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Diversity chief: my reputation is tarnished
Angela McCaskill was suspended after it was revealed she signed a petition for a referendum on same-sex marriage.
October 17th, 2012
04:28 PM ET

Diversity chief: my reputation is tarnished

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - She was the first deaf, African-American woman to earn a doctorate from Gallaudet University. It seemed Angela McCaskill was the perfect choice to serve as that university's chief diversity officer.

And she was, until last week when the president of Gallaudet, the nation's leading higher education institution for the deaf, placed McCaskill on paid administrative leave.

Why?

Because a faculty member had informed the school that McCaskill admitted to signing a petition that put Maryland's same-sex marriage law to a statewide vote.

McCaskill kept her silence for many days but Tuesday, she came out swinging, demanding compensation from Gallaudet for the stress and harm done to her reputation. She insists she is not anti-gay; she simply wanted to exercise her political rights. FULL POST

October 12th, 2012
04:03 PM ET

A cafe on a mission of empowerment

By Sarah LeTrent, CNN

(CNN) - Drake takes drink orders, greets regular customers with a warm handshake and sets the tables for the next wave of the lunch crowd. It’s a stark change from the sheepish man who patrons first encountered when Harvest Café opened its doors in the beginning of 2011.

“My goodness, it’s like night and day. You’d see the change in him week by week,” says Jean Ringhoff, a regular at the café who works at a nearby bank. “At first, he barely made eye contact.”

Drake, like the restaurant itself, now commands a second look.

The pale yellow house with the white wrap-around porches serves not only as a fully-operating restaurant, but also as a day habilitation program for people with developmental disabilities.

Harvest Café is owned and operated by A Very Special Place (AVSP), a not-for-profit corporation for people with varying degrees of developmental disabilities on Staten Island, New York.

Day-to-day operations in the café – whose slogan is “great food with a mission” – are carried out by both paid, trained restaurant workers and AVSP trainees (or “consumers” as AVSP calls the people in their programs) with disabilities. On-site, the latter receives occupational training to prepare them for entry into the workplace, and ultimately, a more independent and fulfilling life.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog
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Filed under: Disabilities • How we live • Who we are
Disabled voters face Election Day challenges
Disability rights advocates say more polling stations must be made accessible, as this polling station in Revere, Mass., was in 2006.
October 12th, 2012
09:21 AM ET

Disabled voters face Election Day challenges

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - On Nov. 6, there's a very real possibility that many Americans with disabilities will not be able to vote because their local polling places will be inaccessible.

Advocates for the disabled are worried that local governments aren't doing enough to prepare - as are some of the small businesses that outfit polling sites with ramps.

"We've gotten quite a few inquiries from major municipalities, but they're not following through to actual sales," said Dave Henderson, sales manager at EZ-Access in Algona, Wash.

The family-owned business makes portable wheelchair ramps. Prices range from $500 for a four-foot ramp with handrails to as much as $4,000 for a 30-foot modular model.

In 2008, as many as 1,000 polling centers were retrofitted with the company's ramps, Henderson said. "For us, the election can be a big revenue generator."

This year, Henderson says he has gotten about 600 to 800 orders, and he's uncertain how the next few weeks will go.

FULL STORY
August 23rd, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Paralympics sailor: 'My disability is a gift'

By Sheena McKenzie, for CNN

London, England (CNN) - Not many people would see quadriplegia as a gift. But then, not many people are Paul Callahan.

As a 21-year-old Harvard University student, Paul's life was full of possibility. An undergraduate studying business at one of the best universities in the world, there was a lot to look forward to for the young man from Massachusetts.

Then a freak accident changed everything. Paul slipped on a wet floor, breaking his neck and rendering him paralyzed from the chest down. He retained the use of his arms, but not his hands.

Callahan spent the next five years traveling to rehabilitation centers across the United States in search of a way to walk again. When a doctor finally suggested it was time to concentrate on living instead of walking, Paul did exactly that.

Almost 30 years later, the 55-year-old father of two is now set to represent the United States in sailing at the Paralympics.

"It's an evolutionary process where you transition from one life to the other," Paul told CNN.

"I never gave up moving forward. You can define that as walking or being a contributing member of society. At 26 I chose the latter."

Read the full story

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Filed under: Disabilities • Sports • What we think
August 21st, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Navigating the mentally ill away from jail

By Rich Phillips, CNN

Savannah, Georgia (CNN) - As Billy Carruthers confidently walks through Savannah's Forsyth Park, the homeless residents do a double take.

Most remember Carruthers as a mentally ill, homeless, drug addict who spent his day conning tourists to buy books, then using the money to feed his cocaine habit. Carruthers is bipolar and suffers from depression. It took many years of arrests and falling off his medication before he could kick his cocaine habit.

"They look at me today, there's one thing, beyond a shadow of a doubt that they see. They see change. They see recovery," Carruthers said. "They say, 'Where you been? What happened to you?' That's what recovery is."

Psychiatrist: I hate suicide but also understand it

Today, Carruthers is helping those still living on the streets cope with their mental illnesses as part of an experimental program in Georgia. Supporters of the Opening Doors to Recovery program believe it can help stop prisons, jails and hospitals from becoming dumping grounds for the mentally ill.

The program is trying to show state leaders the benefits of putting state money into this front end program rather than funding prisons and hospitals - which are much more expensive, according to Nora Haynes who oversees the project for the National Alliance of Mentally Ill, or NAMI.

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Filed under: Disabilities • Health • Where we live
August 19th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

Boy 'glad' he spoke out after hearing racial slurs at Pennsylvania swim club

By Ross Levitt and Susan Candiotti, CNN

(CNN) - Tears streamed down 12-year-old Marcus Allen's face in 2009, as he recalled how members of a private suburban Philadelphia swim club had hurled racial slurs and worried aloud if he and other mostly minority day campers might steal from them.

Today, Marcus is just about to turn 15 and hit the gridiron as a running back on his high school football team. He has grown up in more ways than one - including having experienced discrimination firsthand and seen the U.S. justice system in action, its pursuit of justice driven in large part by his and other adolescents' accounts of what they had seen and heard that summer.

"I'm glad that people saw and felt what I felt," Marcus, who is black, told CNN.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission reached a settlement with the now-defunct Valley Club of Huntingdon Valley, two and a half years after filing a lawsuit against the club.

Under terms of the deal, the club - which filed for bankruptcy in November 2009 a few months after the incident and had its property sold for $1.46 million the following June - agreed to payouts to more than 50 children like Marcus who were part of the Creative Steps Day Care Center, their counselors and Creative Steps. The distributed money includes whatever "remaining assets" from the club's property sale are left over, with $65,000 set aside to create a diversity council made up of former Valley Club members, Creative Steps counselors, campers and their families to promote community healing, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Read the full story 

July 31st, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Aimee Copeland using new prosthetics, father says

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - The 24-year-old Georgia woman who lost parts of all her limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria has three new prosthetics, her father told CNN on Monday.

Aimee Copeland has two hooks she uses for hands and a leg prosthetic but her injured left side where she lost that leg may require one more surgery, Andy Copeland told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."

Andy Copeland said his daughter is racing through rehab and might return to the family's home on August 22.

Even getting used to the hooks didn't seem difficult, Andy Copeland said.

"It's interesting ... after having those hooks on for about 10 minutes she seemed to be able to master the ability to use them," he said, adding that she was able to pick up a pair of shorts she had on her wheelchair at the rehabilitation facility and threw them across her body. "The prosthetist looked at that and said, 'Wow, it usually takes three days for somebody to be able to master the coordination of using those hooks to be able to do something like that.'"

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Refusing to quit, disabled veteran aims to inspire others
Sgt. Noah Galloway, who is retired from the U.S. Army, says he still "trains like a machine."
July 30th, 2012
06:38 PM ET

Refusing to quit, disabled veteran aims to inspire others

By Rebecca Angel Baer, CNN

(CNN) - Noah Galloway's daily workouts could intimidate the most seasoned athlete. He runs, climbs, does pull-ups and push-ups, and lifts weights for nearly two hours at a time. But what really sets this 30-year-old father of three apart is that he does it all with one arm and one leg.

In the aftermath of September 11, Galloway felt called to serve his country. At 19, he withdrew from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and enlisted in the United States Army.

"After we were attacked, I felt like it was what I needed to do. I quit school and started off on a new journey."

Galloway was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 2003. After becoming a husband and father, he returned for a second tour in 2005.

"They put us in an area that was known as the triangle of death. It was southwest of Baghdad. The units that had been there before us had taken a beating. It was just a rough area."

Four months into his second deployment, he was trying to catch a bit of sleep between missions when his platoon leader woke him.

"He said, 'Hey, we're gonna go take these Humvees to go pick up the rest of the platoon.' Said there's nothing important going on. We're just going to pick them up, coming back. Just wanted you to know we're leaving."

But Galloway says he insisted on not only joining the convoy but driving the lead vehicle, a decision that put him in the path of a roadside bomb detonated by a trip wire.

Four days later, on Christmas morning, Galloway woke in Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

"I had no idea where I was or how I got there. I remember waking up and seeing my parents walking in. I knew I was somewhere safe because they were there, and something told me to smile because they'd know I was OK."

He lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee. His jaw needed to be reconstructed, and his mouth was wired shut. His recovery was as rough emotionally as it was physically, and during it he and his wife divorced.

"I remember thinking it was all over. I was very physical. I'd lost two limbs, a wife. You know, I remember thinking I much rather had died than wake up like this," Galloway said.

His attitude started to shift thanks, in part, to a fellow amputee: his father, who lost his hand at age 18 when a machine malfunction at the plant where he worked.

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Filed under: Disabilities • How we live • Veterans • Who we are
July 14th, 2012
12:45 PM ET

Legally blind contestant is a first for Miss Florida USA pageant

By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN

Hollywood, Florida (CNN) - Connor Boss appears to be just like any other contestant waiting to sign into the Miss Florida USA pageant until it is her turn to fill out the registration sheet. Boss, with her nose almost touching the paper, has trouble reading the form.

Boss, 18, is the first legally blind contestant to compete for Miss Florida USA. Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a hereditary eye disease that caused her vision to get progressively worse.

"It affects my retina and my central vision, so my peripheral vision is intact," said Boss. "When I'm looking at people, I try and look around. People take me as being rude but it's hard for me to focus straight forward."

Focusing is not a problem for Boss when it comes to her goals. Boss, a freshman at Florida State University, graduated high school with a 4.2 grade point average.

"All of her tests ended up being read to her, even the SAT and ACT for college were read to her," said her mother, Traci Boss. It was not only academia where Boss excelled; she was her high school senior class president and captain of the cheerleading squad.

Read the full story

July 11th, 2012
03:51 PM ET

Official: Mom leaves mentally disabled daughter at bar, refuses to retrieve her

By Jack Maddox, CNN

(CNN) - An Illinois woman who left her mentally disabled daughter outside a Tennessee bar cannot be charged with a crime, police said Tuesday.

Police in Caryville, Tennessee, said the daughter is 19 and not assigned to a legal guardian.

"As terrible as it is, unfortunately there is nothing we can do," Assistant Police Chief Stephanie Smith said. "There is no doubt we need a law for mental health rights, but pending this investigation, we just don't know what else to do."

According to police, Eva Cameron stopped at the Big Orange Bar in Caryville on June 28 when her daughter, Lynn, needed to use the restroom.

The mother left Lynn by the side of the road and returned to her home in Algonquin, Illinois, according to Smith.

"(Lynn) didn't know her age, she didn't know her address, she didn't know her phone number and she didn't even know her name," Smith said.

Eva Cameron told the Northwest Herald newspaper in Illinois that she brought Lynn to Caryville because of its concentration of Baptists and because Tennessee has the "No. 1 health care system in the United States of America."

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