Investigating Disability Hate Crimes in the United Kingdom

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently announced that it is conducting an inquiry into disability hate crimes, on the basis of research demonstrating that people with disabilities are much more likely to experience hate crimes than nondisabled people. There have been several high profile cases of bullying and abuse leading to deaths in the UK that have attracted public attention in recent years; I see a lot of articles citing the Fiona Pilkington case, where a woman killed herself and her daughter after prolonged inaction on clearly documented abuse.

According to a report  issued by the EHRC (I can only find a .pdf version, unfortunately), disabled persons in Britain are four times more likely to experience violence than other people, and the likelihood of experiencing violence goes up for people with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. Almost half of the people involved in the study reported experiences of abuse. In a statement on the report, the EHRC says:

It is not the disabled person who creates their own oppression. It is others. As Sir Ken Macdonald so eloquently argued in one of his final speeches as Director of Public Prosecutions, we must overcome a prevailing assumption that it is disabled people’s intrinsic vulnerability which explains the risk they face – an assumption unsupported by evidence. At best, this had led to protectionism, constraining rather than expanding the individual freedom and opportunity which greater safety and security should provide. Only by extending the same expectations of safety and security to disabled people as to everyone else can we truly come to address the deficits in our current approach and wake up to the need to act. (source)

The new inquiry is designed to gather more information about harassment and abuse experienced by people with disabilities and what kind of support is being provided when people report it. Poor statistics are maintained on disability hate crimes and the EHRC is also concerned that a lot of abuse is going unreported. There are significant complications when it comes to reporting abuse; what do you do, for example, when your abuser is your caregiver? What do you do when you are not provided with tools for reporting? What do you do when you don’t recognise what is happening as abuse because you haven’t been given information about the dynamics of abuse and harassment and it’s all you’ve ever known? What do you do when the people you are told to report to choose to ignore your reports or claim that there is nothing they can do?

I’m hoping that it will lead to some recommendations designed to combat harassment and abuse, and subsequent action on those recommendations. It’s easy to make statements and write reports about what should be done, but it’s harder to put these things into action. Full integration into society requires being treated like we belong there, and thus far, performance on the part of public servants who are supposed to be ensuring our safety and security has been unimpressive:

Smith [lead commissioner for the inquiry], a wheelchair user, has himself suffered abuse – with “Kripple” daubed over his walls in paint and wooden wedges hammered under his door to prevent it from being opened. “I did call the police, and the first five times it was like, ‘What do you want us to do about it?'” But I did finally get one officer prepared to do something about it and installed a surveillance system. It shows what can happen if the collective denial is challenged.”

Disabled people, says Smith, can literally become “too scared to leave home” because they are “harassed and told to ignore it by everyone else, including public bodies. It’s unacceptable”. (source, emphasis mine)

Smith’s story mirrors the Pilkington case: Repeated reports were made to law enforcement, and nothing was done. Until harassment, sexual assault, abuse, and violence against people with disabilities are treated like the serious crimes that they are, they are going to persist, and they are probably going to grow worse. This requires a fundamental rethinking of the way that disability hate crimes are handled. It requires better training for law enforcement, teachers, social workers, and other people on the front lines who are in a position to intervene.

It requires believing that people with disabilities are human beings.

“Bullying and harassment can all too often escalate into serious hate crimes against disabled people that we have all heard about.

“Harassment in any form is totally unacceptable. Everyone in society has the right to live life in safety and with security.

“For disabled people and for those people with long-term health conditions, safety and security is a right that can’t be taken for granted.” (source)

There is a fundamental lack of recognition in many regions of the world that hate crimes are a problem not just because they involve abuse of individuals, but because they are a reflection of social attitudes. Certain populations are viewed as acceptable targets for abuse by harassers, rapists, bullies, molesters because society has made its indifference to the safety, health, and wellbeing of these populations clear. Inquiries like the one planned by the EHRC are important, and will gather valuable information about patterns of abuse and harassment in the disabled community. They need to be backed up with a genuine movement towards change, a reform of social attitudes, a confrontation of the way that the actions and beliefs of society as a whole contribute to systemic oppression.

Call for Papers: Disability And Media

Currents in the Mainstream – Where are we going?
22nd September, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Confirmed speakers include Dr Paul Darke1 and Deborah Williams 2.

Disability images of the 1980s and 1990s have received significant critical attention, but there has been little work to date on the development of disability imagery in the 2000s, especially in relation to new or changing representations of disability, disabled people’s participation within these processes, and the impacts of new media and changes in production, distribution and reception. 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. We encourage submissions (papers or otherwise) which examine how representation work is encouraged or circumscribed by questions of disability identity,funding, distribution and audiences. The conference will also reflect on the relationship between disability art and new disability imagery.

Topics may include:

  • disabled performers, directors and media workers
  • mainstream film with disability themes
  • mainstream television with disability themes
  • disabled people in media industries
  • the politicisation of disability images
  • ‘Post-disability’ genres
  • disability and comedy
  • disabled people and Reality TV/ documentary
  • gender, sexuality, ethnicity, the body
  • the non-disabled gaze

Proposals of approximately 200 words for a 20-30 minute presentation
should be sent to the organisers, Alison and Margaret at aw540[@] or MMontgomerie[@], by revised deadline of 30th July.

  1. Dr Paul A. Darke is an internationally respected academic, writer and cultural critic who has written and created extensively around the issue of identity and culture. He is also the originator of Normality Theory. As an artist Paul Darke is bringing, to various art forms, new insights and exciting concepts which challenge conventional views of both art and society.
  2. Deborah Williams – is a writer, theatre-maker, producer, digital composer and accredited coach with thirty years experience working across the sector as an artist, consultant and manager. She is an artist provocateur whose work is acknowledged as a catalyst for challenge and change in perceptions of disability and difference.

By 5 July, 2010.    events   

Recommended Reading, July 5

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.

Blog Posts:

Katja at Broken Clay: Denise Through the Looking Glass

Let me start by saying that entering the world of disability (or alternative mobility) is a little like going through the looking glass, or moving to a foreign country. And like moving to a foreign country, things will work out better if you do some research in advance.

Tasha Fierce at Red Vinyl Shoes: Out of the (Gene) Pool: Disability and Biological Children:

People seem to think that when you have a disability that you could possibly pass down to a child, it’s their business to recommend that you refrain from having children. This is often disguised as fake concern for the well-being of the potential child-bearer, such as in cases where medication would have to be stopped due to the risk of harming the child in utero. Or, maybe they feel that it would be wrong for you to continue a bloodline that is tainted with disability, so they just have to speak up. Never mind that plenty of people who don’t personally have a disability are carriers of genes that may lead to disability. Disabled minds and bodies are viewed as acceptable topics of casual conversation, and your personal medical and life decisions are subject to critique and judgment. Basically, you’re a bad person if you make the decision to have a child despite the chance it will be defective like you.

SeekingFerret: [No Title]

But that wasn’t what I heard. I heard a Christian put a Jew on the defensive by reminding her that no matter how high she reaches, she still will be a minority in this country. I heard Senator Schumer, another Jew rendered uncomfortable by the question, jump in quickly to explain away the joke, to make sure it wasn’t taken the wrong way. I heard a nasty question, inadvertent or not, handled with a reasonable amount of tact by way of a reflexive display of “New York humor.”

And just once, I’d like to see this addressed for what it is. A minor but still noxious form of antisemitism. Jews are “allowed” to be funny. It’s one of the designated defense mechanisms they haven’t taken away from us. But they look down on us for it, sneer at the Jewish sense of humor and how nasty and edgy it is.

TorontoEmerg at Those Emergency Blues: Blatchford Bashes Health Care and Misses the Point [Part II]

This is the elephant in the room that no one will talk about: providing proper care for seniors is going to take significant and sustained expenditures now and into the future. In short, good care for seniors = higher taxes. I’m sure it will be a very cold day on Satan’s front porch before you would see Christie Blatchford, or even the editorial apparatus of the Globe and Mail, argue for that.

Daniel at Different Spokes: Travel Log: Shame On You, Savannah, GA!

During the second leg of our trip, we ventured to historic Savannah, Ga. to take in the sights. Beware, disabled travelers: do not take a trolley tour of Savannah! Not only was the fleet of trolleys not fully accessible (the one we used had no lift), but there was not even a place to put my wheelchair once Derin lifted me into my seat. We ended up taking the chair apart and storing it at our feet. Even more horrifying was the driver asking if I wanted to just leave my wheelchair with the ticket agent and pick it up once we returned. She failed to mention that the trolley lets off sightseers in a different part of town than it picks them up; So I’d be trying to tour the city without my chair…brilliant.

Access Tourism New Zealand: Catering for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Makes Good Business Sense

During Deaf Awareness Week (28 June – 4 July 2010), the UK Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) is reminding businesses, shops, and services to seize the opportunity to expand their customer base by ensuring they are fully accessible to the 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing. This includes businesses in the tourism, hospitality, and travel sector. RNID is the largest charity in the UK working on hearing loss


Toronto Call: No More Police State Tactics

We the undersigned call for:
1. The immediate release of all those detained
2. A full campaign to defend the civil rights of those facing charges arising from this extraordinary policing regime, especially those facing excessive charges and/or punitive bail conditions that criminalize, limit mobility, and curtail rights in the long term.
3. An independent public inquiry into police actions during the summit, including disclosure on the role of police infiltrators leading up to and during events, and the chain of command for the extraordinary crackdown on legal rights and protests.
4. An end to the targeting of anarchists by the Conservative government and the police.
5. The resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair

News Media:

Canada: CBC [Mainstream Media] : New resource aids families after youth suicide

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[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

By 5 July, 2010.    recommended reading   

Dear Imprudence: So Close, Yet So Far

I took a gander through the Miss Conduct archives, as I do now and then, and encountered this letter from early June:

I have a friend who has made comments to me such as ‘You look so thin. Are you sick?’ and ‘You look so thin. Is something wrong?’ I see this person on a regular basis, and my weight has been the same (give or take 10 pounds) for the past 20 years. I find these comments rude and hurtful, so I usually don’t respond and try to change the subject. My husband says that I’m being overly sensitive, but I’d like to put an end to these remarks without being rude or insulting. What do you suggest? Anonymous, Boston

I feel for Anonymous. Comments about weight seem endless sometimes (whether it’s about being ‘too thin’ or ‘too fat’) and people apparently think it’s perfectly acceptable to not just comment on weight, but make a point of harassing people about it. Saying ‘I’m fine’ or changing the subject to make it clear that it’s not an appropriate topic of discussion never seems to penetrate. Likewise with comments about disability. It’s really amazing how you suddenly become public property as soon as anything about your body differs from the socially-dictated norm.

I started reading Miss Conduct’s response, and mostly nodded right along until the point that I’ve bolded for your convenience:

You are being overly sensitive – to your friend’s feelings. Her comments are out of line, and it would be a favor to yourself, her, and the relationship to let her know. She may be one of those lovingly overbearing, chicken-soup-bringing types who clucks over all her wee friends, most of whom may well find it as annoying as you do. Who wants to be told they look sick all the time? Even sick people don’t want that.

You needn’t make a big fuss over the matter with your friend; the less emotional you are, the less the chance her feelings will be hurt. The next time she asks you if you’re well, take a nourishing sip of broth to bolster your courage and say: ‘You know, you’ve made similar comments to me in the past about my weight. I’m actually fine – this is my natural weight and has been for a long time. And I promise you that if I ever am sick and there is something you can do, I will tell you. In the meantime, your questions make me feel awfully self-conscious.’ Your friend may feel awfully self-conscious herself if she realizes that she’s been doing this for years, in which case you can have a good laugh about it. And keep in mind that if this is a habit of hers, based in who-knows-what deep-seated psychological dynamic, she may backslide once or twice, so be patient.

Wait, what?! Miss Conduct, as we know, seems to have a bit of a thing for armchair diagnosis. Which is really a pity, because I think that most of the time she gives very solid advice. She’s the advice columnist I am most likely to agree with, and I think that, like Miss Manners, she’s good about cutting through crap, getting to the heart of the issue, and pointing out that ‘good manners’ doesn’t mean politely tolerating inappropriately personal poking and prodding. But this whole randomly tossing some psychiatrisation into every column thing has really got to stop.

It is, in fact, possible to give sound advice without diagnosing people with things on the basis of a few lines in a letter asking for advice. Anonymous didn’t ask for an armchair diagnosis, but specifically for assistance on dealing with a problem. I don’t see how that comment was relevant, helpful, or appropriate—much like the friend’s concern trolling, actually.

I’d also note that I think Miss Conduct is being too generous in the script for the friend. Anonymous is not required to disclose whether this is ou ‘natural’ weight, nor is ou required to make disclosures about ou medical status and health. Nor does Anonymous need to promise to keep the friend updated on private matters or to provide the person with an opportunity to be a do-gooder in the event that ou gets sick. It’s sufficient to say ‘You know, you’ve made similar comments to me in the past about my weight. They are inappropriate. Please stop.’

Here at FWD/Forward, we read a lot of advice columns, but it’s impossible to catch them all. If you spot something you’d like to see featured in Dear Imprudence, feel free to drop me a tip! meloukhia at disabledfeminists dot com.

Today In Journalism: Do You Feel Special? Well? Do You?!

Content warning: This post includes a discussion of an article that frames disability in extremely patronising, offensive, and infantalising objectifying (note) terms. There will be selections from said article quoted for the  purpose of criticism and discussion.

I’ve been noticing an uptick in really, really bad articles about disability lately. I was puzzling last night over why the mainstream media has suddenly taken an interest in disability, and someone pointed out that the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is rapidly approaching, which means that we can probably expect more really bad articles about disability in the US over the next month or so.

I suppose it’s too much to ask that the media consider contracting people with disabilities to write articles about disability, or that the media consider educating its journalists so that they can cover disability more effectively and appropriately. Oh, wait. No it’s not. There are, after all, style guides published by professional organisations providing information about how to cover disability. It’s not like people with limited experience have no resources to use when preparing articles on disability. They are just choosing not to use these resources.

We read so you don’t have to.

Up today, ‘Inside the life of a person with disabilities,’ a feature that recently ran at an Ohio ABC affiliate. This article and the accompanying video read like the journalist closely read haddayr’s ‘Plucky Cripples Don’t Let Lack of Bingo Card Stop Them‘ and my guide to talking about disability in the media, took careful notes, and then deliberately tried to hit every possible offensive trope. Really, my hat is off to Susan Ross Wells, the reporter who prepared this piece. It takes remarkable talent to be able to fit all of this into one short local interest piece. This a journalist who will be Going Places, I can sense it.

Here’s the lede:

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if you couldn’t see or if you were confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk. It’s a reality for people living with disabilities, but that doesn’t mean these special people can’t lead happy, fulfilling lives.

I am rarely surprised by things in the media anymore. I pretty regularly think that I’ve seen it all. And then one of my Google Alerts has to deliver something on a whole new level, like this article. This lede manages to hit variations on ‘She didn’t let her disability stop her!’ ‘Confined to a wheelchair’ ‘Special’ and, of course, ‘…proving you can achieve anything if you really try!’ all in two sentences!

The article profiles an institutionalised woman with disabilities, making sure to tell us that her mother thinks of her as a ‘joy’ and informing us that the mother feels like ‘placing’ her daughter was, well: ‘the hardest thing that I ever had to do, but it turned out to be the best thing that I did.’ Life in institutions is grand, the article suggests. A barrel of fun times, all the time.

And, of course: ‘She has brought so much out in me as a person, as a mother. She’s brought such joy.’


People ask, sometimes, why we are so angry about depictions of disability in pop culture and the media. Why we can’t just be happy that disability is being covered at all. Articles like this, depictions like this, do absolutely nothing to promote social equality for people with disabilities. They do absolutely nothing to dispel harmful myths and stereotypes. They do absolutely nothing to humanise us. As long as nondisabled people are the ones covering disability for the media, we are going to continue seeing disability framed in these terms. Is it any wonder that ableism is rife when stories like this are the models for thinking about disability, interacting with people with disabilities, and talking about disability that most people encounter?

Depictions of Disability That Make Us Happy

Movie poster from Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon: a night-blue sky with a full moon, and a midnight black dragon with large, pale eyes stares down at a pale, brown haired boy who reaches up to try to touch its face. The poster text reads: Dreamworks [next line] How to Train Your [next line] Dragon [next line] 3D.We took The Kid to the base theatre on Wednesday night to see Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon, which is loosely adapted from a YA Book series of the same name.

[Tame OYD Review with mild SPOILERS ahead]

It is a story of a teen boy, Hiccup, who lives in the Viking village of Berk, which is on an island. His village of one of fierce dragon slayers, and Hiccup is the only son of the chief, Stoick the Vast. Except, he isn’t really very good at slaying dragons, because he is kind of clumsy (I can relate). Longing to be accepted, despite his awkwardness, among his tribe and the other viking teens, and naturally wanting to win the heart of the beautiful girl, Hiccup wants to be a great dragon slayer, too, until he actually catches one of the fiercest and little-known about breeds of dragon, the dreaded Night Fury.

Just when Hiccup has the chance to Slay the Dragon, he realizes that he doesn’t have the heart to kill the creature that looks up at him and surrenders its will in such a helpless manner. He lets the dragon go, and in turn, the dragon doesn’t kill him, which goes against everything he has ever been taught. Slowly over time he earns the dragon’s trust, and learns that that the reason the dragon hasn’t left is because part of his tail has been lost when Hiccup captured him.

Using his knowledge of the forge, Hiccup fashions a sort of prosthetic half-tail for the dragon, and together he and the dragon learn how to fly together, because the dragon now needs assistance using the new tail piece.

There are many themes in the movie that I am not going to excuse. If you think by now that you are going to see a Dreamworks movie that has a fair representation of girl characters, you are wrong, as they even manage to throw in some boob jokes, and once again, the main character has lost his mother in another ridiculous excuse to not have to write one in or to draw out some sympathy for him. Mothers in pop-culture and YA literature/movies are never to be known and always to be mourned. If you think there is anyone who is non-white in this movie, think again. And if anyone tries to excuse it by telling me that “This is a Viking village!”, I can tell you that there were probably more non-white people around Villages than actual dragons, so they could have maybe thrown a bone in there, especially since they had America Ferrara voicing the female lead, because I think that might have been a nice nod to her character. (But at least she wasn’t a wilting lily of a wee girl.)

But I can tell you that I don’t have to love every aspect of things that affect my marginalization to be impressed when something actually goes right once in a while.

At the end of the Epic Battle (no I won’t spoil that), Hiccup loses his foot, and is fitted with a prosthetic one made in the forge, and other than two brief mentions of it, and a heart warming moment when his dragon helps him start to adapt to learning to use it, that was pretty much all the attention given to it. Hiccup, being a mechanical tinkerer, says he might play around with it and improve upon it, but, no one makes a Big Deal. While this might not be realistic and probably dismisses the reality of dealing with that type of loss (and in the mythical world they created this is a common thing they deal with), I liked that this loss of Hiccup’s foot was not treated as The Worst! Thing! Evah! Hiccup actually just goes out, and climbs aboard his dragon. Life as usual. In fact, his fancy new foot fits better into his riding harness, the one he made for the prosthetic tail for his dragon.

I like it when we can see people with disabilities in a positive light. Moreover, I like it more when the characters in pop-culture around this character aren’t reacting in a way that makes it seem as if this is the worst tragedy to ever hit their lives. They are Vikings, and in the long view of things, they have managed to avert a major crisis and now have dragons for pets, which is pretty cool. Stoick is thrilled to have his son, the person, with him, and the depiction of the girl is still…well, painfully stereotypical.

But this depiction of disability, it made me very happy.

Recommended Reading, July 2

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.

Dave Hingsburger: Disability Blog Carnival 67: Proud Voices!

People are proud of writing that comes from a place that’s often deep and secret. People are proud when they manage to put into words anger, fears, terror, tears, love, longing, regret, fury … I found myself going on a real journey here. My intros are brief, the blog is long. We have a huge number of contributors. I’ve only used the names that appear on the blog. These appear in no order, I did not attempt to group them, I did not attempt to make them flow. I think the haphazard way they bring up various topics works.

Jedifreac: It sucks to be right, it sucks to be right

Yesterday and today, Paramount screened The Last Airbender to for free as kind of an olive branch, and also to show us just how diverse the movie is–to prove us wrong. I’m a big bundle of emotions right now, I guess. Here’s the conversation I had with Ken about the movie, since he is better at ‘splainin feelings and stuff.

While we had a lot of concerns about racial sensitivity going in, we at least had some idea of what to expect. It was pretty much as bad as we thought. The poor way the movie treated women and feminism–in comparison to the animated series–other hand, floored me. I just…yeah. If you were expecting M. Night’s version of Airbender to at all reflect the way the animated series treated gender, well…

Stan at Teen Mental Health Blog: What Next?

If I had a dollar for every hour that a patient with a mental health crisis had to wait to be seen by the emergency physician in many of the hospitals that I have known, I could have retired a wealthy man. Why is it that people who have a mental disorder end up at the back of the line? Surely it can not be because of stigma in health providers? Surely it can not be because of inefficient care pathways? Surely it can not be because of inadequate numbers of mental health providers?

Links via Delicious (Thank you kind contributors!)

Matthew Palumbo at The Other Baldwin: Guest Post: Thoughts on Visual Disability

Another notable mention regarding activities with respect to visually disability regards movies and television programming. No matter the screen, even up close, I can’t ever make out everything that is going on. Thus, I largely rely on my wife, or a friend, to clear up those things I miss. Subtitles are a biggie for me in this regard. Interestingly enough, though, the exception to this issue comes when watching cartoons. The bright, vibrant colors of a cartoon seem to work well with my vision and, thus, I largely catch all that transpires in them. CGI and live action, though, are very hit-or-miss.

Mary Bullstonecraft at Hysteria:Rethinking Access, Rethinking (my) Feminism

Yes, yes, Justice Breyer. Anyone can use the steps to access the court. Anyone can walk under those grand “equal justice under law” columns. Anyone can access justice just by skipping up the front entrance.

Except, just kidding, they can’t. And we can see that they can’t if we just look at the Supreme Court’s illustration of the new entrances above, which is included with the New York Times article reporting otherwise. There, on the left: “This entrance is wheelchair accessible.” The main, grand, marble entrance–the one promising equal access, equal justice–isn’t equally accessible. It’s not accessible to people using wheelchairs, people with disabilities that make walking up giant marble staircases a problem, or people with children in strollers, or people who are several months pregnant, to name a few. People in these circumstances have always had to use the side entrance, the symbolically denigrated entrance. And the fact that using the same entrance as these people is cause for poetic outrage should make us stop and think a bit.


All videos have transcriptions.

By Mia at Leaving Evidence: Video: Crip Sex, Crip Lust, and the Lust of Recognition [Transcript available at source]

Recently, I met up with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ellery Russian for an evening and got to capture some of our musings, sharings and stories. Whenever i get to hear crip stories, i am entranced. i love hearing our words (all of them, in whatever way they come tumbling out) and feel ever-so appreciative, especially knowing how long i went without ever hearing any of our voices tell our own stories and stumble through sharing and asking and loving. It’s so important for us to tell our stories–to each other. As much as we can. There are so many different stories that we have to tell about (queer) crip sex and about our relationship to crip sex, to sex period, to sexuality and more. Our stories are so different and complex and they all have value–we have value. Much love and gratitude to Leah and Ellery for sharing some of your stories, knowing that it’s not all of your story.

By Lisa at A Voice For Neli: Neli Tells His Story [Transcript courtesy of terajk at Transcripts for Everyone]

I have been searching my heart, mind and soul trying to figure out why this has happened to my son. I feel so powerless as a mother. We are supposed to protect our children, yet, I couldn’t save him from this. I’ve been living in sheer torture since the events of 24 May 2010. Now my son, who had a future is locked away due to police harassment and brutality. And in spite of my best efforts, I have not been able to get any news outlets to bring this story to light. I pray every day and I hope every day that we will be delivered. Neli is holding on, but each day he is gone like this, I’m losing a little part of him.

Comment is Free

Comments are not disability-friendly.

Disability Living Allowance Exists for a Reason

Why should I again prove my disability to satisfy George Osborne?

Disabled People are Not Scroungers

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[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

By 2 July, 2010.    recommended reading   

Yes, I have a limp, and no, it’s not really any of your business

I have dealt with disability, in various capacities, for my entire life — this started when I was born three months prematurely and was affected by cerebral palsy (left hemiplegia, if anyone really wants to know) as a result.

I know what you might be thinking: You cannot possibly have CP, Annaham! CP is always severe.  It’s always noticeable to people other than the person who has the condition. CP always sticks out, blah blah blah, insert other sundry stereotypes about CP here (because there seem to be a lot of them).

And you’d be partially right, sort of like how my left leg is partially paralyzed. Oh, people notice my limp. Sometimes, they even point it out to me or concernedly ask about it, as if I am too stupid to notice that one of my legs is too short and that my left foot constantly makes a valiant effort to make up that difference:

“Are you okay? You’re limping.”

“You have a limp.”

“What’s wrong with your foot?”

“Why do you have a limp?”

Now, since I have no obligation to a.) respond, b.) educate these potentially well-meaning folks about my condition, or c.) give a shit, I have developed a coping strategy that works best for me, and it is to ignore these people and/or pretend like they might be talking to someone else. Surprisingly, it usually works, particularly when I do not care about seeming rude.

I don’t know what it is about certain bodies and the fact that some people feel entitled to treat said bodies as if they are public property. This body-as-public-property trope is commonly wielded at people with bodies that, through no fault of theirs, don’t fit the expected “norm” and who may be marginalized because of it: women, non-white people, fat people, trans and genderqueer people, people with disabilities, and others. And woe betide you if you fit more than one — or even several — of these non-normative categories, because then people might feel really entitled to comment on your body or its workings (or non-workings), if these things are at all apparent. In my fairly limited experience, it seems as though certain bodies and their parts constitute some sort of threat to an established order (in my case, this would be the abled order in which “normal” legs or feet do not have limps) that needs to be constantly pointed out and then monitored for the person’s “own good,” whether they are fat, disabled, unexpectedly gendered or not-gendered, or otherwise.

It seems vaguely panopticon-ish, and more than a tad creepily paternal: Hey, she has a limp, but she must not know it! We need to tell her for her own good, so that she knows and can maybe work on correcting it. No matter what the person’s intentions are (because these intentions may be sort of twisted “good samaritan” intentions), that’s the subtextual message that I get when somebody decides to inform me about my limp. Regardless of intentions, this sort of monitoring mostly ends up looking creepy and awkward for all involved. Some “good samaritan” may want to focus on my limp and how out-of-place or weird it looks, but just because I am out in public — limp and all — does not make the way that I move around (when I am not in too much pain to move, that is) any random stranger’s business.

Florida Court Ruling: Community-based Services, Not Institutionalisation

In 2007, Florida resident Michele Haddad was involved in a motorcycle accident with a drunk driver. She incurred a spinal cord injury that led to quadriplegia, and lived at home until she lost her caregiver and Medicaid informed her that she would only qualify for the services she needed if she spent 60 days in an institution. Aside from making absolutely no sense, as often seems to be the case with Medicaid bureaucracy, this barrier to accessing care was also highly discriminatory.

Haddad sued, arguing that she would suffer ‘irreparable harm‘ by being compelled to enter a nursing home, and the court agreed. The State of Florida was ordered to provide her with the community-based services she requested and was entitled to. Haddad will be getting a caregiver and staying at home, and we can chalk down another victory for disability rights. This is huge and I am really pleased by the positive outcome in this case. Haddad wanted to stay at home, she should have been allowed to stay at home, and it is heartening to read that the court ruled on the side of justice, bodily autonomy, and independence in this case.

The United States Government was also involved in the case, arguing on Haddad’s side. The Justice Department is currently fighting several discrimination cases, many of which build on the landmark Olmstead vs L. C. case that cleared the courts 11 years ago. Speaking about the Haddad case, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said:

In the Olmstead case, the court recognized that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities stigmatizes those individuals as unworthy of participation in community life. By supporting Ms. Haddad in this case, we seek to ensure that individuals with disabilities can receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate, where they can participate in their communities, interact with individuals who do not have disabilities, and make their own day to day choices. (source)

I’m excited to learn that the Department of Justice is cracking down on discrimination and is specifically selecting cases that will promote full integration into society for people with disabilities. As I discussed a few weeks ago, passing antidiscrimination laws and winning victories in court isn’t enough to put a stop to discrimination and ableism, or to the social attitudes that allow for the dehumanisation and abuse of people with disabilities, but these cases do make a difference, and the direct involvement of the government shows that there is a genuine desire to address disability discrimination and to fight it.

Forced institutionalisation, as almost happened to Michele Haddad, has a long and very sordid history in this country. A common problem that I encounter in discussions about it is that it is not always recognised as such. The Haddad case seems fairly clear-cut: She clearly stated that she wanted to stay at home and she was told that she would lose services if she didn’t enter an institution. That sounds forced to me, and it sounded forced to the court, and most of the people discussing the case seem to agree.

But other cases are less clear. A lot of people with disabilities are not provided with information they could use to make choices independently. They are pressured by family members or care providers. Someone in a situation similar to Haddad’s might not be aware that home care was an option. All it would take is being whisked into an institution from the time of an accident and deprived of access to information suggesting that there are alternate modes of care. We see the same thing with decisions about medical care, where people aren’t provided with information and options, but simply told what to do.

‘Forced’ is a slippery word and it is not uncommon for people who want to deny that forced institutionalisation happens to find ways to weasel out of confronting it. After all, if you don’t say the word, it’s not happening, right? This persistent denial is one of the things that makes it so difficult for us to confront the real-world consequences of ableism. If we can’t get people to talk about the fact that forced institutionalisation happens, we can’t get people to talk about why it happens and we can’t get people to fight it.

Forced institutionalisation is not the only denial of rights and autonomy to people with disabilities that people think of as a thing of the past and believe doesn’t need to be addressed, countered, or fought any more. As a result, when we attempt to have conversations about these very real, very structural, and very present issues, we meet rhetoric like ‘oh, well, that doesn’t happen anymore, right? It sure was sad when it did, though.’

Michele Haddad, and thousands of people with disabilities all over the world, can personally testify that forced institutionalisation is not a thing of the past; here in California, for example, disabled activists are currently protesting cuts to In Home Support Services, a program that is vital for people receiving home care. Those funding cuts will result in institutionalisation for people currently receiving IHSS services.

When She Was Bad

Moderatrix Note: This is a post from my “Summer of Buffy” series (or “Season of Buffy” for my Southern Hemisphere friends, who want to be MONSTERS and have different seasons and ruin my pun, but you are my favourite people EVAH and I love you!), which I thought was appropriate for cross posting, due to the subject matter. I hope you enjoy it, or find it worthy of discussion if nothing else. You may read more of that at random babble… where I frequently blog about and critique pop-culture.

When Buffy Season 1 ended with “Prophecy Girl” we saw a lot of things happen.

The Hellmouth actually opened, for the first of what will be many times (I really hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler for many of you), Cordelia drove her car through the school, and Buffy faced The Master and died. For a minute or two (Hey! It’s TV!).

Also through the miracle of TV, Xander (who can never do what he is told, ever, and it always works out to a convenient plot device) and Angel showed up just in time to revive her and send her on her way to be the prettiest Not Zombie ever (that was The Guy’s thing, OK).

So when Season 2 picks up and Buffy is returning from a summer with her dad we have a whole new Slayer who comes back as a whole new, shall we say, snarkier Buffy with a better haircut.

So here’s the part where Joss is gonna get some shit from me: Buffy is so incredibly obviously dealing with Some Issues. She is having flashbacks while training. She is having some really shit-tastic nighmares where Giles tries to choke her to death while her best friends watch, Giles actually being The Master in a Giles mask. To me the most disturbing part of the dream is that Buffy dreams that her friends are asking how she is doing… something that isn’t happening in real life, and that in a way she dreams that Giles allowed her to die, which I think she might actually believe…

So she is lashing out at her friends. Full scale snark at Xander and Willow and Giles. She mocks Willow —  something she dropped Cordelia faster than Kid drops food under the table on a clean floor for doing. She pulls Xander out onto the dance floor at The Bronze and proceeds to do what was henceforth known as her “sexydance” that made both Angel and Willow jealous. In fact, if you mention Season 2 Ep. 1 “When She Was Bad” to some vaguely familiar with Buffy, the first thing they remember is “sexydance”. She romps about with a new personae that manages to get Cordelia to pull her aside and ask if she was running for “Bitch of the Year”.

If Cordelia is up in your shit about your “Joan Collins ‘tude”, then it is time for a deep inward assessment.

But what no one did was try to actually talk to Buffy, which is what bothered me about the writing of this episode.

See, Buffy died, and I am pretty sure that upset her a bit. I know it might peeve me a bit, if I was 16 and had to deal with that. That might have been something she had to work through a bit, the way she felt about dying. So, instead of anyone talking to her about how that felt, Joss wrote everyone doing the logical thing and talking about her. Instead, it kind of felt like her friends just … got annoyed with her and didn’t try to understand what she was dealing with. Sure, Buffy was behaving in all the wrong ways, but her friends weren’t exactly the pillars of strength she needed to get through her situation, either. But, of course we will see that this becomes a theme.

The only person who tries to reach out to her is Angel, the one person most closely associated with the thing that has caused all of this pain, and the one person most likely to elicit the most harsh reaction from Buffy. She brushes him off, is harsh with him, even though we see peeks of her emotionally reaching out to him at the same time (cue heart wrenching music to imply the Cosmically Forbidden Relationship)… Angel is the personification of all that went wrong with her life. The Slaying, the Vampires, and ultimately death. He couldn’t even save her life before or after her death…

The harsh reality of the weight of her responsibility, the painful truth that even her life is fragile hangs on her weary shoulders even as life doesn’t stop to allow her to mourn her own death. Buffy is obviously angry, hurting, and possibly confused about her future. We see this theme again throughout the series, as she has to decide if she should bother planning a future in her life: career, love, even just graduating or getting through tomorrow. The fragility of her role in the world crashed into her path of vision, and she had to face that in the 60 seconds of clinical death (and later with the appearance of another Chosen One).

This stings close to home for people who deal with real life depression, over loss in their lives, or any of the other reasons that mental illness comes crashing down or tries to suffocate us. Often, the people around us give up trying to support us, and withdraw, leaving us to lash out or sometimes give up.

Perhaps Joss didn’t fail as much as I first said.

Perhaps, in Buffy, he has attempted to personify the utter helplessness and angst that people in a deep depression sometimes feel. Perhaps, he has done a perfect job of showing what it feels like to not be able to yell out exactly what is going on inside, how it feels to have suffered what you have suffered because no one really can truly empathize, no one can truly feel your pain


If only defeating your demons was as simple as smashing a set of bones with a giant mallet.