Regional News in Review – August 2012

Enforcement efforts stepped up U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation are collaborating with the Civil Rights Division to target enforcement […]

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Enforcement efforts stepped up

U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation are collaborating with the Civil Rights Division to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities through a new Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, the Justice Department announced July 26. The announcement comes on the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed on July 26, 1990. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez announced the new initiative at an event celebrating the anniversary of the ADA in Washington, D.C.

This new initiative will ensure that people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, have access to medical information provided to them in a manner that is understandable to them. The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative is a multi-phase plan that will also involve other key issues for people with disabilities, including ensuring physical access to medical buildings.

“Access to health care remains an area of critical need for too many people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or who have hearing loss,” said Perez. “The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative will make sure people with disabilities are capable of physically accessing medical buildings and facilities and are not discriminated against when it comes to receiving potentially life-saving medical information. I look forward to continuing to work with U.S. Attorneys to advance ADA compliance efforts nationwide.” 

The Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices have long enforced the ADA in this area. This nationwide initiative seeks to focus and leverage the department’s resources together and aggregate and echo the collective message that disability discrimination in health care is illegal and unacceptable. Already, 35 U.S. Attorneys have committed to this initiative. Information about the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative and the U.S. Attorney Program for ADA Enforcement can be found at [Source: U.S. Department of Justice]


Resident swallows pen, changes made

The lone resident at a Duluth home for vulnerable adults swallowed a pen after a staff member in charge of the resident’s care fell asleep, according to a state report. Surgery was required to remove the pen. The resident has a long history of trying to swallow inedible objects.

The incident occurred on April 14 at Residential Services of Northeast Minnesota’s home. According to a state report, the resident’s care plan required at least one awake overnight staff person and two awake staff members during the resident’s waking hours. Visual checks were required every 15 minutes while the resident was awake and every 30 minutes while asleep. The resident’s bedroom, as well as the living room and dining area, were maintained as “safe rooms” in which the environment allowed the least possible potential for self-harm. But the resident woke up, saw the staff member asleep and found and swallowed the pen. The home has since modified its doors to prevent future incidents.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services considers the incident to be published maltreatment of a vulnerable adult by a staff person. The company took corrective action and wasn’t penalized, according to the report. However, the staff member involved was disqualified from having direct contact with clients served by state-licensed facilities or with unlicensed personal care providers. The housing provider wasn’t fined or sanctioned. [Source: Duluth News-Tribune]


Veteran gets a new home

Elysian resident and Jack Zimmerman a disabled veteran and his friends and family say he almost always has a smile on his face. The same was true recently on a plot of land in rural Elysian as person after person lined up to congratulate him on a pretty amazing gift he was being given, as well as thank him for his service and sacrifice. But when it was Zimmerman’s turn to speak to a group of family and friends, area community members and media, he had to hold back a few tears behind that smile.

A man of few words, Zimmerman had plenty of people ready and willing to speak to his character and to explain why he and his wife, Megan, are so deserving of the purpose of Wednesday’s gathering: to break ground on a new home being built for the couple that will be suited to his needs. The home will be ready by late fall.

An Army specialist serving in Afghanistan, Zimmer-man lost both his legs and three fingers after stepping on an IED March 9, 2011. He has had 20 operations and is undergoing physical therapy to learn how to walk again using prosthetic legs that include mechanical knees.

Meredith Iler, national chairman of Home Program, said the organization connected with the Zimmermans through their best friend, Sgt. J.D. Williams, a triple amputee from Kentucky. [Source: Mankato Free Press]


Stolen bike is found

A special bike stolen in Willmar is back now where it belongs. Brian Gort, 37, is developmentally disabled. He loves going for bike rides, but can’t pedal or steer. More than 30 years ago, his parents found a side-by-side three-wheel bike, and it has been part of the family’s summer routine for years—until somebody stole it. The bike disappeared from outside of a group home where Gort lives.

News reports of the theft drew an outpouring of support and offers of help. But soon there was good news. Willmar Police got a report that the bike had been abandoned in the city. Police cleaned the bike up and delivered it back to Gort. His personal license plate was still on the basket.

“They found it in the southwest corner of town (near) his house is, so it didn’t go too far,” said his mother, Margaret Gort. “Actually, a mail carrier found it in some weeds, and it was fine, the same way it was when they took it.” [Source: WCCO-TV, Willmar Tribune]


Boat launch can reopen

Archie Leizinger an 84-year-old developmentally disabled man who has operated a boat launch on Shutz Lake in the city of Victoria, can continue launching watercraft. The City of Victoria agreed in July to a needed conditional use permit for Leizinger. Friends helped him raise the $1,500 for the one-time permit.

City officials shut down Archie’s Landing in the spring. It is the only place on the 99-acre lake where outsiders—and even many lakeshore owners—can put their boats in the water. Leizinger charges $6 a boat and a Dr Pepper for those who use the launch. He operated the launch without a permit until someone complained to city officials, claiming that boaters might bring zebra mussels into the lake.

Supporters were incensed, with some questioning whether some lakeshore property owners were trying to block public access to the lake. They said Leizinger was very sad when the launch had to be closed.

For Chris Glaze, who has fished the lake for 18 years, it doesn’t make sense that one neighbor’s complaint can shut the landing down. “The guy has caused nobody any grief for all that time, and he’s brought a lot of joy to my life,” Glaze said. “People are trying to mess with him because they thought he didn’t have any backup.” [Source: Star Tribune]


Woman faces assault charges

A Minneapolis woman faces assault charges after allegedly striking a man with disabilities in the head in early July. The 57-year-old victim, who has Parkinson’s disease, told police the woman tried to prostitute herself while the two were at a Super-America station in St. Paul. The man declined her offer.

Suspect Davina Rulford, 22, threw the brick at the man while the two were in a nearby alley, according to a complaint filed charging her with second- and third-degree assault. She has a previous prostitution conviction. She denied hitting him, the charges say.

The victim, who was taken to Regions Hospital, was diagnosed with a concussion, according to the criminal complaint. [Source: Star Tribune, Pioneer Press]


New iPad App helps tell stories

“Telling Your Story” is a tool that persons with disabilities, family members, and other advocates can use to compose and practice the personal story they’ll present to elected public officials or other policymakers at all levels of government when seeking policy changes or increasing awareness about disability issues. The app guides users through the steps, from introducing yourself to identifying the specific issue to the best methods for presenting a compelling personal story. After entering the text of their story, an audio recording feature allows the user to rehearse their story. Users can also select and preview a photo they may wish to include.

The use of this app is being promoted by many state agencies and self-advocacy groups.

View the app in the iTunes Store at To use all the features of this app, an iPad 2 or newer is required. From the app’s home screen, select “Tony Coehlo’s Story,” “Example Stories,” or begin creating a personal story. Touch “close” to return to the home screen. Users can follow the prompts and type in text to create their own stories. Remember to include the question or topic in your composition.

Once a story is written, users can employ an audio recording feature to record themselves reading aloud each piece of a personal story. The recording can be redone until the desired performance is attained. Photos from the user’s personal gallery can be used to illustrate the story.

State officials want to hear comments from those who try this app, at [email protected]  [Source: State of Minnesota]


Paralyzed athlete is harassed

KARE-11 Television is reporting that a Benilde-St. Margaret athlete, who was paralyzed in a hockey accident, is the target of cyberbullying. Jack Jablonski has been harassed for the past several weeks by someone using Twitter.

“Bullies pick on kids that are different,” David Walsh, a child psychologist, said about the situation. Jablonski sustained a spinal injury last winter during a hockey game. While he has enjoyed much support, he is now a target of an anonymous cyberbully.

“He (Jablonski) needs our support but there might be other kids who are jealous of that and say why does he get the attention?” said Walsh. He said the cyberbully may feel invincible.

“Because there is no consequence it can literally ramp up and there is nothing to tamper it down, it gets more and more vicious, out of control and can be really damaging,” Walsh said. He added that the best solution in any cyberbullying situation is to simply log off and ignore the bully. [Source: KARE 11]

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