Thursday, July 31, 2008

McDonalds and Disability

Looks like McDonald's is in trouble in the Bay Area. Some new owner took over a few months back and fired 3 women with disabilities because they have disabilities. Folks aren't taking this move too lightly. They've protested the fast food retaurant, slowing down business. I say good for ya's!

Disabled Criticize Restaurant’s Alleged Discrimination Against Employees
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 31, 2008

By Riya Bhattacharjee

Disability rights advocates in wheelchairs held a protest Tuesday in front of the downtown Berkeley McDonald’s at University and Shattuck avenues, against what they said was unlawful discrimination against three of its disabled employees.

The protest came a week after the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center of San Francisco filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that their client Lisa Craib, 43, was unfairly dismissed from the restaurant along with her two co-workers because of their developmental disabilities.

Craib, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome—a form of autism—worked the 7:30-10 a.m. morning crew, cleaning tables, preparing salads and bussing for almost 21 years

Craib said that shortly after the franchise was sold to a new owner in March, she and two other workers with disabilities—Susan Hanks and Alice McGill—were abruptly fired.

McDonald’s released a statement on behalf of Nick Verghis, the new owner of the McDonald’s franchise, Tuesday, which was similar to the one issued in response to the charges filed last week.

“I have a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination in hiring, termination, or any other aspect of employment,” the statement said. “I comply with all applicable laws—including the American Disabilities Act—and continually strive to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to further comment or speculate.”

Calls to Verghis for comment were not returned by press time.

Michael Pachovas, one of about 75 protesters, said he had helped organize the protest to speak out about the plight of the three disabled workers who were fired when the new owner took over the franchise.

“I’m very angry,” he said, carrying a “MacDonald’s Unfair to Labor” placard as he demonstrated in his wheelchair. “It’s such an obvious discriminatory action and for this to happen in a city with its history of civil rights movements is even worse. We want to get a meeting with the manager and find out what this is about.”

Pachovas said Verghis reportedly owned as many as six McDonald’s franchises in the Bay Area.

“I also want to know if, as the parent company, McDonald’s, has anything to say about this,” he said, “if they have any programs to help people with disabilities.”

Calls to Evelyn Sanchez, director of operations for McDonald’s, were not returned by press time.

“Shop somewhere else,” Pachovas called out to customers approaching the restaurant during lunch time. “I eat here on rare occasions, but I won’t come here anymore. I hope no one with a conscience will.”

Peter Mendoza, a Berkeley resident diagnosed with cerebral palsy, sat in front of the restaurant’s glass doors handing out flyers.

“I think what happened in this case was a travesty,” he said. “Lisa was a good employee. She always assisted me and carried my food over to the table. She unwrapped my hamburger so that I could eat it. They deserve to get their jobs back and an apology from the owner. People who own McDonald’s have a lot of money and should comply with the law. I am boycotting McDonald’s and encourage the entire Berkeley community to join the disability community to boycott it as well.”

Inside the fast-food chain Tuesday afternoon, business was slow.

“I think we had a huge impact,” said Chris Mullin of the Center for Independent Living. “This place usually has big lines around lunch.”

“I am definitely boycotting this McDonald’s,” said Michael Diehl, a mental health commissioner for the city. “Frankly, I could give up on the cheeseburger.”

Jan Garrett, the center’s executive director, waved a sign with “People with disabilities make great employees” written boldly on it.

“People with disabilities have clear employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she said. “We want this McDonald’s to know that and all businesses nationally to know that.”

Susan Hanks, one of the disabled workers fired along with Lisa on March 18, stood outside the restaurant talking to family and friends.

Hanks, who has cerebral palsy, was the first disabled worker to be hired by the downtown McDonald’s.

“I have been here since 1982,” Hanks, 65, said. “I don’t want my job back, but I want them to know that they fired me and they shouldn’t have done that.”

Hanks said she was considering joining in the federal charges filed by the Legal Aid Society.

Lisa Gordon, one of the executive directors of Easy Does it, which provides emergency services to the disability community, watched the action from her wheelchair. Gordon expressed her thoughts through her assistant Alejandra Ortiz.

“This is just wrong,” Ortiz said, translating for Gordon. “Lisa worked here for 21 years because she was able to. She knew how to do a good job. It is not fair that they fired them because they have disabilities.”

“We are appalled by this,” said Gina Sasso, who co-directs the organization with Gordon, adding that more than 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed. “We are going to continue the struggle.”

Some protesters said they missed councilmember Dona Spring’s presence at the demonstration. Spring, an avid supporter of disability rights, died two weeks ago. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.

“There was only one Dona, but we as a community must stop the injustice,” Mendoza said. “She’s here in spirit.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

You Saw This Coming... Right??

The disability community has always expressed that they believe Oregon's Assisted Suicide law is flawed. They've often been quoted as saying "a right to die will eventually become a duty to die". Well, it's looking more and more like they are correct in that assumption. From Fox News...

Oregon Offers Terminal Patients Doctor-Assisted Suicide Instead of Medical Care
Monday, July 28, 2008
By Dan Springer
PORTLAND, Ore. — Some terminally ill patients in Oregon who turned to their state for health care were denied treatment and offered doctor-assisted suicide instead, a proposal some experts have called a "chilling" corruption of medical ethics.
Since the spread of his prostate cancer, 53-year-old Randy Stroup of Dexter, Ore., has been in a fight for his life. Uninsured and unable to pay for expensive chemotherapy, he applied to Oregon's state-run health plan for help.

Lane Individual Practice Association (LIPA), which administers the Oregon Health Plan in Lane County, responded to Stroup's request with a letter saying the state would not cover Stroup's pricey treatment, but would pay for the cost of physician-assisted suicide.

"It dropped my chin to the floor," Stroup told FOX News. "[How could they] not pay for medication that would help my life, and yet offer to pay to end my life?"
The letter, which has been sent to other terminal patients throughout Oregon, follows guidelines established by the state legislature.

Oregon doesn't cover life-prolonging treatment unless there is better than a 5 percent chance it will help the patients live for five more years — but it covers doctor-assisted suicide, defining it as a means of providing comfort, no different from hospice care or pain medication.

"It's chilling when you think about it," said Dr. William Toffler, a professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. "It absolutely conveys to the patient that continued living isn't worthwhile."

In issuing their latest Prioritized List of Health Services, state officials reported a new emphasis on preventive care and cost effectiveness. Dr. John Sattenspiel, LIPA's senior medical director, defended the measures.

"I have had patients who would consider knowing that this is part of that range of comfort care or palliative care services that are still available to them, they would be comforted by that," Sattenspiel said. "It really depends on the individual patient."

Toffler called it a callous practice that went against medical convention. "It corrupts the consistent medical ethic that has been in place for 2,000 years," he said. "It's absolutely breathtaking."

Oregon is the only state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, which came into effect in 1997. Since that time, there have been 341 reported cases where doctors provided lethal doses of medicine to patients to end their lives.

Oregon voters have upheld the "Death with Dignity" law three times, and Sattenspiel says it is the state's duty to inform patients of all their legal options.
For Stroup, however, suicide was never an option. He fought back, and the Oregon Health Plan eventually reversed its decision and is now paying for his chemotherapy, giving him hope he'll be around a little longer for his 80 year old mother and 5 grandchildren.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Aint Gonna Work (I Can Assure You)

Table 1
7/25/2008 8:14:00 AM

MRDD allows privatization of adult services
Plan said to provide higher level of care, more choices

Waylon Strickland
Staff Writer

The Pickaway County MRDD board plans to let a portion of its services convert to a private, non-profit organization in a move that aims to let consumers have more choice in getting services they require and provide a higher level of individualized care.

The MRDD board, which provides support and services for individuals with development disabilities through its Brooks-Yates Center, voted Thursday night to allow the Brooks-Yates Center Diversified Opportunities adult services operation to convert from a government entity to a private, non-profit organization.

Privatization of the adult services program will cut down on the board's administrative costs, freeing up more money to be used for direct care, according to MRDD Superintendent Randy Beach.

"We continually look at ways we can impact peoples lives on a more regular basis," Beach said. "We want people with developmental disabilities working in the community."

MRDD still will be responsible for paying for a specified amount of care for individuals based on the level of disability who decide to get services from the new operation, which will be called Pickaway Diversified, Inc., just as the board already has to pay to other private care providers, such as Goodwill and Good Hands.

"Our new role in adult services will be arranging funding and assuring responsibility and compliance of private providers," Beach said.

The diversified operation already is governed by a separate, non-profit board, which will take over the entire operation. Diversified has facilities on Lancaster Pike and Mill Street in Circleville providing employment opportunities and also provides day habilitation and community employment services, according to Kim McPeek, the operation's executive director.

There will be no day-to-day changes in services provided because of the conversion, McPeek said, although it may eventually let the operation offer new or different services that aren't currently available.

"We hope to serve more individuals and do more programs for the people of Pickaway County," she said. "We work with over 50 individuals with disabilities. For some of the people we serve, this is their only option to help increase their independence. Without us, some people wouldn't participate or have an opportunity to be involved in the community."

Diversified's Mill Street operation is part of its already existing non-profit operation, but it will have to lease the Lancaster Pike facility from the MRDD, which owns it, for $20,000 a year. About 18 MRDD employees are effected by the change and all will be retained by the new PDI operation.

MRDD is taking the action because in the last four years it has changed its philosophy of providing care to consumers, moving from program-based care to more focus on individual choice and attention, according to Beach.

"The buzzword in the MRDD field is the concept of individual budgets," Beach said. "Within our available resources, we'll create and craft services to meet each individual's needs."

The new PDI will be entirely self-funded from the enrollment fees and costs it charges to consumers. MRDD will retain oversight of the operation after it goes private, and it will fully fund PDI for up to two years during the transition process. After two years, PDI will be independent and have to depend on its own budget to operate.

Savage Attacks

Here's some strong language used to describe feelings about Michael Savage... from

Stand up to those who bully the disabled

Teresa Lavinder

Lavinder, of Vinton, is a former employee of a local disability service agency. She is a native of Roanoke.

Where is our conscience? It continues to be socially OK to discriminate and bully a particular protected class: people with disabilities.

In Roanoke, we have an Architectural Review Board that has approved a chain-link fence for a possible dog park. I'm not against the park, just the board's hypocrisy that led to an Old Southwest resident being criminally convicted and fined because she dared to make her doorway and porch accessible to her seriously ill mother. We seem to care more about our pets than our citizens.

In Gretna, it is socially acceptable to go to town council meetings and, before the media, rant against two mentally challenged adults who want to be allowed to live in their caregiver's home.

Heaven forbid you live next door to these people and give birth to a child with Down's syndrome or spina bifida. Heaven forbid you need a wheelchair ramp for your aging parent, or you're a police officer disabled by a criminal's attack. Would this community shun you, too?

Disappointingly, Gretna's town council cannot do the right thing without the Department of Justice intervening.

Finally, the citizens and media in Roanoke are standing by while a local radio station, WFIR, airs the Michael Savage show. Savage refers to people with autism as "frauds" and then uses terms for these children that are reserved for the asylum dwellers of the previous centuries.

These words are considered hate speech and are words most intelligent people do not allow their children to use.

He states kids with autism are just poorly parented and are from single-parent families. He also insinuates that the parents are somehow financially benefiting from one of the most financially devastating disabilities that can occur in a family.

Savage erroneously suggests that there is no medical diagnosis of autism as a developmental disability. Nationally, children with autism are even banned from churches, preventing families from receiving the spiritual support they desperately need.

This discrimination occurs because we aren't stopping it. Why aren't local listeners standing up for our most vulnerable, sensitive citizens? Savage also regularly attacks people with various other disabilities using the same sort of language that cost Don Imus his job.

Where is the public outcry and outrage? Free speech stops at hate speech. If Savage were attacking any other group, there would be a huge public outcry.

Is it socially acceptable to treat people with disabilities this way because they scare us so much? If we don't see them, their affliction could never invade our lives. It just ceases to exist.

If we think disability can never happen to us or to someone we love, we feel no empathy for the fate of others. Disability is the one protected class that everyone joins, unless you die instantly in an accident or sudden onset illness. Socioeconomic group, age, ethnicity and race won't protect you.

These hateful, unjust behaviors happen because some people have a significant capacity to be mean and hate-filled. They were probably the ones we all knew as the schoolyard bullies, but where are the rest of us? Why are we allowing this to happen in our communities without speaking out and standing as tall as Dr. Martin Luther King's inspiring statue?

I didn't think, as a healthy, 30-year-old professional, that disability would happen to me, but it did. In one instant, my life would never be the same. But I have learned one thing over these challenging years. I have obstacles due to my impairment and illness, but my disability lies in my environment and the minds of others.

Don't disable me or anyone else from participating fully in this community and making my own choices about my life. Don't disable me with your apathy. Don't sit by and watch our community be less than it can be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The whole Michael Savage thing is blowing up big time. It's time to bring the bully down. He has no right to be spouting off about things he doesn't understand, or is too ignorant to find out

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We'll See What We See

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is going to be doing things differently. They now will be deciding who gets what based on a measuring tool of need. This makes me nervous as hell.

Does DHS believe they have the best grasp on where the money needs to go? Having experienced their haphazardness and seeing some of their mistakes, one needs to wonder if they are in fact, qualified to take this on. From the Lake Oswego Review...

Seeking a better way to aid those in need

DHS seeks a measuring device to determine how different funding levels affect services

The Lake Oswego Review, Jul 17, 2008

The state Department of Human Services is talking with ordinary Oregonians about how it spends money and delivers services. This is not merely a bureaucratic exercise, but a commendable effort to quantify the human needs of this state and develop better ways of meeting those needs. In the end, if this process led by DHS Director Dr. Bruce Goldberg is successful, it will have turned the tables on how the department prepares its budget for the 2009-11 biennium.

Rather than ask for traditional across-the-board increases in funding, the DHS will have a measuring device – similar to the Quality Education Model developed for school funding – that allows the governor and legislators to see just how far different levels of funding will carry them toward meeting health and human-service needs.

To begin to create this model, the DHS, which is one of the largest state agencies and serves some of the most vulnerable Oregonians, has held a series of seven community forums to determine what services will be most in demand in coming years.

Money will be tight in short term

The willingness to listen and to prioritize service delivery based upon need versus budget availability is a new and significant concept, as Oregon enters another period when state revenues are likely to drop due to the downturn in the economy and employment.

Preparing a prioritized, needs-based budget also is important due to the complexity of DHS, an agency that has a total budget exceeding $11 billion – including federal funds – and that receives more than $3.3 billion from the state’s general fund.
But dollars only tell part of the immense tale of DHS, which provides general health-care services and a vast range of programs that include senior and disabled services, mental health counseling, drug treatment and food-stamp programs. The department also is responsible for foster home services, food-service inspection and water-testing programs, and it runs the Oregon State Hospital in Salem and a variety of community-based mental health programs.

By building a case for priority programs, DHS will be able to evaluate not only the needs of Oregonians but the order in which programs should be funded fully, partially or not at all.

That type of assessment will be invaluable to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who will prepare a final DHS budget to submit to the 2009 Legislature, and for state legislators who ultimately will decide the level of funding the agency receives.

Without a prioritized needs assessment, the department’s funding and services may remain in a status quo mode, where programs continue to be funded or emphasized based upon what has been done in the past.

Goal is to help even more people

We don’t think that is what’s best for Oregon or its citizens in the future – even if funding were no object.

But given that funds likely will be short, it is most appropriate that DHS is listening to Oregonians and reexamining how it delivers services to get the best results for people in need.

Eventually, better and more targeted service delivery will result in an improved quality of life for those who require health and human services.

By becoming as efficient as possible, DHS will be able to serve even more Oregonians than it has in the past at a cheaper cost than before – and that will mean even more people can be helped in the future.

We therefore believe the DHS budget strategy is a twofold winner: It prioritizes needs and it focuses on programs that get results.

Death With Dignity?

In the whole assisted suicide debate, there is an ever looming question. If you can fill out an advanced directive on how you want to be treated as you near death, why is there a need for assisted suicide? They are having a discussion in Washington as they prepare to vote for this in November. Many from the disability community see this as a slippery slope, which will be extremely dangerous for them. I definitely see their point. How about you? From the Seattle Times...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - Page updated at 06:39 AM

Guest columnist

Providing an end-of-life path that rejects pain or poison

By Paul Malley

Special to The Times


Aging with Dignity President Paul Malley

There's an old story about how Abraham Lincoln would quiz visitors to the White House. Lincoln would ask, "How many legs does a sheep have if you call its tail a leg?" "Five," most visitors would reply. "You are mistaken," Lincoln would say, "because calling a tail a leg does not make it so." They didn't call him "Honest Abe" for nothing.

The citizens of Washington deserve similar straight talk as they consider the consequences of Initiative 1000 and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. Instead, I-1000 would ban further use of the term, presumably in favor of euphemisms such as "death with dignity," "self-deliverance," "a life-affirming choice," "aid in dying" and " 'self'-preservation," which are among several of the more flowery terms already in use. Meanwhile, the dreary old Hemlock Society has itself undergone a beauty makeover, re-branded as "Compassion and Choices." Who can be against choice and compassion?

On the merits of the issue, both sides already have dug in. The I-1000 proponents argue the decision is a personal one, while church and pro-life groups point out that life is God-given and that physician-assisted suicide is not compassionate and is morally wrong. Medical groups claim physician-assisted suicide will ultimately corrupt the entire health-care system by undermining the doctor-patient relationship. Disability-rights groups have long warned that any "right to die" will soon morph into a "duty to die" for them.

Oddly, both sides in the debate cite the Oregon experience. One side boasts it has worked well for 10 years, while the other argues it has resulted in the state's taxpayer-funded health-care system denying payment for cancer-treatment drugs but approving payment for suicide drugs.

Both sides could be missing what is often at the root of the argument in the first place. People rightly worry about being in pain and losing control in their lives when seriously ill. They fear being placed on an impersonal medical "conveyor belt," surrounded by strangers and hooked up to tubes. They especially fear losing their individuality and human dignity at the very time it's most important to them.

This could explain why more Americans are completing detailed advance directives, such as the Five Wishes living will, which is legally sufficient in Washington and distributed by more than 350 organizations statewide. It allows those who complete it to clearly state in their own words, not in medical or legal jargon, what kind of treatment they would or wouldn't want in the event they become seriously ill and can't speak for themselves.

This "third path" rejects the false choice of pain or poison, and instead empowers users to take control over how they wish to be treated.

The citizens of Washington deserve an open and honest debate over I-1000, one that doesn't employ verbal sleight of hand to obscure the very real life-and-death issues at stake.

Paul Malley is president of Aging with Dignity, a national nonprofit organization and creator of the Five Wishes living will.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fire the SOB!

There are some peolple in this world who shouldn't be allowed to take to the air waves. One of these such people goes by the name of Michael Savage. He is bad news on several fronts, but now he's taking to calling names at people with disabilities. there are many who want to see him fired, and I happen to be one. Free speech only goes so far. Here's an article from the web that I'm posting.

July 21, 2008

Talk Radio Network Should Fire Michael Savage

The leader of a national coalition of disability, civil rights and social justice organizations called on Talk Radio Network to fire talk radio host, Michael Savage for his hateful attacks on children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Jim Ward, founder and president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR), stated:

"ADA Watch/NCDR calls on Talk Radio Network to fire Michael Savage. As America prepares to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) on July 26th, people with disabilities, parents, family members, friends and advocates across the nation are outraged over Savage's latest attack on people with disabilities.

On the July 17. 2008 edition of his radio show, Savage labeled autism a "fraud" and prescribed tough love for autistic children: "I'll tell you what autism is. In 99% of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out." He went on to say:

"That’s what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot."

Savage concluded,

“[I]f I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, ‘Don’t behave like a fool.’ The worst thing he said — ‘Don’t behave like a fool. Don’t be anybody’s dummy. Don’t sound like an idiot. Don’t act like a girl. Don’t cry.’ That’s what I was raised with. That’s what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You’re turning your son into a girl, and you’re turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men.”[His despicable assault on children with autism - calling them "frauds" and "brats" - is rightly being condemned as hateful and bigoted. But it is just the latest of Savage's numerous and painful attempts to demean and disenfranchise people with disabilities."

In 2003, Savage was fired from MSNBC for his ant-Gay comments, including "You should only get AIDS and die."

Savage has also used his bully-pulpit to declare that:

•High levels of asthma impacting minority children was because "the children got extra welfare if they were disabled." (July 2008)

•The "handicapped" workers at the Phoenix CafĂ© would "drool" and put dung in diners food. He made up names for the food on the menu, such as "nutburger." (July 2002)

•Members of the disability rights community are the "Wheelchair Mafia."

•The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the world's first civil rights law for people with disabilities, should be called the "Lawyers' Improvement Act."

•His political opponents are "degenerate slime bags" with "mental disorders" and have a "virus like leukemia."

•When he was younger, he "touched the hand of a midget [Dwarf]," it really "freaked him out" and, since that episode, he doesn't like public places. (June 2004)

•The "autism lobby of devastated parents is just a scam to get more money."

Michael Alan Weiner, better known by his pseudonym Michael Savage, is a radio host, author, and political commentator. His nationally-syndicated talk show, The Savage Nation, airs throughout the United States on Talk Radio Network. His radio show reaches more than 10 million listeners on 410 stations throughout the United States, ranking third in number of stations syndicated nationwide and third in nationwide audience behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR) is a coalition of national, state and local disability, civil rights and social justice organizations united to protect and promote the human rights of children and adults with physical and mental disabilities.

ADA Watch/NCDR encourages individuals and organizations to contact:

Talk Radio Network
P.O. Box 3755
Central Point, Oregon 97502
Phone: 541-664-8827
Fax: 541-664-6250

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ok; I'll Give Ya Green

13 phone books at 2.5 Lbs. = 33.5 Lbs. That, and I NEVER asked for ANY of those damned things. How much cost and trees went into making these phone books? You'd think that someone would come up with the idea of not placing these phone books on people's porches, but apparently that's not the case. I took these phone books down to the recycling center around the corner from my house. As I was looking for where to put them, the guy who works there says; "What are you looking for?" I say back to him; "phone books, I got 13 of 'em". He points to where they go, and says "we all get 'em".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Apology Gone Wrong

It's widely known that Governor John Kitzhaber apologized to the developmental disability community for the forced sterilization of hundreds of people back in the year 2002. What has been kept a secret is who destroyed the paperwork that went along with his apology. PHC, or Portland Habilitation (which hires folks with developmental disabilities) was responsible for shredding the documents. Isn't that kind of like the parents shredding their child's birth record?

Somebody at PHC HAD to know what they were doing. I believe it was the upper management, but I guess we'll never really know...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is Abuse a Crime?

Perhaps someone can tell me why it is that when a person with a disability has a crime committed against them it's called "abuse", but when a person without a disability has a crime committed against them it's called a "crime". This doesn't make sense to me at all. When are we as a society going to pull our heads out of our collective bottom and realize that crime is crime. "Abuse" seems to lessen the significance of what has happened, which makes it more likely to occur.

This is out of the Massachusetts based Patriot newspaper...

SPEAK OUT: Checking on the caretakers
A hole in the law lets out-of-state crimes fly under the radar

By Maureen Gallagher, Daniel Shannon And Joshua Komyerov
Posted Jul 12, 2008 @ 01:48 AM
As reported in your pages recently, Derek Marcia was operating carnival rides in Weymouth when he was arrested in April on kidnapping and armed robbery warrants out of Florida.

The notion of Marcia interacting with children and families at carnivals in Massachusetts and elsewhere is nothing less than frightening.

But imagine if instead of landing a job with the traveling carnival, Marcia had found work in one of the state’s hundreds of group homes serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At the carnival, we can at least hope that crowds and caretakers will deter criminals from trying anything too brazen. But in group homes and other settings where many of our state’s 180,000 people with disabilities are served, there are no such deterrents.

Even with safeguards in place at group homes including supervision and state monitoring, someone with illicit intentions could be in a position that should make everyone feel uncomfortable. After all, working in a group home with some of the state’s most vulnerable individuals includes some serious responsibilities such as having access to money and prescription medication.

Scenarios like this are not outside the realm of possibility. Like carnival workers, employees hired to work with people with disabilities are required to undergo state criminal background checks, but not national checks. That means people with warrants (or a criminal record) outside Massachusetts but nothing in-state, could be working across the commonwealth in direct contact with people with disabilities.

Fortunately, a bill filed by Rep. Martin Walsh of Dorchester and co-sponsored by Rep. Louis Kafka of Stoughton would plug this gaping loophole. The National Criminal Background Check Bill (H144) would require candidates who apply for positions working with individuals served by the Department of Mental Retardation to undergo a national criminal check in addition to the statewide Criminal Offense Registry Information (CORI ) check.

This bill has the overwhelming support of disability groups, including The Arc of Massachusetts, The Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress and Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change, as well as DMR Commissioner Elin Howe, among others. Similar legislation has already been implemented successfully in other states, including New York and Idaho.

Opponents of the bill have tried to peg it as an expansion of the CORI law, but it is no such thing. It would not have any effect on the current CORI system or on any CORI reform. It would simply require employers to conduct a national record check on top of the state check, thereby ensuring an additional level of protection.

What evidence is available underscores the need for such a law. According to the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission, in the last decade in Massachusetts there have been more than 2,000 documented cases in which people with disabilities were victims of abuse at the hands of staff ostensibly providing care and supervision. In about 300 of those cases, the alleged abuser resided (at the time of the abuse) outside Massachusetts in a neighboring state. (This number does not even include employees who previously lived out of state.)

Because of current law, no national background check was conducted in these cases and any out-of-state criminal records went unseen. Had this law been in place, dozens of instances of abuse may have been prevented.

This law, if enacted, will give provider agencies the most basic tools to properly screen for employees who will first and foremost ensure the safety of their disabled and most vulnerable clients.

Maureen Gallagher is executive director of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress; Daniel Shannon is executive director of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council; and Joshua Komyerov is director of government affairs of the Arc of Massachusetts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You Name This Post

There's a loud buzz going on in Oregon right now about notifying the public when a new secure group home is about to open. Many people believe they have a right to know if people having mental illness along with a criminal history move into their neighborhood. I have a strong desire to weigh in on this topic, and I'm choosing to do so here, on my blog.

I haven't heard virtually any discussion of people wanting to know when folks who DON'T have mental illness but have a criminal history move into their neighborhoods. As far as I know, a criminal is a criminal whether or not they have an accompanying disability. So what is the deal about the mental illness label? I believe it's prejudice holding hands with discrimination.

You still hear "God loving Americans" calling each other names (jokingly) like "retard", "nut case", and "psycho" on a regular basis. This demonstrates a blatant lack of understanding regarding disability. At the same time these same people who know nothing about disability are up in arms about criminals with disabilities moving in next door. To me, that is perpetuating the myth that there is something inherently WRONG with people who have disabilities. That's discrimination in its' purest form.

When people begin to cry out their demand to know of ALL the people in their community who have a criminal history, the playing field will be level. That will never happen. Why? Because that would be prejudicial and discriminatory, and we won't stand for that; right?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Oregon's Hate Crime Law

Today I was talking with my wife regarding Oregon law which states that crimes committed on a person with a disability can be considered a hate crime. Although the term "handicap" creeps me out to no end, it's there... clearly stated. This being the case, the obvious question is how many of the crimes I and others have been writing about have been prosecuted as hate crimes? I'm thinking that the answer is prbably "none".

ORS § 181.642
Mandates training on the investigation, identification and reporting of crimes "motivated by prejudice based on the perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, political affliliation or beliefs, membership or activity in or on behalf of a labor organization or against a labor organization, physical or mental handicap, age, economic or social status or citizenship of the victim."

ORS § 181.550
Mandates the reporting of crimes "motivated by prejudice based on the perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, political affiliation or beliefs, membership or activity in or on behalf of a labor organization or against a labor organization, physical or mental handicap, age, economic or social status or citizenship of the victim."

In Ohio a bill is being carried to have hate crime status for people with disabilities...

Bill Adds Disability to Hate Crime Law

Expansion spurred by recent attack

By Alex Shebar • • June 28, 2008

State Sen. Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati) is introducing a bill that would grant people with disabilities protection under Ohio's hate crime law.

Senate Bill 349 was prompted by February's attack of Ashley Clark, a mentally disabled Talawanda High School senior.

"Anyone can become disabled ... I think people realize that it's a great equalizer," Kearney said Friday.

"Most families have somebody, a relative, who is disabled and people will empathize with that."

Hate crime laws provide additional punishment for criminal offenses if the crime can be shown to be motivated by race or animosity toward specific groups of people.

If the bill is passed, it would put disability in the same category as race, color, religion, and national origin.

"This will put people on notice that the state of Ohio views those actions with the same severity as they do crimes against any other group," said Lin Laing, executive director for Center for Independent Living Options in Cincinnati.

Kearney is a member of the center's board of directors.

Ohio is one of 23 states that do not include disability as part of their hate crimes legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

If the proposed law were already in place, Kearney contends that the attack against Ashley Clark would qualify as a hate crime because her disability appears to be a key reason why she was targeted.

In February, Clark was violently attacked in her Hanover Township home allegedly by Cheyenne Blanton, 17, and Joseph Nagle, 16, both of Hamilton.

Prosecutors say the pair tied Clark up, beat her with a baseball bat, robbed her, cut off her hair and destroyed her prom dress.

The court has ruled that Blanton and Nagle should be tried as adults.

The proposed law would have no bearing on their trials.

The Clark family was not available for comment Friday. Kearney said he has not spoken with Clark or her family, but is pushing the bill to prevent such an attack from happening again.

While the proposed bill would be a good protective measure, the public should not view all people with disabilities as defenseless, said Suzanne Hopkins, director of programs for Independent Living Options.

Hopkins has a congenial disability that caused her to be born without limbs.

"I don't want the disability community to be looked upon as vulnerable, because not all disabilities are vulnerable," she said. "It's dependent on the disability that the individual has and any protective measures they have."

Kearney said he hopes to see the bill assigned to a committee when the legislature returns to session in September.

He said it could come up for a vote as early as December.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Punk Music and Activism

Back on the 21st I wrote about a punk band that has 3 members who have developmental disabilities. There is a documentary film about them titled Heavy Load (which is also their band's name) which I highly recommend.

Anyway, I've been in contact with the band through email regarding an idea I have. I want to use their film as an educational tool for the community at large. There's a good deal of information about these 3 individuals lives which would give folks an inside look into some of the challenges people in their shoes face all around the world.

They have agreed to allow me to use their film in this manner, and I'm very excited about the opportunity this presents. I've come to a place where I believe the lack of meaningful exposure to people with developmental disabilities by the broader community is actually harmful to both groups.

I hope to soon (probably this Fall) be instumental in bringing these folks out of the shadows and into the light of real community. We'll see...