Teens Acquitted of Plotting Attack at VSDB

25 02 2009

Updated: Feb 24, 2009 01:12 PM PST

A judge has acquitted two teenaged boys accused of plotting a violent attack at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.

A pair of hearing impaired students had been charged with conspiring to kill two or more people. Investigators say the targets were students and teachers at the Staunton school.

But a juvenile court judge has ruled there was not evidence that the boys actually intended to carry out the plans. A defense attorney says it was little more than an ill advised joke.


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Lawmakers ready to sue to save Scranton State School for the Deaf

16 02 2009
Published: Saturday, February 14, 2009
When the governor proposed terminating funding for the Scranton State School for the Deaf, he did it with little research and no firm transition plan, state legislators say.

Lawmakers said the meeting proved to them what they had guessed — that the state had done little research on the only state-owned school of its kind and how cost-effective an alternative could be.

“This transition will not be smooth,” said Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-113, Scranton, adding that there is no projection of the cost per student for alternativee services. “That question has to be answered.”

Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration says the discussion and debate is all part of the “budget process.”

In Mr. Rendell’s 2009-10 budget released last week, he proposed eliminating all funding for the school, which was $7.35 million for this school year. A plan is now being developed for the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit to partner with the nonprofit Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf to provide services — likely at the 10-acre campus in the city’s Green Ridge section, which currently serves 107 students.

State Sen. Robert Mellow, D-22, the Senate Democratic minority leader, will offer an amendment to a bill that would halt the school’s closing until legislators can review results of a comprehensive study of the school.

If that doesn’t happen, Mr. Mellow said on Friday that he would go to court to “get what we need to make an intelligent decision.

“I would not hesitate for a moment to do that,” Mr. Mellow said. “I will never turn my back on them.”

Mr. Mellow said he is not “fighting closure,” but “fighting process.”

“There may be a better way to educate the children,” he said. “We just can’t spring it on them. If there’s a better way of doing it, you phase it out.”

Legislators have said they did not learn of the plan until the morning of the governor’s budget address, and school officials first learned of the plan the night before.

Michael Race, spokesman for the Department of Education, said many of the concerns of the lawmakers would be addressed over the next few months.

“All the concerns they’re expressing, that’s what the budget process is for,” Mr. Race said.

State officials have said operating the school is too expensive — about $80,000 per student — and that it can be done more efficiently. About $5 million for the transitional costs is included in the state budget.

“We’re confident that none of these kids are going to miss out on an education or not have the services they need,” Mr. Race said. “We have as much concern for these students as the lawmakers do.”

Mr. Smith said regardless of the budget process, more research was needed before the closure was proposed.

“When the governor announces his budget, this is a beginning of a long journey,” Mr. Smith said. “But at the same time, do you realize the emotions you are playing with?

“If these kids aren’t fragile enough, now you just broke them.”

School Superintendent Monita Hara, Ed.D., said she wanted to see a cost analysis to see how the services the school provides could be available at a lesser cost through another provider.

“We, at SSSD, feel that the Pennsylvania Department of Education does not present us as a viable option,” she said. “We could be the flagship school for the state.”

The lawmakers are now demanding answers — and say they are willing to take the issue to court, if needed.sc_times_trib_20090214_a_pg1_tt14deafschool_s1_2300867_top2

“How do you take a special needs child and basically throw them out and say, ‘We don’t have a plan, but we’ll get back to you?’ ” asked Rep. Ken Smith, D-112, Dunmore. “These are the kids who come to the plate with two strikes against them. We have to have an answer for them.”

At a meeting this week, legislators across the region spoke with representatives from the state Department of Education, including Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak, Ed.D., and officials from the School for the Deaf.

Wal-Mart Settles Disability Lawsuit

26 01 2009

The retailer has agreed to improve access in its stores

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has agreed to settlement a lawsuit claiming that it discriminated against its people with disabilities.



The world’s largest retailer was charged with violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and has promised to improve access for persons with disabilities at its stores nationwide. The agreement resolves an investigation that was initiated after the U.S. Department of Justice received several complaints alleging that Wal-Mart had refused to make reasonable modifications to its rules, policies, practices, and procedures for customers with disabilities.

Allegations of ADA Violations

In particular, several complainants alleged that Wal-Mart denied equal access to its stores for people with disabilities who use service animals; at least five complainants alleged a failure to provide disability-related assistance, two complainants alleged that Wal-Mart denied equal access by failing to make reasonable modifications in order to accept payment by people with disabilities at different stores; and one complainant alleged that a Wal-Mart auto service department denied him equal access to its services because he was deaf and did not have a cellular telephone.

New Policies to Be Adopted

The settlement agreement covers all facilities located in the United States where Wal-Mart sells any good or service to members of the public, including all Wal-Mart stores, Supercenters, Sam’s Clubs, and Neighborhood Markets. The agreement, which will be effective for three years, requires Wal-Mart to take several steps to improve access for customers with disabilities, including:

– an undertaking by Wal-Mart not to discriminate in violation of Title III of the ADA and to provide reasonable modifications to individuals with disabilities as required by Title III of the ADA, such as disability-related assistance such as helping customers in locating, lifting, and carrying items;

– the adoption and implementation of an ADA-compliant policy of welcoming persons with disabilities who use service animals into Wal-Mart stores with little or no questioning and without repeated challenges by Wal-Mart employees;

– training for all employees on Wal-Mart’s obligations under Title III of the ADA to make reasonable modifications for individuals with disabilities and Wal-Mart’s new ADA-compliant service animal policy;

– additional training for store management and People Greeters, since employees in these positions have additional responsibilities under Wal-Mart’s new service animal policy;

– the posting of Wal-Mart’s new service animal policy on its website and in employee areas at its stores;

– the establishment of a grievance procedure in which Wal-Mart will receive complaints alleging violations of Title III of the ADA at a toll-free hotline, investigate such complaints, and take appropriate corrective actions to resolve any noncompliance with Title III of the ADA, including relief to complainants where appropriate.

Wal-Mart Will Start Awareness Campaign

Under the settlement agreement, Wal-Mart will also pay $150,000 into a fund to compensate certain individuals with disabilities who filed administrative complaints with the Department alleging Wal-Mart’s refusal to make reaonable modifications, including the denial of equal access to persons with disabilities who use service animals. Wal-Mart will also pay an additional $100,000 into a fund that will be used by the Civil Rights Division to finance a public service announcement campaign to increase public awareness of the access rights of persons with disabilities who use service animals.


The copyright of the article Wal-Mart Settles Disability Lawsuit in Customer Relations is owned by Suzanne Robitaille. Permission to republish Wal-Mart Settles Disability Lawsuit in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
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(New Jersey) Doctor Sued For Refusing to Provide ASL Interpretation

8 01 2009

A Jersey City, N.J. rheumatologist has been fined $400,000 in punitive damages as part of a disability discrimination lawsuit brought against him by a patient, reports the American Medical News.

 Irma Gerena, who is deaf, began seeing Dr. Robert A. Fogari in May of 2004; Fogari subsequently treated her for lupus over a period of 18 months.  In her lawsuit, Gerena claimed that she asked repeatedly for an ASL interpreter, but Fogari refused her requests.  As a private practitioner, Fogari argued, he could not afford a sign language interpreter when Medicare would only pay $49 of the $200-per-visit cost.

 Gerena went to about 20 appointments with Dr. Fogari, and in those appointments, the two would exchange written notes, often aided by Gerena’s family members.  She claims that while their methods of communication were adequate for simple check-ups, she did not have “any real understanding” of lupus, and was incapable of fully understanding her prognosis and the risks of her treatment without an interpreter present.  She did not accuse Dr. Fogari of medical malpractice, but chose to sue anyway, citing a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Dr. Fogari, however, argues that since both he and Gerena agreed to communicate by writing, he should not be held more responsible for Gerena’s misunderstanding than he would be for any other patient’s.

Lawyers in the field say this is one of the largest settlements of its kind, and many of them worry about the kind of legal precedent the case will set.

Disaboomers: Do you think Gerena’s lawsuit was justified?  Should the doctor have paid out of pocket (and lost his income from Gerena) for an interpreter?  Do you think this case will do more to help or harm people with disabilities?