Archive | October, 2012

Ann Coulter Calls President Obama “The Retard”

So, after the Presidential debate last night, Ann Coulter tweeted the following: “I highly approve of Romney’s Ann Coulterdecision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”

I shouldn’t be shocked. She’s proven herself this classless before, as evidenced by this tweet from September 26: “Great video: head of GOProud interviewed by retarded person on MSNBC”.

Stay Classy, Ann Coulter *rolls eyes*

No, I shouldn’t be shocked by bullying by Ann Coulter. I’ve heard enough awful things from her just over the last couple of months to convince me that I’d be quite happy never hearing another word from her again. But I am shocked. And furious. I’ve gotten over my initial anger and disgust, but last night I was livid. I cried. I cried because her statement is so, so hateful, on so many levels. I think that Varda over at “The Squashed Bologna” nailed it: http://www.squashedmom.com/2012/10/dear-ann-coulter-this-is-who-you-insult.html

I feel powerless in the face of such blatant bigotry.

I have no idea how to deal with it.

And I’m so angry with myself that I’ve let Ann Coulter, a woman for whom I have no respect to begin with, get under my skin like this.

Too Tired

I’ve been having some trouble lately.

I have about four blog posts that need to be finished, and I just can’t seem to do it.

They’re all good posts, too. One is about how the sidewalks along the main street in my village have been ripped up due to construction for almost a month now, making it impossible for anyone in wheelchairs to pass and increasingly treacherous for mothers with strollers, and anyone with mobility or balance impairments. In a town where largest population demographic is senior citizens, it’s affected a lot of people. So why make the decision to rip up the sidewalks on both sides of the road at the same time so that vital businesses on the main street like a bank, grocery store, and two department stores, let alone the one truly accessible restaurant are all but cut off to a large part of the village’s population? I don’t know. I haven’t heard any justification provided to the public. I can’t decide whether the municipality just truly didn’t think about how this would affect people, or whether they did have an idea and just decided to it anyway.

Quite frankly, based on my past experiences trying to discuss disability issues when they come up in this town and hearing about other peoples’ experiences trying to discuss them, I’m afraid to ask. I’m afraid that in my municipality, my status as a person with disabilities means that I really don’t count, and that makes me sad.

I’m scared that my status as a person with disabilities in this province, this country, this world, means that I don’t really count, and that makes me sad.

I can advocate for myself. I can speak – loudly, if I need to. I can use this blog to bring attention to the way that people with disabilities suffer awful injustices…and the way that so many of them achieve great things in spite of those of those injustices. But lately writing a post about making English muffin pizzas feels like all I can manage.

And that makes me sad, and a little scared…because, as I wrote about in my Thanksgiving post, we’ve come so far…and yet last night someone thought it was okay to call the President of the United States the R-word. Granted, it was Ann Coulter, who appears to have very little sense about these things. But we all know that it’s not just Ann Coulter using the R-word. I’ve heard workers in my field say, “That’s retarded”, for God’s sake, and I hear it’s use defended all the time. Ann Coulter isn’t the whole problem by a long shot.

But I’m tired. So, I’m going to take a two week hiatus and regroup and get my head on straight on again. I’ll be updating the Facebook page and Twitter, and writing a weekly blog post about my kitchen adventures (by the way, for those that don’t check the Facebook page, I used my leftover mushrooms to make a messy-but-tasty omelette last night), but I’m going to going to take the time to…not watch the news, lol, and do some journal-writing, and get myself back in a more positive space.

I hope you’ll all be here when I get back. Stay tuned for Operation: One-Handed Chef updates. And please keep on Ann Coulter about this issue, because her disrespect is unacceptable in this day and age.

Sarah

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Operation: One-Handed Chef…Week One

I’d hoped to blog about something more substantial today, but I haven’t quite gotten my feelings about it sorted out yet. So I thought that maybe you’d like to hear about the first week’s results of Operation: One-Handed Chef.

For those of you that don’t recall, Operation: One-Handed Chef is my concerted attempt to integrate more cooking into my life, since it’s something that I find difficult to motivate myself to do. I’ve been trying to find some recipes that I can make with one hand, or that are at least easier to make with one hand, and I’m going to try at least one new one a week.  This week I tried English Muffin Pizzas. The recipe is in the post above this one.

Shopping

I substituted veggies in place of pepperoni on my pizza, and right away ran into an (non-stroke-related) issue that I think is going to come up again and again during Operation: One-Handed Chef: I live alone, and many things come in packages that are simply too big to meet my needs. I wanted mushrooms, and I managed to find them pre-washed and sliced in packages in the produce section (pre-sliced/pre-chopped veggies are a God-send for me), but I’m going to be looking for ways to eat mushrooms with every meal this weekend so that I can use them up before they go bad.

My grocery store used to have packages of pre-sliced green pepper, for stir-fry, but I couldn’t find any in the produce section. They’re easier to dice than a whole pepper, which is what I ended up buying.

I figured I’d have trouble finding pizza sauce, because I’ve never seen it come in anything but cans. Most can openers, even electric ones, require two hands to use, so I don’t buy any food in cans (although I did see in the other day that there’s now a hands-free electric can opener, which I must look into).

But, wonder of wonders, Ragu now makes pizza sauce in a small squeeze bottle!

It made my day. :)

Prep

If I’d only prepped enough of everything to just make my dinner, I probably could have made two English muffin pizzas (I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I made two servings) in the time suggested in the recipe, or maybe a bit longer. But I wanted to get all the prepping that I had to do over with and done at one time, so that I can just grab the ingredients and throw them into meals as I need to over the next little while. So I diced a full package of mushrooms and a green pepper, grated a package of cheese, and prepared the meal.

That took over an hour, and I was tired by the end. My frustration level stayed surprisingly low, except when the cats smelled cheese when I was grating it and slowly started to close in on me (honestly, the neighbours must really wonder what’s going on in here when I’m yelling “Get back! That’s my food! STAY AWAY FROM MY FOOD!”) but I was more than ready to stop.

The Results

My dinner:

Much better than I thought it would be, actually, even though I couldn’t eat all of it. It’s surprisingly filling, and I would have been better off to go with my original plan of one muffin and baby carrots (which I forgot to buy).

There’s a pic up on Twitter…I’m trying to make it show up here, but it’s being stubborn. Stay tuned!

What I’d Do To Make This Experience More “One-Handed Chef”-Friendly

  • I’d originally planned to see if my Pampered Chef chopper could dice, but I decided to just see how far I could get with dicing things myself. Some sort of chopper or food processor would definitely save time.
  • I think that the hands-free can opener is a must. The squeeze bottle pizza sauce is expensive for such a small bottle.
  • The cheese grater is manageable for me at this point, but people who have very little movement in their weak hand hand may want to consider buying pre-grated cheese.

Operation: One-Handed Chef is a success for this week!

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This Week’s “One-Handed” Dish…

…for those that want to cook along…this is a relatively simple one, to start.

English Muffin Pizzas

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fast-english-muffin-pizzas/

I’m going to make these on Friday night, following the reviewers’ suggestion to toast the English muffins first.

I’m not a big fan of pepperoni…I think I will bring out the chopper that I bought at a Pampered Chef party some years ago and never used, and see how good it does at dicing green pepper and mushroom. I’ll have leftovers, but I can put them in an omelet on Saturday, maybe.

Perhaps I’ll throw in some baby carrots as a side. Good way to get lots of vegetables.

We’ll see how it goes with one hand…wish me luck!

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Prosecutor’s Incompetence Means That Disabled Woman’s Rapist Goes Free

Fasten your seat belts, folks. The story of L.K. and the circumstances around the recent overturningRichard Fourtin of Richard Fourtin’s rape conviction has something for everyone.

Richard Fourtin’s Case: The Basics

Richard Fourtin was 28 in 2008, when he was convicted of raping a 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. Richard Fourtin was to serve 6 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Connecticut recently overturned his conviction, however.

(Sidebar: I typed “disabled woman rape” into Google News to try and find news sources about this story. I found several. I also found, in the first two pages of search returns, stories about six separate incidents of women with disabilities being raped in 2012. I don’t want to think about how many that we don’t hear about. I don’t want to think about how many that just don’t get reported.)

The woman that Richard Fourtin raped, referred to as L.K., is thought to have the mental age of a three year old. She is not legally able to consent to sex. However, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned Fourtin’s conviction because 3 of 4 judges ruled that, despite the fact that L.K. has severe physical disabilities and can only communicate by lifting a finger, that she was able to express lack of consent by “biting, kicking, screaming, and gesturing”.

http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/State-Supreme-Court-Tosses-Sex-Assault-Conviction-172269281.html

Opinions, Opinions, Opinions About Richard Fourtin

Horrified? I was too. And judging from the comments on the articles that I read, I wasn’t the only one. But I was surprised at some of the reasons.

What I thought was a surprising amount of people called Richard Fourtin a pedophile, for wanting to have sex with someone with the mind of a 3-year-old…like they’d totally glossed over the fact that she has a woman’s body. I think that there’s a tendency in general to “freeze” people with intellectual disabilities as children, when many are perfectly capable of consenting to sexual activity and want to do so. As is their right.

I responded to a comment that said that “People with physically and mental disabilities aren’t able to defend themselves from attack.” In L.K.’s case that may be true. In fact, anyone may find themselves, in an attack situation, unable to respond, for any number of reasons: shock, panic, a decision that staying still may ultimately be safer…but if I was attacked and decided to fight back, I think that anyone bargaining on the fact that my being disabled put me at a disadvantage might be surprised. I’m heavier than I look and I’ve got a lot of strength in my right side. (And I hate blanket statements, obviously…you might as well challenge me to prove that it’s not true, although in this case I’m not about to go out looking for someone to attack me in order to do it.)

And there’s my typical curiosity about whether the overturning of a rape conviction would be leave the commenting public calling for the judges’ heads (and other parts) on a platter if the woman involved didn’t have a disability. I realize that people would be angry. But people seem especially angry when injustice is committed against a person with a disability. This is an injustice against women – period. Not just women with disabilities. If you want to talk about sexual assault injustice that’s unique to women with disabilities, talk about the fact that women with disabilities are at least twice as likely to be raped or assaulted than women without disabilities.  http://www.ncdsv.org/images/sexualassaultstatistics.pdf

Not As It Seems

It all looks pretty bad. However, if you’re going to angry at anyone that Richard Fourtin is out on the streets (and I think we can all agree that he shouldn’t be), blame the prosecutor. He screwed up big-time on this one, and even the court tried to tell him so.

Instead of charging Richard Fourtin under a statute sub-section that the prosecutor could have made stick because of L.K.’s inability to consent, he (she?) chose to charge under a sub-section where he needed to show that that L.K. was “powerless” to consent. It seems like a small distinction, but as Ken shows at http://www.popehat.com/2012/10/09/frankly-i-dont-care-how-due-process-makes-you-feel/, it’s actually fairly important. The judges didn’t feel that the prosecutors showed that L.K. was powerless to consent, so they had to overturn Richard Fourtin’s conviction, in order to uphold the law.

It’s not within the scope of due process to then say, “But he did something awful, so let’s find the right statute to charge him on.”  Unfortunately, because of double jeopardy, it’s not within the scope of due process to charge Richard Fourtin again with this crime. So he’s a free man.

Well, doesn’t that lawyer deserve a pat on the back for fucking that right up?

L.K. Has to Live With It

I once worked with a young man with autism, whose family told me that he’d been sexually abused as a young child. They said that they didn’t think it affected him. I filed the information away, thinking that perhaps we’d need a referral to a psychiatrist eventually, because I think that these things *always* affect us. I doubt that L.K. will forget what Richard Fourtin did to her, or the four days that it took her to testify about it in court.

Will we ever know for sure how it affects her? Probably not.

But I sure hope that the prosecutor does some thinking about how it might affect her…and loses more than a couple of nights sleep over it. Is that mean?

I don’t really care.

More information: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-10-04/news/34264568_1_woman-with-cerebral-palsy-handicapped-woman-disabilities

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A Moment for Matthew and Amanda

This isn’t disability-related, but I think that it’s a story that needs telling. I matthew shepardthought about it immediately when I heard the story about the physically disabled young man in Newfoundland that was lured into the forest and assaulted. I’d forgotten, however, how close to the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s assault and death and hospital five days later that we actually were.

Do You Remember Where You Were When You Heard That Matthew Shepard Died?

I do. It was fourteen years ago, when I was a freshman in university. I was in my room in the dormitory (we call them “residences” in Canada), working on an essay. The radio was on. I heard the story that Matthew Shepard had died in the hospital, and my heart dropped into my stomach.

I’d been following the story all week, ever since I’d heard that the 22-year-old Wyoming University student had been found burned, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence, and suffering from exposure to cold temperatures for 18 hours. The story had hit close to home because it was suspected that Matthew Shepard’s attackers, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, had targeted him because he was openly gay. Being raised in a small town where several friends had struggled with the decision to come out, and seeing what some of them had faced once they did, I knew that Matthew Shepard’s decision to be openly gay in the small town of Laramie, Wyoming was potentially risky. But it had never occurred to my young, naive self that someone might actually kill another person over their sexuality.

It scared the crap out of me, and filled me with a sadness that that I couldn’t express. And I still get those feelings every year, on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death – the day that my belief in the world as a safe place for people who are different died too.

I wish that I could say that I’ve had a thousand experiences since then that have gone a long way to convince me that the world is safe for people that the world labels “different” – for LGBTT people, for people in racial minorities, for people with disabilities – but I haven’t. Quite the contrary, actually. I’m hearing more and more stories that make me sad and angry, such as the fact that disability hate crime is up significantly in Britain since Welfare Benefit reform came in.

Amanda Todd: We’re Failing Our Children

In Canada, British Columbia teen Amanda Todd took her own life this week, just weeks after posting what only can be described as a cry for help on YouTube several weeks ago. In the video she uses homemade flashcards to document how she was bullied to the point of physical assault at her school, and then cyberbullied once she changed schools. She was just 15.

Amanda Todd was just a teen that made some poor choices. She was being punished enough by the consequences of those choices without her peers jumping in not only to judge, but to encourage her to commit suicide. That sort of bullying behaviour is deplorable – and the fact that it went as far as it did without someone in authority doing something about it is deplorable as well.

http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Vancouver+area+teen+commits+suicide+after+telling+story+being+cyberbullied+with+video/7375941/story.html

How can we make sure that stories like Matthew Shepard’s and Amanda Todd’s are not repeated?

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Commence Operation “One-Handed Chef”

So, I never was a really great cook, even before the stroke made it necessary for me to become a one-handed chefone-handed chef.

When I was much, much younger, I liked to bake. I used to bake cookies after dinner in my elementary school days, before the homework load got to be too heavy. But I moved away from cooking and baking as recreation in high school, and in university I ate like most students do: simply, cheaply, and quickly.

Coaxing the One-Handed Chef  Out of Me…

Most people start their journey to one-handed chef slowly after a stroke. In Penetanguishene Rehab Centre, my occupational therapist suggested that preparing chicken fajitas was pretty ambitious for my return to the kitchen and that perhaps I might want to start with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But I’ve always been kind of “no guts, no glory” with that sort of thing, so I pushed myself hard to make my favourite meal, got myself incredibly frustrated, and was too tired and sad to eat the damn things once they were done. My OT said that I had to eat them anyway, because it was a long time until dinner.

I’ve made them since. I’ve mastered the basics of being a one-handed chef. I’ve made eggs and toast. I make good salads. I made grilled cheese sandwiches for a boyfriend once, not realizing that there was something on the element, the burning of which set off the fire alarm first in my apartment then in my apartment building.  Some tenants still ask me when there’s a fire drill, grinning, if I “set this one off”. But the sandwiches were good, so I still count that as a success.

But I generally eat very simply – cereal, sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, salads, the odd microwave dinner, yogurt, fruit, pasta with sauce and cheese. Apple slices and peanut butter are a favourite.  Occasionally I get more ambitious, but cooking is one area of living one-handed that I just haven’t mastered. Being a one-handed chef takes far more planning (and one-handed chopping takes far more practice) than I’ve felt capable of doing on a regular basis without becoming completely overwhelmed, on top of the challenges inherent in cooking for only one person.

However…I’d like to become a better one-handed chef. I’d like to have some recipes for good, healthy meals that are easy to prepare with one hand, and I’d like to improve my skills in the kitchen. It’d be great to be able to bring a dish that I’d prepared myself to a potluck, instead of just buying a dessert from the grocery store. It’d make me feel really good to do that.

Operation One-Handed Chef: The Plan

So I’m going to make a commitment and write it down here, so that I’m accountable to all of you: I’m going to make it a goal to try one new recipe a week, in my quest to become a one-handed chef. I’ve already gathered some recipes that look appropriate, and I’d love it if you’d contribute any that you find. I’ll put them up on a new section on the blog, and on the Facebook and Pinterest pages, and we’ll develop an archive for everyone everywhere who wants to become a one-handed chef.

Hopefully the recipes that I’ve gathered will keep me busy until Christmas, when maybe Santa will bring me a couple of cookbooks that I’ve had my eye on…

I’m going to start next week, and I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress. Anyone want to join me?? Let me know and I’ll send you the recipe I’ve chosen at the beginning of each week!

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Happy Thanksgiving?

I wanted to write a post about how one of the things that I’m grateful for thisthanksgiving Thanksgiving is how far people with disabilities have come. But I didn’t quite get there.

Happy Thanksgiving…*sigh*

I was going to start my Thanksgiving post off with this:

“On Thanksgiving Sunday, my father and I watched “The King’s Speech” together. My father told me that King George VI had a younger brother, John, who was basically kept in isolation from not only the public, but from the family’s day-to-day life because of epilepsy and perhaps autism.  His mother visited him often, and he had a cottage and a full staff of his own, but he was kept out of the public eye and court life because he was “different”. Segregating a child from the public eye that way seems as alien an approach to dealing with disability to me as shutting a child with a disability in an institution and forgetting that they exist…or, as a health care professional, suggesting to parents that it’s in everyone’s best interest to do that.”

I wanted to suggest, in my Happy Thanksgiving post,  that we’ve come oh-so-far since then, with so much success in closing institutions and people with disabilities being treated so much better by the medical community. But then I remembered the posts that I’ve written about discrimination in granting organ transplants, the attitude that some of the medical establishment holds that babies with Down’s Syndrome should be aborted or denied life-saving treatment after birth, and the recent story out of England about the man with an intellectual disability who found a DNR that he’d not consented to in his suitcase when he returned home from a hospital. I remembered the conversations that I’ve had with colleagues about how group homes are really just little institutions, where abuse can happen just as easily as it did in the larger ones that people fought so hard to close.

I remembered that for several years after my stroke, there wasn’t a truly accessible restaurant in my town, and that legislation mandating that government buildings become accessible in my province was enacted only in 2005. Right now, an overhaul of the main street in my town has the sidewalks torn up on both sides, making passage practically impossible for anyone using a manual wheelchair and difficult for anyone with any sort of mobility or balance disability. No one thought of this, apparently, or cared enough in their hurry to get the job done to consider that they should only tear up one side of the street at the time.

I remembered that Henry Miles Frost has been petitioning since before school started to go to the school that’s just down the street from him instead of a special school somewhere else. Despite all of the people that stand with Henry, the school board won’t be convinced. http://www.facebook.com/IStandWithHenry?fref=ts

I remembered Britain, and how people with disabilities have been struggling there the past year as their benefits have been slashed.

What do you do when it’s difficult to remember the positives?

Happy Thanksgiving. Sorry I’m late…

By the way, Prince John died when he was 13. This blog post talks about his story in more detail: http://www.sockitmama.com/2011/04

 

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Clara Berg is, Unfortunately for Her, Inspirational

 

So, this video has been making the rounds on Facebook on Twitter over the last week or so. This is Clara Berg, dancing a variation from Delibe’s “Coppelia”. She’s quite remarkable. Dancing this variation is a lot more difficult, from a technical standpoint, than it looks. It requires an amazing amount of muscle control. And she appears to have memorized the entire thing.

It’s an amazing performance, considering that Clara Berg is just ten years old. And, of course, the fact that she has autism and DiGeorge Syndrome makes her even more amazing and inspiring, right?

Clara Berg, Inspiration

According to most of the comments on the Youtube video, it does. It’s billed on Youtube as “Autistic Girl with DiGeorge Syndrome Memorizes Coppelia!”, and anything I’ve seen about it usually has “autistic” as the first descriptor of Clara Berg. It’s rare that the headlines even mention her name, but they always mention the autism and sometimes both conditions.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1266462–autistic-10-year-old-ballerina-becomes-a-youtube-phenom

Something squicked me about the Clara Berg video the moment I saw it. I was impressed and delighted, yes. But I was vaguely uneasy as well. I thought at first that it was the fact that, as one of the comments on the video pointed out, that the parents put it up, talked about her conditions, and then asked for donations to keep her in the Intensive Multi-Treatment Therapy that’s done her so much good. But that sort of thing really doesn’t bother me generally. The Bergs live in Ontario, and I’ve seen firsthand how Ontario’s cuts to services and supports have decimated people with disabilities and their families. I can understand trying to keep access to a support

clara berg

A little girl dreaming of being a ballerina…

that’s working well by any means necessary.

When I saw that so many comments on the video read like inspiration porn, I thought, “I think we’re getting closer.” I started to think about Stella Young’s awesome piece on inspiration porn, in which she said:

“When I was 15, a member of my local community approached my parents and told them she wanted to nominate me for some kind of community achievement award. My parents said, “Thanks, but there’s one glaring problem with that… she hasn’t actually achieved anything out of the ordinary.” They were right. I went to school, I got good marks, I had a very low key after-school job, and I spent a lot of time watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek. I wasn’t feeding orphaned Chlamydia-infected baby koalas before school, or setting up a soup kitchen in the main street, or reading newspapers to the elderly at the local hospital. I was doing exactly the same things as my non-disabled friends. When my parents explained all this to the well-meaning nominator, they said “yes, but she’s just such an inspiration”.

Clara Berg: Celebrate The Right Things

I tried to count how many comments on the Clara Berg Youtube video called her an “inspiration” or “inspirational”, but I got bored while I was doing it and stopped. And while I realize that Clara’s case is a bit different than what Stella Young outlined in the passage above, in that she’s doing something very different than most of her non-disabled peers are, it’s really not in a more fundamental way. Clara Berg is a kid doing what she likes to do. It just happens to be very complicated ballet, at which she’s obviously very talented. Nothing inspirational there, just a kid being a kid.

I wish that the video and the media around it would celebrate Clara Berg for that talent alone, and not for being an “autistic girl with DiGeorge Syndrome” or “an autistic ballerina” who just *happens* to be amazingly talented at ballet. Celebrate the person first and the amazing things that they do – not the diagnosis. Even if the autism expert in the Toronto Star article seems to think that it’s the diagnosis that makes part of what she’s achieved possible. Has he met her? How can he be so sure?

There. That’s my rant for the day. Dance on Clara Berg. You’re very talented. And while I can’t be sure without talking to you, of course, I’m reasonably confident that you’re not dancing to inspire the rest of us.

Read the entire Stella Young article here. It’s awesome.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-03/young-inspiration-porn/4107006)

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Newfoundland Youth with Disability Beaten by Group of Teens – How Bill Johnston Misses the Point

Today we have a story from Canada…Newfoundland, specifically, which is the province in which I was born (I don’t remember much Bill Johnston about it, as I was pretty young when we moved). But that’s another story. This story is about an assault of a person with disabilities that went on last week-end, and I’d like to thank Paige Fougere and Patti Sampson of Easter Seals Camp Tidnish in Nova Scotia for bringing it to my attention.

The reports involve a 24-year-old man in the town of Mount Pearl (see the map of the St. John’s area to the right), with undisclosed physical disabilities. One article had some comments from people who claimed to know the young man, saying that he has cognitive disabilities as well, but I found no media confirmation that he has cognitive disabilities. The young man was in a mall, going to see a movie, when he was lured outside, off into a wooded area. 3 boys and 2 girls, all between the ages of 14 and 17 assaulted him, robbed him and left him. The young man managed to walk to a convenience store after the attack, where a woman who is being called “the Good Samaritan” and the store employees called the police and the hospital.  The young man has been released from the hospital, and the 5 teenagers have been charged. There didn’t appear to be any personal connection between the young man and the teens, but the attack did appear to be planned.

I am very, very glad that the young man’s injuries weren’t serious, and that the attackers were apprehended quickly. The whole thing brings to mind other stories of people from “undesirable” groups being lured to an attack where the outcome was much worse, such as Matthew Shepard.

However, after reading the articles about this story, and particularly after watching the press conference that Royal Newfoundland Constabulary chief Bill Johnston held on Monday, I am disturbed. I am disturbed.

“Powerless”, says Bill Johnston

I am disturbed that Bill Johnston said that the young man, as a person with physical disabilities. was “really powerless”. This isn’t true, Bill Johnston,  and it’s a terrible message to put out to the public.

Yes, once he was out in the forest and facing five attackers, the young man had no control over the situation. I submit that very few people facing five attackers have much control or personal power in a situation where they face five attackers, whether they have disabilities or not. But (and this should in no way be taken to imply that I’m blaming the young man for what happened, because he is not responsible for the actions of these youth), he had a choice of whether or not not he was going to follow these youth into the forest. And if he didn’t recognize that there was potential danger inherent in that situation, in this day and age, then someone failed him in basic safety education that’s owed to everyone in general and to people with disabilities in particular. It’s a harsh fact of life that people with with disabilities are targets for this sort of thing, and they need to be educated about how to keep themselves safe. So if people in this man’s life want to call him powerless, they need to look at how they potentially contributed to that.

Also, a powerless man wouldn’t have had the presence of mind and the strength of will to pick himself up after a violent assault and get himself to safety. Give this man some credit, Bill Johnston.

Bill Johnston Thanks the World

I’m also disturbed that Bill Johnston appears to believe that everyone involved in helping out with this case needs to be strongly praised for their stepping in and thanked repeatedly – as if they went way above the call of civic (and in the police’s case, professional) duty by taking the time to help a person with disabilities in distress.

Over the course of the ten minute press conference, Bill Johnston makes it a point to thank the “Good Samaritan” and the people in the store four times for stepping in and helping the young man. He points out twice that it took the police less than 48 hours to get the teens into custody, and thanks them three times for the hard work that they put into resolving the case quickly and bringing peace to the family.

News flash – helping a person with disabilities who wanders into a store and a appears to be bleeding from a beating doesn’t make someone a hero. It makes them someone who does the right thing when someone who’s bleeding from the head wanders into a store and appears to be bleeding from a beating. The police should be working hard to quickly apprehend the people responsible for hurting that person because that’s their job, not because the person has disabilities.

Personally, I can’t imagine anything that’d make me feel worse had I gone through this than being subjected to the idea, from the chief of police, that I should feel especially grateful for receiving the help that I did, given that I’m a person with disabilities.

“Appalling”

Not that these “appalling” (Bill Johnston said it, and don’t get me wrong, I agree…but but but…) sorts of crimes don’t need prompt attention, or that it’s not a good thing that people in towns watch out for people with disabilities. I know that people with intellectual disabilities that I’ve supported in my small town have people watching out for them, and I appreciate that. But 5 teens ganging up to beat, rob, and leave someone bleeding in the woods is an appalling crime that merits quick action on the police’s part no matter who it happens to. I’d like to think that Bill Johnston feels the same way.

Shouldn’t we be just be looking out for each other in general?  Is that such an outdated notion?

This is a story that, for once, I’m sorry has been made out to be totally about disability. I think it misses the point.

What do you think?

Bill Johnston talking to the press: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2012/10/01/nl-rnc-chief-johnston-assault-disability-1001.html

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Nissan NV2000 Voted in as NYC’s “Taxi of Tomorrow”

taxi of tomorrowWell, it’s official. New York City’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” is the Nissan NV-2000 taxi.

Not that we didn’t know it was going to be. If you’ve been following this story (or listening to me crab about this for the past year or so), you’ll know that the decision was made quite some time ago. But on September 20th the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission officially voted in the Nissan vehicle as the “Taxi of Tomorrow”.

It’s a baffling move. One of the other three competitors in the “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition, the Karsan V1, is fully accessible and ADA-approved. Heck, the fully accessible MV-1, manufactured by Vehicle Production group, while not a competitor for “Taxi of Tomorrow”, has been on the road in New York for months. Both are side-entry, which is safer for passengers in wheelchairs, and have ample room for other passengers when transporting a passenger in a wheelchair.

Contrast with the NV-2000:

  • A conversion van. It needs to be chopped up and reassembled, at considerable extra cost, to be made wheelchair accessible.
  • Rear-entry
  • Has room for only one other person in the passenger area when transporting a passenger in a wheelchair.

Need more convincing? The NV-2000:

  • Wasn’t tested on New York streets before being declared the “Taxi of Tomorrow”
  • Is assembled in Mexico, taking jobs out of the US
  • Has poorer gas mileage than the 6000 hybrid cabs currently operating in NYC that it will replace, as it runs on a combustion engine

What is Michael Bloomberg thinking?

People Who Use Wheelchairs Not a Factor in “Taxi of Tomorrow” Decision

Obviously he’s not thinking about the people in his city with disabilities. He’s made that very clear, by his steadfast refusal to make more than 2% of New York’s cabs accessible until he was required to by the ruling of Supreme Court Justice George Daniels, and by his assistance on appealing that ruling.  His ignorance about the realities of living with a disability, reflected in statements such as “It’s always somebody who says, ‘oh, no, everything has to be handicapped accessible or wheelchair accessible,’ but that’s not necessarily when the people who are in wheelchairs need” is astounding.  It’s difficult to imagine why he thinks that people who use wheelchairs would be satisfied with using the ailing Access-a-Ride program, with its long wait times and frequent no-shows, to plan their travel needs, as opposed to being able to hail a cab on the street like people who can walk. Mayor Bloomberg is conveniently ignoring the fact that the cab fleet in London, England, has been totally accessible for over 20 years.

It’s also difficult to imagine why a mayor who claimed, just in his radio broadcast from this past weekend, that job creation is a priority for his administration, would fail to consider that he could potentially get more people who use wheelchairs into jobs if he gave them access to reliable transportation. I wonder if he’s considered the other benefits for the city that come from giving people who use wheelchairs more transportation options: more community involvement and more opportunities to contribute to the city’s economy, from both residents and visitors.

Not to mention, if he’d gone with the V1 as “Taxi of Tomorrow”, Karsan was willing to manufacture it in Brooklyn. Not out of the country.

But I’ve said all this before.

I think that the bottom line is that Michael Bloomberg knows very little about the lives of people with disabilities and doesn’t really care to learn. He’s dismissed that part of his voter base and the people that compose it – their needs, their dreams of being treated as equal to their non-disabled peers, their very civil rights – since the beginning of all this.

But then, Nissan did create a new shade of yellow especially for the “Taxi of Tomorrow”. Maybe I just need to get my priorities straight.

More on this story:  http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-09-20/news/33982803_1_nissan-cab-cab-driver-new-taxi

 

 

 

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