Category Archives: deaths

Disability Rights Activist Max Starkloff has died

I have just heard on twitter from CripChick that Disability Rights Activist Max Starkloff has died. Please read his obituary at the River Front Times

Among other achievements, the Starkloffs and Paraquad introduced curb cuts and handicapped parking spaces to St. Louis, made St. Louis the first city in the country to have wheelchair lifts on public buses and fought to make more buildings accessible to disabled people. Starkloff co-founded the National Council on Independent Living and lobbied for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

To understand just how significant all these changes were, take a look at Annie Zaleski’s feature, “You think the Americans with Disabilities Act has leveled the playing field? Try walking in my shoes.” Both Max and Colleen play a prominent role in Zaleski’s story, discussing what it’s like to be disabled in St. Louis, both pre-ADA and today.

By 28 December, 2010.    deaths   



Howard Hyde Inquiry Ignores Ableism As Cause of Death

Note: This post discusses police violence against people with mental health conditions.

The results of the Hyde Inquiry were released on Wednesday.

Some things about the Hyde Inquiry, since I don’t think it’s been widely covered outside of Nova Scotia. I wrote this summary several months ago:

Howard Hyde had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The treatments he was on were making him sick, so he stopped taking them. He became violent.

His wife called the mobile mental health team – a project in Halifax that will go to you rather than you needing to go to them. She then called 9-1-1.

Two days later, he was dead in police custody, having been tasered.

Various things went horribly wrong. Among them were -and continue to be – the police’s inability to deal with people who have schizophrenia, amongst other mental health related conditions.

What they should have done was taken him to the hospital. Which they did, for a bit, and then left, returning him to lock-up.

His wife had tried to contact them and make sure that he was okay, and that they were aware that he had schizophrenia.

“I really wanted him to be in the hospital and get the treatment he needed for psychosis,” she said.

He had been taken to hospital for assessment, and the hospital staff requested that he be returned to the hospital after his arraignment hearing. He was not.

Parts of the surveillance tape of the tasering itself are “missing”.

“Hyde began struggling when officers tried to cut the string from his shorts. Though images were not caught on tape, surveillance audio recorded sound of the scuffle. Edwards can be heard saying “Howard, sit down.” Fellow Const. Greg McCormack is then argued to have said “You’re going to be doing the f***ing dance next, Howard,” although his voice is muffled.

It was also revealed that more than 30 minutes of footage of Hyde in a cell waiting to be booked has gone missing.”

I’ve since learned that what was actually said to Howard as the police officers approached him with a knife:

A surveillance camera captured the moment when an officer told Hyde a utility knife would be used to remove a knot from the drawstring in Hyde’s shorts, saying: “I just have to cut off one of those balls there.”

Anyway, as I said, the results were back. After 11 months of looking into the death of a man who police were called to help, we’ve all been told that Howard’s murder was an “accident” and it had nothing to do with his mental health condition.

“The only useful approach is to understand that Mr. Hyde died because of physiological changes in his body brought on by an intense struggle involving restraint,” Derrick wrote. “He did not die because he was mentally ill.”

I suppose this is technically correct. Howard’s death was not because he was mentally ill, his death was because the police were ill-equipped to deal with someone having a mental health crisis. I don’t have statistics about the number of men having mental health crises that are murdered by police officers every year, but I do know that I can’t go a whole month without at least one report, and it’s an issue that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada feels needs to be addressed.

I think it is naive to state that Howard wasn’t murdered because of his diagnosis. I think it ignores a frightening history of people with mental health conditions being murdered by police officers. I think it ignores that the criminal justice system is not equipped to effectively deal with people with mental health conditions. I think it ignores that there are limited resources available for people with mental health conditions and their families to get the help they need to cope with crisis situations.

I think it completely ignores the fact that Howard’s wife called the police for help, and two days later he was dead.

So yes, Howard Hyde isn’t dead because he had schizophrenia. He’s dead because ableism kills.

Thoughts on Record of the Dead

Trigger warning for discussion of murder of people with disabilities.

When we first discussed keeping a record of the names of people with disabilities whose murders or mysterious deaths had made the news, we thought it would be something we’d post four times a year. We started gathering the names with the expectation the first posting would be in December.

We realised very quickly there were too many names.

And these lists are incomplete. Many come from news stories that we just come across in our daily reading. I have set up a Google News Alert for anything that comes up with some variation on “disability +dead”, with various diagnoses added in every month. The most recent month has 32 names, but the two previous ones had 27.

The causes of death are disturbingly similar in their repetition.

September included one house fire, 10 people murdered by family members (of which four had been starved to death), 1 person murdered by unrelated caregivers, and three men of colour shot to death by police officers.

October included four house fires, four people murdered by family, three people murdered by unrellated caregivers, and two people killed by police, one of whom was killed through use of a stun-gun. Both were men, one with a mental health diagnosis, the other with a cognitive disability.

November included one house fire, eight people murdered by family members, one of whom was starved to death, two murdered by care givers, and four shot to death by police. Three of these cases involved men with mental health conditions, although the fourth, a man who was a full-time wheelchair user, was ruled a suicide.

I’ve read every one of the news reports I’ve linked to, and many more besides. There are things that stand out: house fires, when they’re not deliberately lit, kill people with mobility-related disabilities who can’t get out. Police officers have shot men whose families have called them because their family member is having a breakdown and they don’t know who else to call: they are aware they’re being called to the home of someone with a mental health condition. When defending a family member for smothering a disabled relative to death, the defense attorney will inevitably point out that this was a crime that the defendant is unlikely to repeat, being a crime against a disabled dependent.

I also learned that there will be weeks of outrage in national papers about disabled parking passes being abused. There will not be weeks of outrage in national papers about care centers restraining autistic youths until one of them dies.

Very few cases came up more than once. Exceptions were one of the police shootings (John Williams) and the disappearance of Zahra Clare Baker, a 10 year old white girl who was deaf and had cancer. Many missing cases of people with disabilities would only make the news after their bodies had been discovered, having been missing for three days.

What I have learned, after doing this for only three months? I don’t have the ability to do it anymore. I don’t have the ability to list the names of our dead every month, to keep track of how many of us are murdered by family while others shake their head and turn away. I don’t have the ability to really look at what all this means, if it means anything. I want to know why police officers shoot people they know have mental health conditions for behaving like people who have mental health conditions. I want to know why our lives are rated so cheaply that starving us to death might not even result in charges being laid. I want to know why our murders are so common, and yet so rarely talked about.

Or maybe I don’t.

Ableism, as I’ve said before, kills. It kills because family members in desperate situations have no place to turn to while political pundits bravely say the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has gone to far. It kills because family members have no idea who to call when someone they love is having difficulties coping with a mental health condition, so they call the police who come with guns. It kills because care centers that pit children in fights against each other for snacks at break time, for the amusement of the staff, are allowed to stay open until someone actually dies. It kills because there are so many news reports after certain types of murders that position the parent of a disabled child as having done the brave thing, the right thing, the thing all right-thinking people would do. It kills because the rhetoric of how having a child with a disability is so terrible that even the thought that maybe a child might have a disability is reason enough for some parents to kill their children, rather than seek assistance that might not even be there.

We are always, always, in a fight for our lives, and the lives of each other.

By 3 December, 2010.    deaths, Record of the Dead   



Record of the Dead for November 2010

Trigger warning for discussion of murder and abuse of people with disabilities. This month’s list also includes disabled people who were victims of sex-based crimes before their deaths.

This list of November media reports about people with disabilities murdered or dying under strange circumstances is presented without commentary, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing people may want to discuss about it in comments. I do not believe for a moment that this list is complete. It is sorted alphabetically by last name. Almost all links are to news reports.

“Amanda” (unidentified by any other name; police have not released her name), 23, back injuries that required a walker to get around, Flint, Michigan, November 16. “Someone had hit her with a car, and left her to die.”

Cynthia Burns, 58, stroke and undefined physical disabilities, Wylie, Texas, April 2009. “The 5-foot-5 woman weighed 54 pounds when she died.”

Thomas Boyle, two broken hips, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, November 17. Died in a house fire.

Cynthia Cline, 51, “mentally disabled”, East Liverpool, Ohio, November 13. She was stabbed once in the abdomen by her boyfriend.

Antonio Quinton Clarke, 15, learning disabilities, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 25, 2007. “He was so badly beaten, his face was unrecognizable.” No one has been charged.

Amanda Cooper, 10, “developmentally disabled”, Los Angeles, California, November 27. “Authorities are investigating whether she was killed as part of a sexual assault.”

Laura Cummings, 23, “mentally troubled”, North Collins, Massachusettes, January 21, 2010. Her mother smothered her with a pillow; her half-brother is facing charges of sexual abuse against Laura. The prosecutor described her “depraved and horrific mistreatment of her daughter and her post-plea claims that her daughter’s misconduct led to her own death.”

Jennifer Daugherty, 30, “mentally disabled”, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, February 11, 2010. “One of Jennifer Daugherty’s alleged killers described in gruesome detail Monday how the six suspects repeatedly tortured the mentally disabled woman for 48 hours before they voted to kill her.” They killed her by “repeatedly stabbing” her for 30 minutes, then slit her throat.

Tiffany Demus, 31, “cerebral palsy and the mentality of an 8-year-old”, Arlington, Texas, sometime during the week of November 22. The only details as of this writing are that she was found dead in a park after having run away from home following a family argument.

Dawn Driver, 60, schizophrenia, affective psychosis and chronic anxiety, Leyland, UK, July 23, 2010. After receiving anti-psychotic medication, she jumped to her death in front of a train.

Loren Donn Leslie, 15, blind, Vanderhoof, British Columbia, Canada, November 27. Police are not releasing the cause of her death. She was found dead on the side of a rural road. Police have a friend of hers in custody.

Luella Edge, 80, “Alzheimer’s disease and was a paranoid schizophrenic”, Bellaire, Ohio, some time after April 30. She had disappeared from her retirement home 7 months ago; her remains were found in a wooded area near-by.

Lynsie Ekelund, 20, partially paralyzed, Santa Clarita Canyon, California, sometime after Feb. 17, 2001. Her murderer recently confessed to raping and strangling her on the way to a party.

Ila Gandhi, 62, schizophrenia, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, November 14. Strangled in her secured building. Her mother was also seriously injured.

Paul Harden, 25, undefined mental health condition related to PTSD, St Helens, UK, October 29. Unexplained drug overdose.

Ryan Hughes, autism, ADHD, Newcastle, Co Wicklow, Republic of Ireland, September 3, 2009. Choked to death on a latex glove while being cared for at a respite facility. His death was ruled accidental.

Tom Inglis, 22, brain damage, London, England, November 21 2008. Lethal injection of heroine administered by his mother, who barricaded the door to his room and super-glued the door closed. [More details about this case]

Joan Johnston, 57, used a mobility scooter, Scarborough, UK. The doctor who hit her vehicle in a head-on collision has been fined but not held in jail because his “contribution to society in your everyday work is extensive.” Yes, he will not get more than a fine because Joan was apparently partly responsible for her own death for being fat and having a mobility scooter in her vehicle.

Linda Lee Yee Lin, 12, “had limited use of her legs and could not walk unaided”, Singapore, date unknown, news report looks like it was sometime mid-November 2010. Found dead at the foot of a block of flats. “It is not known which floor she fell from.” [More about this case]

Clara Laird, 86, dementia, Seal Beach, California, November 21. Shot by her husband while in a nursing home.

Samuel Mason, 61, unspecified mental and physical disabilities, Jackson, Mississippi, November 16. Samuel has just died from injuries from a beating outside of his home on July 10, 2010. There are no leads in his case.

Eddie Maddick, 45, epilepsy, Millbrook, Hampshire, UK, July 28, 2001. Stomped to death.

Doug Minty, 59, “mentally challenged”, Elmvale, Ontario, June 22, 2009. Died from multiple gunshot wounds after being shot outside his mother’s home by Huronia West OPP Const. Graham Seguin.

Jeffrey Munro, 32, schizophrenia, Toronto, Ontario, November 7, 2009. He was found beaten to death in his jail cell.

Richard Steven Poccia, 60, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Napa, California, November 29. “The victim’s wife had called police for assistance at about 3 p.m., police said. Her husband was described as “possibly suicidal,” they said. … One officer Tasered the man while another shot him.”

Christy Russell, 35, wheelchair user, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, November 8. Hit and killed by an SUV in an area with no sidewalks. Another wheelchair user was killed last month in the same area. The city passed an ordinance four years ago that sidewalks should be built. [More details about this case. The video describes further details about the accident.]

Shayne Richard Sime, 42, spinal disease, Christchurch, New Zealand, June 28, 2009. Shot to death by police officers, his death has been ruled a suicide.

Levi Schaeffer, 30, schizophrenia, Thunder Bay, Ontario, June 24, 2009. Shot by a provincial police officer.

Ajit Singh, 12, autistic, London, England, February 9, 2010. His mother forced him to drink bleach, and then tried to kill herself by drinking bleach herself. Please note that the news reports indicate that Singh’s mother has been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

Jorene White, 59, “bedridden and suffered from debilitating arthritis”, Madison, Ohio, July 23, 2010. “Jorene died in July from blood infection caused by maggots, who laid eggs in her body.” Her husband plead guilty to reckless homicide. “The prosecutor calls the case “sad.” “She had open bed sores. The sores had gotten to the point that her body had started decomposing and then the body starts decomposing, the flies move in and lay their eggs and start to eat their flesh while she is still alive.””

Beryl Webb, 75, histrionic personality disorder, fibromyalgia, Sheffield, UK, May 14, 2010. He husband smothered her to death. He claims she wanted to commit suicide; her diary claims “Hugh dreadful. Wants me dead. Hates me because of my mobility problems.”

Unnamed 16 year old boy, undefined disabilities, but he was in a “treatment center” for people with “pervasive developmental disorders, emotional disorders, are hearing impaired or mentally impaired”, Manvel, Texas, November 5. “Restraint techniques were used to subdue the child”, death is thought to be by asphyxiation.

Institutions

Torture In US Prisons by Stephen Lendman discusses the torture of inmates in US prisons, including prisoners with disabilities. Please note this is very graphic in its descriptions.

Calls come after a report of 13 deaths of children and young adults at North Side home since 2000, Illinois. “Among the proposals: raising fines and sending cases to a medical examiner’s office. One advocate suggested that facility operators who run poor homes shouldn’t be allowed to acquire new ones. “How many dead kids are you going to get a pass on?” asked Wendy Meltzer, executive director for Illinois Citizens for Better Care.”

Supreme Court to hear California Prisons Case

On the mental health side, the examples too are, in the words of one observer, “Dickensian,” with suicides averaging one a week, and the number of preventable suicides rising dramatically.

Follow Ups

The murderer of Phillip Holmes has received a life sentence. “The judge said Mather had shown no remorse for the murder of Mr Holmes, who was described in court as a “gentle, vulnerable man””

The body of Zahra Clare Baker has been found. As of this writing police have not laid charges.

The men accused of branding swastika on a mentally-disabled Navajo man on April 22, 2010 are in court.

An inquiry into the murderer of John Williams has found the shooting was not justified.

By 2 December, 2010.    deaths, Record of the Dead  , ,  



You Get Proud By Practicing: Laura Hershey, Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant, has died

I’ve just learned via email and twitter that activist, poet, and amazing woman Laura Hershey has died. I have to admit that I’m deeply hoping that someone pops up says “No, no, you misunderstand, she’s not dead!” because I just cannot currently imagine a world without Laura Hershey in it.

For some, Laura is most famous for her bravery and strength in confronting the Jerry Lewis Telethon, organizing counter-protests and bluntly exposing the hypocrisy of honouring a man who expresses such disdain towards people with disabilities as a “humanitarian”. You can read her amazing article, From Poster Child to Protester at CripCommentary.

The telethon’s hegemony over the image of disability is quite staggering. A 1996 press release issued by MDA states, “According to A.C. Nielsen, last year’s Telethon was watched by some 70 million Americans or 27 million households. The MDA Telethon — considered the granddaddy of all Telethons — ranks in viewership with the World Series and the Academy Awards. ” Those 70 million people are absorbing a message shaped by greed, deception, and bigotry.

The bigotry of Jerry Lewis is worth discussing. I don’t necessarily enjoy attacking another person’s motives, but I hear defenders saying, “Jerry Lewis is trying to help so many people. How dare you criticize his methods?” This means-justifies-the-ends argument has a long and despicable history, which I don’t need to go into here. Even more dangerous is the attitude that people who are “being helped” have no right to say how they want to be helped, or treated, or thought of. This is paternalism at its worst. By being the object of charitable efforts, do we thereby waive our right to respect, and to free speech? If people are really interested in helping me, wouldn’t they want to hear me tell my own story, rather than hearing a distorted version of it from someone who not only doesn’t share my experience, but who doesn’t even seem to want to listen to me? With the stated goal of “helping” his “kids,” Jerry Lewis is helping to keep alive the most pernicious myths about people who have disabilities. He ignores our truth, substituting his own distorted assumptions.

If our protest did nothing else, it allowed some of us the opportunity to say, “No, this is not our reality. If you want to know what our lives are like, listen to us. If you want to know what we need, ask us. If you truly want to help us, let us tell you how. And if you pity and fear us, please own that; then let us work together at changing the world so that disability will not be something to fear, but something to try to understand.”

The response to our protest has been interesting. Many people seem to resent our daring to object to these distortions, half-truths, and stereotypes. I have been called “ungrateful,” “cruel,” and “insensitive” — simply for trying to counter all this with the truth, with my truth. At the very least, I feel that the protest has enabled me and others to begin getting on record our own stories, in contrast to the misleading accounts that come from the telethon.

Laura also made videos to emphasize the work that people with disabilities were doing on their own behalf to emphasize that they were not objects of pity.

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.

Laura was also a poet, whose poetry not only described her experience as a proud cripple, but also as a lesbian, and as the mother of an adopted daughter. The most recent poem of her site is titled “Adopting a Fourteen-Year-Old in the 21st Century”.

I’m sorry, I want to say something profound, something that will make it clear what an influence Laura has had, on myself, on almost everyone I know in disability rights activism, on disability studies. She’s often cited in the things I read in academia, and often cited by the people I know in activist circles. I feel such a deep and personal loss, even though I didn’t know Laura through anything more – or less – than her writing.

My heart and thoughts go out to her family and loved ones.

Laura Hershey
Laura’s column for the Christopher & Dana Reed Foundation
Laura’s article at the Huffington Post: Independence and Interdependence: Equally Important Values

You Get Proud by Practicing, by Laura Hershey, an excerpt:

You can add your voice
All night to the voices
Of a hundred and fifty others
In a circle
Around a jailhouse
Where your brothers and sisters are being held
For blocking buses with no lifts,
Or you can be one of the ones
Inside the jailhouse,
Knowing of the circle outside.
You can speak your love
To a friend
Without fear.
You can find someone who will listen to you
Without judging you or doubting you or being
Afraid of you
And let you hear yourself perhaps
For the very first time.
These are all ways
Of getting proud.
None of them
Are easy, but all of them
Are possible. You can do all of these things,
Or just one of them again and again.
You get proud
By practicing.

By 27 November, 2010.    deaths   



What is Ableism? Five Things About Ableism You Should Know

Ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities, including the expression of hate for people with disabilities, denial of accessibility, rejection of disabled applicants for housing and jobs, institutionalised discrimination in the form of benefits systems designed to keep people with disabilities in poverty, etc.

1. Ableism has a dictionary definition.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the world ableism back to 1981; likely the word was in use amongst activists before then.

[< ABLE adj. + -ISM suffix, after RACISM n., SEXISM n.2, etc. Compare ABLEIST adj., and also earlier ABLED adj. 2, ABLED n.] orig. U.S. Discrimination in favour of able-bodied people; prejudice against or disregard of the needs of disabled people. 1981 Off our Backs May 39/1 ‘Ableism’that is, the systemic oppression of a group of people because of what they can or can not do with their bodies or mindsis the result of..ignorance. 1993 R. HUGHES Culture of Complaint iii. 162 But certainly clause (3) made it clear that he was against racism, sexism, ableism, lookism and any of the other offences against social etiquette whose proscription by PC was already causing such mirth and laughter among the neo-conservatives. 1994 Canad. Woman Stud. Fall 92/2 Just as there is racism in the feminist movement, there is also ‘ablism’. Able-bodied women have not fully accepted women with disabilities. 2006 C. OYLER & B. HAMRE in C. Oyler Learning to teach Inclusively viii. 145 Although racism and sexism..are recognized as serious challenges to fairness, equity, and democracy,..ableism is often not even acknowledged.

It defines ableist as “Characterized by or exhibiting ableism.”

I mention the dictionary definition because people often claim that ableism is a made-up word that internet activists created just to annoy them, as opposed to a word with history that people with disabilities ihave been using to define their experiences for at least 30 years.

2. Ableism can be deliberate.

A. The Canadian Government went to court so they could continue to make their web content inaccessible to screen readers.

B. Clint Eastwood argued vehemently that 10 years was far too short a period of time to expect that businesses would follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and painted himself as a little guy fighting back against the “sleazy lawyers” preying on “the disabled”, rather than as someone who had been breaking the law for 10 years and was now choosing to fight for his right in court to continue to do so. John Stossel argued earlier this year that the ADA might require businesses to be accessible, and this was unacceptable 20 years after the ADA had been passed. [Content warning: John Stossel]

C. Where’s the Benefit has spent the last few months detailing out how cuts in spending will affect people with disabilities. It’s hard to pick just a few examples. How about the Member of Parliament who declared that anyone who was on Twitter too much wasn’t really disabled. Or what Disability Living Allowance (DLA) actually does being misrepresented by both the government and the press?

D. Dave Hingsburger: Service Interupted:

‘Purposeful exclusion,’ I said, ‘there is no way anyone could design this, approve this and build this, without knowing that people with disabilities will never be able to use it. That makes it purposeful. The fact that only certain people can now use it make it exclusion.’

‘I’m sorry,’ she said but I interrupted.

‘This is bigotry in concrete, this is prejudice made of steel and glass, this is how builders and designers and hotel managers spit in the face of those with disabilities. They knew, they didn’t care, they did it anyways.’

E. Politicians across Canada, who make 30 second advertisements that are carefully scripted to make the best impact, don’t use the subtitling option when they upload those same 30-second scripted videos to YouTube. But I guess some politicians are okay with their videos looking like this (image description below):

Photobucket

Image description: Michael Ignatieff (older white dude in a sensible blue shirt and tie, his hair a bit windblown) with the caption “Don’t let anybody into Medicare”.

Actual quote: “Don’t let anybody intimidate you”.

3. Ableism has an academic definition.

Here’s a good example:

Ableism is a form of discrimination or prejudice against individuals with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities that is characterized by the belief that these individuals need to be fixed or cannot function as full members of society (Castañeda & Peters, 2000). As a result of these assumptions, individuals with disabilities are commonly viewed as being abnormal rather than as members of a distinct minority community (Olkin & Pledger, 2003; Reid & Knight, 2006). Because disability status has been viewed as a defect rather than a dimension of difference, disability has not been widely recognized as a multicultural concern by the general public as well as by counselor educators and practitioners.

Laura Smith, Pamela F. Foley, and Michael P. Chaney, “Addressing Classism, Ableism, and Heterosexism in Counselor Education”, Journal of Counseling & Development, Summer 2008, Volume 86, pp 303-309.

You can also get a degree in Disability Studies. There is a Disability History Association. There are several academic list-serves dedicated to discussion disability. You can go to disability-studies focused conferences. You can go to Deaf-studies focused conferences. You can get a degree in Deaf Studies. You can read a wide variety of academic books that discuss the history of ableism.

Or you could read people talking about their lives on their blogs. There are a lot of blogs where people talk about experiencing ableism.

4. Ableism can be accidental. This doesn’t make it okay.

A. I don’t think Google woke up one morning and decided to make some of their products completely inaccessible to certain users. I know they managed to pull it off anyway.

B. I don’t the mainstream media woke up one morning en masse and decided to ignore protests in support of the Community Choice Act. I know they managed to do it anyway. More than once.

C. I don’t think Canada’s Minister responsible for Disability-related issues deliberately sought out a wheelchair-inaccessible space for her constituency office. I do think continuing to have it 7 months after this was pointed out to her in Parliament is deliberate, though.

5. Ableism kills.

Record of the Dead: October 2010
Record of the Dead: September 2010
Betty Anne Gagnon and Murder Most Foul
Quick Hit: Parents of Disabled Children
Tracy Latimer is dead because her father is a murderer

Recommended Reading for 19 November, 2010

Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

little light at Questioning Transphobia: clamavi ad te. Please note that the post discusses suicide, abuse, and murder of trans people. If you think you can handle it, though, it is powerful reading, as is everything little light writes.

When you have been told you are less than human–less than sacred–less than beautiful–your community has failed you. When you believe it, it is because your community has failed you. I do not intend to mince words. … You deserve better. Because you are not the problem. You are not broken. You are not worthless. You are not a problem and you are not a mistake.

Liz at Dis/Embody: Thoughts on World Usability Day:

Now, of course, usability is not the same as accessibility; it is focused on ease of general use, for a mass audience. And, usability doesn’t always incorporate a universal design perspective in which the needs of those who face the most challenges are centered, with the understanding that products designed for that group may also be more usable by others.

That said, usability and communication is an interesting theme, as it seems to implicitly tie back to media accessibility in particular.

Interviews conducted by Meena Bakhtash at the BBC: Voices: Disability and the Hajj to Mecca:

The annual Hajj pilgrimage – a religious duty that every adult Muslim is expected to do once in their lives – can be a tough challenge.

But the obstacles are infinitely greater for Muslims with disabilities, who choose to take the journey.

Melissa Jenkins at the Sydney Morning Herald: Disability package gets tick:

The Victorian government is taking the right approach by directing the majority of its disability package towards early intervention, advocacy groups and unions say.

Kirsty Whalley at This is Local London: Disabled girl from Norbury a “health and safety risk”, says school

A disabled 11-year-old girl has been rejected by an academy school because she poses a “health and safety risk” to other children.

That’s all for this time. Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com. Let us know if/how you want to be credited.

Honorable James Mwandha, Disability Rights Activist, has died

Via email from the Global Partnership for Disability and Development

Dear Friends,

I have received the shocking news from Uganda of the Death of Honorable James Mwandha. He has been suffering from Post Polio syndromes and Pressure. The World Disability Movement has lost an Asset. May his soul rest in eternal peace. I kindly request One Minute of Silence in recognition of the work done by Mr James.

Personally Mr Mwandha inspired me and he always welcomed My ideal of inclusion of youth with disabilities in the development programs.We shared the same name and he used to tell me in workshops that work hard to impact the world.

From 1989 to 2006 Mr James served as a Member of Parliament in Uganda, representing People with Disabilities. In Parliament he belonged to several Parliamentary Committees some of which he Chaired.

He was instrumental in initiating legislation for the protection of rights of Disabled Persons in Parliament. He was leader of Uganda’s delegation to the United Nations (UN) Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention on the Rights and Dignity of People with Disabilities from 2002 to 2006. He was a member of a group of Parliamentarians and ex-Parliamentarians who contributed to the compilation of the Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published by the inter Parliamentary Union.

At the time of his death,Mr Mwandha has been the Chairman of the Commonwealth Disabled Peoples Forum (CDPF) made up of Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) in the 53 Commonwealth Countries to advocate for the rights of Disabled Persons and promote the ratification and implementation of the Convention.

In Uganda, Mr. Mwandha has been the Chairman of the National Steering Committee on the implementation of the African Decade for People with Disabilities 2000-2009 and Chairman of the Uganda National Action on Physical Disability, a National DPO in Uganda and actively engaged in disability rights advocacy in Uganda.

Yours in Disability Services.
James Aniyamuzaala, Rwampigi
Human Rights programme coordinator
Youth with Physical Disability Development Forum

By 11 November, 2010.    deaths   



Record of the Dead for October 2010

Please note that this list focuses on the murder of people with disabilities.

This list of October 2010 media reports about people with disabilities murdered or dying under strange circumstances is presented without commentary, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing people may want to discuss about it in comments. I do not believe for a moment that this list is complete. It is sorted alphabetically by last name. Almost all links are to news reports.

Salvatore Agostino, 73, undefined disabilities, Tampa, Florida, October 20. “Upper body trauma”, Agostino’s store was robbed as well.

Karandeep Arora, 18, blind with difficulties walking, Delhi, India, October 24. His parents strangled him before killing themselves. [More details about this case.]

Alan Atkin, 62, undefined disabilities, Darlington, United Kingdom, April 2010. Beaten to death in his home. [More about this case]

Zahra Clare Baker, 10, Deaf, cancer, prosthetic limb, Hickory, North Carolina, sometime after 9 October. As of this writing, Zahra’s body hasn’t been found.

Jessie Buchsbaum, 17, learning disabilities, Boyertown, Pensylvania, October 25. Jesse committed suicide after being bullied by classmates for being disabled.

Damian Clough, 12, autism and “learning difficulties”, Keighley, England, April 4, 2009. Died in a deliberately-set house fire. The inside handle on Damian’s bedroom door had been torn off. [More details about this case.]

Byron DeBassige, 28, schizophrenia, Toronto, Ontario, February 16, 2008. Shot by police in a confrontation over two stolen lemons.

Mario Eder, 55, spinal cord injury, speech difficulties, unspecified cognitive disability, Waianae, Hawaii, US, October 1. House fire.

Linda Gibbs, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, October 5. Hit by a car while crossing the street.

Brian Goh Kah Heng, 19, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, October 23. Severe internal injuries and bruises, ruptured spleen and severe injuries to his anus. The care center where Goh was living has since been closed.

Kevin Geyer, 19, undefined cognitive disabilities, Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, October 26. Shot in the back during an apparent robbery.

Francecca Hardwick, 18, “severely disabled”, Barwell, England, 2009. Mother killed herself and Francecca after years of bullying, police are currently being sued for not doing anything to end it.

Ernie Hernandez Jr., 37, “developmentally disabled”, Modesto, California, August 14. Stabbed to death.

Philip Holmes, 56, undefined physical disabilities resulting from a work-related accident, Rhyl, Denbighshire, United Kingdom, April 16, 2010. His body was discovered by his caretaker, having been “severely assaulted.”

Patrick Johnson, 18, “had the intelligence level of a 5- to 7-year-old”, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died after police used a “stun gun” twice on him, after being called to assist the family.

Courtland Lucas, 32, heart condition & pacemaker, St. Louis, Missouri, May 25, 2009. Died in jail because he was not given the medication he needed to survive. Other cases of people with disabilities in prison not receiving the health care they needed are also discussed in the news report.

David Lauberts, 50, undefined disabilities, Greeley, Colorado, Sept. 25, 2009. Apparently died sometime before the house fire his brother set to hide the death, Lauberts was found to have bedsores that had eaten through to his bones.

Jonathan Lowbridge, 20, undefined psychiatric-related disabilities, Reading, Berkshire, UK, May 23, 2008. Lowbridge was a voluntary patient who was supposed to be under close supervision due to suicide attempts, he escaped from the hospital and killed himself.

Shannon McLean, 39, “a rare disorder that left her immobilized and in bed nearly 24 hours a day”, Caesarea, Ontario, October 3. House fire.

Wieslawa Zofia Pytlinski, 57, undisclosed disabilities, Knox County, Tennessee, October 4. She died “of multiple blunt force trauma to the upper body”, murdered by her boyfriend.

Donnie “Butch” Phillips, 50, “developmentally disabled”, Wilkesboro, North Carolina, September 29. Choked to death on an outing from his group home. His caregiver has been charged with second-degree murder.

Brian Sinclair, 45, “double amputee with a speech impediment”, Winnipeg, Manitoba, September 19, 2008. Died of a bladder infection while waiting in the emergency ward of Winnipeg’s largest hospital.

Jaffar Shah, “lost his legs in a car accident”, Nazimabad, Sindh, Pakistan, October 22. Shah, a disability rights activist, was shot while playing with his 2 year old son outside his home. His death sparked multiple protests.

Joanne Sexton, 56, undefined disabilities that included being hooked up to oxygen tanks, Springfield, Massachusetts, October 19. House fire.

Henry David Vernon, 55, “deaf, mute, developmentally disabled and mentally ill”, Tacoma, Washington, July 29, 2009. Hyperthermia while in a group home. His temperature had reached 107 F/41.7 C.

Leonard Alfred Willson III, 53, paraplegic, Bath, South Carolina, sometime in the week before October 7. Murdered. Two people have been charged in his death, one of whom Willson was tutoring in school.

Lemuel Wallace, blind and cognitive disabilities, Baltimore, Maryland, February 4, 2009. Gunshot to the head. “A year and a half after Baltimore police uncovered a murder-for-hire scheme in which they say two men conspired to kill a blind and mentally disabled man for insurance money, detectives believe they have found the man who pulled the trigger.”

News Reports regarding allegations of abuse in long-term care homes:

Group Homes Owner Faces Loss of License

  • Failing to prevent a Northwest Care resident with a known history of drinking potentially harmful liquids from doing it twice: first a bottle of floor cleaner and later a 1.75-liter bottle of mouthwash containing 26.9 percent alcohol. The resident was hospitalized after the mouthwash incident with a blood-alcohol level of 0.42 percent — more than five times the legal limit
  • nadequately supervising group home residents, including three who were left alone at a community basketball game; one who was left in a hot, locked car and unable to get out while a staff member went shopping; and another who was found wandering in the street at 3:30 a.m. after a staff member had fallen asleep.
  • Locking a Northwest Care resident alone in his room for two hours despite his reported screams to be freed. Investigators said the facility had previously used this type of discipline in violation of state law and had reversed the resident’s door handle so it could be locked from the hallway.

Daphne Campbell: Big Debts, Shady Dealings

  • M.C., 48, “mentally challenged” and schizophrenia, died after being raped, October 12, 2006
  • In April 2006, a resident at a home in Lehigh Acres was admitted to a hospital with a facial cut and a fungal infection. He passed away soon after.
  • In July 2006, a resident at the same property perished after choking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • In August 2006, a man living in another of the Campbells’ group homes in Miami expired of a suspected bowel obstruction two days after entering a hospital.

By 10 November, 2010.    deaths, domestic violence, Record of the Dead   



Disability Activist Annie McDonald has died

I have only just learned, via Vass, that Australian Disability Activist Annie McDonald died late last month at age 49.

Annie has gone but her legacy and fighting spirit live on

Annie was the tiny girl with severe cerebral palsy, institutionalised since three, whose intellect was assumed to be as dysfunctional as her body until, with Rosemary’s help, she persuaded the Supreme Court she had the wit and maturity to decide her future.

It was a huge story. When Rosemary cradled 18-year-old Annie – then the size of a five-year-old and weighing just 16kilograms – and helped her fight violent spasms and guide her hand to spell out her wishes, who was really speaking? ‘‘It was like the Lindy Chamberlain case,’’ recalls one old friend. ‘‘Everyone had an opinion.’’ The notion of intelligent life trapped in such a body distressed, and for many, including some of Annie’s family, beggared belief.

The court released Annie from St Nicholas’ Hospital – ‘‘hell’’, she called it – and she went home with Rosemary and Chris. There the book ended, but not Annie’s story. What happened next spills through the colourful rooms of their house.

By 5 November, 2010.    deaths   



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