Monthly Archives: May 2010
Ghana News Agency – Mental Health System on the verge of collapse
Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Psychiatrist of the Ghana Health Service, on Monday said the mental health system would soon collapse if the Mental Health Bill was not passed to correct the abuses and injustices in mental care. He said it was unfortunate that the Bill, drafted in 2004 and completed 2006, was still lingering at the Ministry of Health. Speaking at a workshop on the State of the Mental Health Bill and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, (UNCRP) for media practitioners, in Accra, he stressed that there was the need for the law to protect the rights and interest of patients and to overhaul the entire mental health system.
Ionia held these men using little-known loopholes in deinstitutionalization amendments that stipulated that the hospital would continue to receive or contain patients deemed too violent for state correctional institutions, or who posed “dangerousness to the community” even after most other patients were set free. The word negro appeared on the upper right corner of the face page in eight out of every ten of these charts. And schizophrenia, paranoid type was overwhelmingly the most common diagnosis applied to these men, these institutionalized black bodies that deinstitutionalization left behind.
the personal hurricanes of kirsty mitchell – quote from siri hustvedt, the shaking woman
the DSM does not tell stories. It contains no cases of actual patients or even fictional ones. Etiology, the study of the cause of illness, isn’t part of the volume. Its mission is to be purely descriptive, to collect symptoms under headings that will help a physician diagnose patients. there is a companion DM-IV casebook, but notably, these narratives about real doctors and patients are gathered in their own volume, seperate from the diagnostic tome.The fact is that all patients have stories, and those stories are necessarily part of the meaning of their illnesses. This may be even more true for psychiatric patients, whose stories are often so enmeshed with the sickness that one can’t be untangled without the other.
Toronto Sun – Family denied residency because of disability
A French family denied permanent residence in Canada because one of the kids has cerebral palsy may have to leave the country following a federal court decision Tuesday. David Barlagne has been working in Montreal since July, 2005. He applied for permanent residence status for his family but was turned down because of the extra costs of putting his daughter Rachel, who has cerebral palsy, through elementary and secondary school. Under Canadian law, immigration officials have no choice but to deny applicants whose health condition could cause excessive demand on social services. Barlagne appealed but the federal court upheld the original decision.
Caltics – Don’t Fall For Arnold’s Wedge [California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently issued a proposed state budged with drastic cuts to essential programs for low income Californians and Californians with disabilities.]
Now it must be said that it’s not just the poor who will suffer under this budget. But the budget cuts are quite obviously calculated to hit those Californians without a voice, who are seen as marginal, whose funding can be cut with the least public outcry. The elderly who will lose some or all of their IHSS benefits and the children who will lose health care services are not necessarily “poor”; those cuts will hit the middle-class as well. We can’t fall for Arnold’s wedge. Arnold is shifting tactics because he’s scared of us – scared of the public reaction against three years of austerity. Now is the time to ramp up the attack on that austerity, to move beyond tired old Reaganite claims that there’s some difference between the needs of the middle-class and the needs of the poor. Many middle-class families have benefited from the very safety net programs Arnold now proposes to cut or eliminate, and many more middle-class families benefit – at their jobs and businesses – from less fortunate families having at least some state assistance.
Here in the U.S., there’s been a lot of buzz about Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, winning the primary for Republican senator in Kentucky. Paul is a darling of the Tea Party and largely espouses libertarian values of decreased taxes and decreased government regulation and intervention.
There are some things about libertarianism that I like and agree with. I’m against state interference in romantic and/or sexual relationships between consenting individuals with full capacity. I’m in favor of strong civil liberties and freedom from search or surveillance by the state.
But I do not trust the free market to take care of civil rights issues, primarily because I’ve seen the free market fail to take care of civil rights issues for hundreds and really thousands of years. And I believe that getting the government out of the business of defining and enforcing civil rights would have disastrous results for all but the most privileged among us. And Rand Paul’s espoused views bear that out. Here’s what he’s got to say about LGBTAI rights and women’s health:
Not only is Paul perfectly fine with government prohibiting marriage between gays and lesbians, it bears mentioning that Paul’s anger towards the government for “betraying the medical privacy of ordinary citizens” doesn’t extend to women, whom he believes should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term if state legislators deem it so. He also wants to offer legislation “restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade.”
This isn’t even a consistent position – Paul is in favor of government intervention in personal relationships, as long as it’s “only” LGBTAI relationships. He’s also in favor of government intervention in personal medical decisions, as long as it’s “only” affecting the decisions of women considering whether to terminate a pregnancy. What he has to say about protections for people with disabilities is even more troubling:
You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions — like for example if you have a three story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner.
Yes! Let’s let the free market take care of rights for people with disabilities! Because it’s for damn sure that even with the existing governmental protections for civil rights, companies are taking an unbiased and totally not ableist at all approach to employing PWDs and even accommodating them as customers! So eliminating those marginally adequate and woefully underenforced protections would surely have the effect of enhancing overall liberty and freedom! That is, if you are looking only at the liberty and freedom of the already privileged.
There has been a lot of discussion on this site of how entrenched institutional ableism results in discrimination against PWDs, makes them more likely to live in poverty, lack employment, and have disproportionately negative health outcomes. That’s the status quo that would be preserved if government intervention and regulation of the rights of PWDs were to end. But there are definitely people who are benefiting from the status quo – white, cis, hetero, TAB men, predominantly. And we should be very clear that limiting government intervention would primarily preserve the status quo that benefits them.
Which is why you should not be surprised by two facts: 1) Rand Paul is a white cis hetero TAB man, and 2) I strongly disagree with these political ideas. While there are some areas in which I support limiting government intervention, my overall goal is to maximize rights of historically disadvantaged and relatively unprivileged populations, whether it takes more or less government to reach that end.
Several of the FWD/Forward contributors are fans of Lady Gaga, so when I encountered a Sign version of ‘Paparazzi,’ I was pretty delighted. I got even more delighted when I realised that there is actually a very large genre of signed versions of Lady Gaga’s songs, and pulled a sampling to post here. Please feel free to add links to more Gaga-related disability performance and dance videos in the comments, because these are only the tip of the iceberg!
Deaf YouTube user zephyreros Signs an American Sign Language version of ‘So Happy I Could Die.’ (Lyrics for ‘So Happy I Could Die.’)
‘Bad Romance’ in American Sign Language by LoveJennivere. (Lyrics for ‘Bad Romance.’)
Jeremy Neiderer, another Deaf YouTuber, performing ‘Paparazzi’ in American Sign Language. (Lyrics for ‘Paparazzi.’)
YouTuber Lee, who has Asperger’s and Tourette’s, Signing ‘Poker Face’ in British Sign Language. (Lyrics for ‘Poker Face.’)
I can’t mention Lady Gaga without pointing y’all to Annaham’s ‘Disability Chic? (Temporary) Disability in Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’.’ Gaga’s work is, as we like to say, Not Without Problems and I’d welcome discussions of her handling of disability, gender, and other issues in comments as well.
Content warning: This post discusses rape and sexual assault of women with disabilities.
One of the persistent problems with rape and sexual assault cases is that they tend to be very poorly reported in the media. They aren’t reported at all, for the most part, if they involve nonwhite women, sex workers, disabled women, trans women, and other women living in marginalised bodies, and when they are, it is treated as regional news, instead of a systemic and serious problem. In the case of women with disabilities, rapes are often reported as a crime against society, rather than against the victim.
This tends to create a situation where it’s hard to get accurate information and where people underestimate the frequency of rapes of people in marginalised bodies. Indeed, there’s a widespread social attitude that rape of people with disabilities doesn’t occur because ‘why would anyone want to have sex with them‘ when, in fact, people with disabilities are deliberately targeted by sexual predators. People who cannot report crimes, who will not be believed when they report them, who are not provided with the tools for reporting, who can be easily threatened and intimidated by their rapists, are viewed as ideal targets for rape and abuse.
Especially in institutions, rates of sexual assault and physical abuse are, to be blunt, revoltingly high. Even more revolting are practices such as sterilisation, ostensibly for ‘convenience,’ but really to prevent rape victims from getting pregnant so that no one recognises that they are being abused. Depriving people who use communication books and boards of the terms and concepts they need to describe what has been done to them. Dismissing rape reports made by people with mental illness. There’s a reason that women with disabilities experience rape at levels much greater than the average.
It’s really hard to find statistics on rape of disabled women. There are a lot of reasons for this ranging from poor reporting to varying definitions of disability, but generally speaking, estimates seems to suggest that disabled women are twice as likely to experience rape than nondisabled women.
For women with developmental disabilities, these statistics become even more distressing. To grab one statistic, at least 70% of women with developmental disabilities experience rape. This rather stark statistic (others put the numbers closer to 83%) illustrates that rape is not just a feminist issue, but a very probable risk for women with developmental disabilities.
In the last week, I read a report about a man who raped a woman with developmental disabilities in her home a few hours south of me. A man in Cleveland groomed and then molested a women with developmental disabilities. A Census worker in Indiana was charged with breaking into a home to burgle it and rape a woman with developmental disabilities who lived there. In Lombard, Illinois, a protective order was not enough to prevent a man from raping a woman with developmental disabilities.
These are all stories I read in the last week, without actively seeking out stories about the rape of women with developmental disabilities.
The. Last. Week.
And what do these stories tell us? In Cleveland, the molester ‘befriended’ his victim. The Lombard man ‘had sex with‘ his victim. The typical narrative that surrounds reports of rape and sexual assault, one where the words ‘rape’ and ‘rapist’ and ‘raped’ are rarely used in lieu of euphemisms that distance the rapist from the crime. Words that leave room for interpretation and debate. Words that are designed to dilute the power, the intensity, and the violence of the crime.
These women had their hair pulled. They were physically attacked and left with bruises and black eyes. They were raped. Their rapists were not ‘friends’ who ‘had sex with’ them. They were rapists. They were rapists who groomed and targeted victims, looking particularly for women who would have difficulty fighting back, who would not be able to report their rapes, who would have to rely on their caregivers to fight for them because they are deprived of autonomy.
Does that make you angry? Because it’s certainly making me angry. Rape already makes me angry to begin with, so this is an entirely new and incendiary level of anger.
This is a systematic denial of personhood and bodily autonomy at every level.
Note: There are a number of links to news stories in this post. All of them have problematic language.
A horrifying story out of Iowa has been getting some press attention over the last few days, if you know where to look1. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report detailed the abuse of workers with intellectual disabilities in a meat packing plant and it looks like the labour contractor responsible, Henry’s Turkey Service, is going to be brought up on charges. I can find stories on this dating back to early 2009; the uptick in interest appears to be the result of news that more federal charges are going to be filed.
The labour contractor, based in Texas, provides crews that go all over the country and has done so since the 1970s. This particular group of 21 men was sent to a plant in Iowa, West Liberty Foods. They were kept in a bunkhouse with boarded up windows and space heaters for heat; Iowa gets mighty cold in the winter and space heaters are unlikely to cut it. These men were getting up at three in the morning seven days a week to work in a meatpacking plant, and some of them were ’employed2‘ for decades.
Here’s a description of the conditions:
“The living conditions were worse than squalor,” she said. “There were fire hazards, no heat, their rooms were crawling with cockroaches. It was just filth, a nightmare.” (source)
West Liberty was paying Henry’s Turkey Service around $11,000 United States Dollars a month for the men’s labour, and they were making, literally, pennies on the dollar:
The report found that West Liberty Foods paid Henry’s Turkey Service as much as $11,000 per week for the disabled men’s labor. Henry’s Turkey Service then paid the men a combined total of between $340 and $500 per week, or about 41 cents an hour, The Des Moines Register reported.
Compared to the pay the men would have gotten at minimum wage, the report found that the company underpaid them by more than $1 million during the last three years of the company’s operation. But the underpaid amount could climb because other workers doing the same job earned between $9 and $12 per hour. (source)
How was this justified?
…to justify lower wages the lawyer explained how by using a Department of Labor formula the company then calculated how much to pay based on how many disabled men it takes to equal the amount of work done any one man. His example was three-to-one. (source)
This story is primarily being reported as a case of employment discrimination and much of the litigation surrounds the back wages and pay these men are owed. This is definitely an issue and I’m glad to see it being addressed. But this is also a very clear case of abuse of people with disabilities. And I am deeply disturbed to learn how the EEOC deals with abuse of disabled workers:
Under federal law, once the EEOC determines that the rights of disabled workers have been violated, it must attempt to halt the violations through an informal process of “conference, conciliation and persuasion.” The commission plans to send a proposed conciliation agreement – a settlement of sorts – to Henry’s owners. If the owners reject the proposed settlement and refuse to negotiate, the EEOC has the option of taking the company to court. (source)
Evidently, if you are a disabled worker and you are being abused by an employer, including abuse like being kept in squalid conditions and being taunted and name-called by coworkers, attempts to work the situation out amicably must fail before more aggressive measures can be pursued.
This is a labour rights issue, but it is also an abuse issue. And it illustrates the critical need to get tougher protections in place for workers with disabilities. These conditions should never have happened in the first place and they definitely should not have been allowed to persist for decades. There would be widespread outrage if nondisabled people were involved in the case, but as it is, most of the reporting and attention seems to be happening in Iowa itself. This is being treated as a local news story, instead of what it is, which is a heinous outrage and a grave violation of human rights and all reasonable decency.
And it’s being treated as a one time event, rather than evidence of a systemic problem. Certainly, the news says, this case is awful and it’s good that charges are being filed. But there’s not a lot of exploration into how and why this happened. Some advocates are quoted in the articles, as well as family members, and they are righteously infuriated, but I don’t see any quotes from people with disabilities, including any of the workers involved; once they were removed from the bunkhouse, they were apparently whisked into group homes.
Henry’s Turkey Service is not the only agency that provides contract labour like this. West Liberty is not the only employer which tries to cut costs by using contract labour. This is a structural problem, not a local news issue. Workers with disabilities and workers with nebulous immigration status endure horrific abuses in this country; the situation at West Liberty is repeated over and over again all over the United States because of the attitude that these individuals are a cheap source of disposable labour, to be used up and thrown away.
And the people ‘in charge,’ the people who might be empowered to investigate and take action? Well:
Muscatine County Sheriff David White said recently that he is confident the people who ran Henry’s Turkey Service treated the bunkhouse residents well.
“Our take on it was, you know, that they were doing some pretty good things with these guys,” he said. (source)
The reason no one did anything about the hostile working environment, atrocious living conditions, and economic abuses of these men is that they were regarded as something less than human. And employment law appears to reinforce that idea by suggesting that the first step in abuse cases like this is not filing charges, but ‘conciliation and persuasion.’
But adults with severe cognitive disabilities, like children and the elderly, often behave in ways that challenge non-disabled adults’ beliefs about how people should behave, particularly their beliefs about how people should behave in public spaces. The ways in which I’ve seen people be made uncomfortable by children in some ways mirror the ways in which I’ve seen people be made uncomfortable by people with disabilities.
As a person who lived for two years without psychiatric medication apart from a PRN tranquilizer, I have experienced the relative privilege people who don’t use medication are awarded. It is subtle, in the comments people make. “Oh, that’s good for you,” people said when I told them I wasn’t on any medication. When, at the introduction to mental health recovery I attended, one of the speakers informed the audeince that she was med-free, everyone also either cheered as if it was the greatest goal to achieve, or mumbled in sorrow that they could never achieve that. Fortunately, the speaker made it quite clear that this was her personal choice and it was not in any way meant as advice to anyone else. But it’s not just patients who do this; I repeatedly caught the ward psychiatrist in compliments on the fact that I managed without meds. Yet whether a person is or is not on psychiatric drugs, may have little to do with how well they manage.
The Society for Disability Studies’ annual conference, “Disability in the Geo-Political Imagination,” kicks off Wednesday, June 2, on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This year’s will be the largest SDS conference ever, with a day-long inclusive education preconference on June 2, and five concurrent streams of papers, as well as a film festival in a dedicated theater, running Thursday, June 3 through Saturday, June 5.
Even when it’s Mother’s Day, the ableists are out. They are folks who, among other things, are bound and determined to treat people with disabilities badly because they think they can.
I felt sorry for my mother when we ran into a waitress who acted as if I wasn’t capable of ordering my own meal yesterday. I watched as her eyes filled with tears when I was insulted in front of her.
I pushed back. That’s what advocates do, even on Mother’s Day. Maybe particularly on Mother’s Day. I believe I did it for all the mothers out there, in every sense of the word.
Every month when my amitriptyline starts running low, I have the hardest time remembering to call it in. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t remember on my own and if I don’t remember I’ll run out and could miss days of my medication. I missed more than a week last summer and ended up high for days and days as my body readjusted.
So every month I pick up a pen hold it to my hand and debate what reminder to write there. I don’t want to write “MEDS,” right there in big letters where everyone can see it, but that seems to be my only option. My friends suggest coining a codeword. I try faces, check marks, exclamation points and stars. Nothing works — except “MEDS.” Every time I try something else I somehow forget and end up missing a dose.
Science Fiction Writing Contest [More details at the link]
Open to Native, First Nations, Indigenous, and Aboriginal students currently enrolled part-time or full-time in any accredited university, college, or high school.
This year’s Judge: Acclaimed SF, experimental fiction, and horror writer Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet), author of The Fast Red Road—A Plainsong, The Bird Is Gone—A Manifesto, Ledfeather, and much more. http://www.demontheory.net/
Entrants should submit a personal statement (one paragraph) containing affiliation or descent, student status (the where, the when, the why, and the how much more), and goals for their sf writing, along with the previously unpublished writing sample.
“Canadians are most certainly welcomed! Canadians, Australians–all “indigenous” types from wherever they reside.”
FARMINGTON — The three men who allegedly branded a swastika on the arm of a mentally challenged man and who face hate crime charges for the incident were arraigned Monday in Farmington Magistrate Court.
Yet city and Navajo officials claim race relations in Farmington have improved dramatically during the last decade.
My name is Jennifer Miesch. I am a graduate student in Counseling Psychology at the University of Oregon. I am writing to invite you to participate in my graduate research study examining career planning and career development for college women with learning disabilities. There is very little research about how to improve career development services for women with learning disabilities. If you are a female college student who has a learning disability, you are eligible to participate and contribute to research about women with LD!
If you decide to participate in this study, you will complete a brief online questionnaire. This questionnaire takes approximately 25 to 35 minutes to complete. The questionnaire is on surveymonkey.com, and is 508 compliant. If you are one of the first 180 participants to submit a completed survey, you will receive a $15 Target gift card if you provide your contact information. Your contact information will be kept separate from your survey, will only be used to mail a gift card to you, and will then be erased after the gift card has been mailed.
Participation in the study is completely voluntary. Participating or choosing not to participate will have no effect on your relationship to UO. If you are interested in participating in the study or obtaining more information, please go to the following web address: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HCR92C3
You may also forward this message to other college women with diagnosed learning disabilities.
If you have any questions concerning this research study, please do not hesitate to contact either me, Jennifer Miesch, at jmiesch[@]uoregon.edu or Benedict McWhirter, Ph.D. at benmcw[@]uoregon.edu. This study has been reviewed by the University of Oregon Office for Protection of Human Subjects. For more information about your rights as a research participant, you may email the office at human_subjects[@]orc.uoregon.edu.
Thank you very much.