Weekly Reading List

Illustration of two shelves of multicolored books

A selection of last week’s reading …

Workplace Disability Discrimination Claims At Record High
Shaun Heasley, Disability Scoop - February 17, 2016

Based on the quoted figures, about 22% of the disabled people who brought cases of employment discrimination saw a ruling in their favor. Whether that is a number to celebrate or not depends on your perspective. On the whole, it seems like a moderately large percentage. I say that not because I don't think there's a lot of disability-based job discrimination. I think there's actually a lot of it. However, in my experience, a lot of job misfortunes that happen to disabled people get miscategorized as discrimination. What that means, of course, is that there are a lot of disabled people who experienced bad things happening to them, many of them unfair in some way, but that don't fit the technical definition of "disability discrimination." I am most impressed that over $129 million in damages were paid out to disabled people for job discrimination they suffered. That seems like a pretty significant sum ... and a notable marker of some kind of justice being done.

Why I'm Determined to See My Child With Down Syndrome Go to Public School
Maureen Wallace, Good Housekeeping - January 31, 2016

This is another good news / bad news article. It's great to read about parents who are committed to their disabled child being educated alongside their non-disabled peers. But it's also discouraging that this commitment stands out. I may be completely wrong about this, but it seems to me like families in general are somewhat less invested in inclusion than they were ten or even twenty years ago. It seems like more of them now buy into the notion that separate, segregated schools and classes for disabled kids equals "special," "individualized", and "top notch," while they view mainstream classes as uncaring jungles to be avoided. There might be some truth in this, in a few cases, but in general, separate still ends up meaning unequal and inferior.

Pasadena sued over special education school
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, Southern California Public Radio - February 19, 2016

Case in point, see above. Let's be clear though, this "special" school would most likely still be bad even if it wasn't using ugly and abusive disciplinary methods administered by poorly trained staff. For every genuine hell-hole school, there are dozens of well-intended special ed classes and schools, staffed by smart, compassionate teachers, that do a poor job because they are operating under a bad, discredited educational model that separates disabled kids from mainstream society and isolates them from the non-disabled peers they will be adults with later in life.

Interview: ‘Breaking Bad’s’ RJ Mitte on ‘Who’s Driving Doug'
Alfonso Espina, ScreenPicks - February 18, 2016

I've read a few interviews with R. J. Mitte now, and it feels like we are witnessing first-hand his development as an actor, and as a man with disabilities. It seems like as a professional, he sees disability representation as important, but as a person he is ambivalent about his role in actually making it happen. I am glad he's pushing against his own limits and doubts though. I have the feeling that this movie he's starring in might very easily be very cliche and ridden with dusty disability tropes. At least Mitte will give it some freshness and authenticity.

Some Reflections on the Tragedy of the Death of Thu Phan
Ken Stein, Two Thirds Of The Planet - February 16, 2016

The writer here sticks mostly to criticisms that are specific to San Francisco, but to me, Thu Phan's death triggers thoughts of a dozen near misses and less catastrophic "hits" I have experienced or known about involving cars and disabled pedestrians. In addition to better design and signaling, I think there are a couple of murkier issues of prejudice and perception worth exploring. 1) Drivers regard visibly disabled people, including but not limited to wheelchair users, as a nuisance and as somehow illegitimate intruders in "their" streets. 2) Police tend to take the drivers' side. Part of the reason I think there's driver prejudice involved is that I am a driver, and I find myself feeling irrationally hostile towards pedestrians, including disabled people, when i am out driving. Put simply, I am terrified of hitting someone, and for a moment, I turn my terror into anger and direct it towards that person in the crosswalk or rolling off the curb ramp into the street. I check myself, but the flash of anger / panic is still there. If I have trouble handling disabled pedestrians properly, I have no trouble believing others are even more loose cannons on the issue.