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Ya gotta wonder:

Last Thursday, subscribers to the National Library Service's Web Braille site found this announcement when they logged in:

"Because of technical and security difficulties, Web Braille will be unavailable in the near future. NLS regrets the inconvenience and will provide further information as soon as possible."

The public still can't find out what's happening or why.

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CORRECTION: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday summarily vacated an Eighth Circuit decision in a Nebraska case that argued that people have a Constitutional right to receive services in their own homes rather than being forced into institutions. The Eighth Circuit had said they don't.
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Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 11:18 AM PDT

Casualties of the war at home

by mjohnson

We hear about the deaths in Iraq, deaths caused by our government's wrongheaded war. Plenty of people are up in arms about that.

Our government causes deaths at home, too -- but the outrage over that, when it even exists, is muted.

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Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:53 AM PST

"New" and "special" in Utah

by mjohnson

What's "new"? That's the question a federal appeals court is taking up this week. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide the case filed by longtime disablity rights activist Barb Toomer in Salt Lake City against local cab companies for refusing to purchase wheelchair-accessible vehicles.  
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The latest transgression to be laid at the door of the  Carlyle Group? Hurricane Katrina murders.
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Thu Dec 15, 2005 at 12:14 PM PST

Re-institutionalization

by mjohnson

What is it with all these new institutions being built? I thought the move was to get rid of institutions. Evidently not. A story from San Francisco Business Journal tells of that city's bullheaded plan to rebuild the aging Laguna Honda city institution to the tune of nearly $750 million.

On the heels of that outrage came news on Tuesday that not only was Kentucky committed to keeping open its troubled Oakwood institution, despite repeated citations for abuse of residents (Ragged Edge news items here and here and here) -- but that it was going to spend "up to $1 million a month" to do so -- at least for the next several months. ( More about that here.)

Not to be left behind by the re-institutionalization bandwagon, tomorrow VA Gov. Mark Warner plans to unveil a new budget that includes "$290 million to fully replace two aging psychiatric hospitals and two institutions that house people with intellectual disabilities." (Read  story about that.)

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National disability rights groups opposed to the Supreme Court nomination of Sam Alito will deliver a report on Alito's track record on disability rights at a news conference at 11 a.m. this morning in LBJ Room, S-211 in the Capitol.

The groups include ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights, the Alliance of Disability Advocates, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the National Council on Independent Living and the World Association of People with Disabilities.

The report on Alito has been put up on USNewswire here (see Background).

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Tue Dec 13, 2005 at 01:38 PM PST

Can movies dispel stereotypes?

by mjohnson

Last week, in a posting on another blog about the new Farrelly Bros. movie, "The Ringer," I wrote that producers of disability flicks seem to find themselves on the horns of a dilemma: talk a new game ("Murderball") and achieve little box-office success, or play directly to stereotypes in the hopes of garnering a large audience. That's the route the Special Olympics took when it signed on to be part of "The Ringer."

Sunday's New York Times Arts Section had a long article about the making of "The Ringer" which goes into quite a bit of detail about the Farrelly Bros and their use of disability in their filmmaking career. I am almost persuaded:

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Tue Dec 06, 2005 at 08:23 AM PST

Six years and still no change

by mjohnson

Six years ago today, Washington Post reporter Katherine Boo, whose investigative piece  "Invisible Deaths: The Fatal Neglect of D.C.'s Retarded," had just run, took part in an online chat with Post readers. In March, she'd written the series "Invisible Lives: D.C.'s Troubled System for the Retarded," and it, along with her December story, would win her a Pulitzer Prize.

"When I read your article last spring, I assumed that it meant things would start to change," said one of her readers. "It is heartbreaking and shameful to read 8 months later that almost nothing has happened yet." Eight months? Try six years. Even a Pulitzer Prize has not forced change.

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The Kansas Sex Slave Group Home case continues to reverberate, giving us, I think, a graphic example of just how little society and the public agencies we have set up to "provide for" people with disabilities actually care for them -- particularly people with psychiatric disabilities. Especially them.

I'm referring to the Kaufman House Abuse Case -- referred to as the "Sex Slave Group Home" -- the Wichita, KS "sex slave farm" masquerading as a "group home for the mentally ill."  Linda and Arlan Kaufman were convicted in early November on federal charges of fraud and conspiracy, and the trial was a lurid affair. The Wichita Eagle's story of the conviction gives a good overview.

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As I type this on Monday, Nov. 28, a former instructor at the Michigan School for the Deaf is in the 8th day of his hunger strike. Ryan Commerson's individual act of protest against a school that he says refuses to  offer bilingual education in American Sign Language as well as English is drawing attention from around the country. Commerson's protest, which has widespread student support, is also calling for the hiring of a deaf principal and employing staff members who are fluent in American Sign Language.
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We grab a handful of audio books and leave for our long drive to Thanksgiving at the relatives -- we'll "read" while we're driving. We hurry into the "handicap stall" at the airport because it's big enough to accommodate a person and her rollbag.  In the noisy airport bar, we're able to follow the news because the bartender's put the TV on "mute" and the captions pop up, the type scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

This Thankstgiving, we should pause to give thanks to the folks who brought us all these things: the activists of the disability rights movement.

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