December 2009

Should Quadriplegics Be Allowed to Purchase a Gun?

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When Jamie Cap of Clinton N.J. applied for a firearms purchaser’s identification card through his local police department in spring of 2007 he never dreamed that after a 20 month wait it would be denied. Not because he didn’t pass the background check, but because it was thought that gun ownership by Cap would represent a public safety issue.

Jamie Cap is a quadriplegic.

Last month, after a 2 1/2 year battle, a state superior court judge defined the conditions that Cap must abide by in order to obtain the ID. He must store any guns in a safe and have them transported, loaded, unloaded and cleaned by someone with a valid firearms ID card or who would be eligible for one.

Here is what Cap said last week after firing a rifle for the first time in 3 decades: “I don’t know if there are words,” he said. “I’m so happy. When you find you can do something again after 30 years, you can’t put a price on that. Some people think it’s nothing, but try being paralyzed for 30 years and then come talk to me.”

If you are paralyzed or have a disability, have you ever used a gun? Why or why not?

University Violated Law by Refusing Disabled Student to Live in Dorms

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U.S District Judge Patrick J. Duggan recently ruled that Oakland University violated federal law by refusing to allow a disabled student to live in a campus dorm. After a two year battle to live on campus, the 25-year-old Huntington Woods student will move to the dorms in January.
In the fall of 2007, Oakland University student Micah Fialka-Feldman was looking forward to moving into an on campus dorm. Right before he was set to move in, the college withdrew the housing offer saying that he was not eligible because he was not enrolled in a required degree granting program. Fialka-Feldman’s cognitive impairment hinders his ability to read and write, and for that reason he takes classes at Oakland that are designed for college students with cognitive disabilities. Fialka-Feldman pays a fee that is equal to the cost of tuition, and does not earn grades.
The program that he is a part of, called OPTIONS, teaches students the skills to find a job and live independently after college. Hopefully this settlement will make it easier for other OPTIONS students to live on campus, too.

More at The Detroit News

Class Action Lawsuit Against California for Handicap Accessibility in Settlement

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A 2006 class action lawsuit filed by Californians for Disability Rights Inc, the California Council for the Blind on behalf of two disabled Californians has reached a proposed settlement, and is awaiting review by a federal judge and the U. S. Dept of Justice. The state of California has agreed to spend $1.1 billion over the next 30 years to repair and improve roughly 2,500 miles of state owned sidewalks and crosswalks as well as 300 park-and-ride facilities so they are handicap accessible. In the proposed settlement the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will also be required to put in curb ramps whenever it resurfaces highways that run through city streets. Governor Schwarzenegger commented by saying: “This settlement is a win-win, It would be inexcusable to continue to delay these modifications. Instead of debating this through the legal process for the next decade, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, we are taking action to get this work completed.”

Disabled Mom Sues for Custody of Child

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David Trais, the ex-boyfriend of Kaney O’Neill sued for full custody of their 5 month old son in September, charging that O’Neill is “not a fit and proper person” to care for the infant. He went on to say in court papers, O’Neill’s disability “greatly limits her ability to care for the minor, or even wake up if the minor is distressed.”
A quadriplegic since falling from a balcony during Hurricane Floyd while working as a Navy airman apprentice, Kaney O’Neill recognizes her limits as a parent and feels that she not only has the money, but also the support of family that would make up for her paralysis, her attorney believes that the bias of judges is such that they tend to grant custody to the able bodied partner. Ella Callow, the director of legal programs for the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families, said disabled parents are incorrectly “perceived as unable to perform to standard.”

This case raises some interesting questions about the rights of a disabled person to raise their own children, It will be interesting to see how it plays out in court next month.

Standup Comedian and Wheelchair User Runs for Mayor

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Jonah Bascle, who is best known as a standup comedian, is running for mayor of New Orleans. He is also a wheelchair user.  His goal is to make New Orleans handicapped accessible, and he considers it a high priority because it wouldn’t take a lot of money to solve the problem.   Born and raised in New Orleans, Jonah Bascle had a hard time attending high school because none of the schools were handicapped accessible, but he eventually got his GED and went on to the University of New Orleans.  Accessibility issues continued after college, especially with city services.  Bascle thinks the only way to get something done is to run for mayor, and his platform is equal access. He considers the lack of wheelchair access on the older cars of the St. Charles streetcar line to be one of the biggest challenges, but one that can be solved without spending any money.

Wheelchair Accessible Home Built for Disabled Vet

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Homecoming for Staff Sergeant Mike Downing presented a new set of challenges. Everyday tasks like climbing the stairs became difficult. Downing, a father of four, lost both of his legs in a roadside bombing explosion in Afghanistan in September of 2008. Homes for Our Troops stepped in to make his life easier. The organization has built 48 accessible homes for veterans since it was founded in 2004. They have another 33 under construction. Donations for construction come from organizations such as Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins, the homes are offered free of charge.

Staff Sergeant Downing’s new home will feature wider hallways, and doors which will allow him better wheelchair access. The kitchen will have lower cabinets, and the bathrooms will feature a roll-in shower. The Downing family is scheduled to move into their new home in March.

Army Outstanding Employee of the Year Award Given to Woman with Cerebral Palsy

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Brooke Larrabee didn’t let the fact that she was born with cerebral palsy become an obstacle. She never considered herself disabled just because she had physical limitations. Her parents taught her at a very early age that she would need to work for the things she wanted in life. So when Brooke found out that she was awarded the 2009 “Army Outstanding Employee of the Year with a Disability Award”, she was surprised and said “I honestly had forgotten that they put me in for this award and it’s a shock.” Brooke’s supervisor, Sandra Butler was also surprised, “I know we put together an excellent package, and I knew she had an excellent chance. However, the competition is tough, especially Army-wide, so I was extremely happy that she got it,” Sandra stated in prepared remarks. “She is a really hard worker — a very, very hard worker — and we’re extremely proud of her.”
Brooke has worked for the past 18 years for the U.S. Army Forces Command’s G-8 Resource integration Division at Fort McPherson, Georgia.

Stevie Wonder Focuses on Disabilities with U.N Award

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Late last week, Stevie Wonder was honored as a U.N. Messenger of Peace. About the award, he stated that he wanted to focus on disabilities. He spoke about the importance of joining together for people with disabilities. “It’s about sounding that alarm off that says to the 90 percent [without disabilities]: it’s time to get it together for those of us with disabilities.”

Wonder wants to end the ignorance surrounding disabilities and spread awareness of the 650 million people worldwide that have some type of disability.

Stevie said, “If you love my music that much, then care about those ten percent as well. There are 650 million disabled people in the world. Lets do something about that. Lets make a change.”

Leapin’ Lizards – Salamander Could Help with Human Regeneration

A team of researchers connected with the University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute’s Regeneration Project has been awarded a coveted National Institutes of Health Grand Opportunity Grant of $2.4 million to prepare tools to compare the amazing regenerative powers of the Mexican axolotl salamander with established mouse models currently used to study human disease and injury.

Creating a new model of study based on this salamander and comparing it with other study models could pave the way for totally new methods of looking at human regeneration in cases of spinal cord injury and nerve cell damage. While humans can regenerate cells to replace a lost fingertip and even replace half a liver, we can’t replace entire limbs or organs once they’re lost to injury or disease.

But the axolotl salamander can regrow entire limbs and even portions of its central nervous system. These salamanders and humans share many of the same biological systems and even 90% of the same genes, but the salamanders’ ability to regenerate after major injury makes them an exciting model to study and compare with existing models. The mechanism by which organs and cells are regenerated was deemed to be among the most important 25 questions scientists should explore, according to Science Magazine, as far back as 2005, but science itself had to catch up with dawn of the 21st century in order to explore this model of investigation into the important issue of how humans can restore and regenerate even as it’s able to add years to our lifespans.

So why is the salamander able to regenerate so fully and well, and humans aren’t? That’s the purpose of this method of inquiry and further studies, to find that out and apply the results to humans. According to Edward Scott, Ph.D., principal investigator for the GO grant and director of the McKnight Brain Institute’s Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, “Ultimately, what makes the axolotl a great model for regeneration is that the model systems we are most familiar with mice and humans do not regenerate very well. By comparing how a mammal and a salamander respond to injuries, we can identify genes or proteins that we can now add back to the mammalian system to make it regenerate better.”