Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for July, 2008

Court orders Mervyns to provide access

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

From the San Francisco Chronicle, AP/KPIX-TV San Francisco, Reuters:

The California Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that the Mervyns department store chain must find ways to make all merchandise accessible to consumers with disabilities.

The impact of the ruling on Mervyns is not clear because the the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday.

In a 2002 lawsuit, advocates had claimed that Mervyns denied access to people with mobility impairments by placing merchandise displays too close together. A lower court had found that making changes to existing stores would be too costly, and said modifications should be made only at the company’s new stores.

Mervyns maintained that the cost of changing store layouts could cause financial hardships and store closures.

Court testimony: Mom threatened suicide over son’s disabilities

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

From the Washington Post:

Michele Davidson watched her son, Grant, (with family, left) struggle with a severe birth defect for more than a year. She blamed her doctor for delaying his delivery — and she wanted him to feel her pain, according to court testimony yesterday.

… pointing a gun at her head, Davidson threatened to kill herself, [Chauncey] Stokes testified, but only after making him and his wife wait as long as she said she did for the delivery: 1 hour 30 minutes.

She said “she wanted [us] to feel the fear and the hopelessness,” Chauncey Stokes testified at the preliminary hearing …

Davidson’s son Grant has a form of cerebral palsy. Davidson, a George Mason University professor and midwife, alleged in court documents that Stokes violated standard medical practice by waiting too long to perform an emergency cesarean section.

Davidson’s mother, Geri Lewis, said her daughter has been distraught since the birth of Grant, who will never walk and might never talk.

Davidson was charged with breaking into Stokes’ home and abducting him and his wife. General District Judge Julia Taylor Cannon sent the case to a grand jury for possible indictment.

(Davidson family photo in Washington Post)

In Switzerland, people with disabilities have an easier path

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

For parents of kids with disabilities, here’s a tantalizing fantasy: move to Switzerland.

National Public Radio reporter Julie Rovner says the universal health care system in Switzerland does a better job of taking care of people with disabilities than the U.S., yet Switzerland pays less per person.

Rovner visits with the family of Tara, a 16-year-old girl with autism. The Swiss government pays for Tara’s education, health care, behavioral therapy and help with household chores, and will continue to educate and care for Tara after her parents die. Tara’s mother Ellen Wallace, originally from Iowa, says her family is “way past lucky” to live in Switzerland.

In Massachusetts, a comparable family struggles to cobble together their own solution for their teenage autistic daughters, and says they endured a lengthy waiting list to get services that will end when the girls turn 22. They’re trying to start their own group home.

The story is part of Health Care For All, a continuing series comparing American health care with systems in European countries.

Column: McCain’s VP pick ‘could save lives’

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

By National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez:

John McCain could reshape the nation’s view of selective abortion and advance the cause of human rights by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, Lopez says. He would also save some lives.

Palin is the Republican governor of Alaska who learned of her baby’s Down syndrome diagnosis during pregnancy and gave birth this year. Her website includes a page devoted to her son Trig with hundreds of welcoming comments from Americans across the nation.

Not only are children with Down syndrome people too, they inspire a deep love and enthusiastic appreciation. Especially in the face of a culture that wants to expunge them. According to a study cited in the New York Times last year, “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.” (Emphasis added by Lopez.) Most American women are given prenatal tests.

At 44, Governor Palin is a bit young and relatively new to the political scene yet. These are no small considerations when electing someone who could assume the role of president (Democrats: Check out your nominee with that reservation . . . ) If the youngest life [Palin] and her husband care for can wake up a nation that’s blind to the eugenics in its midst, a routine part of medicine today, she and John McCain would be offering human rights and dignity a great, honorable service. In contrast to Barack Obama, who would let the survivors of botched abortion attempts be killed, the Palins could serve as a great clarifier for voters this fall – and an education.

See an earlier article by Lopez, Defining life down, that references a column of mine, The abortion debate no one wants to have.

Also, Realclearpolitics.com says the odds against Palin as a vice presidential candidate are 75 to one.

She may be a reformer with fans inside the new righty generation, but no one’s ever heard of her, and as far as we can tell she hasn’t been in the same room with McCain for years. Plus, it’s Alaska, which is probably her biggest drawback.

(United Feature Syndicate photo.)

‘Dear Abby’ stands corrected on autism

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

From the Kansas City Star, Philadelphia Daily News, and elsewhere:

In response to a complaint from a reader, nationally syndicated advice columnist ‘Dear Abby’ (Jeanne Phillips) backs off her earlier description of autism as a “mental health disorder .. some people consider … to be shameful.”

While autism is often considered a mental health disorder, Phillips now writes, it is actually biological in nature.

Experts clearly agree that autism is a neurologically based condition … However, this does not mean that autism is a “mental illness.” Autism is most accurately described as a “neurodevelopmental disorder.”

From the reader’s letter:

Autism is a neurological disorder, NOT a mental health disorder. Families who have a child with autism have many challenges ahead of them as they try to bring normalcy to their child’s life and to their family … These families need support, not misprints.

(Graphic from Universal Press Syndicate)

‘How did Chopin die? It matters’

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Tom Service, [UK] Guardian music blogger, disputes Poland’s refusal to allow the heart of Frederic Chopin (left) to be tested for cystic fibrosis.

As the scientists say, ‘Is it not right to make an attempt to prove to many suffering people that many things count in life much more than a weak physical body, and they are not predestined to vanish without leaving something that will influence, inspire and enrich generations to come?’

…[Chopin's] music, instead of merely reflecting his sickliness or the way he succumbed to his physical frailty, is heroic: not just in the way he created a whole new approach to playing and composing for the piano, but also because his creativity transcended the hardships of his life. If it was cystic fibrosis rather than TB, then that just makes Chopin’s music the more astonishing. For sure, it won’t change the musical significance of his output, but I think we ought to know: let the scientists have their sample, I say.

Earlier post here.

(Image from Schick’s portrait, Hulton archive, in the [UK] Guardian)

Genetic testing of kids: What if condition is incurable?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Expanded newborn testing is coming soon, and could create a new set of worries and opportunities for parents. Along with possible false positive results, parents will likely be offered tests for conditions that have no effective treatment.

Some parents may want to know about incurable disorders so they can adjust their lives, experts said at a conference at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. Scientists are eager for more research opportunities that could potentially lead to treatments.

But some are urging caution for parents already facing an unprecedented wealth of information.

A “core piece of advice is you shouldn’t do genetic testing just because it’s available,” said Dr. Douglas Diekema, who works on pediatric bioethics at Seattle Children’s … “If there is a test (that) came back positive, what would be the benefit for my child? Is there something we could do?”

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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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