Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Autistic Teen Presumed Drunk, Held For 10 Hours : Care2 Care article & petition

As posted by Care 2 Care
Article by Kristina Chew : January 30, 2013

For what must have been ten terrifying hours in June, 17-year-old Melissa Jones was held in a police cell, finger-printed and made to undergo DNA testing in Liverpool. She was sober but was charged with being drunk and disorderly, even though a doctor at the police station said she had not been drinking.

Jones is autistic and also has ADHD and communication disabilities and was studying culinary arts in college. When her mother, Christine Evans, told police about her being autistic and her other disabilities, they “didn’t want to hear about it.”

On June 16, Jones and a friend had gone out to a shop for Coca-Cola, says the Daily Mail. Another woman, who was inebriated, became aggressive towards the shop’s assistant, and Jones and her friend intervened. They were both “stamped on” and beaten by the woman, who fled. After all this, Jones was “crying and hysterical.” The police showed up, they assumed Jones had been drinking and arrested her.

While in custody, Jones was told that she could have the charges removed if she paid a fine of £60. She refused and was summoned to appear before court in November, where she was formally charged with being drunk and disorderly. She was actually going to have to stand trial next month, but last week the Crown Prosecution Service said it was dropping the case because “the available evidence was insufficient to prove that Miss Jones was drunk and disorderly.”

Since the incident, Jones has tried to commit suicide, says the Daily Mail. Noting that her daughter has been through “hell” and has been in weekly counseling, Evans added that the teenager “hardly ever goes out any more.” The 25-year-old woman who allegedly attacked Jones and her friend has been arrested but has not been charged by Merseyside police due to “lack of evidence.”

While reading about Jones’s case, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently had the police acknowledged that Jones is autistic. The young woman must have been terrified, not to mention in shock, at being assaulted by the other woman; it was no wonder that she was “crying and hysterical.”

Due to her being autistic, Jones was most likely unable to communicate with the police about what had really happened, as well as whatever distress and confusion she was feeling. Her case is hardly the first in which police have displayed insensitivity towards autistic persons and even treated them brutally. In March of 2012, an autistic teenager was awarded £28,250 in damages from the London Metropolitan police after they pulled him from a swimming pool and handcuffed him. In the U.S., police have handcuffed autistic children (one as young as 8 years old); a year ago, Illinois police shot a teenager with Asperger’s dead in his own home.

It is simply ridiculous, and wrong, that Jones was arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly conduct. While the charges against her have been rightfully dropped, she is more than owed an apology from the police for being arrested and detained for charges that were simply untrue.

Please sign the petition to clear Melissa Jones of the charges of which the police have wrongly accused her.

Read more and Sign Petition at:

Judge Reverses Prior Rulings Dismissing Case and Allows EEOC Disability Suit Against UPS to Proceed | Jan 2013

Press Release : 1-15-13
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Federal Court Affirms Agency May File Class Complaint Without Complete Information on All Possible Bias Victims

CHICAGO - On its own motion, a federal district court reversed itself Friday and denied a defendant's motions to dismiss a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against United Parcel Service, Inc., the agency announced today. According to the EEOC, the ruling (EEOC, et al., v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 09-cv-05291 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 11, 2013)) is important because it confirms that the federal agency can pursue claims of employment discrimination on behalf of persons whose identities may not be known at the outset of the case.

In its suit, originally filed in 2009, the EEOC alleged that UPS violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by allowing disabled employees only 12-month leaves of absence and failing to provide them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, instead firing them if they exceeded those parameters. UPS moved to dismiss the EEOC's complaint, arguing, in part, that the EEOC did not provide enough information about unidentified UPS employees for whom EEOC was seeking relief. The court initially agreed and dismissed the EEOC's complaint but allowed the EEOC to file an amended complaint.

The EEOC went on to file two more amended complaints, both of which the court dismissed at UPS's request, because, according to the court, the EEOC still had not alleged adequate factual information with respect to the unidentified class members. The EEOC did not identify by name more than two of its class members in any of its complaints.

The EEOC then filed a motion seeking permission to appeal the court's ruling to the federal appellate court. Rather than address the EEOC's request for an appeal, the court, on its own motion, reconsidered its earlier decisions granting UPS's motions to dismiss. The court withdrew its earlier rulings and granted the EEOC's motion to file its second amended complaint. The court explained that the most recent complaint indeed satisfies the legal requirements because "it . . . offers detailed factual allegations as to how the policy affected two employees . . . and alleges that the same policy was applied across the board to other employees."

The court further explained that "the unique role of the EEOC is such that courts generally have allowed complaints with 'class' allegations comparable to those asserted here to move forward," and that the law "does not require plaintiffs, including EEOC, to plead detailed factual allegations supporting the individual claims of every potential member of a class." The court also stated that it must "defer to EEOC's investigatory judgment."

"Judge Dow's decision probably marks the end of an already faltering trend in the defense of employment discrimination cases." said John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "Based on a couple of questionable decisions, some defense attorneys have been arguing that the EEOC cannot seek relief for victims of bias in class cases unless each of those victims has previously been identified during the EEOC administrative process and before a lawsuit was filed. Although those decisions have been repeatedly ignored by the courts, they continue to attract a small following and to crop up in criticism of EEOC. Thanks to Judge Dow's United Parcel Service decision, those days are about over."

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason added, "After years of having to litigate everything but the merits of the case, we are thrilled to finally have the opportunity to prove that UPS discriminated against its disabled employees."

According to its website, UPS, a multi-billion dollar corporation, is the world's largest package delivery company and a leading global provider of specialized transportation and logistics services.

In addition to Hendrickson and Smason, the EEOC trial attorneys working on the case are Aaron DeCamp, Deborah Hamilton, and Jeanne B. Szromba.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.


Alex Taikwel, Legally blind Palatine, IL. teen's vision for life is clear

Alex Taikwel won't become a traditional medical doctor, but every weekend you'll find him volunteering in a hospital.

Reading his short stories in front of a packed auditorium for Fremd High School's annual Writers Week may not be feasible, but he'll churn one narrative after the next.

And the Palatine teen can't take the football field for the marching band's halftime performance, but that won't stop him from playing instruments just as enthusiastically.

Being legally blind, he says, is no reason to sit on the sidelines altogether.

"Sometimes it's frustrating that I face limitations," Alex, a senior, says. "But I've come to terms with it and take advantage of opportunities that might be a good fit."

Alex's attitude has materialized into success in and out of the classroom, most recently with the news he won a prestigious scholarship from Jewish Guild Healthcare.

The Manhattan-based, nonsectarian organization, which has served blind and visually impaired people since 1914, awarded at least $10,000 to Alex and 15 other high school seniors across the country. In addition to legal blindness, judging took into account academic excellence, community involvement, essays and other criteria.

The lone winner from Illinois, Alex's recognition came as no surprise to Fremd social studies teacher Martin Zacharia, who taught the teen as a sophomore in his AP U.S. history class.

"His vision isn't his defining characteristic," Zacharia said. "What stands out about Alex is the way he advocates for himself and his realization that even the smartest people need to do better and improve themselves."

Cherry Taikwel first questioned her son's vision when his early steps led to frequent run-ins with walls and objects. A specialist diagnosed Alex with retinoschisis, a genetic disease of the eye's nerve tissue.

In his left eye, Alex can see just 2 inches in front of him. He sees worse than 20/200 in his right.

His vision forced Alex to sit out most physical activities growing up. Although the disease has been stable for some time, even the slightest injury could cause a retina to detach.

Alex spends each day adapting in some way.

In the classroom, he sits up front and often moves around to get a better angle. He receives large-print books whenever they're available and uses a powerful magnifying glass to read. Teachers email him PowerPoint presentations.

Alex can usually be found hunched over a book, his eyes hovering just an inch off the text. The result is frequent headaches and a sore upper torso, which requires massages.

Though uncomfortable at times, Alex is an avid reader and writer who enjoys entering writing contests and tries to come up with a new idea or genre each week. Alex estimates he's penned at least 100 short stories and essays on his own time.

Creative Communication, a Utah company that promotes writing, teaching and appreciation of student writing, published his essay on the Reagan presidency as part of a compilation of student work.

Alex, who's also a member of Fremd's Math Team and National Honor Society and was named an Illinois State Scholar, has applied to several top-tier colleges including Ivy League schools.

While he's thrived in the classroom, he's never let his vision deter him from his love of music, either.

He began playing piano at age 5 and the flute in the fifth grade. He can't read sheet music easily, so he memorizes notes and then practices a ton. He's played in Fremd's band all four years.

Alex volunteers as a member of Fremd's Service Over Self club and the True Light Lutheran Church in Streamwood. He also spends his Saturdays at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, where he's charged with various tasks.

Since driving isn't in the cards, his friends or his mom are happy to help out.

"When he was young, I was very sad because of his situation and because his dad passed away when he was 4," Cherry Taikwel said. "But I never treat him as disabled. He can handle things. I trust him."

Despite his knack for writing, Alex hopes to study molecular biology. He said he's fascinated by how the human body functions, and how one seemingly tiny thing can cause a significant chain reaction.

Alex believes his vision challenges give him interpersonal skills he wouldn't possess otherwise.

"People who acquire a disability, I can understand having a hard time," Alex said. "But this is all I've ever known. And since I come with my own struggles, I have an open mind and know we all have our flaws."

Article by By Kimberly Pohl and Elena Ferrarin | Daily Herald | 1/31/2013
• Kimberly Pohl wrote today's column. She and Elena Ferrarin always are looking for Suburban Standouts to profile. If you know of someone whose story just wows you, please send a note including name, town, email and phone contacts for you and the nominee to standouts@dailyherald.com or call our Standouts hotline at (847) 608-2733.


Reflecting on the Connections between Us | Disability.gov Community Life

By Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy. Reposted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog, (Work in Progress)

In the critically acclaimed film, “The Sessions,” actor and Golden Globe nominee John Hawkes delivers a sensitive and moving portrayal of real-life journalist and poet Mark O’Brien. As a result of contracting polio as a child, O’Brien was paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on an iron lung, which he could leave for only limited amounts of time.

While the film is partly about living with physical limitations, it is also about something much more profound — how the connections forged between people have the power to lift the spirit, despite the considerable challenges life can bring.

Hawkes agreed to share his reflections on this fundamental part of the human experience in a submission to “What’s Your Connection?”, a national grassroots initiative that invites everyone — famous or not — to help illustrate the importance of connections among all people, including people with disabilities. Here’s an excerpt:

“From an early age, at home and in school, I was fortunate to be taught that all people are equal regardless of color or creed. Our 5th grade teacher played us an LP of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. We could feel America changing, shifting, opening her eyes. Looking back, I wonder where the students with disabilities were and why they weren’t part of the discussion. Clearly it was a group that we hadn’t opened up to; that we didn’t see. Thankfully much has changed for the better, for all our citizens….”
Hawkes’ insightful words help reaffirm the importance of our work in the Office of Disability Employment Policy. Every day, we strive to ensure that when talking about employment, all people — including millions of Americans with disabilities — are part of the discussion. Because, as O’Brien’s life so clearly illustrated, work is an important means for forging the connections that make us who we are.

“What’s Your Connection” is running through July 31, 2013, in honor of the 10th anniversary of Disability.gov, the federal government’s central source of information on disability-related programs and services. Participating is easy: Entries can be in the form of a photograph with a caption of up to 250 words or a captioned video no longer than 1 minute. To learn more, and to read Hawkes’ full submission, visit the “What’s Your Connection?” Web page.

All of us are touched by disability in our lives, some in obvious ways and others much more subtle. Perhaps you have a family member, neighbor, friend or colleague with a disability. Or maybe, like me, you have one yourself. Whatever your story or experience, we’d like to hear it. Tell us, what’s your connection?

As published at Disability.gov JANUARY 30, 2013
Disability.gov is managed by ODEP in collaboration with 21 federal agency partners.


Tax Season is Here - Find Out If You're Eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)!

Find Out If You're Eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
EITC is a federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. To qualify, you must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file. Use the EITC Assistant to find out if you are eligible and get an estimate of how much you may get back.

Remember, the IRS offers free tax preparation help.
EITC Home Page: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/EITC-Home-Page--It%E2%80%99s-easier-than-ever-to-find-out-if-you-qualify-for-EITC

This information is also in Spanish: http://www.irs.gov/Spanish/Cr%C3%A9dito-por-Ingreso-del-Trabajo-%28EITC%29---%C2%BFDebo-Reclamarlo%3F

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

University of Illinois at Chicago: Institute on Disability & Human Development – Sexuality & Disability Consortium : Great Resource

The Sexuality & Disability Consortium provides research, advocacy, training and education to support individual with disabilities to enhance healthy sexuality and relationships. Training topics include sexuality and disability, relationships, sexual policies and practices, sexual self-advocacy and more. As a way to educate the general public about sexuality and disability, this webpage also contains a list of resources including fact sheets, articles and online links.

View the Website – University of Illinois at Chicago: Institute on Disability & Human Development – Sexuality & Disability Consortium:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng urges global pressure on China over rights | Jan 2013

[photo: Actor Richard Gere (R) stands with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (C) and his wife Yuan Weijing after Chen received The Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize in the Capitol in Washington January 29, 2013. Gere is a member of the Lantos Foundation advisory board. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ENTERTAINMENT)]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng urged the United States on Tuesday not to let business concerns prevent it from pressing China over human rights, saying America must never "offer the smallest compromise" on its principles.

Chen is a self-taught legal advocate whose escape from house arrest last April and subsequent refuge in the U.S. Embassy embarrassed China and led to a diplomatic tussle that ended with him leaving China to study in New York.

He used a speech at a human rights award ceremony in Washington to call on the world to hold China to account for repression and to urge ordinary Chinese to look to the example of Myanmar as they struggle to win their rights.

"I sincerely hope that everyone - petitioners, human rights workers, civil rights groups, national governments and especially the United States government - will come together to encourage progress in human rights," said Chen.

"There should be no compromise, even if there are large business interests at stake - dignity, freedom and justice are more important," he said in translated remarks read in English by actor and Tibet advocate Richard Gere.

Chen received the 2012 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize, named after a California congressman who was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress. Lantos died in 2008.

The activist, now studying law at New York University, said he felt a "profound resonance in my heart" with Lantos from their shared experience escaping persecution and dictatorship.

"We must not only remember the atrocities of the fascists, but also recognize that today authoritarianism is firmly entrenched, and that the barbarism of the authoritarian system is the greatest threat to civilized societies," said Chen.

Chen endured 19 months of harsh house arrest in his home village in Shandong province before his escape, but said his family members and contacts continued to suffer. Chen's nephew Chen Kegui was jailed for 3 years after using knives to fend off local officials who burst into his home after Chen's escape.
"Recently, many friends and neighbors who I have been in touch with by phone have been taken into custody by the authorities for questioning. They have been threatened and made to describe what our conversations have been about," he said.

The United States bore a special responsibility to uphold and promote its basic founding principles, despite economic weakness that has prompted some deference to fast-growing power China over human rights in recent years, he said.

While "it is clearly difficult to shift attention away from issues of finance and the economy, remember that placing undue value on material life will cause a deficit in spiritual life," said Chen.

"You must establish a long-term plan for human rights and not compromise on it, ever," he added.

China rejects outside criticism of its human rights record as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs.

Chen, whose dramatic escape last year won him a wide following on China's social media networks, said ordinary Chinese must be the "main actors" in achieving their rights.

"Democracy, freedom and justice don't just happen. We must strive for them through action," he said.

"Last year, Myanmar lifted the ban on political parties, and last Friday it abolished media censorship. What the people in Myanmar do, we can do, too," said Chen.
The New Hampshire-based Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice has given previous annual awards to the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel, and Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan hotel manager who hid and protected more 1,200 refugees during Rwanda's genocide.

Article By Paul Eckert | Reuters | Jan 29, 2013
(Editing by Philip Barbara)

President Obama Appoints Michael Graves to the U.S. Access Board | Jan 2013

President Barack Obama has named Michael Graves, FAIA, of Princeton, New Jersey to the U.S. Access Board. Graves is the founding principal of Michael Graves & Associates, an architecture and design firm that he founded in 1964, and of Michael Graves Design Group. He is also the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus at Princeton University, where he taught for nearly 40 years. Graves has received a number of awards, including the Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame (2012), the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medal (2010), the AIA Gold Medal (2001), and the National Medal of Arts (1999), and was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Healthcare Design by the Center for Health Design in 2010. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome. Graves received a B.S.Arch from the University of Cincinnati and an M.Arch from Harvard University.

The Access Board is an independent Federal agency that provides leadership in accessible design under the ADA and other laws. Its governing Board is structured to function as a coordinating body among Federal agencies and to directly represent the public, particularly people with disabilities. The Board is comprised of 13 members from the public appointed by the President and representatives from 12 Federal departments.

For the U.S. Access Board visit: http://www.access-board.gov/

Monday, January 28, 2013

Widower sues airlines for wheelchair-bound,obese wife's death abroad

(Reuters) - A New York man whose wheelchair-bound,obese wife died last year after she was denied a spot on three different flights home from Europe sued the airlines on Monday for $6 million.

Vilma Soltesz, who at the time was reported to have weighed 425 pounds (193 kg), had an amputated leg and suffered from diabetes and kidney disease, news media said.

She was found dead at her vacation home in Hungary in October after several aircraft crews repeatedly failed to accommodate her size despite telling her they could do so, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit accused the three airlines of wrongful death and gross negligence.

The couple left their Bronx home in September on a Delta Air Lines plane, securing two seats for Vilma and one for her husband Janos, and arrived safely in Budapest on a vacation, according to the lawsuit.

By October 2, Vilma Soltesz sought treatment at a hospital in Hungary when she fell ill, according to the lawsuit. She was released and told she could fly home but to see her doctor immediately upon her arrival, according to the lawsuit.

The pair tried to leave Budapest two weeks later on a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight, with accommodations similar to what they received on their flight from the United States, according to the suit. But a captain told them to disembark after Vilma Soltesz struggled to maneuver from her wheelchair into her assigned seats, the lawsuit says.

After waiting in a Budapest airport for more than five hours, the couple drove to Prague to catch a Delta flight they were assured could accommodate them. But Delta did not have an adequate wheelchair to transport Vilma Soltesz to her seat, the suit added.

"The Delta flight coordinator told Janos and Vilma that Delta 'did not have access to a skylift' to get Vilma onto the aircraft from the rear, and that there was nothing more Delta could do for them," the lawsuit stated.

Later, on October 22, as several medics and firefighters helped her board a Lufthansa flight, the captain told the couple they had to disembark because "other passengers need to catch a connecting flight and cannot be delayed further," the lawsuit says.

"Exhausted and feeling ill," Vilma Soltesz went to bed after the couple drove back to their vacation home in Veszprem, Hungary, the lawsuit says. On October 24, Janos found her dead, the lawsuit says.

A Delta Air Lines spokesman said the airline had not been served with the lawsuit. Officials with Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attorney for Soltesz did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

(Reporting By Bernard Vaughan; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman) | Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:29pm EST

Friday, January 25, 2013

Federal Charges Allege Captors Held Adults with Disabilities in Subhuman Conditions to Carry out Social Security Fraud

Press Release | Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

First Hate Crimes Case of Its Kind in the Country Also Charges Murder

Linda Weston, her daughter and three co-defendants are charged in a 193-count indictment, unsealed today, with racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking, forced labor, theft, fraud and other crimes. The indictment alleges that Weston and her associates carried out a racketeering enterprise that targeted victims with mental disabilities as part of a scheme to steal disability payments from the victims and the Social Security system. As part of the scheme, Weston persuaded each victim to make her the designated recipient of their Social Security disability payments in exchange for the promise of a comfortable place to live. Once appointed as the designated recipient of disability payments, Weston, aided by the co-defendants, subjected the victims to subhuman conditions of captivity.

According to the indictment, the defendants beat the victims, kept them captive in locked closets, basements and attics, deprived them of adequate food and medical care, and moved them between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Florida in order to further the scheme and evade law enforcement. According to the indictment, some of the victims endured this abuse for years, until Oct. 15, 2011, when Philadelphia Police Department officers rescued them from the sub-basement of an apartment building in the city’s Tacony section.

Today’s indictment was announced at a press conference by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger, FBI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge John Brosnan, Special Agent-in-Charge Michael McGill with the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Along with Weston and her daughter Jean McIntosh, the indictment charges Weston’s paramour, Gregory Thomas Sr., Eddie Wright and Nicklaus Woodard. According to the indictment, the defendants used isolation, intimidation, threats of violence and violence to control the victims with mental disabilities and each defendant had a role in the racketeering enterprise:

Linda Weston was the leader and organizer of the enterprise that operated from at least the fall of 2001 through October of 2011. She enticed all of the victims into coming to live with the enterprise and controlled all aspects of their captivity.

Jean McIntosh was also a leader of the enterprise who acted as her mother’s right hand woman. She assisted in confining, controlling, disciplining, housing and transporting the victims.

Gregory Thomas Sr. assisted in obtaining, confining, controlling, housing and transporting the victims. He installed locks on the doors and windows of every residence where the victims were kept to prevent them from escaping.

Eddie Wright assisted in confining, controlling, housing and transporting the victims.

Nicklaus Woodard assisted in confining, controlling and disciplining the victims.
The indictment charges that in confining the victims, the defendants practiced what is described as “abusive control and confinement techniques” in which the defendants:

· Confined the victims to locked basements, rooms, closets, attics and apartments;

· Sedated the victims by putting drugs in the food and drink served to them by Weston and others, at Weston’s direction;

· Subdued the victims by serving them a low calorie, high starch diet consisting exclusively of Ramen noodles, beans and stew and generally limited them to, at most, one meal a day;

· Punished the victims by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol, when the victims tried to escape, stole food or otherwise protested their confinement and treatment.
The indictment alleges that Weston’s use of these techniques caused the deaths of two of the victims. For example, in 2002, Weston met M.L. and lured her to come live with the family. M.L. was forced to cook, clean, wash clothes and babysit without compensation. M.L. was beaten when she tried to escape or when she begged for food and was not provided with any medical attention for her injuries. When Weston moved the enterprise to Virginia in 2008, M.L. died of bacterial meningitis and starvation. Weston allegedly ordered other members of the household to move M.L.’s body to a bedroom and stage the scene before calling law enforcement and the next day the family left for Philadelphia. In addition, in April 2005, Weston and Thomas allegedly targeted victim D.S. who they saw standing on a street corner. They brought D.S. to the WF home at 2211 Glenview Avenue in Philadelphia. D.S. was kept in the basement with the other victims, fed a substandard diet, and not allowed to use the bathroom. On June 26, 2005, D.S. was found dead in the basement. Weston allegedly ordered other members of the household to move D.S.’s body to a bedroom and stage an accidental overdose before calling law enforcement.

The indictment also alleges that Weston forced two female captives to engage in prostitution while the enterprise operated in Killeen, Texas, and West Palm Beach, Fla.

The defendants are charged in four counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Shepard-Byrd Act criminalizes certain acts of physical violence causing bodily injury motivated by any person's actual or perceived disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

“The allegations in this indictment describe a scheme to physically abuse and subjugate persons with disabilities for purposes of de-humanizing them, stealing their money, and unlawfully obtaining their labor,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “The laws against violently assaulting individuals because of their disabilities and those that prohibit human trafficking were designed to combat conduct aimed at vulnerable members of society, such as the alleged victims in this case.”

“Those with physical and mental disabilities are among the most vulnerable in our society. As with everyone else, they deserve to be treated with respect, not violence,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “Linda Weston and others, in fact, decided to prey on these victims specifically because of their disabilities and they did so through violence, fear and intimidation for the purpose of stealing social security payments that were meant for the victims’ long-term care. ‘Shocking’ does not begin to describe the criminal allegations in this case where the victims were tied-up and confined like zoo animals and treated like property akin to slaves. Hopefully, today’s announcement of a 196-count indictment will help begin the process of restoring the victims’ faith in humanity.”

“Today’s indictment represents just one more step towards closure and healing, not only for the victims of this heinous hate crime, but for the community as a whole,” said Special Agent-in-Charge John Brosnan. “The FBI, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General remain committed to protecting each and every citizen's civil rights, and will aggressively investigate any violation of those rights, bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

"The Office of the Inspector General investigates many cases involving the misuse of Social Security benefits by representative payees, but thankfully, we've never seen a case involving this level of cruelty and inhumanity to our most vulnerable beneficiaries," said Special Agent-in-Charge Michael McGill. "We're pleased to see justice served, and grateful to the U.S. Attorney and our investigative partners for their unflagging support in this investigation."

If convicted of all charges, each of the defendants faces a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison with advisory guideline sentencing ranges that involve substantial terms of imprisonment. Weston also faces mandatory restitution in the amount of approximately $212,000, fines, and special assessments.

An indictment is merely an accusation; all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Philadelphia Police Department, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, West Palm Beach Field Office. It is being prosecuted by Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Betsy Biffl and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard P. Barrett and Faithe Moore Taylor. The case was originally charged by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

13-098Civil Rights Division

ALERT: Illinois Medicaid consumers: Check your mail carefully to re-verify your eligibility | Jan 2013

There are very important things people need to know.

1. Keep an eye on your mail for an envelope with a form that asks you to verify your Medicaid eligibility. You will have only TEN (10) DAYS to respond, so act fast.
2. The envelope that the redetermination letter will arrive in is a plain white envelope with a PO box as the return address. It may look like junk mail. The envelope doesn't say HFS or anything else recognizable in the return address.
3. HFS is changing its Medicaid card process. Instead of having a new card every month, you will get only ONE card for the whole year. So you will need to watch for this new card and keep it all year.

More details:

In 2012, the Illinois Legislature passed the Save Medicaid and Resources Together (SMART) Act. One portion of this Act aimed to address the backlog of Medicaid redeterminations that has accumulated over the years. From this Act came the 'Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Project' (ILRP), more informally known as "Enhanced Eligibility Verification" (EEV).

The goal of EEV is to determine the eligibility status of current Medicaid recipients and adjust or eliminate benefits accordingly. This will be the system that re-determines Medicaid eligibility annually for current and newly enrolled recipients. Circumstances under which individuals may be removed from Medicaid include death, relocation out of state, or excess income, amongst many others.

The State has contracted with MAXIMUS Health Services Inc. and developed a case review system that categorizes Medicaid cases as those most likely eligible and those potentially ineligible for medical services. To this end, MAXIMUS has begun its operation and as early as this week will be reaching out to current Medicaid recipients who they believe are no longer eligible for Medicaid benefits.

As early as this week, these enrollees will receive a letter in the mail from the Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Project requesting they submit the appropriate eligibility verification documents.


The envelope that the redetermination letter will arrive in is non-descript with nothing distinguishing it from junk mail. The envelope doesn't say HFS or anything else recognizable in the return address. Advocates have made HFS aware of this issue and they have said they will be changing it.
Current Medicaid enrollees will have only 10 business days to submit the proper eligibility verifying documents.
Once Medicaid enrollees submit the necessary verifying information, the file will be sent back to their case manager in the local office. At this time, the case manager will have 20 days to review the information provided and make a determination of eligibility. To be clear, MAXIMUS will not make final decisions related to Medicaid eligibility, but will collect all necessary and relevant information for the Department of Human Services who will use that to make a final decision.

If Medicaid enrollees fail to provide the proper documentation after receiving a letter of notice in the mail, their file will also be sent back to a case manager and their benefits likely eliminated. Although the state has implemented a new system to re-determine Medicaid eligibility, applicants still have the right to appeal.

As Medicaid enrollees will only have 10 business days to submit the required verifying documentation, it's extremely important that advocates and providers provide support to their participants who receive Medicaid benefits who may need to submit such additional documents. With such a short turn-around time and in order to ensure continuity of care, it's imperative that Medicaid enrollees understand what they must provide and submit that information within the allotted time frame.

A summary of the program can be found here:

Contact information for the Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Project:

Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Program Hotline Information
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday, 7:00 am - 9:00 pm, Central Time
Saturday, 8:00 am - 1:00 pm, Central Time
Phone Number: 1-855-HLTHYIL (1-855-458-4945)
TTY: 1-855-694-5458
Mailing Address: Illinois Medicaid Redetermination, PO Box 1242, Chicago, IL 60690-9992
FAX: 1-855-394-8066

Thank you to our friends at Access Living www.accessliving.org and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights www.heartlandalliance.org/ for the information.

Please share this with people who need this information.

U.S. Schools must provide sports for Students with disabilities | Jan 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports team or have their own leagues, the Education Department says.

Disabled students who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them. If those
adjustments would fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, the department is directing the school to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to traditional programs.

"Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the new guidance Friday.

The groundbreaking order is reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for girls and women four decades ago and could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.

[photo: Associated Press/Lisa Followay - In this July 28, 2012 photo provided by Lisa Followay, Casey Followay competes in the the USATF Junior Olympics in Maryland. Breaking new ground, the U.S. Education Department is telling schools Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options. The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come. "I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that," said 15-year-old Casey Followay, who competes on his Ohio high school track team in a racing wheelchair. Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors running alongside him. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that and he can compete against runners.(AP Photo/Lisa Followay) }

Activists cheered the changes.

"This is a landmark moment for students with disabilities. This will do for students with disabilities what Title IX did for women," said Terri Lakowski, who for a decade led a coalition pushing for the changes. "This is a huge victory."

It's not clear whether the new guidelines will spark a sudden uptick in sports participation. There was a big increase in female participation in sports after Title IX guidance instructed schools to treat female athletics on par with male teams. That led many schools to cut some men's teams, arguing that it was necessary to be able to pay for women's teams.

Education Department officials emphasized they did not intend to change sports traditions dramatically or guarantee students with disabilities a spot on competitive teams. Instead, they insisted schools may not exclude students based on their disabilities if they can keep up with their classmates.

Federal laws, including the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, require states to provide a free public education to all students and prohibit schools that receive federal money from discriminating against students with disabilities. Going further, the new directive from the Education Department's civil rights division explicitly tells schools and colleges that access to interscholastic, intramural and intercollegiate athletics is a right.

The department suggests minor accommodations to incorporate students with disabilities onto sports teams. For instance, track and field officials could use a visual cue for a deaf runner to begin a race.

Some states already offer such programs. Maryland, for instance, passed a law in 2008 that required schools to create equal opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in physical education programs and play on traditional athletic teams. And Minnesota awards state titles for disabled student athletes in six sports.

Increasingly, those with disabilities are finding spots on their schools' teams.

"I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that," said Casey Followay, 15, of Wooster, Ohio, who competes on his high school track team in a racing wheelchair.

Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors running alongside him. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that and he can compete against runners.

"It's going to give me the chance to compete against kids at my level," he said.
Some cautioned that progress would come in fits and starts initially.
"Is it easy? No," said Brad Hedrick, director of disability services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and himself a hall-of-famer in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. "In most places, you're beginning from an inertial moment. But it is feasible and possible that a meaningful and viable programming can be created."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ADHD Diagnoses Still On The Rise

As more children are diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), researchers continue to struggle with understanding whether the rise is real, or primarily driven by greater awareness of the condition.

Article By Laura Blue
Time Magazine
Jan. 22, 2013

In the latest analysis, the rate of new cases of ADHD in California between 2001 and 2010 climbed for both sexes and for most ethnic and racial groups for children between the ages of 5 to 11.

But that rise doesn’t address what’s behind the growing number of cases. Are more kids truly suffering from hyperactivity and attention deficits, or are we simply better at catching children who show any symptoms?

The new research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, is among the first to offer hints at an answer. The study is not the first to suggest that ADHD diagnosis may be increasingly common, but it has important advantages over previous work, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Darios Getahun of Kaiser Permanente Southern California. For example, instead of counting all cases reported by parents and teachers (who may make mistakes and either under- or over-report cases), the new study counts only confirmed medical diagnoses by doctors. The new study also includes more children than earlier ones, by pooling health-record data from more than 840,000 kids enrolled in a health plan with the non-profit Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Those children resemble the general population of youngsters in California, Getahun says, and the study group is large enough that researchers could look not just at trends overall, but also at trends broken down by race, age group, sex, and more. And that provides some insights into whether susceptibility to ADHD itself is all that’s changing, or whether our diagnostic criteria are changing too.

Overall, the study found that 2.5% of kids aged 5 to 11 received a new ADHD diagnosis in the year 2001. Ten years later, in 2010, that number had risen to 3.1%, a relative increase of 24% even after the scientists adjusted for factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, and neighborhood average income, which can each influence ADHD risk. But not every group in the study appeared to be affected equally. In fact, the sub-populations with the highest ADHD incidence also tended to be the populations that do best on other measures of health and achievement: that is, kids who are white and living in wealthier neighborhoods and households with a median household income over $70,000 per year.

Meanwhile, the results showed that Hispanic kids are usually older than average when they’re diagnosed, if they are diagnosed at all. Asians and Pacific Islanders have the lowest ADHD incidence. Altogether, the findings suggest that, even though all the kids in the study had access to health care, some may still get be getting different treatment because they face different expectations at home and in the classroom, or because their parents have different attitudes toward mental health service provision. “That variation is very important,” says Getahun.

Families of the Asian children in the study, for example, were less likely to use mental health services to diagnose or treat ADHD, while the more well-off families and well-educated white parents were more likely to access these services, perhaps to excess, as they tended to expect more for their children academically.

But the issue of diagnosis remains controversial. On the one hand, says Getahun, “If you diagnose [ADHD] early and you initiate treatment early, the children will do better.” On the other, over-diagnosis may lead some healthy kids to take drugs they don’t need.

Just a generation ago, ADHD was considered rare. Today it’s one of the most common behavioral disorders of childhood, characterized by poor focus, lack of attention, impulsivity, and constant movement, including fidgeting and squirming. Kids with ADHD are more likely to struggle in school, to miss classes, to get injuries, and to have “troublesome relationships” with family members and classmates. Some preliminary studies have even linked ADHD in childhood to adult outcomes such as smoking and career and relationship difficulties.

The size of the study, and the variation in ADHD diagnosis rates among different populations, supports the idea that not all of the rise can be attributed to increased awareness among doctors, teachers and parents of the disorder. While risk factors for ADHD, including brain injury, preterm birth (being born more than three weeks early), exposure to alcohol and tobacco in the womb, and some environmental toxins, such as lead and possibly mercury, may be playing a role in driving the rates higher, researchers still can’t completely explain why more and more children have been diagnosed with ADHD in recent years. But parsing apart some of the cultural and economic factors that may be responsible could help them get closer to an answer.


“Training & Technical Assistance for Ligas Class Members” on January 28, 2013 - Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities

Press Release January 22, 2013
Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities
Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities Announces New Funding Opportunity

The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities would like to announce the release of a new Call for Investment “Training & Technical Assistance for Ligas Class Members”.

On July 28, 2005, a lawsuit (Ligas V. Hamos) was filed in Illinois on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities who were residing in private, State-funded facilities (Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Developmental Disabilities or ICF-DD) of nine or more persons or who were at risk of being placed in such facilities. Plaintiffs sought placement in Community-Based Settings and receipt of community-based services. On June 15, 2011 a Consent Decree was approved by the Court.

To assist with this endeavor, the Council has developed this Call for Investment (CFI). The purpose of this CFI is to ensure that Ligas Class Members are educated on their rights and options and have the supports needed to make sure they receive the life they want rather than one that someone else feels is appropriate for them.

An informational conference call will be held on January 28, 2013 and proposals are due February 21, 2013. To review and apply for the CFI, please visit our website at www.state.us/agency/icdd.

Please share with others who you think might be interested in this funding opportunity. For questions about the CFI, please contact Jennifer Harrison at (217) 782-9696 or jennifer.harrison@illinois.gov.

Copyright © 2013 State of Illinois (www.illinois.gov)

For the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, visit :

Waiter Defends Boy With Down Syndrome, Refuses To Serve Another Table | article & video

The Huffington Post | By Ryan Grenoble | Posted: 01/18/2013

It's rare that a story applauds rude waiters. But sometimes, it seems, rude patrons deserve it.

Such was the case at Laurenzo's Prime Rib, a restaurant in Houston, Texas, when regulars Kim Castillo and her 5-year-old son, Milo, sat down for dinner. Milo has Down syndrome, reports Houston's 29-95 blog, and while he can be distracting, his mom says, he isn't obnoxious.

"Tonight was a first," Castillo wrote in a Facebook post. "A family of 4 asked to be moved from the booth next to us. As it turns out they told the waiter, 'Special needs kids should be kept in special places.'"

Upon hearing this insult, explains Castillo, "The waiter promptly told them he was offended by their comment and refused to serve them." The family soon left the restaurant entirely.

After the story gained traction on 29-95 and The Consumerist, Laurenzo's Facebook wall has been flooded with positive comments.

One commenter wrote:
Kudos to that waiter. Kudos to your entire waitstaff. And Kudos to the management. Many managers would've been unhappy to see paying customers walk out the door, no matter what the circumstances. My highest respect for all of your staff, for putting people above money.
The Huffington Post contacted Lorenzo's for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Unfortunately, not all stories related to Down syndrome and customer service have such a heartwarming ending.

In September, a California family looking to fly first class on American Airlines said they were "singled out" and "humiliated" after the airline deemed their 16-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, a "flight risk."

Instead, the airline booked them seats on a United Airlines flight, in the last row of the plane.


Trio Involved in $40 Million, Nationwide Medicare Scam

HHS Office of Inspector General | Jan 2013

In September 2010, Lilit Galstyan, Julieta Ghazaryan, and Marine Movsisyan were indicted on charges of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Galstyan, Ghazaryan, and Movsisyan, along with their co-conspirators, allegedly billed Medicare, using stolen provider identities, for more than $40 million in false claims for services that were never rendered.

According to the indictment, Galstyan, Ghazaryan, Movsisyan and their co-conspirators allegedly stole personal identifying information of physicians and Medicare beneficiaries to submit claims to Medicare for equipment for beneficiaries whom the physicians never saw. They also allegedly employed visa holders from eastern European countries and used the visa holders' identities to submit false claims to Medicare for services never rendered.

Although the crime ring was based in the Los Angeles area, investigators believe that the trio and their co-conspirators traveled throughout the country to open fake businesses. These "false fronts" were opened in over 40 States and were located far from the physicians' actual practices in order to conceal the false billings from the physicians. The locations served as "mail drops" so that the conspirators could receive documents used to further the scheme, including Medicare correspondence and bank checks, according to the indictment.

Investigators believe that the trio and their co-conspirators received more than $19 million in reimbursements from Medicare for services that were never provided. A large portion of the profits from the alleged schemes were laundered through shell businesses owned by the visa holders, according to the indictment.

Co-conspirators Eduard Oganesyan and Karen Chilyan previously pled guilty and were sentenced to 11 years' and 8 years' incarceration, respectively. In addition, Oganesyan and Chilyan were ordered to pay joint and several restitution in the amounts of $10.6 million and $7.7 million, respectively. A third co-conspirator, Arus Gyulbudakyan, also previously pled guilty and was sentenced to 13 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution, joint and several. Gyulbudakyan will be deported to Armenia after she has served her time in jail.

Galstyan, Ghazaryan, and Movsisyan remain at large.

As posted at OIG: https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/fugitives/profiles.asp#galstyan

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chicago Police still issuing Bogus Tickets To Drivers Of Medical Patients | Jan 2013

(CBS2) — Police agencies have been cracking down on people who abuse handicap parking privileges.

But is a misinterpretation of the law punishing those who need the privilege the most?

Edward Reingold thinks so.

After he dropped off his wife at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for radiation treatments for a brain tumor, Reingold parked nearby in a place reserved for handicapped parking using her state-issued placard.

A police officer apparently ticketed him because his wife was not in the car when he parked.

“He said I was using the placard improperly,” Reingold tells CBS 2’s Pam Zekman. “He confiscated my license and placard and gave me a ticket.”

Reingold tried to explain, but it was no use.

“He didn’t speak to me. He simply kept writing the ticket and handed me the ticket,” he says.

For weeks, without the placard, the couple had to walk a much longer distance from the car.

“It was terrible,” his wife, Ruth Reingold, says.

Last month, Roystene Harris and her husband had a similar problem with the same officer. She was ticketed after dropping her husband off for kidney dialysis and then using his placard to park in a nearby handicap spot.

The officer was interpreting the law incorrectly.

The law says the placard holder must either be in the car at the time it is parked or should be in the car at the time of departure.

Reingold had planned to walk his wife back to the car after her treatment.

His daughter is an attorney who went to court to help fight the ticket.

“Just sitting in the courtroom this morning I spoke to many individuals who had encountered the same officer,” Eve Kleineman says. “They all had situations similar to ours.”

In fact, of the 19 people issued a handicap parking ticket by this one officer, only two were found guilty by a judge that day.

“Either the Chicago Police Department has to change how they apply it or there has to be a different law written to accommodate these sort of situations,” she says.

Bill Bogdan works for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and has trained police agencies on how to enforce the law meant to crack down on abuses.

“I’m very sympathetic to the individuals that received these tickets,” Bogdan says. “We’ll make every effort possible to provide law enforcement training to ensure police officers issuing these tickets are issuing them correctly.”

Bogdan says that during training he advocates that officers listen to the side of the story that an individual is telling.

“Obviously, the police officer should take every effort to verify the individual’s story before issuing a ticket or citation for this program,” he adds.

Reporting Pam Zekman for CBS2 Chicago

Illinois TOWN HALL MEETING ON MEDICAID MANAGED CARE - Thur Jan 24, 2013 | In-person & webinar


Thursday, January 24, 2013
In-person at James R. Thompson Auditorium in Chicago and by Webinar

You are invited to a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the changes in the Illinois Medicaid Program that will take effect on February 1, 2013, when the Integrated Care Program enters Phase II. During this phase, the two current managed care companies – Aetna and Centene – will assume responsibilities for long-term supports and services, including nursing facilities and home and community-based services under Medicaid waivers.

As required by law, the Illinois Medicaid Program is moving ahead to enroll more than 50% of Medicaid clients into some form of care coordination or managed care in the next 2 years. Even if you’re not currently providing services in Chicago suburbs and collar counties (the service territory currently for the Integrated Care Program), this program may be informative.

You may wish to participate in any part of this agenda:

Noon – 12:30 Review upcoming changes for Medicaid, the state’s continuing responsibilities, and the timeline

12:30 – 1:00 Learn about the philosophy, background and experience of the managed care companies, and their role in Phase II

1:00 – 3:00 Discuss the operational issues for providers in implementing Phase II; question and answer with participants and panelists

Please register online and state whether you plan to attend in person or by webinar at www.hfs.illinois.gov/webinar. You will be emailed a detailed list of the most frequently asked questions-and-answers by 5:00 pm on January 23. Please plan to read these before the Town Hall Meeting, as our purpose is to clarify answers provided previously, or answer new questions.

If you registered to attend by webinar, you will be sent the link. During the webinar, you will be able to ask questions by typing them in the question box. Your questions will be addressed by the panelists during the question-and-answer period, as time permits.

If you have questions about this Town Hall Meeting, please email hfs.webmaster@illinois.gov.

Michael Gelder, Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor on Health
Julie Hamos, Director, Department of Healthcare and Family Services
Michelle Saddler, Secretary, Department of Human Services
John Holton, Director of Department on Aging

Chicago : Jersey Mike's Subs offers braille menu for visually impaired | article & video

January 20, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS7) -- On a suggestion from a customer who is blind, a sandwich shop in Chicago part of a nationwide chain -- added braille menus. The company is hoping the other 750 stores will follow.

Located in the Streeterville area, Jersey Mike's sub sandwich shop became the first to offer braille menus to customers who are blind.

General Manager David Wood got the idea when he went to assist one of them.

"After talking to her for a few minutes, she said how much easier her life would be if more restaurants around here would have braille menu options," Wood said. "I presented the idea to corporate office after I spoke with the customer to use that as an opportunity to give back to the community, which is one our core values here at Jersey Mike's."

Jersey Mike's has been around for 56 years. They have 35 locations in the Chicago area and are expected to grow to 100. All stores are franchises.

"Our mission statement is pretty simple. It's, "Making a difference in someone's life," said Dan Shanahan, an area director. "We like to make people happy."

The first braille menu arrived in late November. Terry Gorman worked on the menu.

"It's the same as a real menu. Sometimes, in a braille menu that's long, you might do a contents side. So, [the] person can turn the pages and figure out where things are more quickly, but yes, it really is the same as a menu, as a print menu," said Gorman.

After creating the braille menu, Gorman has become a regular at Jersey Mike's.

"When I come here, well, I like number 7. As soon as I saw the word 'fat free' in the item that was the turkey provolone, they use fat free turkey, I sort of jumped at that," said Gorman.

"I would hope other Jersey Mike's and other restaurants around there would like to implement that idea as well because I feel everybody should be given the opportunity to, you know, figure out on their own what they would like to eat, where they would like to eat," said Wood.

The owners of Streeterville Jersey Mike's are opening another one in the south Loop next month.

For more information go to www.jerseymikes.com.

Chicago location:
203 E. Ohio Street

There are a number of restaurants that offer braille menus.

Report by Karen Meyer ; ABC7 Chicago ; Disability Issues

For more of ABC7 Disability Issues visit:

(Copyright ©2013 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

2013 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team named

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, announced today that 16 athletes, including eight gold medalists from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, have been named to the 2013 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National A Team. An additional five athletes have been named to the National B Team.

“We are hoping to see the number of athletes who make both the national team and emerging team grow toward the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, plus increase the number of developmental athletes we identify,” said Queenie Nichols, high performance director for U.S. Paralympics swimming. “We plan to have several emerging and developmental camps across the country to help increase the strength of Team USA over the next four years.”

Team USA had 18 swimmers win a combined 41 medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Four female athletes, including U.S. Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year Jessica Long (Baltimore, Md.), took home gold medals while four male swimmers also won gold.

“Many of our national team athletes are returning,” Nichols said. “We are excited to see how the athletes that were new to the London Games perform this season.”

Long was the most decorated U.S. swimmer at the Games, collecting eight medals in nine events.

Victoria Arlen (Exeter, N.H.), Kelley Becherer (Boston, Mass.), Lantz Lamback (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Ian Silverman (Baltimore, Md.), Brad Snyder (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minn.) and Justin Zook (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) also won individual gold medals.

Team USA begins the 2013 season April 4-6 in Minneapolis, Minn., with the CanAm Championships. In that event, athletes will compete for spots at the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships, slated for August in Canada.

Additional athletes may be added to the National A or B Teams throughout the season.

For the Full List of 2013 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team visit: http://e2.ma/message/3p0fg/jui54f

For more information, please contact Jamie Blanchard, U.S. Paralympics, at 719-866-2068 or jamie.blanchard@usoc.org.

Severe Food allergies may be disability under law

Associated Press | Posted: Jan 18, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) - Allergic to gluten? What about peanuts? Federal disabilities law may be able to help.

The Justice Department said in a recent settlement with a Massachusetts college that severe food allergies can be considered a disability under the law. That gives those who suffer from such allergies a new avenue in seeking menus that fit their diet. But some say it goes too far.

The decision leaves schools, restaurants and other places that serve food more exposed to legal challenges if they fail to honor requests for accommodations by people with food allergies.

Colleges and universities are especially vulnerable because they know their students and often require them to eat on campus, Eve Hill of the Justice Department's civil rights division says. But a restaurant also could be liable if it blatantly ignored a customer's request for certain foods and that person became ill, though that case might be harder to argue if the customer had just walked in off the street and was unknown to the restaurant, Hill says.

The settlement with Lesley University, reached last month but drawing little attention, will require the Cambridge institution to serve gluten-free foods and make other accommodations for students who have celiac disease. At least one student had complained to the federal government after the school would not exempt that student from a meal plan even though the student couldn't eat the food.

"All colleges should heed this settlement and take steps to make accommodations," says Alice Bast, president and founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. "To our community this is definitely a precedent."

Under the agreement, Lesley University says it will not only provide gluten-free options in its dining hall but also allow students to pre-order, provide a dedicated space for storage and preparation to avoid contamination, train staff about food allergies and pay a $50,000 cash settlement to affected students.

"We are not saying what the general meal plan has to serve or not," Hill says. "We are saying that when a college has a mandatory meal plan they have to be prepared to make reasonable modifications to that meal plan to accommodate students with disabilities."

The agreement says that food allergies may constitute a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act, if they are severe enough. The definition was made possible under 2009 amendments to the disability law that concerned episodic impairments that substantially limit activity.

"By preventing people from eating, they are really preventing them from accessing their educational program," Hill says of the school and its students.

Not everyone agrees.

Hans von Spakovsky, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who worked in the civil rights division of the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, says the inclusion of food allergies is a major expansion of the disability law.

Von Spakovsky disagrees that food allergies are severe enough to prevent students from accessing education and says the costs could be substantial for colleges that already are battling backlash from high tuition costs.

"I certainly encourage colleges and universities to work with students on this issue, but the fact that this is a federal case and the Justice Department is going to be deciding what kind of meals could be served in a dining hall is just absurd," he says.

People who suffer from celiac disease don't absorb nutrients well and can get sick from the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. The illness, which affects around 2 million Americans, causes abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea, and people who have it can suffer weight loss, fatigue, rashes and other problems. Celiac is a diagnosed illness that is more severe than gluten sensitivity, which some people self-diagnose.

Ten years ago, most people had never heard of celiac disease. But awareness has exploded in recent years, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Some researchers say it was under-diagnosed; others say it's because people eat more processed wheat products like pastas and baked goods than in past decades, and those items use types of wheat that have a higher gluten content.

Gluten-free diets have expanded beyond people with celiac disease. Millions of people are buying gluten-free foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have a wheat allergy. Americans were expected to spend $7 billion on gluten-free foods last year.

With so many people suddenly concerned with gluten content, colleges and universities have had to make accommodations. Some will allow students to be exempted from meal plans, while others will work with students individually. They may need to do even more now as the federal government is watching.

"These kids don't want to be isolated," Bast says. "Part of the college experience is being social. If you can't even eat in the school cafeteria then you are missing out on a big part of college life."

Mary Pat Lohse, the chief of staff and senior adviser to Lesley University's president, says the school has been working with the Justice Department for more than three years to address students' complaints. She says the school has already implemented most parts of the settlement and will continue to update policies to serve students who need gluten-free foods.

"The settlement agreement provides a positive road map for other colleges and universities to follow," Lohse says.

Joan Rector McGlockton of the National Restaurant Association says that restaurants have taken notice of an increasing demand for gluten-free options, "drawing attention to the importance of providing these options as well as the preparation methods involved in serving these options."

The group has a training program for restaurants so they will know what to do when food allergy issues arise.

Whether the government is involved or not, schools and other food service establishments are likely to hear from people who want more gluten-free foods. Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, says she decided to speak up when she arrived at school and lost weight because there were too few gluten-free options available. Like Lesley University, the University of Pittsburgh requires that on-campus students participate in a meal plan.

Thiyagarajan eventually moved off campus so she could cook her own food, but not before starting an organization of students who suffer from wheat allergies like hers. She says she is now working with the food service at the school and they have made a lot of progress, though not enough for her to move back on campus.

L. Scott Lissner, the disability coordinator at Ohio State University, says he has seen similar situations at his school, though people with food allergies have not traditionally thought of themselves as disabled. He says schools will eventually have to do more than just exempt students from a meal plan.

"This is an early decision on a growing wave of needs that universities are going to have to address," he says of the Lesley University agreement.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chicago - time to pay up to disabled women and her family for what city did to her | Christina Eilman articles

UPDATED - Jan 15, 2013 - follows the original post

It's time to pay Christina Eilman and her family for what city did to her

Police released the disturbed woman into a dangerous neighborhood, where she was attacked and thrown out a 7th-floor window

John Kass - columnist | Chicago Tribune | April 27, 2012

The beast Marvin Powell is out of prison, released the other day on parole after serving six years for what he did to Christina Eilman.

He's a gang-banger, 6 feet tall, about 200 pounds, arms covered with tattoos. Some tats are memorials to dead comrades, but who they are and how they fell doesn't matter.

It's what happened to Eilman, the young woman suffering from bipolar disorder, that matters. And what is on his left arm also matters.

One tattoo says "Lord have mercy on my soul." And the other says "Pay me."

Pay me.

That's what Chicago taxpayers are going to do. They're going to pay. They won't pay Powell. He's already paid some of what he owes, doing time for kidnapping and confining her in an abandoned apartment in a South Side housing project where she was sexually assaulted.

And then she either jumped or was pushed from the seventh floor. She can't tell us, because she suffered irreparable brain damage from the fall.

If that tattoo about his soul means anything to Powell, then he'll have to wait until he's dead to pay the rest of what he owes. But the taxpayers will have to pay for what the Chicago police did to Eilman — releasing a mentally ill woman into a crime-ridden area where she was vulnerable to attack. And what Mayor Richard Daley's administration did later is also outrageous, dragging this case out year after year after year, as her family struggled to care for her.

I'm told the price tag could possibly be as high as $80 million, a wild sum until you consider what was done to her, by the thugs and the police and City Hall.

So now Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has to clean up another Daley mess. And that's not the only one that Daley's law department left behind.

There are other cases pending that could cost additional millions, like the one involving the cop who mercilessly beat up the bartender, yet another case stalled by Daley's City Hall. But the Eilman case looms largest.

"There's no question that this case has been kicked down the road," a city official told me Thursday. "And there's no question the outcome was tragic. And if you're trying to outline a made-for-TV movie, or novel, it plays all the cards, race and sexual violence, brutality and so on. We understand that. But we have to protect the taxpayers.

"We're trying more cases. But we've inherited a backlog," said the official. "These are ugly cases from an exposure standpoint. And the politics are ugly. But we'll try this one if we have to."

Whether this case is settled or not won't be determined for some time. What was determined Thursday, however, is how the police treated her.

"They might as well have released her into the lion's den at the Brookfield Zoo," wrote the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion allowing the case to go to civil trial.

What happened to her has already been revealed by the dogged reporting of the Tribune's David Heinzmann. He's been on this relentlessly since it began in 2006, and many of the details he found were reflected in the federal appellate opinion.

{photo: Christina Eilman and family}

Eilman had made a scene at Midway Airport and was taken into police custody, where she screamed "take me to the hospital" and later kicked at the bars of her cell and exhibited other bizarre behavior.

She spent 29 hours in custody, ending up in the lockup at 51st and Wentworth. Her father called from California, trying to tell police that his daughter was mentally ill. Officials blew it off.

Then they did something unconscionable. They let her go, out into the South Side a few blocks from the notorious housing project known as Robert Taylor Homes.

The justices noted that she would have stood out as a stranger, as a potential victim in the wrong place. A white girl, a California blond in a midriff top, tight white shorts and boots, was let loose in no condition to take care of herself in a black neighborhood that was one of the roughest in the city.

Careful readers know I avoid mentioning the race of people in my columns unless it's relevant. And it's only relevant here because the justices cited it as a reason why she would have been vulnerable — in the same way a judge noted during oral arguments that it would have been like dropping off a black man into the middle of a Ku Klux Klan rally.

The way she was dressed, the way she looked, the color of her skin, all of it made her stand out in a violent neighborhood, and the police should have realized this, the justices said.

"They did not warn Eilman about the neighborhood's dangers," the justices wrote. "They did not walk her to the nearest CTA station, from which she could have reached a safer neighborhood in minutes. They did not drive her back to the airport where she could have used her ticket to return to California. They did not put Eilman in contact with her mother, who had called the stationhouse repeatedly."

Once released, she walked a few blocks, then was coaxed into the building. Some folks tried to help her but didn't help enough. She was taken up to the seventh floor. Then she was set upon.

Those were the acts of criminals. They come in all colors and sizes. They prey upon the weak.

But City Hall also preyed on the weak, by dragging this on and on, stalling, year after year after year, preying upon Eilman and her family.

That's over. Now it's time to pay.

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune



City of Chicago settlement $22.5 Million of bipolar woman police released in high crime area | Jan 15, 2013

Nearly seven years after Christina Eilman wandered out of a South Side police station and into a catastrophe, her tragic entanglement with the Chicago Police Department began to come to an end Monday — with a proposed $22.5 million legal settlement that may be the largest the city ever offered to a single victim of police misconduct.

Though the settlement is a staggering sum on its own, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has placed a second eight-figure police settlement on Tuesday's City Council Finance Committee agenda. A $10.2 million settlement is proposed for one of the victims of notorious former police Cmdr. Jon Burge, bringing to nearly $33 million the amount aldermen could vote to pay victims of police misconduct in a single day.

The latest Burge settlement would be for Alton Logan, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and who alleged in a federal lawsuit that Burge's team of detectives covered up evidence that would have exonerated him — a departure from previous cases that documented torture used by Burge's team to extract false confessions. The Logan case would bring the tab on Burge cases to nearly $60 million when legal fees are counted. Burge is serving 41/2 years in federal prison for lying about the torture and abuse of suspects.

The settlement in the Eilman case would avert a trial detailing the events of May 2006, when the then-21-year-old California woman was arrested at Midway Airport in the midst of a bipolar breakdown. She was held overnight and then released at sundown the next day without assistance several miles away in one of the city's highest-crime neighborhoods.

Alone and bewildered by her surroundings, the former UCLA student was abducted and sexually assaulted before plummeting from a seventh-floor window. She survived but suffered a severe and permanent brain injury, a shattered pelvis, and numerous other broken bones and injuries.

Her lawyer and family declined to comment Monday. The case, which has dragged in the courts for six years, was set to begin trial next week. Pretrial litigation had produced scathing rebukes from federal judges of the city's behavior toward Eilman — both on the street and in court.

The city's argument that it was not responsible for her injuries because she was assaulted by a gang member was blasted in a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook described the Police Department's release of Eilman, who is white, into a high-crime, predominantly African-American neighborhood by saying officers "might as well have released her into the lion's den at the Brookfield Zoo."

While Emanuel's Law Department endured some criticism for delays in the Eilman case since the mayor took office in 2011, he has noted repeatedly that the police misconduct highlighted in these and many other cases are legacies from the Richard M. Daley administration that he — and taxpayers — are stuck with.

The mayor's office referred calls to the city Law Department, but a spokesman there declined to comment.

If approved, the Eilman settlement would surpass the $18 million settlement paid to the family of LaTanya Haggerty, who was mistakenly shot and killed by police in 1999. It is frequently referred to as the city's biggest single-victim settlement.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st, said city officials have not taken a hard enough line against police misconduct for years, and now taxpayers are footing the bill.

"We've known this was going to bust our budget, and here we are," Brookins said. "The administration (under Daley) should have made police conduct and behavior a higher priority. They didn't, and now we're seeing these costly settlements over and over, to pay for officers mistreating people."

The Logan case was set to go to trial last month, but on the first day of jury selection, city lawyers decided to settle the case. Logan's attorney Jon Loevy said the settlement includes about $1.5 million in legal fees.

Logan sat in prison for 26 years until a stunning 2008 revelation after another man, convicted murderer Andrew Wilson, died. Wilson had told his attorneys in 1982 that he committed the murder in which Logan was accused, but the lawyers said the attorney-client privilege kept them from going public with the admission until after Wilson's death.

Although relieved the city settled the case instead of battling on, Loevy said his client would gladly give up the $8.7 million to have nearly three decades of his life back.

"I don't know who would take that much money to lose their 20s, 30s and 40s," Loevy said. "From his perspective, no amount of money can make him whole and he'd rather have his life back."

While Logan lost the middle chunk of his life, Eilman dwells in a childlike mental state and feels as though she has lost the rest of her life, her family has told the Tribune.

Hobbled by a brain injury that has permanently impaired her cognitive function, she lives with her parents in suburban Sacramento. She requires constant medical treatment and therapy. Doctors have said she will not get better.

Eilman came to Chicago on May 5, 2006, at a time when her bipolar condition was worsening. When she tried to catch a return flight from Midway to California a couple of days later, she was ranting and screaming and appeared to be out of her mind.

Police officers eventually arrested her and took her to the Chicago Lawn district near Midway. Court records and depositions in the case show that officers were alarmed by Eilman's behavior.

A female sergeant called her father, Rick Paine, who told the officer Eilman had been treated for bipolar disorder the year before. One of the arresting officers testified that the watch commander ordered that Eilman be taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, per department protocols. But the officers never took her because they said they did not have a car, according to court records.

Instead, Eilman was transferred to the Wentworth district lockup several miles east and held overnight. Bewildered by the changing situation, Eilman's mother, Kathy Paine, began nearly hourly calls to the Wentworth district. Over nine telephone calls to the station, Kathy Paine said she was repeatedly told to call back later until an officer told her that Eilman had already been released.

Police escorted Eilman to the back door of station, and she wandered a few blocks east to a takeout restaurant, where men began to gather and talk to the petite blonde, who was dressed in a skimpy jogging suit.

Witnesses said she appeared to be disoriented and behaving erratically. A short time later she walked a few blocks to the last remaining high-rise of the Robert Taylor Homes. Eilman eventually went with a group of people to a vacant apartment on the seventh floor of the public housing project.

One resident said she repeatedly warned Eilman that she was not safe there. Several men asked Eilman to perform oral sex, but she refused, at one point saying she would jump out the window if touched, witnesses said.

Reputed gang member and convicted felon Marvin Powell eventually demanded the others leave the apartment but prevented Eilman from going with them, saying, "I'm gonna show this bitch who the real killa is," according to witnesses.

Powell was eventually convicted of abducting Eilman but not sexually assaulting her or causing her to go out the window. He served part of a 12-year sentence before being paroled last spring, while Eilman and her family were still battling the city in court.

By David Heinzmann ; Chicago Tribune reporter
January 14, 2013

Tribune reporter John Byrne contributed.


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