Deaf Swimmer

Since seeing an announcement about USA Swimming’s selection criteria for the 2009 Deaflympic Games in Taipei, Taiwan, I was reminded of a deaf swimmer that I grew up swimming with in the 1970s. Her name is Shannon Brophy and she broke a world record for the deaf in the 200 meter breastroke back in 1977 at the Deaflympics in Bucharest, Romania. She came in third at the 2005 World Master’s Games in Edmonton in the 50 meter breastroke competing against non-deaf athletes of her age group. She grew up swimming with the North Edmonton Sharks swim club for many years and was the first swimmer with a disability that I knew as a child.

It is interesting to note that the Deaflympics, held every 4 years, and are the longest running multi-sport event excluding the Olympics themselves. The first games, held in Paris in 1924, were also the first ever international sporting event for athletes with a disability.

Disabilities among Refugees and Conflict-affected Populations

Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children releases the first major report to address the critical needs of this all-but invisible population

The Women’s Commission has released the first major report to address the critical needs of refugees and people displaced within their own countries who suffer from physical, sensory or mental disabilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 7 and 10 percent of the world’s population lives with disabilities. It can therefore be calculated that between 2.5 and 3.5 million of the world’s 35 million displaced people are disabled. In fact, the number of people living with disabilities may be even higher among those who have fled civil conflict, war or natural disasters.

Yet sadly, people with disabilities remain among the most hidden, neglected and socially excluded of any population in the world today. They are often not counted in refugee registration drives or identified in data collection. Because of physical and social barriers, they are unable to access mainstream assistance programs offered to other refugees. Their potential is seldom recognized. They are often seen as a problem for their families and communities, rather than a resource. What’s more, the loss of traditional caregivers—extended families, neighbors—during displacement can leave them extremely vulnerable.

Report “Disabilities among Refugees and Conflict-Affected Populations”here

Hate Crimes Against People with Disabilities

A Bill currently before the Ohio Senate would add Disability as a protected category under the Ohio Hate Crime Law. Currently, slightly more than half of the U.S. States include Disability as a category, but 23 states (including Ohio) do not include disability as a protected class. The impetus for Bill 349 adding disability to the Hate crime law was an attack on Ashley Clark, an Ohio High School senior, earlier this year allegedly by two other teens. Clark was tied up, had her hair cut off, had her prom dress destroyed, beaten with a baseball bat, and robbed. She was allegedly targeted because of a mental disability.

Where hate crime laws that include disability as a protected category are in place, however, the real issue seems to be how do we determine when a  crime committed against a person with a disability is a hate crime? Here in Canada, for example,  the federal government reported that only 5 hate crimes against people with disabilities occurred in 2006, as compared to 506 hate crimes related to race and 80 related to sexual orientation. Continue reading

NZ bioethics council

Hi All,

Looks like a really interesting blog going on here! Rob asked me to make a couple of comments on the NZ Bioethics Council’s report of pre-birth testing Who gets born? A report on the cultural, ethical and spiritual issues raised by pre-birth testing. To quote from its website (recently, as of Jan 2010 defunct, along with the council itself; following link to an archived version of the site) ‘Toi te Taiao: New Zealand’s Bioethics Council was formed with the aim of enhancing New Zealand’s understanding of the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of biotechnology, and ensuring that the use of biotechnology has regard for New Zealanders’ values.’ The spur for the recent report was the recent decision in NZ to publicly fund Pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis for ‘high risk’ couples. It’s up to government to decide how, if at all, the Council’s advice should be translated into policy.

The report’s a conscientiously small ‘l’ liberal document. Many of its recommendations could have been directly cribbed from the pages of John Robertson’s book, Children of Choice. The emphasis is very much on facilitating parental choice, with health professionals given the role of supplying parents with the information they need to make choices consistent with their values. Saviour siblings are OK – Parents can attempt to conceive saviour children naturally so it would be wrong to stop them using PGD to improve their chances of having a child who could provide cord blood etc that could save a sibling. Parents should be allowed to use PGD to avoid conceiving children with health problems or to have pre-birth tests to avoid giving birth to such children. Continue reading

“Disabled models to compete”

BBC3 will soon be airing a show called Britain’s Missing Top Model in which eight contestants described as “Some of Britain’s most beautiful disabled women” compete to for a photoshoot to become Britain’s top disabled model. Is this a step forward or a step back for women with disabilities? May be it is both. Do women with disabilities have the same right to have their bodies exploited as women without disabilities?

Almost 30 years earlier, Harlan Hahn wrote powerfully about amputee devotee relationships. (Did you know that there are several sex magazines devoted exclusively to amputee women’s bodies?) Hahn’s work was critical to our current understanding of the social construction of disability. Other amputee women have suggested that there are two kinds of potential sex partners, those who find their amputation attractive and those who find it repulsive. In their view, it is healthier to have a relationship with someone who thinks it attractive than someone who finds it repulsive. Continue reading

Disability dolls

Tomas, a Down Syndrome doll Here’s one for niche marketing: ‘disability dolls.’

A girl’s relationship with her doll is complex, but one of the mechanisms involved in such a relationship is mirroring. The doll represents a smaller self that the child nurtures, and this nurturing is then inwardly directed. Mothers often worry about the idealised image presented by dolls – and especially the likes of Barbie, which has unlivable proportions. The worry is that their daughters will develop a sense of inadequacy – that they can’t ever measure up to the image represented by the doll; upon which their hopes and sense of self are projected.

So imagine what it’s like buying a doll for a child with Down’s.

So, here‘s a business that fills that niche, and turns a tidy profit in doing so. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Many years ago in Germany, [Helga Parks, who makes the dolls] says, she watched the face of her late niece, Angela, who had Down’s, light up when she was given a doll with facial features like her own to play with. Angela, who died at the age of 9, pointed to her doll and said: “This is me.”

Parks is also looking into starting a line of bald dolls, for kids undergoing chemotherapy. Continue reading