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, August 23, 2004
Year V, Edition 991

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 54 more news items.

"I'm convinced that people with disabilities are a Kansas crop. We're like wheat. People out there are making money off of us."

--Steve Richardson, an independent living advocate with the Topeka Independent Living and Resource Center who is working to get people with disabilities out of nursing homes (Third story)

"Could you imagine making a film about the experience of slavery where the slaves are played by white people?"
--Matt Fraser, a British actor and television presenter, commenting on the entertainment industry's practice of hiring people without disabilities to play characters with disabilities (Fifth story)



Washington Continues Movement Away From Sheltered Workshops

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 23, 2004

VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON--Like many other places around the world, the state of Washington is making a bumpy transition from sheltered workshops to community-based employment for people with developmental disabilities.

Sheltered workshops, which are based on a model of employment from the early part of the 20th century, have been losing favor in the last few decades because they often segregate people with disabilities from the community at large, fail to provide stimulating work matched to a person's interests or skills, and usually pay workers a wage based on their "productivity" -- a rate that seldom at or above minimum wage. Those who oppose sheltered workshops consider them one of the worst forms of discrimination -- in some cases resembling Third-World sweat-shops.

Supporters of sheltered workshops have long claimed that some people need specialized settings, that they cannot be expected to work for area businesses mixed in with the general work force because their slow pace or behavior would not be accepted or tolerated. They argue that pay at sub-minimum wage levels, which have been allowed by federal law since the Great Depression, help people with mental and physical disabilities to earn more than they would if they tried to compete with other workers.

In Washington, employment services for adults with developmental disabilities are provided by, or contracted through, the counties. Many of those counties are supporting -- even urging -- employment service agencies to abandon sheltered or "prevocational" services in favor of supported or competitive employment in the community.

Recently, Inclusion Daily Express featured a Tacoma Tribune story about Vadis, a program that will be closing its sheltered workshop at the end of this month.

On Saturday, the Columbian looked at Vantech Enterprises NW, an employment services program in the Portland suburb of Vancouver in Clark County, Washington, which shut its sheltered workshop at the end of June. More than 30 people were let go.

The article looked at both sides of the issue, including that of family members that are worried that their loved ones have lost their sheltered services in a job market that already experiences a high unemployment rate.

"Finding a new sense of purpose" (The Columbian)
"What happens to Vantech now?" (The Columbian)
"Positive outlook as sheltered workshop closes" (Tacoma News Tribune -- August 2, 2004)



Witness Says Digging Up Boy's Body Will Give Answers To His Death

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 23, 2004

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--Whether the true cause of Clement "Clem" Matthews' 1968 death will be known may depend on the boy's mother.

Stephen Lindsay, 51, the man who claims that the 11-year-old was killed by a nurse at Kingseat Hospital, met recently with Clement's mother, Rebecca Matthews. The meeting was arranged by the New Zealand Herald, which has been closely following the case.

Matthews had been admitted to the institution because of "mental subnormality associated with disturbed behaviour of an aggressive nature". He died on April 28, 1968. The official coroner's report stated that the boy died of pneumonia, even though it noted that his health before he died "had caused no undue concern."

Lindsay, who was 14 years of age when his friend died, claims that a nurse assaulted the boy the day before he died, for stealing a piece of bread from the dining room. According to Lindsay, the nurse grabbed Matthews by the neck, twisted him to the floor, then kicked him solidly in the back causing it to snap "like a branch breaking".

In June of this year, police responded to Lindsay's allegations by reopening their investigation into Matthews' death. Lindsay claims that the only way to be certain of the true cause of death is to exhume the boy's body and examine the ribs and spine for fractures.

One forensic pathologist said there is a small chance that doing so would reveal new clues in the case.

Mrs. Matthews said she is hesitant about allowing her son's remains to be dug up.

"You can't go disturbing the dead," she said.

The investigation was reopened at a time when hundreds of complains have been filed by people who were patients of New Zealand's psychiatric institutions in the 1960s and 1970s. The complainants, most of whom were between 8 and 16 years of age at the time, allege 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.

Dozens of legal claims have been filed in the High Court, each asking for as much as $500,000 in compensation and up to $50,000 in exemplary damages.

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

"Former Kingseat patient meets tragic boy's family" (New Zealand Herald)
"Culture Of Abuse At Former New Zealand Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



"Advocates For Disabled Say Thousands May Be In Institutions Needlessly"

August 23, 2004

TOPEKA, KANSAS--Saturday's Lawrence Journal-World ran a story about efforts by community living advocates to get Kansans with disabilities out of the state's nursing homes.

The article explained how advocates with the Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services and the Topeka Independent Living and Resource Center are actively campaigning to get community supports for nursing home residents who want them.

Kansas has not yet fully complied with the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. & E.W., which found that states discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act when they unnecessarily keep them in institutions and nursing homes.

"It's real simple," said KAPS attorney Kirk Lowry. "The Court said unnecessary institutionalization is discrimination. It hurts people."

"It's like in Brown v. Board of Education, the court said segregation was harmful to children of color," Lowry explained. "Segregation is inherently unequal. In Olmstead, the court said institutionalization is segregation -- you're taking someone out of mainstream society. States cannot promote segregation."

According to KAPS, last year 3,468 nursing home residents said they wanted out.

Steve Richardson, an independent living advocate at TILRC, said, "I'm convinced that people with disabilities are a Kansas crop. We're like wheat."

"People out there are making money off of us."

Entire article:
"Advocates for disabled say thousands may be in institutions needlessly" (Lawrence Journal-World)



A Year Is Long Enough To Gather Evidence In Restraint Death Case, Boy's Family Says

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 23, 2004

KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN--An attorney representing the family of Michael Renner-Lewis III says that Kalamazoo County Prosecutor James Gregart has "more than enough evidence" to file criminal charges over the 15-year-old's restraint-related death.

"It has been close to a year and there has not been any prosecution," attorney Carey Whitfield, who is also legal redress chairman for the Kalamazoo Metropolitan NAACP, told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

"Prosecutor Gregart now has a choice to make."

At the end of last month, police asked the prosecutor to consider criminal charges in the case. Details of the requests, and names of those who might be charged with a crime, were not made public.

Michael, who had autism, died on August 25, 2003 -- the first day of school at Parchment High.

School officials said he had a seizure early in the day. He recovered from the seizure, but soon became "agitated". Four staff members "tried to quiet" the 6-foot, 165-pound teen by restraining him on his stomach. Each grabbed one of his limbs and sat down on the floor next to him in a room behind the school auditorium, police said.

At some point Michael closed his eyes and stopped breathing. A family caregiver who arrived to take Michael home found him unconscious on the floor. She started giving Michael CPR, but was not able to revive him.

An initial autopsy report showed "no obvious anatomical causes" of death. Final autopsy results, however, list Michael's cause of death as "prolonged physical restraint in prone position associated with extreme mental and motor agitation."

"He was surrounded by all the people that were supposed to help him," Whitfield said last week.

On August 13, Gregart said the investigation is not yet complete, and that he is waiting for results of toxicology tests before making a decision.

The family is suing the Parchment School District, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency and their employees for assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, gross negligence and violation of Lewis' constitutional rights. A trial date of April 5, 2005 has been set in U.S. District Court for the suit, which seeks $25 million.

Michael's death prompted a state representative to draft the "Michael Renner Lewis III Law" for the Michigan Legislature. The measure would change state education codes to allow students to be restrained only "in an emergency to control unpredictable, spontaneous behavior . . . that poses a clear and present danger of serious physical harm to that pupil or others."

The law would require all restraints to be performed by teachers, staff members and administrators that have received in-depth training on physical restraint techniques.

Certain techniques, such as restraining students face-down on the floor or ground, and using drugs as sedatives, would be outlawed entirely.

Parents would also have to consent to restraints that would be used on their children.

"The Death of Michael Renner-Lewis III" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Why Do Film-makers Avoid Actors With Disabilities?

August 23, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--The following five paragraphs are excerpts from a story featured in the August 18 edition of The Guardian:

Disability can be fashionable in the movies. Films such as Rain Man, My Left Foot and A Beautiful Mind have been box office hits and garnered Oscars. But scratch the starry surface and the picture is more complicated.

Consider two new British movies. The first is a tale of two young men, both of whom are wheelchair users . . .

The second film plots how up-and-coming journalist Kenny is forced to reassess his priorities when, after his mother is diagnosed with a fatal illness, he assumes responsibility for his sister, Roberta, who has Down's syndrome . . .

However the films differ in a significant respect: in film one, Inside I'm Dancing, produced by Dublin-based Octagon Films, with Working Title - the producers of Bridget Jones and Notting Hill - the lead characters are played by non-disabled actors. In film two, a low-budget production from Scottish film company Gabriel Films, the character of Roberta is played by a young woman with Down's syndrome.

As a result, questions are being asked as to why Inside I'm Dancing, scheduled for general release in the autumn, has not used disabled actors when Afterlife, currently on release at selected cinemas, has done so. By extension, it has fuelled concern about the lack of opportunities for performers with disabilities.

Entire article:
"Act of faith" (The Guardian),,1284829,00.html



Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Information Center

Nursing home abuse and neglect has become widespread and a growing epidemic. It is a serious problem affecting thousands of nursing home residents who are dependent on nursing homes for care. Abuse and neglect can be difficult to recognize and is often covered-up by nursing home staff. This site is a place for the consumer to gain important information on nursing home abuse and neglect, what to look for, and what can be done about it.


# EXTRA! From the IDE Archives -- One year ago:

Governor Blagojevich Bucking All To Get Institution Reopened
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 22, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS--You might call Governor Rod Blagojevich a maverick.

The newly-elected governor wants to go against the decision of his predecessor, George Ryan; the 30-plus year trend toward de-institutionalization; the U.S. Supreme Court; the Americans with Disabilities Act; a state legal advocacy group; his state's budget minders; and even time itself.

Yes, Blagojevich wants to reopen Lincoln Developmental Center, a state-run institution that housed 250 people with developmental disabilities until shortly before Ryan had it closed last August. Ryan's order to close the facility came after pressure from federal officials and after a state advocacy agency discovered more than a decade of horror stories of residents' "pain and suffering, loss of individual rights, endangered health, numerous hospitalizations and documented deaths".

Ryan's decision also came a couple of years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But Blagojevich won the governorship partly on a campaign pledge to reopen LDC and another institution -- to turn back to the "good ole' days" of segregated, institutional housing, and, of course, to provide jobs for hundreds of state employees who were laid-off last year when the facility closed.

Now, the committee charged with reopening LDC is saying he is about $5 million short of being able to make good on his campaign promise.

Never fear, jobless ones.

". . . If they need it they will find it," Sheila Romano, executive director of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, told the Lincoln Courier.

Related article:
"$5 million for LDC is missing in budget" (Lincoln Courier)


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