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					                                     The International Disability

Deaf athletes shocked by cancelled Games (Toronto Sun)

Utah considers closing Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (The Desert News)

Adults with disabilities seeking independence may get a home (Bangor Daily News)

British court bars man from engaging in sex because of his low IQ (The Telegraph)

A British teacher mocks her disabled students on Facebook (Kent and Sussex Courier)

Montreal disability groups say discussion of euthanasia is premature when health services
for disabled people are lacking (The Gazette in Montreal)

Cuba develops program to aid autistic children (Cuba News)

Jewish Disability Awareness Month inspires community (Jewish United Fund News)

Disability body demands accessible poll centres (The Post Zambia)

New Lucena hosts disability affairs meeting (Philippine Information Agency)

Social activity cuts disability risk (The Times of India)

A world on the margin (

Exclusive interview with Roger Ross Williams (GhanaWeb)

Deaf athletes shocked by cancelled Games (Toronto Sun)

With the Canada Games on right now in Halifax, this is a great time to be a Canadian provincial-level
athlete, but ironically, a terrible time to be among the world‘s best deaf athletes. That‘s because the
2011 Winter Deaflympics – an Olympics for athletes with a hearing impairment – were supposed to
start in Slovakia this week, but were inexplicably cancelled last Friday, leaving hundreds of
international competitors in shock. That‘s putting it mildly.

With the 62 members of the Canadian delegation all now back home, the Canadian Deaf Sports
Association is mired in the grim task of tallying its financial losses. It will be sending the bill to the
Slovakian host organizing committee. ―Everything‘s fresh, we just got home yesterday,‖ the
association‘s executive director, Kim Rizzi, said. ―We‘re hoping for some fast action. Nobody‘s saying
too much. All I know is we should be setting up our Games operating centre today, we should be
having our technical meetings, we should be in full fledged training and getting ready for what every
kid dreams of, going to the Olympics. So it‘s really bad.‖

Wednesday was supposed to mean a big Canada-U.S. hockey game. The Canadian hockey players
arrived in Vienna last week for a training camp. In all, 41 Canadian athletes had been selected to
represent Canada in hockey, curling, alpine skiing and snowboarding. ―I am very upset as we just
returned home from Austria,‖ said hockey‘s executive team director Roy Hysen. ―Never in the history
of the Summer and Winter Deaflympics have the Games been cancelled.‖

The final tally isn‘t in yet, but Rizzi estimated the Canadian team is out hundreds of thousands of
dollars.So how could this happen? There were never any test events and Rizzi figures the organizing
committee wasn‘t held to any regulatory process. Venue agreements were apparently never in
place.The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf has filed a criminal complaint against the
Slovakian Deaflympics Organizing Committee and its president, Jaromir Ruda. The criminal complaint
demands reimbursement of the funds that were transferred to the Slovakian Deaflympics Organizing
Committee from national deaf sports federations to cover hotel accommodations and other expenses.

Rizzi said the impact of the scandal on deaf sports will be disastrous.―We all want answers, and a
clear and precise plan on how Canadians will be reimbursed for the colossal amount of resources
spent to prepare and to get here,‖ Rizzi said. ―We have been preparing for this event for many years
and I am sure I could speak for everyone involved. We are angry and so sad for our national team

Perhaps the only positive here is that Vancouver is booked to host the next edition of the Winter
Deaflympics in 2015.

Utah considers closing Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (The Desert News)

Talks about where to cut if a worst-case budget scenario plays out this year are enough to make long
time educators nervous — particularly Superintendent Steven Noyce with the Utah Schools for the
Deaf and the Blind. The Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee is looking closely at $91
million worth of programs it could cut should there be even less revenue this year than anticipated.
That's in addition to the $166 million the committee already cut to satisfy the request of GOP leaders
on the Executive Appropriations Committee."We're going to cut some of these things, so you need to
tell us in what rank of importance do you see (these programs)" Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan,
said to State Superintendent Larry Shumway.

The State Board of Education approved a list of programs that could be cut if needed last week, and
on the figurative chopping block was $20 million in funding for USDB. The board was emphatic that it
doesn't want to see education cut in any way and was only making the recommendation to assist the
committee. "I think it goes without saying that I was a bit shocked last Friday," Noyce said of hearing
about the proposed cut. It was the first state board meeting he had missed in 18 months, as he didn't
see anything applicable to USDB on the agenda.

Board member David Thomas said the board is committed to ensuring children currently served by
the school continue to be taken care of. The board just believes that in a worst-case scenario, districts
could take on the responsibility of teaching children with sensory disability, since about 80 percent of
those associated with USDB are currently taught at their local schools. Noyce countered that most of
the students who have been "mainstreamed" into their neighbourhood schools are being served
"within their districts, not by their districts." He said the early intervention services USDB provides
from infancy to preschool is largely what makes it possible for them to be taught in their districts. He
said districts can't replicate that.

Heather Frost's son, Gavin, is a 4-year-old enrolled in an USDB oral preschool program in Holladay.
Gavin was born deaf and received cochlear implants as a toddler. Since that surgery didn't take place
until after he was a year old, his language skills were delayed, and he needed the intensive services
provided by USDB. He's been going to preschool for seven hours a day for two years, where
specially-trained teachers give the students "overloaded language" to help them catch up Frost said.
"It's like we're narrating our lives," Frost said. "I'm explaining what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and how
I feel about it."

Several lawmakers expressed appreciation for Noyce and his program.

Karen Morgan, D-Salt Lake City, said there are lots of students whose parents prefer for them to be
taught at the centralized USDB schools, and those services are critical. "I really hope that as a
committee, we fully understand the services that are being provided to these children that never go
into the districts," she said.
Noyce said he doesn't think the schools will actually be closed this year, but the fact the state board
and Legislature is even considering that option is concerning to him. He said he feels like he hasn't
effectively communicated to the state board the work the school does, or they wouldn't have made the

"I feel like I've failed," he said. "I've got to do a massive education program."

Adults with disabilities seeking independence may get a home (Bangor Daily News)

Linda Elliott wants for her son what any mother wants — independence — and she‘s not afraid to
nudge him in that direction. ―He‘s mad at me right now,‖ Elliott said this week from her office at
Courtland Rehabilitation and Living Center, a nursing home in Ellsworth. ―He says I push him too

Jake Van Meter, 27, wants independence too, but his path toward self-sufficiency differs from most
adults his age. He has cerebral palsy, a brain disorder that limits his speech and motor skills, and
although cognitively capable — he‘s taking college classes at the University of Maine — he still needs
daily care and supervision. Until now, nursing homes have been his only option and so, for the past
nine years, his home has been his mother‘s workplace. ―I don‘t know any 27-year-old that wants to
live in a nursing home,‖ Elliott said.

It turns out, there are many others around the state like Van Meter who are forced to live in less-than-
desirable situations. As many as 40 have signed on to a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court
that claims the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it has failed to
provide alternative housing opportunities. Van Meter and two others, Eric Reeves, 34, and Adam
Fletcher, 29, actually were the lawsuit‘s original plaintiffs when it was launched in December 2009.

As the lawsuit proceeds at a normal but protracted pace, those three plaintiffs and four other adults
living in the greater Bangor area could have a new home before the legal matter is settled. Elliott, the
driving force behind the Jacob Brewer Home, a housing project for adults with disabilities, recently
has partnered with Community Housing of Maine and the Charlotte White Center to create a seven-
unit apartment complex. ―This would be a huge step for them. It would create an atmosphere where
they could be around people like them but still be independent,‖ Elliott said. ―It‘s all very exciting.‖

Cullen Ryan, executive director of CHOM, said he was thrilled to get involved with the project. ―It fits
right into what we try to do, which is create supportive housing for the most vulnerable,‖ he said. The
Maine Housing Authority has provided $980,000 in supportive housing grant funds, Ryan said, and
CHOM is close to acquiring the former Knights of Columbus building on Court Street in Bangor to
renovate into seven apartments. The process is expected to take about a year. ―It‘s going to take a
little longer than some would like because we‘re combining state and federal resources, but we‘re
confident,‖ Ryan said.

Once the housing is built, adults like Van Meter could move in. Most are eligible for in-home care
based on their diagnosis, but the maximum amount of service is 60 hours a week. Adults with
cerebral palsy often need more than that. That‘s where the Charlotte White Center comes in. The
Dover-Foxcroft community health agency that provides services for those with cognitive and
developmental disabilities has signed on to staff the new apartment complex 24 hours a day. The
question of long-term care and who will pick up those costs likely will be addressed by the pending
lawsuit, which Elliott said was the last resort after years of inaction by the state.

Typically, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services determines a person‘s level of
support, including housing, first through an individual assessment and then by availability. However,
the only facility in the state that accommodates young adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy is
in Scarborough. It‘s full. Others throughout New England have long waiting lists and there is no
guarantee, Elliott said. That‘s why Van Meter and others have been living in nursing homes.
Interestingly enough, people like Van Meter who are intellectually high-functioning do not qualify for
the same level of services as someone with a diagnosis of mental retardation or autism. ―Until now,
these adults have essentially been scattered about the state in nursing homes. Some even have
elderly roommates. That‘s just not a good situation,‖ Ryan said.

The housing project in Bangor could change the lives of seven individuals, but the lawsuit could do
more, Elliott said. It could lead to changes in state policy that could affect every case in the future

British court bars man from engaging in sex because of his low IQ (The Telegraph)

The 41 year old had been in a relationship with a man whom he lived with and told officials ―it would
make me feel happy‖ for it to continue. But his local council decided his ―vigorous sex drive‖ was
inappropriate and that with an IQ of 48 and a ―moderate‖ learning disability, he did not understand
what he was doing.

A psychiatrist involved in the case even tried to prevent the man being given sex education, on the
grounds that it would leave him ―confused‖. Mr Justice Mostyn said the case was ―legally, intellectually
and morally‖ complex as sex is ―one of the most basic human functions‖ and the court must ―tread
especially carefully‖ when the state tries to curtail it. But he agreed that the man, known only as Alan,
should not be allowed to have sex with anyone on the grounds that he did not have the mental
capacity to understand the health risks associated with his actions.

Under the judge‘s order, the man is now subject to ―close supervision‖ by the local authority that
provides his accommodation, in order to ensure he does not break the highly unusual order. The
judge concluded: ―I therefore make a declaration that at the present time Alan does not have the
capacity to consent to and engage in sexual relations. ―In such circumstances it is agreed that the
present régime for Alan's supervision and for the prevention of future sexual activity is in his best

It is the latest controversial case to come before the Court of Protection, a little-known authority
whose proceedings are held behind closed doors. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, its judges
have the power to make life or death decisions for people deemed to lack the intelligence to make
them for themselves – such as ordering that they undergo surgery, have forced abortions, have life-
support switched off or be forced to use contraception.

In the latest case, the man known as Alan was described as ―sociable‖ and ―presented as an able
man‖ but who was ―seriously challenged in all aspects of his mental functionality‖. He lived in a home
provided by the council, where he developed a sexual relationship with a man called Kieron by the
court. Alan was also accused of making lewd gestures at children in a dentists‘ surgery and on a bus,
although no police action was taken.

In June 2009 the town hall began court proceedings to restrict his contact with Kieron on the grounds
that he lacked mental capacity, and an interim order was made to that effect. ―Since then Alan has
been subjected to close supervision to prevent any further sexual activity on his part,‖ except when he
is alone in his bedroom.

However he told representatives of the Official Solicitor, who acts in the Court of Protection, to tell the
judge ―I want to kiss them again‖. Mr Justice Mostyn highlighted the fact that the court cannot prevent
people from merely making ―unwise‖ decisions, and that a simple test can be carried out to see if a
person is capable of consenting to sex based on the act itself rather than the proposed partner.

The judge said it requires an understanding and awareness of the ―mechanics of the act‖, ―that there
are health risks involved‖ and that sex between a man and a woman may lead to pregnancy. He said
that the psychiatrist thought Alan ―believed that babies were delivered by a stork or found under a
bush‖, and that ―sex could give you spots or measles‖. On that basis the judge ruled that Alan did not
have the capacity to consent to sex, but also ordered that the council should provide him with sex
education ―in the hope that he thereby gains that capacity‖.

A British teacher mocks her disabled students on Facebook (Kent and Sussex Courier)

A teacher at a special needs primary school in Tonbridge sparked an official investigation after openly
mocking her vulnerable pupils on Facebook. Emily Hudson branded Oakley School a "zoo" and said
its children had shared "a particular brand of special germ" to make her ill.

She also criticised her pupils for smelling her legs, said she was working "in hell" and joked about
throwing the children out of the window on her status updates posted in September 2010. Oakley
bosses launched an investigation after a parent saw the comments on Ms Hudson's personal profile.

The result of the investigation has not been made public, but Ms Hudson no longer works at the
school. The parent, whom we agreed not to name but who has since taken their child out of the
school, said: "The things written about the school and pupils were worrying to say the least."

Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring said: "A person employed to support children with a learning
disability is in a position of trust."If they have participated in name-calling and abuse it is particularly
distressing to the children and families involved. "We believe using ignorant and abusive language
contributes to a culture where people with a disability, and their families, continue to be regularly
subjected to verbal and physical abuse."

The Waveney Road school caters for 50 children, aged from five to 11, who have complex and/or
severe learning difficulties. Its secondary school is in Tunbridge Wells. Principal Martin Absolom said
the school followed strict procedures clearly set out by Kent County Council once the Facebook page
was brought to his attention, involving a "very thorough investigation of all aspects and information

"They also detail the subsequent processes and actions that must be taken by school governors
following the outcome of the investigation. "In line with these procedures, the details of the matter
have remained confidential throughout as the details of the investigation and any subsequent action
cannot be disclosed."We are deeply concerned that these inappropriate Facebook comments are still
being made public because this will obviously cause parents needless concern and anxiety. "I can
categorically reassure everyone that staff have never failed in their duty of care at the school."

Montreal disability groups say discussion of euthanasia is premature when health services
for disabled people are lacking (The Gazette in Montreal)

As provincial hearings on "dying with dignity" wrapped up in Montreal Feb. 4, two groups representing
some of society's most vulnerable raised concerns about legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The Association quebecoise de gerontologie, which includes more than 300 health professionals,
called instead for the expansion of palliative care services to provide comfort to the terminally ill. And
the Association de spina-bifida et d'hydrocephalie du Quebec argued that a debate on euthanasia is
premature, given that health services for the disabled are lacking everywhere.

Catherine Geoffroy, president of the association of gerontologists, told the committee that assisted
suicide and euthanasia are often presented as ways to die with dignity — a dig at the committee,
which uses the motto. "In a society where ageism is rampant, where the elderly are often held
responsible for the difficulties in access to health care . . . how can we believe that consenting to
euthanasia would be free of all societal pressures?" Geoffroy asked. She noted that only 10 per cent
of Quebecers have access to palliative care at the end of their lives, and that many elderly die in
nursing homes where there is little palliative care. "We believe that adequate palliative care can
decrease the factors that lead a small proportion of people to demand an end to their lives," she said.
"Palliative sedation, carried out in a strict medical manner, can respond to the concerns about dying in
uncontrollable pain."

Marc Picard, president of the association that represents 9,000 people living with spina bifida and
congenital hydrocephalus in Quebec, said his group is taking a neutral position on euthanasia and
assisted suicide. He argued the government should "fulfil its obligations to provide basic psychological
and health services to the population before talking about the possibility of legalizing euthanasia and
assisted suicide."

The provincial hearings were triggered, in part, by a position taken last year by the Quebec College of
Physicians that cautiously endorsed doctor-assisted suicide under certain conditions. The hearings
now move to St. Jereme and conclude in Quebec City by the end of the month. The committee,
headed by provincial Liberal legislator Geoffrey Kelley, hopes to complete its report by June.

Cuba develops program to aid autistic children (Cuba News)

Heath and education specialists from the eastern Cuban province of Holguin are developing a
multidisciplinary project to improve the quality of life of autistic children. The head of the project,
psychologist Ana Gutierrez, told ACN that it involves psychiatrists, neurologists, defectologists,
speech therapists, social workers, and nurses, among other specialists.

The project, under the consultancy of the Neuro-psychology department of the Lucia Iñiguez Landin
Hospital in Holguin, offers counselling for the children‘s relatives and those taking care of them.
Gutierrez pointed out that autism is a serious development disorder characterized by limitations in the
children‘s speech, social interaction, cognition and behaviour.

The specialists involved in the project are carrying out training workshops in children‘s day care
centres, with the participation of patients and relatives. Gutierrez added that the project includes
encouraging actions at early age for the children, who better react to the therapies. The experiences
that have resulted from the project also contribute to the treatment of children with speech difficulties,
and in their social interaction and behavior like patients with Mental Disorders, Rett Syndrome,
Attention and Hyperactivity Deficit, among others.

Member of the team of specialists Anabel Velazquez said that the program is based on
multidisciplinary assessment to give an accurate diagnosis and to design individual strategies for the

Jewish Disability Awareness Month inspires community (Jewish United Fund News)

In recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Jewish Child & Family Services (JCFS) invites
synagogues across the Chicagoland area to embrace this opportunity to increase awareness of the
needs and strengths of people with disabilities in our communities. Held in February, Jewish Disability
Awareness Month was created by The Jewish Federations of North America and a consortium of
Jewish Special Educators to raise awareness and support meaningful inclusion of people with
disabilities and their families in every aspect of Jewish life.

JCFS, a leading provider of programs and services for people with disabilities in the Jewish
community and beyond, is pleased to share this list of ―10 Ideas to Promote Inclusion‖ for
Synagogues and other Jewish organizations. This list was compiled in consultation with JCFS‘ expert
clinicians, drawing from guidelines set forth by the Jewish Federations of North America in its Jewish
Disability Awareness Month Resource Guide. JCFS is a partner in serving the community with the
Jewish Federation/Jewish United Fund.
Speech, Occupational and Developmental Therapies for children, overnight camp for teens with
autism or social impairments, Sibshops for brothers and sisters of children with disabilities, and Family
Bridges futures planning for aging parents with adult children with disabilities, are among the many
services provided by JCFS for people with disabilities and their families.

Jewish Child & Family Services is at the forefront of providing vital, individualized, results-driven
services to thousands of children, adults and families of all backgrounds throughout the year.
Services include counseling; therapies for children and adults with developmental disabilities; special
educational programs; autism assessment, care of abused and neglected youth; respite and more.
For information about our services and programs for people with disabilities, call the Disability
Helpline at 773-467-3838, or visit us at

10 Ideas to Promote Inclusion for People with Disabilities

1. Use People First Language in all communications. Calling someone a ―disabled person‖ puts the
disability first, as the sole qualifier of that person. A ―person with a disability‖ is a person first and
foremost, and that language emphasizes each person‘s individuality, dignity, value and capabilities.

2. Make sure that your facilities are physically welcoming to people with disabilities with accessible
entry ways, access to the bima, even as simple as making sure shoveled snow doesn‘t block access.

3. Use volunteers or teacher‘s aids in the classroom to provide extra attention to young students with
special needs. Vary activities so that there is plenty of movement between lessons to help keep active
children focused.

4. Create a ―buddy system‖ for congregants with special needs, someone who will introduce him or
her to others, make sure he or she is included in Kiddush or other synagogue social activities.

5. Send out a regular newsletter or email message focused on your initiatives and upcoming
programs. You can also include a relevant quote in your general congregation bulletins about
February and Jewish Disability Awareness. Involve the people with disabilities from your congregation
in the creative process.

6. Plan an inclusion Shabbat with other congregations for future initiatives. Creating new approaches
may mean adding music, crafting a modified religious service, or bringing in a storyteller. Jewish Child
& Family Services can offer resources based on its experience serving individuals and their families
who address these issues.

7. After assessing your congregation‘s needs, consider special funds or volunteer resources for
adaptive technology, special equipment, transportation services, sign language interpreter, large print
books, or books in Braille for the blind.

8. Launch a Jewish service-learning project involving children with disabilities and their peers.
Incorporating Jewish ideals into service projects strengthens communities and provides volunteers
with an opportunity to explore and strengthen their Jewish identities. JCFS offers several collaborative
possibilities and resources to increase and reinforce inclusion.

9. Encourage people with disabilities to lead a program or participate in a synagogue services. Help
them educate your community on the ―do‘s and don‘ts‖ of working with people with disabilities. For
example, greeting people at eye level is a DO, while mentioning a disability when it is not relevant is a

10. February as Jewish Disability Awareness month is an opportunity for Jewish congregations and
organizations to engage their communities, volunteers and members to look for new, meaningful
―inclusions‖ in the congregation‘s activities on every level.
Disability body demands accessible poll centres (The Post Zambia)

The Federation of Disability Organisations has called for serious implementation of constitutional and
international instruments pertaining to people with disabilities to enhance their right to participate in
elections. According to the submission by various organisations to the Electoral Commission of
Zambia (ECZ) signed by a human rights consultant Wamundila Waliuya following a Disability Access
Audit which included selected voter registration centres and polling centres, the organisations stated
that it was difficult for people with disabilities to access most centres.

―All the registration centres audited were not accessible. They were physically inaccessible and not
hygienic to allow persons with disabilities and the blind to use them. The registration officers had no
knowledge of sign language thus posing difficulties in communication with the deaf,‖ the federation
said. ―In view of this many persons with disabilities will remain adamant and apathetic with voter
registration and voting due to the inaccessible centre.‖

The organisations demanded that registration centres, which were also used as voting centres, be
made accessible to them.

―The registration and voting booths and tables should be low in order to enable wheelchair users and
people with dwarfism to vote independently. A specific and disability tailored registration and voting
system should be put in place to encourage people with disabilities to exercise their right to participate
political and public life,‖ they said.

The organisations also highlighted the need to ensure correct information on Braille templates to
enhance the principle of secret ballots.

Christchurch People With Disabilities Welcomed Into New Communities (

Disability support provider NZCare has been forced to evacuate people with intellectual and physical
disabilities from five of its Christchurch homes following Tuesday's 6.3 magnitude quake.

The organisation has been overwhelmed by the support it is receiving to establish new homes for the
27 people affected. Six men who each have an intellectual disability are now settling into their new
Hawera home thanks to the generosity of the local community.

NZCare's Taranaki team has been working with local residents to find and create a new home for the
men who used to reside in the Christchurch suburb of Burwood.

"The neighbouring kindy are holding cake'n'bake and the Lions Club are raising funds to help furnish
the house. And a Waverly police man has just dropped off a dining table and chairs," says NZCare
Group General Manager, Donna Mitchell. "This is an awesome example of the way that New
Zealanders are supporting Canterbury people to get through this difficult time."

On the ground in Christchurch, the NZCare team is continuing to provide vital support to people in
more than 25 homes."I can't speak highly enough of the amazing job they are doing. Despite having
to deal with their own personal losses, they are going above and beyond to meet the needs of the
people who rely on us," says Ms Mitchell.

New Lucena hosts disability affairs meeting (Philippine Information Agency)

The municipality of New Lucena, one of the two pioneering sites of the of the Non- Handicapping
Environment project in the country, played host to the first quarter meeting of the Regional Committee
on Disability Affairs 6 for this year.
Mayor Liecel Mondejar-Seville lauded the effort of the RCDA to hold the meeting in their municipality
as this gave them the opportunity to know what other assistance and programs they could avail of
from other government agencies in support of the NHE project and to further uplift the welfare of the
Persons with Disabilities in the area. Seville said that with the activity ―we hope we can access more
help from RCDA and coordinate with other agencies as our PWDs need to be more capacitated and

The RCDA is an inter-agency committee composed of representatives of the different concerned
agencies of the government, Provincial and City Social Welfare Development Offices and PWD
organizations in the region. Department of Social Welfare and Development 6 Focal Person for
Disabled Persons Judith Marte said among the focus of the meeting was the status of implementation
of the NHE project in the municipality and for possible replication of the project in the other provinces
in the region.

To date, there are 478 registered PWDs in the municipality and most of them have orthopedic
disabilities. Profiling of PWDs that included baselines survey, updating data on PWDs and
classification of disabilities are among the 5 major components of the NHE project being implemented
in the municipality since 2008.

Jointly implemented by the National Council for Disability Affairs and Japan International Cooperation
Agency, the NHE project seeks to make public places and other establishments in rural areas
accessible to PWDs in accordance with the existing universal design concepts alongside with the
compliance with the Accessibility Law or Batas Pambansa Bilang 344.

Social activity cuts disability risk (The Times of India)

Higher levels of social activity decrease the risk of developing disability in old age, according to a new
study at Rush University Medical Centre. "Social activity has long been recognized as an essential
component of healthy aging, but now we have strong evidence that it is also related to better
everyday functioning and less disability in old age," said lead researcher Bryan James, postdoctoral
fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia in the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center.

"The findings are exciting because social activity is potentially a risk factor that can be modified to
help older adults avoid the burdens of disability."

A world on the margin (

Geert Freyhoff has worked in Europe, Asia and Latin America to promote inclusion of people with
intellectual disabilities. Just a few days after Geert Freyhoff started community service as a young
man in his native Germany, his boss was hospitalised, leaving Freyhoff in a metal workshop in charge
of a group of 15 adults with intellectual disabilities. ―They taught me. I didn't have a clue,‖ he says with
a chuckle.

This was his first contact with people with disabilities. ―I liked it, plain and simple. I found it great fun to
work with them,‖ he says. He has been active in the field ever since, and is now director of Inclusion
Europe, which works with more than 60 member organisations to defend the rights of people with
intellectual disabilities and their families.

This was his area of specialisation during his master's in education, during which time he spent 18
months in Asia, mostly in India. For him, this Asian study stint highlighted how Western educational
methods cannot simply be transferred to another culture, not least because of the different
expectations that societies have for children when they turn 18. He used that experience in his first
job after university, working in the international assistance department of Germany's national
organisation for people with intellectual disabilities and their families (Bundesvereinigung
Lebenshilfe). While there, he spent about one month a year on projects in India.

The international aspect remained important to Freyhoff, who went on to work for national federations
in Brazil and Portugal, before taking up his current job in 2000. Intercultural links are also a part of his
private life, as he and his wife adopted two Brazilian children a couple of years ago, a decision that
recently prompted Freyhoff to switch from full-time to part-time work. ―That's a big challenge in this
position,‖ he says. In fact, reconciling his professional and private life is what Freyhoff finds most
difficult about his current job.

By going part-time, the administrative side of his position has been transferred to a colleague, in
theory leaving him to do what he loves: dealing with issues, policies and the transfer of concepts
between countries and cultures. ―If it works out, I'll have my ideal job,‖ he says.

Inclusion Europe has several distinct roles. One is to influence European disability policy on behalf of
its members, with the focus on information society, employment and social affairs, justice, health and
consumers, and development co-operation. ―Our philosophy of inclusion should cover all the fields of
national and European policies, but, in reality, we can't monitor everything,‖ Freyhoff says. A major
achievement was the EU's ratification in December of the UN Convention on Rights for People with
Disabilities. This was ―the big fight for us‖, says Freyhoff, adding that the latest European Disability
Strategy, presented last November, is another positive step. In the past, these strategies were ―lofty
political documents‖, but this time, he notes, it is accompanied by ―concrete implementation steps‖.

A second role is informing members about what is going on in Europe. ―Euro-speak is not entirely
understandable to everyone, and especially not for people with intellectual disabilities. We filter the
information for our members into normal language.‖ Inclusion Europe also issues easy-to-understand
publications and keeps its website updated in all European languages. ―We don't reach our audience
if we don't do that,‖ Freyhoff explains. Social media also get Freyhoff very excited; he uses Twitter,
Facebook and LinkedIn. ―It has an enormous inclusive potential and enormous potential to reach out.‖

Another task of Inclusion Europe is what its members value the most: providing a platform to
exchange ideas. To help achieve this, Inclusion Europe organises an annual conference and other
specialised events; this year's is on the accessibility of elections, implementation of the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ‗self-advocacy'. And it is the growth of self-advocacy –
people with intellectual disabilities defending their own rights – that Freyhoff is most proud of. For him,
this sums up what Inclusion Europe is all about.

Exclusive interview with Roger Ross Williams (GhanaWeb)

Ghana is among the few countries in Africa that have taken affirmative action in favour of
marginalised groups at a higher level with a focus on persons with disabilities. These efforts have
resulted in laws and policies promoting equality, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities
in society.

The Government of the Republic of Ghana back in 1996 developed the National Disability Policy
leading to the passage on the National Disability Law, Act 715 of 2006 aims at promoting equal
opportunities, enhance, empower and seek the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities
irrespective of gender, age, or type of disability.

However, advocacy, implementation and supervision of disability programmes are severely lacking.
Accessibility is one of the key elements addressed in these policies and laws. Due to limited
enforcement of disability laws, absence of National Accessibility Standards and lack of knowledge
about the rights of persons with disabilities, laws and policies on accessibility have been largely

What is accessibility?
Accessibility entails understanding its relation to areas of life beyond just the physical environment.
Areas that are often overlooked are access to services, information and communication which are an
integral part of making a barrier-free society and address the accessibility needs of persons with
sensory, intellectual and psychosocial disabilities as well. These aspects should be addressed in a set
of complementary Standards.

The environment in Ghana is not barrier-free. It does not allow easy and safe movement, function or
access for all, regardless of age, sex or condition. Access by all to physical space and to services is
not possible without obstacles, which leads to loss of dignity and independence. This is in recognition
that persons with disabilities can live to their full potential given the same conditions and
opportunities. The national disability policy and Act 715 and the 1992republican Constitution and
other legal legislations also provide for accessibility not only for persons with disabilities but also for
elderly persons, the sick, pregnant women, and those carrying heavy loads.

Despite the efforts of the government to establish a conducive environment for participation of
Persons with disabilities in all spheres of life, there is still difficulties in terms of accessing the physical
infrastructure as most buildings do not have facilities such as ramps, lifts, and so on.
Some of the existing accessibility facilities are not designed according to the required Standards and
as a result, persons with disabilities continue to face difficulties in accessing them. Leading to
discrimination, violation of the rights of persons with disability and deliberately putting impediment to
the disabled to exhibit their full potential to contribute to the development of Ghana and Africa.

People affected by accessibility barriers:
People who use wheelchairs, people with limited walking/movement abilities, People with visual
impairment or low vision, People with hearing impairment, People with intellectual disabilities, People
with psychosocial disabilities, Elderly persons, Pregnant women and People with temporary

The need for Accessibility Standards
To the best of my knowledge one of the cardinal reasons why it has been very difficult to implement
the legal provisions on accessibility is the absence of Accessibility Standards to guide architects,
property developers, policy makers and implementers on the accessibility requirements in the
physical environment during the design and implementation of construction projects.

The goal of the Accessibility Standards is to contribute to improving equal access for persons with
disabilities, in order to enable them to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.

• To provide a blueprint for creating an accessible physical environment.
• To provide a tool for measurement and auditing of accessibility of the environment.
The Standards are intended for use by a variety of stakeholders, including those that:
• Develop laws, policies and regulations e.g Parliament and line ministries.
• Build and implement changes in the physical environment such as architects, contractors, engineers
and those who own or operate public infrastructure or services like the banks, churches and other
service providers.

Accessibility for persons with different disabilities
The principal targets for these Standards are people with different disabilities. In order to harmonize
between the accessibility needs of different groups, there is need to have a proper understanding of
these needs which differ from one disability to another.

People who use wheelchairs
Many accessibility requirements relate to dimensions and other aspects of wheelchairs. In order to
achieve a complete turn with the wheelchair, it is necessary to provide an unobstructed circle with a
minimum diameter of 1.50m. Considerable energy is required to propel a wheelchair manually up
ramps, over changes in level and over soft or uneven surfaces. Therefore the Standards address
those aspects in particular. Resistance between the floor and the wheelchair wheels depends on the
floor surface of the pathway - whether it is even or uneven, firm or loose. Changes in level should be
avoided and the floor surface should be hard, even and slip resistant.

People with movement difficulties may use crutches or sticks.
Special attention must be paid to avoid broken, rough or sloping floor surface and surfaces that
become particularly slippery after rainfall, such as wood covering, granite, hard burnt bricks, gravel
and Murom. The following aspects are important to enable independent movement for people using
wheelchairs and other assistive devices:
• Changes in level should be avoided.
• Floor surfaces should be hard, even and slip resistant.
• Rails should be provided on stairs and ramps.
• Ramps should have resting places and be of low slope along travel routes.
• Pathways should be of limited slope and include sufficient turning radius.
• Doors should be light and easy to turn, and entrances should be sufficiently wide.
• Parking space should be close to the main entrance.
• Furniture, counters, equipment, power sockets, and plugs should be placed at suitable heights
reachable by persons who use wheelchairs.
• Handrails should be easy to grasp.

Persons with visual impairments
For blind persons and persons with visual impairments, orientation can be eased by the use of
contrasting colours and changes in the texture of the floor material. This helps a blind person in
identifying doors, stairs, steps, ramps and pedestrian crossings. The path of travel should be easy to
detect by a blind person using a long white cane. A guide strip with a contrasting floor texture running
parallel to main pathway should be used for this purpose. The use of protruding elements and low
overhanging signs should be avoided in pathways. Visual capability is different from one person to
another and changes with age and disability. Lighting systems should be made to suit different needs
a In order to provide a barrier-free environment for blind persons and persons with visual impairment,
the physical surroundings should be arranged in a simple and logical way. Visual information should
be accompanied by audible information, handrails should be available to grip when using stairs, and
ramps, entrances, stairs, and information boards should be well lighted.

Blind persons are aided by tactile and auditory information. Therefore, written information should be
made available in braille and visual information should be accompanied by audible information.

Persons with hearing impairments
People with hearing impairments may experience difficulty in distinguishing words and sounds in
noisy environments. Therefore, rooms should be acoustically insulated. Supplementary visual
information should be provided for deaf persons and persons with hearing impairments, such as
visual information at airports and bus stations, and alarms and bells in lifts.

People with learning or intellectual disabilities
Some people with learning or intellectual disabilities experience difficulties in understanding or
interpreting information like signs, and in distinguishing between different colours or between left or
right. The following design elements will enable people experiencing these difficulties to physically
access the built environment: simple design with clear and unambiguous sign postings; use of signs
and notice boards with pictures and symbols; and separation of a mass of information into a number
of signs that can be more easily read and understood than in one sign.

Other Groups
In addition to enabling access to persons with disabilities, the Standards also ensure access to other
groups, such as elderly persons, pregnant women, people and children with temporary disabilities,
and people carrying heavy or cumbersome luggage. In short, accessibility benefits all persons and the
Standards ensure a barrier-free environment for all people include the possibility of adjustments from
low to strong light. Winding staircases, vertical turning doors and side-hung doors should equally be

Despite the efforts of the government, Ghana Federation of the Disabled and its partner, the network
of journalist for the promotion of the Rights of persons with Disability in Africa (PROMOAFRICA) and
other OPWDs to establish a conducive environment for participation of persons with disabilities in all
spheres of life, they still face difficulties in terms of accessing the physical infrastructure.
Most buildings do not have facilities such as ramps, lifts, and so on. Some of the existing accessibility
facilities are not designed according to the required Standards and as a result, persons with
disabilities continue to face difficulties in accessing them. The responsibility lies on us as citizen to
help build a better environment all persons living in the land of gold call Ghana.

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