Thursday, July 31, 2008

9 charged in starvation death of disabled teen

An undated photo of Danieal Kelly

From The AP July 29:

PHILADELPHIA - Four social workers were among nine people charged Thursday in the death of a disabled 14-year-old girl who authorities say wasted away from neglect before dying at 42 pounds.

Danieal Kelly's mother was charged with murder; counts against other defendants range from involuntary manslaughter to perjury. District Attorney Lynne Abraham said any of the nine could have foreseen the horrific fate of Danieal, whose emaciated body was found in her mother's squalid house covered with bone-deep, maggot-infested bedsores in August 2006.

Abraham had scathing words for the city's Department of Human Services, calling its handling of the case "callous, indifferent, unconscionable" — and all too familiar.

"Danieal did not fall through the cracks," she said. "It was a failure of institutional inclination. Saving Danieal was just too much trouble."

Two of the social workers are city employees; two others worked for a company hired by DHS. Department Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose scheduled an afternoon news conference to discuss the case.

Warrants were issued for all nine defendants Thursday. Andrea Kelly, the mother of Danieal (pronounced "Danielle"), was charged with murder, and father Daniel Kelly, who did not live with the family, was charged with child endangerment.

A 258-page grand jury report recommending the charges said not only that Andrea Kelly refused to get her daughter food, water and medical treatment, but that she repeatedly prevented one of her other children from calling an ambulance "for his obviously dying sister."

A listing for Andrea Kelly's attorney, Vincent Giusini, rang unanswered Thursday. It was not immediately clear if Daniel Kelly, 37, of Darby, had an attorney; two phone numbers listed in his name were disconnected.

Two employees of MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, a now-defunct company that DHS hired to provide social services to Danieal, falsified documents to cover up the fact they rarely, if ever, checked on her, the grand jury said.

Julius Murray and Mickal Kamuvaka were charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with public records.

An e-mail sent to Kamuvaka was not immediately returned. Contact information for Murray could not immediately be located.

Murray's "fraudulent nonperformance of a job" — he seldom went to the Kelly house, which he was supposed to visit twice a week — allowed Andrea Kelly to starve her daughter over a period of months, the grand jury said.

After Danieal's death, Kamuvaka directed Murray to fabricate and backdate reports on the family, grand jurors said.

DHS social worker Dana Poindexter was charged with child endangerment for what the grand jury said were his "less than meager" efforts to look into several reports over three years that Danieal, who had cerebral palsy, was not receiving medical care, social services or schooling.

"He did not complete a single investigation or risk assessment," the report said. "Indeed, his file on the family was buried at the bottom of a filing-cabinet-sized box, beneath food wrappers and unopened envelopes relating to other children's cases."

A message left for Poindexter's attorney was not immediately returned Thursday.

Another DHS employee, Laura Sommerer, faces a child endangerment charge. As Danieal's social worker for 10 months, she didn't notice Danieal's deterioration, even after a visit June 29, 2006 — about five weeks before the teen died.

"The children appeared safe and comfortable in the home," Sommerer wrote in a report, according to grand jurors.

Sommerer's attorney, Lisa Dykstra, declined to comment Thursday.

Also charged were Andrea Miles, Marie Moses and Diamond Brantley, all of Philadelphia, who were friends with Andrea Kelly. The report accuses them of perjury for telling grand jurors that Danieal had been fine on Aug. 3, 2006, the day before her festering corpse was taken from the house.

It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys. A message left for Moses was not immediately returned; phone numbers could not found for Miles and Brantley.

The report should "outrage the entire Philadelphia community" and bring about "earth-shattering, cataclysmic changes" at the Department of Human Services, Abraham said.

Abraham said that although at least 55 children have died under the agency's watch, it has given only "lip service to halfhearted corrective action."

"You can't continue to bury these children and say things are getting better when they're not," she said.

Mervyns must reconfigure stores to make merchandise more accessible

From The San Francisco Chronicle July 31:

Mervyns, the department store chain that on July 29 filed for bankruptcy, on July 30 lost a round in a long-running legal dispute when the California Court of Appeal ruled it must find ways to make all merchandise available to disabled consumers.

A three-judge panel, ruling unanimously in a case filed in 2002 by Californians for Disability Rights reversed a 2004 judgment by an Alameda County Superior Court judge and told the company to produce a remedy for access problems for disabled consumers.

That is not expected to be coming forthwith, however, said Sid Wolinsky, a lawyer with the Berkeley nonprofit advocacy group, because of Mervyns' bankruptcy filing.

"What it means in the case of Mervyns remains to be seen because of its financial woes," Wolinsky said. "If the whole business collapses, it does not mean much."

The ruling is specific to the troubled Mervyns, but it is significant, if it stands, because it could have broad implications for retailers statewide. It will establish a precedent in California for how retailers will have to accommodate disabled consumers, Wolinsky said.

The suit claimed that Mervyns denied access to people with mobility disabilities by failing to provide adequate pathways between merchandise displays. The nonprofit said the Hayward company violated the state's Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.

The Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that Mervyns discriminated against people with disabilities by blocking aisles with removable fixtures without providing effective means for making merchandise available.

"It means that every retail establishment that is newly built or substantially remodeled in the last 15 years - from 1993 on, the date of the Americans with Disability Act - must comply with regular building standards," said Wolinsky. "They have to provide accessible aisles."

Vietnamese inventor provides training for people with disabilities there

Tran Van Tin (right) alongside his students with disabilities

Inventor Tran Van Tin established his own company, ICEVN, in Vietnam in 2004, which produces household electronic products such as mobile phone chargers, MP3 music players and counterfeit money scanners.

A year later he founded the ICEVN Support Center for Disabled People and the ICEVN Telecommunication Electronics Vocational School in HCMC. The school now has 200 students, more than 50 percent of whom are disabled.

From Thanh Nien News:

“I dream about opening a vocational school for disabled children nationwide,” said Tin.

At ICEVN vocational school, disabled students are provided free tuition, room and board as well a part time job.

After a six-month training course, they can work for the company and become an instructor at the school.

At the company, disabled workers are also offered free accommodation.

“Uncle Tin often encourages us to study hard to have a good job,” said Huynh Truc Lam, a young disabled employee at ICEVN.

For Tin who grew up in a poor village, education is the key to success in life.

“My hometown has only sand, sunshine and wind,” he said. “The barren nature immerses natives in poverty. So we had only one way to escape poverty – to study hard and do well.”

ICEVB’s school has opened up three other branches in southern Kien Giang Province, the central town of Hue and Hanoi.

Tin plans to start another branch in his hometown of Quang Nam Province as soon as prices ease up in the current financial climate.

“I hope more and more people will buy our products and invest in our company so that we can expand production and earn more money to improve the life of the
disabled,” he said.

Swiss have enviable services for people with disabilities

NPR has a story about Tara (pictured above), who has autism, and the experiences of her parents, American Ellen Wallace and English Nick Bates, in Switzerland.

When she was 3 1/2 years old, her parents got the diagnosis they suspected: Their daughter is autistic. That qualified Tara for Switzerland's federal disability insurance, which Wallace says has been an enormous blessing.

"In purely practical terms, what it has meant is that no matter what health care
problems Tara has had, they've been covered by insurance," she says, "which is a huge blessing because if you're already worried about a little kid's health, not having to worry about paying for it really helps."

The disability insurance pays for Tara's education — she goes to a special school for profoundly disabled children — and all of her behavioral therapy. It also pays for a cleaning lady and household help for the family, since Tara leaves a perpetual mess in her wake, and even for the disposable diapers Tara still needs.

Wallace says what has really pleased her about dealing with the Swiss system is the attitude of the social workers.

"My experience is that there's a lot of trust," she says. "I think they're very fair. They come in and ask a lot of questions, and their job appears to be to try to be helpful and to get you as much assistance as they possibly can."

But as Tara grew into an adolescent, Wallace began to get anxious. She wondered what would happen to Tara after she and her husband died. So Wallace went to see her social worker.

"She said the really key thing to understand is, you don't have to worry," Wallace recalls. "The way the Swiss government approaches this is that every person who is a Swiss citizen has the right to be able to live decently.

"For me, that was just like such a huge wave of relief — to have somebody tell you, you don't ever have to worry about how your child is going to be cared for."

Out, proud and disabled

Jessica Kellgren-Hayes

Many people don't understand that someone may have a disability and also be part of the GBLT community. Many gays and lesbians with disabilities are out and proud, but there aren't many gays and lesbians with disabilities who are celebrities. Thanks to for the tip about one of the disabled competitors on "Britain's Missing Top Model" revealing her sexual orientation on the show recently. Jessica Kellgren-Hayes (pictured above) is a 19-year-old from Bristol, and the other models on the show revealed that she is a lesbian. Jessica didn't win but took third place. Kelly Knox won the show in its finale July 29.

In Australia, a graduate student is researching the experiences of gays and lesbians with disabilities there. This from Queensland Pride:

Griffith University PhD student Warwick Abrahams is conducting a national survey which he hopes will lead to solving the exclusion experienced by people with disabilities in the queer community.

“[I’m] looking at how organisations, and individuals within them, can help integration and exchange between the abled and disabled worlds … to find out what can be done so that a differently-abled person won’t feel rejected in whatever the GLBTQ scene might be,” Abrahams told Queensland Pride.

“These days there’s nothing in the media that’s inclusive about people marginalised by disability in the various gay so-called ‘communities’,” he said.

Abrahams also contends that GLBT people with disabilities face homophobia from within the disabled community.

“You may have Christian groups who are helping them and that can pose a real problem for queer people and acceptance.”

Wendy Bainger, acting secretary of Access Plus, a group for queer disabled people, echoed Abrahams view.

“There is a level of homophobia in the disability sector. A lot don’t have access to the GLIBT community because the people who control their lives don’t think they need to,” she said.

“People with disabilities are considered to be asexual, so anything to do with sexuality is swept under the carpet.”

New book looks at concepts of normality, autism

Thanks for the tip from Estee Klar-Wolfond, who runs The Autism Acceptance Project (TAAP) in Canada and a chapter in the new book by Wendy Lawson, Concepts of Normality, The Autistic and Typical Spectrum, focuses on the project. Lawson has autism has written several other books as well.

Press materials about the book say:

For those with autism, understanding 'normal' can be a difficult task. For those without autism, the perception of 'normal' can lead to unrealistic expectations of self and others. This book explores how individuals and society understand 'normal', in order to help demystify and make accessible a full range of human experience.

Wendy Lawson outlines the theory behind the current thinking and beliefs of Western society that have led to the building of a culture that fails to be inclusive. She describes what a wider concept of 'normal' means and how to access it, whether it's in social interaction, friendships, feelings, thoughts and desires or various other aspects of 'normality'. Practical advice is offered on a range of situations, including how to find your role within the family, how to integrate 'difference' into everyday society, and how to converse and connect with others.

Accessible and relevant to people both on and off the autism spectrum, this book offers a fresh look at what it means to be 'normal'.

Chapters: 1. Developing Images of Normal and Influence Upon Concepts of Normality. 2. Developing Concepts of the Autistic and Typical Spectrums. 3. The Individual, Family and Society: More on How Ideas of Normality have Changed. 4. A Typical Day and a Typical Conversation (Implications and Know-how for Conversing with Others). 5. Whose Mind Do We Have? Knowing One Another. 6. Autism, Sexuality and Normal. 7. Whose Normal is it Anyway? Dr Dinah Murray, The University of Birmingham, UK . 8. Inclusive and Accepting or Exclusive and Rejecting? Understanding Self and Other. 9. The Mismeasure of Autism: The Basis for Current Autism 'Advocacy'. Estee Klar-Wolfond, The Autism Acceptance Project, Canada. 10. Changing the Status Quo So That it Does Not Change Me but Allows Me to Develop My Fullest Potential.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Malawi needs many, many more sign language interpreters

From Nyasa Times:

Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD) says the country needs more sign language interpreters to abate challenges deaf and speech impaired persons are facing in their day to day livelihood.

Speaking to Nyasa Times, officials from the deaf community in the country disclosed that currently, estimates show that Malawi has over 50,000 hearing impaired people against only eleven sign language interpreters.

Betty Wisiki, an interpreter and sign language trainer at MANAD said deaf persons in the country are facing a lot of challenges in various areas more especially as they want to access public or any other basic services.

"The deaf communities in Malawi are facing a lot of challenges in accessing different daily essentials at places such as hospitals, markets, schools, police offices, courts, banks, churches and many other quarters of the society.

"The main reason is that many Malawians are not conversant with the sign language, there are only eleven sign language interpreters against over 50,000 deaf people throughout the country," said Wisiki.

On the other hand, Wisiki said with assistance from Deaf Action Scotland and Deaf Action Malawi, MANAD brought together at least 20 people from different backgrounds and professions in the country to equip them with sign and oral language skills.

According to her, participants at the workshop included doctors, teachers, church pastors, businessmen and other individuals from different places where the deaf go for basic services.

She admitted that the number was extremely small taking into consideration that 31 [plus the eleven] interpreters were just a tip of an iceberg as compared to the current estimates, which needed more resources to train additional interpreters.

"In hospitals, we need medical personnel who are conversant with sign languages for easy communication with patients that are deaf. A doctor or a nurse should interact direct with a deaf person, and this could help in saving lives of deaf patients who die with illnesses doctors could have treated if they were able to communicate with them," she said.

On another critical sector, the association further revealed that research has shown that deaf people are the least educated in Malawi.

Long Island residents lose wheelchair repair services

From Newsday:

Linda Lemmerman waited five months -- her son Brandon's wheelchair held together with ACE bandages and a bungee cord -- before she found out that the company she had hired to fix his wheelchair was getting out of the business.

Lemmerman, a Ridge resident whose 17-year-old son has cerebral palsy, is among dozens of Long Islanders whose life has been disrupted by a Bethpage firm's decision to stop assembling, selling and repairing custom wheelchairs.

That company, Home Care Supply, is shutting down that part of its operation, said a spokeswoman for the company's parent firm, Praxair.

That leaves disabled people and their families with the prospect of waiting another several months to get new, customized wheelchairs ordered from other companies. That process includes a series of meetings with doctors and approvals from insurance companies.

Two legislators from Long Island have raised questions about whether the state needs stricter rules on the time it takes insurers and companies to provide the customized wheelchairs, which are the only way many handicapped people can move independently.

"These are his legs," Lemmerman said of her son's dependence on his wheelchair.

Home Care Supply, which was bought by Praxair in 2004, is getting out of customized wheelchairs because of declining reimbursements from governments even as the cost of building the chairs is rising, said Susan Szita-Gore, the Praxair

The company stopped taking orders for new chairs in April and will be out of that business by Oct. 1, but will continue repairing wheelchairs that are under warranty, she said.

Szita-Gore said Home Care Supply had contacted customers by phone to tell them of the decision to stop selling and fixing chairs. The company is also working with families to find other firms that sell customized wheelchairs, she said. She said she could not provide the number of customers who are affected.

But Lemmerman and several other parents of children at the Henry Viscardi School for physically disabled students in Albertson, said they were never notified.

Blind children in UK experience Olympics through sound, touch

From the BBC:

A charity has come up with an idea to enable blind and visually-impaired children to share some of the drama of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics.

Living Paintings, in Newbury, Berkshire, is producing a pack that uses sound and touch to bring the Games to life.

They include raised images of scenes ranging from hurdlers to show-jumpers.

Paddy Elliott-Walker, who is partially-sighted, said they helped him visualise what the Games would be like.

He added: "I can tell what sport the person's doing by looking at these pictures."

The kits also include audio information about different Olympic and Paralympic sports, the history of both Games as well as personal recordings by athletes taking part.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Hurricane Mary" labor of love for actor Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper

Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper of films such as "Adaptation," Seabiscuit," and "American Beauty" mentioned in an Irish newspaper that he and his wife, Marianne, are shepherding a film through Hollywood that deals with inclusive education for kids with cerebral palsy. Cooper's son, Jesse, had CP and his wife wrote the screenplay for "Hurricane Mary," which is based on the true story of a mother with twins with CP fighting to get them into school.

From The Herald in Ireland:

Inspired by their son Jesse, who was born with cerebral palsy in 1987, the story has been written by Marianne and stars Chris. It is a true-life account of a mother's struggle to have her disabled twin daughters integrated into the US public school system and co-stars Dakota Fanning and William H Macy.

"Hurricane Mary is the story of Mary Somoza and her twin daughters who suffer from cerebral palsy,'' Chris explains. "When the girls came of age, they ran into a brick wall as far as the educational system was concerned. All Mary wanted for her daughters was a simple public school education. We had run into the very same problem with our son and we met Mary through our pediatrician.''

Sadly, Jesse died in January 2005 from complications of the disease, and the Jesse Cooper Foundation memorial fund was set up in his name.

Chris adds: "The script is very emotional, but Marianne wrote me a part that allowed me to say and express what I was too emotionally tied up or shut down to say when it happened to us.''

According to, the movie will start production in Sept. 2008. In March 2008, Cooper also spoke about the need for the film to illustrate how parents of children with disabilities have to struggle against the U.S. medical and educational institutions.

Israeli airline adds accessible planes

From Ha'aretz Magazine in Israel:

Israir will incorporate disability access into three of its new Airbus planes as part of an initiative to improve customers' air travel experience, representatives of the airliner and an advocacy organization announced yesterday.

"Israir is currently designing its seats so that it is easier for disabled persons to stand up and sit down, easier for them to use the toilets, and the company is purchasing special wheelchairs that can be used in the aisles," said Israir Director General Yisrael Ben Haim.

The three new A-320 Airbus planes will be delivered in 2010. Ben Haim added that Israir stewards and ground staff will undergo periodical training on serving disabled persons, including how to maximize the customers' comfort.

Some 40,000 disabled people use air travel each year," Dr. Avi Ramot, a senior official of Shekel, Community Services for People with Special Needs, said July 29. "Making these planes accessible to these passengers is very important. We commend Israir for its decision to work with us and make it easier for disabled persons and those with special needs to travel."

Shekel was founded in 1979, and helps thousands of people with special needs in fields including accommodation, sports, education and medical treatment.

Comments needed on proposed ADA changes

From the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF):

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued major proposed revisions to its regulations implementing Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The deadline for comments is August 18, 2008.

Some of DOJ’s changes are excellent, and urgently needed. It is important that the disability community laud these, to support DOJ against industry attack. Good proposals include adoption of the new 2004 ADAAG, stronger hotel reservation and ticketing provisions, recognition of psychiatric service animals, additional companion seating in theaters and stadiums, and stronger provisions for effective communication for people with hearing, visual, and speech disabilities.

However, there are also many draconian changes that would radically reduce the rights of people with disabilities to accessible facilities. For example, DOJ proposes:

  • A significant weakening of the readily achievable barrier removal requirement for public accommodations;
  • A significant reduction of elements required to be accessible in state and local government facilities;
  • An exemption for all existing facilities from the new recreation and playground rules.

DOJ must receive a flood of comments from the disability community in favor of a strong, comprehensive ADA. Comments must defend the principle of individual, case-by-case assessment, which DOJ is largely abandoning in favor of many blanket reductions. We must remind DOJ that the ADA is already carefully crafted to take the needs of covered entities into account, and that reductions to our civil rights would be a devastating blow to our daily lives.

Remembering mentally ill women who die because of neglect

Esmin Green died on the floor of a Brooklyn ER.

Bob Sharpe, the president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, based in Tallahassee, wrote an excellent op-ed in the Tampa Tribune about Esmin Green who died in a Brooklyn, N.Y. emergency room waiting area because no one helped her for 24 hours. Here's the NY Daily News story about it.

He also discusses the case of Primrose Jackson, a woman with severe mental illness, who lived for years in a tent outside her mother's home in Miami and went missing in mid-July.

These cases beg for media investigations. I hope there are some.

Proposed sales tax increase to assist developmentally disabled Coloradans

From The Denver Post:
Supporters of an initiative that would raise Colorado's sales tax to benefit those with developmental disabilities said July 28 they have enough signatures to put the issue before voters.

Officials with the Coalition to End the Wait List said they submitted 131,400 signatures to Secretary of State Mike Coffman's office, which has 30 days to validate the signatures.

If placed on the November ballot, the measure would ask Colorado voters to phase in a sales tax increase of two-tenths of a cent over two years to supplement programs for the developmentally disabled, which includes those with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Current state sales tax is 2.9 percent. If the measure were fully phased in by 2010, the higher 3.1 percent tax would raise an estimated $186 million a year.

That money would go to end the waiting list for those with developmental disabilities to receive state services, which could include around-the-clock supervision, living accommodations or job training. There are about 9,700 adults and children with developmental disabilities on the state's waiting list for services now, a number that is expected to grow to 12,000 by 2012.

Advocates for the developmentally disabled said the state now serves more than 11,000 at a cost of about $183 million a year.

Supporters of the campaign include former Colorado first lady Frances Owens. "Colorado's waiting list for people with developmental disabilities is not made of nameless, faceless people," she said in a statement. "They are . . . our friends, our neighbors, our sons and our daughters."

Wheelchair-user cop helps bust drug ring

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports about a sting operation there using an undercover cop who uses a power wheelchair to gain the trust of drug dealers and then bust them.

For the most part, the downtown St. Paul drug dealers were an accommodating bunch, eager to win the trust of the man in the wheelchair buying everything: marijuana, crack cocaine, muscle relaxers.

Turns out, though, the man in the electric wheelchair was not to be trusted -- from the dealers' point of view, at least.

For a second straight year, St. Paul police have conducted a three-month crackdown on downtown dealing -- this time with an undercover operation targeting dealers working the streets near drop-in centers for the poor.

The undercover officer helped build cases resulting in criminal charges against 108 people, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said at a news conference July 28.

New smart canes, bioptic telescopes developed for blind people

From the New Scientist:

Electronic canes for the blind are designed to detect nearby objects and provide a stereo audio signal that informs a person of the location of obstacles. But they do not distinguish between stationary and moving objects.

A pair of spectacles fitted with a camera and accelerometers that detect movement can, however. They are connected to a computer that spots any obstacles in the field of view and works out which are moving.

The specs provide audio signals to the wearer to let them know what's happening around them, and which objects are moving, so they can navigate without bumps. The system was dreamed up by electronics company Philips.

From the Schepens Eye Research Institute:

Boston, MA--Glasses embedded with a telescope promise to make it easier for people with impaired vision to drive and do other activities requiring sharper distance vision. Schepens Eye Research Institute scientists describe the advantages of these innovative glasses over earlier devices in an article published in the May/June issue of Journal of Biomedical Optics.

“This new design has several advantages,” says the inventor of the glasses, Dr. Eli Peli , who is a senior scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute, a professor at Harvard Medical School, a low vision expert, and the senior author of the paper. “One major advantage is the appearance of the glasses. Because they look almost like normal everyday spectacles, it is more likely that visually impaired people will use them,” says Peli, who adds that the glasses are easier to use than existing telescope models because of a wider magnified view and easier access to that view. Most importantly, shifting the magnified view up leaves the unmagnified view of the road unobstructed, which is important for safety and facilitates navigation.

Tiny telescopes (known as Biotics) mounted on glasses to help people with visual impairments have been in existence for about 60 years. They are permitted for use in driving by 39 states. These telescopes enable a visually impaired driver to read road signs and see other objects essential for safe driving, while also viewing the larger scene in front of the vehicle. In previous designs, the telescope is mounted through the top of the regular lens or above the frame. In both cases, the telescopic eyepiece is above the wearer’s pupil, requiring the driver to tilt his/her head up and down rapidly to view alternatively the magnified and unmagnified scenes. Drivers use the telescope only for a very small fraction of the driving time, looking through the regular spectacle lens most of the time.

While these bioptic telescopes are useful and helpful, many potential users have resisted them because of their strange appearance, and because the magnified view through the telescope is narrow.

In the newer glasses, Peli and his co-inventor Dr. Vargas-Martin from the University of Murcia, Spain, designed a wide-field telescope made of straight and curved mirrors built completely within the spectacle lens,

The Journal of Biomedical Optics article describes the process that Peli and his team went through as they created and tested various prototypes of telescopes leading to the design that would be most effective and comfortable for patients with low vision. They started with a telescope made with mirrors and lenses to prove the image shifting principle. To embed the whole telescope inside the spectacle lens they had to obtain the magnifying power from curved mirrors instead of lenses, as mirrors maintain their power when embedded inside the spectacle lens, while the lenses lose their power when not in the air. Regular spherical mirrors can not be tilted without loss of focus, so they constructed a version made with tilted parabolic mirrors. The latter worked well and was in focus, but the images were distorted enough due to the parabolic shape to cause a disturbing effect during head movements. The latest design they constructed is based on spherical and flat mirrors with the flat mirrors implemented as tilted beam splitters that use polarization to reduce light loss.

Says Peli, "The short height of the actual magnifier, its position, and inclusion of a small tilt of the last flat mirror (the one closest to the user’s eye), enables the wearer to simultaneously view the magnified field above the unmagnified view of the uninterrupted horizontal field.

Not only will the new glasses improve the cosmetics and usefulness of this type of device, the in-the-lens design will make it possible to mass-produce the telescopic magnifier as a standard spectacle lens blank and allow an individual’s prescription to be added using the standard procedure for grinding regular spectacle lenses. This process should also reduce the price of bioptic telescopes

Protests against Michael Savage goes off as planned in San Francisco, NY

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that about 50-60 parents and autism advocates gathered July 27 at KNEW, the radio station that is home to talk show host's Michael Savage's show. Protesters wanted to show their anger with Savage's comments about autism in which he called kids with autism "brats" who need better parenting, especially from fathers.

"Michael Savage's remarks were hurtful to the safety and the well-being of vulnerable children and we want him off the air," said Evelyn Ain, president of Autism United in Long Island, whose 8-year-old son has autism. "If this (KNEW) and other radio stations don't stop carrying Savage's signal, then we will pursue every advertiser until they drop him."

Ain was joined at the protest by Craig Johnson, a New York state senator from Long Island, who has advocated for spending on autism issues and education, and by Alice Lai-Bitker, an Alameda County supervisor, and others.

According to NY1, protesters also gathered at City Hall in NY City to call for advertisers to stop supporting Savage's syndicated radio show.

This, after the shock jock blamed the behavioral problems associated with autism on parents who fail to discipline their children.

"Very, very hurtful comments, setting back education for autism and for autism awareness back many, many years," said City Councilman David Weprin.

"I am certainly a proponent of First Amendment rights and this guy can be on there and say his opinion and that's merely what it is," said Martha Taylor, whose grandchild is autistic. "But, he's there to make money, so if all of these companies stop giving him money to continue with his savage garbage then he wouldn't be around to do it anymore."

Local wheelchair factory providing mobility for disabled people in Vietnam

Vietnam News reports on American Roger Ferrell who in 2006 established Kids First Enterprise (KFE), a company that manufactures mobility products in Vietnam.

The factory is currently manufacturing a Pediatric Wheelchair for kids with neuro-muscular disease and a state of the art Adult Wheelchair. The products manufactured by KFE will be sold for distribution in Viet Nam and other parts of the developing world along with distributors in North America and Europe for commercial sales. The profits earned (100 per cent) by KFE will be used to support programmes that focus on the disadvantaged in Viet Nam.

Ferrell’s goal is to raise awareness of the potential of people with disabilities and provide equal access to employment, social, and community activities. A disabled person working in a job suited to their disability has proven to be a better employee than a person without a disability doing the same job; social change will happen when enough people have been given the "Gift of Mobility" and they begin to demand access and equal opportunity. "Working together, we can make it happen."

His goal is to provide a wheelchair to every person in Viet Nam who needs one but can’t afford to buy one. "For just over US$100.00 we can give the "Gift of Mobility" that will make it possible for many of the recipients to obtain a job, community inclusion, self reliance and economic independence", he said.

Poland's working toward more disability rights

From the Warsaw Business Journal:
The EC has approved new rules harmonizing aid to businesses that employ disabled workers.

New regulations for compensating businesses for the additional costs of employing disabled workers will soon enter into force after the European Commission passed a package of tax-exemption harmonization regulations. When Polish law is amended to reflect the new rules, the state will be allowed to refund up to 75 percent of the increased costs of hiring and insuring a disabled person.

The new rules will harmonize the amount of financial aid available for employing disabled people across the EU. It also gives automatic approval for a range of public aid measures, allowing EU member states to grant such aid without first notifying the Commission. The EC directive will enter into force at the end of August.

But in Poland, the new regulations may offer lower aid to employers of the disabled than those available under current Polish law, Monika Tykarska, the vice president of the Polish Organization of Disabled People’s Employers (POPON) told WBJ.

Today a Polish employer can count on relief ranging from 45 to 130 percent of zł.936 - the monthly minimum wage in December last year - depending on the type of workplace and the employee’s disability. The costs of employing disabled people are covered by the State Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled (PFRON).

"The EU law does not always fit the local circumstances well," Tykarska said. Polish law requires all companies with more than 25 employees to hire disabled people. But out of over 2.5 million disabled people of working age in Poland, only 20 percent of them are employed, according to PFRON data.

Frequent changes in the labor law and the potential for various interpretations of the same regulation are the major factors discouraging employers from hiring the disabled, Tykarska said.

Beep baseball tournament in NC

It's great to see the local media covering a disability specialty sport like beep baseball, which is played by people with visual impairments.

From The News-Observer in N.C.:

The Sluggers and the Raleigh Rockets are rivals in the North Carolina-South Carolina beepball league.

Beepball, or beep baseball, is an adaptation of softball for visually impaired people that emphasizes keen hearing and hand-ear coordination. The softball sounds a shrill beep to help fielders track it down.

The Carolinas beepball league held its annual tournament with five teams at Herndon Park in Durham July 25-26. About 70 players participated, but by the end, it came down to Raleigh and Durham, the two-time defending champions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Canadians with disabilities finding employment

From The Vancouver Province July 27:

More Canadians with disabilities are participating in the workforce despite the continued existence of a number of barriers, a Statistics Canada report said this week.

The Participation and Activity Limitation Survey measures the participation in the economy by people over the age of 15 with disabilities, and what kinds of obstacles stand their way.

Of the 4.5 million Canadians living with a disability, Statistics Canada reports that nearly 2.5 million could potentially work. The survey then found that the proportion of Canadians with disabilities who were actually employed in 2006 was 53.5 per cent, up from 49.3 per cent five years earlier. By comparison, the survey reported that 75.1 per cent of people without disabilities were working in 2006.

The agency said that while the gap between people with and without disabilities has been shrinking, the difference still remains large.

Statistics Canada's survey covers 10 different types of activity limitations, related to hearing, seeing, communication, mobility, agility, pain, learning, memory, and developmental and psychological challenges.

The survey found that the severity of a person's disability plays a role. The employment rate for people with moderate disabilities rose from 54 per cent to 56.6 per cent over the five-year study period, while the rate for people with severe disabilities increased from 31.8 per cent to 38.3 per cent.

Although employment rates increased across all age groups between 15 to 64, jobless people with activity limitations reported that discrimination was one of the main reasons they could not find work. Younger people were also more likely to report instances of perceived discrimination than older people.

People who did manage to find work reported that their disability restricted the amount or what kind of work they could do.

One in five employed Canadians with disabilities said employers had to accommodate their condition by modifying or reducing their work day or work hours.

One in six said that they required specialized work equipment, including chairs, back supports or a job redesign.

Ohio couple advocates for new law that makes hotels more accessible

Jim and Shiela Moore

The Repository in Canton, Ohio, reports that Columbus, Ohio, resident Sheila Moore, who has multiple sclerosis, and her husband, Jim, successfully lobbied for a new law in Ohio, Senate Bill 237, that will make hotels in that state more accessible.

Moore, 67, has had multiple sclerosis since 1980 and has used a wheelchair since 1983. The couple has had trouble with hotel and motel rooms where the bed is on a solid base. A portable lift they use to get Sheila in and out of bed needs space underneath to get close enough to be useful.

They're OK as long as they're staying in a Red Roof Inn, which has the appropriate kind of bed frame. Otherwise, they spend time calling to find another motel they can use and hoping a room is still available when they arrive, said Jim Moore, 68.

Enter state Rep. John Hagan, R-Marlboro Township.

"He asked me one day last fall if there was anything he could do to help us," said Jim Moore, who has known Hagan for years.

Moore is retired after 29 years with the Alliance City Water Department. Hagan owns a local heating, plumbing and air conditioning business.

Hagan introduced House Bill 300, which requires hotels to have at least one bed to accommodate lifts within 45 days of the new law's effect (Sept. 11, 2008). Within five years, 25 percent of a hotel's disability rooms must accommodate lifts. If hotels remodel before the five-year deadline, the 25 percent standard applies.

"It's a start," Jim Moore said. "I'm sure we're not the only ones who run into this. (Hagan) saw the greater good."

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 does not have the same requirement.

Opponents to Ohio's new law didn't want a precedent other states would follow, Hagan said. But the Moores rarely have problems in other states even though California is the only other state with a similar requirement.

Georgia churches try to be more welcoming to people with disabilities

From the Augusta, Ga., Chronicle July 26:

Too often, churches are slow to embrace people with disabilities, said Wayne McMillan, the president and CEO of The Bobby Dodd Institute in Atlanta. Last month, the nonprofit launched the Interfaith Disability Connection, an online resource center that will hold a statewide summit in August for leaders of religious and disability groups.

Although 84 percent of people with a disability say faith is important to them, less than half attend a religious service at least once a month, Mr. McMillan said. There are many reasons why.

"You would expect communities of faith to be more interested in getting people into their congregations," Mr. McMillan said, but they're often stalled by a lack of money to renovate or, most often, a lack of awareness that anything needs to be done.

Because religious groups are exempt from many of the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, congregations lag behind businesses and government buildings, where accessibility is required.

Still, he said, "It's not just facility modifications. It's about the congregation and the leadership welcoming and embracing people with disabilities."

Most churches with members who are disabled had to make an effort to welcome them, Mr. McMillan said.

That's the way it should be, said Willie Lee Jones, a computer instructor at Walton Options, a disability service organization in Augusta: "The church needs to take the lead."

The 62-year-old Augusta native is an elder at Community Bible Fellowship off Gordon Highway. He was blinded in a car accident in 1974. Four years ago, he traveled to Africa on a mission trip.

"The emphasis was on the blind people in Nigeria. We passed out canes. Some people said they came 400 miles for a cane," he said.

It's proof, he said, that the blind, or anyone with a disability, can contribute to the church.

"We're regular people," Mr. Jones said. "But they're afraid to get close to a person in a wheelchair. They're afraid to look a person in the eyes. People want to put us in the background."

Singapore program teaches disabled people to scuba dive

Tam Ah Hock

The Electric New Paper reports that a disabled dive program in Singapore is working to get people with disabilities there certified to dive. For example, Tam Ah Hock, who was born with a genetic disorder and uses a wheelchair, learned scuba diving more than 10 years ago.

Tam, an operations support executive, said: "On land, I feel very disabled. My movements are limited. Once in the water, I'm just like any other person, free to move everywhere. I can see the fishes, the underwater scene, it's a totally different environment."

Dive Atlantis, charges $680 for a disabled diver course - the same amount as its open water course for regular divers, though the former requires more instructors.

"I don't think disabled diving is well-known in Singapore," said dive instructor Eugene Sim from Dive Atlantis, who took a course on teaching diving to disabled people. "If the disabled can enjoy one more sport, it's more meaningful to them."

Dentists in NY county take care to group homes

The Journal News in the Lower Hudson Valley of NY reports that dentists and hygienists of the Westchester Institute of Human Development (WIHD) have been traveling to group homes throughout the county treating mentally and physically disabled patients.

Some disabled people with limited hand mobility have poor oral health because they are unable to brush and floss on their own, the article says.

Only a fraction of the dentists who accept Medicaid are able to treat special-needs patients, said Dr. Patricia Seagriff, a dentist who directs the WIHD dental clinic in Valhalla and the mobile van, in the article.

"That's the problem, nobody accepts their insurance, and the ones that do might not be able to see them because they can't spend the time or don't have the training to treat these patients."

Navy, Marine Corps conference focuses on disabling stresses of war

From the North County Times in southern California:

Confronted with rising rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, hundreds of Marine and Navy officers meet in San Diego next month to address ways to limit war-born physical and psychological damage.

The officers, along with military and civilian medical specialists, are meeting Aug. 12-14 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt to discuss the latest treatments for troops suffering as result of their combat experience.

The conference also will focus on the children and spouses of troops who have been disabled by post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

In its first-ever such conference last year, Marine Corps leaders vowed to eliminate an institutional mind--set that prevented some troops from seeking help for stress-related problems.

This year's "Combat Operational Stress Control Conference" includes updates on what service leaders have done in the months since last year's inaugural symposium in Washington.

The effort comes as rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Marines continue to rise, nearly seven years after the invasion of Afghanistan and more than five years after the invasion of Iraq. Through June of this year, 25 Marines have committed suicide, a pace that would surpass the rate of 16.5 suicides per 100,000 troops reported by the service in 2007.

From 1996 through 2006, the suicide rate per 100,000 troops was 14.3 percent.

Between March 2003 and April 2007, the Marine Corps diagnosed 5,714 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to figures provided by the service. And in April, the Rand Corporation released a study contending that nearly 20 percent of all service members ---- approximately 300,000 troops ---- have reported suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.

Extremity Games this week in Michigan

FOX News reports that about 80 athletes with artificial limbs registered to participate in the Extremity Games that begin Aug. 1 near Detroit. Events include rock climbing, mountain biking and motocross racing, martial arts, skateboarding, wakeboarding and kayaking.

The Extremity Games started three years ago when customers buying artificial feet from Michigan-based College Park Industries asked for prostheses that could withstand more intense activities, said Beth Geno, one of the Games' co-founders and a former College Park employee.

"We had been hearing from so many of our users that they have the Paralympics, they have the events that offer track and field, but not the extreme sports. A lot of people had come more into that lifestyle," said Geno.

Lighter and stronger materials, quick-release connections and components that can be adjusted for different activities have changed the perception of what's difficult for amputees with artificial limbs to do, said Dan Cox, College Park's national sales manager.

Adaptations once only seen at the Paralympics are trickling down to amateurs expecting similar effects in hobbies like skateboarding and mundane activities such as chasing the family dog, Cox said. The company developed a more flexible prosthetic foot to meet such demand.

"Skateboarders were wearing that type of foot, also, because they have to flex when they get down and use different angles," he said.

Strollers vs. wheelchairs in Scotland

One Scottish bus company's decision to not let moms and strollers with babies board buses so that wheelchairs can be accommodated seems to set up unnecessary conflict. I am 100% in favor of wheelchair access on the buses, but if no wheelchair user is on the bus, couldn't a mother and stroller be allowed on? Obviously, wheelchair users get first accommodation, but to "ban" moms and strollers seems a bit extreme. How about telling moms with strollers to fold up the stroller if someone using a wheelchair is on board or boards? But if a wheelchair user isn't using the accessible space, shouldn't a stroller be accommodated? All the wonderful architectural access that has come to the modern world to make the built world more accommodating to people with mobility impairments has also benefited many non-disabled people, like moms with strollers. It would be sad to create animosity by banning moms with strollers.

From The Scotsman in Edinburgh, Scotland July 26:

Bus drivers in Edinburgh have been told not to allow prams on board to keep the space free for wheelchair users.

Lothian Buses drivers have been given the instruction as the company seeks to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

While parents with fold-up buggies are still allowed on – on the understanding the buggies will be folded if a disabled passenger boards the bus – traditional prams have been outlawed.

One young mum said she only discovered the new rules on a trip into town at the weekend.

Kirsti Mill and her newborn son Oakley waited for an hour in Princes Street on Saturday before a bus driver took pity on them. They had caught the bus earlier that day from Wester Hailes without any problems.

She and her mother Arlene, 41, from Hailesland Gardens, are angry that passengers were not informed of the change. They say that it is unfair on parents of young children, who may rely on the buses in order to get around the city.

Planning journal says majority of homes need Visitability

From Concrete Change, which promotes universal home access through visitability:

How many houses need to have access features? When urging universal Visitability, advocates often are told that people with mobility impairments make up only a tiny slice of the population, and the needs of these few should not impinge on general house construction.

Now, the Journal of the American Planning Association—--widely read by city and regional planners, architects, and developers--—has published research revealing the breadth of the need.

Researchers found that, by one measure of disability, a startling 60% of ALL HOUSES built today in the United States will have at least one resident with a "long-lasting, severe mobility impairment" at some point in the lifetime of the house. Using a second measure, the odds are 25%.

Those high percentages do not even take into account severe SHORT-term disabilities. Nor do they take into account the desire of people with disabilities to visit their friends and relatives. When visiting is accounted for, the percents of houses affected rise to 93% and 51%.

Why are the percentages so high? Because the need for home access cannot accurately be based upon the approximate percentage of people who have severe mobility impairments at any one point in time. (In any case, minority status does not render people unimportant.) Highly relevant is the house itself, over the many decades that it serves as a dwelling. More than one person lives in a typical household! If just one person in the family becomes disabled, the house needs access. Furthermore, more than one household lives in a dwelling as the years pass! It is sold, re-sold, rented, re-rented, resold, and so on. When additionally taking into account the rapid increase of older people in the population, with the accompanying rise in mobility impairments, it becomes apparent why a huge percentage of houses will need access.

Of course we can't predict in which house the child with cerebral palsy will be born, or someone will develop multiple sclerosis or have a stroke. EVERY new house (except for the small percentage where topography is prohibitive) should be constructed with the affordable, humane, basic access features which you and others in our Visitability movement have been promoting.

The 19-page article is titled "Aging and Disability: Implications for the Housing Industry and Housing Policy in the United States" and appears in the current issue (Summer 2008). The final paragraph states:

"The needs of an aging population, combined with concerns about the civil rights of people with disabilities and the high public cost of nursing home care, make the lack of accessible housing a critical issue for planners and policy makers. Although planners have traditionally focused their efforts on the built and natural
environment outside the home, the time has come for them to look more closely at the environment inside the home as well. Efforts to improve a community's quality of life by promoting amenities such as attractive public spaces, walkable destinations, and proximity to public transportation are highly desirable, but will be incomplete
without efforts to improve housing accessibility. Given the slow pace at which changes in the housing stock occur, there is urgency to act now. Increasing the supply of accessible housing will benefit not only currently disabled people, but also their families and friends, those who become disabled in the future, and society as
a whole."

ADA needs to open doors wider for disability community

With the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) July 26, a number of media have done stories. The Asheville, N.C. Citizen-Times, wrote a story profiling a local disability advocate who succinctly explains how much more needs to be done to guarantee equal rights for all people with disabilities.

Bart Floyd, who now works as advocacy coordinator for the Western Alliance Center for Independent Living in Asheville, said:

Most people don’t think much about disability unless it affects them directly, he said. That’s why the ADA is so important: It makes people aware of barriers.

Exactly 18 years after it became law, on July 26, 1990, the ADA has brought about changes people don’t even notice anymore. These changes open up the world for people who have disabilities, and even for people who don’t, said Barbara Davis, executive director of Pathways for the Future Center for Independent Living Center in Sylva.

“You see delivery people using the curb cuts that were put there for people who use wheelchairs,” she said. “People with strollers can get into and around stores more easily because the aisles and doors are wider.”

The ADA has brought people with disabilities out of institutions and out of their homes and into the community, Davis said, and today’s children see people with disabilities as people, not as curiosities.

Floyd says the ADA mirrors any other civil rights law in that it opens up opportunities: "(It) opens the doors to restaurants and stores to people who have disabilities. Whenever I talk to a business owner who tells me people with disabilities don’t patronize the business, I explain that they might if he removed those two steps at the front door.”

Google faces charges in Italy over video taunting teen with Down syndrome

From Reuters July 25:

Italian prosecutors are preparing to file charges against four current or former Google Inc executives over a 2006 video on the Internet provider's Italian-language site, court sources said on Friday.

The video shows a teenager with Down syndrome taunted by other youths.

Prosecutors have concluded an inquiry that could lead to the executives being charged with defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under Italian law, the conclusion of an inquiry is usually preparatory before the case goes to a judge to decide whether charges should be filed. The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

The former and current Google executives include the top legal representative and chairman of Google's Italian unit at the time, a now-retired Google Italy board member, an executive responsible for Google's privacy policies in Europe, and the then-head of Google Video for Europe.

An Italian advocacy group for people with Down syndrome, Vividown, and the boy's father lodged a complaint over the video in November 2006.

The video was filmed from a mobile phone in late May or early June 2006. It shows four male high school students in the Italian city of Turin humiliating the youth with Down syndrome.

The four teens face charges in Turin over the case. Charges could be dropped if they show a judge they have straightened themselves out, Vividown attorney Guido Camera told Reuters.

A Google spokesman said the company would continue to cooperate with Milan prosecutors "to show that all Googlers under investigation have no involvement in the Vividown case."

British young people with learning disabilities forced into marriages

From The Independent in the UK:

Scores of young people with learning disabilities are being forced into marriages, The Independent revealed July 27.

More than one in five of the forced marriages reported to the Government involve disabled people, but experts fear that the true scale of the problem could be far worse.

Last week, senior police officers, lawyers, social workers and campaign groups held urgent talks in London as the scale of the problem emerged.

The Foreign Office's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 400 cases last year – and more than 80 of these involved people with learning disabilities.

Support groups believe that the stigma attached to disability in some ethnic communities, together with social and cultural isolation, is adding to the problem. They warn that forced marriage is being used as a way to ensure that children with disabilities will be looked after as ageing parents struggle to cope. A person with learning disabilities may also be seen as biddable by foreigners in search of a visa.

The majority of cases reported involve families from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Spouses are not always told about the disability and only discover the truth when they first meet, often at the wedding, or even after.

Rape, domestic violence and abandonment are common consequences of such marriages as opportunities to escape or seek help can be limited, according to support groups.

Ads pulled from "The Savage Nation;" comments continue to be refuted

The New York Daily News reports on the continuing fallout from Michael Savage's outrageous comments that children with autism are "brats," who just need tough parenting:

Six more major companies have yanked ads from Michael Savage's talk-radio show after he branded autistic children "brats."

Home Depot, Sears and Budweiser all withdrew their support from the fiery hatemonger's program, along with Direct Buy, Cisco and Radio Shack, according to Autism United.

Insurance giant Aflac was the first company to pull its commercials off the nationally syndicated show, which has more than 8 million listeners.

"We are going after each and every advertiser that hasn't dropped him yet," said Evelyn Ain, president of Autism United, who joined angry parents in a protest on Wall Street Friday.

And U.S. New & World Report says that his comments are in conflict with what scientists know about the condition of autism: "Most researchers believe there is no one simple cause but that a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors come together to cause the disease in most cases. Studies of identical twins have shown a clear genetic component, but there's also plenty of strong evidence that prenatal exposure to certain chemicals or infectious agents—such as thalidomide or the rubella virus—causes some cases of autism, too."

And parents of children with autism say Michael Savage's horrible comments have turned into a way to get a more accurate message about autism out to the public. Parents will gather to protest at at radio station KNEW-AM (910), the station in San Francisco where Savage tapes his show.

In the San Jose Mercury News, Joanna Jaeger, board president at San Jose-based Parents Helping Parents, which is a non-profit support group helps families of kids with special needs, says: "Rather than just bring attention to Savage and his idiocy, we want to use this as an opportunity to inform people and raise their consciousness about autism."

The Mercury News explains:

But while theories on autism's causes abound, experts dismiss Savage's suggestion that stronger parenting could straighten out many autistic kids. And they blast him for describing autism as some "diagnosis du jour," a passing pop-medical trend without scientific weight.

"In order to be classified as autistic, you have to meet strict criteria," said Evelyn Ain, president of Autism United, which is organizing Sunday's "Nationwide Autism Protest" in San Francisco. "There are rigorous tests you have to undergo; the diagnosis of autism is not done lightly."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rebecca Miller says playwright Arthur Miller unfairly demonized for treatment of son with Down syndrome

The Times in the UK has a column that includes part of a Q&A with filmmaker and writer Rebecca Miller, who was at the Royal Festival Hall talking about her first novel, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. She talks with anger about the attacks on her father's silence about her brother Daniel, who has Down syndrome. And she explains that she and her family (her husband is Academy-Award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis with whom she has two sons) have a close relationship with her brother.

You certainly do not find Daniel in Arthur Miller's 1987 memoir, Timebends. Indeed, his very existence - he still lives with the elderly couple who have looked after him for years - would not be publicly known were it not for a censorious Vanity Fair feature last year about Miller and “the Down's syndrome child he deleted from his life”. It alleged Miller had barely visited his son as he grew up. The conscience of American letters lay flayed and exposed.

“I just think,” says Daniel's sister, “that it was undertaken in the spirit of irresponsibility and actually, finally, a kind of malevolent spirit - as you say, to take someone down without looking at it with any subtlety or having really spoken to the people that they needed to speak to to really get a sense of what it all meant. So I find it very disappointing.”

Does she see her brother? “I see Danny all the time. He comes to us in Ireland. He's very much part of our lives, part of my children's lives.”

Military tries for better screening of TBI among troops

From USA Today July 24:

LANDSTUHL, Germany — It took nearly three years for the Army to understand the damage to Army Sgt. Chad Joiner's brain after a roadside explosion left him unconscious in a Humvee on June 28, 2005.

He finished his tour and returned home, struggled with headaches and memory loss, went back to Iraq and survived another bombing in February that aggravated his symptoms.

Only after arriving here at the Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center with an ankle injury in February did a new and aggressive screening program finally identify Joiner's brain injury and lead to treatment. "I'm just in shock that somebody is figuring out what's wrong with me," says Joiner, 26, who says his gratitude for the treatment outweighs any bitterness over the delay in diagnosing his injury.

The Pentagon debated for years whether to systematically screen troops for brain injuries such as Joiner's. A recent study by RAND Corp., a research group, says such injuries could have affected 320,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Uncertain how aggressively to identify a wound that is still largely a mystery, the Pentagon initially resisted calls to screen all servicemembers coming out of the battlefield. Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon in March ordered all military branches to screen for traumatic brain injury (TBI).

By then, doctors at this key Army hospital — through which all war casualties pass on their way home — already had begun to check each of the wounded for a brain injury in an effort that could set new standards for whether such troops ever return to duty.

"One of the things we've learned here at Landstuhl is you have to be actively looking for this to find it," says Col. Stephen Flaherty, who oversees the TBI screening process here.

If there is the slightest indication that a servicemember is suffering TBI, he or she is almost certain to be kept from returning to combat. During the past six months, only two out of several hundred troops diagnosed with mild TBI have been allowed to return to the war, doctors here say.

The aggressive monitoring developed in Landstuhl could produce valuable information about how best to spot and treat brain injuries, the doctors say.

"If I have a hint of a whiff of a suspicion — no matter how vehemently you want to go back downrange (to Iraq) — that you will be compromised then I've got to be the black hat and say, 'No, you're not going back,' " says Maj. Shawna Scully, a neurologist who directs TBI recovery.

Michigan plans hate crime law expansion to cover disability

The Detroit Free Press reports that "Michigan's hate crime law would expand to include intimidation of gays and lesbians and people with disabilities, and would make hanging a noose or burning a cross specific property crimes, under changes urged by civil rights groups, legislators and law enforcement officials July 23."

Rep. Paul Condino, D-Southfield, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he plans to introduce a bill to strengthen the state's ethnic intimidation law.

New Japanese film casts disabled character as serial killer

From The New York Times review July 25:

Certain to inspire worship in some quarters and walkouts in others, “Late Bloomer” turns prejudice on its head and adds to a rarefied subgenre: the disabled-serial-killer movie.

Our singular protagonist is Sumida (an astonishing performance by the severely disabled actor Masakiyo Sumida), a perpetually randy drunk who enjoys pornography, punk-rock concerts and rolling around town in his motorized wheelchair. But when he falls for a fetching college student (Mari Torii), her thoughtless response to his hesitant overtures (“Did you want to be born normal?”) drives him into a funk of fury and impotence that only a killing spree can assuage.

Startlingly humane in its insistence that Sumida is no different from any other guy — here the able-bodied are the fools, oblivious to his desires and internal life — “Late Bloomer” unfolds mainly in fizzy black and white and in a shooting style that mimics the unsettling jerkiness of Sumida’s body movements. Like the splendid Korean film “Oasis” this movie tackles its uncomfortable subject with the generosity and imagination of a filmmaker (in this case, Go Shibata) unafraid to confront taboos.

Weird, wicked and wonderfully perverse, “Late Bloomer” pulses with frigid energy. Watching it is like having your finger trapped in a light socket: no matter how much it hurts, you can’t quite tear yourself away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Businesses complain about ADA...again

Jerry Doser

From The AP July 24:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of gallons of water pulse through cascading waterfalls and rapids at Adventure Mini Golf in Lake Worth, Fla. The course, which covers about an acre, features different elevations with two sets of stairs connecting them.

When people ask whether it's accessible for the disabled, owner Jerry Doser (pictured above) says he jokingly tells them, "No, but I'll paint some lines in the parking lot and put some cups out there and then you can play."

"But who wants to pay to play that?" he adds.

Courses like Doser's could end up in the annals of miniature golf history.

Miniature golf courses are among the millions of businesses and other public facilities that would be affected by proposed regulatory changes under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the milestone 1990 civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The proposed regulations address a wide range of facilities — including access to courthouses, drinking fountains, amusement park rides, stadium and theater seating, fishing piers, boat slips and bowling lanes — and establish specific requirements for qualifying accessible designs. For miniature golf courses, 50 percent of the holes would have to be accessible for players in wheelchairs.

The 1,000 pages of regulations proposed by the Justice Department are drawing intense scrutiny from businesses that foresee a financial drain and disability rights advocates who say they are long overdue and don't go far enough. Both groups say they want more clarity.

"We have a very mixed sense of what's happened," said Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network. "They left a lot of things unanswered."

Costs to 7 million affected businesses plus state and local government agencies would total $23 billion over 40 years, according to the Justice Department. But they'd also realize billions from being more accessible to disabled customers. The Census Bureau says there are more than 51 million disabled Americans, representing 18 percent of the population.

The rules would apply to new businesses and facilities and to alterations of existing ones. Businesses also would have to remove "readily achievable" barriers — changes that don't require a lot of difficulty or expense. The proposal was published by the government last month. Final regulations could take effect next year, after a period for public comment.

The proposed regulations also define "service animals" for the blind and other disabled groups as dogs or other domestic animals; the regulations would exclude wild animals such as monkeys, which people with spinal cord injuries sometimes use for help with daily activities.

Disability advocates pointed to ticket fraud, information technology — such as check-in kiosks at hotels or airports — and closed-captioning at movie theaters as areas that still need to be addressed.

They also said they are concerned about a "safe harbor" provision that would let small businesses meet their obligation to remove barriers in a given year if, in the preceding year, they spent at least 1 percent of their gross revenues on barrier removal.

"We are worried about people claiming `we did this, this and this, we renovated the bathroom on the second floor' but you still can't get in the three steps at the front door," said Kleo King, senior vice president of accessibility services at United Spinal Association. "There's too much room for abuse here."

Business groups fear the rules will lead to a new round of lawsuits cllaiming that facilities are not ADA compliant. Business owners have long complained about "drive-by" ADA lawsuits that they say are simply attempts by lawyers to get quick cash settlements.

Both sides said much uncertainty remains and are asking the Justice Department to clarify some points before releasing the final rules.

"Picture yourself as a small- to medium-sized business saying to yourself, 'What is this all about? What changes do I need to make?'" said Randel Johnson, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Figuring out the changes you may need to make or not make, that's an enormous amount of time and legal fees."

Not everyone though is worried. Brad McDermott, a spokesman for the YMCA of the USA, said most YMCAs are already in accordance and it shouldn't be difficult for those that aren't to comply.

Doser, the miniature golf course owner, figures he'll be OK with any new regulations since he's not planning any renovation or remodeling.

"I've tried to think about how expensive and how hard it would be to get rid of those sets of stairs — you would have to destroy half the golf course," he said. "Economically it's not feasible."

USA needs Title IX for disabled athletes

Runner Aimee Mullins advocates for more equity for disabled athletes.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. needs a law that amounts to Title IX for the disabled, advocates said in separate Capitol Hill briefings on the House and Senate sides July 22.

"Title IX is a landmark law that launched so many opportunities for women," said Aimee Mullins, president of the Women's Sports Foundation. "I think a similar law for the disabled could have the same impact."

Title IX bans sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds. This month Maryland enacted the Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act, which requires schools to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to physical education classes and athletics programs.

"We need a law like Maryland's on the national level," said Mullins, a double-amputee who set Paralympic records in the 100-meter dash and long jump at the 1996 Paralympics.

"Opportunity is the start of the possible. If opportunity is not there, how many will go down that path of pushing themselves in self-discovery?"

Schools in Maryland have three years to phase in compliance. The bill provides an exception when inclusion "presents an objective safety risk to the student or to others or fundamentally alters the nature" of mainstream phys ed classes or athletic programs.

Other speakers included Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Steve Bobadilla, a recent graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md. Bobadilla, who plays wheelchair tennis, was at one point too overcome with emotion to read his statement during the House briefing.

"Education and perception are bigger obstacles than funding," Huebner said. When people are educated their perceptions change, he said, and they find sports for the disabled "is not only OK but something to be embraced and championed."

Mullins said it is especially important that disabled students have access to phys ed classes: "We see what other Americans are facing with the obesity crisis. And if you have a disability, you are three times more likely to be obese."

Terri Lakowski, public policy director of the Women's Sports Foundation, said what's needed next is a study by the Government Accountability Office to determine the state of scholastic participation opportunities for the disabled.

"We are only at the starting point" in the fight for a federal law, she said. "But we gained some traction today."

Developmental play group keeps kids learning all summer

Aiden Slaven, 3, seems to enjoy the play group.

The Vero Beach. Fla. Press Journal reports that a developmental play group began this week at the Sun Up Center, a Vero Beach, Fla., organization for developmentally disabled children.

The father of a child with autism, Mike Dolan said: "I'm trying to keep him active all summer. Although he received physical, occupational and speech therapy at school, it stopped during the summer because he wasn't eligible for summer school. In addition to the play group, he's taking karate lessons so I'm really trying everything I can think of to keep him busy."

The newspaper reports that "the classes are designed for parents and their infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and include children with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Kids and their parents start out each session by sitting on floor mats and singing songs. Trained therapists such as Charlotte Bianco lead the group through activities such as gymnastics, music, art and dance."

"The goal is to meet each child's therapeutic needs through play," said Bianco. "It is also a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to bond."

China increases web accessibility for blind people

The China Daily reports July 24 that an "Information Accessibility Action" event has been jointly initiated by China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), BOCOG, Internet Society of China, China Communications Standards Association and China Foundation for Disabled Persons. The goal is to enable people with visual impairments to access the latest news and information about the Beijing Games.

The delegation to Beijing Paralympic Games is the largest in Chinese history" a gentle voice reporting the latest Olympic news to 58-year-old Beijing retiree, Shi Yuhua, which she prompts with computer keyboard Tab key.

"I though my visual disability precluded me from ever surfing the Internet," Shi, who lost her vision years ago due to measles, said.

She can now surf the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games' official website to her heart's content enjoy, thanks to the many major websites in China involved in information accessibility transformation.

Participation by the CDPF and Beijing Games' official websites in the country's first batch of accessible websites enables people like Shi to listen to the information on them, with the help of screen-reader software.

Other major websites and leading Internet portals, such as,,,, and have made similar adaptations.

"Helping visually impaired people to surf the Internet reflects the underlying Games' concepts of a people's Olympics and hi-tech Olympics," Tang Xiaoquan, executive vice-president of BOCOG and vice-president of CDPF, said.

"The Beijing Olympic Games boosts the development of China's information accessibility movement, which started five years ago and is still at a nascent stage. We hope more websites and companies will join in," Xi Guohua, vice-minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another round-up of Paralympics coverage worldwide

The British Paralympics archery team

Here's who is being covered around the world as disabled athletes ready for the Beijing Paralympics, and if it were a competition for media coverage, the USA would definitely lose. This informal look at coverage of Paralympians shows that the British and the Canadians are giving the most press to their athletes, with the Australians not far behind. Why aren't all the small newspapers all over the USA covering their local Paralympians?
  • The British Columbia equestrian team in The Province.

  • Canadian Kyle Pettey, who will be competing in the shot put and discus events in the Peterborough Examiner in Ontario.

  • Goalkeeper Jon Pugh, who is one of the two sighted shot-stoppers on the Great Britain Blind Football squad, in the Hereford Times in the UK.

  • British cycling star Jody Cundy, who only took up cycling about two years ago. He previously competed in the Paralympics as a swimmer – winning three gold and two bronze medals. In the Fenland Citizen in the UK.

  • Papua New Guinea's Paralympians Francis Kompaon and Joylyn Jeffrey on Radio Australia.

  • The University of Illinois' Adam Bleakney, who in addition to competing in the 400 meter, 800 meter, 5,000 meter and marathon events in Beijing also serves as a coach. In 2007 he was named the 2007 Paralympic Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. In the Daily Illini.

  • The BBC covered the British Paralympics archery team (pictured above.)

  • Paralympic cyclist Jayme Paris in The Australian.

  • Stephanie Dixon of Victoria, BC, who won eight medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympics and five at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, with six of that total being gold. She competes in swimming, according to The Times Colonist. It covered Team Canada in another story.

  • Swimmer Marayke Jonkers, 26, from Queensland in The Courier Mail in Australia. She is preparing to compete in her third Paralympics.

  • NBC in Philadelphia reports on members of the U.S. Para-Equestrian Team training nearby.

  • Shot putter Ed Cockrell of New Athens, Ill., in the Belleville, Ill. News Democrat. He won a silver medal at the 2004 Paralympics.

  • Alastair McKean and James Morgan of the eight-person British adaptive rowing team in Your Canterbury News in the UK.

  • Canadian swimmer Chelsey Gotell, who broke her world record in the 200 metre backstroke on July 12 at the Can Am Open competition for swimmers with a disability, in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

  • Wake Forest University student Jamie Dean, who will compete in rowing, according to the Winston-Salem, N.C., Journal.

  • Valerie Grand'Maison of Montreal who broke the women's 50-metre backstroke world record at the Can-Am Open Championships on July 11, according to The Canadian Press.

  • Lisa Franks of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada is switching from ’s her world record-setting speeds in wheelchair racing to play wheelchair basketball, according to The Moose Jaw Times-Herald.

  • For Surrey, BC, residents, Alison Kabush (boccia), Ashley Gowanlock (equestrian), and Ian Chan and Say Luangkhamdeng (wheelchair rugby) will compete in Beijing, according to the Surrey Leader in Canada.

  • Australian Grace Bowman, who at 18, is the youngest member of the Para Equestian Team there, according to the Yorke Peninsula Country Times.

  • Australian Kathleen O'Kelly-Kennedy's who is on the Australian Gliders' wheelchair basketball squad, according to Maroondah Leader.

  • Australian swimmer Sarah Rose in the Manly Daily.

  • Inside Toronto reports on wheelchair racer Jeff Adams who had to fight to get onto Team Canada after being suspended for a positive drug test for cocaine in 2006. He says a female fan put cocaine-laced fingers in his mouth unwantedly.

  • Graham Edmunds of the UK is competing on the gold-medal-winning 4x100m freestyle relay swimming team, according to BBC Radio.

  • New Zealand will be represented in 30 athletes in athletics, boccia, cycling, power-lifting, shooting, swimming and wheelchair rugby and the team says it wants to take home 13 or more medals. Team New Zealand won 10 medals in Athens – six gold, one silver and three bronze, according to Scoop NZ.

  • Team USA's win at 2008 Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament made ESPN, which says they are the No. 1 team in the world.

  • Naomi Riches of Britain who will compete in adaptive rowing, according to the Maidenhead Advertiser.

  • Australians Hannah MacDougall and Samantha Gandolfo who train in swimming together, according to the Stonnington Leader.

  • The South African national wheelchair basketball squad are featured in the Sowetan.
  • British sprinter Neil Fachie visited Aberdeen University in Scotland to talk to members of the children’s sports school. The visually impaired athlete won silver in the 400m and bronze in the 100m for Great Britain at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, according to The Press and Journal in the UK.
  • A report in WTVM in Columbus, Ga., on the U.S. National Men'sWheelchair Basketball Team preparing for the Paralympics.
  • The Macau government providing financial support for the Paralympics, according to the Macau Daily Times.
  • A Q&A with Richard Nortje, one of the stars of the Sasol South African wheelchair basketball team, in the The Times in Johannesburg.
  • Californian Jessie Lorenz, who is a member of the U.S. women's goalball team, in the Contra Costa Times.
  • Simon Laurens, 40, who has multiple sclerosis, will make his Paralympic debut on the British Para Equestrian Team, according to This is Gloucestershire in the UK.
  • Matthew Cowdrey, a member of the Australian Paralympic Swimming Team's who filmed a video with the ABC, which is this year's official Paralympic Games broadcaster, and a TV commercial with Toyota, according to City Messenger in Australia.
  • Mark Robertson, 17, who has cerebral palsy, becomes the first Midnight League soccer player from Scotland to make it to an Olympic or Paralympic Games, according to The Herald in Glasgow.
  • British wheelchair tennis star Lucy Shuker will compete in both the singles and doubles tournaments in China, according to the BBC.
  • Wirral Tennis Centre in Britain has produced another world-class wheelchair tennis players in Jamie Burdekin, who will compete for Britain in Beijing, according to the Wirral News.
  • The 12 Olympians and Paralympians from Nova Scotia who received an official send-off at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron in Halifax, Canada, on July 22, according to The Chronicle Herald.
  • Kylie Gauci, who is a member of the Australian women's wheelchair absketball squad (the Gliders), also won silver at the Athens Paralympics four years ago, according to St. Mary's Standard in Australia.