Thursday, October 28, 2010

'Asylum' Haunted Houses Not Appropriate

SPRING CITY, PENNSYLVANIA— Mental health and disability advocates around the country are expressing deep outrage at the inappropriateness of a Halloween attraction at the site of Pennhurst State Hospital, a former hospital and school for individuals with psychiatric and other disabilities located near Philadelphia. In years past, similar events have taken place the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

Pennhurst opened in 1908 but closed in 1987 following investigations revealing shocking levels of neglect and abuse. The Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance, a group whose membership includes individuals who once lived in various institutional settings, seeks to preserve the institution as a “catalyst for awareness”.

Mike Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, "This whole sort of trend to have haunted asylums is both discouraging and very, very inappropriate", while the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia said “… this haunted house threatens to exploit the tragedy at Pennhurst for cheap thrills”. J. Bruce Hulick, who is the executive director of ARC of Philadelphia, wants Pennhurst to be “… a dignified remembrance, not an amusement."

In defense of the haunted house, Pennhurst Acquisition—the investment group that has owned the property since 2008— says, "By no means is our event a mockery of that. ... I would think the youth is smart enough to distinguish between the make-believe and the other.”

Haunted ‘Asylum’ At Site Of Former Institution Has Disability Advocates Cringing

HAUNTED ASYLUM: Mental health pros boo attraction at Pa. institution

Pennhurst Asylum Haunted House:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In DOJ Settlement, Kerrville Texas Theater Made Accessible

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the city of Kerrville, Texas, and Playhouse 2000 to bring the Cailloux Theater into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The settlement agreement resolves an investigation following a complaint filed by a person with a disability against the theater. The theater underwent significant alterations in 2003. The ADA requires that alterations to the theater should have been done so that that it is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

Under the agreement, the city of Kerrville, which owns the theater, and Playhouse 2000, which manages and operates the theater, will take the following steps to improve access to the theater, including:
-Provide a choice of accessible wheelchair seating locations with a choice of ticket prices;
-Provide fixed companion seats for all wheelchair seating locations;
-Provide accessible routes throughout the theater;
-Provide ADA-compliant signage;
-Implement an ADA-compliant reservations policy; and
-Pay $2,500 in damages to the complainant.

"Everyone should be able to enjoy the cultural experience of attending live theater, including persons with disabilities. We are pleased that the city of Kerrville and Playhouse 2000 are taking steps to ensure that individuals with disabilities are guaranteed full access to the Cailloux theater," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all activities of state and local government entities, and from being denied an equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from the goods and services of public accommodations. For more information about the ADA call the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at

National Council on Disability Welcomes New Executive Director Aaron Bishop

WASHINGTON—National Council on Disability (NCD) Chairman Jonathan Young, announced today that Aaron Bishop of Washington, DC, will become NCD’s new Executive Director on November 15. NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal officials and entities on all policies, programs, practices and procedures affecting people with disabilities. NCD’s mission is to further the goals enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities.

According to Young, “NCD is delighted to have selected Aaron Bishop as its new Executive Director. Mr. Bishop, a well-respected disability advocate in his own right, comes to NCD directly from the United States Senate, where he has been on the Hill since 2003 and top disability policy adviser to Wyoming Senator Michael Enzi, who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions since 2005. His legislative background and disability expertise will be a very nice addition to the NCD staff. We look forward to working with Mr. Bishop. He holds great promise for NCD.”

“We also want to thank Joan Durocher for serving as NCD’s interim Executive Director until a permanent director could be chosen. Ms. Durocher has been promoted to NCD’s General Counsel and Director of Policy,” Young said.

New NRCA Capitol Insider Announcements

Capitol Insider Announcements

Disability Rights Publication

Disability Rights Online News is the Department of Justice’s monthly newsletter covering civil rights developments across the country. The September issue includes summaries of ADA, Fair Housing, and National Voting Rights Act cases. See:

Disability Research Website

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a new website for the Center of Excellence for Research on Disability Services, Care Coordination and Integration. In May 2010, Office on Disability in HHS awarded Mathematica Policy Research Inc. a two–year, $7 million contract, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to establish the center. The Center seeks to: identify and review evidence on effective services and care models; develop and prioritize critical research questions ; create unique linked datasets to help research these question; establish criteria and standards for assessing the effectiveness of services and models; and conduct original research that applies these standards. The Center’s website can be found at:

Education Commemoration

This November, in honor of the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) will host a celebration in Washington, D.C. OSERS is seeking input from people who have had a personal experience with IDEA or have witnessed its impact. As part of their celebration, OSERS is welcoming stories, poetry, photography, art work and video clips from individuals with disabilities , students, teachers, principals, researchers, parents, teacher trainers and others across the country for possible inclusion during the celebration. Submissions will be accepted through November 8, 2010 via:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Presidential Proclamation--National Disability Employment Awareness Month

WHITE HOUSE (FULL TEXT)-- As Americans, we understand employment and economic security are critical to fulfilling our hopes and aspirations. We also know we are stronger when our country and economy can benefit from the skills and talents of all our citizens. No individual in our Nation should face unnecessary barriers to success, and no American with a disability should be limited in his or her desire to work. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we renew our focus on improving employment opportunities and career pathways that lead to good jobs and sound economic futures for people with disabilities.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation that established a foundation of justice and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. In the two decades since its passage, much progress has been made. However, Americans with disabilities continue to be employed at a rate far below Americans without disabilities, and they are underrepresented in our Federal workforce.

My Administration is committed to ensuring people living with disabilities have fair access to jobs so they can contribute to our economy and realize their dreams. To help achieve this goal, I signed an Executive Order in July to increase Federal employment of individuals with disabilities. This directive requires Federal agencies to design model recruitment and hiring strategies for people with disabilities, and to implement programs to retain these public servants. To ensure transparency and accountability, agencies will report on their progress on hiring people with disabilities, and the Office of Personnel Management will post the results of agencies' efforts online for public evaluation. As the Nation's largest employer, the Federal Government can become a model employer by increasing employment across America of individuals with disabilities.

The 21st-century economy demands a highly educated workforce equipped with the technology and skills to maintain America's leadership in the global marketplace. Technology has changed the way we work, and the Federal Government is leveraging emerging, assistive, and other workplace technologies to improve the options available for everyone, including workers with disabilities. We must improve the accessibility of our workplaces and enable the collaboration and contributions of every employee, and that is why I look forward to signing into law the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This legislation will greatly increase access to technology, with advances in areas such as closed captioning, delivery of emergency information, video description, and other advanced communications -- all essential tools for learning and working in today's technological society.

Individuals with disabilities are a vital and dynamic part of our Nation, and their contributions have impacted countless lives. People with disabilities bring immeasurable value to our workplaces, and we will continue to address the challenges to employment that must be overcome. This month, let us rededicate ourselves to fostering equal access and fair opportunity in our labor force , and to capitalizing on the talent, skills, and rich diversity of all our workers.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2010 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I urge all Americans to embrace the unique value that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote everyone's right to employment.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.-- BARACK OBAMA