From the November-December 2018 issue of News & Letters
by Tim Finnigan
Disability rights group ADAPT recently criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency for not including people with disabilities in its plans for responding to natural disasters. It had included them in the past. During recent hurricane emergencies, shelters lacked accessible restrooms. People with disabilities have been shunted off to nursing homes when shelters closed.
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A new U.S. federal law would create a bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities. It aims to provide travelers timely assistance, seating, and accessible announcements; the right to file complaints; and the right to travel with necessary assistive devices and medications. It would increase penalties if a passenger is physically harmed or their wheelchair or mobility devices are damaged. Paraplegic Justin Levene illustrated the difficulties at an airport in the UK when he had to drag himself for hundreds of feet across the floor after his wheelchair was left behind by the airline.
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AnnCatherine Heigl, who has Down syndrome, was rejected by all eight sororities at George Mason University
in Fairfax, Va. She is a member of the university’s LIFE program for people with disabilities and a cheerleader. Her sister Lillie wrote a letter widely circulated on the internet: “Accepting a woman with a disability isn’t an act of charity, it brings diversity and promotes inclusion. AnnCatherine is an athlete, she is a friend, she works hard in the classroom, she is funny, and she is accomplished.”
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The State of Texas will be penalized $33.3 million for underfunding special education programs—about 3% of its annual federal grant. The state has previously been cited for illegally setting a cap on the number of special education students. Steven Aleman, of Disability Rights Texas, commented: “All states must ensure a minimum level of state aid for special education services and Texas is faced with multiple school years in which it fell short. Texas has to get its priorities straight, fix the broken grant allocation system, and put more resources into special education services.”