Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for December, 2009

Student with disabilities wins fight to live in college dorm

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Oakland University violated federal law by excluding him, judge rules

From the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Oakland [MI] Press:

A federal judge has ruled that Michigan’s Oakland University has violated the federal Rehabilitation Act by failing to allow a student with a cognitive impairment to live in a campus dorm. An Oakland spokesman said the university will appeal the ruling, but will allow the young man to live on campus during the process.

U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Duggan ordered Oakland to make a room available to 25-year-old Micah Fialka-Feldman, who has been taking classes in the school’s OPTIONS program. Fialka-Feldman pays a fee equal to full tuition but doesn’t earn grades in the program, which is designed for students with cognitive disabilities who would not otherwise be able to meet the university’s admissions requirements.

The university has maintained that Fialka-Feldman, who takes buses two hours a day to get to class from his parents’ home, is not eligible for a dorm room because he’s not enrolled in a degree-granting program.

Duggan said the university’s assumption that the young man would be unable to follow housing rules “appears to be grounded on prejudice, stereotypes and/or unfounded fear.”

Earlier posts here.

(Detroit News photo)

Column: ‘No way to refer to the vulnerable’

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Randy Siegel, photo from website of Citizens United for Research in EpilepsyWriting in the Chicago Tribune, Parade Magazine publisher Randolph Siegel lists a few examples of the ways in which people with cognitive impairments are ridiculed in the national media. Here’s just one: A leading character on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm seduces a character with an intellectual disability, then belittles his victim when she speaks out. “I cringe when I see snark like this,” Siegel says. An excerpt:

Call me overly sensitive. Accuse me of being humorless. Say whatever you want. But if the true measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, then these mean-spirited attacks are not only indefensible, they reinforce the intolerance and discrimination that these children and adults often face in their schools, communities or workplaces. I had never met a “retard” until my daughter was labeled one after untreatable epilepsy ravaged her cognitive development.

… Over the years, I’ve bit my tongue whenever I hear “retard jokes” at business functions — or see a movie like DreamWorks’ “Tropic Thunder” in which “retards” are vulgarly disparaged in a lame effort to generate laughs — or hear a song like the Black Eyed Peas hit single “Let’s Get Retarded.” Even when President Barack Obama described his subpar bowling skills by making an insensitive joke about the Special Olympics on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, I tried to internalize the pain. But that’s a losing strategy and no longer justifiable.

As Americans with intellectual disabilities are increasingly stigmatized and dehumanized in our media and popular culture, it’s time — now more than ever — for their families and friends to help them fight back.

Earlier post: Daughter with epilepsy needs more than hugs — ‘My Turn’ column by Randy Siegel in Newsweek

See also: Our seizure nightmare, by Randolph Siegel in the Chicago Tribune

(Photo from website of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy)

Column: ‘A CLASS Act deserves support’

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Cokie and Steven V. Roberts, photo from United Feature SyndicateIn a column in the Oakland [CA] Tribune, Washington insiders Cokie and Steven V. Roberts call for approval of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act. The measure, part of the health care bill, would allow workers to pay into a fund that would then pay a stipend if they become disabled.

CLASS, they say, could “make all the difference” for families facing the economic and emotional stress of long-term disability. It could allow an elderly person to pay for care at home instead of being forced to go into a nursing facility, or for a family caregiver to get help at home that would allow them to keep their day job. Presently, the Roberts’ say, many elderly and disabled people must impoverish themselves in order to qualify for government assistance. An excerpt:

How can pushing people into nursing homes be better than letting them stay in their houses? As a caller to a public radio program on the CLASS plan asked, “Why not try something where I can exercise my own responsibility for my future?”

Why not, indeed?

Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and a senior news analyst for National Public Radio. Steven V. Roberts appears regularly on CNN, PBS and the ABC radio network, and hosts Voice of America’s “The Roberts Report.”

Artist tries to induce onstage epileptic seizure; Debate ensues

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Rita Marcalo, photo from [UK] GuardianCharities raised objections when Rita Marcalo got a grant to explore her epilepsy on her own terms

From the Yorkshire [UK] Post, [UK] Times:

Performance artist Rita Marcalo said she felt “guilty that I had perhaps short-changed people” when she failed to induce a seizure on stage as she had hoped, but pleased that her efforts had provoked a public discussion of epilepsy, disability and art in Britain.

Marcalo’s work, called Involuntary Dances, had received a grant of  £14,000 from Arts Council England, and drew criticism from epilepsy charities who said it was dangerous and turned epilepsy into a “freak show.”

The artistic director of a dance company who has had epilepsy for years, Marcalo tried to induce a seizure by ceasing her medications, drinking wine, looking at strobe lights, eating dark chocolate, and depriving herself of sleep. Audience members were urged to document her seizure with their cellphones.

See also:

Epilepsy as live art isn’t controversial — By Allan Sutherland Friday on the [UK] Guardian Theatre Blog. An excerpt:

What Marcalo’s piece highlights is that adults with epilepsy own their own bodies and have a right to choose what to do with them. It illustrates that we are able to speak for ourselves, and don’t need charitable organisations to step in on our behalf. (It’s extraordinary that this is still an issue.)

She is also saying that there are worse things than having an epileptic fit. Several hundreds of thousands of us in this country live with epilepsy in one form or another, and our lives are not blighted … Marcalo’s performance will implicitly say: “It’s just a fit. Get over it.” She speaks for us all.

Dangerous myths about epilepsy — By Dr Sallie Baxendale, BBC. An excerpt:

While certain circumstances may conspire to make a seizure more likely, few reliably trigger seizures in the majority of people with epilepsy.

And there’s the rub.

Living with epilepsy is as much about living with the unpredictability of seizures and not knowing when and where they might occur, as coping with the seizures when they do happen.

In the end it may be Ms Marcalo’s failure to have a seizure on cue that teaches us more about the condition than a public seizure ever could.

Understanding epilepsy: One woman’s story — From the Times Herald-Record, Hudson Valley, NY

Holiday gifts can jeopardize benefits for people with disabilities

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Thomas Michael Sr. and wife Linda with their daughter, Sarah, 20, and son, Thomas, Post-Gazette photoFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Giving gifts to a people with developmental disabilities, like Sarah Michael (left, with her family), during the holiday season can put their government benefits in jeopardy if not done properly.

If the gifts or benefits exceed $2,000 in total assets, the government can freeze critical benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security income or Social Security income.

“We see a lot of holiday celebrations, birthdays, communions and bar mitzvahs where people make several small monetary donations to special needs children, and if those compile over $2,000, their benefits are in jeopardy,” said Helen Sims, a special care planner with the Downtown financial planning group Guyaux Mandler Mah, which is affiliated with MassMutual Group.

… Families with disabled children can provide more security for them without disqualifying the child from government benefits by creating a special needs trust.

(Post-Gazette photo)

Murder case highlights danger of mixing felons, vulnerable adults

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

From the Chicago Tribune:

A convicted felon has been charged with the murder of a dementia patient at an Illinois nursing home, exposing the dangerous mix of violent and vulnerable residents at residential facilities in that state.

Ardyce Nauden, 62, has been charged with homicide in the beating death of 72-year-old Andres Cardona, who wandered into Nauden’s room and began eating his lunch. Nauden, who has a history of felony drug convictions and aggressive behavior, was described as “psychotic.”

Illinois is an outlier among states in its reliance on nursing homes to house adults with mental illness, including thousands of felons such as Nauden whose disabilities qualify them for Medicaid-funded nursing care.

A recent Tribune investigation documented numerous cases when elderly and disabled people such as Cardona were assaulted and even murdered by fellow nursing-home residents. The governor and state legislature have held hearings in response and are considering a series of reforms aimed at making the facilities safer and overhauling how Illinois houses and treats the mentally ill.

See also:

Convicted felons are regulars at sheltered workshop for the disabled – Salt Lake Tribune

Sheltered workshops in Utah serve the dual role of providing second chances for felons and jobs for people with developmental disabilities. Most states avoid mixing the two populations, but Utah officials said they have had no reports of clients being harmed.

A supervisor at a sheltered workshop said the ex-offenders are needed to keep such programs afloat because they bring the skills needed to attract manufacturing contracts.

Officials: Ottawa suspension report used skewed data

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

From the Ottawa [Canada] Citizen:

Ottawa school district officials are throwing out a report released this week, saying it contained flawed data. The report concluded that suspensions for students with special needs had risen dramatically in the past year.

Superintendent Walter Piovesan said some students with multiple diagnoses had apparently been counted twice.

The report had spurred criticism from disability advocates, who accused the board of suspending children “for being autistic.”

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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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