Starting January 8th National Public Radio (NPR) began broadcasting a multi-part investigative series about an “epidemic of sexual assault” experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. Titled “Abused and Betrayed” (#AbusedandBetrayed), the investigation examines over 150 cases of assault and relies on previously unpublished data collected by the Justice Department. NPR’s team of reporters, led by Joe Shapiro, discovered the rate of assault is seven times higher than for people without disabilities. Each chapter in the 5-part series features a print story, photographs and a radio broadcast. Below is an excerpt from the first story in the excellent report.
“NPR reviewed hundreds of cases of sexual assault against people with intellectual disabilities. We looked at state and federal data, including those new numbers we obtained from the Justice Department. We read court records. We followed media accounts and put together a database of 150 assaults so serious that they garnered rare local and national media attention. We talked to victims, their guardians, family, staff and friends.
We found that there is an epidemic of sexual abuse against people with intellectual disabilities. These crimes go mostly unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. A frequent result was that the abuser was free to abuse again. The survivor is often re-victimized multiple times.”
If a hospital fails to identify symptoms of a debilitating disease in infants it could spell disaster for patients as they grow up. In her story “Doomed by Delay,” Chicago Tribune investigative journalist Patricia Callahan describes the struggles of parents of children with Krabbe disease who weren’t properly diagnosed until it was too late to salvage their motor functions. Callahan is the 1st place co-winner, along with Michael J. Berens, of the NCDJ’s 2017 Katherine Schneider Award for Disability Journalism.
In a related report, Chicago Tribune photographer Brian Cassella interviews the mother and caretaker of a 6-year-old living with Krabbe disease.
A step at the front door of a business can send the signal to customers with disabilities that the inside is also not accessible. In a story for Public Source online magazine journalist Stephen J. Caruso reports how the city of Pittsburgh is helping local business owners prevent this barrier to customer access and reconcile the problematic irregularities between state and city ADA compliance codes.
“One complaint we got from developers and architects was that most expensive part of the process was coming down to the city offices and paying for parking and waiting in line,” Meritzer said. By making a one-size-fits-all application, they could send in an application with a single email.
Acclaimed national journalist Alice Wong penned an enlightening commentary for The Center for Media Justice about the importance of Net Neutrality to disability rights communicators like herself. The controversy around Net Neutrality gained traction this week after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed deregulating internet service providers (ISPs). Pai’s announcement says deregulating ISPs will “Restore Internet Freedom And Eliminate Heavy-Handed Internet Regulations” but advocates of Net Neutrality fear deregulation could empower ISPs to become gatekeepers of content by controlling the price of how information flows across the Internet.
Jackie Ward is the mother of a three-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome and a heart defect. She recently became an advocate for disability rights after experiencing discrimination from doctors while applying for a heart transplant for her daughter. Ward is now teaming up with Ohio state legislators to pass laws that will give applicants with disabilities more leverage. Check out this article and video interview with Jackie Ward from the Columbus Dispatch.
“A 2008 survey by researchers at Stanford University found that 85 percent of pediatric transplant centers consider neuro-developmental status in the eligibility process at least some of the time, Hansen said. And in the same study, 62 percent of the centers said eligibility decisions based on disability tended to be made informally, making discrimination difficult to show.”
An investigative report by Rachel Aviv in The New Yorker reveals how elderly citizens can become involuntary victims of private government contractors hired to manage their financial assets. The ambiguous mental health of some elderly patients exacerbates their ability to defend their possessions and right to autonomy.
The Supreme Court rules that the state of Texas cannot rely on a dated definition of intellectual disability in deciding who receives the death penalty. In the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Adjudications of intellectual disability should be ‘informed by the views of medical experts.” Read more
A new Supreme Court decision could make a major impact on services for students with disabilities. Read more
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gursuch drew criticism from a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his perceived views on education and students with disabilities. Read more
In the case of a now-13-year-old Michigan dog battling in court over her right to bring a service dog to school, the Supreme Court has ruled that her family should be allowed to forego a bureaucratic process in lower courts.Read more