Regional News in Review - April 2011

Leadership history is preserved

For more than a century, a movement has been growing in this country to ensure that people with developmental disabilities are valued, included, empowered and productive members of society. This collective effort of individuals and groups, referred to broadly as the Developmental Disabilities Movement. A new Web resource that offers a history of this movement and some of its key leaders has been launched by the Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC) at the University

of Minnesota, with support from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation. Titled Leadership in the History of the Developmental Disabilities Movement: A Web-Based Instructional, Discussion, and Wiki Program, this multimedia website (www.disabilityhistorywiki.org) uses Wiki technology to create a living history that continually expands and evolves with contributions from leaders around the country.

“We envision this web site as a tree,” said Charlie Lakin, RTC Director. “It presents an overview course on disability history that we’ve developed, and that’s the trunk of the tree. But to make it a living tree we also need branches, and branches off of those branches. We hope that many of the established leaders and historians of our field will contribute those branches by using the site as a multi-media repository through which to share the personalities, ideas, and lessons that have shaped our field to date. Hopefully, by passing on their stories of how we got to where we are, future leaders will be better aided to guide the continued evolution of the movement.”

The overview course reaches back to 1845 and profiles key leaders and events in the movement from that time forward to today. This is expanded upon by the Wiki repository, which will house the experiences, stories, and archival materials submitted by leaders in the movement. As many older leaders who’ve been part of the tremendous progress in the Developmental Disabilities Movement since the 1950s are reaching retirement age and beyond, the time is right to gather and preserve the information, insight, and resources they possess as an important legacy for future generations.

“Our hope for this project is that it will be a source of inspiration for current and future leaders in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Dwight Robson, President of The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation. “Especially for those new to the field, this project will underscore how much progress had been made while energizing all of us to continue to push the movement forward toward a day of full equality and integration for those we support.” [Source: University of Minnesota]

 

Officer is honored for work

Last year St. Paul police officer Chad Koch had a thought that seemed pioneering yet obvious: The department has held classes to teach officers elementary Spanish, why not teach American Sign Language?

He took on the project himself, and got the department’s first 10-week course rolling. If funds are available this year, he hopes that an intermediate course will be the next step in bridging the gap between law enforcement and St. Paul’s deaf and hard of hearing residents.

In March the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans gave Koch its community justice award in a ceremony at the State Capitol. “I think it’s just assumed that it’s not a minority community,” said Koch, who is not deaf. “It is a whole different language, a whole different culture. There are a lot of things we need to know.”

In 2006, the department was embroiled in a case involving a deaf community leader who was sprayed with a chemical irritant and dragged out of his car for allegedly running a red light. Advocates said that Koch’s work has made strides in improving communication to eliminate these misunderstandings.

He also reached out to St. Paul schools, meeting with deaf students each week. “For quite some time, the police force didn’t have the ability or support to work with deaf or hard of hearing people who communicated with American Sign Language,” said Marian Hausladen, an advocate and former chair of the commission. Hausladen was a social worker for St. Paul schools when Koch approached her about meeting with deaf students to help understand their language and culture.  [Source: Star Tribune]

 

New ADA Rules in Effect

Revised regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will take effect March 15 , the Department of Justice announced. The revised rules are the department’s first major revision of its guidance on accessibility in 20 years.

The regulations apply to the activities of more than 80,000 units of state and local government and more than seven million places of public accommodation, including stores, restaurants, shopping malls, libraries, museums, sporting arenas, movie theaters, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, hotels, jails and prisons, polling places, and emergency preparedness shelters. The rules were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder on July 23, 2010, and the official text was published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010.

The department is also releasing a new document, “ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business,” to help small businesses understand the new and updated accessibility requirements. In addition, the department is announcing the release of a new publication explaining when the various provisions of its amended regulations will take effect. Both documents will be available tomorrow on the department’s ADA website, www.ada.gov

“The new rules usher in a new day for the more than 50 million individuals with disabilities in this country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The rules will expand accessibility in a number of areas and, for the first time, provide detailed guidance on how to make recreation facilities, including parks and swimming pools, accessible.”

The new ADA rules are seen as more user-friendly for building code officials, construction companies, and architects, and have been harmonized with state and local accessibility codes. They also include,

for the first time, standards on making swimming pools, parks, golf courses, boating facilities, exercise clubs, and other recreation facilities accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Entities covered by the ADA have until March 15, 2012 to comply with the 2010 Standards. “ADA Update” and “ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Effective Date/Compliance Date” are the first of several planned publications aimed at helping businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and state and local governments understand their obligations under the amended Title II and Title III regulations.

Individual print copies of the Effective Date/Compliance Date publication can be ordered from the ADA Information Line (800-514- 0301 voice or 800-514-0383 TTY). [Source: U.S. Departmentof Justice] 

 

Swindler must pay $456,367 restitution

Katharine L. Rosenthal, 41, stole from her autistic neighbor and now must spent a year in prison.

The former Eagan woman also must pay the victim $456.367. Rosenthal was sentenced last month in Dakota County District Court after pleading guilty to three counts of defrauding a vulnerable adult. Nine other felony counts, including theft by swindle, were dropped.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom called the offenses “egregious,” because Rosenthal stole money that she was supposed to use to care for a person with disabilities. Rosenthal will also serve 20 years’ probation. Any more violations and she will have to serve another 33 more months’ imprisonment.

Rosenthal apologized in court, saying she had made a mistake. The victim’s family had known Rosenthal for several years and gave her power of attorney over the victim’s inheritance. Rosenthal even bought a house in Texas and moved the victim there temporarily. Worried friends got the power of attorney revoked.  [Source: Pioneer Press, Star Tribune]

 

 

Father must pay support

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected a wealthy man’s claim that he shouldn’t have to pay part of his adult son’s care. The son has Down syndrome.

The father with more than $1.2 million in annual income had argued that he pays high taxes and his son is eligible for government support. The court’s decision in March upheld Hennepin County District Judge Kevin Burke’s order that Timothy Hanratty must continue to pay $2,300 a month in child support, which his ex-wife in turn pays to the group home where their 32-year-old son lives. Although he made more than $1 million a year in 2007 and 2008, Timothy Hanratty argued his child support is no longer necessary because Travis has moved to a group home where eligibility for government reimbursement would make him self-supporting. The monthly group home bill is $6,500 for his son, who requires intensive care and is therefore still eligible for child support under the law.

“Essentially, [the father] argued that it was unfair to require him to fund his son’s care when the taxpayers could do it,” the Appeals Court decision stated. The court agreed with Burke’s reasoning “that it is not unreasonable or unfair to require a father with over $1.2 million in annual income” to help support his disabled child “rather than shifting the burden to a state that is cutting programs for [its] most vulnerable citizens.”

Hanratty told the Star Tribune that he wants the best for his son and foots the bill for his health insurance, but he does not believe he is being treated equally. He argued in part that because he paid high income taxes, he was funding his son’s care twice. He has the option to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.  [Source: Star Tribune]

 

Guilty plea in assault

A St. Paul man has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a fellow Metro Transit bus passenger. The crime was shocking because the assault victim has Down syndrome. Herbert Lee House III, 22, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court March 23 to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The terms of a plea agreement call for him to be sentenced May 18 to at least five years in prison. His attorney may ask the judge for leniency.

During the Feb. 22 assault, House sat next to the woman, who was traveling with a school group on a Route 64 bus. According to a criminal complaint, House sat next to the woman and forced her to perform a sex act. House also tried to lead her off the bus with him, but a personal attendant accompanying the group yelled to her, “Get back on the bus.”  Two teens who witnessed the incident notified police after they got home. The personal attendant, who worked with vulnerable adults at the St. Paul Public Schools’ Transition to Independence school, is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.  [Source: Pioneer Press]

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