Regional News in Review – June 2014

Parks department accused of discrimination The Minnesota Disability Law Center May 28 filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota […]

Generic Article graphic with Access Press emblem

Parks department accused of discrimination

The Minnesota Disability Law Center May 28 filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, centered on access to a Twin Cities off-leash dog area. The complaint was filed on behalf of Ramsey County resident David Zylka. It is filed against the Ramsey County Department of Parks and Recreation.

In the complaint Zylka alleges that Ramsey County has failed to ensure physical access for individuals with disabilities who want to use the Rice Creek Off-Leash Dog Park. The park is one of four off-leash dog areas operated by the county. It is in Shoreview and consists of 13 fenced acres. Zylka has a disability that prohibits him from walking long distances on soft surfaces such as dirt and sand. Zylka wants to be able to use the park so he and his dog can exercise. But the dog park contains a soft sand path for walking that is inaccessible to him and others who have difficulty walking or use a mobility device such as a wheelchair.

According to the complaint, for the past few years Zylka has tried to persuade Ramsey County to make the Rice Creek area accessible to individuals with disabilities by putting in a path that is firm. But Ramsey County has refused his requests.

“I am filing this Charge of Discrimination because the Rice Creek Off-Leash Dog Park should be accessible to everybody, including people with disabilities,” said Zylka. “I am hopeful that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights will find probable cause in this case and require Ramsey County to make this public dog park accessible for everyone.”  (Source: Minnesota Disability Law Center)

No resolution in cable television dispute

The television program “Disability Viewpoints” continues to face an uncertain future as the North Suburban Communications Commission decided May 15 to reject a new Comcast cable franchise proposal. “Disability Viewpoints” is produced and aired by CTV, which is overseen by the commission. The vote makes it likely that the dispute will wind up in court.

Comcast wants to change its franchise agreement with several northern Twin Cities suburbs, including cutting the public, education and government (PEG) funding provided for staff, facilities and equipment. Comcast wants to cut the subscriber fee from $4.15 to 42 cents, which the commission argues would bankrupt CTV.

The cable commission is made up of representatives from Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, St. Anthony and Shoreview. Shoreview’s representative cast the only vote against rejecting the proposal. Shoreview has considered leaving the commission and negotiating on its own. But representatives of other cities said they need to protect CTV and compared losing it to losing other city assets such as libraries and parks.

“Disability Viewpoints” is a program by and for Minnesotans with disabilities. It is rebroadcast by other cable networks in Minnesota and is also shown on Twin Cities Public Television. Those involved in the program said that while they could find another home for the production, they have longstanding working relationships with CTV staff and volunteers and would like those to continue. (Source: Lillie Suburban Newspapers)

‘R’ stands for respect

A campaign to “Disable the Label” filled the Vadnais Heights Sports Center May 14. People living with disabilities spread the message that the “R” word not only hurts, but is also degrading. They used the event to state that “R” needs to stand for respect.

Members of several dozen families wore “Disable the Label” tee shirts. They stood in the shape of a giant heart as their own positive protest of the “R” word.

“Excuse my bluntness, but it’s like a verbal assassination of a person’s character,” said Hunter Sargent who wrote and performed his “Disable the Label” rap. Many people at the rally helped campaign for the Safe Schools Act at the capitol this past legislative session.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities need to be treated with respect in the school and workplace. It’s something that can really bring a person’s self-esteem down. We as a community and society need to take time to learn from each other rather than label each other,” said Sargent.

“Everyone wears their R-word shirts and stands in a heart supporting those and showing our love for those in our community with intellectual disabilities,” said organizer Leslie Sieleni, a White Bear Lake mother. The event was organized by the White Bear Lake Peer and Leadership Society, Special Olympics Minnesota, the Arc Minnesota and Mains’l Services.

Book won’t be pulled from shelves

A book that uses a word that is derogatory to people with cognitive disabilities has been allowed to stay in the libraries of nine Minnesota schools. That is despite a parental complaint. Jenna Boutain of Farmington requested in April that the book Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements be removed because it uses a derogatory term for students with special needs.

Boutain is a district employee who works with special needs students and the mother of a student. But on May 14 a panel of parents, teachers and officials from the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school District voted unanimously to keep the book.

The district has only removed one other book under the policy. Lori Torseth, media specialist at Westview Elementary School, told the panel that the book was valuable for students who were struggling to learn to read. Torseth added that the book’s author told her it was written to “give people comfort that learning to read is hard.”

Boutain’s child was given the book as part of an accelerated-reader program. A district official offered to restrict the child’s access to the book, and the mother agreed. Boutain then decided to move forward with her request to have it removed from schools. The book was first published in 1985 and tells the story of Helen, a sixth-grader with a learning disability. (Source: Pioneer Press)

Portable bed handles recalled

Reports of three deaths have prompted the recall of about 113,000 adult portable bed handles used to help people get into and out of bed. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said the recall involves handles sold by Bed Handles Inc., of Blue Springs, MO. One of the deaths was in a Minnesota assisted living facility.

The handles can reportedly shift out of place when attached to a bed without the use of the safety retention straps. That creates a dangerous gap between the handle and the side of the mattress. The CPSC said three women became trapped between the mattress and the handles. The other two deaths were in Washington State, one in an adult family home and the other in a state managed care facility.

The recalled handles were sold at home health care, drug and medical equipment stores and in home and health care catalogs from January 1994 through December 2007. They cost about $100. The safety commission indicated that 174 deaths were associated with adult portable bed rails between January 2003 and December 2012. More than 80 percent of those killed were 60 or older.

The recall came just days after the CPSC announced a program intended to protect older adults from dangerous consumer products. (Source: Associated Press)



Families demand changes at hospital

the Minnesota Security Hospital, after a patient was beaten to death in his room at the St. Peter facility. “It breaks my heart that it came to this—that a man is now dead —for these problems to come into focus,” one patient’s Families are demanding better oversight at mother said at a news briefing May 15 in St. Paul.

Parents joined advocates in demanding that independent experts review therapy protocols and staff training at the hospital. It is Minnesota’s main treatment facility for people who are mentally ill and dangerous. Another demand is that patients and families need a greater role in developing therapy plans.

Reforms are sought just after release of a harshly worded investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS looked into the January killing of Michael F. Douglas, 41, and called the incident an “an unacceptable failure” on the hospital’s part. The report found that some hospital staff chose to spend their time inside offices and not interacting with patients, and that the patient who killed Douglas had asked twice to see a psychiatrist on the day of the killing but was denied.

After the report came out, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson called for sweeping changes in the hospital’s culture, as well as much more staff training. Other DHS officials have indicated that they are open to discussing changes with advocacy groups. Staff is already being added to deal with high-tension situations.

The hospital has been the focus of several reports and investigations, including a 2013 legislative auditor’s report that found understaffing in many situations. (Source: Star Tribune)

  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.
  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!

You are not alone. Minnesota Autism Resource Portal.