International Disability Rights News Service
Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Monday, March 29, 2004
Year V, Edition 901

Today's front page features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for 46 more news items.

"I will try my best to share my hopes with 4.5 millions of the handicapped people across the nation."

--Jang Hyang-suk, former co-chair of South Korea's Differently Abled Women United, who has been selected the Uri Party's number one candidate for Parliament (Third story)

"If you have a dream, or something you need to say, or to let out, don't hesitate, don't let go of that opportunity, it may never come again."
--Quote attributed to Chris Wiggins, 26, who died earlier this month after his ventilator tube became disconnected in the middle of the night (First story)



Alabama Medicaid Policy Blamed For Friend's Death

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 29, 2004

MOBILE, ALABAMA--On the night of March 4, Chris Wiggins' ventilator tube became disconnected. Nobody in his home woke up to the alarms in time to save his life. By the time he was found and taken to the hospital, it was too late for him to recover.

Chris died five days later. He was 26 years old.

Chris had muscular dystrophy and was eligible for in-home supports through Medicaid until he turned 21. After that, he had the choice of staying in a nursing home or living with his parents -- but without 24-hour support.

Nick Dupree was Chris' life-long friend.

Three years ago this month, Dupree launched "Nick's Crusade", a public awareness campaign to get Alabama's Medicaid program to fund in-home services for people over the age of 21. On February 10, 2003, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced that the federal government would approve a limited program in Alabama that would continue Medicaid funded in-home services for Dupree and 29 other young people who were nearing their 21st birthday.

This meant little for Alabamans who had already turned 21, including Chris Wiggins.

"Chris was a person," Dupree wrote last week. "His death was totally preventable, and only the fault of the awful situation of near-total lack of services in Alabama."

Dupree noted that Chris' death was the fifth one of its kind that he knows of in Mobile alone.

"We know that when care is not provided to people who need care to survive, they don't survive."

"I think it's fair to ask, what is being done to protect people from dying due to very preventable lack of care again and again in the future? What does it take to get some Olmstead litigation to force state Medicaids to move some of their institutional funding into community services? When will Congress even acknowledge this issue and hold hearings on MiCASSA? Does America care?"

"How many times will this have to happen?"

Dupree, who is now 22, said last year that he would dedicate the rest of his life to "make sure everyone can be safe and live in their community and not locked away in a faraway nursing home".

"I'll keep advocating for major changes, keep writing, keep speaking around the country, keep studying, and keep trying to fix my own care, so it's enabling me to live a full life instead of trapping and preventing life as it is now," he wrote last week. "I will continue to work on these issues."

"And I need all the help I can get."

"Medicaid policy causes another 21 cut-off death, close to home" open letter by Nick Dupree
Nick's Crusade



Police Close Investigation Into Alleged Hawking Abuse

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 29, 2004

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND--Cambridgeshire police announced Monday that they have no reason to believe Professor Stephen Hawking has been abused, and have decided to close their investigation.

"I can find no evidence to substantiate any assertion that anyone has perpetrated any criminal acts against Professor Hawking," said Detective Superintendent Michael Campbell, who led the investigation. "This matter has now been brought to a close."

The investigation was launched late last year after Hawking's ex-wife and their adult children suggested that a number of unexplained injuries may have been caused by his caregivers.

Police interviewed the famous astrophysicist two weeks ago. He has consistently denied that he had been abused in any way.

Hawking, 62, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a form of motor neuron disease commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease". The Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, considered by many to be the greatest scientist of his time, is paralyzed except for some fingers he uses to operate a computerized voice box.

His former wife, Jane Hawking, told police that she and their children suspected Hawking's broken wrist, facial cuts, split lip and other injuries he has sustained in recent years were the result of abuse by his full-time nurses or other care-givers.

In the past Hawking blamed his fast-paced lifestyle for his injuries, including a hip fracture he sustained in January 2002 when he accidentally ran his electric wheelchair into a wall.

In 1995, the scientist divorced Jane Hawking after a 26-year marriage, then married his nurse, Elaine Mason. Police interviewed Elaine last week.

"My investigation into these allegations has been extremely thorough and detailed," Detective Campbell said.



Disability Activist Is Top Choice For Party Hopes

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 29, 2004

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA--The Uri Party announced Saturday that it has put a woman with disabilities at the top of its list for candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Jang Hyang-suk, 46, is the former co-chairperson of Differently Abled Women United. Considered a powerful civic activist, she joined the Uri Party last autumn to head up its special committee on disability issues.

Jang was announced in the Number One position of the first 12 candidates named by Uri Party officials on Saturday. The party leadership chose Jang in order to boost its public image regarding the working class and underprivileged people, according to the Korea Herald.

"Jang's entry into the National Assembly will considerably change parliament and the entire society," Representative Nam Goong-suek said. "Almost all the members of the screening committee gave her the green light."

Under new election laws, voters will cast one ballot for a candidate and one ballot for a party in the April 15 parliamentary elections. Current opinion polls indicate that the party will have enough support to appoint approximately 27 candidates to the Assembly, virtually guaranteeing a seat for Jang.

The Uri Party was recently joined by other parties that pledged to distribute one-half of their seats to women.

"I never dreamed of being nominated as No. 1 candidate," Jang, who contracted polio when she was an infant, said in a news conference Saturday.

"I will try my best to share my hopes with 4.5 millions of the handicapped people across the nation."



Tranz Metro Apologizes For Crawling Incident

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 29, 2004

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--The head of Tranz Metro has apologized to Tim Dempsey for an incident in which Dempsey was forced to crawl onto an Auckland commuter train on his hands and knees.

"He said it was totally unacceptable and basically the train manager had made a bad call on that day," Dempsey said of his meeting Tuesday with Tranz Metro general manager Paul Ashton.

More importantly for Dempsey, however, was Ashton's commitment to provide training for staff on how to be more attentive to accessibility concerns of passengers with disabilities.

Dempsey, the Muscular Dystrophy Association's national fundraising manager, was told the previous weekend by the Sturges Road station manager that he could not use a wheelchair ramp to get onto the commuter train. The station manager said it was too late to get a ramp because the train was running five minutes behind.

Dempsey, who has muscular dystrophy, does not yet use a wheelchair, but does use a walking stick to help him climb steps.

Two days after the story of his situation hit the news services, Dempsey was disappointed again when train staff brought a metal ramp for him to use, but were unable to install it correctly.

"They put it around backwards - it couldn't be clipped in properly," Dempsey explained.

Dempsey and Ashton agreed to meet within the next month to discuss training on disability and accessibility issues. Aston said that all on-train staff who had direct contact with customers would take part in the training.

The Human Rights Commission is scheduled to begin public hearings into accessibility of public transportation in July.



"Mr. Accessibility"

March 29, 2004

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Monday's Baltimore Sun:

Bob Reuter is a religious man, but he practically worked his way out of Roman Catholicism a dozen years ago before finally finding a church that could accommodate a parishioner in a wheelchair.

"St. Vincent de Paul's was the last stop on my way to becoming an Episcopalian," he says over lunch on a recent afternoon.

Patricia Wood, an attorney with the state Commission on Human Relations, says Reuter, 56, has filed more complaints on disability matters related to accessibility than any other individual in Maryland. Because those complaints are often upheld, it can be argued that Reuter has done more than any other private citizen in the state to enable those in wheelchairs to travel, consume, watch and participate as much as they can nowadays. If that is still less than the able-bodied population can do, it is only because other offenders have not yet intersected with Reuter's myriad interests and activities.

He describes himself as a lifelong "ranter and raver," but says his militancy on accessibility only began after his wife, Bearl, was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Entire article:
"Mr. Accessibility" (Baltimore Sun)



National Center for Early Development & Learning

NCEDL focuses on enhancing the cognitive, social, and emotional development of children from birth through age eight.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives -- One year ago:


Woman Recovers From Coma At Rock Concert

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 27, 2003

REGENSBURG, GERMANY--Seven years ago, doctors operated on Christiane Kittel to remove a lung embolism.

The 17-year-old immediately lapsed into a coma during the surgery. She has been comatose since.

Recently, Christiane's mother decided to take her daughter to a rock concert featuring Bryan Adams.

"Bryan Adams was always her biggest hero and she loved his music before she fell into the coma," Adelheid Kittel explained.

During the concert Christiane, now 24, started coming out of her coma.

"She opened her eyes and actually watched what was going on, she started to move in the wheelchair, and she was totally fascinated by the music and the singer," her mother told Ananova news service.

"I will never forget it, I could have hugged the whole world. When we got back to the clinic she was still animated, and three times she called my name, she said 'Mama'".

Christiane's doctor Gerhard Weber, who confirmed she has not relapsed since the recovery, said: "She is a perfect example of the fact that despite the very worst injuries there is always hope."


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