Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for December, 2008

Recognition for Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Jean Vanier, Globe and Mail photoFrom the Toronto Globe and Mail, Marketwire/MSNBC:

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, has been named Nation Builder of 2008 by the Toronto Globe and Mail. The award is given annually to an outstanding Canadian who unifies and inspires the nation. The newspaper earlier endorsed Vanier as a candidate for the Nobel prize.

A lecturer and writer, Vanier created an international network of communities in which people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in a spirit of equality and camaraderie. There are now more than 130 chapters of L’Arche in 36 countries around the world, including 16 in the United States.

Vanier has written that the inclusive model of the L’Arche communities offers a message of hope and peace, and helps people remember what it means to be human in a world full of crisis and violence.

The organization strives to build caring relationships and to foster the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities within their communities.

Says Vanier:

“… People who are weak have something to bring us, that they are important people and it’s important to listen to them. In some mysterious way, they change us. Being in a world of the strong and powerful, you collect attitudes of power and hardness and invulnerability.”

Vanier’s latest book, written with Duke Divinity School ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas, is “Living Gently in a Violent World.”

See also: Jean Vanier’s gift for living — in America, the national Catholic weekly.

Earlier post here.

(Globe and Mail photo)

Concerns raised over inauguration accessibility

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

From WJLA-TV [Washington, DC], CBS News Political Hotsheet, and the [Washington, D.C.] Examiner:

As the inauguration planners advise people to take the Metro and prepare for long walks, people with disabilities are wondering how they will be able to attend the inauguration events at all.

Some are now even saying the committee is doing all it can to discourage the disabled from showing up.

… “This is like a big, bold sign that says if you’re a person with a disability, this is not your event,” said Richard Simms, executive director of D.C. Center for Independent Living, a nonprofit that promotes independent lifestyles for disabled residents.

CBS News quotes from a memo issued by inauguration event organizers:

And if you’re disabled, best of luck: “Persons in wheelchairs or utilizing walkers should be aware that they will need to move across bumpy surfaces, grassy areas, and possible icy areas (depending on the weather).”

Employers help workers cope with special needs

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

By Maggie Jackson in the Boston Globe (second in a series):

As the number of children and elderly people with special healthcare needs continues to rise, employers like Prudential Financial Inc. are providing more assistance to workers who are balancing jobs and family responsibilities.

Prudential has had an “affinity” group since 1998 for employees with disabilities and those caring for people with special needs. The group has 100 members. But because the company is expanding further into the special needs consumer marketplace and more employees themselves are affected, it has significantly bolstered supports for employees in this area in recent years.

… “Special needs situations and adult care issues — these are issues that our employees are increasingly dealing with,” says Maureen Corcoran, vice president of diversity. “If we closed our eyes to that and didn’t provide assistance to employees, we’d be hurting our employees and hurting ourselves as well,” she said.

Lost talent is one risk for inflexible companies. In nearly a quarter of families caring for children with special needs, one or both parents wind up reducing their work hours or quitting their jobs, according to government surveys.

Vanderbilt starting program for students with disabilities

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

vanderbilt logoFrom the [Nashville] Tennessean:

Vanderbilt University is planning a post-secondary program for students with developmental disabilities that is set to open its doors in 2010. The program will be the first of its kind in Tennessee.

Current plans call for an opening class of eight young adults who will take a mix of undergraduate, life-skills and technical courses, and will also participate in campus extracurricular activities with Vanderbilt undergraduates. Tuition will be about $10,000 a year, with some scholarships available.

Although the program will not provide housing initially, officials hope students eventually may be able to live on campus.

“Students coming out of Tennessee high schools who have intellectual disabilities, they like to have options and they like options their peers have,” said Wanda Willis, executive director of the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. “That happens to include some form of continuing education …”

‘Lawsuits by the Disabled: Abuse of the System?’

Monday, December 29th, 2008

From Time:

Jarek Molski, who has filed more than 400 lawsuits under the ADA, was dubbed a ‘hit-and-run plaintiff’ by a federal judge and barred from filing any more lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court this year declined to hear his appeal.

Experts say Molski is one of an active group of opportunistic plaintiffs and law firms who bring lawsuits in huge numbers, motivated not by a desire for access but by a quest for monetary gain.

Some are beginning to raise concerns that settlements in such lawsuits bring money to plaintiffs but fail to address access problems.

Says Andrew Imparato, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities: “We’d like to see federal judges in a jurisdiction where lots of cases are being filed looking at the phenomenon and trying to work on a solution that results in improvements in accessibility, and not lining the pockets of plaintiffs or boutique law firms that make a business out of it.”

Harriet McBryde Johnson: A reflection by Peter Singer

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Harriet McBryde Johnson, New York Times photoWriting in the New York Times’ annual ‘Lives They Lived’ issue, philosopher Peter Singer memorializes the life of disability rights advocate Harriet McBryde Johnson.

Johnson was perhaps best known for her 2003 New York Times Magazine cover story Unspeakable conversations. The first-person piece described her journey to Princeton University to debate Singer over his advocacy for the legalization of selective infanticide of children with disabilities. The cover of the magazine carried a photo of Johnson in her power wheelchair (left) with the headline “Should I have been killed at birth?”

Singer recalls Johnson’s visit to Princeton, and alludes to the impact she has had on his thinking. An excerpt:

My students talked about Johnson’s visit for a long time, and our conversations stayed with me, too. Her life was evidently a good one, and not just for herself, because her legal work and political activism on behalf of the disabled was valuable to others as well. I know that surveys have found that people living with disabilities show a level of satisfaction with their lives that is not very different from that of people who are not disabled. Have people with long-term disabilities adjusted their expectations downward, so that they are satisfied with less? Or do even severe disabilities really make no difference to our happiness, once we get used to them?

… According to her sister, Beth, what most concerned Harriet about dying was “the crap people would say about her.” And sure enough, among the tributes to her were several comments about how she can now run and skip through the meadows of heaven. Doubly insulting, first because Johnson did not believe in a life after death, and second, why assume that heavenly bliss requires you to be able to run and skip?

Singer’s piece carries the headline: ‘Happy nevertheless: An ongoing conversation about a disabled life.’

(Photo from New York Times)

Earlier posts:

‘Prospect provides inspiration with what he doesn’t have’

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Kevin Laue, Kelli Whitescarver, New York Times photosExtended feature from the New York Times:

College student Kelli Whitescarver had her left hand amputated last month after she was injured in a car accident. At first, all seemed bleak. Then she met Kevin Laue, a 6-foot-10 college basketball prospect who was born with no left hand.

“He made me realize there’s nothing I can’t do,” Whitescarver says. “This has all been so hard, but I feel like I can keep going.” Says Laue, “I guarantee she’ll be fine, and I hope anyone else in her situation knows that, too.”

(New York Times photos)

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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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