Blanck testifies on behalf of Jenny Hatch
August 2, 2013
By Theresa Vargas
NEWPORT NEWS, VA. — In a victory for the rights of adults with disabilities, a judge declared Friday that a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome can live the life she wants, rejecting a guardianship request from her parents that would have allowed them to keep her in a group home against her will.
The ruling thrilled Jenny Hatch and her supporters, who included some of the country’s most prominent disability advocates. Virginia woman at center of complicated guardianship fight: Margaret Jean Hatch, 29, who has Down syndrome, sought the right to live independently, at odds with her parents’ wishes.
Peter Blanck, who has written books on the Americans with Disabilities Act and testified on behalf of Hatch, said he couldn’t recall seeing any contract as restrictive as the Rosses’ guardianship request.
“In some sense, it’s kind of a civil death,” he testified. “It’s a complete removal of all decision making for the individual, as this is written.”
When asked what the impact could be on Hatch, he testified that it put her at risk for “stagnation, regression . . . depression.”
Blanck and other experts stressed the importance of integrating people with disabilities into the community — a requirement under federal law — and respecting their personal preferences.
In his closing arguments, Martinis, the legal director of Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, said that the case was not about who should get Jenny Hatch.
“Justice for Jenny is Jenny gets Jenny,” he said.
Martinis says that Hatch doesn’t need a guardian but that if she has to have one, he is pleased that it’s the one she wants and that it’s for a limited time.
“In a year, it’s all you,” he said to Hatch. “Are you ready?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Free at last!”
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