Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for October, 2010

Obit: Paul Steven Miller, law professor and disability advocate

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

From the New York Times:

After graduating at the top of his class at Harvard Law School in the 1980s, Paul Steven Miller was rejected by more than 40 law firms before he was able to find work. The reason: Miller was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. One hiring partner told him that clients would think the firm was running a “circus freak show” if they took him on.

Miller, who went on to become a law professor, advisor to presidents and leader in the disability rights movement, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 49, and was widely recognized as an expert on the intersection of disability law, employment discrimination and genetic science.

An excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

Drew Hansen, an adjunct lecturer who taught with Mr. Miller, said his colleague had long been concerned about the carrying out of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. “He believed that judicial interpretations of the A.D.A. were more restrictive than they had been of civil rights laws because there was not a similarly visible mass social movement,” Mr. Hansen said.

In recent years, Mr. Miller focused on tensions between disability rights and genetic science. In a paper titled “Avoiding Genetic Genocide,” Mr. Miller criticized scientists for what he saw as their eagerness to use genetics to produce “perfect” humans.

“Good health is not the absence of a disability,” he wrote. “Scientists caught up in the excitement of genetic discovery can forget that life with a disability can still be a rich and fulfilling life.”

Earlier posts here.

See also: Miller presentation at Georgia State University College of Law: “Good Intentions and Eugenics: Avoiding Genetic Genocide.” With audio.

UPDATE

See also:

US Airways ejects man with wheelchair: ‘Too disabled to fly’

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

From ABC News, CNN, Grand Rapids [MI] Press:

Johnnie Tuitel, a motivational speaker who uses a wheelchair, says he was forced to leave a recent US Airways flight before takeoff because flight personnel had decided that he was “too disabled to fly.”

Tuitel, who has cerebral palsy, said the incident occurred last month while he was waiting for his flight to take off from Palm Beach, headed for a speaking engagement in Kansas City, Mo. He said he was told that he could not stay on the flight unless he had an attendant with him. Tuitel was removed from the flight and missed his engagement.

US Airways said the decision to deplane Tuitel was because of safety concerns.

:”We just felt it wasn’t safe for him to fly that day, unassisted,” said spokesman Todd Lehmacher. “Our number-one priority, of course, is safety. We transport 80 million passengers a year. The crew just felt it wasn’t safe for him to fly.”

… “I just think that my civil rights were violated, and that I should have the same rights to fly as any other citizen so that I can do business,” Tuitel said in a press release. “All I want to do as speaker is to make a living and take care of my family.”

By Marybeth Hicks, writing in the Washington Times:

Being the reluctant flier that I am, and having visited Mr. Tuitel’s website and watched his videos, I would sit next to him on any flight. Most emergencies require strength of character, courage, tenacity and a sense of humor. It’s clear US Airways kicked off the most able of its passengers that day.

Georgia settles ADA suit over confinement of people with disabilities

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

From the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AP/New York Times:

In a decision that is being hailed as a historic step toward enforcing the rights of people with disabilities, the state of Georgia has reached an agreement with the Justice Department to move many people with mental illness or developmental disabilities out of state psychiatric hospitals and into their communities.

The agreement, which settles a lawsuit alleging that the state was engaging in illegal segregation of people with disabilities, follows a federal investigation that found an “alarming frequency” of preventable deaths, suicides and assaults in the hospitals. From the LA Times:

As part of the agreement, Georgia will stop admitting people with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism, into its state hospitals by July 1, 2011. The state will move all developmentally disabled patients from state hospitals to “community settings” by July 1, 2015.

The state must also expand community-based services for about 9,000 mentally ill patients.

“This is a monumental step forward for people with mental illness,” said C. Talley Wells, an attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, one of a number of advocacy groups that worked with the Justice Department under friend-of-the-court status. “No longer will people be confined in a state hospital who could be living much fuller lives in the community.”

More colleges welcome students with intellectual disabilities

Monday, October 18th, 2010

From AP/Boston Herald:

While college programs for students with intellectual disabilities were almost nonexistent as recently as a decade ago, there are now more than 250 of them spread across campuses in more than three dozen states and two Canadian provinces.

Experts say the change has come about in response to demand from the first generation of students with disabilities who got full access to education in their local school districts, a right guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

New federal funding rules, which will allow students with intellectual disabilities to receive grants and work-study money, are expected to prompt the creation of even more programs.

Disability advocates say the programs will help students get better jobs, even if they do not earn degrees. Critics call the programs a waste of tax dollars, and charge that they devalue the college experience of students without disabilities.

For more information, see Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Government crackdown on autism ‘therapies’

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

From the Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Washington Post

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned eight companies to stop marketing unproven over-the-counter chelation”therapies” as treatments for autism, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. The products’ distributors have claimed they cure a range of diseases by removing heavy metals from the body.

“These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options,” said Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief.”

A series of articles in the Chicago Tribune found widespread evidence that parents of children with autism were using chelation on their children, even though it has not been found to be safe and effective.

Touchdown video seen round the world

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Steve Kelley, Seattle Times columnist, reflects on Ike Ditzenberger, the 17-year-old high school football player with Down syndrome whose touchdown run was captured on video and circulated around the globe. At last count, the Youtube clip documenting Ike’s effort had gotten more than 2.36 million views.

Writes Kelley: Ditzenberger’s touchdown, which he accomplished with the active support of both teams, was “a reminder of everything that is good about sports and about life.” An excerpt:

Ike’s story is about much more than this one football play.

It is a reminder of the infinite capacity of the human heart. It is about Mark Perry’s compassion. It is about the ability of the young players from Lake Stevens to understand the importance of the moment and act selflessly when it would have been so easy to be selfish.

It is about the Snohomish team’s unconditional love of their teammate and about Ike’s parents’ love for their child.

“We’ve seen Ike brighten,” Kay Ditzenberger said. “He no longer sits in the back at the assembly. He’s right there in the front row. Football has elevated his self-opinion. He doesn’t feel different. He doesn’t perceive his handicap. They’ve given him the gift of normalcy.

“They (Snohomish players) set aside the handicap and saw the person first. They recognize the handicap secondly and they accommodate and adapt to that.”

See also:

  • Time magazine
  • Seattle Times video. Includes interview with coach Mark Perry: ‘I think this is a moment when the humanity and the sportsmanship shine through.’
  • Seattle Times story: Ike’s prom date with Emily Zylstra, the homecoming princess and Snohomish County Dairy Princess.

Abortion of surrogate fetus with DS sparks ethics debate

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Doctor says Canadian bio-parents demanded termination; Surrogate mom refused, then relented

‘Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children?’

From the Vancouver Sun, [UK] Daily Mail:

A Canadian surrogate mother reluctantly terminated her pregnancy at the insistence of the fetus’ biological parents after it was learned that the fetus had an elevated risk of Down syndrome, a Vancouver-area doctor revealed at a recent fertility medicine conference.

The case, in which the surrogate mother initially resisted the abortion and later relented, has sparked a spirited ethical debate over legal oversight of surrogacy arrangements.

Dr. Ken Seethram of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine in suburban Vancouver said the surrogate had signed a contract with the biological parents that would have absolved the couple of all financial responsibility for raising the child. He did not disclose the identities of the parties, but said the case had occurred within the past year and involved an embryo that had been created with the parents’ egg and sperm.

A bioethicist who has studied the issue extensively argues that contract law should not apply to the transaction, unless human life is to be treated like widgets in a factory.

“Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children? No, because children get hurt,” said Juliet Guichon of the University of Calgary. “It’s kind of like stopping the production line: ‘Oh, oh, there’s a flaw.’ It makes sense in a production scenario, but in reproduction it’s a lot more problematic.”

Related editorial in the Calgary [Alberta] Herald: ‘Vital debate needed on surrogacy and other IVF issues’

An excerpt:

It could be argued that the terms of the contract need to be spelled out clearly be-fore the surrogacy gets underway, but then that lends the resulting infant the status of a manufactured good — and nobody should be comfortable placing a human being on such a level.

… What needs to be kept uppermost in mind while sorting through the moral and ethical ramifications of the complex scenarios in vitro fertilization has engendered, is that a human being — not a commodity or product — is the subject matter.

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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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