Tag Archives: Disability News

Celebrating 29 Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

Disabilities are nothing new. However, the fact that the country has been helping people with disabilities is still relatively new. This month, we celebrate 29 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Developed in 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act was a milestone that has created equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

It Started With the Capitol Crawl capital crawl where people with disabilities climbed the steps of the U.S. capitol building

In March of 1990, there were dozens of activists with disabilities who got out of their wheelchairs in order to “crawl” up the steps to the Capitol building to protest that the government wasn’t sufficiently advocating for those with disabilities.

It took quite a while for the ADA to pass through Congress. It was introduced in 1988 with bipartisan support. Since it took so long to pass, the Capitol Crawl was used to garner support and show that our community wouldn’t be ignored. After that, Congress pushed it through, becoming law in July of the same year.

What the Americans With Disabilities Act Offers

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits people with disabilities from being discriminated, including in such areas as public accommodations, transportation, employment, access to local and state government programs, as well as communications.

A variety of different federal agencies will enforce or investigate claims surrounding ADA. This includes the US Department of Labor, US Department of Transportation, FCC, US Equal Employment opportunity Commission, the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Education, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and even the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

Developed in 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act was a milestone. Indeed, it ensures that people do not discriminate against the disabled.

Confident business owners planning new business strategies.

Since the ADA was passed, communities have become more and more accessible. This includes everything from mandatory wheelchair accessible parking to curb-cuts. Almost all buses today are wheelchair accessible. Employers can’t discriminate against someone because of a disability. Government buildings have gone through renovations to allow access to all. Service dogs are protected and allowed to serve their owners, regardless of where they are.

The Timeline of Changes

Although the ADA was first developed in 1990, changes have been ongoing, providing even more rights to those with disabilities. For example, in 1991 there were more laws that focused on public accommodations. Then, in 1992, the ADA expanded to include employers with 25 or more employees. In 1999, there were two rulings by the Supreme Court that helped ensure that more people were covered by the Americans with disabilities act, including those taking certain types of medication. Even in 2006, there were updates to transportation regulations.

President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990

President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990

By 2008, there was the ADA Amendments Act, known as ADAAA. This was signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush as a way of counteracting the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of disability. It provided broader protection from discrimination. Further, it ensured that the definition of disability included having a mental or physical impairment that significantly limits one or multiple areas of life.

While the ADA and the following amendments have gone so far to ensure access and protect the rights of Americans with disabilities, there is still much work to be done. Attitudinal barriers and enforcement of the law continue to be a challenge for many people. We’re proud at AMS Vans to be a part of the fight!

Learn more about becoming a disability rights advocate from United Spinal Association here.

A Solution for Those With Disabilities

At AMS Vans LLC, we have been helping those with disabilities for over 20 years, all across the nation. We’ll work directly with you to provide quality wheelchair accessible vans that provide you with the mobile freedom that you desire. We offer a number of conversions – and you can find long and short-term rentals as well as direct sales to meet your personal needs. With AMS Vans, you can count on nationwide delivery and service, leasing and financing options and unmatched customer service.

Dream Team Empowers Woman with MS to Complete Mt Everest Trek

Pippa Blake Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition

Multiple sclerosis and a wheelchair could not deprive 61-year-old Pippa Blake of Victoria, Canada of fulfilling her lifelong dream of hiking Mount Everest, and she did so with the assistance of a group of people whose mission it is to help people with disabilities rise above challenges. She recently shared her Mount Everest experience at an event in Nanaimo, British Columbia and hosted by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada’s Central Island Chapter.

Pippa Blake Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition

Blake’s dreams of going to Mount Everest had been on the back-burner for some time before she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 20 years ago. She thought her sons had lost their minds when they told her they found people who could help her realize her dreams in a wheelchair that looks like a cross between a wheelbarrow and rickshaw.

Pippa Blake Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition

The TrailRider, as that curious wheelchair hybrid is known, is the brainchild of Sam Sullivan and Paul Cermak. Sullivan became a quadriplegic in 1979 after a skiing accident. Determined to once again do the things he loved to do before his accident, he founded the Tetra Society of North America. Together with a team of technicians and engineers, Sullivan and Cermak designed what went on to become the first TrailRider, which has since been redesigned, rebuilt, and retested many times and has taken hundreds of people with disabilities to places they never believed possible.

Pippa Blake Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition

The Rise Above Barriers Society are the angels who made made Blake’s dream a reality. They worked with Blake in organizing a hiking expedition to Mount Everest, and in November 2007, a team of individuals helped pull and push Blake in a TrailRider through 12 days of struggles to make it to the base camp of Mount Everest. Despite illnesses and major hurdles along the way, Blake never doubted they would reach their goal, and she credits the positive energy of everyone involved with keeping her going.

“It never entered my head that we wouldn’t make it,” said Blake of the treacherous trek. “I had a wonderful energy of people all around me.”

Pippa Blake Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition

Members of the “Dream Team”–as Blake referred to them–later expressed getting more satisfaction out of helping Blake fulfill her dream than in the trek itself.

This talk was the first of many, as Blake plans to go on tour and share her story with others in the hopes that it will inspire other people with disabilities. Officials from the Multiple Sclerosis Society, who brought Blake to Nanaimo, said they wanted other people with disabilities to be inspired by Blake’s story.

Pippa Blake Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition

“This is slightly over the top for a lot of people, but it’s extraordinary what you can do, if you really believe you can do it,” said Blake in video footage of her trek. “I hope this makes people realize you can do more than dream, but you have to believe in yourself and dig deep, and it’s extraordinary what can happen.”

For a first-hand account of Pippa Blake’s dream-come-true journey, she shared her reflections afterwards at https://www.riseabovebarriers.com/dreamteam.html.

A documentary of her experience is also in the works, but here is a rough highlight video from the Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition celebrating their awesome achievement:

Source:
https://www.canada.com/Woman+wheelchair+makes+Everest+base+camp/5434535/story.html

Image source:
https://picasaweb.google.com/riseabovebarriers/EverestBaseCampTrekNovember2007

Original information about the 2007 journey can be found here:
https://www.riseabovebarriers.com/

TrailRider information can be found here:
https://www.bcmos.org/main/trailrider_north_america.php

NOLA Charter Schools Accused of Failing to Provide Help for Students with Disabilities

NOLA Charter Schools Excluding Students with Disabilities

Parents of special-needs children have filed a lawsuit against the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy–or Sci Academy, as it’s known–and six other privately-run charter schools in New Orleans, claiming that these publicly-funded, privately-run schools have been excluding students with disabilities from school activities NOLA and failing to provide those enrolled with the special help they need.

According to one account, 200 students at New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy were invited to watch a broadcast of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey presenting a million-dollar check to the school principal and participated in a band celebration afterwards, but one student was excluded from the activities–a 16-year-old 9th grader with emotional and learning disabilities. School administrators were concerned that his aggressive behavior would embarrass them, according to his great uncle. The boy required speech therapy and intensive counseling, which the the Sci Academy failed to provide. Instead, the school repeatedly suspended the boy and prohibited him from riding the school bus with the other students, according to an attorney representing the boy.

NOLA Charter Schools Excluding Students with Disabilities

School records revealed that another charter school in the area recommended that a student with depression be expelled after she cut herself with a scissors in class. An administrator and aide at another area school carried an agitated third-grade boy into an empty room and restrained him until the boy urinated on himself. Administrators at yet another charter school ordered a former special-education coordinator to stop talking to parents after she advised them that their children should be getting more services than they were receiving.

Both charter and public schools are required by federal law to educate and accommodate students with disabilities. Many charter schools don’t follow the rules, however, choosing to simply exclude such students or decline to provide the services they need, and it’s all because of money. According to the director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit research group, charter schools receive less tax money than public schools. Therefore, they can’t afford to take in students who will cost tens of thousands of dollars to educate.

NOLA Charter Schools Excluding Students with Disabilities

In addition to the academy that received Oprah’s donation, the other New Orleans charter schools accused of discrimination include ones that receive donations from Microsoft’s Chairman Bill Gates, Wal-Mart’s Walton family, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. These sizable donations are still not enough to make up for the funds afforded to well-funded district schools, however.

A 2010 Ball State University study found that charter schools receive an average of $9,460 per student in federal, state and local funds, amounting to roughly 19 percent less than public schools. The charter schools that do get special-education funding regularly do not get enough to adequately serve students with serious disabilities.

A former White House staffer who oversaw federal special education programs stated that charter schools’ exclusion of special-needs students is a measure to help protect their school budgets. Funding necessary to go toward educating these students might go toward hiring more teachers to reduce class size instead. The former staffer also stated that charters have been known to exclude students with disabilities to improve reported academic results of the schools, since special-needs students tend to score lower on standardized tests.

NOLA Charter Schools Excluding Students with Disabilities

Todd Ziebarth, vice president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said that charter schools need to form cooperatives so they will able to accommodate special-needs students, especially those with serious disabilities. The superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District agrees, stating that the New Orleans is pushing to establish cooperatives so that charter schools will have the resources necessary to serve students with disabilities.

For more on this topic, watch this interview with one of the litigating parents from the lawsuit:

For more information on the New Orleans Sci Academy, watch this video covering Oprah’s Angel Network 2010 donation and the goals of the school itself:

UPDATE: Please see the statement posted in the comments section addressing the Bloomberg allegations directly by the Principal and Founder Board Chair of Sci Academy, including a response from the attorney representing one of the children at the school.

Source:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-21/oprah-backed-charter-school-denying-disabled-collides-with-law.html

Image sources:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-21/oprah-backed-charter-school-denying-disabled-collides-with-law.html
https://photos.nola.com/tpphotos/2010/11/new_orleans_charter_science_an.html

Video sources:
https://www.wwltv.com/news/NO-school-gets-1-million-from-Oprah-donation-called-a-model-for-charter-schools.html
https://www.bloomberg.com/video/75815008/

Research Breakthrough Identifies Common Cause Protein in ALS

ALS Researcher Teepu Siddique, MD

Researchers have discovered a common cause among the different forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known in North America as Lou Gehrig’s disease: a protein called ubiquilin2. For more than two decades, Dr. Teepu Siddique, professor of neurology at Northwestern University, and his research team have been searching for the cause and underlying mechanism of ALS, which leads to paralysis and eventually affects a patient’s ability to breathe or swallow on their own.

Dr. Siddique and his colleagues have discovered a common cause among the different forms of the neurodegenerative and eventually fatal disease – a protein, ubiquilin2, undergoes a critical mutation and fails to perform its task of recycling other damaged and malformed protein cells. Those unrecycled proteins accumulate and begin to interfere with vital nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, which then no longer properly tell muscles what to do.

ALS Researcher Teepu Siddique, MD

This sort of protein degradation pathway is what contributes to ALS and possibly other degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease and even Alzheimer’s.  At the very least, such a discovery could lead to better strategies to treat these diseases.

It’s still not clear what may lead to ubiquilin2 malfunctioning. ALS occurs sporadically, hereditary in about just 1 in 10 individuals. Although ALS afflicts approximately 350,000 people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds worldwide, research into its cause has been difficult due to true study only being available at autopsy, when pathologists can test brain tissue for these protein issues.

The study’s co-author, Dr. Han-Xiang Deng noted, “Abnormality in protein degradation has been suspected, but there was little direct evidence before this study.”

The Northwestern University ALS Research Team

When a patient is alive, however, the signs and symptoms of a neurodegenerative disorder can sometimes look very similar to other motor-neuron disorders. In fact, one group of neurologists recently speculated that the face of ALS, baseball player Lou Gehrig, may not have actually died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but perhaps instead from a traumatic head injury-related form of neurodegeneration termed chronic traumatic encephalomyopathy due to repeated concussions.

Right now only one drug has been approved for the treatment of ALS, and it offers just a slow-down of the disease’s progression. New treatments for ALS would be very welcome, and Dr. Siddique and his team are excited to have helped unlock the pathway there.

“This is the most hopeful I have been in 25 years of research,” said Dr. Siddique. “Previously, we were running in many different directions, but this is where we will focus from now on.”

Sources:
https://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20110822/common-cause-of-lou-gehrigs-disease-found
https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7363/full/nature10353.html
https://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-22/news/ct-met-northwestern-als-breakthrough-20110822_1_als-patients-siddique-key-protein
https://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2011489,00.html