Archive for Sunday, April 20, 2003

Volunteers allege discrimination in suit against Muscular Dystrophy Assn.

April 20, 2003


— Two women filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., claiming the organization refused to let them serve as camp counselors because they have neuromuscular diseases.

Gina Bauer, of Wichita, and former Kansas resident Suzanne Stolz filed the lawsuit on Friday in Sedgwick County District Court. It claims the association violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination -- but a lawyer for the MDA says the association was just looking out for campers' safety.

The women, both teachers, use wheelchairs. Stolz now lives in California.

For the past several years, they have volunteered as counselors at the Kansas MDA camp near Topeka.

But this year, the MDA office in Wichita told the women they could not volunteer because of their physical limitations.

The policy that counselors must be able to lift and carry campers is based on safety concerns, an attorney for the association wrote in response to the lawsuit.

"The increased scrutiny of parents, risk-management professionals, insurance companies, regulatory agencies and the challenges posed by national security concerns makes particularly important MDA's efforts to take every precaution to provide a safe camping experience for the campers with neuromuscular diseases entrusted into its care," St. Louis attorney Jill Morris wrote.

However, the lawsuit claims, there are more able-bodied counselors than there are campers each year, so the MDA could "make reasonable accommodations" without jeopardizing safety.

The executive director of Wichita's MDA Office declined comment.

A hearing requesting an injunction against the MDA is set for Friday.

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