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Group Tries To Combat Discrimination Against Those With Disabilities

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — More than 20,000 Marylanders are living in nursing homes.  One survey finds almost a quarter of them don’t think they need to be there, but they feel trapped.

Now, Adam May reports an agency is fighting against what they call discrimination against people with disabilities.

As a teenager, Floyd Hartley was on the verge of a career in professional sports.

“I played baseball and basketball in high school.  Actually, I was drafted by the Orioles to play second base in 1970,” Hartley said.  “Dreams were right there before me, but they were derailed when I got juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.”

After decades of hip, knee and elbow replacements, he ended up in a nursing home in 2000.

“It was devastating.  I actually cried,” Hartley said.  “Nothing was ever mentioned by the nursing home staff about what was available in the community, so that’s where I thought my life would end.”

After three years, Hartley met a member of the Maryland Disability Law Center.

“People with disabilities are one of the most disenfranchised, marginalized and low-income segments of our population,” said Executive Director Virginia Knowlton.

Knowlton sees thousands of cases like Hartley’s every year.

“They’re very capable of living independently and being productive, but there’s a lot of discrimination and misunderstanding about people with disabilities, so they need empowerment and legal advocacy,” Knowlton said.

With legal help, Hartley got a Medicaid waiver.  Now he’s educating other people in nursing homes, not living in one.

“Actually, this August will be my…seventh year at home,” he said.  “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The Maryland Disability Law Center is hosting its annual fundraiser Thursday at the Visionary Arts Museum.  For more information, click here.

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