Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop - April 22, 2014
It is hard to tell, but it sounds like the couple’s case was dismissed on technical grounds, not on the actual issue. That’s what a dismissal means, I think; the judge doesn’t rule on the question, which means it remains undecided. That is a slightly better situation for the plaintiffs, Forziano and Samuel, than if the case had been fully heard and a decision rendered. On the other hand, it is puzzling why the judge felt their discrimination case was based on their marital status rather than their disabilities. Did their attorney do a poor job, or make the wrong legal arguments? This is an important case with implications for all intellectually disabled people living in group homes. Do these residents have an absolute legal right to marriage and cohabitation, just as they have a right to food, shelter, and disability-related care? I hope it gets fully heard so they can at least know where they stand.
As with the similar Starbucks incident a few months ago, I doubt that it’s McDonald’s corporate policy to bar service animals from their restaurants. What these incidents seem on the surface to have in common is on-site, middle management staff who are poorly trained and maybe a little drunk with power. Given how badly these large food service companies treat their workers, I kind of hate to sic Human Resources on them, but it’s probably the true answer to this continuing problem of basic, entry-level disability rights not being respected. It is also worth noting that lawsuits may be the most effective way to get these incidents treated seriously by corporate headquarters.
Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop - April 25, 2014
Yesterday, I followed Ari Ne’man’s Tweets from FDA hearings on this issue. I don’t like it when the disability rights movement portrays opponents as mustache-twirling villains, but the people using this shock devices in "aversive therapy” seem pretty chose to evil. On the one hand, I can accept that that they may in fact be working with extremely difficult people with communication and behavioral problems that are extremely hard to deal with. On the other hand, they seem to rely on the same kind of premise that military and intelligence agencies use to justify torture. They ask us to accept the premise that the only alternative to their rather nasty practices is some kind of unthinkable disaster. For “torture” it’s an act of terrorism. For the Judge Rotenberg Center it’s violence and self-injury. The thing is, in both cases, the premise doesn’t hold up. They have shoddy evidence that what they’re doing is effective, and a different view of what autism is seems to produce better results using gentler methods and probably a bit more acceptance of “abnormality”. Also, I think it is important for people to understand that this is not about “shock therapy” used to treat other mental health conditions like depression. That probably should be banned, too, but it is more clearly a treatment. What the FDA is considering banning is shocks used to change behavior through painful punishment. Basically, it’s like training your cat, except that instead of water from a squirt gun, it’s painful electric shocks, and it’s not a cat, it’s a human being … a human being who’s disability specifically messes with how they process stimuli, and their ability to understand things and communicate. I can’t help thinking that on some level, this practice boils down to angry, frustrated practitioners repeatedly punching a button on a remote, yelling, “Act normal, dammit!” through gritted teeth.
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