Monday, August 30, 2010

RIP: Howard Leland Rice (1932-2010)

[visual description: Howard L. Rice in a wheelchair, holding a microphone; he's an older white man wearing glasses and a grey suit]

It's been a rough month for disability obituaries. We lost historian Paul Longmore (1946-2010), of course, and activist Barbara Knowlen (1941-2010), and I've recently learned of another: Rev. Howard L. Rice (1932-2010), former chaplain and Professor of Ministry at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, and once the moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA (the annually elected head for the whole denomination). Rice died August 8.

Rice (pictured at left) was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a young man, and used a wheelchair or crutches much of his adult life. (Later in life, the MS diagnosis was changed to spinal cord damage.) As a minister, he experienced first-hand the barriers that church buildings and their congregations present to disabled people, especially to disabled worship leaders. I heard him speak at a conference once, about deciding that he wasn't going to accept speaking invitations at inaccessible churches anymore--it wasn't practical ("If we can't go, we can't come," he noted, on the problem of accessible restrooms), and it wasn't tolerable on any other grounds either. When he did speak from an accessible pulpit once, he declared, "I don’t believe you have to preach from a pulpit. But it’s nice to have the choice."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Woods Services fills NY's need for suitable facilities

Originally published: August 20, 2010 6:45 PM
Updated: August 20, 2010 10:01 PM

Pennsylvania-based Woods Services is 100 miles from Long Island but it is one of nearly 20 residential facilities where Nassau and Suffolk send their children, men and women with emotional problems or developmental disabilities - mainly because not enough suitable beds exist in New York State.

The counties' departments of social services have adults and children spread among about 20 facilities in nearby states. Woods serves 830 children and adults alone hailing from 20 states, said Woods spokeswoman Cheryl Kauffman.

Nassau and Suffolk officials say that they try to place their charges in locations that are close to home, but the shortage of beds and appropriate expertise in New York makes it all but impossible.

"It should also be noted that there is a scarcity in New York State of the types of residential programs required for those children afflicted with developmental disabilities and severe emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems," said Karen Garber, a spokeswoman for Nassau's Department of Social Services. "Regretfully, often times the only placements available for such children are located out of state."

Nassau and Suffolk officials said they verify whether a facility has a license and clean safety record before placing children or adults there. They also try to place people in the "least restrictive environment" that also fulfills the client's needs.

Nassau, Suffolk removing disabled from Pa. facility

Originally published: August 20, 2010 7:13 PM
Updated: August 20, 2010 10:43 PM

Quick Summary: Nassau and Suffolk officials are removing their residents with special needs from a Pennsylvania care facility that has been the site of the deaths of two autistic Long Island men.

Nassau and Suffolk officials are removing their residents with special needs from a Pennsylvania care facility that has been the site of the deaths of two autistic Long Island men.

The Nassau Department of Social Services confirmed that it is searching for new homes for two of the people whom the agency placed at Woods Services in Langhorne, Pa.

A third Nassau resident was removed from the facility Wednesday night, county officials said.

Nassau has been using the company's services since 2000 and Suffolk has used it since 1996, officials said.

Suffolk officials said they are also trying to find new homes for the eight Suffolk children in Woods' custody.

"Nassau County Department of Social Services takes all allegations of abuse and neglect very seriously," said DSS Commissioner John Imhof. "Upon receiving information from New York State Office of Children and Family Services regarding Woods Services, DSS immediately stopped placing additional children in that facility."

Suffolk DSS Commissioner Gregory Blass said, "In light of recent tragic events, the department is taking immediate action to remove all children within our care from Woods Services."

Citing "gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct," the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare revoked Woods Services' license to operate a residential facility and prevented it from admitting any new people after the July 24 death of Bryan Nevins, 20, of Oceanside. The autistic man died after being left inside a hot van for several hours.

A Woods Services employee faces involuntary manslaughter charges in that case.

Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare spokesman Michael Race said his office is investigating the death of Nevins.

"We are working with other agencies to move the eight remaining residents to other facilities that can meet their needs," Race said.

Woods Services operates several facilities in suburban Philadelphia that provide services to about 830 clients.

Last October, Robert Percaro of Coram was killed when he ran out of the facility and was struck by several vehicles on a highway after he climbed onto an overpass and fell into traffic.

"We conducted an investigation and found no wrongdoing," Race said. "We have no evidence that would warrant reinvestigating the situation."

Woods Services spokeswoman Cheryl Kauffman said, "The Middletown Township Police Department conducted a thorough investigation of Mr. Percaro's death when it happened. Woods Services is unaware of any information which would lead the attorney to request an investigation by the Office of the District Attorney now, over nine months after the incident."

In addition, the mother of an 18-year-old Freeport woman said that an employee of Woods Services called her on May 17 to report that her daughter - who she says has the mentality of an 11-year-old and is supposed to be under constant supervision - had been found having sex with a male in a bathroom. The mother said she has not been informed of the result of any investigation into the incident.

Kauffman said the mother never was told that the 18-year-old was found having sex. In addition, she said, "Woods Services investigated the alleged incident and determined that no unusual incident or contact occurred."

With Yamiche Alcindor

Nassau and Suffolk's placement options

Nassau and Suffolk rely on several out-of-state facilities to take care of people with special needs when they cannot receive appropriate care in New York.
Nassau's Department of Social Services has placed 14 people in out-of-state programs.
Suffolk's Department of Social Services has placed 39 people in out-of-state programs.
In addition, committees on special education in Nassau have placed 41 children in out-of-state programs.
Suffolk officials could not provide information on children placed out of state by committees on special education in the county.

Disability Blog Carnival #69 is up NOW!

And has been up for a while--but I was away from the internet on a family vacation and couldn't post about it until now. Thanks to Kali at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, who has gathered a nice collection of links around the theme of "distance." Go have a read, link away, and leave a comment too.

Next month's edition will be hosted by Astrid at Astrid's Journal, who writes to me that the "theme will be identity, and the deadline for submissions will be Sept 21." Watch for that carnival on Sept 24. And submit a great link! A community of contributors makes the hosting job more enjoyable.

Vacation pictures? Sure! An accessible self-catering lodge in rural Scotland, ours for a few days of a family trip--worked for us, anyway:

[Visual description: exterior of a stone one-story building with a long ramp to the door; a picnic table and a patch of green grass are nearby.]

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 10: Hugh Morriston Davies (1879-1965)

I wrote this post last weekend, planning to put it up on Tuesday the 10th. Obviously other matters became more urgent. So I'm going to put this up now. --Ed.

You know the plotline if you've seen any medical dramas on TV: A gifted surgeon is in an accident, or maybe the victim of a crime, or perhaps falls very ill. He (it's usually a "he") survives, but....gasp! his hand! Injured beyond repair. He can never do surgery again. Might as well forget medicine as a career.

Or not.

Welshman Hugh Morriston Davies (1879-1965) lived this drama, but with a very different outcome. He was, certainly, a gifted and pioneering thoracic surgeon in London in the 1910s. By age 27 he was a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He was the first surgeon to detect lung cancer by x-ray. He "performed the first anatomical dissection lobectomy for a tumor of the lung in 1912... decades ahead of his time," according to medical historian AP Naef. But in 1916, during an operation, his right hand was cut by a stray sliver of glass. It became seriously infected, and amputation was urged (but not undertaken). He lost all effective use of his right hand.

For a time, he ran a sanatorium in Wales, and worked on a book about thoracic surgery, and wrote journal articles. But in 1921 he returned to surgery, using his left hand. His sanatorium became a destination for thoracic surgical training, and Morriston Davies a respected expert on tuberculosis. During the second world war he ran a "chest unit," treating the military and civilian chest injuries. Even after his retirement at 80, he sought adaptive innovation: he set up a series of pullies to allow him to garden when his legs wouldn't carry him.

His obituary from the British Medical Journal is long and informative.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RIP: Paul Longmore (1946-2010)

"The truth is that the major obstacles we must overcome are pervasive social prejudice, systematic segregation, and institutionalized discrimination."

--Paul Longmore, "Why I Burned my Book"

Sad news today. Paul Longmore, professor of history and director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, has died suddenly. There will surely be many, many remembrances and obituaries; Stephen Drake's was the first I saw, at the Not Dead Yet blog. And Wesley J. Smith has something up (mostly the press release from Californians Against Assisted Suicide) at Secondhand Smoke.

Paul's facebook page is becoming an impromptu wall of condolences and memories. Here's what scattered items I'll add.

*When historians of disability submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Garrett case in 2000, Paul was the one who invited the signatures of over 100 scholars, because he knew exactly who to tap.

*I've been co-editing H-Disability since it launched in March 2001. But I had nothing to do with its founding--that's credited to Paul Longmore and the summer institute where the idea was hatched, long before my involvement.

*I'm president of the Disability History Association right now--but in many ways, the organization exists and thrives because Paul Longmore was very, very persistent when he saw an opportunity to support scholarship on disability.

*And when Paul organized a conference for disability historians in summer 2008, you know it was seriously accessible, not only to the participants but to our families.

Paul Longmore was a historian, with a PhD in history from Claremont Graduate School. It was important to him to know what your degree was in, and he worried about non-historians doing disability history without proper training or rigor. Now, none of my degrees are in history, even if I do historical projects. So it was a real and happy surprise to get a brief email from Paul, one day in 2004, just saying "I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your essay in the volume edited by Noll and Trent. It's really good history. Thank you." I kept that email window open for a very long time on my desktop. Thank you, Paul.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

CFP: Disability in America: Voices of a New Generation

Call for Proposals: Disability in America: Voices of a New Generation

Ari Ne’eman and Stacey Milbern, Co-Editors

Deadline: January 15, 2011

This year, the disability community is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), civil rights law that protects the rights of disabled people.
Growing up in a post-ADA America has meant that many of us have had access to more opportunities than previous generations. We know if we had been born in 1967 instead of 1987 our lives would look completely different. We know the history of our people is tainted by eugenics, ableism, lack of access and the sting of low expectations. We recognize the work that has been done by disability movements over the last century to make the current lives we live possible. We are proud to be members of this vibrant, breathing, community.

Although the struggle continues, we recognize that the realities of disabled people look vastly different in many ways. With this in mind, we are requesting proposals for chapters in a book-length anthology to document this legacy and record the stories of disabled young people
talking about what it is to grow up with a disability in this day and age.

Part One of our anthology will attempt to explore how a new generation experiences these age old challenges, affording a chance to assess how far we have really come. Part Two of our anthology asks disabled young people to identify what our struggle looks like now.

We’re seeking a diversity of perspectives and topics. A few questions we pose as food for thought:
What does it look like to navigate the medical system?
What is it like trying to find and keep a job as a young person with a disability today?
How are mental health challenges and psychiatric impairments approached by family members?
Do students still have to choose between support and inclusion?
What is the impact of pity and charity?
How do we survive the traumas we experience by people who say they are helping us, whether this is in schools, in doctor’s offices, our places of worship, or within our support systems?
How do people with less visible disabilities choose whether or not to disclose?
How has the nature of “passing” changed or not changed?
How do we fight eugenics, with its many faces?
How do we work with personal assistant services and our support systems?
How is disability portrayed differently in American society?
How are media, and pop culture representations of disability viewed by the new generation of young people with disabilities?
What do our relationships and sex lives look like?
How do we find community?

We are seeking creative non-fiction essays from young people with disabilities ages 13-30 (some flexibility will be available for compelling submissions from individuals slightly outside our preferred age range). People with all types of disabilities are welcome to submit. Speaking from personal experience is strongly encouraged. The intent of this project is to use personal voices to capture the experience of the new generation of young people with disabilities.

Submissions should range from 2,000 to 5,000 words. Please include your address, phone number, e-mail address and a short bio on the manuscript.

Proposals are due by e-mail to to January 15, 2011 but we encourage and will consider for approval early submissions. Please e-mail co-editors Stacey Milbern and Ari Ne’eman at with questions.