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Archive for the ‘public attitudes’ Category

Touchdown video seen round the world

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Steve Kelley, Seattle Times columnist, reflects on Ike Ditzenberger, the 17-year-old high school football player with Down syndrome whose touchdown run was captured on video and circulated around the globe. At last count, the Youtube clip documenting Ike’s effort had gotten more than 2.36 million views.

Writes Kelley: Ditzenberger’s touchdown, which he accomplished with the active support of both teams, was “a reminder of everything that is good about sports and about life.” An excerpt:

Ike’s story is about much more than this one football play.

It is a reminder of the infinite capacity of the human heart. It is about Mark Perry’s compassion. It is about the ability of the young players from Lake Stevens to understand the importance of the moment and act selflessly when it would have been so easy to be selfish.

It is about the Snohomish team’s unconditional love of their teammate and about Ike’s parents’ love for their child.

“We’ve seen Ike brighten,” Kay Ditzenberger said. “He no longer sits in the back at the assembly. He’s right there in the front row. Football has elevated his self-opinion. He doesn’t feel different. He doesn’t perceive his handicap. They’ve given him the gift of normalcy.

“They (Snohomish players) set aside the handicap and saw the person first. They recognize the handicap secondly and they accommodate and adapt to that.”

See also:

  • Time magazine
  • Seattle Times video. Includes interview with coach Mark Perry: ‘I think this is a moment when the humanity and the sportsmanship shine through.’
  • Seattle Times story: Ike’s prom date with Emily Zylstra, the homecoming princess and Snohomish County Dairy Princess.

House OKs ‘Rosa’s Law’

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Would eliminate term ‘mentally retarded’ from federal law

Press releases from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, The ARC of the United States:

Acting unanimously, the House of Representatives last night approved a bill to remove the terms “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” from federal education, health and labor laws. The measure, called “Rosas’ Law” in honor of a Maryland girl who has Down syndrome, has already passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

“This law is about families fighting for the respect and dignity of their loved ones,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), one of the measure’s sponsors. “This change will have a positive effect on more than 6 million Americans.” She said the law will make the language of federal law consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control and the United Nations, and will not affect any services, rights, responsibilities or educational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Rosa’s law substitutes the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” for the earlier terms, now considered outdated and stigmatizing by many self-advocates and their families. It does not cover entitlement programs, which include SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Peter V. Berns, CEO of The ARC of the United States, hailed the measure’s passage as “another historic milestone in our movement.”

“We understand that language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society,” Berns said in a statement. “Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.”

Does special ed ‘take from regular kids’? Readers react

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Letter writers to the Los Angeles Times take issue with LA school superintendent Ramon C. Cortines’ assertion that special ed funding takes services away from “regular kids.” The comment came in an article about the district’s plans to cut 200 special ed classes.

Said one writer:

Perhaps Cortines would prefer we revert to the not-so-distant past and pull resources entirely that allow children with special needs to be productive members of society and reach their potential. Then we can channel even more funding to those “regular” kids.

Maybe I’m naive, but in my world we measure our humanity by how willing we are to support those who struggle the most. I prefer my world to that of Cortines.

Complaint box: Whatever happened to tact?

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Poet Jennifer Bartlett writes in the New York Times City Room blog about her experiences with rude people who feel free to comment on her disability. Bartlett has cerebral palsy. An excerpt:

Bus riders have referred to me as mentally backward (while I was reading James Joyce), and waitresses routinely ask my companion what I want to order. In a club, once, an older man asked me to dance. Upon hearing my voice, he commented to his friend, “She’s some kind of retard,” and walked off.

… The problem isn’t exactly that people have these reactions. The problem is that they have no tact. It’s as though they have some kind of disconnect and think I don’t hear, or can’t process, their comments. Sometimes I feel like screaming: “Hello! There’s a human being in here. And she’s registering your stupidity.”

Bartlett’s first collection of poetry is “Derivative of the Moving Image,” University of New Mexico Press.

Writer with disability says unsolicited advice isn’t welcome

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Gwynneth VanLaven, writing in the Washington Post, says her visible disability makes her a target for strangers who offer well-meaning but unwanted advice in a futile attempt to “fix” her. To them, she says, she represents their worst fears: “I am vulnerability incarnate.”

VanLaven, who was hurt when she was hit by a car in 2007, says she really wants people to listen to her and bear witness to her experience — not offer miracle cures or accounts of other car crashes. An excerpt:

People are trying to relate, but they are relating out of fear. I think this is why the community’s love can sometimes feel suffocating. While well intentioned, the intervention of friends and strangers can sometimes feel like it has more to do with them than with me. I sometimes feel ignored when someone approaches me about my disability. Aren’t I more than a wounded lady? It feels like I’m wearing a scarlet D for “disabled-too-soon” and nobody can see past the fears it strikes in them.

… Active listening requires putting aside the anxieties of feeling vulnerable. When you see me rolling by on my scooter or hobbling along with my cane, the most difficult response may be to stay quiet. This means sitting with the feeling that the healthy can be suddenly struck down, that this fate could be yours or your daughter’s.

‘American Idol’ contestant builds awareness for Tourette’s

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Freelancer Anne Miller, writing in the Washington Post, says ‘American Idol’ contestant Dave Pittman is part of of a rising movement of people with Tourette’s syndrome who are putting a public face on the disorder.

Pittman, a singer from Arkansas, performed a four-minute audition on national television earlier this year but failed to make it to the final rounds after he forgot some song lyrics. He has now embarked on a motivational speaking tour.

Among other people who have Tourette’s: Brad Cohen, a teacher who was featured in the TV movie “Front of the Class;” political cartoonist and author Jeff Koterba; New York City Council member Jumaane Williams; and Miller’s husband, Michael Davoli. An excerpt:

Now that we’re married, people with Tourette’s or parents of kids with Tourette’s sometimes put Michael on a bit of a pedestal: He got through school, he has a good job and he married. That’s probably the biggest concern of Tourette’s sufferers and their relatives: Will their life be normal?

At a recent public appearance, Koterba met a mother and her young daughter with Tourette’s. The woman asked Koterba if her daughter would have a normal life. It broke his heart, Koterba recalled. “No,” Koterba told the girl. “You’re going to have a great life. An amazing life. A creative, beautiful, wonderful life.”

See also:

(Fox photo from the Washington Post)

Review: Narrators, characters with autism add something extra

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

As people with autism spectrum disorders take a more prominent place in society, Los Angeles Times reviewer Sonja Bolle finds a crop of books for kids and young adults that explore their world. These books can help, she says, by perhaps giving us all a better sense of the variety of human experience.

Among her selections:

  • Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Shines My Shoes, by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine
  • Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  • The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd
  • Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

An excerpt:

All these novels are worth reading just because they have fascinating characters. Readers might like to enter their minds at least in fiction, and who knows? Perhaps they’d be inspired to take a new look at some of their classmates.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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