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Archive for the ‘discrimination’ Category

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.


See also:

Feds sue Arkansas over segregation of people with disabilities

Friday, May 7th, 2010

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (registration required), Google/AP:

The federal Department of Justice has filed suit against the state of Arkansas for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging that the state illegally segregates hundreds of people with developmental disabilities.

The lawsuit accused Arkansas of a “systemic failure” that places people with disabilities in large institutions instead of pursuing less restrictive options for their care in community-based settings.

“The state gives individuals with developmental disabilities the draconian choice of receiving services in segregated institutions or receiving no services at all,” the lawsuit reads.

“Arkansas illegally segregates hundreds of individuals in institutions across the state and places hundreds more at risk of needless institutionalization,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are acting now to remedy discrimination against these individuals.”

Arkansas officials said the state is complying with the ADA, and pledged to fight the federal lawsuit. “We will defend the right of our families to choose where they will have their loved ones served,” said a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

In New Orleans, kids with disabilities underserved by charters

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Charter schools in New Orleans educate about 60 percent of the city’s public school children — a higher percentage than in any major American city. But they serve a much smaller percentage of children with disabilities than traditional schools. The gap raises questions about how charters can assure equal access to students who have been historically underserved and excluded.

According to state data, New Orleans’ charters serve only 38 percent of students with autism, 37 percent of those with an emotional disturbance, and about 23 percent of students with multiple disabilities. Parents of kids with disabilities describe heartbreaking school searches, rejection and isolation for their children.

… sometimes, new charter leaders may be hesitant to take on the most challenging — and costly — students from day one.

“I talked to (a charter operator) who said, ‘We want to take these kids, but we’re just not ready yet,’” said Margaret Lang, director of intervention services for the Recovery School District. “My comment to him was that nobody is ready. These children are born into families who are not ready. The number of qualified staff is minimal. No one has quote, unquote, enough experience. But the kids are here.”

In a recent analysis of charter schools around the country, Harvard professor Thomas Hehir said there is significant underrepresentation of students with disabilities in charters in San Diego, Los Angeles and Massachusetts.  Hehir, who served as director of the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education programs in the Clinton administration, said officials should develop policies to assure that charters are not discriminating against students with disabilities.

Judge orders NY to move residents out of ‘adult homes’

Monday, March 1st, 2010

From the New York Times:

A federal judge has ordered the state of New York to move some 4,300 people with mental illness out of warehouse-like institutions that keep them segregated from society.

The order by Judge Nicholas Garaufis follows his decision last fall that the state was illegally discriminating against people with mental illness by holding them in privately-run “adult homes” that were just as restrictive as the state-run institutions they were intended to replace.

Judge Garaufis ordered the state to develop at least 1,500 units of supportive housing a year for the next three years. The state had argued that supportive housing would be unacceptably expensive. Commenting on the proposal submitted by the state, the judge wrote, “The court is disappointed and, frankly, incredulous that defendants sincerely believed this proposal would suffice.”

Earlier posts here and here and here.

See also: The 2002 series of articles by Clifford J. Levy of the New York Times that described scenes of misery, squalor and exploitation in the adult homes.

Shriver: ‘Retard’ is the language of bigotry

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Timothy Shriver, writing in the Washington Post, says the word “retard” masks a prejudice that is so widespread that it goes unquestioned. People with intellectual disabilities, he says, are frequently the victims of abuse, indifference and negligent death. They face crushing unemployment, poor health care, poor living conditions and social ostracism.

Changing these tragic realities won’t be possible, Shriver says, “until and unless we awaken our fellow citizens to the truth: Most of us look down on people with intellectual disabilities, and we don’t even realize it.” An excerpt:

And that’s why this word is important: “Retard” is a symbol of a pain few realize exists. Even when it’s not directed at people with intellectual disabilities, it perpetuates that pain and stigma. We hope that the discussion about ending it will awaken millions to the hope of ending the discrimination it represents.

If we’re successful, the world will discover the joy, hope and sparkling individuality of millions of people. With that, real change will come.

It can’t come soon enough.

Shriver is chairman and CEO of Special Olympics.

New Orleans students with disabilities face unequal treatment

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Audit finds wide enrollment disparities, particularly in charter schools

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Many public schools in New Orleans, particularly charter schools, show significant underrepresentation of students with disabilities, according to a report by state officials. At some charter schools in the Recovery School District, fewer than 4 percent of students are reported to have disabilities, as compared with a district-wide average of about ten percent.

The report has prompted criticism from advocates who charge that some schools are practicing discrimination by advising students with disabilities to go elsewhere. Educators defend the schools, saying the district’s open enrollment policy makes some degree of variation inevitable. An excerpt:

… in some cases it’s easy to sympathize with both the parents and the schools: Families have every right to full services, but schools cannot  always get the money and staff they need to provide them.

See related post: Opinion: Open charter doors to students with disabilities

Column: Dr. King’s work benefitted people with disabilities

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Writing in USA Today, Ben Mattlin says people with disabilities owe a profound debt of gratitude to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work in the civil rights movement.

Like African Americans, Mattlin says, people with disabilities share a history of being been held back by discrimination and low expectations. An excerpt:

Make no mistake: There is a legacy of shame. Just as blacks were shunted to the margins of society not so long ago, we disabled were housed in attics, basements and institutions.

What’s more, both blacks and the disabled were once considered genetically inferior. There were laws curtailing our reproductive freedom. Even today, unemployment rates for people with disabilities rival those of African Americans.

The historical and current similarities are stirring. Which is why Martin Luther King Day on Monday should have special meaning for people with disabilities. Besides showing us how to organize and agitate for equal rights, King gave voice to the simple yet revolutionary notion that we’re good enough – valuable, even – as we are. And as such we deserve better.

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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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