California’s protection & advocacy system
For legal assistance call 800-776-5746. For all other purposes call 916-504-5800 in Northern CA
or 213-213-8000 in Southern CA. TTY 800-719-5798.
Children forced into cell-like school seclusion rooms - Disability Rights California, a federally funded watchdog group, found that teachers dragged children into seclusion rooms they could not leave. In one case, they found a retarded 8-year-old had been locked alone in a seclusion room in a northeast California elementary school for at least 31 days in a year. ... "What we found outrageous was that we went to the schools and asked to see the rooms and were denied," said Leslie Morrison, a psychiatric nurse and attorney who led the 2007 investigation that substantiated at least six cases of abuse involving seclusion in public schools. "It took a lot of fighting to eventually get in to see where these children were held."
Rosemead merchant sued under federal disability law - Nearly two decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, too many businesses have failed to provide access to people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities, according to Barbara Duncan, communications director for Disability Rights California. ... Businesses don't typically respond to polite requests to improve their accessibility, according to Disability Rights California advocacy director Margaret Johnson, who has been in a wheelchair for more than 50 years. Legal action is the only recourse.
Momentum grows to save renters rebate - In San Diego, Connie Soucy – a disability rights advocate of Access to Independence – organized her first press conference, and 3 television stations and the San Diego Union-Tribune covered the event. She had help from Disability Rights California and the Affordable Housing Coalition, bringing a powerful message to a city that isn’t known for its political activism.
Key health measures pass Assembly Health Committee - Next stop: Assembly Appropriations Committee - AB 214 (Chesbro) would require health plans to cover physician-ordered durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, canes, support lifts, oxygen tanks and more, at the same level the private providers would cover medical services. Currently, such equipment is covered through Medicare and MediCal but most private plans provide no more than $2,000 toward the cost of these items, or explicitly exclude coverage altogether. ... Supporters included Disability Rights California (sponsor), Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (sponsor), National Multiple Sclerosis Society – California Action Network (sponsor), AFL-CIO, and many other groups.
Parents of Disabled Voters Angry Over Balloting - It is an outrage that in 2008, as all Americans proceed to the polls for this critical election, some groups are still challenging the right of people with developmental disabilities to vote," said Marinda Reed, coordinator of the developmental disability peer training unit of Disability Rights California.
Touch-screen Ballots help disabled citizens vote - While electronic voting machines have sometimes proven unreliable and provoke controversy in a community as politically active as Berkeley, county officials say the electronic system is the only viable way to give disabled citizens a confidential vote. ... Fred Nisen, a staff attorney with Disability Rights California and a disabled voter, said he takes little issue with Alameda County's voting system. He said before the touch screen system, disabled voters often had to tell poll workers their votes rather than punch their ballot. While touch-screen systems have issues, Nisen said they at least provide disabled voters with their basic rights to confidentiality.
Plan to improve disability access and inclusion in Hayward schools - Hayward Unified School District negotiated the agreement with advocacy groups and parents of special-education students, who brought the problems to light in a grievance filed in 2006. Steve Rosenbaum, a lawyer for Disability Rights California, commended the district for working closely with them and taking a broad view of the problem.
Disabled determined to make their voice heard on Nov. 4 - Rick Hodgkins of Citrus Heights has rarely missed an opportunity to vote, whether in a mundane municipal election or a hot presidential contest. Not that the process ever is easy. For Hodgkins, who is blind, getting to the polls and filling out a ballot requires careful planning, a plethora of telephone calls and a lot of waiting around. ... Throughout history, disabled voters have faced barriers to voting, said Hillary Sklar, staff attorney for Disability Rights California. ... "It can definitely be a challenge," said Evelyn Abouhassan, who works for the advocacy group. Abouhassan has cerebral palsy and uses a scooter, and once encountered a ramp at a poll that was too steep for her vehicle to navigate, she said.
For the poorest recipients, the raise might barely make a difference - "A 5.8 percent increase might sound like really good news for someone who is middle class or high income," said Deborah Doctor, a legislative advocate for Disability Rights of California. "But in this case, you're starting with a very low income."
Actors with disabilities seek more roles - “We are virtually invisible,” Robert David Hall, a regular on “CSI,” said at a news conference on Monday announcing a plan to expand media-industry employment of people with disabilities. Mr. Hall, who walks on prosthetics and plays Dr. Al Robbins on “CSI,” said he played one of only three disabled characters in recurring television roles. ... Disability Rights California, California's protection and advocacy system, is supporting the campaign, as are many other disability advocacy groups.
Merchants hail law curbing disabled-access lawsuits - Frivolous claims drove push for state measure - Business owners across the state are hoping new legislation will encourage better access for disabled people while reducing the number of unwarranted lawsuits over such access. ... Some state advocates for the disabled also heralded the law as a positive step. Margaret Jakobson-Johnson, advocacy director for Disability Rights California, called it a “good compromise between business groups and disability groups.”
“This law will improve access and at the same time give businesses incentives to comply without being sued,” she said from her office in Sacramento.
Laguna Honda patients win community care lawsuit - Elissa Gershon, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs at Oakland-based Protection & Advocacy Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group that is changing its name to Disability Rights California, said the city has agreed to oversee $2 million annually for a rental subsidy program and $3 million per year for other community-based services.
Special ed parents criticize Acalanes - Criminalizing the behavior of disabled students can cause lasting harm, said Leslie Morrison, director of investigations for Oakland-based Protection & Advocacy Inc. "It seems to me schools are calling police because they don't have the skills to deal with this behavior, and yet I believe they are required to by law," she said.
Groundbreaking Settlement in San Fran: New Housing & Community Service - Elissa Gershon, lead attorney from the Oakland office of Protection & Advocacy, Inc., said that, "This is an exciting day for Mark and for other Laguna Honda residents. We look forward to collaborating with San Francisco in implementing this groundbreaking agreement, which will improve the lives of hundreds of San Franciscans with disabilities and provide a model for community integration in other cities and states.
Publicly-funded nursing home profits protected in California budget while vital services cut for seniors and people with disabilities - AARP California, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (soon to be Disability Rights California) want the legislature, social justice groups and the public to know that the extension of this law must receive full public review and only be considered against other state expenditures and cuts directly affecting the survival of millions of elderly and disabled citizens.
Sierra Vista Hospital expansion plan raises alarms - The $8 million structure rising behind a south Sacramento psychiatric hospital offers concrete proof of the facility's determination to become the region's largest destination for people in mental health crisis. ... Those inspections are unannounced, but Leslie Morrison of Protection & Advocacy Inc. ... said most hospitals know when they'll occur and can "throw together a quick fix."
Calm down or else - ... In another school, a teacher held a 12-year-old with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder “face down on the floor, straddling him at his hips, and holding his hands behind his back,” according to the investigation, which was done by California’s office of protection and advocacy. ... Leslie Morrison, director of investigations at the California office, said parents often complained about such episodes but were usually reluctant to cooperate with an investigation. “They’re afraid the school will retaliate,” she said.
More children being locked in 'The Quiet Room' - It sounds like cruel and unusual punishment: locking a school kid away for hours all alone, or taking them down to the ground and pinning them there, just for misbehaving in class. Investigative reporter Anna Werner first exposed the practices here in California. Now we're learning it's a growing problem nationwide. ... "I think it's a national issue," said Maggie Roberts, an attorney with Protection and Advocacy, an Oakland non-profit for the disabled. Click here and then click on the photo under "Related" (to the right of the headline) to watch the interview with Maggie Roberts.
Locking children in closets doesn't sound like something that could possibly happen in California's school system. But CBS 5 Investigates has uncovered evidence that it is a hidden problem, not reported by schools, and unknown to many parents. ... "I think it's an enormous problem," said Leslie Morrison, PAI Investigations Unit Directing Attorney, who was interviewed for the report. Read the story here ... and watch streaming video on the story here ...
Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed ravaging cuts to In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), which provides personal care and domestic services enabling 408,000 California seniors and people with disabilities to remain at home safely and avoid unnecessary, expensive and unwanted institutionalization. ... “The proposed cuts will endanger people who use the services and devastate those who provide them,” according to Deborah Doctor, legislative advocate at Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI).
SB 1608 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, seeks to defuse anger between businesses that violate access laws and people with disabilities who still encounter barriers - 39 years after California passed laws requiring businesses to remove them. ... Supporters include the California Center for Independent Living Facilities and Protection and Advocacy, although both are seeking amendments that would include greater representation of people with disabilities on the commission.
Pilot would expand mandatory managed-care - "We haven't taken a position on the bill, but our board of directors does not support [mandatory] Medi-Cal managed care for people with disabilities," said Deborah Doctor, a legislative advocate for Protection & Advocacy Inc. ...
"There's a lot more substance in the new (bill), but it's still, at heart, mandatory enrollment, and we are not going to go there," she said.
Safeway CEO Burd campaigns to bring disabled into work force - "And it [the unemployment rate] has been steady at 70 percent for about the past 30 years," said Barbara Duncan, spokeswoman for Protection and Advocacy Inc., ... "And that's an across-the-board figure, ... It's even higher among people with certain disabilities within the larger group."
National day care center sued for failure to accommodate student with epilepsy - Andrew Mudryk, lead counsel in the case, stated: "... For this family, life has become much more complicated because Cade may occasionally require a medication that is meant to be administered by lay people in the case of an emergency. It is unfair and illegal to deny him participation in a program like Tutor Time solely because of his disability."
Legislator submits bill on handicapped access problems - Advocates for disabled people contended that businesses were given more than enough time to become ADA compliant. "There's been plenty of notice," said Margaret Johnson, advocacy director for Protection and Advocacy Inc.
PAI sues national day care center for failure to accommodate student with epilepsy. Andrew Mudryk, PAI's Director of Litigation for Southern California, is lead counsel in the case. He stated: "We are supporting the Rager family and the Epilepsy Foundation in this case because we know how important it is to reduce access barriers to children who have disabilities. ..."
PAI Attorney urges outreach to parents who don't know about right to special education. "The sad reality is that while school districts focus on a short-term containment of costs strategy rather than on providing timely preventative services to eligible children, school districts will continue to dilute and/or deny appropriate resources to teachers and children alike," said Keith Sakimura of Protection & Advocacy.
Atascadero is family out of options in caring for their disabled son. “The problem that happens when someone is injured after age 18 is there’s no really comprehensive system to provide the level of care or services folks need to stay in the community,” said Todd Higgins, traumatic brain injury coordinator for Protection & Advocacy Inc.