Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

I just found out that a student with intellectual disabilities won a lawsuit to live on campus. Micah Fialka-Feldman, who is in a special program for students with intellectual disabilities at his college, was not permitted to live on campus, allegedly because he is not a full-time student, but it is quite possible that some ableism is involved here, too, since quite likely it’s the way the program is set up that makes it part-time. Because he doesn’w want to have to travel for two hours from his parents anymore, and because he wants to participate in all that campus life has to offer, he sued to have the university allow him to move into a dorm room. He apparently won the case, and is hoping to move in on Sunday, although the college can still appeal the case.

As a person living in a country where inclusion of the disabled in mainstream education lags miles behind the situation in the U.S., and as a person with a lot of intellectual ability privilege, I find it somewhat hard to imagine that colleges would accept students with intellectual disabilities at all. Where I live, a few vocational colleges cooperate with care agencies to create certification programs or employment training programs, which have some aim of helping people with intellectual disabilities be more employable. Unfortunately, however, we are not nearly there yet: most such cooperations help students earn a certificate at the lowest level possible, that will not make them employable at all. By 2010, disability benefits will be changed, and they’re marketed as giving disabled people more opportunities for education and employment. The premise is that every person under age 27 must either work or go to school, unless they’re absolutely unsuitable, and your disability status will only be assessed at age 27 (rather than 18, as it is now). Unfortunately, with no radical changes to the educational and employment systems, that would truly make them inclusive to people with disabilities, this change of legislation will likely only lead to people being cut off from disability and shoved onto welfare.

Anyway, in the Dutch system, some student housing associations discriminate those in vocational college in favor of university students. That way, students with disabilities, if they want to live in student housing, are at increased risk of facing discrimination. Same for part-time students (there is a hell of a lot of discrimination of part-time students anyway). That way, it is quite likely that students in special programs, at a disadvantage when applying for student housing. Again, we do not know if ableism is involved here. If you are a full-time university student with disabilities, disability services will likely help you find suitable student housing sooner than the nondisabled students (that’s how I got an apartment as a freshman, while all other freshmen have to be content with just a a tiny bedroom or, if they’re unlucky, no housing at all). Then again, in certain situations, ableism is quite apparent. For example, there is a huge waiting list for student housing, so many students rent a room privately, in which case usually the other students in the house, will get to vote on who gets in – something which, quite likely, leads to disability discrimination. Even if you live with student housing, if you end up in a dorm room, it is quite possible that your housemates could discriminate against you, and this may lead to problems keeping your housing.

I think it is a good thing that Fialka-Feldman won his case. Living two hours away from school would, in the Netherlands, most likely entitle you to be put high on the housing list for transportation reasons. I think that even with the discrimination against part-time students and vocational college students, this should’ve enabled a student to get housing, unless disability discrimination were thrown in. In that case, I hope the recent change to our anti-disability-discrimination legislation would help these people access housing.

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I read in a Dutch newspaper that Bram Bakker, M.D., a well-known psychiatrist, was criticized by the Dutch Association for Psychiatry for having commented on Dirk Scheringa, director of a recently collapsed bank, in a TV show. The association has a position against psychiatrists “diagnosing” individuals they haven’t assessed via the media. I can see the point, even though it won’t even get you officially warned by the medical malpractice board if you make an actual, clinical diagnosis: when political murderer Volkert van der G. complained about another psychiatrist having “diagnosed” him with Asperger’s via the media in 2003, he was dismissed precisely because he wasn’t in a patient-physician relationship with the man. Even so, of course the association can decide differently from the (not affiliated with any association, established by the government) board, and I think they have good reason to disagree. After all, it is quite likely that the board’s reason for dismissing Van der G. was not anything related to the content of the case at all, but the simple fact that their legal responsibility lies only with individual healthcare provision. A professional association, however, is concerned with the wider reputation of its membership. I can see how this could be harmed when psychiatrists make seemingly random diagnoses via the media. Professional associations have to set clear standards on what is and isn’t acceptable – and I think this needs more attention with the increasing popularity of social media. Now, psychiatrists could theoretically not just “diagnose” public figures, but anyone with an active account on a social media site. Twitagnosis? It already exists as an obviously (I might hope) unscientific tool in the form of TweetPsych, condemned by pretty much every major psychology blogger I know, but could it expand into actual doctors making semi-official “diagnoses” via social media?

But this is not what Dr. Bakker did. He did not actually “diagnose” Scheringa medically. Rather, he commented on his behavior, in not so nuanced terms: he said that Scheringa is a “bastard who presents himself as victim” and “he gives himself the role of an underdog or calimero”. These are opinions I think quite a few people hold – I, for one, do not -, and no-one would criticize them for saying so on TV. But then again, no-one would be asking them for their opinion, acknowledging that they’re a well-known psychiatrist. If Bakker were interviewed as a random passer-by in a street poll, I assume no professional organization would’ve complained. The problem is, I guess, that the association fears that Bakker’s opinion is taken as an expert judgment that is supposedly based on scientific knowledge of human behavior. This is, of course, not the case: Bakker may not be using pseudoscientific psychology dictionaries to place Scheringa’s behavior, like TweetPsych does with your tweets, but he isn’t using scientifically-sound methods, either. I can see that it harms the profession of psychiatry if people erroneously believe that he “must know”, since he’s a psychiatrist. Now people will get that belief anyway even if he speaks up at a party – and I might hope that isn’t the association’s business -, but at least he then wouldn’t be reinforcing it in mass media.

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For a change, the mother of two low-functioning autistics argues against prenatal testing. It’s usually the “higher-functioning” autistics who advocate against prenatal testing and subsequent eugenic abortion – because, after all, if people get prenatal testing, they’re most likely to abort the child if found to have the condition being tested for -, highlighting the contributions highly-intelligent autistics can make to society. Here finally we have not only an autistic who does not meet “genius” criteria, but a *parent* of children who don’t meet these criteria, advocating against prenatal testing. I’m positively surprised to have found this, finally someone who doesn’t discredit “high-functioning” autistcis who oppose cure or prenatal testing by claiming that they’re “not like my children”. and therefore have no say in the matter – except maybe that prenatal testign is not likely to distingiuish between “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” autism. That is not the point in opposing prenatal screening and eugenic abortion at all!

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Between all the bad things autistics can do, here is an example of what an autistic boy accomplished. The story ends by pointing out the need for people to recognize the good things some autistics do, such as saving someone’s life in this case.

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David at Growing Up with a Disability wrote about disability stories and media. In the post, he points out that the NPR piece may’ve looked “positive” but its “inspirational” feel made it reflective of the very same stereotype that pity stories are grounded in: that disabled people really can’t do much.

Is it really the same stereotype? Maybe, when the reporter’s aim is to show how special this particular person with a disability is, compared to those other pitiful disabled people. However, I think this may not necessarily be the intention of the reporter. Some media coverage is really done to show the world that disabled people have abilities, but when it’s done incorrectly, it becomes just as stereotypical as the pity party showcases.

I never once wanted to be involved in a media feature (I was once as a child), even if it had a positive aim, like portraying a blind high school graduate. The reason is not simply that I think it’s ordinary for blind people to graduate from high school. I think so, too, but the main reason why I wouldn’t want to show this in a television or radio program or newspaper article, is because I would have to portray my, say, high school graduation in an all positive fashion, to show the audience that blind people do graduate high school. That would be unnatural, because I may’ve graduated high school, but it certainly didn’t go all well – just like it didn’t go all badly. My aim is not, and has never been, and will never be, to show that disabled people have lots of abilities or very few abilities, but to show that all disabled people have their own unique set of abilities and inabilities, like all non-disabled people do. I would be eager to participate in any media coverage, if I were allowed to be as positive or as negative as I felt I should be about whatever the piece would be about, and weren’t forced into either a pity stereotype of inability or a feel good stereotype of inspiration.

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So, not all people are like Michael Schiavo, and it pays off. Christa Lilly awoke from a persistent vegetative state after six years. Of course, no-one knows how she will come out, and she even runs a risk of slipping back into the PVS, but it does matter that Christa was given a chance at living. I’m sad she would long have been euthanized if she’d lived here, I guess.

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Just found out that a woman died after refusing an abortion that might’ve saved her life. It will undoubtedly be broadcasted as a courageous story of a good Christian woman. While I will not say this woman isn’t courageous and I’m not going to mock her religion, I don’t see what makes this story all that important for the pro-life cause. Of course, the woman decided to save her unborn baby’s life and she even gave her own life for that, hence making it quite a good story for traditional pro-lifers to show that some people are so courageous that they’ll even give their own lives for unborn children’s. But I’m not a traditional pro-lifer and, hence, I see this in the broader context. What if this altruism were expected of every woman by making abortions illegal even for the life of the mother? Would that really be pro-life? I honestly don’t think so. After all, one life will be lost anyway, so requiring the mother to give her own life for her unborn baby, is against the pro-life cuase, too – at least, if you aren’t going to value unborn babies over women, and I don’t see why we should. After all, the real reasoning behind the pro-life cause is, or should be, that it’s immoral and should be illegal to take someone else’s life. I have no patience for “pro-lifers” who do not accept life of the mother as a legitimate reason for abortion, cause that’s not pro-life at all – it’s just anti-abortion. Of course, that’s not saying that women should be required to abort, cause if the woman *herself* decides she wants to give her life for her baby’s survival, she should have the full right to that decision and she should be respected for it.

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So, now foetuses have gained the human right to claim damages cause of injury. I think I could do a better lawsuit, having been born prematurely cause my mother’s gynaecologist was doing a nonsense experiment on low-dose aspirin in the prevention of premature labour, while she was not advised to take effective measures to prevent early delivery. With a good, whiney story about how badly I and my parents suffer from all my disabilities/difficulties and a few more labels, we should be able to catch at least twice as much as this family, huh? Besides, now that babies can claim damages cause of injury in the womb, why do we still allow the worst and most common injury to foetuses all over the world, ie. abortion? If a foetus has so many human rights that she can claim damages cause of being injured while still unborn, she should have the basic human right to life as well.

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I may be late, but I just found out that a child with ROP was awarded $20 million cause the hospital and treating doctors were held responsible for not detecting his condition in time, which, according to the article, led to preventable blindness. I think this is a pretty controversial concept and my first inclination is to think the outcome of the lawsuit is ridiculous.

There is no doubt that this boy should’ve been seen by the ophthalmologist earlier than what did happen. Especially cause the doctor already saw stage one ROP at his second check-up of the boy, he should’ve examined the eyes regularly. We all know that ROP can progress very rapidly, so waiting as many as six weeks for a new check-up is definitely too long.

However, the allegation that blindness in ROP is preventable with early detection is simply incorrect. My parents still believe that myth – and it’s only cause they’re not materialistic and we don’t live in as materialistic a society as the U.S., that they never sued the eye doc who should’ve checked me but never did -, but it is wrong: laser treatment may help the child retain some of his vision, and especially in stage three ROP, results may still be quite successful, but this is far from “curing” ROP. Who knows whether the child wouldn’t have been blind if he had been treated in time? I’ve seen enough examples of that already by now.

There’s the second part of the story: the high damages being paid. Especially, the statement about eyesight not being definable in money but at least the boy being able to be cared for, makes absolutely no sense. If the child has no additional disabilities, it’s quite likely that he’ll be able to care for himself quite well. Besides, this is quite a bit saying that the parents would’ve wanted to care for a sighted child, but require money to care for a blind child. That’s similar to the “wrongful life” cases I so definitely hate. Sure, blindness may be perceived as a tragedy, but money cannot solve that – only adjustment can -, and I don’t see why the parents (cause of course the child din’t really win the case) need material damages paid, or what exactly these are. Really, folks, be happy that your child survived the NICU, work through your grief about your child’s blindness and help your child get through his, and get your child instructed in the alternative techniques of blindness instead of spending your time and energy on a lawsuit like this. I’m really astonished that this happens, but apparently, it does.

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