Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for April, 2008

Student with Asperger’s graduating U-M with double major

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

From the Ann Arbor [Michigan] News:

Tim Hull is graduating with his classmates at the University of Michigan this week, and will be going on to graduate school at the U-M School of Information. Hull, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has completed the requirements for a major in computer science and will finish the last requirement this summer for a second major in history.

Hull found his own way through U-M, but it hasn’t been without challenges. He was the center of unwanted attention last fall when it was revealed that derogatory comments referring to his disability had been made on a Web site by members of the university’s student government, where Hull had become an elected representative.

For Hull, who also has physical eccentricities — he sometimes rocks in his chair and flaps his hands involuntarily — the experience diminished the sense of belonging on campus he had achieved by serving in student government. The incident led to the resignation of the then-president of the student body, and Hull continued on with his passion for student government.

See earlier posts here and here.

Hockenberry co-hosting new public radio show, ‘The Takeaway’

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

disability news and commentary, John HockenberryFrom the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, New York Daily News and elsewhere:

Veteran journalist John Hockenberry and former CNN reporter Adaora Udoji have started co-hosting a new public radio morning news program this week. “The Takeaway” will feature lots of live material, and is designed as a counterpoint to NPR’s staid “Morning Edition.” Listeners will be encouraged to interact, respond, and take part in the development of editorial content.

Hockenberry has used a wheelchair since he was 19, a fact that’s not mentioned in the reporting about his new show. Fair enough, since disability is not a focus of the program and probably wasn’t factored into its boosters’ promises that the show will deliver “an unprecedented diversity of news coverage.”

But to give Hockenberry his due, this is as good a time as any to celebrate his 1995 memoir “Moving Violations,” a brutally straightforward explication of the American disability experience (or, as Hockenberry would say, “crip world.”) Pico Iyer, writing in the New York Times, compared Hockenberry with Ralph Ellison, saying his book “could, in fact, be described as an ‘Invisible Man’ for the disabled.”


Tennessee woman among oldest with Down syndrome

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

From the [Nashville] Tennessean, a profile of Mary Perry, who is believed to be one of the oldest living peple with Down syndrome. Ms. Perry, 73, has outlived all but one of her eight brothers and sisters.

“She beat the odds,” said Dr. Karen Summar, a developmental pediatrician at Vanderbilt children’s hospital. “It’s incredible.”

The 2007 Guinness Book of World Records lists the oldest living woman with Down syndrome as Nancy Siddoway, of Utah, who was born on Aug. 18, 1937, and the oldest living man with Down syndrome as Keith Roberts, who was born in South Africa on June 6, 1953. Perry was born on June 9, 1934.

Ms. Perry’s long lifespan is a testament to changes in health care, living conditions and expectations for people with Down syndrome over the past few decades.

Many people with Down syndrome have other medical conditions, including heart and respiratory problems. When Ms. Perry was born, effective treatment for these conditions either didn’t exist or wasn’t offered to people who were viewed as a burden on society. Large numbers of people with Down syndrome were hidden away in institutions, where care was often minimal to nonexistent. As a consequence of this broad-based neglect, their expected average lifespan in the U.S. was only about 9 years in the 1930s.

Ms. Perry, by contrast, was raised on a family farm and treated with the same care and love that her siblings received.  (more…)

Former Florida councilman has filed 139 ADA lawsuits

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

From the Palm Beach Post:

Former Riviera Beach city councilman Allen Fox is on a crusade to make businesses accessible, filing lawsuits challenging barriers that make it difficult or impossible for him to navigate their premises in his wheelchair. He’s filed 139 lawsuits personally, with the help of lawyer Samuel Aurilio. Eight lawsuits with nearly identical claims were filed on one day last month alone.

Critics say the passage of the ADA has created a cottage industry for unscrupulous lawyers, who can cash in because the law requires the losing side to pay attorney fees. Fox’s lawsuits rarely go to trial because business owners generally agree to renovate and pay Aurilio’s fees. “It’s a racket,” said an attorney who has represented business owners against the pair.

Another attorney who represents people with disabilities blames Congress for crafting a measure that has no enforcement mechanism and no penalty for violating it — an anomaly among civil rights laws.

When crisis hits people with disabilities

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

disability news and commentary, Kent Dromgoole, Beth LamdinAging caregivers have limited options for support, housing

From the Wall Street Journal, a story about the impending crisis of care for adults with intellectual disabilities who live with aging caregivers. The piece leads with the story of 41-year-old Kent Dromgoole, a Texas man with Down syndrome who had been living with his 79-year-old mother. But his mother went into respiratory arrest, and he now has nowhere to go and no one to care for him. His lifeline now is Beth Lambdin, the clinical liaison for the Plano Specialty Hospital (above).

“I’m his one constant,” she says. “I’m really no one, just a stranger who met them three weeks ago.”

That Ms. Lambdin, an acquaintance of less than a month, may end up housing Mr. Dromgoole speaks to her character. But it also underscores the limitations of the nation’s programs to assist those with developmental disabilities, especially in emergencies, which promise to hit more often as the nation’s caregivers grow increasingly frail.

“We have not addressed the needs of aging caregivers,” says Susan Murphree of Advocacy Inc., a federally funded protection and advocacy system for Texans with disabilities. “One of the things we don’t have is help for people in crisis situations.”

An estimated 2.9 million people with intellectual or developmental disabilities or some significant functional limitation live with caregivers — mainly parents — who are 55 years or older.

‘Blindness’ to open Cannes festival

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Epic depicts city besieged by mass plague

From the Toronto Star:

The Cannes Film Festival has selected Blindness, produced by Toronto’s Niv Fichman, for its coveted opening night slot on May 14, the Toronto Star has learned.

In this dark $25 million epic, an unnamed city is struck by a plague in which 90 per cent of the population go blind. Julianne Moore stars as one of the few people who are immune, struggling to take care of her husband played by Mark Ruffalo. Some of the characters, quarantined in an asylum for the insane, band together and fight for their human rights.

The movie is set for release in September. Trailer below.

Special ed teachers go wild on the web

Monday, April 28th, 2008

From the Washington Post, a feature about teachers who post crude and/or unprofessional things on public websites. Among them:

  • A Montgomery County, Maryland, special education teacher who displayed a poster that depicts talking sperm and invokes a slang term for oral sex.
  • A Prince William County, Maryland, teacher of students with emotional and learning disabilities who posted a “bumper sticker” saying “you’re a retard, but i love you.”
  • An eighth grade teacher at a Fairfax County, Virginia, school who described her job as “rocking out with some deaf kids. it. is. AWESOME.” The school at which she teaches includes some students with hearing problems. The teacher described her comment as “sarcastic.”

Teachers caught with inappropriate Web sites could get a suspension for a first-time offense, said Michael Simpson, assistant general counsel for the National Education Association, a teachers union with more than 3 million members. If they can prove that no one at school complained about the page, then they might prevail in a personnel dispute “because there would be no evidence of any real or potential harm to the students or school,” he said.

If teachers claim free speech protection under the First Amendment, Simpson said, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that governments can fire employees if their speech harmed the workplace’s mission and function.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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