Sunday, July 26, 2009

Red truck with a kick

19 and growing up

President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA 19 years ago today. A great deal of positive changes prompted by the ADA are still transforming the landscape of America, and even are having an influence abroad. Having said that, much, much remains to be done as many others have been saying. Too many people are warehoused in institutions instead of having the choice to live independently in communities with the support they need. Congress still drags its heels on passing the Community Choice Act. Celebrate the ADA by calling your Congressional representatives and Senators - yeah, and the President, too - and tell them to pass this legisaltion. And tell them that real health care for all must be inclusive.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fallout from bowling...

All’s fair in politics. Gov. Sarah Palin has criticized President Obama for his dismal remarks about bowling and the Special Olympics (see item below).

“I was shocked to learn of the comment made by President Obama about Special Olympics,” Palin said in a statement. “This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world."

Palin, of course, is the new mom of a baby with Down Syndrome. And she’s right to be miffed by Obama’s remarks. But let’s be real clear here. For Palin to characterize people with disabilities as “our world’s most precious and unique people” is as condescending and patronizing as it gets.

We have enough to do to carve real lives out of the smothering hostile jungle of discrimination clothed in hostility or paternalism without the characterizations of Palin or Obama. The difference with Obama is that he has the great opportunity to take action and create policy to advance our inclusion in society. We’re watching…

Bowling Lessons ...

President Obama’s throwaway line about his bowling score in the White House being like “the Special Olympics or something” has generated predictable reaction. From criticism for insensitivity on one hand to cries of “lighten up” are all over the place. And almost immediately after Obama’s appearance on the Leno show the White House was issuing an apology.

The best responses, with which I agree, come from a couple of insightful bloggers. Stephen Kuusisto at Planet of the Blind and William Peace at Bad Cripple forcefully make the point.

Sure, many people like the President explicitly endorse disability rights and the importance of laws to ensure those rights. But prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities are deeply ingrained in our psyches, so much so that we are unconscious to it.

Quoting now from William Peace:
“The prejudice people with a disability encounter is different than the blatant civil rights violations women and people of color have experienced in the past and present. Disability prejudice takes many forms and at a deeply rooted symbolic level is not recognized as a civil rights violation. This is why the audience laughed at Obama's joke. People with a disability are inept physically and socially. Our complex and highly developed society is not designed to incorporate people with a disability. As my son has told me repeatedly "people without a disability rule the world".”

And Stephen Kuusisto:
“… when physical challenges are used as an analogy for able-bodied ineptitude the symbolic exchange values are skewed away from humor and toward bigotry. Like it or not President Obama must be held to a higher standard given his ardor for change and his well demonstrated sensitivity regarding people who have been historically marginalized in America.”

Obama’s so-called “gaffe” comes in the wake of reports of abuses against people with disabilities in state institutions in Texas ( see here) and against others in commercial businesses in Iowa (see here).

But, hey, don’t be so serious! Take it from comedian Craig Robinson, who’s in a new comedy called “Miss March.” Asked in an interview with the Chicago Tribune about the use of the word “retard” in the movie, “Q. … is that just a toxic word now? A: It does seem to be. You can see it from a parent's point of view. But the way they use it in the movie is funny. It's silly. It's not going out to hurt anybody. It's definitely not coming from an evil place; it's just coming from the way people talk. “


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where's the Ramp?

Here's a White House photo of the President inking the order to open up stem cell research. Notice that Congressman Langevine is sitting in his wheelchair down front -- because there's no ramp for him to get up on to the dias with the other members of Congress. For shame!

A Pat on the Back -- and a Proposal

President Barack Obama has established a new interagency panel devoted to the concerns of women and girls. The panel’s mandate will be to make sure that all federal agencies take into account how their policies and actions affect women and girls. “We need to take a hard look at where we’re falling short,” Obama said.

According to Politico’s Josh Gerstein, Obama said the new White House Council on Women and Girls would be chaired by his longtime friend and senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. The director of public liaison at the White House, Tina Tchen, is to serve as executive director of the group. “It will meet on a regular basis,” the president said, without elaborating.

Good for Obama for taking this action.

Now, let’s see something on the same model for disability issues, which cut across government departments and agencies. There has been an interagency committee on disability research, but it falls short of the scope of this new council on women and girls. Plus it functions at a departmental and agency level outside the White House.

Clearly, with issues ranging across civil rights enforcement, education, housing, employment, health, transportation, Social Security, to name a few, a Council on Disability with high visibility in the White House might go a long way toward making good on a lot of promises made since the ADA was signed in 1990.

Friday, February 06, 2009

An Historic First -- Read It and Weep

Disability statistics guru and all-round good guy Andrew Houtenville reports today: “An historic event occurred this morning in the field of disability statistics. For the first time in history, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in collaboration with the Office of Employment and Disability Policy (ODEP), released the “official” unemployment rate for people with disabilities. In January 2009, 13.2 percent of people with disabilities were unemployed. This is substantially higher than the 8.3 percent unemployment rate for people without disabilities.”

Here’s the link:

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor released the first official data on the employment status of persons with disabilities. In January 2009, the employment rate for persons with disabilities was 23.1 percent. The unemployment rate for those with disabilities was 13.2 percent.These data provide, for the first time, an official monthly measure of the labor force situation for people with disabilities. The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) sponsored the addition of new disability questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS) starting in June 2008. The addition of these questions to the CPS will allow the analysis of the labor force situation of persons with disabilities to be based on the same concepts that are already used for other groups. In addition to using the data to formulate policy recommendations, ODEP will use them to target its training, technical assistance, research, and dissemination efforts.