Woman With Down Syndrome A Hero For Disabled Rights
White Plains, NY (Law Firm Newswire) October 16, 2013 - The Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads has asked Jenny Hatch to be its grand marshal for its annual awareness 5K run and walk this October.
Ms. Hatch, they say, has become a symbol of hope. Ms. Hatch has also received numerous speaking invitations from different organizations. Why all of the attention? Ms. Hatch, a 29-year-old Virginia woman who has Down syndrome, was part of a landmark rights case for people with disabilities.
Ms. Hatch found resolution after an unusually long guardianship case while a judge weighed a request from her parents. They had requested to be appointed her guardians, choosing where she resided and with whom she could socialize. They had placed her in several group homes, none of which Ms. Hatch liked. But while they wanted her to live in a group home of their choosing, Ms. Hatch wanted to live with friends and work at their thrift shop.
The judge ultimately designated her two friends as her temporary guardians and outlined their responsibilities, which included assisting Ms. Hatch in obtaining the maximum Medicaid waiver benefits available and supporting an ongoing relationship with her parents.
Ms. Hatch spoke about her experiences to a crowd of thousands during the keynote address to the Arc of Virginia state convention this past August. She described how she was forced to move into different group homes, how she was unable to have agency over the use of her cellphone or computer. Her case, say disability community advocates, has made Ms. Hatch a symbol of strength and hope for others who want to make life decisions for themselves.
Her attorney, Jonathan Martinis, says that the guardianship case is the most significant of his career, which spans 20 years, and believes the judge’s ruling was a “landmark decision.” Martinis, the legal director for the D.C.-based Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, hopes that the case will prompt other courts to recognize that many life choices can be made by people with disabilities, rather than allowing a guardian full agency.
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Maria M. Brill
Littman Krooks LLP
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