Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Picks Palin; Mother of Child with Down Syndrome

Will Sarah Palin’s Status as the Parent of a Child with a Disability Garner Support in the Disability Community?

Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and John McCain’s Vice Presidential pick is also mom to Trig, a son with Down Syndrome. However, it remains to been seen if Palin’s family circumstance with influence McCain’s stance on the Community Choice Act (CCA). The CCA would allow people with severe disabilities to remain in their homes and avoid institutionalization.

Palin’s decision to carry her pregnancy to term despite early diagnosis of the chromosomal difference is hailed by pro-life supporters. The disability community may similarly hail her, as long-time disability rights reporter Nat Hentoff has already done in the Washington Times Op-Ed of 26 May 2008, in which he suggested Palin as a running mate:

Governor Palin, the Republican Party does not have the best record of accomplishments with the disability community. Remember— we’re watching and we vote.


Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Sarah Palin

Update: Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin Welcomes Son; Introducing Trig Paxson Van

Gov. Sarah Palin Discusses Son Trig's Down Syndrome Diagnosis

Gov. Palin Gives Birth to Son Trig

Cheating Scandals Happen in Paralympics, Too

CHINA— Although some people consider the Paralympics Games a kinder, friendlier competition than the Olympics, competition is incredibly fierce, and some athletes cheat to gain advantage. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is not isolated to the Tour de France or the Olympics. Drug use and other cheating scandals have occurred in the Paralympics, too. In the 2000 Sydney Paralympic games, 14 athletes tested positive for prohibited drugs, and 10 members of the Spanish basketball team faked intellectual disabilities to play. As a result, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) eliminated all intellectual disability events in Athens, 2004 and Beijing, 2008. ID events may return for the London Games in 2012. However, drugs and fakery are not the only ways in which cheating can occur. Some athletes gain advantage through a process called boosting—a tactic primarily used by male competitors with spinal cord injuries. In boosting, the athlete raises his blood pressure by creating a injury below the level of his spinal cord injury. The body reacts with a surge in blood pressure, which can improve performance by up to 15%. Athletes who boost risk long-term health consequences.


Cheating Threatens 'Joyful' Paralympics

Oh Dear, it's the Paralympics

Britain’s Hopefuls in Beijing

Disabled Games: Drugs, sweat and tears at the Sydney Paralympics (2000 archived article)

Twenty-Five Things You Never Knew About the Paralympics (2004 archived article)

Friday, August 22, 2008

UK Groups Promote Sex & Relationships for People with LD

Author’s Note: The United Kingdom disability community uses the term learning disability (LD) to refer to individuals who have intellectual disabilities (ID)/cognitive delay/mental retardation (MR). As used in the UK, it does not equate with the U.S. definitions of learning disability.

UNITED KINGDOM— Several organizations in the UK have launched programs to address the sexual health and relationship needs of people with learning disabilities (intellectual disabilities). ENABLE Scotland ( launched “Dates n Mates”, a dating service for people with LD/ID. Organizers aim to counter the discrimination many people with intellectual disabilities face in the area of intimate relationships, dating, and friendships. “Dates n Mates” will operate in conjunction with other charitable groups. The Family Planning Association, a top UK sexual health organization also provides relationship and dating resources for people with disabilities and disability-related professionals (fpa; Training is available in diverse areas, including autism spectrum disorders and sexuality and positive sexuality for adults with LD. Supporters of these programs say accessible information about sex and relationships helps reduce the risk of exploitation and abuse.

“Disability Sex Campaign” (audio only story)
“Would Like to Meet … But Not Be Judged”
Disabled World
Sex, Dating and Disability: How to Help Youth Make Healthy Choices

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Commentary: A Brief History of the “R-Word”

Hippocrates mentioned cognitive function differences as early as 400 BCE (BC), initially associating them with skull abnormalities. In the second century CE (AD), Greek physician Galen delineated varying levels of cognitive skills.[1] For thousands of years, cognitive differences were poorly understood, and persecution of people with cognitive differences was ubiquitous. Circumstances changed little until the 19th century, when leaders in the field created associations and schools to serve people with cognitive differences. In addition, medical and psychological professionals started to distinguish between people with cognitive disabilities and people with psychiatric disabilities.[2]

Early in the twentieth century, psychologists introduced intelligence tests, resulting in the first modern definitions and diagnostic labels of intellectual disability. Researchers also began to explore the impact of genetics and environment on intellectual development, resulting in new diagnostic categories. Unfortunately, the diagnoses often consigned individuals to institutions.[3]

The treatment of individuals with intellectual disabilities has varied with the beliefs and customs of eras, cultures, and locations.[4] Years ago, terms such as feebleminded, mental defective, idiot and moron had specific functional meanings and were considered acceptable medical terms. The term retarded comes from the Latin word retardare, meaning to slow, delay, or hinder. References to the term date as far back as 1426, and by 1895 it was being applied to people with cognitive delay. Initially, retarded replaced older terms because it was less stigmatizing. However, by the 1960s, the “r-word” was growing stigmatized as well.[5] Today, all of the words noted previously are offensive and routinely used to offend.

Recently, an attitudinal shift has taken place toward people with intellectual disabilities, with increasing focus on the strengths of the individual,[6] and the terms and definitions of intellectual disability reflect such changes. Most changes reflect a desire to avoid the stigma associated with labeling.[7] Depending on the source, terms such as developmental disability, cognitive disability, or mentally challenged, have all been widely used. Depersonalizing phrases such as "the mentally retarded" are rejected in favor of person-first language. Many advocates, families, and organizations nowobject to all forms of retardation/retarded, deeming all variants hurtful and stigmatizing (Bellini, 2003; Iacono, 2002; Leicester & Cooke, 2002).[8], [9]

The former Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) has become simply The Arc, using the term cognitive disability in place of any references to mental retardation or MR. Similarly, the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) is now the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) in an effort to recognize personal preferences and to reflect practices in U.S. and international communities. The rejection of the terms like mentally retarded represent of a paradigm shift recognizing human needs over those of institutions (AAMR, 2002).[10] It is critical to note that the word “retard” as a human label has never been acceptable.

[1] Miller, C. L., O'Callaghan, M. F., Keogh, D. A., & Whitman, T. L. (1994). Intellectual disabilities. In V.B. Van Hasselt & M. Hersen (Eds.), Advanced abnormal psychology. New York: Plenum Press.
[2] Scheerenberger, R. C. (1987). A history of intellectual disabilities: A quarter century of promise. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
[3] Stevens, P., & Martin, N. (1999). Supporting individuals with intellectual disability and challenging behavior in integrated work settings: an overview and a model for service provision. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities Research, 43, 19-29
[4] Biasini, F. J., Grupe, L., Huffman, L., & Bray, N. W. (1999). Mental retardation: a symptom and a syndrome. In S. Netherton, D. Holmes, & C. E. Walker, (Eds.), Comprehensive Textbook of Child and Adolescent Disorders (pp. 6-23). New York: Oxford University Press.
[6] Polloway, E. A. (1997). Developmental principles of the Luckasson et al.1992 AAMR definition of intellectual disabilities: A retrospective. Education and Training in Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, 32, 174-178.
[7] Baroff, G. S. (1999). General learning disorder: A new designation for intellectual disabilities. Intellectual Disabilities, 37, 68-70.
[8] Bellini, J. (2003). Mental retardation: definition, classification, and systems of supports. Mental Retardation, 41(2), 135-140.
[9] Leicester, M., & Cooke, P. (2002). Rights not restrictions for learning disabled adults: a response to Spiecker and Steutel. Journal of Moral Education, 31(2), 181-187.
[10] American Association on Mental Retardation (2002). Mental retardation: Definition, classification, and systems of support (10th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Natalie Du Toit of South Africa Swims in Olympics

BEIJING— Natalie Du Toit, a world-class open water swimmer from South Africa who also has a below-the-knee amputation, placed 16th today in the first-ever 10K (6.2 mile) open-water event. She is the first amputee to swim in the Olympic Games. Earlier this year, she finished fourth in the world championship held in Spain. Du Toit previously won six medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. She says she will begin preparing for the Beijing Paralympics (starting 07 September) where she will compete in 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle events and the 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke, and 200m individual events. Du Toit also plans to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, aiming for a top-5 finish in the open-water event. Another athlete with a disability, Natalia Partyka from Poland whose right arm ends just below her elbow, will compete in the both Olympics and Paralympic table tennis events.

“Make Your Dreams Reality, Insists Amputee du Toit”
“Amputee Swimmer Finds Herself in Water”
“One-legged Swimmer Takes to Olympic Waters”

Ray Hartley, the editor of The Times South Africa and has an interesting blog entry about du Toit:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NCD Releases Policy Roadmap

WASHINGTON— The National Council on Disability (NCD; released the report, “The State of 21st Century Financial Incentives for Americans with Disabilities” ( yesterday. It provides clear policy recommendations that when (if?) implemented, will allow people with disabilities greater participation in the economy. The report outlines a number of federal and state level financial incentives affecting people with disabilities, especially in areas of wealth accumulation and assets. The National Disability Institute (NDI) and the National Cooperative Bank Development Cooperation (NCBDC) generated research for the publication. A major recommendation is the elimination of federal financial disincentives to “work, entrepreneurship, or other asset-accumulation activities”. NCD uses a framework called the Policies Optimizing Worker’s Economic Reach (POWER), which calls for changes to current policies and practices in entitlements, tax deductions, community-based incentives, and employer incentives, among other improvements.

“National Council on Disability Provides Roadmap of Critical Policy Changes to Allow People with Disabilities to Participate Fully in American Dream”
Market Watch: and

KnowledgePlex: “The State of 21st Century Financial Incentives for Americans with Disabilities”

Thunder Heard ‘Round the World

Disability rights and advocacy group protests about Ben Stiller’s new movie, “Tropic Thunder” continue to splash headlines in major news outlets around the U.S. Now, news sources around the world are also reporting the story! Here is a very small sample:

From the United Kingdom:
“Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise's Tropic Thunder 'Offensive to the Disabled'”

From Canada:
“Tropic Thunder and Other Recent Cinematic Boycotts”

From Moldova (near Romania)
Disability Advocacy Groups to Protest Tropic Thunder Premiere

From Malaysia:
Tropic Thunder Disability Controversy

Plan a Star Boycott— Do you want to know which Hollywood A-list stars attended the TT premiere? Check out this Monsters and Critics photo feature:

Friday, August 8, 2008

UPDATE: DreamWorks/Stiller Offensive Film

08 August 2008

UPDATE—DreamWorks met on Wednesday with disability community leaders and disability-rights groups including The Arc of the United States and leadership from Special Olympics to discuss offensive portrayals and “hate speech” language in Ben Stiller’s new film “Tropic Thunder” and its promotional materials. Chip Sullivan, head of publicity for DreamWorks, said the meeting was “very productive”; however, disability rights groups have not yet said the same. Disability advocacy groups will view the film soon and respond again to the studio. DreamWorks removed the “Simple Jack” website associated with the film from the Web. The Arc ( is preparing local and state chapters for a movie boycott if concerns remain.

“DreamWorks: Simple Jack "Retard" Movie Offended People So We Took Site Down”
Stiller Screens New Film for Disability Groups
“DreamWorks "Retard" Scandal Update: Disability-Rights Groups to Watch "Tropic Thunder," See If They Are Offended”

Patricia E. Bauer blogs about Wednesday’s meeting:
View the ARC memo through Patricia Bauer’s blog:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paralympic Torch International Route Out

06 August 2008

The Beijing 2008 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) cancelled the international portion of the Paralympic Games torch relay route last week. Officially, the cancellation is due to the impact of the 12 May earthquake. Clearly though, the Committee also wants to avoid a repeat of the protests of Olympic torch’s international tour. The BOCOG made the decision after the International Olympic Committee warned of blowback from new negative Chinese comments about the Dalai Lama and Tibet. The Paralympic torch relay began in 1988, but this year would have been its international debut. The relay had included Hong Kong and three future Olympic cities in Canada, England, and Russia. The torch relay will still take place in China. The Paralympics begin 06 September. The official mascot is shown above, right.
“China Cancels Paralympic Torch Relay”
“Canceled by Beijing: Overseas Paralympic Torch Relay”
“World Paralympic Torch Relay Cancelled”
“International Paralympic Torch Relay Cancelled”
Official Website of Beijing Paralympic Games:
“China Revamps Paralympics Guidebook”
China revised its handbook for volunteers at the Paralympics after protests. Helen McCabe, disability expert, discusses the new version and the Paralympic Games in the disability community on National Public radio (NPR)
Listen to NPR Audio:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

DreamWorks, Stiller’s Tropic Thunder “Retard” Offends

05 August 2008

The about-to-be-released Ben Stiller flick “Tropic Thunder” includes offensive remarks about people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and a character named “Simple Jack”. Movie marketing materials refer to him as a “retard”. The movie also features a character in blackface. Disability rights groups are protesting and DreamWorks executives will meet with disability advocates this Wednesday. A DreamWorks Chief Executive says, “I’m proud of the movie. It is hysterically funny. I do think it’s got its heart in the right place.” Tropic Thunder is rated “R”. In addition to stars Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, and Tom Cruise also appear in the film.
"Dreamworks to Meet With Disability Groups"
"Ben Stiller - Stiller Movie in Disability Row"