Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stevie Wonder calls for inclusion amid reminders of dark reality

By Louise Kinross

This is a grim piece today. It's a reminder of the ugly, sometimes violent, discrimination that exists in our communities against those with disabilities.

Social media lit up a few days ago when Stevie Wonder demanded inclusion at the Grammys. "We need to make every single thing accessible to every person with a disability," he said.  

Everyone got behind him, celebrities, media pundits. Meanwhile, these were the dark realities flashing across my screen.

First I read this story about a 13-year-old Winnipeg boy with an intellectual disability who was attacked by men and thrown in a dumpster where he languished for hours in the freezing cold before someone heard his cries. "You don't jump a kid in daylight and nobody see it," his father told The Toronto Star. "My son can't identify them. But somebody can...Be my son's voice, somebody."

Indeed. Can you imagine what it took for these parents to contact the media after having their son thrown in the garbage? Who will speak for this boy?

Then there's the 26-year-old man with autism and developmental disability who's been living in an Ontario hospital for two years at a cost of $1,250 a day. He isn't able to care for himself and there's no housing for him in the community. He had to be put under to have 26 teeth removed, many of them in painful abscesses that caused a fever. No one noticed that his teeth had rotted. This man is one of three with autism living in the psychiatric unit of the hospital.

South of us students with behaviour and emotional problems at a Boston school were restrained "more than 200 times last year, the result of a 'systemic failure' by staff and senior administrators that led to repeated, improper uses of excessive force, according to a state report," reports The Boston Globe. The students, in Grades 4 to 8, were "slapped, tackled and yanked out of chairs for refusing to stand." More than 40 times students were restrained face down on the ground. Big surprise? Staff often didn't inform parents.

And here's a story about an acclaimed mathematics professor who moved his family from Belgium to New Zealand in 2011 because he heard it was a great place to raise a child with autism. After winning a prestigious New Zealand research award, he's returning to Belgium because his 13-year-old son with autism has been denied residency. He doesn't have "an acceptable standard of health" the family was told.

The stories didn't stop there. As I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter they kept popping up. But I didn't have the heart to include anymore.


Yes it is a sad time - there is also a "community" opening up somewhere in the states exclusively for people with disabilities. Majority of people are delighted by the news. It's called institutionalization. These people aren't naturally choosing to live there as the member of a thriving community - it is just institutionalization and segregation with a pretty bow on it. Don't get me started on the story about the wrestler who let a boy with Down Syndrome win the bout - just because of his diagnosis. Ok now I need to stop.

My Nephew is in Senior Kindergarten. A few days ago, I gave him some money to buy a "Stop Bullying" t-shirt, as part of a school fundraiser. As I looked at the t-shirt that he brought home, I thought of kids with disabilities --developmental and physical disorders--and asked myself one question: Is bullying any worse than exclusion? For, if a kid wasn't ostracized, he or she wouldn't be bullied. What does diversity mean to you?

Matt Kamaratakis