Tag Archives: discrimination

Recommended Reading for Friday, 25 June 2010

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

A person seated on a sidewalk holding up an orange sign reading 'no mas excusas.' A wheelchair user is seated behind the person, with only the wheelchair user's legs and feet in the frame.

Photo from a 2009 protest against California budget cuts, taken by Flickr user Steve Rhodes, Creative Commons License

Astrid at Astrid’s Journal: Empowering People with Disabilities?: About Us, Without Us

You can bet that I was somewhat sarcastic with my invitation, given the fact that people with disabilities, the very people this event aims to empower, are specifically omitted from the invitation. If you want to empower us, then let us have a voice first. Empowering people with disabilities doesn’t happen without us. I sent Jason a comment at the event page letting him know his language excludes people with disabilities. I forgot to tell him that we already have Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1, anyway.

Rob Mortiz at Arkansas News: Disability advocacy group seeks closure of Booneville center

[A] 22-year-old man with a documented history of choking on food died after center staff failed to provide the one-on-one supervision prescribed by doctors, Dana McClain, attorney for the Disability Rights Center, said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

“The continued violation of people with developmental disabilities civil and legal rights and Arkansas’ failure to develop true alternatives to institutionalization is what bring (us) here today,” McClain said.

LoHud Editorial: ‘People’ before disabilities

New York will finally update the name of the state office charged with ensuring fair treatment and quality-of-life to people with various developmental disabilities, not just by taking the “r” word out of the title, but by adding “people” to it.

The Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities will now become the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, after votes taken last week in the state Assembly and Senate. The name change was originally introduced last year by Gov. David Paterson. Rhode Island remains the only state to have “retardation” in an agency title.

United News Media: Vietnam Enacted the First Disability Law

Recently the National Assembly of Viet Nam enacted the first comprehensive national law guaranteeing the rights of people with disabilities.  The new law mandates equal participation in society for people with disabilities through accommodation and access to health care, rehabilitation, education, employment, vocational training, cultural services, sports and entertainment, transportation, public places, and information technology.  This law is expected to have a direct impact on the growth of Viet Nam’s economy, as inclusive policies expand opportunities for Vietnamese with disabilities to be productive and achieve economic independence.

Harvard Law School: Disability rights victory in Europe won by alum with help from HPOD

In its judgment the European Court of Human Rights stated that the European Convention of Human Rights does not allow for an absolute bar on voting rights applied to anyone placed under partial guardianship irrespective of a person’s actual abilities. Even if the protocol permits restrictions to ensure that only citizens capable of assessing the consequences of their decisions and making conscious and judicious decisions should participate in public affairs, the Court found, a blanket restriction is not in compliance with the convention.

You Can’t Legislate Ableism Away

Of the most pervasive myths about anti-discrimination legislation is that the passage of the legislation somehow magically puts a stop to the discrimination, making everything hunky dory. This myth is most commonly believed by people who are not personally impacted by the discrimination that legislation was designed to address. It’s unfortunately a pretty easy myth to disprove.

Today, I decided to do some hunting around to illustrate a really pervasive form of discrimination that many people think isn’t a problem anymore: Denying access to people with service animals. There are a lot of misconceptions about service animals and what they do, and I’d recommend reading folks like Sharon at After Gadget, Melissa at Service Dogs: A Way of Life, or thetroubleis at The Trouble Is… if you’re interested in some service animal mythbusting.

In many regions of the world, there are laws in place that dictate access for service animals. Here in the United States, for example:

The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers. (Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals In Places of Business)

That seems pretty clear. How does that play out in practice?

Claire Crowell, 69, said she tried to go to the Chinatown restaurant on Wednesday with her dog, Vixen, but was told by a front desk worker she could not bring the dog into the building. (‘Restaurant Sorry For Banning Seeing Eye Dog‘)

Christopher Nigl, 34, said he wants a teacher at Washington Elementary School to lose her job and the principal punished because they reported him to police when he was walking his medical dog in front of the school while on his way to pick up his girlfriend’s child after school. (‘Man threatens lawsuit over service dog incident‘)

Our fair neighbours to the north also seem to be having trouble with the concept of accessibility:

Renee Brady, who has relied on her six-year-old golden retriever to be her eyes for the last five years, said she was taken aback when the manager of the restaurant at Main Street and Mountain Avenue told her on Wednesday she had to eat her food outside because of the dog.

Brady, who was with a co-worker at the time, said at first she thought the male manager didn’t realize her dog, Able, was a guide animal. But she quickly realized that wasn’t the case.

“I said he was a guide dog and he said ‘I know it’s a guide dog, but you’ll have to leave,’ ” she said in an interview Friday. (‘Fast-food eatery shoos blind woman’s guide dog‘)

Across the pond:

She said: “It was late and we were cold and wanted to get home, but when approached the lead hackney carriage for a lift the driver just said: “Four people but no dog.”

“We were flabbergasted, especially as he had disabled stickers on display.

“But when we pointed out that he would be breaking the law if he refused to take my guide dog he just said: “Take me to court.” (‘Blind groups welcome taxi driver’s ‘no guide dog’ fine‘)

Britain isn’t the only nation with a recent incident involving a guide dog and a taxi:

A Sydney cabbie has been fined for refusing to allow a guide dog and its high-profile owner – Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes – into his vehicle.

Driver James Young has been fined $750 and ordered to pay $2,500 in costs after refusing to let Mr Innes and his labrador into his taxi in the Sydney CBD in April last year. (‘Paw form: cabbie fined for refusing guide dog‘)

In all of these cases, the dog was explicitly identified as a service animal. Most involved guide dogs, although Mr. Nigl’s dog was a psychiatric service animal. People persisted in discriminating in these incidents even after being informed that the dogs were service animals and that what they were doing was against the law.

I support anti-discrimination legislation, firmly. Without any legal framework at all for addressing discrimination, we would be facing an uphill battle. But what people who think that the problem ends with the legislation don’t seem to realise is that this is still a battle. We cannot wave a legislative gavel and whisk discrimination away; the legislation provides a means for fighting in court, which is important, but it does not end there. It sometimes empowers agencies to enforce it, but these agencies still have to do that, have to take reports on discrimination incidents, follow them up, and then use the enforcement tools at their command.

It does make inroads into social attitudes. High profile cases do attract attention and force people to start thinking about these issues when they might not otherwise, and the discussion about the necessity for such legislation highlights the fact that discrimination is an ongoing issue. However, more commonly, such laws are a reflection of a shift in social attitudes, with people gradually recognising that a.) Discrimination exists b.) It’s a problem and c.) Something should be done about it.

This is not a battle that can be fought and won in the legislature and the courts alone. It also needs to be fought in opinion editorials, on the streets, in popular culture, and in every other location that we have a chance to reach and access people. It’s not fair that we should have to advocate for the right to exist, for the right to go about our business like everyone else, but there it is. Policy supports this fight, but let no one make the mistake of thinking that policy wraps up the problem and allows them to move on to other things. Existing is still a political act, whether or not there’s a law that says it’s not ok to discriminate.

Recommended Reading for 4 June, 2010

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

Clyde, a blind border collie, with his assistance dog Bonnie. The two dogs are lying on the grass together.

This is Bonnie and Clyde! Clyde is a vision-impaired Border Collie and Bonnie is his assistance dog. Photo by Flickr user Lisa, licensed under Creative Commons.

Wheelchair Dancer: What Kind Of Life?

I don’t have the sense that I am kicking back slightly, leaning into life differently, because things matter less/differently now because I am disabled now, because I had a successful life beforehand. I don’t feel on a daily basis that I can let myself off the hook now because I manage to live, achieve, and make it. Disability isn’t a soft position for me. Since becoming disabled, I’ve remade my life, yes, but I have remade it in such a way that it is perhaps fuller and certainly physically harder and less comfortable (at work at least) than it ever has been. My life is more intense. Every small success means more because I have had to work harder for it than I ever had to in my previous life.

Cusp at L’Ombre de mon Ombre: Medical professionals and communication (ETA: Evidently this blog was closed after this Recommended Reading went up? If the author would like me to remove the link altogether, please email?)

Why is it then in such situations I always come to a point, no matter how much I rehearse my attitude and responses, where I feel like I’m at school and must do as I’m told: that I’m standing the in my nice grammar school uniform waiting to have whatever someone else thinks is good for me, done to or metered out to me ? I hate that feeling and hate myself for having that feeling 36 years after I have left school.

Jo Tamar at Hoyden About Town: A month of detention without review

Imagine a world in which you could be held by a government agency, against your will, for up to a month.

If you have a mental illness, that is now a real possibility.

Philip Wen at Sydney Morning Herald: Federal funds frozen for disability enterprises

Funding is regularly reviewed. The last deal was a three-year contract agreed under the Howard government, passing on an effective increase of less than 3 per cent a year. That deal expires next month.

But when the funding for next year was announced in this year’s federal budget, ADEs were in for a rude shock. The government had frozen funding, with no increase for indexation.

Shiva at Biodiverse Resistance: The fuzzy boundaries of accessibility

Both these conversations got me thinking: the first about what exactly i consider venues or events that are inaccessible to me, and whether i would expect my friends to boycott them because of that, and the second about whether it really is possible, even if desirable, to have a personal policy of boycotting all inaccessible events or venues. In both cases, the fuzzy, blurry question is – to me anyway – that of where the boundaries of the concept of “accessibility” lie.

Margery A. Beck at Associated Press: Appeals court: Union Pacific did not discriminate

She said in her lawsuit she did not know the evaluation was a mental health exam, and that Union Pacific used it to change her diagnosis and disability to a mental health condition, rather than a physical one.

Based on the mental health diagnosis, Norman’s long-term disability benefits were terminated, reinstated upon appeal, then terminated again, the lawsuit said.

Recommended Reading for Friday, 21 May: Flying While Crip Edition

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.

A grainy black and white photograph of an airplane over an airport.

Leaving…on a jet plane…if the airline will let you.

Photo by Flickr user Olastuen, Creative Commons License.

BBC News: Eastern Airways grounds Welsh wheelchair athlete

A wheelchair athlete heading for a race is angry he was stopped from boarding a flight on safety grounds.

Richie Powell, from Carmarthenshire, said Eastern Airways stopped him flying from Bristol to Aberdeen last Friday.

The airline said his booking had indicated he was able to climb the aircraft steps unaided and Mr Powell was refused boarding on safety grounds.

Alison Grant at Cleveland.com: Continental Airlines faces $100,000 fine for disability-rules violation

During a compliance inspection at Continental’s Houston headquarters, enforcement officers discovered that Continental had a policy of classifying disability complaints based on what the airline called the customer’s “point of passion.”

However, many of the complaints involved more than one disability-related issue, each of which is supposed to be individually tabulated. By recording just the significant issue in each situation, Continental “substantially underreported” its disability-related complaints, the Department of Transportation reported Monday.

News.com.au: Banning mentally ill passengers from flying ‘illegal, unworkable’

Yesterday, terrorism expert Clive Williams said that people with violent tendencies resulting from a mental illness were over-represented in domestic aviation problems. He suggested putting people who were regarded as mentally unstable on a watch list.

“I know that’s going to be a bit controversial but if aviation security is the key issue, then clearly we should be careful about who we allow to fly,” he told The Australian.

Insurance Journal: Injured Passenger Can Sue Airline for Negligence in State Court

The plaintiff in the suit, Joseph Elassaad, is a single-leg amputee who relies on crutches to walk. His suit against Independence Air stems from a 2004 incident in which Elassaad fell down a flight of stairs while attempting to disembark from an aircraft that had flown him from Boston to Philadelphia.

The fall injured Elassaad’s shoulder, tearing his cartilage and requiring surgery. He sued in state court, alleging that the airline failed to provide him with a wheelchair or another means of exiting the plane.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Jetstar Airways Accused of Mis-Treating a Handicapped Passenger…again

Jude Lee is disabled, needing a wheelchair, and last August wanted to fly from Darwin to Melbourne on Jetstar. The airplane was not at a jetway and an airline employee informed him the lift was broken. Lee claims he was treated like “troublesome baggage” as a male employee carried him onto the aircraft.

Then January of this year Lee was looking to fly from Singapore to Darwin. He was checked in and waiting at the gate to board, when he was told the airline did not have an aisle wheel chair. Again, to be able to fly he had to be carried onto the plane by hand.

Previously linked, but highly relevant:

evilpuppy at Incoherent Ramblings from a Coffee Addict: “I Have Always Depended On The Kindness Of Strangers…”

I recently had the misfortune of booking a flight on your airline. Flight 844 to fly from Seattle, Washington to San Francisco, California from 11:51am-2pm on April 5, 2010. I say misfortune because the events of that flight have left such a poor taste in my mouth and horrible feelings in regards to the personnel working for you that I highly doubt myself or any of my friends, family, and acquaintances will every use your airlines again.

(And an update, ‘The United Saga Continues.’)

Edmonton Journal: Airline apologizes for forgetting blind teen

The 18-year-old was waiting for flight attendants to escort her to a connecting flight to Florida when she heard the plane door seal shut. Ten minutes later two maintenance staff happened to find her on an unscheduled check of the plane.

Recommended Reading for Friday, 7 May 2010

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

Two people participating in a disability pride event. They are holding up large versions of 'hello, my name is...' stickers like those people wear to events. One's says 'hello my name is: human' and the other's says 'hello my name is: neighbor.'

Photo from the Disability Action Hall’s Eighth ‘Speak Out’ event, held in 2006. By Flickr user Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons License.

Tasha Fierce at Red Vinyl Shoes: My Kind of Crazy

I used to talk about mental health issues a lot back in the day, but haven’t lately because I got tired of feeling like a downer all the damn time. It is really important to bring mental health issues to light because the more we talk about them the less stigmatizing the diagnosis becomes, but constantly being the ambassador from crazyland is tiring mentally. You don’t always have to be the one to suffer fools.

Marianne at The Rotund: Fat and Crazy; Not Entirely Coherent, Awkward Musing On My Fat And My Crazy And How They Party Together

So, for me, one of the very hardest, most awfulest to try to overcome parts of FA was the idea that I had to listen to my body and trust that I was interpreting its messages correctly. For an example: I have a proliferation of allergies, both food and environmental. Before I pursued actual useful medical treatment (as opposed to being told the allergies would go away if I lost weight), I had no goddamn idea if I was having an allergy attack or if I had a cold. In fact, it was so impossible to tell that everything read as allergies.

Richard Bales at Workplace Prof Blog: DOL Releases Online Disability Law Advisor

The interactive, online Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor helps employers determine which federal disability nondiscrimination laws apply to their business or organization and their responsibilities under them.  To do this, it asks users to answer a few relevant questions and then generates a customized list of federal disability nondiscrimination laws that likely apply, along with information about employers’ responsibilities under each of them.

Diana Sweet at The Raw Story: US school for disabled forces students to wear packs that deliver massive electric shocks (warning, graphic descriptions of abuse of people with disabilities) (via Planet of the Blind)

Noting that it believes United States law fails to provide needed protections to children and adults with disabilities, MDRI calls for the immediate end to the use of electric shock and long-term restraints as a form of behavior modification or treatment and  a ban on the infliction of severe pain for so-called therapeutic purposes.

Beck Vass at the New Zealand Herald: ‘Nightmare’ at petrol station for amputee

When double-amputee Brian Portland went to buy petrol at a BP station in South Auckland, he was told he had to pump it himself.

Then, Mr Portland was told he couldn’t use his wheelchair on the forecourt because it breached health and safety regulations.

Wheelchair Dancer: Sins is Hiring

We present multidisciplinary performances (video, poetry, spoken word, music, drama, and dance) by people with disabilities for broad audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere; organize multidisciplinary performance workshops for community members with and without disabilities; and offer political education workshops for community based and educational organizations that share our commitment to social justice principles as a means of integrating analysis and action around disability, race, gender, and sexuality.

Am J Cardiol concern-trolling: “But mobility aids will stop them EXERCISING!”

So I stumble across this at Diabetes.co.uk: Mobility Scooters Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Daibetes and Heart Disease

“O really?”, thought I, “I wonder how well-controlled that scoldy little piece of disability panic was?” So I read on.

However, recent research suggests that mobility scooters can do more harm than good by heightening the risk of diabetes and heart disease .

“More harm than good?”, thought I, “I wonder who measured that? How did they decide which effects outweighed which in the goodness vs. badness stakes?” So I read on.

Astonishingly, a study of scooter users in the U.S.A discovered that almost one in five developed diabetes after buying one to get around.

“Huh”, though I. “One in five, eh? Hm, that doesn’t sound all that different from the baseline prevalence in the population, let alone the older/ill/disabled population.” So I read on.

The research, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, highlights how multiple benefits to patients’ health from being able to get around more easily are being erased by the effects on the cardiovascular system.

“Erased?”, thought I. “Completely wiped out? Huh. Was it the people concerned who decided this, or someone else?” So I read on.

Researchers are urging doctors to consider the risks of scooter use before making recommendations to patients invest in a scooter.

“*Doubletake*”, thought I. “Doctors should consider the risks? Doctors? Not, say, people with disabilities? Just doctors? Doctors should weigh up the risks before offering any options at all? Doctors should decide?” So I read on.

[…] There have even been incidents when scooters have killed individuals.

OMG RANDOM IRRELEVANT SCOOTERPANIC!

Moving on.

They recruited 102 patients, with an average age of 68, who had obtained medical approval for a scooter and monitored their health over six years. Even though patients stated that they felt better physically and mentally, tests demonstrated that 18.7 per cent developed diabetes during the follow-up period.

“Erm”, thought I, “Right then. Sure enough, it was an older population- nearly seventy years old on average. The prevalence of diabetes in the population older than 60 in the USA is 23.1%, and that’s not people who are already ill and have other risk factors. That’s not really a surprising number.”

“I wonder,” thought I, “I wonder how that control group did, the age- and disability-matched control group, the one who didn’t get scooters at the same time?”

OH WAIT.

Yeah, there wasn’t one. No control group.

Just a group of elderly people with cardiac failure, neurologic disease, disabling arthritis, and chronic lung disease. Just a group of people with disabilities trying to eke out a life and getting used as a Lesson To All Of Us about the dangers of sloth.

The abstract is here, in the American Journal of Cardiology. Effect of Motorized Scooters on Quality of Life and Cardiovascular Risk, Brian W Zagol and Richard A. Krasuski, Volume 105, Issue 5, Pages 672-676 (1 March 2010).

This sterling little doctor-centric chastisement does contain one really useful piece of information:

[…] significant physical and psychological improvements in all quality-of-life categories (p <0.001) [...]

I’ll say that again, ‘cos they buried the lead. After getting a scooter, people experienced:

[…] significant physical and psychological improvements in all quality-of-life categories (p <0.001) [...]

But the authors decided to slap a big ol’ “DESPITE” before this statement about how the lives of people with disabilities were improved by appropriate mobility aids, and instead go on to list the way several laboratory parameters became “worse” over time in this group of ill elderly people. In a study with NO. CONTROL. GROUP.

We have absolutely no idea how these laboratory parameters would have fared had the people concerned not obtained mobility scooters. All we know is that their quality of life improved significantly in all domains.

What the study fails to recognise – among other things – is that the alternative to getting about on mobility aids isn’t a day of jaunty strolling; it’s immobility. The alternative to going out sitting on a scooter isn’t a doubles tennis match and a brisk swim followed by a bootscooting class; it’s sitting at home.

But the quality of life of PWD, the lack of alternatives, is dismissed by these concerned medicos as a relatively trivial aside; as just one factor for doctors to consider before deciding whether to withhold their blessing – and their financial rubber-stamp – to mobility aids:

In conclusion, interventions, such as scooters, that improve self-perceived quality of life, can have detrimental long-term effects by increasing cardiovascular risk, particularly insulin resistance. Physicians should carefully weigh such risks before approving their use, as well as ensure healthy levels of activity afterward.

Dudes. Newsflash. You’re not the ones who should be carefully weighing this hypothetical “risk”. We are. And you sitting there planning to deliberately withhold mobility aid funding to the poorest people in the population because you think they might – not will, only might – see their blood glucose tweak a few points? Not ok.

You don’t get to dismiss the importance our self-perceived quality of life (“self-perceived”? Who do you think is the best person to assess our quality of life? You?) with a parenthetical “Despite”. What is important to us is important to us; you don’t get to override that with your misinformed concern-trolling. You don’t get to decide on your own, then inform us what’s important in our lives. You don’t get to exclude us from the conversation. You don’t get to tell us which risks are worth taking.

You don’t have the moral right to immobilise us based on your imposition of your own value system on our lives. You wouldn’t even have that right if this was good research. When it’s fucked-up hand-waving? Put the journal down, and start seeing real people. The people right in front of you, who are looking for independence, the ability to shop, the ability to socialise, the ability to go to the fucking doctor, the choice to have a better life. The life you’re planning to say “no” to.