Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Worldly Wisdom of Disability Rights

Tomorrow's Minneapolis Star-Tribune will have this editorial by that title. An excerpt:

It's comforting to regard mistreatment of the disabled as a bygone medieval artifact, but such a view isn't accurate. In many countries, people with physical, psychiatric or intellectual disabilities remain locked up as they have been for centuries -- or are forced to fend for themselves on the streets. In the world's poorer nations, disabled children rarely go to school. In more than a few nations, they're forbidden to marry -- and generally shut out of the work world.

The eugenics movement of the Nazi era may have evaporated, but its legacy lives on in the scorn and silence that isolates the disabled from the rest of society. The United States can claim no superiority on this score. In the last century, America's disabled patients were deliberately refrigerated, fed radioactive isotopes, infected with hepatitis, injected with poisons and driven to psychosis -- all in the name of research.

Such cruelty was enabled by the bizarre myth that disabled people are "not quite human" -- a notion that still lingers in some corners of the world. Transcending it altogether will require the help of the U.N. General Assembly, which is expected to approve the disability-rights treaty this fall. Its purpose is to "ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights" by the 650 million global citizens with disabilities. Who's against that?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Disabled Athlete Loses Artificial Limb After Checking it on Plane

Ravi Malhotra passes along this ridiculous story by that title (which somewhat offensively filed under "oddities"). Here's the beginning:

An airline has lost disabled New Zealand athlete Kate Horan's artificial leg, just one week before the Paralympics world track and field championship in Amsterdam.

Horan, a former world record-holder in her section of the women's 100 metres, was forced to check her $6,400 US running leg to the baggage hold on a British Airways flight because of security restrictions on cabin luggage.

The leg did not reach Amsterdam with other bags and the airline was unable to locate it, Horan said.

"They said there's 20,000 bags sitting in Heathrow and mine is just one of them. I was told they don't know where it is," she said.

Thankfully, this is an area in which the TSA seems to be much more sensible than its foreign counterparts.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Disability Treaty Draft Sent to Gen. Assembly

See this from CNN. Excerpts:

A treaty to protect the rights of the world's 650 million disabled people cleared a key hurdle as a U.N. General Assembly panel approved a draft text of the convention.

The text now goes to the full 192-nation General Assembly, which is expected to approve it during its 61st annual session to open next month. It would then be opened for signature and finally for ratification.

"You are sending an absolutely wonderful message to the world. You are sending the message that we want to have a life with dignity for all and that all human beings are equal," Assembly President Jan Eliasson told cheering delegates after its adoption Friday by consensus, without a recorded vote.

* * *

The final sticking point centered on a proposal by Sudan to ensure protection of the rights of the disabled living under foreign occupation -- a reference to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Israel branded the provision an attempt to politicize the treaty and the United States demanded a recorded vote on the provision.

Delegates voted 102-5, with eight abstentions, to keep the provision in the draft. Voting to delete it were Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and the United States.

Another rough spot centered on language requiring governments to provide the same sexual and reproductive health services to the disabled as to other population groups.

That provision was dropped without a vote in the face of strong opposition from anti-abortion delegates.

Another controversy dealt with the right of the state to commit disabled individuals to institutional care without their consent. A compromise approved by the panel stated: "Every person with a disability has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others."

And check out this from DPI:

Today, August 25, 2006, is a day to celebrate! We have achieved something that has been long been the dream of our membership: A UN Convention on our human rights!

Twenty-five years ago at DPI's 1st World Congress, in Singapore, we recognized the need to unite and to fight for our human rights as disabled people. Today, with this victory we are united as never before! With the adoption of the draft convention by the Ad Hoc Committee, we can celebrate a major victory on the long road to equality and we should be very proud of this achievement.

At the beginning of the current negotiations process DPI made clear our view that there were no human rights to which disabled people do not lay claim. The draft instrument accepted here today recognizes and entrenches our rights in the UN Human Rights framework, and in this way is a huge victory for us all.

The new Treaty will be of immense value to us as we continue along the path to the full realization of our rights! In closing we wish to take a moment and thank especially the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, Ambassador Don MacKay from New Zealand, along with all the government delegations, the Bureau, DESA and the Secretariat, and of course our NGO colleagues from around the world, all of whom have worked so hard to bring us this remarkable new instrument. We look forward to the UN General Assembly move to adopt this Convention at its upcoming session so that we can begin the important processes of ratification and implementation of this Convention!

Transit Accessibility Issues in San Francisco

See this interesting article, which begins:

Much has been written recently about the much-vaunted study of the MUNI-oriented Transit Effectiveness Program. Thankfully, this shows people's awareness of MUNI's problems--and therefore indicates also expectations of results from this new approach. But, little thought or critical observation has happened with HOW this transit effectiveness study is set up and functioning, possibly even in violation of ordinance and policy. So, let's take two looks at the TEP: 1] from the perspective of transit-dependent constituencies---seniors and the disabled, rather than from the viewpoint of those who are running it or who dominate its discussions; and 2] from compliance and / or conformity with ordinance, public policy, and precedent. The unfortunate conclusion: the disabled are often the first to be ignored and the last to be consulted.

Why should a disability perspective make such a point about compliance and conformity with laws and regulations? Precisely because the disabled have so many requirements and restrictions on getting necessary services that we have to learn and abide by rules and regulation in order to function, if not to survive--whereas many able-bodied have far less reason to think through how to get things done.

While many MAY-- reluctantly, and often only if pressed--admit that seniors, the disabled, and youth are disproportionately THE groups that absolutely, positively always need transit to function, that disproportionality doesn't show up in the numbers and types of agencies selected to have representatives on the so-called Transit Efficiency Program Citizens' Advisory Committee.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cautious Optimism as Talks on UN Disability Treaty Near End

See this official dispatch by that title. It begins:

The chair of the negotiations on a new United Nations convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities said he was confident that a deal could be reached, despite several key differences between Member States as the talks entered their final day.

Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand said many of the participants meeting at UN Headquarters in New York remained confident that an agreed text could be achieved by tonight.

“We are definitely within striking distance,” he said. “I think it will be finalized.”

The Coordinator of the International Disability Caucus, Maria Veronica Reina, said she was also cautiously optimistic.

“Even though the last mile is the most difficult mile, we are almost there,” she said.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mor on Israeli Disability Welfare Law

New on Westlaw: Sagit Mor, Between Charity, Welfare, and Warfare: A Disability Legal Studies Analysis of Privilege and Neglect in Israeli Disability Policy, 18 Yale J.L. & Human. 63 (2006). From the introduction:

In this Article I show that people with disabilities in Israel are subjected to two interrelated systems of power, which mutually inform one another and together contribute to the overall marginalization and exclusion of all people with disabilities. One concerns the construction of difference between disabled and non-disabled people; the second is the division and fragmentation among three main categories of people with disabilities: disabled veterans, the work-injured, and the general population of people with disabilities. I argue that even veterans' disability is eventually understood as inferiority, and efforts to compensate for disability do not manifest acceptance of disability but rather its rejection and denial. My study of Israeli ableism focuses primarily on the site of social welfare policy, and is located in a specific era--the first decade after the establishment of the State of Israel. The importance of this decade in the history of Israeli disability policy is enormous, as it created the foundation for subsequent eras, and its vestiges informed future policies.

I've just skimmed this, but it looks exceptionally interesting.

Hunter Settles Suicide Suit

See this article by that title from Inside Higher Ed. It begins:

On Wednesday, lawyers representing a former honors student at Hunter College of the City University of New York announced that the institution has settled a lawsuit, which centered on its treatment of students with mental health issues.

The case, which was filed in federal court on behalf of a woman who was not identified, resulted in a $65,000 settlement for her. In a letter accompanying the settlement, lawyers for the institution indicated that the college’s “suicide policy” is “under review,” and may be changed to be less punitive toward students who attempt suicide.

Currently, the policy indicates that a student who tries to take his or her life is automatically barred from living in the institution’s dorms, and must leave campus for one full semester after the semester in which he or she is banned. “[S]tudents with psychological issues may be mandated by the Office of Residence Life to receive counseling,” according to the policy.

Richard Kadison, director of mental health services at Harvard University, said Wednesday that such policies are uncommon and “risky” because they don’t allow for individual circumstances that may make such stipulations unreasonable and potentially harmful to students.

Rita Rodin, a spokeswoman for the CUNY system, confirmed the settlement, but said that she could not offer any comment regarding Hunter College’s review of its suicide policy.

The settlement comes amid lots of discussion about college policies involving suicidal students. On Monday, court hearings began in a lawsuit began against Allegheny College by the parents of a student who hanged himself in 2005; they contend that his counselor had a responsibility to prevent their son’s suicide. Also ongoing is a suit headed toward trial against George Washington University, in which a student is seeking both damages and reform of the university’s policy of expelling students who express suicidal thoughts.

Latest UN Update

is here.

Caltrans Accessibility Suit

See this article, which begins:

A disability rights group filed suit today alleging that the California Department of Transportation has violated federal and state civil rights laws designed to provide people with disabilities full and equal access to sidewalks.

The suit, brought by Californians for Disability Rights and Ben Rockwell, a Californian with a mobility impairment, seeks to remedy the numerous access barriers and pervasive violations it says are committed by Caltrans in its provision of sidewalks and other facilities throughout the state.

The suit was filed in federal court in San Francisco and has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong, whose courtroom is in Oakland.

Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said the transportation agency hasn't seen the suit yet and has a policy of not commenting on litigation.

The lawsuit says state and federal laws require that sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian crossings, other walkways and Park and Ride facilities be accessible to persons with disabilities.

The complaint alleges that Caltrans is violating the laws in many ways, including pervasive barriers such as missing and inadequate curb ramps and dangerous slopes and crumbled or uneven pavement.

Ninth Circuit: No Attorneys' Fees for Lawyer-Parents in IDEA Proceedings

The Ninth Circuit Wednesday issued an opinion in Ford v. Long Beach Unified School District. The question was whether parents who are attorneys can recover attorneys' fees for representing their children in proceedings under the IDEA. The court answered the question in the negative. This is a pretty unsurprising decision. In 1991, the Supreme Court held that attorneys representing themselves could not recover attorneys' fees under the civil rights fee-shifting statute. The Court has generally read the IDEA's fee-shifting provision consistently with that general statute (as in Arlington Central v. Murphy a couple of months ago), so it would almost certainly agree with what the Ninth Circuit did here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Institutionalization of People with Mental Disabilities in Yemen

Check out this short article. It's very upbeat about the development.

Workplaces Quit Quietly Ignoring Mental Illness

See this article by that title in USA Today. An excerpt:

Despite its stigma, a growing number of employers and employees are addressing a topic that has long been taboo: mental illness in the workplace. Employees' emotional health, a topic that once seemed incongruous with the survival-of-the-fittest corporate arena, is getting attention as a real bottom-line issue. Employers are beefing up mental health services as new research shows the staggering cost of mood disorders — depression, anxiety and panic disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder — can have on businesses.

Update on UN Disability Rights Convention Negotiations

See this page on Jurist for the latest; not much new since yesterday.

Here's the official release.

Again, Cory Silverberg has extensive coverage. Check out this post; excerpt:

It's hard to get news from disability organizations who are attending the talks as few are writing on line, but there are plenty of organizations that do not represent people with disabilities that are making their views known. The UN did put out this release today that indicated there were problems in the negotiations, but it leaves out the sex part. Other than that, we’re mostly hearing from self-serving, hypocritical politicians and religious leaders who are only interested in pushing their politico-religious agendas and obviously have no understanding of disability issues. Let's consider the most offensive and inane first:

The World Congress of Families (a pro-life organization whose goal is to "affirm that the natural human family is established by the Creator and essential to good society.") issued a press release "UN Convention on Disabled Raises Grave Concerns" that focuses on two elements of the current draft of the treaty: the one that states people with disabilities have a right to sexual and reproductive services, and the one that states that people with disabilities have a right to "experience their sexuality".

In order to establish that they’re the good guys who are on the side of people with disabilities (which clearly they are not) the head of the organization makes a most bizarre argument that the current wording of the treaty (wording which has definitely, and appropriately, been influenced by disability rights organizations) would result in reducing the protection of people with disabilities from euthanasia. From their press release:

"The treaty's danger lies in its ambiguous language. For instance, the International Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. in 1948, speaks of the 'worth' as well as the 'dignity' of the individual. By contrast, the Disability Treaty speaks only of their 'dignity,' but not their 'worth.' Since euthanasia advocates use the expression 'death with dignity,' there's a reasonable fear that a convention intended to secure their rights actually could lead to the killing of the disabled."

I'm not sure if this poor excuse for an argument works on anyone, but God help them if it does. Suggesting that a document on disability exclude the word "dignity" because crackpot organizations choose to use the term in their slogans is not an argument, it's a distraction. What are they trying to distract us from? Maybe it's their real interest in changing the treaty wording, although they don't hide that interest for long. A little further down in the press release is this gem:

"Finally, the draft document says those with disabilities have an unqualified right to "experience sexuality" and "have intimate sexual relations." "What does this mean?" Carlson [the organization's leader] asked. "In marriage or outside of marriage? Is there any age limitation? Does this establish a right to homosexual as well as heterosexual relations? For families, these undefined terms could be ticking time bombs.""

Ticking time bombs indeed. First they're going to want to have sex, then have gay sex, and then before you know it sex-pot people with disabilities will be the ones to tear down the fine institution of marriage.

Of course what pro-life organization isn’t going to step into the fray and tell people with disabilities (who by and large continue to be disproportionately affected by eugenics programs, and reproductive technology advocates that often walk a fine eugenic-ish line) how they should think and feel about abortion. From the release:

"The draft also recognizes a right of persons with disabilities to "reproductive health services," without defining the term. Said Carlson: "Proponents of abortion use the term to mean unhindered access to abortion. If that's what it means here, as it well may, the disabled -- whose own existence is threatened -- are being given the right to end the lives of others.""

It’s hard to figure out what Carlson is saying here about people with disabilities existence being threatened. It’s possible that he’s offering a cogent analysis of the dangers of euthanasia or reproductive technologies to the lives of people with disabilities. But I’m more inclined to think that Carlson assumes that everyone with a disability also has a life threatening illness. Either way, no one can accuse Carlson on this point of treating people with disabilities differently than he treats all women. No one in his book should have the right to control their bodies (well no one but Carlson himself).

And check out this one; excerpt:

Associated Press did release a piece today, which was at least an update of the immediately outdated story that Reuters ran a few days ago. But the article failed to outline the concrete problems being worked on in negotiations, and instead focused on the fine work of fiction U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell is writing for his children and grandchildren. Grenell is quoted in the AP article:

"The U.S. doesn't support a convention on disabilities because we have the most advanced protection of the disabled with the Americans with Disabilities Act…however, we strongly believe it is important for national governments to raise their standards and enact legislation that would protect their disabled populations."

If you want to know how effective and protective the ADA is, why not ask folks who are supposed to be protected by it. Here’s a spoiler: it’s not that effective.

Grenell’s quote, which is equal parts hypocritical and self-serving, is also completely disingenuous. If the US government really did care about the rights of people with disabilities, and if their legislation really is so much more progressive than anyone else’s (which it actually might be, I don’t know enough about international disability law to say for sure) why are they blocking a treaty that is attempting to enshrine these rights in a legally binding international document? And why hide behind countries like Nicaragua in their opposition?

While I’m quite sure the US government doesn’t care that much about the sexual rights of people with disabilities (and this current administration certainly doesn’t care for the idea that anyone should have access to sexual and reproductive services) it’s likely that the main reason for their opposition has to do not with sex, but with the only things that politicians care about more than sex: money and power. From the AP article:

"Last week, MacKay said he was concerned about resistance by the U.S. and six other countries to the monitoring mechanism. Their main objections centered on concerns about an increased burden on regulators and pressure on governments to constantly report back."

Basically, the US wants to make sure that this document won’t force them to start providing any more services than they already provide (or don’t provide, as the case may be) under the ADA.

ODF and Disability Rights

See this interesting article, which begins:

Massachusetts' open source ambitions have been hit by a disability rights group that argues that some disabled office workers are reliant on technologies not supported by open source applications.

The Disability Policy Consortium has persuaded the CIO of Massachusetts' IT division, Louis Gutierrez, to postpone the implementation of plans to use the Open Document Format (ODF) for all office files from the beginning of 2007.

The consortium is concerned that 'users who have visual, mobility, cognitive, or speech disabilities' will be disadvantaged by the lack of support for screen readers or speech recognition software in open source applications such as OpenOffice and Sun Microsystems' StarOffice that use ODF.

Instead Gutierrez will investigate plug-ins that enable ODF files to be created from Microsoft Office and other Windows applications.

In a joint statement with the Bay State Council of the Blind, the Disability Policy Consortium said in January that disabled workers are reliant on Windows technologies.

Landmark Deaf Rights Case in Canada

Ravi Malhotra passes along this article, which begins:

All government services must be available in sign language free of charge, according to a court ruling hailed by the deaf community for giving their languages de facto official status alongside English and French.

Deaf Canadians have fought for years to have the same access to federal services as everyone else. Until now the 300,000-strong community has had to pay for sign-language interpreters, a policy it argued was discriminatory under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This month Mr. Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court agreed, ruling that the government must pay for interpreters.

"It means no more excuses, no more delays," lawyer Scott Simser, a deaf man who argued the case before Judge Mosley, said yesterday with the assistance of a telephone operator. Although the ruling does not set a deadline for Ottawa to act, Mr. Simser said he expects the government to move quickly.

Monday, August 21, 2006

D.C. Parking Meter Settlement

More arrears: My friend and erstwhile cocounsel Seth Galanter writes to let me know of this great settlement his firm negotiated last month in an important case. Here's an article on the settlement; it begins:

District officials have agreed to make the city's 17,000 parking meters more accessible to drivers with disabilities and recognize out-of-state handicapped parking permits.

The moves are part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed two years ago by disability rights advocates. The settlement requires the District to make numerous changes, including ensuring that every block with parking meters has at least two that are easily accessible to people using wheelchairs or scooters.

"The city is going to become significantly more accessible to people with disabilities in a wheelchair or in a car," said Kathleen A. Walsh, a manager with the Equal Rights Center, one of the organizations that brought the lawsuit.

New Final IDEA Regs

Mark Weber writes to remind me that I haven't posted anything on the new, final IDEA regs, which the Department of Education promulgated on August 3. Here's a link to the Department's web page. Thanks, Mark!

NARPA Conference This November

I just got this announcement for November's NARPA conference in Baltimore, which I thought I'd pass along:

Text Box:


November 15-18, 2006

Tremont Plaza Hotel on St. Paul

Baltimore, MD


Come join us in Baltimore for NARPA's Annual Rights Conference. Whether you�re a NARPA veteran or newcomer, come learn, have fun and re-energize for the personal and collective battles we must continue to fight - especially today with so many challenges to individual rights and liberty!

2006 Conference Keynoters:
Michael Perlin ,
Professor & Internationally Recognized Disability Law Expert

David Oaks,
Survivor & Director, Mind Freedom Support Coalition International

Vera Sharav,
President, Alliance for Human Research Protection

Leah Harris,
Author and Activist

Eric Rosenthal ,
Director, Mental Disability Rights International

Alfreda Robinson-Dawkins,
Founder & CEO, National Women�s Prison Project

Well-known advocates and activists will present workshops, including:
  • Kent Earnhardt, PAIMI: Goals, Performance and Discussion
  • Laura Van Tosh, A State Hospital�s Journey to Recovery
  • Mort Cohen, J.D., Adequacy of Representation in Civil Commitment Proceedings
  • Jacki Mckinney & Celia Brown, A Call to Action: Trauma Informed Rights
  • Susan Stefan, J.D., Significant Developments in Mental Health Law -- 2005 -2006
  • Mary Jo O�Brien, R.N., & Carol Neidenberg, Clients/Advocates as Innovators of Systemic Change
  • David Popiel, J.D., Fair Housing Law for Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Susan Froetschel & Douglas Olsen, Empowerment & Advocacy through Writing & Teaching
  • Dennis Feld, J.D., & Kim Darrow, J.D., Defending Against Forced Maintenance Electro-Shock
  • David Fathi, J.D., and Other Panelists, Prison Issues
  • Ira Burnim, J.D., Steve Schwartz, J.D., and Cathy Costanzo, J.D., Successful Litigation for Children�s Services Using the Medicaid Act
  • Emmett Dwyer, J.D., Juvenile Justice Issues
  • Jim Gottstein, J.D. , Strategic Litigation to Achieve Meaningful Change: The Myers Case, Alaska, and a National Initiative

And many more� please check the NARPA website at for updates!

Disaster Preparedness and People with Disabilities

See this interesting article, which begins:

During Hurricane Katrina, Benilda Caixeta, a New Orleans resident with quadriplegia, tried for two days to seek refuge at the Superdome. Despite repeated phone calls to authorities, help never arrived for Caixeta. Days later, she was found dead in her apartment, floating next to her wheelchair.

"Benilda need not have drowned," testified Marcie Roth before the US House of Representatives Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus in November 2005. Roth, executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, had personally placed calls to prompt Caixeta's evacuation.

"People with disabilities are not in good hands," Roth said.

While there are no concrete estimates of how many people with disabilities died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, 71 percent of the 1,330 victims were older than 60, according to a 2006 report by the White House, suggesting people with special needs suffered disproportionately.

Disabled-rights activists have been calling for inclusive disaster-preparedness plans for years -- from wheelchair-accessible transportation to closed-caption emergency messages on television. But despite some progress on both the federal and state levels, and even a 2004 Executive Order to strengthen preparedness plans to serve people with disabilities, critics say recent disasters illustrate how disabled people are still being left out of evacuation plans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires that emergency preparedness and response programs be accessible to people with disabilities. But critics say there is currently no standardized federal preparedness plan for disabled people, and many state and local emergency management offices do not have appropriate plans in place to account for special needs.

"There isn't ownership clearly defined by the federal government as to who is responsible for disability planning," Hilary Styron, director of the Emergency Preparedness Initiative for the National Organization on Disability, told The NewStandard.

UN Disability Convention Update

I'm back from a very restful vacation, and the first thing I have to report is this update on the UN negotiations for an international disability rights convention. It begins:

The pace of progress in current negotiations for an international convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities needs to pick up if an agreement is to be reached by the end of the week, the chair of the negotiations warned today.

Progress has been made on several key issues, said Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand, who is chairing the talks. He added, however, that delegations have submitted roughly 150 new proposals on language for the convention, and the negotiations are under extreme time pressures in order to conclude by Friday.

“We are within striking distance of having a convention that will be a huge advance in securing the rights of persons with disabilities around the world,” Mr. MacKay said. Nonetheless, he said that the process could begin to unravel if the negotiations become too prolonged.

Progress had been made, he said, in several key areas, such as on an international mechanism to monitor the convention, on a definition of disabilities and the issue of legal capacity, where countries have indicated a shift toward a policy of supporting people in their decision-making abilities rather than imposing a guardianship decision-maker for those who have intellectual disabilities.

Among the remaining issues are those that have “bedeviled other negotiations as well,” such as concerns over sexual and reproductive rights, said Thomas Schindlmayr of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at a briefing today.

Asked whether an agreement could be reached by Friday, Mr. Schindlmayr said it was too soon to predict an outcome but that many participants remained optimistic.

Sounds like issues that bedevil us domestically as well. (If you want some sense of the controversy over "sexual and reproductive rights," see this site.)

UPDATE: Cory Silverberg from has this take:

Of course none of this will come as a surprise to anyone living with a disability, or anyone who knows anyone who lives with a disability. The sexual and reproductive rights of people living with disabilities have pretty much always been systematically denied. Western nations (like the U.S. and Canada) like to pat themselves on the back for their progressive legislation. But ask anyone who lives with a disability and they’ll tell you at least one story about how toothless laws provide no protection (and often end up doing more harm than if they were not there in the first place).

It’s very likely that what’s primarily in the minds of the dissenting delegates is access to abortions, and wanting to make sure they’re home administrations aren’t going to be “on the hook” to provide funding for services related to sexual expression. Basically they’re trying their best to produce a document that will in no way help disability rights groups to fight for their basic rights. After all, isn’t that what a treaty meant to “promote and protect the rights of the disabled” is for?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gone Fishin'

I'm off on a vacation. Back on the 21st.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

DOJ Settlement with Colorado College

See this press release, which begins:

The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Colorado College under which the college will make its campus and services more accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Today’s out-of-court settlement resolves a compliance review during which the Department found violations of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design in newly constructed buildings, as well as barriers to existing facilities and elements such as doors, restrooms, signage, entrances, seating and assistive listening devices in assembly spaces, and exterior circulation routes. The college, located in Colorado Springs, Colo., has agreed to involve the college community in preparing a plan under which it will make alterations to its facilities within six years and relocate certain types of services and programs to accessible facilities with prior notice. The agreement addresses a wide variety of services and facilities, including classroom and administrative buildings, housing, libraries, access between facilities, athletic and performance areas, directional signage, and emergency preparedness.

“We applaud Colorado College for its effort to greatly improve campus access for all students and visitors,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Under the agreement the college will:

*Ensure that all buildings and facilities in which programs, services, and amenities are offered to the public and the college community meet the accessibility criteria in the agreement, unless participation requires advance notice or registration.

*Ensure that those services and programs that do require advanced notice or registration are located in (or relocated to) an accessible location in the event that a person with a disability registers.

*Submit an accessibility plan for review to the Department by June 1, 2007, outlining how the College will comply with the agreement, after conducting architectural surveys and seeking public comment.

*Update its campus-wide emergency evacuation, sheltering, and shelter-in-place plans for individuals with disabilities.

*Ensure that 3 percent of the units (and adjacent toilet rooms) in its student living facilities are accessible and dispersed among the facilities; and that, in addition, a reasonable number of housing facilities has an accessible entrance, first floor common area, and toilet room that is usable by a visitor with a disability.

*Display information on its website, by Dec. 15, 2006, identifying accessible routes through the campus, accessible parking areas, accessible entrances to buildings, and accessible spaces within buildings.

*Post signs at facility entrances and toilet rooms identifying those that are accessible and, at inaccessible entrances and toilet rooms, directing individuals to the nearest accessible entrance or toilet room.

*Provide assistive listening systems and devices for people with hearing impairments in lecture halls, meeting rooms, auditoria, and other assembly areas.

*Correct violations of the new construction standards for accessibility by February 1, 2012.

School for Disabled Challenged in Lawsuit

See this article by that title (via Ragged Edge). It begins:

A statewide group is suing the Walworth County Board to halt construction of a new school for students with disabilities, contending it violates federal law requiring students be taught in the most integrated setting possible.

At issue is an April vote by the Walworth County Board of Supervisors to spend $22 million to build a larger home for Lakeland School, a facility that educates about 260 students ages 3 to 21 from throughout the county.

"If they were building a smaller school, we wouldn't be suing them," said Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney with Disabilities Rights Wisconsin. "Walworth County's decision was to not only build a new school, but to build a bigger school, to put it on the county grounds where the nursing home and jail is, to build a seven-foot fence around it" and further segregate the students.

Disabilities Rights Wisconsin mailed its lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on Friday, Spitzer-Resnick said.

In the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to the Journal Sentinel, Disability Rights Wisconsin contends the school violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by not giving its students enough opportunity to interact with non-disabled pupils. It notes that more than 11% of children with disabilities in Walworth County are educated at a public school separate from their non-disabled peers, compared with less than 1% of disabled students statewide in the 2004-'05 school year.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tokaji on California Accessible Voting Suit

Over at his great Equal Vote blog, Dan Tokaji has this post about a lawsuit just filed by the PVA, among others, challenging the accessibility of voting systems in California. He includes a link to the complaint and lots of analysis. His conclusion, with which I agree, is: "This is the first case of its kind and definitely one to watch."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Student Note on Juvenile Delinquency and the IDEA

New on Westlaw: Moira O'Neill, Note, Delinquent or Disabled? Harmonizing the IDEA's Definition of "Emotional Disturbance" with the Educational Needs of Incarcerated Youth, 57 Hastings L.J. 1189 (2006). From the introduction:

This Note examines the definition of "emotional disturbance," one of the qualifying disabilities under the IDEA. Although research estimates vary, they suggest high numbers of incarcerated juveniles suffer from emotional disturbance. Many special education scholars and professionals have criticized the IDEA definition of "emotional disturbance" as imprecise and inconsistent with mental health constructs of emotional and mental disorders. For the past three decades, the Department of Education regulations have defined "emotional disturbance" to exclude youth diagnosed as "socially maladjusted," even though this exclusionary language does not necessarily correspond well with mental health constructs.

Presently, the Department of Education is in the process of issuing new regulations following the most recent reauthorization of the IDEA. During one of the Department of Education's public input meetings, advocates representing school districts, parents, disability organizations and education agencies requested that the Department of Education eliminate the current definition's reference to "socially maladjusted" youth. Specifically, the Director of Government Affairs for the National Mental Health Association pointed out that the current regulations fail to define the term socially maladjusted, and research does not provide a consistent definition of social maladjustment. Nothing indicates that the Department of Education intends to remove the exclusionary language from its definition of emotional disturbance.

The IDEA's mandate is to provide special education services to disabled youth. The current definition of "emotional disturbance" undermines the IDEA mandate. The language excluding youth identified as "socially maladjusted" eliminates basic educational opportunities for a major segment of the disabled population. Yet, mental health and special education research do not justify the exclusion. The result of not including "socially maladjusted" youth from the category of "emotional disturbance" especially affects incarcerated youth because of the higher prevalence of special needs within this population. It is also in conflict with the primary goals of the state's intervention with these youths: education, rehabilitation and reduction of recidivism. The special education needs of incarcerated youths with a disability seriously impairing their ability to work, live and function within our society must be addressed for these youths to effectively reintegrate into society upon their release. The goals of the IDEA and rehabilitation within juvenile justice should be in harmony. However, the "socially maladjusted" exclusionary language in the definition of "emotional disturbance" frustrates the rehabilitative goals of juvenile justice.