Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Maria R. Palacios

For today, a link to a powerful performance entitled "Testimony" by Latina feminist poet, author, performer, polio survivor and disability educator, Maria R. Palacios. Here is the transcript:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the cripple of us all? I used to hate my body, cringe at the thought of a mirror, deformities staring at me, pobrecita poor little thing. Ssshh don't look, don't ask, that's when I was cripple girl in a barbie world. Sssh don't talk, she'll never walk. She will never know love, the mirror used to say that, and I used to believe it. Every mirror used to scream at me, there's no prince charming, no magic slipper that fits feet bound by my orthopaedic shoes and the cold embrace of steel against my virgin skin. Who could possibly love me I thought. That was the testimony of a crippled girl. Lost in a pair of shoes, lost behind the sharp blade of words that stabbed and poked and sliced hope into little pieces. The same pieces I picked up one by one until they became me. Mirror mirror on the wall, it took years of soul searching and doubt, lovers that came and went. It took years of empty beds and angry mirrors, nights of solo play beneath the sheets and thousands of sheep to count afterwards. No cigarette to puff, no many chest where poems can rest, after I cum there was none of that, only the silence of hands between my thighs. Nights of wishing to find evidence of a man, the sound of sports, and even socks or a pillow that smelled of cologne. But the men that came and went did not stay long enough to leave their scent on my pillow, to leave the toilet seat up or forget to take the trash out. They were just warm bodies without a name, one size fits all, one night stands Cinderella stories gone flat. No fairy godmother not evil stepmother no curse or spell that could change me back into something I never was. It took years of all that and more, yet my present testimony is a manifesto of self love, reconciliation between mirror and soul. Mirror, mirror on the wall, I became women of deep experience and deep scars,woman of hope. Woman who learned to love the image in the mirror, the uneven angles of misunderstood sexuality, the unruly edges of my physical being. I became woman of words. Mirror mirror on the wall, my imperfections become art, unwinding my twisted roads. You are so beautiful to me. You are so beautiful, that's what I am. Oh mirror friend of mine, I am love, acceptance, forgiveness and beauty edefined. The sacredness of this body, is where my soul resides. I am a temple of love, I don't need a man to make me whole. Yes my testimony is one of survival and strength, an intense love affair with myself, with the woman in the mirror. The one I used to hate to see, the one whose reflection I feared, the one that is now so dear to me. You are so beautiful to me. Mirror mirror on the wall, whose the goddess of us all?
To read more of her work, visit

with thanks for the link to Womanist Musings

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NYT magazine: Harriet McBryde Johnson, a remembrance by Peter Singer

"Happy nevertheless" is the title of this reflection by philosopher Peter Singer about the life of disability rights advocate Harriet McBryde Johnson. It appeared over the weekend in the NYT magazine. Some context: In 2003, Harriet McBryde Johnson wrote a NYT magazine cover story called Unspeakable conversations that described a trip she took to Princeton University to debate Singer over his advocacy for the legalization of selective infanticide of children with disabilities. The cover of the magazine carried a photo of Johnson in her power wheelchair with the headline “Should I have been killed at birth?” Because of their differences, many people in the disability rights movement are angered by the choice of Peter Singer to write this remembrance. Any thoughts?

From the NYT (Dec. 28):

I met Harriet McBryde Johnson in the spring of 2001, when I was giving a lecture at the College of Charleston. Her brand of Southern etiquette prescribed that if you’re not prepared to shoot on sight, you have to be prepared to shake hands, so when I held out mine, she reached up from her powered wheelchair and took it with the three working fingers on her right hand. She added that she was attending my lecture as a supporter of Not Dead Yet, the disability rights organization that a year and a half earlier blockaded Princeton University’s Nassau Hall in protest against my appointment as a professor of bioethics. I told her I looked forward to an interesting exchange.

My lecture, “Rethinking Life and Death,” was a defense of the position that had aroused such vehement opposition. I pointed out that physicians routinely withdraw life support from severely disabled newborns, and I argued that this is not very different from allowing parents to decide, in consultation with their doctors, to end the life of a baby when the child has disabilities so serious that the family believes this will be best for the child or for the family as a whole.

When I finished, Johnson, who was born with a muscle-wasting disease, spoke up. I was saying, she pointed out, that her parents should have been permitted to kill her shortly after her birth. But she was now a lawyer, enjoying her life as much as anyone. It is a mistake, she said, to believe that having a disability makes life less worth living.

Our exchange of views continued for a few minutes in the lecture theater, and by e-mail afterward. Years later, when I read her autobiographical book, “Too Late to Die Young,” I wasn’t surprised to see “arguing hard” listed among the pleasures of her life.

The following year, I invited her to Princeton to speak to a large undergraduate class I was teaching. She accepted but on condition that in public we avoid the informality of using first names that I had, in my Australian way, adopted over e-mail. She was also unwilling to accept the inequality implied in “Professor Singer” and “Ms. Johnson.” I agreed that she could address me as Mr. Singer.

She described the visit to Princeton in “Unspeakable Conversations,” her memorable cover article for this magazine in 2003. She wrote beautifully, her powers of recollection were remarkable (she wasn’t taking notes at the time) and she was more generous to me than I had a right to expect from someone whose very existence I had questioned. She even wrote that she found me good company, as indeed I found her.

After she spoke, I arranged for her to have dinner with a group of undergraduates who met regularly to discuss ethical questions. I sat on her right, and she occasionally asked me to move things to where she could reach them. At one point her right elbow slipped out from under her, and as she was not able to move it back, she asked me to grasp her wrist and pull it forward. I did so, and she could then again reach her food with her fork. I thought nothing of the incident, but when she told some of her friends in the disability movement about it, they were appalled that she had called on me to help her. I’m pleased that she had no difficulty with it. It suggests that she saw me not simply as “the enemy” but as a person with whom it was possible to have some forms of human interaction.

My students talked about Johnson’s visit for a long time, and our conversations stayed with me, too. Her life was evidently a good one, and not just for herself, because her legal work and political activism on behalf of the disabled was valuable to others as well. I know that surveys have found that people living with disabilities show a level of satisfaction with their lives that is not very different from that of people who are not disabled. Have people with long-term disabilities adjusted their expectations downward, so that they are satisfied with less? Or do even severe disabilities really make no difference to our happiness, once we get used to them?

Over the next six years we e-mailed sporadically. If I wrote or spoke on disability issues, she would send me her criticisms, and that would lead to a flurry of e-mail messages that at least clarified the points on which we disagreed. I tried to persuade Johnson that her attribution of rights to humans with severe intellectual disabilities had implications for how we should think about animals too, since they could enjoy their lives as much as, or more than, the people whose right to life she was defending. She didn’t object to the argument but felt she had enough issues to handle without getting into a new area altogether. We found it easier to agree on religion, for neither of us had any, and on our dislike for the direction the country was taking under the presidency of George W. Bush.

According to her sister, Beth, what most concerned Harriet about dying was “the crap people would say about her.” And sure enough, among the tributes to her were several comments about how she can now run and skip through the meadows of heaven. Doubly insulting, first because Johnson did not believe in a life after death, and second, why assume that heavenly bliss requires you to be able to run and skip?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday round-up

A missing roll of quarters led a man with cerebral palsy in Columbia, Ohio, to discover that his caretaker had stolen thousands of dollars from him, 10TV reports.

The Associated Press/Washington Post reports that some patients throughout the nation's psychiatric hospitals are being locked up alone for years, including some that have been strapped down for more than a year. (h/t PatriciaEBauer)

Pennie Fuller, a deaf woman from Sebring in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has won a discrimination lawsuit she filed against a hospital there, alleging it had intentionally discriminated against her on the basis of her disability.

Information about reported abuse and deaths at psychiatric hospitals in North Carolina that used to be public are now being blocked, according to this report from the News Observer.

Stephen Drake from over at Not Dead Yet has posted these thoughts about the recent acquittal of transplant surgeon Hootan Roozrokh on charges that he hastened the death of Ruben Navarro so as to procure his organs.

Cilla Sluga's most recent post, titled "A Whiff of Hope" is recommended reading.

New census data shows that more than 54 million Americans have a disability, according to this Reuters report.

Call Me 'Susan': People with disabilities have names, feelings, is the title of Susan Odgers op ed in Traverse City's (Michigan) Record Eagle. Susan Odgers' (who is a faculty member at Northwestern Michigan College and Grand Valley State University, a board member and past president of Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service Inc., and a wheelchair user) column will appear monthly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy holidays, from FRIDA

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone. I'll be back and posting regularly on Monday 29 December.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just sadness

Upon reading this story. And lots of questions. Why was Naomi George left alone to look after her niece? What help has she been receiving since the death of her father in the mid 1990's? Where was her family, until recently? Why are they only now coming forward to help? Who will be looking over her Naomi now? With medical treatment, Lorna George's wounds would have healed. RIP, Lorna George.

Toledo, Ohio - A 71-year-old woman whose bed-ridden niece died under her care was sentenced Thursday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to three years probation.

Naomi Gorge, 71, of 1812 Ridgewood Ave., pleaded no contest Nov. 3 to one count of reckless homicide. As part of the plea agreement, a second charge of failure to care for a functionally impaired person was dismissed.

Assistant County Prosecutor Jeff Lingo said that the elder George took care of her niece since the younger woman’s father died in the mid-1990s. He said Lorna George was born with a condition known as hydrocephalus, which occurs as a result of excess fluid on the skull, and had been bedridden since birth.

Police were called to the Ridgewood Avenue house after George contacted a funeral home to make arrangements for her niece’s death. According to the coroner’s report, the disabled woman developed sepsis as a result of severe decubitus ulcers, which are open wounds on the outside of her body.

Judge Stacy Cook questioned Deputy Coroner Diane Barnett in court about the younger George’s condition when she died. Dr. Barnett testified that there were a significant amount of sores on the 52-year-old woman’s body, including several where the bone protruded through the ulcer.

Lorna George’s body showed signs consistent with not being moved for extended periods, Dr. Barnett said. She also testified that the sores could have been treated if taken care of properly.

Judge Cook noted that Ms. George, who has a limited mental capacity, was left virtually on her own caring for her disabled niece. She also noted that because of her mental disability, Ms. George was not aware that she was not properly caring for her niece.

Since Ms. George’s arrest earlier this year, family members have come forward to help, including a niece who was in court.

As part of her community control, Ms. George must clean up her house, which was described as a place "where time stood still" because of a lack of modern conveniences and the presence of multiple newspaper clippings from the 1950s and 1960s. She was also ordered to enlist an aide from Adult Protective Services and was told she could not care for anybody else.

Dropped sexual assault charge spurs calls for changes in the laws concerning sexual relations between caregivers and their patients

Kansas City, Missouri - The prosecutor in this case, which is reported here, argues that sexual relations between a caregiver and a patient should be outlawed. Some of the comments in the discussion following the article are in agreement. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Here is an extract from the story:

A nurse’s aide accused of sexually assaulting a severelyrain-damaged patient won’t be prosecuted because the woman could have been capable of consent, Johnson County prosecutors say.

Although a doctor said the woman in her 40s had the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, she could have met the requirements for consent under Kansas law, assistant prosecutor Michael McElhinney said at a court hearing Monday.

The prosecutor’s office dropped a sodomy charge that had been filed against Brent A. Wheeler, 38, of Lawrence. He formerly worked at a Gardner rehabilitation hospital where the incident allegedly took place.

The case illustrates the difficulty of prosecuting cases in which the victim has a mental disability, and some people are calling for a law change that would outlaw sexual relations between caregivers and their patients.

The story in full is here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Criste Reimer: update

Kansas City, Missouri - Stanley Reimer, 52, who pleaded guilty last Friday in connection with the killing of his wife, Criste Reimer, aged 47, in August 2007, has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, according to this report from AHN News. As reported by FRIDA in an earlier post, Criste, who was seriously ill and partially blind, died after Stanley Reimer threw her from the balcony of their four-story apartment because, it is said, he could no longer pay for her medical care.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Stanley Reimer will be eligible for parole in 25 years. The story in full is here. An earlier story is here. Cilla Sluga also has an earlier post about this case here.
Rud Turnbull - Private action and public policy over 41 years

via Patricia E Bauer:

Distinguished Professor in special education and life span studies, Rud Turnbull has written this guest commentary, titled "One family's expression of gratitude and hope, for Patricia E Bauer's disability news and commentary blog. Professor Turnbull is also co-founder and co-director of the Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas. He can be contacted at

Here is an excerpt:

One family’s expression of gratitude and hope

Guest commentary by Rud Turnbull

Now that the nation’s economy is in a recession and government funding of disability programs is problematic, and in light of the comments during the recent presidential campaigns about community organizing and disability policy, it seems appropriate to offer an historical perspective about families, their members with a disability, private action, and public policy.

First, the future of any child with a disability born in this decade is promising largely because of the private action –- the community organizing — that parents of children with disabilities began more than 50 years ago.

Second, it is inconceivable that parents and people with disabilities will ever find respite from creating new or better services and advocating for progressive public policy. To discount that fact is to disrespect, in the most profound of ways, the efforts of advocates past, present, and future.

I know that to be so because our son Jay has intellectual disability, autism, and bi-polar disorder, and because my wife Ann and I have been community organizers for all of his 41 years.

The complete text is here ...

Rape sentencing

Minneapolis - St Paul, Minnesota - An 18-year-old man, Joshua L Smith, has been sentenced to spend 43 years in prison in connection with the "brutal" rape of a teenage girl with developmental and physical disabilities in September 2006, and a 57-year-old woman in January, 2007, the Star Tribune reports. According to the report, the girl, who is now 19, had known Smith since junior high school; she was sexually assaulted by him after he invited her to his home. The woman, now aged 59, did not know Smith; she was sexually assaulted by him in the parking lot of a Salvation Army after she had taken a short cut home.

To read the sobering details of this story, see here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

NC panel recommends reparations for victims of forced sterilization

From the Associated Press:

Raleigh, North Carolina - North Carolina lawmakers pushed Thursday to offer reparations to thousands of victims of a forced sterilization program now recognized as a shameful part of U.S. history.

A state House panel recommended the state give $20,000 to victims of the eugenics program, which sterilized about 7,600 people between 1929 and 1975 who were considered to be mentally handicapped or genetically inferior. Though North Carolina and several other states have apologized for such programs, none have offered reparations.

"Yes, it is ugly. It's not something that we're proud of," said state Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth, who has been working on the issue for several years. "But I'm glad that North Carolina has done more than any other state to step forward and not run away from it."

Lawmakers in the full General Assembly will have to approve the idea. They convene next month.

Illinois was the first state to offer a eugenics program in 1907 as social reformers advocated for a way to cleanse society of the mentally handicapped and mentally ill. Many states curtailed their sterilizations after World War II, recognizing it was similar to the actions taken by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

North Carolina, however, moved ahead aggressively after the war, conducting about 80 percent of procedures after 1945 and growing the program to be the third largest in the nation, behind only California and Virginia.

Most of those sterilized in the 1960s were poor black women.

Willis Lynch, 75, of Littleton was one of the victims. He went through forced sterilization at the age of 14 - not knowing at the time what was happening - and was later frustrated by it.

"I always wanted kids. I love kids," said Lynch, who married a woman with two children. "You wish you could have kids of your own."

He praised the state for finally recognizing its mistake 60 years after he went through the procedure. The bills approved by the committee also suggest providing counseling, creating a historical marker and including information about the eugenics program in public school curriculum.

Rep. Ronnie Sutton, the Democratic chairman of the study committee, said because of the nation's lagging economy, it may not be possible to fully fundthe compensation program with an estimated $18 million that would be needed to cover all surviving victims.

"Anything with money is going to have a hard road to hoe," Sutton said. He suggested that lawmakers may consider funding some of the program in the upcoming session to get it started and finish allocating money at a later date.

Surgeon cleared on charges of speeding the death of his patient during organ extraction

The New York Times reported on Friday that Dr Hootan C Roozrokh has been found not guilty in connection with the death of Ruben Navarro. As reported in earlier posts by FRIDA, Roozrokh has been charged with one count of felony adult abuse for allegedly prescribing too much morphine and the sedative Atvian to Mr Navarro so as to hasten his death so he could procure his organs. Here is an extract from the NYT report:

San Francisco, California - A California transplant surgeon was acquitted on Dec. 18 of a charge that he had intentionally harmed a donor to speed extraction of the patient’s kidney and liver. The verdict closed a case that had drawn widespread attention to the medical, and ethical, complexities of organ transplantation.

The surgeon, Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, was found not guilty of a single felony charge of abuse of a dependent adult, after two other felony charges — administering harmful substances and unlawful prescription — were dropped last spring.

Prosecutors had argued that Dr. Roozrokh, 35, prescribed excessive amount of drugs during a failed harvesting procedure on a brain-damaged donor, Ruben Navarro, in San Luis Obispo, in February 2006.

The doctor’s lawyer, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, had said that Dr. Roozrokh, a surgeon based in San Francisco who had flown in to retrieve the organs, had been trying to ease the patient’s suffering after other doctors failed to perform their duties.

Very best wishes to Ruben's mother, Rose Navarro. RIP, Ruben.

For earlier reports, see:Prosecutor: Doctoherer tried to hasten patient's death, Organ harvest surgeon’s trial begins in SLO

Friday, December 19, 2008

Things to read #6
Announces 2009 NY Budget Proposal
- Researchers and critics say many children with developmental disabilities and autism have been injured or traumatized by being placed in school "seclusion rooms". Teachers say they are educating many more students with disabilities now than ever before, and are not equipped to handle the crush of demands on their time and attention, according to this report from CNN. nill rn Police Search for Robber
- According to Fox News, Richard LaPoint, aged 60, from Epping, New Hamphire, died last week when the power to his oxygen tank was cut off during an ice storm.

- A woman from Derry in Northern Ireland is campaigning for a Bill of Rights that meets the needs of everyone. As reported in the Derry Journal, Elizabeth Zammit, who uses a wheelchair, says "I want to see a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland that will look after me and other people living with a disability. I need to be able to count on basic services like accessible transport, but right now it's too difficult and often not worth the hassle and humiliation. The Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland should set out, in a clear and understandable way, the rights that I am entitled to. Some of the barriers I face every day could be solved by a Bill of Rights – and I'm not alone. One in five people in Northern Ireland has a disability."

- To check out part 5 and 6 of Kay Olsen's "When Wheels Make the Man" series see here and here.

- A woman in Waco Texas has been placed on probation for 10 years after she unintentionally allowed a man with developmental disabilities she was caring for sleep the night outdoors on a fire-ant mound, the Associated Press reports.

- This article from the LA times reports on a Cleveland woman who has recently had a face transplant. It’s the most extensive such operation ever performed and the first in the U.S.

- A 54-year-old Minnesota man is being subjected to electro-convulsive therapy against his will, and is going before a judge in St Paul on December 16 to try and stop the court-ordered procedure. According to this report from Minnesota Public Radio, Ray Sandford has been getting ECT every week or two since May. For more information about Ray, see this post by Kay over at Gimp Parade, and MindFreedom International.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Laura Hershey - "Tell Oscar, No humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis"

That's the title of this post on Facebook by disability activist/advocate, writer and poet Laura Hershey in response to the news that Jerry Lewis will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar Award Ceremony on February 22, 2009. She writes:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on February 22, 2009. Disability rights activists object to this award. During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has helped to perpetuate negative, stereotypical attitudes toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities. Jerry Lewis and the Telethon actively promote pity as a fundraising strategy.

Disabled people want RESPECT and RIGHTS, not pity and charity.

In 1990, Lewis wrote that if he had muscular dystrophy and had to use a wheelchair, he would "just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person." During the 1992 Telethon, he said that people with MD, whom he always insists on calling "my kids," "cannot go into the workplace. There's nothing they can do."

Comments like these have led disability activists and our allies to protest against Jerry Lewis, and against the Telethon. We've argued that the Telethon promotes pity, a counterproductive emotion which undermines our social equality. Here's how Lewis responded to the Telethon protesters during a 2001 television interview: "Pity? You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!"

On February 22, 2009, we won't be staying in our houses watching the Academy Awards. We'll be publicly objecting to this award. We'll be defending our own humanity against this so-called "humanitarian."

For more information about the history of the Telethon protest, go to
Guilty verdict in paratransit rape trial

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - According to the Edmonton Sun, Lyes Kiared, an Edmonton paratransit driver, was found guilty yesterday of sexually assaulting a 40-year-old female passenger who has a physical and developmental disability. He was found not guilty of a second charge of sexual exploitation. Here is an excerpt:

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Stephen Hillier yesterday found Lyes Kiared, 41, guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm after rejecting his testimony as "incredible" and "unbelievable" and simply lacking "any credibility."

Kiared was found not guilty of a second charge of sexual exploitation when the judge ruled he was not in a position of trust due to having only met the victim once before and the attack not happening while she was a passenger.

"Thus, while the accused's acts can rightly be viewed as despicably exploitative of a disabled victim, in my view, the existence of a position of trust in this case has not been established," said Hillier.

As noted in an earlier FRIDA post, the woman testified that Kiared went to her home and sexually assaulted her three days after meeting her for the first time as a passenger in his taxi. A sentencing hearing date will be set on January 30.

The story in full is here. For earlier reports, see here, here and here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recent reports in the media of sexual assault against women with disabilities

Below are some of the cases of sexual assault against women with disabilities reported in the media since December 11. In the following cases, all three women, one aged 24, one 34, the other 18, have developmental disabilities. One male assailant is 21-years-old, the other two, 57; one is a neighbourhood acquantaince, one is a friend of the woman's family, the other, her transport provider.

Manassas, Virginia - A 21-year-old man was arrested on Monday in connection with the sexual assault of a 24-year-old woman with developmental disabilities, it is reported here. Brayan Migdanio Bustillow Fuentes, who lived in the woman's neighborhood and knew him, is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court on February 10. was known to the woman, Brayan Migdanio Bustillo Fuentes, 21, 9933 Portsmouth Rd., was charged with rape and is being held without

Harrisonburg, Virginia - The Daily News Record reports that a 57-year-old former cab driver hired by the family of a 34-year-old woman with Down syndrome to drive her to and from an adult day care has been charged with sexually assaulting her. According to this December 15 report by WHSV News, Ted Smith is charged with aggravated sexual battery and will appear before a trial jury on February 25, 2009.

St. Petersburg, Florida - A 57-year-old man was arrested on December 12 on charges he sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman with developmental disabilities. According to the Tampa Tribune, Benjamin Levy, who was a friend of the woman's family, was being held in jail without bail. Remarkably, Levy was on probation for sexually assaulting a chid younger than 16 in 1997. He has been charged with sexual battery of a disabled person, and also with violating his probation in the 1997 case.

Call for papers - Society for Disability Studies annual conference



The Society for Disability Studies is pleased to announce a call for proposals for its annual convention, to be held June 18-21, 2009, in Tucson, Arizona, at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort. The theme for this convention is “It’s ‘Our’ Time: Pathways to and From Disability Studies—Past, Present, Future.” Time, in all its forms, conceptualizations, and manifestations, will be the central focus of the conference, though proposals on any topic relevant to Disability Studies are welcomed. We imagine a number of different ways of approaching the issue of time, a concept critical to all aspects of disability experience and culture:

Cultural: Is there such a thing as“disability time”? How do different cultural constructions and experiences of time affect people with disabilities?

Economic: How is time a form of “capital,” both for people with disabilities and those involved in the “disability industry?” For people with disabilities who must interact with ableist norms of time in the labor force?

Political: What is disability’s “moment in 2009, a time when, whatever the outcome of elections in the U.S. and elsewhere, “change,” a temporal and political idea, is declaimed and echoed in much rhetoric. What current issues are particularly “timely” for disability studies—and how are such issues tied to past and future?

Educational: How do issues of time, including controversies around and resistance to accommodations around time for people with disabilities, play themselves out in educational environments?

Psychological/Philosophical: What does phenomenology’s enduring interest in internal time consciousness have to offer to understanding the intersection of disability experience and cross-ability inter-subjectivity? How is individual experience of time related to such realms as social and community psychology? Do different disabilities lead to different psychologies and/or philosophies of time?

Historical: History is, in a sense, the “biggest” unit of time. How do different eras view the role of time in disability experience? What is the relationship between disability history and temporality? Both studies of specific historical moments of disability and cross-historical studies are welcome.

The Arts: How is time represented in literary, visual, musical, performing, and mediated forms of art? How are questions of duration and endurance crucial to the roles of artists with disabilities in the social and cultural domains of the arts?

Medicine/Science: How do issues of longevity, physical and psychological capability,and social regulation of the lives of people with disabilities affect access and opportunities? How are medicine and science reconfiguring time and creating new conceptions of futures?

These are only suggestions of possible directions proposals around the convention theme might take—we imagine members will go off in many more directions as well. After all, it’s “our” time.

PROPOSALS ARE DUE NO LATER THAN JANUARY 15, 2009. For specifics about formats and submission guidelines, see the SDS conference website.

Conference co-chairs for the 2009 convention are: Christine McCohnell, Ramapo College ofNew Jersey, Joan Ostrove, Macalester College, and Bruce Henderson, Ithaca College.

Questions may be directed to the co-chairs at

Proposals will be reviewed by the conference Program Committee: Christine Komoroski-McCohnell, Bruce Henderson, Joan Ostrove (co-chairs); Shilpaa Anand, Susan Baglieri, Christopher Bell, Allison Carey, Michael Chemers, Jim Ferris, Deborah Little, Carol Marfisi, Akemi Nishida, Michael Rembis, and Cindy Wu.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New blog: The Review of Disability Studies - An International Journal

Some readers mentioned having difficulties accessing the Review of Disabilities Studies blogspot. So I am posting a link to it again, here ... The blog is published by the Center on Disability Studies at University of Hawaii; recent topics include "Moving Disability Studies Forward", "Normals and Crazies", and "Youth Suicide."
Sentencings for sexual assault

Mead Valley, California - A 57-year-old man who sexually assaulted at least nine women he took to his home between 2001 and 2005, most of whom have developmental disabilities, was sentenced last Friday to 965 years in prison. The disturbing details of the case against Peter Frances Milosavjevi, who remarkably, had previous convictions in 1983 and 1995 for raping and brutalizing women, are here.

Ithaco, New York - A 65-year-old man has been sentenced to spend one year in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl with developmental disabilities, the Ithaca Journal reports. According to the assistant district attorney, Bernard A. Lamphere singled out and lured the girl, who has suffered nightmares and is afraid to be alone since the incident, to his home by promising to show her his stuffed animal collection. He was sentenced to one year in jail for endangering the welfare of a child and 90 days in jail for third-degree sexual abuse, to be served concurrently.
Sam Spiteri can keep his pony

That's the good news from The Star in Canada. Here are the details:

Sam Spiteri, a 3-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, won't have to give up his beloved pony, Emily, Caledon Town Council ruled Dec. 10.

After a dispute stemming from a neighbour's complaint in August about the pony's smell, Sam's mom, Antonia, made her case before council Dec. 10.

The issue centred on a zoning bylaw; the Spiteris' property was rezoned from rural farm to rural residential in 2006, meaning they were to house no livestock.

But after national media attention and letters of support from as far away as Finland and Australia, council had no objections, Spiteri said, as long as the family took adequate care of the pet.

Sam received the pony when he was 6 months old and started riding before his first birthday.

The family began a collection for the $800 fee to appear before council, but after receiving more than that from supporters, Spiteri says she'll put the money toward helping disabled people acquire animal-assisted therapy.

"I don't know if he realizes she's a pony. To him, she's just a friend.

Once I explained Emily gets to stay all he wanted to do was go home to her."

Governor Paterson - Saturday Night Live skit

There's a post here by Ms Cripchick about the SNL skit portraying NY's blind governor as a befuddled leader. And a post by dsobsey over a ICAD here. There's also coverage here by JFA that includes links to articles in the media.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Call for Papers - Journal for Disability and International Development - Women with Disabilities

Journal for Disability and International Development - Call for Contributions
Issue 01-2009
Deadline: 31.01.2009

Topic: Women with Disabilities: Identification and Participation in the Women's and Disability Movement

Since the early 1990s, women with disabilities have increasingly been calling for the recognition and inclusion of the gender dimension to disability, both in disability politics and in the women's movement.

The women's movement as such has been emphasising on the multiple dimensions that make up the diverse situations of women around the world. While it therefore could have been key to addressing the specific concerns of women with disabilities, it has fallen short of acknowledging disability as an added liability in the past. As such, disability has long been ignored by the
mainstream women's movement both in theory and practice.

At the same time, the disability movement has, in its beginnings, conveyed disability as a homogeneous aspect: In its efforts to bring disability to the public's attention, individual diversities in impairments and other dimensions to disability such as the gender dimension, were largely neglected which finally led to limited agendas, excluding women with disabilities over long periods.

Where do we stand now and how has the situation for women with disabilities changed?

Since recent years the international legal framework for women with disabilities has changed positively. Global and regional networks of disabled women have been formed and are now actively promoting their agenda in both the women's as well as the disability movement. Stakeholders of both movements are increasingly engaging in dialogue or are openly recognising and even including the perspective of women with disabilities.

This issue 01-2009 of the Journal of Disability and International Development intends to look at how these changes have been translated into practice and how these developments have impacted on the identification and participation of women with disabilities in both movements.

Suggestions for contributions:

We welcome contributions especially with a regional or country-specific perspective on:

- What are lessons learned/success stories in bringing/including women with disabilities onto the agenda of both movements?

- How does culture influence the promotion and perception of the rights of women with disabilities in these movements?

- What are barriers for women with disabilities in becoming active participants/actors in the disability and/or women's movement? Which developments have the disability and/or women's rights movement undergone with regards to women with disabilities?

- What are ways and means for ensuring the integration of the rights of disabled women and participation of disabled women in these movements?

- What is the impact of these developments on identity and self-perception of women with disabilities as individuals as well as in organisations?

- What are the developments with regard to women with disabilities in these movements in the academic field/research and teaching?

- What has been the influence of including a gender dimension in disability and development on the policy and programming work of international development organisations, especially those working in the field of disability in development of women in development?


Dr. Christiane Noe:

Susanne Wilm:

The Journal for Disability and International Development is published by the forum 'Disability and International Development,' and is available online at:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Look for FRIDA Blog

Hi readers, as you can tell, the FRIDA blog has been updated. The reason for this is so that we could have an updated Blogger template that will allow us to more easily teach new FRIDAs how to manage the website. Previously, updates were made by digging around in code, which is way more complicated than the newer version where we can add links using forms, and tricks using widgets/gadgets. Plus, we have at the top the picture of FRIDA and friends in front of the Dorothy Dixon home in Alton. Look for a few new changes over the next couple of days, and feel free to provide feedback! Thank you for your patience!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Subscribe to the FRIDA Blog!

For those who have been following Linda's excellent and diligent blogging at this site, you now have the option of subscribing to posts via e-mail using the link at the top of the right sidebar. Now that we have had more than 25,000 visitors to the site, obviously we need to provide the option of e-mail updates to interested parties. We are also coming up on the 3 year anniversary of this blog, and we're way overdue for e-mail alerts!

Linda, thank you for your vigilance in posting. We are indebted to your work keeping us feminists with disabilities informed about issues that affect us. You, and all FRIDA blog readers, are the big reason we have had 25,000 visitors so far. FRIDA Power!!!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Things to read #5

- A report by a disabililty rights group finds that Wisconsin continues to use physical restraints on children even after the practice led to the death of a 7-yer-old girl at a treatment facilitytwo ears ago, the Milwaukee [WI] Journal Sentinel reported. The girl died from asphyxiation in 2006, a day after being wrestled to the ground and held down face first in a chokehold for over an hour by caregivers at the Rice Lake Day Treatment Center.

- A blind woman was turned away from a Indian restaurant in Exeter, Britain, for having a guide dog because it was deemed a health and safety hazard. Emma Donnelly, 20, was told that her dog Yasmin was a health and safety hazard and was not even allowed in the door of the restaurant. She was turned away even though she carries a card issued by the environmental health department certifying she and Yasmin are allowed into any premises. Ms Donnelly has now complained to the disability rights commission and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association which is supporting her case. Full details here ...

- A trial started for an Illinois teacher accused of physically abusing three autistic students, the Chicago Tribune reported. According to prosecutors the 32-year-old male teacher dragged students around his classroom and once slammed a child's head into a cabinet after he overturned a desk. He also allegedly forced a student to wear a weighted vest and bounce on a trampoline for 40 minutes.

- Bint Alshamsa over a My Private Casbah wrote this post titled "That's right, Caledon! Screw the Disabled Kid, right?" about a three-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who has been asked by the Caledon town committee to give up his miniature pony after a neighbour complained about the smell.

- Canada's paralympian Chantal Petitclerc has been named winner of the 2008 Lou Marsh Award. The award, named fter a longtime Toronto Star sports editor, goes to Canada's top athlete, either professional or amateur, as judged by a panel of journalists and sports figures. Petitclerc won five gold medals and set three world records at the Beijing Paralympics. More details here ...

- Check out the latest Review of Disability Studies blog entries here. Topics include "Moving Disability Studies Forward", "Normals and Crazies", and "Youth Suicide."

- Thaddeus Pope from the blogspot Medical Futility wrote a post about a February 2009 symposium to be held by the Georgia State University Law Review The 25th Anniversary of the Baby Doe Rules: Perspectives from the Fields of Law, Health Care, Ethics, and Disability Policy. Nationally-prominent experts in the fields of neonatal medicine, law, ethics, and disability policy will explore controversial issues involved in treatment decisions for premature and other medically at-risk infants. Speakers include Mark Mercurio, Burke Balch, Sadath Sayeed, Tom Mayo, Mary Crossley, Loretta Kopelman, Robert Truog, Ellen Waldman, and William Winslade. A highly publicized and controversial case involving the withholding of medical treatment from a “Baby Doe” with Down syndrome gave rise in 1984 to the federal law known as the Baby Doe Rules, which went into effect the following year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Couple charged with neglect and abuse of sibling

Johnstown, Pennsylvania - A western Pennsylvania couple were charged on Tuesday with abusing and neglecting an 18-year-old developmentally disabled brother, the Tribune Democrat reports. According to police, Christopher Lee Shoopman, 25, and Dawn Michelle Schrock, 19, would punish her brother, Matthew Schrock, for infractions like talking back to them, or having his music too loud:

The brother would be locked up in the closet, beaten and forced to do push-ups and sit-ups, Johnstown police said.

His meals were skipped. The brother, at 6-foot 5, was admitted to Memorial Medical Center and weighed 118 pounds.

Police said his left facial area was bruised and swollen, multiple bruises dotted his arms and legs, with blood “around his mouth and stuck to his front teeth.”

An officer at the scene said the victim “appeared to be exceptionally thin and frail, noting bones protruding from his frame.”

According to this story in this morning's Post Gazette, Mr Schrock was still in the hospital yesterday. A 6-month-old boy, who was also found in the home, and described as being "malnourished," is now in the care of his father.

Christoper Shoopman and Dawn Schrock have been charged with false imprisonment, neglect of a care-dependent person, unlawful restraint, criminal conspiracy and reckless endangerment. Ms Schrock also faces various charges in connection with the treatment of her brother and neglecting the care of her 6-month-old boy. Ms. Schrock, who has already waived her right to a preliminary hearing, is expected to post bond soon. Mr. Shoopman is being held in jail in lieu of $75,000 bond. The full details are here and here.

Best wishes to Matthew, and to the baby, for a speedy recovery and for lots of love in the future.
Two reports of sexual abuse against women with disabilities

In both cases, the alleged male assailants are co-workers of the women; one of the men is 49-yeras-old, the other, 62. One of the women is 25-years old and has developmental disabilities. The age of the second woman and and nature of her disability has not been released.

Novato, California - Yesterday, CBS5 reported the arrest last Saturday of a man for allegedly raping a 25-year-old women with developmental disabilities inside her home. According to a police sargeant, 49-year-old Darrel Pitchford, who is a grocery clerk, and the woman were "acquintances" who worked together. Pitchford is being held under $100,000 at Marin County jail. The full story is here ...

Marin County, California - Marin News reported the arrest on Tuesday of a 62-year-old Ismael Sagastume in connection with the sexual assault of disabled co-worker at a Corte Madera health club. According to the report, the alleged assault happened in a "secluded employee only area" of the club, beginning in 2002 and contuining until last month. Sagastume was expected to appear in court on Wednesday (yesterday). More details are here ...

Austin, Texas: advocates disrupt state meeting to protest conditions at state schools

A report by the Dallas News about yesterday's protest is here. An Associated Press report from December 2, 2008, about the findings from the investigation is here.

The following excerpt about yesterday's protest comes from this report in the Houston Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Angered by reports of deaths and abuse of residents in Texas institutions for the mentally disabled, more than a dozen activists disrupted a meeting Wednesday of the state agency that oversees the facilities to demand changes.

Chanting "Fifty-three murders on your watch!" and "People are dying, shame on you!" the group waved signs and shouted over attempts to restore order at the advisory council meeting of the Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Agency security was called to the room and the protest peacefully ended up after about 10 minutes.

A federal Department of Justice report released last week found at least 53 patients in Texas' large residential facilities died in 2007 from preventable conditions that were often the result of lapses in care.

It concluded that the Texas facilities violate residents' rights and called the number of injuries to patients "disturbingly high."

"We wanted to call attention to the horrific civil rights abuses at our state institutions," said Jeff Garrison-Tate, president of the Community Now! group that organized the protest.

"There are 53 people who died from preventable causes. We call that murder. People with family members with disabilities are tired of it," he said.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Update on the investigation into the death of Jean Lemire

Barre, Vermont - The state body investigating the agency that hired Julie Davis, the caregiver accused of neglect in connection with the death by dehydration on August 9, 2008, of 47-year-old Jean Lemire, who was developmentally disabled, says it did nothing wrong in the incident, the Times Argus reports. According to Joan Senecal, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Disability, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), the agency, Lincoln Street, took all the necessary steps to vet Davis when they hired her, including five background checks and three reference checks, and has not been found negligent.

As reported here by the press on November 1, Julie Davis is charged with abuse and neglect to a vulnerable adult by a caregiver for failing to provide Jean Lemire with medical attention, food, drink and shelter for six days, resulting in Ms Lemire death from hyerthermia soon afterwards. She faces up to 15 years in prison.

The Times Argus also notes that Ms Lemire was the second person with developmental disabilities to die while in Julie Davis' care. According to court records and Joan Senecal, Doug Lafrance died of pneumonia on Davis' watch, but that incident didn't prevent her from continuing to be a caregiver. As Ms Senecal explains:

"We take on lots of people with compromised medical and health conditions," said Senecal. "Many of these people are very frail and have lots of medical problems. It does happen once in awhile."

Yes, but two deaths while under the watch of the same caregiver?

Buffalo, New York: beating and robbery of disabled boy reported

Yesterday, the Buffalo News reported the beating and robbery on Monday of a developmentally disabled boy by two men, at least one of whom is high school age. According to the report, they took the boy's sweatshirt. No further details, including the age of the boy, are presently available.
Call for papers: Bodily Differences - Social and Scientific Technologies of Self-Making

May 8 & 9, 2009
Laurentian University
Ontario, Canada

"I mean for us to embrace our myriad of bodily differences, to understand our lives as ordinary and familiar from the inside, even as we’re treated as curious, exotic, unbelievable, deceptive, threatening from the outside..... I mean for us to embrace our bodily differences while never forgetting the ways in which the world privileges some bodies and marginalizes others. Bodily difference as neither good nor bad, but as a simple fact of life: gender wrapping around sexuality hanging onto race compounding class pulling at disability, all of it finally piling into our tender, resilient human bodies where the answers are ultimately not about doctors, even for those of us who transition, but about self love, community, and liberation" (Eli Clare 2007).

“Bodily difference” is never natural: how bodies are made different from one another has always to do with the social worlds into which they enter and by which they are shaped. Theorists from Aristotle to Marx and from Darwin to Haraway have explored the relationships among worlds, skills, machines, social practices, and bodies. This conference seeks to unpack the social and scientific technologies through which “difference” becomes socially significant. In diverse ways, there has been important work on how machines are made to fit bodies and how bodies in turn are shaped in relation to machines, as well as on questions of how technology is social, and how the social world is technological. Technologies are themselves embedded in circuits of capitalism and colonialism, sometimes best expressed in current connections between science funding and science practice. Understanding embodiment requires us to contemplate complex systems from the lab to the clinic to the media outlet to the library to the university classroom and beyond. We invite papers that explore questions such as:

. How can scientists and people in science studies have meaningful dialogue?

. How is scientific knowledge-making racialized?

. Is it possible to “do” science within capitalist models of science-as-enterprise without succumbing to capital’s imperatives? In a world where funding agencies and private partnerships determine which work gets done, how might we resist capitalism in the practice of science?

. How are classificatory practices important to the production of social worlds?

. How are social practices, like pronoun use and gender recognition, technologies for shaping gender?

. What do current research practices in medicine teach us about the gendered body?

Since temporary able-bodiedness is a product of our social worlds, how can we better work with bodily difference as, in Eli Clare’s words, a simple fact of life?

. How are cross-species bodily differences shaped, torqued, and understood? How might such differences shift our understandings of what it is to count as human?

. How are sex and gender integrated into biological and medical research? How are such differences not incorporated into these realms?

We hope for this conference to be a site for engaged cross-pollination and active discussion, and invite panel proposals and papers that foreground this kind of work. Presentations do not have to take standard academic form. Please send 250 word abstracts by February 15th, 2009 to Alexis Shotwell (

Alexis Shotwell Assistant
Professor Department of Philosophy
Laurentian University
935 Ramsey Lake Road Sudbury
Ontario P3E 2C6
705-675-1151 ext. 3709

(this cfp was sent to my women's studies list serv from Shana L. Calixte, Women's Studies Program, Laurentian University,

Financial program coordinator pleads guilty to stealing from his clients

Courant News reports that a 33-year-old Burlington man has pleaded guilty to charges that he stole thousands of dollars from eleven people with developmental disabilities in Torrington group homes. According to police, the man, who worked as a program coordinator overseeing their finances, took more than $23,000 from their bank accounts and social security payments. The man, who will have to pay the money back to his victims, will be sentenced Feb. 13.

The full story is here ...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Jaylen Brown update

Chicago, Illinois - One of the two home-health care nurses charged with neglect in connection with the death earlier this year of 13-year-old Jaylen Brown has had her nursing license suspended, the Chicago Tribune reports. According to the report:

A nurse charged with felony neglect of a disabled person and failure to report a neglected child in connection with the death earlier this year of a 13-year-old disabled boy has had her practical nursing license suspended, according to the October discipline report released today by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Morris Lee Brinkley, 73, one of Jaylen Brown's two home health-care nurses, was charged last month along with his mother, Kesheia Phillips, 29, and Loren Brown, 49, a second nurse who is not related to the boy.

Loren Brown's nursing license, is still active, it is reported, which means that action has yet to be taken in her case.

Readers might recall an earlier FRIDA post that reported on the death in May of Jaylen Brown, who had cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities, of complications from neglected "bone-deep bedsores." Jaylen died at Chicago's La Rabida Children's Hospital, two months after doctors and nurses alerted authorities that he was suffering from neglect and malnourishment after his mother brought him in with a breathing problem. His mother and two health-care nurses were charged initially with felony neglect of a person with a disability and for failing to report a neglected child. However, now that Jaylen's death has been ruled a homicide, police are considering more serious charges against the women.

Earlier reports about this heartbreaking story are here and here.

"Got Milk?"

Here is a link to a post by Cilla Sluga over at Big Noise that reviews Milk, the newly released movie about Harvey Milk, an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. In the following excerpt, Cilla identifies a number of convergences between Milk's story and activism and the disability rights community:

Milk urged gays and lesbians to come out. That was a brave thing to do in the 70s when no anti-hate laws existed and gay bashing was a red-neck sport. He believed that if gays came out, then people would understand that we all have the same wants and needs.

Coming out means more than having people see your disability. It means becoming more visible; speaking up and speaking out. Show yourselves to be part of the disability community and that you want what we all are entitled to.

If you find yourself unable to get into an inaccessible building... climb on your metaphorical soap box and let people know, "This building is inaccessible!" Make the
phone call, write the letter.

Enlist your family into the fight for equal rights. Ask your neighbors to join you. Join or form an organization dedicated to fighting back.

Cilla's full review, a highly recommended read, is here ....
Siblings accused of making their sister live in a shed will go to trial

Redwood City, California - The siblings of a 58-year-old woman with developmental disabilities who are accused of making her live in a shed in their home's back yard will go to trial, the San Mateo Times reports:

Bertha Lozano, 46, and her 53-year-old brother, Jesus Ramirez, kept their mildly mentally disabled sister in an 8-by-12-foot metal shed while stealing her disability checks and neglecting to provide her with adequate care, prosecutors say.

Their sister, 58, who is diagnosed with mild mental retardation and a psychotic disorder, initially told police she had been living in the shed since 1980 but later said she had been there since 2001.

Among the items found in the shed were a mattress with a thin blanket, a portable toilet unattached to running water and a space heater, a San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy testified during a preliminary hearing held for Lozano and Ramirez on Wednesday.

A Barbie doll and a coloring book were also present in the shed, which is described as being "relatively well-kept."

As reported in an earlier FRIDA post, the woman told police that she lived in the shed because their was no room for her inside the house, which housed her brother, her sister and apprently, seven pit bull terriers. Lozano and Ramirez are expected to return to court on Dec. 18. They are each charged with one count of neglect of a developmentally disabled person and one count of embezzling funds from someone under their care.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Magi Klages is a Brownie again

I'm on the run this morning, but I've got time to post the news that 8-year-old Magi Klages is a Brownie again, thanks to her former troop leader, Dina Johnston, and the Girl Scouts organization. As reported by FRIDA last week, Magi was asked not to return to a Girl Scout Brownie troop for girls with special needs in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, after attending one meeting because she was considered a risk to other girls with physical disabilities. Writing in Friday's Journal Sentinel, Laurel Walker reports that:

Anita Rodriguez, vice president for organizational strategy at the southeast Girl Scouts chapter, said, “The bottom line for us is we do not discriminate and the Girl Scouts did not kick her out” but worked to find a solution.

Unfortunately, she said, the special needs troop that was tailored to the sedentary needs of the other three girls, including one with brittle bone disease, has disbanded after three meetings because parents and leaders were “uncomfortable with the publicity and how they were portrayed.”

Maybe the arrangement wasn’t a good fit for Magi and the others. Clearly, better communication and understanding all the way around was in order.

For Magi and her family, good news indeed. Full story is here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hate crime charges for man accused of money scam

From WTMJ Newsradio:
Burlington, Wisconsin - A man from Burlington, accused of scamming money from a mentally disabled woman, has been charged with committing hate crimes.

Police say James Gustafson called a mentally disabled woman and pretended to be her dead father.

The woman told police that someone claiming to be a psychic called her and said that her late father wanted to talk to her.

After believing she had talked with her father, the psychic told her if she wanted to talk to him again, she needed to give Gustafson money.

He has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor theft by false representation, both of which have the hate crime enhancer attached.

The Racine Journal Times says the man is accused of targeting her because of her disability.

See also Man accused of scamming mentally disabled woman
Things to read #4

Disaboom has a post about a new UK film, Special People, which stars disabled actors and has caused a controversy because the British film classification board has given it a 12A rating warning people that it "contains disability themes." See also this post by the blogger over at Hoyden About Town and this report by the BBC.

Oconomowoc, Wisconsin - The ABC reports on the rejection of 8-year-old Magi Klages, who has autism, from the Girl Scouts special-needs troop, because, her parents were told, she was a "danger" to the group's other children who all have physical disabilities. (h/t to Media dis&dat)

The Los Angeles Times has this review of a new film, The Black Balloon, which revolves around the relationship between a 16-year-old teenager, Thomas, and his older brother, Charlie, who is autistic, has ADHD and is mute. The film, which opens this Friday (Dec 5), is directed by Australian filmmaker Elissa Down, whose youngest brother is autistic.

The Australian Center for Sexual Assault has recently released a report which identifies, amongst other things, the additional difficulties women with disabilities in Australia face in disclosing sexual crimes. The entire report is here.

Disabled? Watch this and you won't think so - The title of a thoughtful post over at What Sorts of People that reflects on a popular YouTube video featuring a dance piece by Chinese dancers Ma Li (spelling?), who lost her arm in a car accident, and Jai Shau Wai (spelling?), who lost his leg while still a child.

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a ruling requiring airlines to provide an extra seat to obese and disabled passengers. More here at Body Politic.
Two teen girls charged with abusing nursing home residents

Albert Lea, Minnesota - The Associated Press reports that two teenage girls who worked as part-time aides at a Good Samaritan Society nursing have been charged with abuse, accused of taunting, spitting on and groping residents who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, the girls, aged 18 and 19, laughed earlier this year as they spat in residents' mouths, poked and groped their breasts and genitals, and at times mocked them until they screamed. Both girls have been charged as adults. Four other teens who worked with them were charged as juveniles for failing to report the incidents. A total of eight teens were allegedly involved in the incidents, but there was no record of criminal charges being filed against two of them. If found guilty, the girls "most likely will face suspended jail sentences and probation." The Minnesota Department of Health released a report in August showing that 15 residents with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia disorders were abused at the facility between Jan. 1 and May 1. According to the complaint filed Monday, one of the aides said the group gathered at work or school to "talk and laugh about the incidents."

Full story here ...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Koreans protest suspended sentences for family charged with incest

Cheongju, South Korea - Thousands of Koreans have signed an on-line petition protesting a judge's decision to release four male family members who repeatedly sexually abused a 16-year-old girl with developmental disabilities. As reported by FRIDA earlier this week, a Korean court convicted the girl's grandfather and three uncles of sexually molesting her from 2001 to May of this year. But in his ruling, the judge handed down a three-year suspended sentence to three of the men and an 18-month suspended sentence to the other, because, he explained, the girl "needs continuous support and help from the accused, who are her family members.” Outrage at the judge's ruling has been immense. An internet based petition has gather more than 16,000 electronic signatures protesting the courts decision and hopes to collect 30,000 signatures by December 19th. As reported in the JoongAng Daily, protesters are calling for the impeachment of Judge Oh Jun-keun, and prosecutors are appealing the sentence. Here is a quote from the report:

“This is just unacceptable,” said Lee Eun-sang, deputy director of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center. “Heavier punishments are handed down when a sex crime victim is a family member or a child or a disabled person. And in this case the victim fits all three categories. Yet the judge still spared the offenders from jail.”
For more information about this case, see this post by ICAD, and this post over at NTS are Weird. For readers who would like to respond to an ICAD poll on sentencing in this case, a Suspended Sentences Poll is here.
Palo Alto, California: woman killed while crossing the street in her wheelchair

Palo Alto, California - A 66-year-old woman was struck and killed while she was crossing a street in her wheelchair by a woman driving a small sport utility vehicle in Palo Alto on Tuesday, CBS News reports. Phyllis Seidman, who had multiple sclerosis, was struck while crossing Cowper Street at Embarcadero Road around 3:15 p.m. The driver of the SUV was headed north on Cowper Street when the accident happened. Ms Seidman was taken to the hospital where she died about six hours later. According to police, Ms Seidman had at least one daughter and was known to travel the city in her wheelchair with a white dog that died earlier this year. The driver and her son were not injured.

The full report is here ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Denver post article: parents of children with autism "risk hitting a breaking point"

Yesterday's Denver Post ran a story with the title "Autism’s terrible toll: Parents risk hitting a breaking point" about 13-year-old Jacob Grabe, who had Asperger's Syndrome, and was allegedly shot and killed in early September by his father, Alex Grabe, while he was sleeping. The article recalls and lists “similar chilling stories of sudden parental breakdowns have played out in the U.S. in the past several years,” including Katie McCarron, Ulysses Stable and Kyle Dutter, who was shot and killed by his father, who then killed himself, earlier this month. The full story is here ....

For a thoughtful critique of the Denver Post article, see posts here and here by Prof. Dick Sobsey from ICAD, who argues, amongst other things, that the stresses and challenges of parenting a child with a disability can never be an excuse for abuse or murder, and to think otherwise is both wrongheaded and dangerous. Here is an excerpt:

The idea that we can explain child abuse or child murder as a product of child characteristics is neither supported by research or useful.

If Ms. Lofholm wrote a story about how stressful it was for husbands to have independent women as wives and how some of them just snap under the stress and kill or abuse their wives, I hope there would be a lot of feedback on why this kind of thinking is both wrongheaded and dangerous. If she wrote an article on how some bigots find it extremely “maddening” to see people among racial minorities asserting their equal rights, and sometimes they just snap and commit hate crimes, I hope that most people would take exception. Of course, it is true that abusive or homicidal husbands often find their wives’ independent behavior to be a source of stress, and it is also true that some bigots consider minority members “who don’t know their place” to be at blame for driving them to violence… but this does not make their crimes any more excusable. Blaming a child or a child’s disability for the parent’s violence is no more rationale and no more excusable.

I do empathize with parents of children with autism and other disabilities, who sometimes face a lot of stress and often lack adequate supports. I have great respect, and I am happy to celebrate those who face these challenges. Those who respond to those challenges with abuse or murder, are no better or worse than other child abusers or child murderers. The truth is that most children who are murdered are murdered by a parent (60 to 80% of child murderers) and most parents who kill their children are stressed over something whether or not the child has a disability.

While many people believe that abuse of children with disabilities is somehow related to the stress that they cause their parents, this theory is not consistent with research or common sense. A classic study by Mary Benedict and colleagues measured stress in families of children with severe disabilities and and also kept data on child maltreatment. She did find that some families experienced high levels of stress and that significant numbers of children with disabilities were abused, but there was no relationship between stress level and abuse. Also, the excessive-stress-and-I-just snapped theory does nothing to explain why sexual abuse of children with disabilities is increased by as large a margin as physical abuse.

A link to the ICAD blog is here ....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Korean girl still to be cared for by family who sexually abused her

Here is the story in full as reported in the Korea Times:

Cheongju, Korea - A Court handed down suspended jail terms to four family members who repeatedly raped a teenage relative who suffered from an intellectual disability.

The Cheongju District Court Thursday sentenced an 87-year-old grandfather and two uncles of a 16-year-old girl to four-year suspended prison terms for sexually assaulting and raping the girl for the last seven years. Another uncle received a three-year suspended jail term.

The court acknowledged that their crime was "sinful'' as they used the young girl, who is their family member, to satisfy their sexual desires. But it gave the suspended terms, saying, "The accused have fostered the girl in her parents' place. Considering her disability, she will also need their care and help in living in the future.''

The court added it took the accused people's old age and illness into consideration.

Citizens strongly denounced the ruling, saying the punishments were too lenient for the grave crime. Internet users said it is absurd to release them to "take care of her,'' as she needs help from others, not from rapists. They also said those committing such a crime do not deserve consideration regarding old age or illnesses.

Some bloggers are collecting signatures to oust the judge who made the ruling. The prosecution also decided to appeal. "One of them even has a previous conviction for rape but was given a suspended term. The ruling is unacceptable,'' a prosecutor said.

As Kay over at Gimp Parade notes in her post about the case, a discussion of the disability aspect of it is largely missing; in her research, Kay found that although Korean bloggers have been circulating it for about a week now, discussion of it appears to be centred on their outrage at how poor the judicial system is at punishing sexual assault. It's incredulous this girl will remain with the family who have abused her. Are there no other options for her care? Has someone been assigned to look out for her when she returns home? How could this go on for seven years?

h/t to Prof. Dick Sobsey over at ICAD.
Buffalo, New York - police report the rape of a disabled woman

Police are investigating the rape of a woman with physical and developmental disabilities in her West side home, the Buffalo News reports. Apparently, the woman, thinking the assailant was her brother, inadvertently let him into her home through a back door just after midnight last Tuesday. Family members have been interviewed and an investigation is ongoing. The full story is here.
Care facility worker pleads guilty to sexually assaulting two women

Wood County, Texas - 63-year-old James Owen Spurlock has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two women with developmental disabilities at Touchstone Farms resident care facility where he worked and both women lived. One of the women is 38-years-old, and the other, 24-years-old. According to KLTV, one of the women told her family that Spurlock was "using sex to help prepare her for marriage." Spurlock will be formally sentenced on January 13, 2009, and faces 20 years in prison for each charge.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Justin Hamilton update

Dakota County, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA - In early October, FRIDA reported on the kidnapping, assault and torture by four men and one woman of 24-year-old Justin Hamilton, who has developmental disabilities. According to reports in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, the female defendant, Natasha Dahn, 16, pleaded guilty last Wednesday to two-counts of kidnapping, third degree assault, and aggravated robbery in connection with assault of Mr Hamilton. Ms Dahn will serve 60 to 90 days in youth detention before spending a year in a residential counselling program. She will remain on probation until she turns 21, and is ordered to pay restitution and apologize to Mr Hamilton. She is also expected to testify against the four other defendants. Dahn admitted that she had lied to her boyfriend before the beatings, saying that Mr Hamilton had assaulted her; she and four men then lured him to a remote area where they tortured him "for hours" on October 10 and 11. As reported by FRIDA, Mr Hamilton was kicked and beaten more than 100 times, tied to a tree and burned repeatedly with a lighter. For earlier reports, see here and here.