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John Stossel Wants YOU! To Be Afraid of the ADA

Not being from the US, I had this idea in my head that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must be awesome. I mean, come on! It’s been 20 years now! Ramps to every building, disability friendly policies, accessible washrooms in every hotel lobby! I get all starry-eyed just thinking about it.

People with disabilities who have actually been in the US are probably either rolling their eyes or giggling at my naivety.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read about airlines being fined for not following the ADA, despite repeated complaints from customers that they hadn’t been, continuing issues with post-secondary education, online content, and accessibility for students who are blind or otherwise vision-impaired (no mention of blind or visually impaired teachers) and students needing to sue in order to get attention to the fact that the new content delivery system was not accessible to them (again, no mention of blind or visually impaired teachers), the Attorney General of Massachusetts needing to step in to demand movie theater chains provide accessible content in all their theaters… The list goes on, while “advocates” tell people with disabilities not to sue because it upsets the non-disabled when they do.

And maybe those “advocates” have a point. Because even though one can find example after example after example of law suits – threatened or actually carried out – before businesses, universities, and even government offices will follow the ADA and “allow” people with disabilities the “rights” they’re guaranteed in the US, some folks still feel the need to produce opinion pieces claiming these lawsuits are frivolous and that the people who take them on are parasites (Content Warning: John Stossel).

Under the ADA, Olson notes, fairness does not mean treating disabled people the same as non-disabled people. Rather it means accommodating them. In other words, the law requires that people be treated unequally.

The law has also unleashed a landslide of lawsuits by “professional litigants” who file a hundred suits at a time. Disabled people visit businesses to look for violations, but instead of simply asking that a violation be corrected, they partner with lawyers who (legally) extort settlement money from the businesses.

Some disabled people have benefited from changes effected by the ADA, but the costs are rarely accounted for. If a small business has to lay off an employee to afford the added expense of accommodating the disabled, is that a good thing — especially if, say, customers in wheelchairs are rare? Extra-wide bathroom stalls that reduce the overall number of toilets are only some of the unaccounted-for costs of the ADA. And since ADA modification requirements are triggered by renovation, the law could actually discourage businesses from making needed renovations as a way of avoiding the expense.

I feel like I’ve taken apart aspects of this argument before, mostly because it seems the arguments get repeated over and over until one wants to make a Bingo Card and be done with it. But, to save me some keystrokes: Let’s Bust Some Myths: People with disabilities just want to sue the world into compliance (there’s a transcript to the video linked there in the comments 1), Needs Are Not Special and Accommodation is not “Special Treatment” (written by s.e.), Why Being Nice Isn’t Enough (which is meant to address the “just ask for accommodations!” part), “Bad Cripple” – you know, the fakers who are just scamming the incredibly generous disability system for the huge cheques they can rake in – oh, and we’ve got multiple posts just here at FWD about workplace accommodations being treated like a huge drama and a favour that doesn’t need to be granted rather than a right, people who work with actual people with disabilities assuming all people on prescription drugs are dangerous addicts, and how the opposite of disabled is not employable.

I think my favourite bit of the quote above, though, is the “If a small business has to lay off an employee to afford the added expense of accommodating the disabled, is that a good thing — especially if, say, customers in wheelchairs are rare?” I love that sentence, I want to cross stitch it on a little sampler and hang it up on my wall.

A Very Short List Of Businesses You Are Unlikely To See Wheelchair Users In:

1. Ones that don’t have a ramp to allow access to wheelchair users.

Seriously, that’s the basic criteria for shopping in this one-wheelchair-user household. We choose our restaurants, our coffee shops, our bookstores, our yarn stores, our sex toy shops, our grocery stores, our housing, our favourite tea place all on whether or not the shops themselves allow wheelchair users to enter. We don’t even go to one of the malls in the city because half the shops are too crowded to allow wheelchair user, so yes, John Stossel, if your business doesn’t accommodate wheelchair users chances are you don’t have many customers who are wheelchair users.

(Gentle reader, I cannot believe I just typed that sentence 20 years after the ADA passed into law.)

Honestly, that John Stossel is paid actual money to write opinion pieces that amount to “cripples are just sue-happy freaks, the ADA is why the Exxon oil spill happened, and service animals like snakes are ruining it for everyone else” – especially while service animals are constantly being turned away illegally – is especially irritating when we’re still fighting for something as simple as the right to be paid minimum wage for our work.

  1. Back when I wrote this I felt like I was making a very witty point by not “choosing” to be “nice” and putting the transcript up – if you wait for people to be “nice” then you wait a long time! I wouldn’t do that now because I think it’s shitty to make people sit around and wait so I can score some sort of political point.

“We’re not his kids, we’re adults, and we’re our own people”: The Trouble with the Jerry Lewis Telethon

Today is Labour Day in Canada and the US, which for many people means the end of the Labour Day Weekend Jerry Lewis Telethon. Wikipedia conveniently describes the Jerry Lewis Telethon so I don’t have to:

The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (also known as The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon and The Jerry Lewis Stars Across America MDA Labor Day Telethon) is hosted by actor and comedian, Jerry Lewis to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). It has been held annually since 1966. As of 2009, the telethon had raised $2.45 billion since its inception. It is held on Labor Day weekend, starting on the Sunday evening preceding Labor Day and continuing until late Monday afternoon, syndicated to approximately 190 television stations throughout the United States.

On the surface this probably looks like a good thing, but digging a bit deeper: For many people, this is one of the few times they’ll see images of people with disabilities on their t.v. screen (and from a noted authority and beloved celebrity), and the entire thing is one drawn out pity parade.

Since 1991, protesters, including Laura Hershey and Mike Irvine, have tried to raise awareness about the way that the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and Jerry Lewis himself, treat actual adults with disability, and have discussed how these sorts of pity parades affect the public perceptions of people with disability. In 2001, Hershey wrote:

As we in the disability-rights movement keep trying to explain, our biggest problems come not from our physical conditions, but from a society that fails to accommodate us. Lewis’s telethon plays up the problems, without suggesting their sources or solutions. For instance, those sappy vignettes will make much of an “afflicted” person’s inability to wash his own hair, or get herself to the toilet, without any discussion of the urgent need for publicly funded personal assistance, or of the problems posed by the architectural barriers designed right into the layout of most private homes.
Trouble also arises from the fact that thousands of families dealing with disabilities in the U.S. and Canada are denied adequate medical care and equipment – necessities which should be basic human rights, not handouts accompanied by a drum roll and tally.

I’ve written about my disdain for both the Telethon and for the praises Lewis gets despite referring to people with disabilities as “half-persons” who should “stay at home”, and I think this is still an idea that people find very challenging. It’s easier to view these sorts of fund raising telethons as doing Good Things. They are supposed to, after all. That it’s still leaving people with disabilities begging for basic rights, access, and assistance that shouldn’t be necessary in this age of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessibility for Ontarioans with Disabilities Act (AOWD) isn’t comfortable to think about. That the main use of these funds is for finding a “cure” – by which they mean a pre-natal test – rather than assisting families in purchasing wheelchairs or renovating a home to make it wheelchair accessible, or in assisting people with disabilities in getting support during or immediately after a move seems to surprise people. Your money isn’t going to help actual people with disabilities. It’s going to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and to aid Jerry Lewis in his continued insistence that he’s a humanitarian. These are not really the same things.

Many people with disabilities have written about their perceptions of these telethons, and the damage they do, as well as the issues with giving a humanitarian award to a man who treats actual people with disabilities with such disdain. Hershey’s most recent columns are Speaking Out against the MDA Telethon and Laura’s Labor Day Weekend Column. Liz Henry wrote last year about her dose of morning rage regarding the telethon, and there are many links there that highlight the issues around Jerry’s Kids. There’s also the 2007 Blogswarm, Protest Pity, which features more than 35 blog posts about the Telethon and the Protests. You can also read From Poster Child to Protester, which may be the first thing I ever read about the protests and the Issues with Jerry Lewis.

Sometimes, though, the best way to combat the pity parade is to show people with disabilities talking about their lives, and their lived experience. Laura Hershey made this video as part of the “It’s Our Story” Project. Transcript follows:

Transcript:

The ‘It’s Our Story’ titles roll while tinkly piano music plays. White symbols of sign language and a person in a wheelchair flash against the background, which is suggestive of a US flag, with the continental United States in the blue square instead of the usual 50 stars.

The video opens on Laura Hershey, a powerchair user wearing a nasal cannula and glasses. The title of the video is “Jerry’s Kids”, and I believe she’s referring to the group “Jerry’s Orphans”.

Laura: That’s actually a group that was started in Chicago by Mike Irvin, Chris Matthews, and several other people. And I worked with them a lot organziing these protests nationally. I think what the name says is that Jerry Lewis doesn’t have the right to claim us as his quote “kids”, especially as he’s not interested in our perspective. He completely trashes people who question or challenge the telethon approach. He’s attacked us in the press, calling us ungrateful, claiming that he bought us our wheelchairs which is, you know, completely untrue.

You know, whatever ego trip he gets thinking of himself as our saviour, or our daddy, or whatever it is he thinks, we reject that.

We’re not his kids, we’re adults, and we’re our own people. We don’t belong to him.

Signal Boost: The Attitude Test discusses Screen Readers TODAY

Via email

On this week’s Attitude Test, we will, as usual take a look at the news and put our distinctive slant thereon, all ready for you to disagree with if you want to.

The main subject this week concerns screenreaders.

The simple question, though with, I feel some complicated answers is: are we witnessing the demise of the stand-alone screenreader such as JAWS and Window-Eyes? With Apple now putting a screenreader in many of their products as a standard part of their system, is this the way things will go.

Is there much left for the major screenreader manufacturers to do? A new version of JAWS is coming soon, but most of what has been done in this new version are fixes to existing problems. Could it be that Microsoft may well decide to incorporate one of the major screenreaders into their own products?

We want your views on this.

You can interact with the program in several ways: either by skype at
the.global.voice, by email and msn at yourvoice@theglobalvoice.info, or by using one of our three phone numbers you can find on our website:
The Global Voice.

That’s the Attitude Test live on Sunday at 18:00 UTC, that’s 2 pm Eastern, 11 am Pacific in the US, 7 pm in the UK and 8 pm in Central Europe

Let your voice be heard on the Attitude Test, on the one and only Global Voice.

By 5 September, 2010.    events, signal boost   



Weekly Events Roundup

As always, these events are not endorsed by us in any way, and unfortunately I can’t tell you any more about them than what is at the applicable links.

Also, things are a little wonky on my end because of Hurricane Earl, but both Don and I are fine, having made it back to our apartment during a lull in the storm. But I’m a bit scattered right now!

Memorial Events (All in North America) – Conferences (All in Europe) – Art Show/Call for Submissions of Art (All in North America)

Memorial Events:

Canada:

Unveiling Ceremony
Memorial Wall Plaques Dedicated to Patient Labourers Past

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the oldest part of the patient built boundary wall, constructed in 1860, which stands on the south side of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) at 1001 Queen Street West, Toronto. These patient-built walls, along with the 1888-89 walls on the east and west sides, are a testament to the abilities of people whose unpaid labour was central to the operation of asylums in the Province of Ontario during the 19th & 20th centuries.

Join us as we unveil a series of nine memorial plaques in remembrance.

Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.
Corner of Queen Street West and Shaw Street.

A tour of the wall and all nine plaques will follow the dedication ceremony.

Sponsored by Psychiatric Survivor Archives, Toronto (PSAT), CAMH,
and the generous support of many community donors.

For more information or media inquiries, please call 416-595-6015; 416-661-9975. (via NEADS)

Conferences:

United Kingdom

The Lancaster Disability Studies Conference is taking place 7-9th September 2010. Over 150 presenters will be giving papers and showing posters.

There will be a live webcast of the keynote sessions which can be can be viewed at http://www.lancs.ac.uk/iss/digital/disability/
The recordings will also be made available on the conference website afterwards http://www.lancs.ac.uk/disabilityconference/

Tuesday 7 September 2010
11.30-12.30 Plenary – Caroline Gooding
17.30-18.30 Plenary – Liz Crow

Wednesday 8 September 2010
9.30-10.30 Plenary – Ruth Gould
13.30-14.30 Plenary – Adolf Ratzka

Thursday 9 September 2010
11.30-12.30 Plenary – Alana Officer

Details about the plenary talks and the full book of abstracts are available on the conference website.

Registration is open for the Currents in the Mainstream conference:

The MeCCSA Disability Studies Network presents a conference on current images of disability at De Montfort University, Leicester on the 22nd September from 9-30/10.00 until 4-30. This day conference aims to re-visit and re-evaluate the complex issues at stake in contemporary representations of disability and impairment from a variety of critical perspectives, investigating both continuities and new trends in representing disability.

Presenters include Paul Darke, Debs Williams and Sonali Shah.Papers
/presentations will include work on televison, film, journalism and
performance. For more details please see Currents in the Mainstream

Amsterdam:

Conference: ‘Diversity in Quality of Life’
December 2-4 2010
VU University, Amsterdam

Disability Studies in Nederland wants to celebrate its first anniversary and the start of its research program with an international conference in cooperation with VU University, which supports this event as part of the lustrum agenda Freedom and Responsibility, on occasion of its 130th birthday. To promote the disability studies approach in The Netherlands the conference will focus on a key concept in mainstream academic approaches to disability, namely ‘quality of life’. It raises the question of how this concept can be used in a disability studies perspective.

Slovenia:

ENIL invites you to an international conference co-organized with YHD (Association for the culture and theory of handicap), 8 & 9 September 2010, Ljlubljana, Slovenia

The conference will be implemented under the
EDFEO programme for the year 2010 (European driving force for equal opportunities), within which YHD is coordinating the Eastern European group.

Location: City Hotel, Dalmatinova 15, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.

There’s more information at the ENIL website (scroll down).

Art Show:

United State

Mad Gifts: An Art Show
What:

An exhibition of inspired artwork by Icaristas throughout the Northeast; a celebration of our visionary talents and community; a fundraiser; and an opportunity to share TIP with others.

When:

November 5, 2010 – December 7, 2010

Opening Reception: Friday, November 5, 7PM-9PM

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: October 1

Feel free to keep us updated on events!

By 5 September, 2010.    Event Roundups, events   



Weekly Events Roundup

Disclaimer: We don’t endorse any of these events. I just gather them from my email contacts or from places I see them online. Pretty much everything I know is what I’ve got here.

Should you wish to suggest an event, please email me! anna AT disabledfeminists DOT com. Thank you!

Calls for PapersCanadian EventsInternational Events (Offline)

Calls for Papers Relevant To Disability:

Call for Proposals: Disability in America: Voices of a New Generation

We are seeking creative non-fiction essays from young people with disabilities ages 13-30 (some flexibility will be available for compelling submissions from individuals slightly outside our preferred age range). People with all types of disabilities are welcome to submit. Speaking from personal experience is strongly encouraged. The intent of this project is to use personal voices to capture the experience of the new generation of young people with disabilities.

Submissions should range from 2,000 to 5,000 words. Please include your address, phone number, e-mail address and a short bio on the manuscript.

Proposals are due by e-mail to voicesoftheadageneration@gmail.com to January 15, 2011 but we encourage and will consider for approval early submissions. Please e-mail co-editors Stacey Milbern and Ari Ne’eman at voicesoftheadageneration@gmail.com with questions.

Fat Masculinities, A Special Issue of Men and Masculinities

As an interdisciplinary field, fat studies has drawn from significant roots of feminist and women’s literature. The socio-historic norms and policing of women’s embodiment and power continue to be important areas study, but the cultural influence upon and experience of men and masculine-identified individuals offers a rich opportunity for investigation and dialogue. This special issue seeks to establish an interdisciplinary academic discussion of fat manhood and masculinities.

Submission details: Manuscripts and inquiries are to be directed to Daniel Farr, guest editor, at DFarr@randolphcollege.edu or 434-947-8561. Authors may contact the editor in advance of submission with proposals and queries. Email submissions preferred.

CALL FOR PAPERS From disabled writers

Disabled people * a right to live?

All three papers will take a social model approach and will address the issues around the Right to Live agenda for disabled people from birth through to death. We are interested to show how each individual paper relates to the others. The papers should explore the impact on British society; compare/contrast with the values of other cultures (especially non-Western); how the issues are driven/influenced by the tug between secular and non-secular, cultural beliefs and by financial resources agenda which may be hidden under the guise of ‘rights’, ‘choice’, ‘control’ and ‘ethical/moral’ considerations

The papers will address one of the following:-

a) Pressures that families / parents may face, during a pregnancy, to terminate a life due to either impairment of the foetus or the mother’s and/or father’s impairment,
b) The involuntary mercy killing of disabled people by professionals / paid carers / family members and friends
c) The ‘Right to Die’ issues, euthanasia, and assisted suicide relating to disabled people.

Contact: Gary Timperley
Policy and Research Assistant
Breakthrough UK Ltd
Business Employment Venture Centre
Aked Close
Ardwick
Manchester
M12 4AN
Tel. – 0161 273 5412
Fax – 0161 274 4053

Canada:

Disability and Deaf arts in Nova Scotia – A representative from the Canada Council for the Arts will be in Halifax the second week of September and is interested in meeting with artists within the “disabled and deaf” communities. Please share this information with anyone you know that might be interested. The Disability Arts Officer, Elizabeth Sweeney, with the Canada Council for the Arts is working on a series of policies so that the Canada Council can better support artists with disabilities and Deaf artists, and those working in the Disability and Deaf arts sectors. Ms. Sweeney will be visiting Nova Scotia during the second week of September, to visit with local artists, arts professionals and scholars in these sectors, to learn about their practices and discuss the local arts environment. She is looking for any contacts or names of artists with disabilities or Deaf artists, (or organizations supporting artists, arts professionals, etc…) including those working in Visual arts, Theatre, Music, Dance, Writing, Media, Film, Aboriginal, or Integrated arts. ANY help, is greatly appreciated. Please contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.sweeney@canadacouncil.ca, 1.800.263.5588 ext. 4689, TTY : 1-877-688-5501

International Events:

Calling all deaf women!
We have recently launched two videos in ASL (American Sign Language) – one explaining WW 2011 : [Invitation to Deaf Women], another inviting deaf women to respond to the ‘Call for Participation’. [Answer the Call]
Please help spread the word by circulating the links broadly through your networks.

By 26 August, 2010.    Event Roundups, signal boost   



Recommended Reading for Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Disability Bitch: Disability Bitch gets a bit of hot action:

The reports have led certain commentators to describe sex with disabled people as “one of the last taboos”. Amazing. Simply by having sex and being physically abnormal, I am engaged in some debauched endeavour, of which most people dare not speak. Such a thrill!

But, readers, shall we talk about it? I think we should. I did a little journalistic investigation of my own and discovered that this story did not simply land in the tabloids from nowhere. It was, shall we say, inspired, by a report in Community Care magazine, the industry journal for social workers. Community Care had published an article on the question of whether Individual Budgets for disabled people should be used to pay for sexual services. It was seemingly initiated by a debate between social workers on their own internet forum, a debate which ended up being quoted widely in the national press.

Laura Hershey: Remembering Two More Heroes

Barb was a T1 paraplegic who also had multiple sclerosis. In the 1980s, she worked in the independent living movement in Missouri and Oklahoma. Then she decided she wanted to start a business designing and selling advocacy posters and other products and service. She encountered opposition when she asked help from Kansas Vocational Rehabilitation. They tried to use the rules to limit her choices; she taught herself the rules and beat them at their own game. Based on that experience, Barb wrote a consumer manual aptly titled “How to Kick Ass and Win.”

Keri: not funny (interesting discussion in the comments as well)

Okay, so I know that the community I’m ranting about is kind of made for people who are obsessive and/or compulsive about lists and correct data and having everything Just Right. That means there are going to be jokes and comments about OCD, since a lot of what appeals to people of this community might come across as OCD-type things to people who don’t give a shit.

But, seriously, folks? It’s getting old and Very Unfunny. The first time I saw the “CDO is like OCD, but better: it’s alphabetical, like it should be” “joke”, I thought it was [stupid], but made sense for people who don’t really know about OCD except for media depictions. But people keep using that joke. And it is not funny. It’s not funny the same way the “dog = god” dyslexia “joke” isn’t funny. It trivializes a very real disorder and creates misunderstandings of what it really is.

Dave Hinsburger: The People Who Are The “R” Word (Dave does a lot of posts and discussions and goes into classrooms to give talks about “the R word”. I really recommend reading his posts about it, and perhaps pulling them out the next time someone insists that no one calls actual people r#tarded anymore.)

No matter what the fearless defenders of freedom of speech say, there is a huge difference between a word to describe something that slows fire and someone who learns differently. There’s a huge difference between a thing and a person – but, no, maybe not. After reading their diatribes regarding their freedom to spit out hurtful words, they may, really, not see people with disabilities as fully human with a human heart capable human hurt.

Haddayr: ‘Drive-by’ ADA Lawsuits?!??

Who cares if you “turn business owners against the ADA?” I don’t want them to feel warm and fuzzy. I want them to OBEY THE LAW. Businesses will not do right by people unless they fear lawsuits. They have no motivation other than money. As a matter of fact, the ADA has no enforcement arm and they depend on people filing private lawsuits to get places to comply.

In The News:

US:
Disability Scoop: Despite Reforms, Problems With Restraint And Seclusion Persist [Trigger Warning for discussion of abuse of students with disabilities] “According to state records, teachers in at least three Iowa school districts have violated the rules, which limit the types of restraint allowed and circumstances in which they can be used.”

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading at disabledfeminists dot com. Please note if you would like to be credited, and under what name/site.

By 25 August, 2010.    recommended reading   



Tracy Latimer is dead because her father is a murderer

It’s always hard for me to write a post about Tracy Latimer’s murder, especially in a space that’s got a lot more traffic than my own blog does. Where do I start? How do I express to a new audience the significance this case has in Canada, and how the murder of a 12 year old girl by her father 17 years ago changed drastically how Canadians talk about disability, and how disability is treated in Canada? Where do you start with that?

This post is going to talk about the murder of children with disabilities by their parents. I would recommend avoiding comments in most of the news links, because the comments generally turn into a referendum on whether or not it’s okay to kill disabled children.

Tracy Latimer, who had Cerebral Palsy, was 12 years old the day her father, Robert, waited until the rest of their family was at church and then carried her out to the garage, stuck her in the cab of the truck, ran a garden hose from the exhaust pipe into the cab, and left her there to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Whenever I talk about this case, I feel the need to remind the reader: this is a means of killing we have made illegal when killing dogs, because it is considered to be so painful. This is the murder people would like you to believe is a “mercy killing”.

Tracy Latimer’s murderer, Robert, then put Tracy to bed, burned the hose that he had used to murder her, and lied to the police about how she died.

This case went to trail twice, and both times Tracy’s murder was found guilty of murder and sent to prison. He has done the bulk of his prison time according to Canadian law, and is currently doing a form of parole where he spends five days in a half-way house, and two days in his own apartment in Vancouver. This is how the law works here – in fact, I would agree with critics that Tracy’s murderer is being treated harshly by the parole board, but I also understand they want Tracy’s murderer to admit that maybe killing a child and trying to hide the evidence is a crime and that he should show some remorse. But we don’t really send people to prison here in order for them to show remorse. It’s done, let him go home.

But let’s talk about how Tracy Latimer’s murderer and the court cases around him are typically treated by the press, since Robert is in the press again, having been denied a loosening of his parole.

You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I keep referring to this as “Tracy Latimer’s murder”. If you read the newspapers from across Canada, you’ll instead see it referred to as “Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan farmer, who was convicted of second-degree murder of his severely disabled daughter”. You will also find it referred to as a “mercy-killing”. Often Tracy’s name will only appear once, as “his 12 year old severely disabled daughter, Tracy”.

May 21, 2010: The Vancouver Sun: Latimer mercy-killing inspires new Ozzy Osbourne song: “The 10th track of Osbourne’s solo album entitled Scream, due out June 22, is Latimer’s Mercy which describes what Latimer may have felt in putting his daughter to death. The lyrics are poetic yet brutally graphic.”

July 28, 2010: The Montreal Gazette: A Wise and Sensible Verdict (This article is actually about an entirely different case, but felt the need to compare it to Tracy Latimer’s murder): “One need only remember Robert Latimer’s killing of his severely disabled 12-year-old daughter. He did it, he said, to release her from her suffering, to mercifully end her life.

Does anyone believe Robert Latimer was a cold-hearted killer?”

July 29, 2010: The Victoria Times-Colonist: Mercy killing can sometimes be honourable: (Same case as the one discussed above) “Similarly, Robert Latimer had no moral choice but to end his daughter’s agony at once by one means or another.”

August 19, 2010: The CBC: Robert Latimer wins parole review “Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of Tracy, his severely disabled, 12-year-old daughter, an act he described as a mercy killing.”

August 20, 2010: The Globe & Mail: Give Latimer More Latitude in his Day Parole: “The board needs to accept that he has paid his debt to society. He killed from compassion, according to a jury and a judge, who knew all the details of Tracy’s life and death, and was punished as a deterrent to others.”

The case is fairly consistently presented to the Canadian public as a “mercy killing”, and as the end of Tracy’s suffering. Often Tracy’s life is described as unbearable. Sometimes she is referred to as a “vegetable”. The only person who’s “side” of this story is consistently told is the man who murdered his daughter, and he is painted by the press as a man struggling against impossible odds, doing the only thing he could.

This is not what you read in the press:

In the trials, both Robert and his wife Laura claimed that Tracy was experiencing constant and uncontrollable pain. If this were true then why were they allowing Tracy to suffer when her pain was medically controllable? Their testimony conflicted with the writings in Laura’s own diary pertaining to the daily condition of Tracy. Laura’s diary stated that Tracy was often happy and smiling, and lately she had been eating well. Tracy’s teacher described her as a happy and loving person who did not show signs of extreme and uncontrolled pain, even though she had a dislocated hip. Tracy was scheduled for surgery to repair her dislocated hip which would have alleviated the pain and discomfort she was experiencing. In fact, Robert Latimer was charged with homicide on the same day that her surgery was scheduled to happen (November 4, 1993).

Many people are under the impression that the Latimers were overly burdened and lacking in support and respite service to care for Tracy. In fact, Tracy had lived in a respite home in North Battleford from July until early October, 1993. Tracy had returned home because she was scheduled for surgery. Tracy was also at school everyday. On October 12, just twelve days before Tracy was killed, Robert Latimer was offered a permanent institutional placement for Tracy in North Battleford. He rejected the placement because he said he had ‘other plans’. At this time, he had already decided to kill Tracy.

I harp on the way Tracy’s murder is treated in the press for one simple reason: The number of murders of children with disabilities by their parents has drastically increased in Canada since the Latimer case.

December 5, 1994 – Ryan Wilkieson, 16, Cerebral Palsy, Carbon monoxide poisioning similar the Latimer murder, which was in the news at the time.  Friends of Ryan’s murder, his mother, said she was distraught by the Latimer case. Murder/suicide.

May 28, 1996 – Katie Lynn Baker, 10, Rett Syndrome, starved to death. She weighed 22 pounds at her death. No charges were laid, as no one believed they could get a conviction.

November 6, 1996 – Charles-Antoine Blais, 6, autism, drowned in his bathtub by his mother. Charles-Antoine’s murderer was publically offered a job fundraising for the Autism Society of Greater Montreal, and and the head of Canada’s national autism society described her life as a total misery before Charles-Antoine’s murder. Suspended sentence.

November 21, 1996 – Andrea Halpin, 35, cognitive disabilities – shot to death by her father in a murder/suicide. He didn’t think she could live without him.

December 11, 1998 – Cory Moar,  29, cognitive disabilities – years of abuse by family members. I couldn’t find any more details after the lengthy description of the long-term injuries he sustained, because I had to throw up. You can read the inquest results in this handy PDF. Trigger warning.

May 19, 2001: Chelsea Craig, 14, Rett Syndrome, lethal dose of prescription drugs (attempted murder/suicide) Rachel Capra Craig, diagnosed with paranoid delusional disorder, later killed herself. She had been found incompetent to stand trial.

December 30, 2001 – Reece Baulne, 34, “learning difficulties”, carbon monoxide poisoning. In the suicide note that his parents wrote, they said they were killing themselves and Reece because they couldn’t care for him anymore, having been turned down for government funding.

July 12, 2004 – Jia Jia “Scarlett” Peng, 4, autism, drowned in bathtub by her mother who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Scarlett’s murderer was initially sentenced, but the sentence was put aside due to an error on the part of the judge. She was recently sentenced to 5 years, but was released because of “time served”.

July 31, 2004 –  Ian Carmichael, 11, epilepsy and undefined “learning difficulties”, choked to death by his father who was diagnosed as having psychotic delusions as a result of side-effects from taking Paxil incorrectly. You can read David Carmichael’s webpage in which he discusses (briefly) how he murder his son (most of the page is about how Paxil made him do it). Trigger Warning.

September 25, 2004 – Charles Fariala, 36, “assisted suicide” – he first took a dose of medication and then his mother tied his hands and covered his face with a plastic bag. Wikipedia says his mother had Borderline Personality Disorder and this was a factor in her light sentence (3 years probation), but I haven’t found any other reference to her having a mental health condition, just that there were “extenuating circumstances”.

These names are part of the reason why I think Robert Latimer should always be referred to as a murderer, why I think think Tracy’s death should never be referred to as a “mercy killing”, and why I will invite Robert Latimer apologists to kindly find their way to the Globe & Mail website, since they obviously will welcome your comments far more than I will. They will not be published here.

We convict and vilify people for murdering their children all the time. Unless their children are disabled. Then, then, then, it’s “mercy killing”, and they should be defended at all costs.

Dear Imprudence: How terrible when blind people are seen and heard

I read this letter to Dear Abby and Abby’s awesomely ableist response. I wonder how she would have responded to a different letter. One that was more like this:

Dear Abby,

I was really looking forward to the opportunity to go out with my friend the other night and enjoy a good movie. I don’t get to go out to many of the popular films when they’re playing and everyone is buzzing about them, because very few theatres have descriptive audio available in them, and even when they do, not all films come packaged with such things. I should probably mention that I’m blind.

For example, if I go through the Regal Entertainment Group’s website, I see they have 605 screenings of movies with Descriptive Audio. This may seem like a lot, but counting up all their movie theaters across the US and guessing an average of 10 screens per theater, they have 4400 screens! That’s about 14% of all their showings! And I know from experience that dealing with staff at these theaters can be difficult: When I called a theater in my neighbourhood about descriptive audio, they told me where I could go to see movies that are captioned, which is not exactly helpful.

Anyway, my friend gracious agreed to not only go to a movie with me, but take the time and effort to let me know what was going on on the screen, so I could enjoy the movie too – at least, if the theater we went to didn’t have a descriptive audio option. Blind people are well aware of the various options they have to enjoy movies and other visual art – they certainly don’t need sighted people scolding them over such things!

So, you can imagine my dismay that, at this opportunity to enjoy a movie together, and be able to enjoy a movie while everyone else was talking about it, people were rudely “shushing” my friend, telling her to shut up. I know that it can be difficult and frustrating to have noise when you’re enjoying a movie, but I wonder why these people couldn’t find a less rude way of asking my friend to keep her voice down, or even just move a bit further away so that we, too, could enjoy the movie.

I know you’ll understand my frustration, Abby. I hope that you’ll remind sighted people that blind people have social lives and like to go out and enjoy things just as much as they do. I believe in my heart you’d never tell a blind person to just stay home and watch DVDs rather than risk bothering the sighted public.

Yours,

A Blind Person Who Wishes the ADA Meant Actual Accessible Content For All

P.S. Abby, surely you have statistics on the number of DVDs that are packaged with descriptive audio, right? According to Wikipedia, such DVDs are pretty rare. I bet you already know that the number of DVDs released with descriptive audio in the US in 2009 was 11.

By 20 August, 2010.    Uncategorized   



Recommended Reading for August 18

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Wheelie cAtholic: Not Bound to my Wheelchair

That’s all well and good. But there’s a problem with the word bound when it’s used with wheelchair, i.e. wheelchair bound. It drags up images of someone duct taped to a wheelchair or melded into its cushions or metal frames. It denies the very real fact that the person using the wheelchair gets in and out of it and is not a part of it, is not a machine, that the wheelchair is a tool.

That kind of language is why, when little kids ask me questions, one of the questions is Bound to Be:

“Do you sleep in your wheelchair?”

Steve at the Art of Accessibility: Fiddling While Rome Burns: Don’t Give Up Advocating Accessibility

Whether armed with lots of money and time or not, you have your voice — never be afraid to speak up when there are opportunities to make an experience more accessible. It can be on the micro level (“that font against that background is going to be really difficult for people with sight limitations to make out”). It can be on the macro level (“all those videos on the site? we really need to add captioning”).

You may lose. You may get a pat on the head and told to go play somewhere else. Keep trying!

Jack at [personal profile] jackandahat: So you’ve found yourself a disabled person!

Congratulations! You now have your very own shiny person in desperate need of YOUR help to run their life!

So what’s your first step?

Well, obviously, your Disabled Person has no clue about their own condition. Living with something twenty four hours a day for anywhere between a month and eight decades is no match for the knowledge you picked up in that magazine you read on the bus last week.

Ian Pouncey at DevOpera: Web Accessibility for cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties

Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties is one of the most overlooked subtopics of general web accessibility, despite it affecting the largest numbers. A large part of it is that there are so many conditions to understand in this area (far more than say visual or hearing impairments) and a lack of educational information available for learning about it.

In this article we will cover a few of the problems users with cognitive disabilities may have that can affect their ability to use the Web, as well as the things that developers can do to alleviate these problems and things they should avoid. A lot of what is covered will be well known and common sense to many, but is here for completeness.

Problem Chylde: poor people aren’t supposed to want nice things.

However, if you take what little disposable income you have and buy sushi, you are doing wrong. Poor people do not want things like smartphones (you’re poor; who are you calling on a smartphone?), televisions (you’re poor; what do you need entertainment for?), nice cars (why wouldn’t you get a modest car to get around when you’re poor), or delicious food (do you know how much ramen you could have bought for the cost of that scone?). Poor people should not take any windfalls or nest eggs or scraped together pennies and expose themselves to luxuries. After all, isn’t that just a brutal reminder of how poor they are any other time? Why not just face the fact that poor is what you are, poor is what you shall be, and poor means that you cannot have nice things?

Astrid at Astrid’s Journal: “Like A Little Child”

It seems that, for the sake of conceptualizing life with developmental disabilities for people who don’t have these disabilities, they need to assign an age group to that person’s skills or behavior, that is the age at which non-disabled children acquire this particular skill or display this behavior. People then get to generalize into such things as “mental age”. The problem is, an adult isn’t like a little child, even if that adult has a developmental disability. Adults with developmental disabilities, in many respects, display behaviors that are normal for adults. Most adults with mental retardation, at some point, become interested in sexuality, for example. This is exactly why support workers often struggle with how to handle this. If those adults had been like children, they wouldn’t have been interested in sex. The thing is, they’re adults and, like most adults, they develop sexual feelings.

In The News:

Canada: Kids Learn By Example To Meet The Unexpected. “Anyone visibly different knows about the stares — and the occasional comments — they attract when out in the community. For Phil Crowson, it’s when he rides the bus and kids spot his guide dog, Faith. “They’re always asking their parents ‘What’s the dog for?’ ” says the 61-year-old intake and referral officer at Victoria’s CNIB.”

Russia: Russia to adapt higher education facilities for the disabled – Putin. “Putin said a program is being developed in Russia for “inclusive education” so that preschoolers with handicaps may attend kindergartens with their peers on an equal level, and may then progress on to elementary school and finally to a higher educational institute.”

Africa: Disability Rights Must Be Part of Continent’s Future, Ugandan Says. “Any vision for the future of Africa must include people with disabilities, who constitute “a significant percentage of the community anywhere in Africa — almost 10 percent of the population,” Ssengooba said. “People with disabilities have a lot of potential to take part in the development processes of their countries, yet they are in most cases excluded from most of the development programs.””

And, in today’s “We should praise them for doing this even though we hate giving out cookies for providing basic services”:

This Toronto election, voters will be able to use two different accessible voting machines during the

Weekday and Weekend Advance Votes.

Videos are now available to explain each of the machines as well as the voting process. All videos are captioned and are accompanied by voiceovers, and we continue to work on improving them.

To access videos showing how to use each of the machines or hear audio descriptions, please visit Voting Equipment: Touchscreen Terminal and Voting Equipment: Voter Assistance Terminal. Please check our website for events where you will be able to try using the machines.

If you will be voting for the first time and want to find out what happens inside a voting location and how people vote, please visit
How Do I Vote?

We would like to maximize participation in the 2010 Elections, so if you find these resources helpful, please tell your friends.

So: Yay Toronto! Have a cookie!

By 18 August, 2010.    recommended reading   



Non-Fiction Book Review: Signs of Resistance by Susan Burch

If you were lying awake last night thinking “You know what I need? I need to read a well-written, engaging book that deals with Deaf cultural history in the US, and that includes discussion of gender, race, and class distinctions. Gosh, if only I knew of such a book!”, I have exciting news: Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900-1942 is totally the perfect book for you!

Although the book is basically chronological, Burch divides the subject into overall themes and discusses them at length. She starts with the Oralism vs Sign Language in Schools issue, then discusses the growing Deaf community, Deaf-focused Associations and Clubs (including Deaf athletes competing in mainstream sports), barriers to Deaf people and working, and legal issues that Deaf people faced, including proposed bans on Deaf-Deaf marriages (think of the children!) and bans on Deaf people driving.

Throughout, Burch discusses intersectionality. While the chapters are primarily focused (due to sources) on white Gallaudet-educated men, she devotes time in every chapter to discussing how white women in the same situations were treated, and how Black Deaf people had almost entirely different experiences from white Deaf people, such as the segregated school system and racism within the Deaf community. I’m pretty certain this is Burch’s earliest work, and I know her later stuff focuses a lot more on these issues.

One thing I really liked about this book as well is that Burch puts a short sketch of the life of various Deaf people in every chapter. This gives us someone to “root” for, as well as someone to celebrate or make note of. It’s easy to look at a book like this, that talks about broad cultures, and forget that individuals were actually involved in it. I also like that, for the most part, these were people I hadn’t heard of. While Gallaudet and Clerc are discussed – they have to be, really, for any history of Deaf education in the US – the life sketches are of people like Alice Taylor Terry or Thomas Francis Fox.

I found the text very engaging, and not difficult to read. Like most people, I’ve groaned my way through dull prose that made me want to sleep rather than read, but Burch’s writing kept me wanting to stay up late reading.

I give this book 5/5 stars, and would totally recommend it to anyone. The only thing that makes me eager to put it aside is that I have some of Burch’s later books and edited anthologies in my To Be Read (TBR) pile.

[Signs of Resistance at WorldCat].

[Limited Preview of Signs of Resistance on GoogleBooks]

By 17 August, 2010.    books, history, intersectionality, reading list   



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