Recommended Reading for November 16

Just by luck of the draw, today is all news all the time.

Autism is not a dirty word

“They have one line and they just repeat one line. It is a very bizarre sense of autism.” Pierre Lellouche, the French minister for Europe, made headlines with his attack on the British Conservative party’s attitude to the EU. For us Guardian readers, sympathy with Lellouche’s frustration in his dealings with Hague and Cameron will be overshadowed by annoyance, even outrage, at his pejorative use of the word “autism”.

Wikipedia tells us that autism is “characterised by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behaviour”. Doesn’t that describe the Tories in Europe to a T? We all know what Lellouche meant. He wasn’t trying to give a diagnostic definition; shouldn’t we accept his choice of words – as his spokesman has pleaded we should, since “President Sarkozy is called autistic every day” – simply as a colourful way of making a point?

Mind Your Language: Words can cause terrible damage [And, again – I disagree with the idea that calling people names based on disability is the last acceptable taboo and that people are always punished socially for using racist slurs, and never punished socially for using ableist slurs. This isn’t a zero-sum game – we’re not somehow getting less abuse if we acknowledge that other people are getting abused, too. However, I think there’s a lot of good in the article.]

So why is it acceptable against people with disabilities? When did they become such a forgotten minority that they ceased to matter in the battle against bigotry? A group so exiled still from mainstream society that it has become acceptable to fling around hateful words such as “retard” and “spazz” without a murmur of disquiet. Not just in the playground, where these words and many more like them are commonplace, but online, in the office, in the home and in Hollywood.

Employers anxious about hiring people with disabilities, but see their value

More than 100 human resource executives from a cross-section of Ontario-based firms took part in the study commissioned by the Job Opportunity Information Network. JOIN helps individuals with disabilities to find and maintain employment, and assists employers in recruiting candidates.

Among respondents, 36 per cent say they were discouraged from hiring a person with a disability out of concern that it would be harder to dismiss a person with a disability than someone without one.

Family: Gym Took Advantage Of Man With Disability

The brothers of an Indianapolis man claim a local gym took advantage of their developmentally disabled sibling, signing him up for a contract that he couldn’t understand.

Mark Hannon is 49, but functions at a much younger age, the family told 6News’ Rafael Sanchez.

That’s why they were upset when Hannon told them that two men representing Bally’s Total Fitness came to his door last week, offering to sign him up for a gym membership.

Harvi Carel: My 10 year death sentence

“So, how long have you got?” The first time I was asked this question, I was dumbstruck. The horror of it, and the casualness with which it was asked, was too incongruous for words. Was it simply curiosity? Ignorance? A clumsy attempt to “connect” with me? What else could motivate someone to ask such a horrific question? Yet, it’s a question I have been asked again and again – by friends, acquaintances, even strangers who have seen me sitting in a café with an oxygen cylinder beside my feet.

Once you are ill, I realise, you become fair game. You slide down an implicit social ladder. Others begin to perceive you as weak and unimportant, an object of pity and fascination. In asking: “How long have you got,” they compress all their horror, anxiety, pity, and relief that this is someone else’s story. How else to explain how people find the obtuseness and cruelty to ask you – in so many words – “When are you going to die?”

5 Comments

  1. …Wait, you didn’t include the Consumerist article about the _Up_ rental DVD?

  2. Recommended Reading is done about a week in advance. I’m going to do a separate post about it later today.

  3. Ah, OK. Didn’t know that; thanks.

  4. Thanks for including the link to Harvi Carel’s story. I found her article thought-provoking.

  5. “There’s also a fear of … maybe even the impression that maybe you’re being unfair or discriminatory.”

    This shouldn’t be news for y’all, cupcake, but in case it is? If you aren’t hiring people with disabilities because you’re worried about being able to fire them because you just know they aren’t going to work out, you are in fact being discriminatory.

    “Y’all” here being addressed to the participants in the survey in the third-linked article, not anyone actually, y’know. Present.