, to be sentenced to time served, released from jail and placed on two years of probation after her hearing May 18 in Boone Superior Court, defense attorney Thomas Farlow said.

Fairfield on Friday admitted failing to secure medication from her 14-year-old daughter, Brittany, Farlow said. In exchange for Fairfield's guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed charges of murder and neglect of a dependent. Murder carries a maximum prison sentence of 65 years, neglect a maximum of 20 years.
As conveyed at this blog in earlier posts, Brittany, who had Down syndrome, was found dead in the family's home on June 14, 2007. The coroner later ruled that she had died from an overdose.

Ms Fairfield has been in jail since a grand jury indicted her in November.

An earlier report is here.
SDS - DSQ, Spring 2009 issue on line now

see here.

From: Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Co-Editor, Disabilities Studies Quarterly:

Here's a taste from the Table of Contents for this new issue:

The spring 2009 issue is a regular collection of 8 peer-reviewed articles that illustrates well the broad and bold brushstrokes that make up the multi-disciplinary canvas of Disability Studies.

From Religious Studies comes a collaborative essay by Jennifer L. Koosed and Darla Schumm, "From Superman to Super Jesus: Constructions of Masculinity and Disability on the Silver Screen." Analyzing the "hyper-masculinity" of the American superhero as portrayed in two recent films, Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ and Philip Saville's The Gospel of John, their essay employs disability studies frameworks to argue that the "Super Jesus" model of these films prevents the exploration of alternative theologies of disability.

Working from within Communication Studies, Elizabeth Scherman also studies "Superman" with her analysis of "The Speech that Didn't Fly: Polysemic Readings of Christopher Reeves' Speech to the 1996 Democratic National Convention." Scherman's rhetorical analysis of the text, context, and audience reception of this famous speech compares varying reactions of the mainstream press with that of the disability press.

In "Bridging the Deficiency Divide: Expressions of Non-deficiency Models of disability in Health Care," Dana Lee Baker approaches a study of the shifting paradigms for understanding disability from a (predominate) deficiency model. Trained and teaching from within the field Political Science, she uses data collected from a survey of parents and primary caregivers with autism to explore the manifestations of non-deficiency based models of disability in health care settings and interactions.

In "Women Wheelchair Athletes: Competing against Media Stereotypes," Jean Ann Hargreaves and Brent Hardin explore three themes as scholars of sport and exercise science: (a) that the 10 female wheelchair athletes interviewed were consumers of both mainstream and disability print media; (b) that they were tired of the media stereotypes; and (c) that they believed that the media is partially responsible for the lack of coverage of women and individuals with disabilities in sports media as a whole.

As a professor of Journalism, Katherine Foss examines the case of the popular TV show, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and one of its lead characters, Gil Grissom, to highlight multiple understandings of hearing loss and deafness. In "Gil Grissom and his hidden condition: Constructions of Hearing Loss and Deafness in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," Foss finds paradoxically that while the overall show itself resents hearing loss to be isolating and career-damaging, through Grissom's character, deafness is also conveyed not always as a functional limitation, but as one characteristic of a rich cultural community.

In "Shana's story: The Struggles, Quandaries and Pitfalls Surrounding Self-determination," Amy J. Petersen, a scholar of Education, employs qualitative research study to explore the concept of self-determination as experienced by an African American woman labeled with a disability in an educational setting. Peterson's article illustrates the conflicts and quandaries that arise when self-determination is enacted in education via a technical-rationale instructional paradigm for people with disabilities.

Colleagues Pamela Reed Gibson, Sahisna Suwal, and Lauren G. Sledd — working as scholars in Psychology — document tensions around "Services Requested and received by Consumers with Chemical Sensitivities at the Centers for Independent Living." They discuss results from surveys of 41 persons with environmental sensitivities (ES) who requested help from Centers for Independent Living (CIL), and conclude by offering suggestions from respondents for improved access and service for this population and for training of CIL advocates.

As a Literature scholar (English, Linguistics, Communication), Chris Foss maps a trajectory within a particular kind of "emerging" disability narrative — that of book-length accounts of living with autism spectrum disorders. In "Emerging from Emergence: Toward a Rethinking of the Recovery Story in Nine Contemporary Nonfiction Autism Narratives," Foss analyzes numerous narratives and observes a marked shift in how many of these writers now position themselves relative to the earlier established pattern for such stories.