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.

Thursday, June 24, 2004
Year V, Edition 959

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 41 more news items.

"People with a learning disability have the same rights as everybody else and healthcare staff should ensure they are treated with the same respect and values as other members of society."

--Jo Williams, head of the learning disability charity Mencap, commenting on a report which found a significant lack of training and understanding of disabilities within Britain's health care field (Second story)

"Spam has made everybody's life more complex, but ours more so."
--Curtis Chong, field director for the Iowa Department for the Blind (Fifth story)



Investigation Continues Into Boy's 1968 Death At Psych Hospital

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2004

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--Regardless of what a coroner and pathologist officially reported, Stephen Lindsay believes that his childhood buddy, Clement Matthews, was killed by a nurse at the psychiatric institution where they lived.

Manukau police have believed Lindsay enough to reopen the investigation into the April 28, 1968 death of the 11-year-old Matthews.

Lindsay was 14 years of age when his friend "Clem" died at Kingseat Hospital.

Health records showed that Matthews had been admitted to the institution because of "mental subnormality associated with disturbed behaviour of an aggressive nature".

On the morning before he died, Matthews, who had an obsession with food, stole a piece of bread from the dining room. According to Lindsay, a nurse grabbed Matthews by the neck, twisted him to the floor, then kicked him solidly in the back.

"I had heard something snap. It was like a branch breaking," Lindsay told the New Zealand Herald this week. "I knew at the time his back was broken."

Lindsay said he heard his friend scream. He went to comfort the boy, but his friend just groaned as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Staff members then dragged Matthews to his room.

The next morning, Lindsay found Matthews in his room, lying face down and barely breathing. Medical staff pronounced him dead 15 minutes later.

The official coroner's report stated that Matthews died of pneumonia, even though it noted that the boy's health prior to his death "had caused no undue concern."

Lindsay is accusing the staff of the former institution of covering up a crime.

"Clem didn't die of pneumonia," Lindsay said. "He wasn't even sick."

Clement's mother, Rebecca Matthews, also wants to know what happened the day before her son died.

"He was a good boy," she told the Herald.

More than 200 complaints have been filed recently by former patients of psychiatric institutions across New Zealand, alleging that they were physically and sexually abused by staff members and other residents. Some claim they were over-medicated, unwillingly subjected to experiments in electro-shock treatment, and placed in isolation for long periods of time -- sometimes for months.

Most of the complaints concern incidents that allegedly occurred during the 1960s and 1970s by patients who were between 8 and 16 years of age at the time.

Nearly 70 legal claims have been filed so far in the High Court, each asking for as much as $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.

Sonja Cooper, who represents more than half the claimants, said that many were taken to the institutions for the wrong reasons. Most blame their abusive treatment at the facilities for their current depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Until recently officials had believed the abuses were confined to two former institutions. As more claimants came forward in the past several weeks, 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.

"Witness to boy's death believes there was a cover-up" (New Zealand Herald)
"Mother wants to know how son died at psychiatric hospital" (New Zealand Herald)
"Abuse complaints 'should be believed', says lawyer" (New Zealand Herald)



Report: Doctors And Patients Suffer From Lack Of Adequate Training, Communication

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--People with learning disabilities receive poorer health care than the rest of the population because health professionals do not understand their health needs and do not communicate well with them, a report revealed Monday.

The "Treat Me Right!" report, released by the charity Mencap, claimed that the low level of care has led to inadequate treatment, sometimes resulting in death.

In a recent survey, Mencap asked 215 general practitioners in England and Northern Ireland what kind of training they received about learning disabilities, the term that would be understood as "mental retardation" or "intellectual disabilities" in the U.S.

Three-quarters of the doctors said they had received no training to help them understand the specific needs of a person with a learning disability, and 80 percent thought the Department of Health should provide medical students and health professionals with more training. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they felt the person's disability made it more difficult for them to give an accurate diagnosis.

Seventy percent of those doctors questioned responded that they did not have accessible information available to patients.

The mental disability group is calling for all health care staff to receive better training about learning disabilities, for everyone with a learning disability to be offered annual health checks, and for doctors offices and hospitals to have information and advice about health care that is accessible to patients with learning disabilities.

Mencap is also launching a campaign for people to email their lawmakers to ask them to pressure their Primary Care Trusts to improve health care for people with learning disabilities.

"People with a learning disability are experiencing poor healthcare across all sections of the NHS, despite appropriate policies from the government and some healthcare services on best practice and policy," said Jo Williams, Mencap's chief executive, in a statement. "There is inconsistency of application and this report highlights that."

"People with a learning disability have the same rights as everybody else and healthcare staff should ensure they are treated with the same respect and values as other members of society," she added.

"Treat me right! - Equal healthcare for people with a learning disability" (Mencap)



High Court Refuses To Hear Mental Illness Death Penalty Plea

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal from a South Carolina death row inmate who pleaded "guilty but mentally ill" to shooting to death two 8-year-old girls.

The decision means that the state will soon set a date for executing Jamie Wilson.

In early 1988, 19-year-old Wilson, who was later determined to have schizophrenia, was released from Self Memorial Hospital because his father's insurance would no longer pay for his psychiatric care.

On September 26, 1988, he walked into the lunchroom at Oakland Elementary School in Greenwood, South Carolina, and began firing a .22-caliber pistol, killing Tequila Thomas and Shequila Bradley, and injuring 10 others. He then stepped into a bathroom to reload and walked into a classroom where he fired off several more rounds.

Wilson surrendered to the school's principal.

He later pleaded guilty but mentally ill.

Wilson's defenders pointed out that Wilson had a history of prior psychiatric commitments and that he was experiencing hallucinations telling him to kill when he started the shooting spree. Two of the state's top mental health professionals agreed that Wilson was in a "transient psychotic episode" during which he "lacked the ability to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law".

Wilson was sentenced in 1989 to die for the crime.

The case went through a series of appeals, until a judge determined last year that Wilson be granted a new trial. However, the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that decision in December.

Mental health groups wanted Wilson's case to be used to determine whether it is "cruel and unusual punishment" for states to execute people who had a mental illness at the time they committed capital crimes. Two years ago, the Supreme Court determined that states violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when they execute inmates determined to have mental retardation.

James W. Wilson v. Jon E. Ozmint (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit) [PDF format requires Adobe Acrobat Reader]



Supreme Court Could Decide To Hear Stadium Seating Accessibility Case

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday was to decide whether it will hear a case which could determine whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires stadium-style movie theaters to provide accessible seating at varied locations throughout their theaters.

The case involves Kathy Stewmon, Tina Smith and Kathleen Braddy, three Oregon women who use wheelchairs. They sued Regal Entertainment Group claiming its Regal Cinemas failed to comply with the ADA by putting wheelchair seating in the front rows. They said the sharp vertical viewing angle cause them to experience nausea, headaches and blurry vision.

A federal judge ruled in favor of Regal, saying that the 1990 anti-discrimination law only required theater patrons to have a clear view of the screen.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that ruling, saying that the first row seating areas are "objectively uncomfortable" because they require wheelchair users to "crane their necks and twist their bodies in order to see the screen." The appeals court said theaters must provide wheelchair accessible seating in locations giving the same viewing angles offered to all other theater-goers.

The U.S. Justice Department's Solicitor General, Theodore B. Olson, filed a brief in support of the movie-goers, saying the law and regulations keep theaters from "relegating all wheelchair users to the worst seats in the very front of the theater and excluding them entirely from the benefits of modern stadium-style theater designs."

A decision by the high court could affect thousands of cinemas across the country that have been built since 1995 with stadium seating, which places most of the seats on stepped risers rather than on sloped floors.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, it will be placed on the docket for argument and decision in the next term.

No. 03-641: Regal Cinemas v. Stewmon - Amicus Invitation (U.S. Department of Justice)



"Blind Get Earful Of Spam Daily"

June 24, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story that ran in Tuesday's Wired News:

Think looking at spam is offensive? Try listening to it.

For the millions of blind and visually impaired Internet users around the world, using text-to-speech software is often the only way to check e-mail. But as the spam problem gets worse, more and more of those users are finding that having their e-mail read aloud can be a minefield. Listening to the next message in the inbox may reveal an important letter from an old friend or, more often, an embarrassing ad for penis-enhancement therapy.

For many users -- especially youngsters -- the messages amount to an assault on the ears that is just not acceptable.

"It's annoying," said Iowa Department for the Blind field director Curtis Chong, who is blind himself. "Spam has made everybody's life more complex, but ours more so."

Entire article:
"Blind Get Earful of Spam Daily" (Wired News),1282,63934,00.html



Axis Consultation and Training Ltd.

We have many biases . . . And we've worked very hard to get them

Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift have spent the last 20 years working to ensure that people with disabilities are able to take their rightful place in schools, workplaces, and communities.


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

Justin Dart Jr., Long-Time Crusader For Disability Rights, Dies At Home
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC--After nearly 50 years battling for the rights of people with disabilities and other oppressed populations, Justin Dart Jr. died Saturday morning at his home. His wife and partner Yoshiko was by his side.

Dart had been battling congestive heart failure and medical complications related to post-polio syndrome for the past several years. He was 71.

Arguably the most recognizable leader within the disability rights movement, Dart was known affectionately as "the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act" and "the godfather of the disability rights movement." Many activists and lawmakers could pick Dart's characteristic figure -- cowboy hat, cowboy boots and wheelchair -- out of any crowd gathered. He was also easily recognized by his signature statements that punctuated his letters, press releases, and speeches: "I love you all. Lead on!"

During his three decade long career he received numerous presidential appointments along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, in 1998. During that ceremony, President Bill Clinton said Dart had "literally opened the doors of opportunities to millions of our citizens by securing passage of one of the nation's landmark civil rights laws."

"He once said, 'Life is not a game that requires losers,'" President Clinton continued. "He has given millions a chance to win. He has also been my guide in understanding the needs of disabled Americans. And every time I see him, he reminds me of the power of heart and will."

Dart was born in Chicago in 1930. When he contracted polio at age 18, doctors told him he had less than three days to live. Three years later he was attending the University of Houston in Texas, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in political science and history. The university pulled his teaching certificate because he used a wheelchair.

An entrepreneur with a passion for justice and civil rights, Dart started several successful companies in Mexico and Japan, providing jobs for women and people with disabilities. In the 1960s he turned to disability activism and dedicated his life to changing conditions for people with disabilities in the U.S. and around the globe.

In 1981 President Ronald Reagan appointed Dart as the vice-chair of the National Council on Disability. During his time on the Council, Dart and others drafted what would eventually become the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 1986 he was appointed to head the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration. He was asked to resign his post after he testified before Congress that the RSA was "a vast, inflexible federal system which, like the society it represents, still contains a significant portion of individuals who have not yet overcome obsolete, paternalistic attitudes about disability."

Dart was appointed to co-chair the Congressional Task Force on the Rights of Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities in 1988, and to chair the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities in 1989.

He was at President George Bush's side on July 26, 1990, during the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the most significant piece of legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

Dart left all appointed positions in the 1990s to become what he called "a full-time citizen soldier in the trenches of justice." He continued to speak out for the rights of people with disabilities and helped found the disability rights group Justice For All.

"I call for solidarity among all who love justice, all who love life, to create a revolution that will empower every single human being to govern his or her life, to govern the society and to be fully productive of life quality for self and for all," he wrote in his final days.

"I do so love all the patriots of this and every nation who have fought and sacrificed to bring us to the threshold of this beautiful human dream. I do so love America the beautiful and our wild, creative, beautiful people. I do so love you, my beautiful colleagues in the disability and civil rights movement."

"Yoshiko, beloved colleagues, I am the luckiest man in the world to have been associated with you. Thanks to you, I die free. Thanks to you, I die in the joy of struggle. Thanks to you, I die in the beautiful belief that the revolution of empowerment will go on."

"I love you so much. I'm with you always. Lead on! Lead on!"

He is survived by his wife, five daughters from previous marriages, 11 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, numerous foster children, his many friends and colleagues, along with the millions of people with and without disabilities that share in his legacy.

"Justin Dart, An Obituary" (Justice For All)
"I Am With You. I Love You. Lead On"


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