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, June 14, 2004
Year V, Edition 954

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the "Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 35 more news items.

"I thought you had died. But here you are! Here you are!"

--Olga Pinole Johnson, 69, who was reunited with her sister, Irene, this past weekend after being separated for 65 years (Second story)

"I've been right here in Sacramento."
--Irene Pinole, 76, an artist with Down syndrome who had been left in a California institution at age 11 in 1939 (Second story)



Hundreds Of Former Institution Residents Bring Forward Abuse Claims;
Police Reopen Probe Into Boy's Death

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 14, 2004

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND--More than 200 former patients of psychiatric institutions across New Zealand have come forward to report what one official called "systemic abuse" during the 1960s and 1970s.

The former patients, most of whom were between 8 and 16 years of age at the time of the alleged abuse, recently told Wellington attorneys Sonja Cooper and Roger Chapman of their treatment.

Nearly 70 legal claims have already been filed in the High Court, each asking for up to $500,000 in compensation and up to $50,000 in exemplary damages, the New Zealand Herald reported. Another 40 cases are close to being filed.

Some former staff members have also come forward to report that they also witnessed the abuses.

The allegations include rape, physical assault, extended isolation, humiliation, along with the use of "electric-shock" treatments and medications as punishment.

One woman who was admitted to Tokanui mental hospital for depression at age 18, claimed that she was beaten and raped more than once by staff members and punished with electro-convulsive therapy.

"When I told a staff member they said that sort of thing just didn't happen there," she said.

A former patient of Auckland's Oakley Hospital said he was admitted in 1971 at age 11 after he broke out of solitary confinement at a boy's home. Now 45, he has filed a claim saying that he was in solitary confinement at Oakley -- one time for six months -- and only allowed a daily walk in the yard. He also complained that he was given unnecessarily large doses of medications to sedate and control him.

The claims by one former patient of Kingseat Hospital, south of Auckland, have prompted Manukau police to reopen a 1968 murder case.

Stephen Lindsay, who was 14 at the time, has accused a male nurse of beating and kicking 11-year-old Clement Matthews after the boy took a piece of bread from a plate.

"Clem hit the floor with a hell of a thud," Lindsay said. "The nurse then kicked him hard in his back and I heard something snap."

A few hours later, Clement was found dying in his locked room. A coroner later ruled that he died of pneumonia after a pathologist found no external marks of violence.

Until recently officials had believed the abuse was confined to two former institutions. As more claimants came forward this past week, however, nearly all of the country's psychiatric hospitals had been implicated.

Most of the facilities either are closed or no longer operate as mental institutions.

On Monday, Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Government is looking into the possibility of dealing with the complaints through mediation, but that more time is needed to gather information before deciding on what approach to take.

"The complaints are running across a number of institutions, a number of different types of complaints," she said.

"[They are] very, very serious allegations so a consistent approach will need to be taken to dealing with them."

Related stories from The New Zealand Herald:
"Woman recalls Tokanui trauma"
"More patients say they were abused in asylums"
"Police re-open boy's hospital death case after 36 years"



Sisters Meet After 65-year Absence

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 14, 2004

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--Here is one reason I love my job: I get to share with you wonderful, bittersweet stories like this one about Irene Pinole.

This weekend, Irene met her sister, Olga, for the first time in 65 years.

Two weeks ago, the Sacramento Bee featured a story about Irene, a local artist with Down syndrome who lives in a group home. The story mentioned that Irene, 76, had been taken by her parents to an institution when she was 11 years old. As commonly happened in those days, the family then tried to forget about Irene.

But the story was spotted by several relatives, including Olga, who now lives near Medford, Oregon.

Olga, now 69, was just four years old when her big sister was taken away. As the years went on, Olga tried to find out what had happened to Irene, but was told that she had died.

"I've been looking for you, honey!" Olga said to Irene on her visit.

"I've been right here in Sacramento," Irene replied.

Related stories with photos:
'I have a family, too' (Sacramento Bee, June 13)
"At long last, family finds Irene Pinole" (Sacramento Bee, June 6)
"The art of survival" (Sacramento Bee, May 30)



Campaign Launched To Urge Hiring Blind Workers

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 14, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--This week the Royal National Institute of the Blind is launching "Work Matters", a national campaign designed to change the attitudes of employers toward hiring blind and partially-sighted workers.

According to the organization's website, 9 out of 10 employers say that it would be difficult or impossible to hire someone with visual disabilities. As a result, these people are discriminated against in the workplace, resulting in three out of four of those in working age not being employed.

"It definitely is a lot harder for partially sighted or blind people to get jobs because unfortunately despite the fact that the Disability Discrimination Act has been introduced, some employers have prejudices," said Kate, one of the people featured in RNIB case studies.

The campaign's organizers say that many employers believe that it would be too costly for them to hire or maintain workers with visual disabilities. Such people are working in all kinds of jobs, in some cases with the use of technologies or other accommodations that are relatively inexpensive. These adjustments can also be financed through the Access to Work program, which can cover between 80 and 100 percent of those costs.

Organizers also claim that the recruiting process itself presents a number of barriers to potential workers. The campaign urges employers to present job applications in alternative formats, including large print, email or computer disk.

Work Matters (Royal National Institute of the Blind)



City Responds To Citizen Concerns

June 14, 2004

BUCYRUS, OHIO--People in the small town of Bucyrus are safer because of advocacy efforts by concerned citizens, and the city government that is working to address accessibility problems.

Saturday's Telegraph-Forum included a brief story about wheelchair activist Carolyn Ann Smith, whose group, Support Unlimited, advises the city on places where public access has not been addressed.

Most recently, the city had street crews grind down the road surface at six crossings where paving crews had laid down too much asphalt.

"We just pointed out things people (who are) not physically challenged aren't aware of," Smith said. "Sometime two inches on a ramp can mean everything."

The city has also responded by adding accommodations for people with disabilities at park shelters, and is getting ready to start work on making the park's restrooms accessible.

"City takes citizen's suggestions" (Telegraph-Forum)



Advocate Works To Keeps Others In The Know

June 14, 2004

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Sunday's Sacramento Bee, about one of my heroes, Marty Omoto:

Several times a week, 40,000 people across the state open their e-mail inboxes and find a message from Marty Omoto.

Often, the e-mails arrive several times a day. Some are time-stamped in the early hours of the morning. Each contains an up-to-the-minute report on state government actions affecting people with disabilities.

Omoto, the one-man staff of the California Disability Community Action Network, or CDCAN, runs this effort out of a tiny one-room office on Eighth Street in downtown Sacramento, just around the corner from Frank Fat's restaurant. He uses a 4-year-old off-brand computer with a dial-up Internet connection wedged onto the corner of a table cluttered with books and papers.

"He uses the tool of the Internet better than anyone I've ever met," said Evan LeVang, director of Independent Living Services of Northern California, an organization that helps people with disabilities live outside institutions. "It's the model of how to do grass-roots advocacy through the Internet. Everyone's on his list. Everyone depends on him."

Entire article:
"One-man band" (Sacramento Bee)



NEC Foundation of America

Welcome. NEC Foundation of America supports programs with national reach and impact in assistive technology for people with disabilities.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (Three years ago):

An Agency By Any Other Name . . .
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 15, 2001

SPANGLE, WASHINGTON--It's been just a matter of months since we moved into the new century and new millennium. So, it's only natural that we would be looking at how we might make some changes. And what better time than spring-time to do some "make-overs"?

Just last Tuesday, Ontario Social Services Minister John Baird announced that the provincial government is officially removing the word "retarded" from more than 30 pieces of legislation and will even scrap the entire Homes for Retarded Persons Act.

"This is not just about the choice of one word," Baird explained. "It's about changing a whole outdated philosophy."

Now it seems -- as Jimmy Durante used to say -- "Everybody wants ta get into th' act!".

This Wednesday, Maine Governor Angus S. King signed into law a bill that changes the name of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services to the "Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services". The change will be effective 90 days after the close of the current legislative session.

The new name "better represents the population groups served by the department as well as the array of services provided by the department," said Commissioner Lynn Duby in a media release. The department provides services in adult mental health, adult mental retardation, substance abuse, and services for children with mental illness, mental retardation and autism.

News of one of the biggest name changes came this Thursday, when the federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) announced that it will now be known as the "Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services". The name more closely describes what the department really does, and helps the Bush Administration change public attitudes toward the agency that, among other things, oversees nursing homes and other residential services.

"How could you ever like something called HCFA?" said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. "It’s got such a bad feeling about it. The best thing we could do is change the name and start off fresh."

Along with the name change, the 36-year-old agency will launch a $35 million public information campaign this fall.

"This is only the beginning," said Secretary Thompson.

"We're going to keep fine-tuning this department so Americans are receiving the highest quality health care possible."

Earlier in the year, Thompson had suggested simply naming it the Medicare and Medicaid Administration (MAMA).

Fortunately, this name was rejected.


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