representation

Willie Levi, 73, Dies; He Escaped a Life of Servitude

 

A man wearing a red baseball cap looks into the camera.
Willie Levi in 2013. Intellectually disabled, he spent years working at a turkey-processing plant for $65 a month but found justice in a successful lawsuit. Photo: Nicole Bengiveno, The New York Times

By Dan Barry, The New York Times

Willie Levi died at the age of 73 on April 23 after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Levi, who lived with an intellectual disability, was part of a successful Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that fought for proper pay and working conditions for people with disabilities.

Levi was sent from his hometown of Orange, Texas to Iowa, where he worked alongside other men at a turkey-processing plant for decades. According to The New York Times, the men worked “in virtual servitude” for Henry’s Turkey Service.

Although Levi never made it back to Orange while he was alive, after his passing he was set to be buried in the same historic African-American cemetery that holds the remains of his mother, according to The New York Times.

Read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/us/willie-levi-73-dies-he-escaped-a-life-of-servitude.html?referringSource=articleShare

State Policies May Send People with Disabilities to the Back of the Line for Ventilators

Vestavia Hills, Alabama, resident Matthew Foster, who has Down syndrome, holds a sign reading: "I am ventilator worthy! I want the right to live"
Vestavia Hills, Alabama, resident Matthew Foster, who has Down syndrome, worries he could be in the back of the line for a ventilator if he contracts severe COVID-19. Half of states have policies with the type of provisions that advocates say discriminate against people with disabilities. (Photo Courtesy of Susan Ellis)

By Liz Essley Whyte, Center for Public Integrity/The Daily Beast

An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity reveals that policies in at least 25 U.S. states have provisions that could de-prioritize health care for people with disabilities if cases of COVID-19 continue to ravage hospitals’ supplies.

Disability advocates have filed formal complaints in several states for their policies on who should get ventilators if hospitals run out. These policies take into account patients’ expected lifespan; need for resources, such as home oxygen; or specific diagnoses, such as dementia. Some policies even permit hospitals to take ventilators away from patients who use them as breathing aids in everyday life, and give the ventilators to other patients.

Twenty-five states have similar provisions in their rationing policies — and many other states either don’t have policies, or aren’t releasing them.

“There is a long history of people with disabilities being devalued by the medical system. That’s why we have civil rights laws,” said disability-rights activist Ari Ne’eman. “We don’t have an exception in our country’s civil rights laws for clinical judgment. We don’t take it on trust.”

Read the full article here: https://publicintegrity.org/health/coronavirus-and-inequality/state-policies-may-send-people-with-disabilities-to-the-back-of-the-line-for-ventilators/

Apple’s new emoji include disability-related symbols. I’m not thrilled.

Apple emojis
(Stock)

On Monday, as part of its IOS 13.2 release, Apple released 398 new emoji, including a sloth, a flamingo, buttered waffles — and several disability-related symbols, including images of people with different skin tones in wheelchairs, a prosthetic leg, a blind person with a probing cane, a service dog and a hearing aid.

Disability advocates are cheering. I’m not thrilled.

As both the mother of a child with a disability and a journalist who covers disability-related issues, I have trained myself to look past labels to consider individuals. Just as the blue-and-white international “handicapped” symbol falls far short of including all people with disabilities, so does this handful of emoji.

Read Amy Silverman’s full piece for The Washington Post, Apple’s new emoji include disability-related symbols. I’m not thrilled.

#LetUsPlayUs: Blind Americans protest new CW television series “In the Dark”

Above: Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, is interviewed during the organization’s protest on April 2nd in midtown Manhattan. (Video: SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube)


Members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) gathered in midtown Manhattan on April 2nd to protest “In The Dark,” a new television series on the CW network. The purpose of the protest #LetUsPlayUs was to highlight the lack of authentic representation of blind people in the entertainment industry; “In the Dark” features a lead actor who isn’t blind in real life, but who plays the role of a blind person on the show.

In the weeks leading up to the protest, the National Federation of the Blind issued a statement condemning the show and calling for its cancellation. The organization also wrote to the show’s producers and to CW/CBS executives requesting an urgent meeting. The NFB received a response from the show’s executives stating that they are interested in meeting with the NFB after the first season has aired.

You can also listen to NFB President Mark Riccobono recap the protest here.

#LetUsPlayUs on Twitter

How to write better stories on students with disabilities

Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org A poster for the "I'm Not Your Inspiration" awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. A portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I'm Not Your Inspiration (I'm Your Classmate).
Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org

Posters for the “I’m Not Your Inspiration” awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. In one, a portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I’m Not Your Inspiration (I’m Your Classmate).

As journalist and NCDJ disability language style guide author Amy Silverman writes, “Disability journalism is a hot beat right now. But just because you’re covering disability doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.”

In a column for Phi Delta Kappan, a professional journal for teachers, Silverman discusses the challenges of reporting in schools and the ways in which journalists still far short when it comes to telling relevant and nuanced stories about people with disabilities. Read more of Amy Silverman’s column online.

Learn about the concept of “inspiration porn” in this video of journalist and comedian Stella Young’s talk at TEDxSydney:

Ford Foundation produces video on disability inclusion

The Heumann Perspective with Judith Heumann
VIDEO: The Heumann Perspective with Judith Heumann

The Ford Foundation has produced a short video that shows why disability rights are central to social justice work. You can read more about the Ford Foundation’s policy about including disabled people in their work here. To watch the video on the Foundation’s Facebook page, click here.

“Accessibility Is Not A Partisan Issue”

In an article for the Arizona Capitol Times, Katie Campbell details changes that are underway to make the Arizona State Capitol building more accessible for not just one new elected official, but all Arizonans. Jennifer Longdon, a presumptive state representative from Legislative District 24, uses a wheelchair and has drawn lawmakers’ attention to areas of the Capitol that are not easily accessible for people who use wheelchairs.

According to Longdon, Campbell writes, “this is just the first step toward making the Capitol more inclusive to everyone, both physically and in the policies that lawmakers craft.” Read the Arizona Capitol Times story here.

Jennifer Longdon Accessibility
Jennifer Longdon, a presumptive state representative from Legislative District 24, poses before a set of stairs to the speaker’s desk. “It’s more than our numbers that keep me from being speaker,” she said. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Hawking’s death prompts debate on disability language

The death this week of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was mourned by millions of fans around the world. His passing also prompted several important conversations about how his disabilities should be discussed in the media, especially in the context of his remarkable professional achievements.

Several disability advocates on Twitter, such as Alice Wong, recommended writers “avoid subjective language” such as “suffered from ALS” and focus on Hawking’s scientific contributions without turning them into “inspiration porn.” Andrew Gurza, a self-described “Professional Queer Cripple” and creator of the podcast “Disability After Dark” wrote an opinion essay for Men’s Health explaining why wheelchair use shouldn’t be described as “confining” or something Hawking was “freed from.”

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, science reporter Jessica Roy quotes several disability experts who agreed Hawking’s advocacy for disability awareness should be more visible. In an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio Lawrence Carter-Long emphasized that Hawking didn’t “overcome his disability to achieve the things he did,” but instead he accomplished them “while he was disabled.”

Medical schools heighten focus on undergraduate accessibility

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) published a report today outlining common barriers to medical education faced by med school students with disabilities. The research on this topic was prompted by the AAMC‘s desire to promote diversity among its student, faculty and professional membership, and facilitate the standardization of accommodations. The report suggests that, although more medical school students are self-identifying as having disabilities, a culture of competition still promotes stigma around disability. Philadelphia public radio’s (WHYY) Elana Gordon wrote a short article summarizing the AAMC report and the responses it prompted from disability rights advocates.