04 August 2010

Rights of the Disabled

It's been a little more than a week since the 20th Anniversary of the passage of the [US] Americans with Disabilities Act.

My friend Patrica and I went to a celebration, sponsored by the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of Connecticut, and held at the state capitol in recognition of this milestone's passing.

About 80 people were given named recognition for being active in the efforts to promote social justice, among them former Governor Lowell Weicker, who was one of the main proponents of the ADA under the GHW Bush Administration.

One of the principal authors of the bill, Justin Dart, [and one of my personal heroes] was also given posthumous recognition by the speakers.

It was heartening to hear of progress made regarding inclusion in society, but more sobering is to recognize how slow that progress continues to be.

Americans, by and large, have become accustomed to seeing people in walkers and wheelchairs in public, but opportunities for people with disabilities continue to be disproportionately fewer; the corporate world - through the courts - continue to try to subvert Congressional intent, and dismantle provisions of the ADA's protections. And no one in Congress [to my knowledge] has even put forward a motion to have the US ratify the recommendations of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities now recognized by 89 member nations of the UN.

But my interest is in what little progress has been made to recognize the rights of people with so-called invisible disabilities.

Only recently, after over a 15 year legal battle, residents of Southbury Training School will now be given the option of living in the larger community rather than be warehoused on a campus isolated and remote.

In the putative "mental health system", the manner in which people are treated remains abysmal. Using the current nationwide budget crises as excuse, states are shutting down inpatient hospital beds, cutting back funding of community based services in exchange for foisting potent psychiatric drugs on people, which numb their reactions and often have severe and unwanted "side-effects". And forced treatment ~ justifiably recognized as torture in any other venue ~ is still not even questioned by those who pay the bills [both politicians and insurance company bureaucrats], clinical care providers, family members ...hell, sometimes even by those so victimized themselves.

Making matters worse, little or no effort is made, nationally [with a scant few exceptions] to develop integrated housing, or supportive work re-entry programs, nor making any effort to help provide people with coping skills and techniques, which exist, and ~ frequently ~ are not difficult or expensive to impart.

I write this while glum. But the picture I see isn't promising anyway. Others who see positive changes happening are welcome to enlighten me.
IMAGE CREDIT: Justin Dart, The Caring Institute

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