Monday, December 2, 2013

Guilty Pleasure?

This holiday weekend, I’ve been binge-watching a semi-legendary British comedy from the early 2000s called, “The IT Crowd”. It’s not the greatest British comedy I’ve ever seen, but Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade are hilarious, and the whole thing has this strange undercurrent of the surreal that makes it’s rather obvious jokes a little more memorable.

Last night I saw Season 2, Episode 1, “The Work Outing”, which made me laugh longer and harder than any of the episodes I’ve seen so far … but also confused the hell out of me in how it used disability themes.

I have set up the embedded video to start where the disability stuff starts, when Roy decides to use “the disabled” restroom …

The reason I’m confused is that I’m pretty sure this is an offensive portrayal of disability. On the other hand, I read it as a sly satire of peoples’ sentimental attitudes towards disabled people.

Either that, or the thing made me laugh in spite of myself, and I’m trying to rationalize it.

Disability News

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Elizabeth Cohen, CNN - November 30, 2013

I have several different feelings about this story. As an individual situation, it sounds very much like the transplant board made a bad decision based on disability prejudice, not medical facts. The result, if it isn’t reversed somehow, will be an example of the ultimate disability discrimination, a preventable death essentially decided by people, because of the disability.

On the other hand, I’m not 100% sure that disability should never be one of the factors considered by these transplant boards. I feel the same way about employment decisions. If disability is an aspect of who I am, maybe it’s okay to include it in your consideration. The key, to me, is to avoid blowing up that one factor into being always the deciding factor, regardless of what all of the other measures and indicators might say. In other words, if all systems are “go” without considering the disability, then disability by itself shouldn’t rule out the transplant. I’d go a bit further and say that in transplant decisions, disability conditions should never be more than a small consideration among many.

The worst thing about this actually seems to be the deception. If the board really believes their criteria and judgments are valid, then they should be upfront about it, and explain them. But they don’t. They make excuses, distort the weight of their reasons, and generally try to get their decision across with as little scrutiny and conflict as possible. That’s a very human motivation, but in addition to being morally wrong, it makes for bad decisions.

Karen Meyer, ABC News Chicago - November 30, 2013

This seems like a pretty important story, explained in a rather superficial article. There is more here about the motivation for the new rules, and the theoretical affect on employers, than on what the new rules actually are. In one sentence, it sounds like federal contractors will be required to have 7% of their employees be people with disabilities. Right after that, someone is quoted saying that employers will have to be "actively seeking to recruit" workers with disabilities? So, is it a requirement, or a goal? What will count as compliance, people hired, or a plan to recruit? And who will count as disabled? These are questions people with disabilities would really like to know. Not to mention federal contractors.

Once again, workaday journalism gets a disability story wrong ... not by being inaccurate, but by asking the wrong questions, or failing to ask the useful ones.

Which would be worse ... the British Government knowing that their bedroom tax would unfairly penalize people with disabilities, or not realizing that it would? It seems like the main theme of the Conservative / Liberal Democratic government's cost cutting measures is ideas that seem fair and reasonable in the abstract, which are cruel and unfair in practice.