Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Big Victory for Disability Rights

Disabled Veteran Wins Landmark Discrimination Suit Against FBI
Erik Sherman, AOL.Jobs - August 13, 2013

Outstanding news! This has all the elements to be an excellent case study for ADA and disability rights training. It seems like an especially sharp and clear example of a person with a disability being held to an arbitrary and unnecessary physical requirement, not to mention intimidation and gratuitous personal prejudice. It's the kind of situation where a lot of people would start out assuming the FBI was right, but as soon as the specifics are revealed, it becomes clear that they weren't just wrong, they were villains.

Pass The UN Treaty

Obama on Disability Treaty: 'Get It Done' - Disability Scoop
Hellomynameismaddy - August 13, 2013

I've been thinking about writing a pitch for passing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but never seem to find the time and tolerance to deal with the forces of stupid that defeated its ratification by Congress the first time. This linked Tumblr post is a terrific summary that will serve the purpose.

Of course, I just have to add one more point ...

As noted in the post, one of the biggest reasons ratification failed is because homeschoolers … especially Christian conservative homeschoolers … were told that wording in the treaty about "best interests of children" would be used to overrule parents' decisions about raising their children with disabilities. I don't think that it's enough just to point and laugh at this idea. If you have a child with a disability, you don't have to be a fundamentalist Christian or an ideological conservative to develop an ambivalent attitude about government programs and public schools. Let's just say that Special Education as it is practiced is complicated, delicate, often infuriating to deal with, and produces often disappointing results. Which is not to say that it is wrong or evil or corrupt, but that it is difficult, sometimes impersonal and unresponsive, and weighed down by administrative burdens and old paradigms. Lots of parents, frankly, don't trust their schools and the governments that fund them, so it probably doesn't take much in the way of conspiracy theorizing to get their hackles up. Plus, parents of kids with disabilities tend to feel scrutinized and judged even more than most parents, so I think that they are susceptible to political campaigns aimed at fanning their distrust of any sort of authority.

Politicians know this, but they can't say it or even hint at it because they simply can't be heard criticizing or questioning the infallible wisdom of parents. 

It's not the concern that's laughable, but rather the fact that the possibility of this treaty having any of the rumored effects is so remote as to be nearly zero. Meanwhile, around the world, real-life policies and cultural traditions impose truly medieval hells on millions of children with disabilities, sometimes with full support of parents who literally may not know any better, or who have less than zero influence over anything … a level of powerlessness that the most beleaguered advocate in the US can't begin to fathom.

Anything that alleviates this by pointing in a better direction is worth doing.