Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for September, 2009

States fear cuts in Medicaid eligibility, benefits

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From the New York Times:

Enrollment in Medicaid is climbing to record highs, prompting grave concerns among the states about the future of the government health insurance for poor people and those with disabilities, according to a survey released Wednesday.

An annual survey of state Medicaid directors, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, found enrollment growing by an average of 5.4 percent in the previous fiscal year, the highest rate in six years. Eight states reported increases of more than ten percent.

… state officials are already panicking about how to compensate when the spike in federal matching funds expires at the end of 2010. Few anticipate any significant reduction in their Medicaid rolls by then.

“Many states believe they may be pressured to consider previously unthinkable eligibility and benefit reductions,” the Kaiser report concluded. Unless Congress and President Obama extend the federal aid, the cuts needed to balance state budgets may be “on a scale not ever seen in Medicaid,” the authors warned.

“What we will have to look at is wholesale elimination of eligibility groups,” [said a Nevada official.]

Op-ed: Congress should keep promise, fund IDEA

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Minnesota Rep. John Kline writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Congress should not create costly new programs until it fully funds the programs for students with disabilities that were authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Even with this year’s one-time boost in stimulus funding, Kline says, Congress has not come close to fulfilling its 1975 promise to fund 40 percent of the excess cost of special education and related services. An excerpt:

While fully funding the federal share of IDEA will not provide an endless pot of gold, it will free up hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be dedicated to the most pressing needs in individual schools.

Kline is the senior Republican member of the House Education and Labor Committee.

British inquest finds family of disabled girl was hounded to death

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From Associated Press, [UK] Telegraph and elsewhere:

A British inquest jury ruled this week that years of abuse and terror at the hands of neighborhood toughs had led a despairing single mother to kill herself and her 18-year-old disabled daughter, and that police inaction contributed to their deaths.

Fiona Pilkington had called police dozens of times and written desperate letters to her local lawmaker, but no one intervened to stop the persecution. The inquest heard testimony that a local gang of youths repeatedly urinated on Pilkington’s home, pushed excrement through her mailbox, smashed her windows with stones and spattered her walls with eggs and flour.

Pilkington’s daughter Francecca, who had an intellectual disability, was mercilessly taunted. On one occasion, a mob of more than a dozen youths demanded that she lift up her dress. Her son Anthony, 19, who has dyslexia, was locked in a shed at knifepoint and, on another occasion, beaten with an iron bar, but no one was prosecuted.

Pilkington’s family said the case highlighted problems faced by parents of disabled children, and campaigners and academics said the police’s sluggishness in responding to the attacks showed that hate crimes against disabled people were often ignored.

“The failure to take seriously the ‘drip-drip’ of daily violence against some disabled people is at the heart of the Pilkington case,” said professor Alan Roulstone, who researches disability issues at De Montfort University in central England. He said that while British society had made strides toward tackling religious or racially-motivated hate crimes, disabled people were often “last on the list.”

See also:

Op-ed: We must clamp down on disability hate crime — [UK] Telegraph

Advocates say case may mark a turning point for disability hate crime — [UK] Guardian

Spotlight on disability hate crime — BBC

Column: Disabled people are often not taken seriously when they report crime — [UK] Independent

Cheerleaders welcome new member of the squad

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Adam Crisp writes in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (with video) that Anna Frierson, 12, who has Down syndrome, has been embraced as a member of the cheerleading squad at Red Bank Middle School in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

“When we first heard that she wanted to be a cheerleader, we were so excited,” said head team captain Hanna Holmes, 13. “She came to our first practice, and she was so sweet. We loved her. She was doing all the cheers, and then she said ‘I’m a cheerleader!’”

Later, the girls voted unanimously to have Anna as a permanent part of the team.

… “This group of girls has the biggest hearts of any girls I’ve seen,” [coach Kimberly Elbakidze] said. “They embrace everyone. They are gentle and kind. They try to coach her to her maximum ability, but they don’t push or and they don’t get frustrated. It works beautifully because they are very understanding and embracing of differences.”

CA schools struggling for creative solutions to autism needs

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From the [Riverside, CA] Press-Enterprise:

Squeezed between the rising needs of students with autism and declining state and federal funds, California educators say they are seeking creative solutions.

Among the ideas they’re trying: Setting up foundations to raise funds; writing grants; and forging partnerships with other districts, parents, and organizations to use successful programs as models rather than developing new programs.

In Riverside County, the school district is paying about $36,000 per student to educate children with severe autism in small classes, compared with about $8,600 for typical students.

Travolta’s autism disclosure prompts support, criticism

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Whoopi Goldberg: ‘It’s none of your business …’

From ABC News (with video of discussion on ABC’s The View):

John Travolta’s first public acknowledgement that his son had autism and a seizure disorder has drawn mixed reactions within the autism community, with some offering support and others criticizing him for not speaking out sooner.

Travolta’s statement came during court testimony last week in the trial of two people who are charged with attempting to blackmail him.

Said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association,

“…  I’ve read some things that really bother me — basically that they should have come forward sooner, said Fournier. “Everybody handles autism in the best way that they can and for whatever personal reasons they had, they chose not to make it public.

“Just because you have a child with autism and you’re a celebrity, it does not automatically mandate you to be a spokesperson for the disorder,” she said. “I feel bad for them, I really truly do.”

Speaking on The View, co-host Whoopi Goldberg said celebrities are under no obligation to become advocates for causes like autism. “This is not the way to get people to come out and say, you know, I’m going to take a stand,” she said. “It’s none of your business until somebody wants to make it your business.”

See also: National Autism Association maintains support of Travoltas despite Whoopi Goldberg’s mistaken comments — press release

Sears pays $6.2 million to settle disability employment suit

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From the Chicago Sun-Times and Bloomberg News/Kansas City Star:

Sears Holdings Corp. has agreed to pay a record $6.2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that accused the retailer of illegally firing a disabled worker.

The consent decree represents the largest settlement ever for the agency in a single lawsuit alleging violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the EEOC said.

The 2004 lawsuit arose from a claim filed by former service technician John Bava, who had been injured on the job. He alleged that Sears fired him rather than make reasonable accommodations to let him return to work. The agency said the company had treated hundreds of other employees the same way.

“The facts of this case showed that, nearly 20 years after the enactment of the ADA, the rights of individuals with disabilities are still in jeopardy,” said Stuart J. Ishimaru, the commission’s acting chairman. “At the same time, this record settlement sends the strongest possible message that the EEOC will use its enforcement authority boldly to protect those rights and advance equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”

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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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