Handicap This! May-June 2014

May 24, 2014

by Suzanne Rose

Hungary ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. But under a new Constitution put into law by the current government, Hungarians under guardianship are excluded from voting unless a judge determines, based in part on an evaluation by a psychiatrist, that they have the capacity to vote. These determinations are highly subjective, arbitrary and discriminatory, since such tests are not required of all other citizens who want to vote.

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On March 8, International Women’s Day, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights released a report on violence against women across the European Union. This was the largest ever survey on violence against women. Nearly half of all women across the EU who have suffered at least one incident of physical or sexual violence starting in childhood are part of a disabled minority.

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Jenny Hatch of Hampton, Va., a 29-year-old with Down Syndrome, fought for the right to make her own decisions. Last August, she won a year-long court battle challenging her biological parents’ right to keep her in a group home. A court awarded temporary guardianship to two of her closest friends, Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris, who took her in when her parents wanted to put her in a group home. They own the thrift shop where Jenny has worked for the past six years. “I love them very much,” says Jenny. “I know that they love me too. They make my life very happy.” They also have a 15-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. Jenny had been bounced between four group homes over the course of a year. After her win she has been happily living with her friends when not traveling the country speaking at conferences about her experience.

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As a result of an internal investigation into the death of a mentally ill and disabled prisoner in February, a captain and four nurses have been fired and a psychologist and another nurse have resigned. The investigation is still ongoing. It is unclear what led to the death of Michael Anthony Kerr as he was being transported by prison van to Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., for medical attention. He was unresponsive when he arrived and could not be resuscitated. Before his death, Michael had been in solitary confinement for 45 days. One question that needs an answer is: why was he taken 165 miles to Raleigh instead of to a closer hospital only 25 miles away?

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