Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for August, 2008

State fails to oversee funds for vulnerable people

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Allows money to be tapped for fees, not for need

An investigation by the Boston Globe has found widespread failures in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court system, which is charged with overseeing trust funds for more than 900 adults with intellectual disabilities.

An estimated $30 million is kept in trust funds created a generation ago for their upkeep, but very little has been spent on their behalf. Instead, the money has been siphoned off for bank management and legal bills.

Over 22 years, Paul Riley did not see a dime of the $50,000 that sat in a trust fund in his name, but $17,000 of his money was spent to pay legal fees, court fees and investment management charges.

The trust funds were created for the care of adults who lived in institutions like the Fernald Center in Waltham (above).

(Boston Globe photo)

Analysis: Paterson speech was out of character

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Michael Gormley, AP capitol editor in Albany, writes in Newsday that New York Governor David Paterson’s speech at the Democratic convention was a “rare and serious foray for Paterson into the topic of disabilities.” Paterson, who is legally blind, spoke about the need for supports for people with disabilities.

Paterson has traditionally avoided all the familiar cliches about inspiration and overcoming adversity, and has also avoided mentioning his disability except in jest. Instead, he has focused on using his considerable intelligence and memory to leave Albany power brokers “in the dust.”

In recent years, however, Paterson has realized that “pretending he wasn’t blind didn’t help those who were.”

Related post here: Disability wasn’t Paterson’s choice for convention speech topic

Editorial: Accessible e-commerce is good business

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Editors of the Los Angeles Times analyze the decision by Target Corp. to settle an accessibility lawsuit brought by shoppers with visual impairments who weren’t able the retail giant’s website. It would have been cheaper for the company if it had designed the site properly in the first place, the editors say. An excerpt:

The problem is that, like Target, too many companies didn’t focus on accessibility when they made the leap into e-commerce. If they had, they would have found an underserved audience of disabled shoppers. A website can be a far more inviting place for a blind person than a crowded mall, if the site is designed the right way. And the number of vision-impaired Americans (at least 1.3 million are legally blind) is expected to grow as the population ages and the incidence of diabetes climbs. With more commerce and services moving to the Internet, it’s increasingly important that companies make accessibility a part of everything they do online. If that’s not clear in federal law, it should be.

Earlier post here.

Op-ed: Profit-driven prenatal tests rob women of informed choice

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Renate Lindeman, writing in the [Halifax, Nova Scotia] Chronicle Herald, says women who undergo prenatal screening and testing for Down syndrome should first be provided with accurate information about the happy, healthy lives that are increasingly being led by people with an extra chromosome.

In Holland, Lindeman says, a government-sponsored program to provide balanced information about genetic conditions to healthcare providers and the general public has led about 50 percent of pregnant women there to decline prenatal screening. But such an effort in Canada would be unpopular with businesses seeking to capture a share of a multi-billion dollar market. An excerpt:

While medical biotechnology increasingly impacts our lives in legal, economic and moral ways, the Canadian government is doing little, if anything, to inform or engage the public in policy development. The lack of interest and funding to ensure proper counselling and real, balanced information about Down syndrome for women, before they are offered screening, raises some serious ethical questions.

When I look at my daughters, both living with Down’s, I don’t see the genetically flawed retards, with stunted growth, that prenatal screening is trying to eliminate. I see kind-hearted, happy children who are giants in loving and living, who enrich our human genetic diversity, and who teach me, every day, the most important lesson in life: to feel.

If we let profits be our only guidance in developing policies, will we end up with the Canada we want?

Renate Lindeman is co-founder of Nova Scotia Down Syndrome Society and spokesperson for Down Syndrome Belongs. See earlier post about their video, “Be.”

‘A nod to Sarah Palin from someone who will never vote for her’

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Harold Pollack, writing on huffingtonpost.com, salutes Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as one person to another touched by disability issues.

He says, however, that Palin is wrong in her desire to deny women the very reproductive choice she enjoyed: the choice of continuing or terminating a pregnancy upon receiving an unexpected prenatal diagnosis. An excerpt:

Governor Palin is also mistaken in her support for broader Republican social policies that make it harder for millions of Americans living with physical and cognitive disabilities to get the healthcare and social services they need. If you ask people living with disabilities and their families what they need from government, many will say that they need things Democrats would provide and Republicans would not. They need adequate Medicaid funding. They really need universal health care. And they really need protections for individuals with preexisting conditions.

… Then there are the schools. Many people with disabilities need special education and health services in schools. Democrats have fought for these things. Republicans typically oppose them. Less tangibly, persons with disabilities need an ethic of common provision in this country that is the antithesis of what conservatives and libertarians euphemistically call an ownership society.

All this is for another day. A tough election should not blind us to our common humanity. Anyone who walks the walk in the service of her personal beliefs deserves my friendship. So congratulations, Governor. You don’t come close to earning my vote, but you are welcome in my home, any time.

Harold Pollack is an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and faculty chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies.

VP pick excites families of people with Down syndrome

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Analyzing McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for his running mate, the Cape Cod Times gets the scoop on Down syndrome from people in a position to know: parents and members of support groups for people with Down syndrome.

While parents of children with Down syndrome face challenges, increased awareness and improved intervention have made it possible for affected children to enjoy fulfilling lives, said Michelle Corcoran. She said her 14-year-old son, Billy, is experiencing academic success as part of integrated science and social studies classes at Barnstable Middle School.

Like Palin, Corcoran was aware before the birth of her son that he would have Down syndrome. Corcoran’s doctor told her that “this is the time to have a child with Down syndrome” because of the advances in treatment and understanding of the condition, she said.

Palin’s potential elevation to vice president could be a boon for awareness about Down syndrome, Corcoran and others said.

“I think people are very excited to hear of her candidacy and primarily hoping that this brings more awareness to Down syndrome,” said Maureen Gallagher, executive director of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress.

Palin VP choice puts Roe v. Wade in campaign spotlight

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

‘Democrats warn women that high court – and abortion rights – is at stake’

From MSNBC.com:

The response of Democratic leaders to John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate seems to send a consistent message: beware of Republican efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortion forces are pointing to Palin’s son Trig as evidence that McCain is reaching out to pro-life voters.

While Palin would not likely have any role in choosing Supreme Court nominees if McCain wins the presidential election, his choice of her as a running mate sent a reassuring message to anti-abortion forces in the Republican Party.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council noted that Palin and her husband had learned while Palin was pregnant with her son, Trig, born in April, that the baby would be born with Down’s syndrome.

“In an era when over 80 percent of Down’s syndrome babies are aborted, the Palins feel they have been extremely blessed by God to raise ‘an absolutely perfect’ son,” Perkins said. “Gov. Palin continues to use her testimony to advance protections for unborn children.”

See also: McCain’s VP choice reassures evangelicals — Associated Press

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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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