“physically incapacitated” or “mentally defective” don’t make me choose!

Our eugenics history is not a thing of the past.

In our provinical election many  Albertans in wheelchairs can not get into their polling stations to cast their vote.

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada calls upon Elections Alberta, elected officals and Canadians to make changes to policy and the Elections Act to stop excluding and creating barriers for persons with disabilities.

Albertans with disabilities, particularly those in wheelchairs, are unable to cast their ballots at several polling stations in Alberta on Election Day. The Elections Alberta website provides voter information about where to vote, but when some Albertans sought information about their polling stations they discovered that they could not get access to voting stations. Voters in wheelchairs throughout our province are unable to participate at the polls due to the lack of accessible polling stations. Elections Alberta Operations Director, Drew Westwater explains that while advanced polling stations were wheelchair accessible, the polling stations selected for Election Day, April 23, are not.

Alberta voters can find out about their polling stations using the Elections Alberta website, as one Edmonton woman did: “I happened to check on Voter link to find out where I can vote. The website happily told me the poll station address, and furthermore informed me that it is not wheelchair accessible. That was it. No link. No instructions. No clue that I could still possibly cast a ballot in this election. After four phone calls and almost two weeks, I finally was able to find out about, and negotiate a way to vote, by mail-in ballot”

The Elections Act 88.1 (96) Voter Assistance section, informs voters that they can vote using a mail in ballot – A wheelchair athlete in Edmonton requested a mail in ballot and discovered “I received this ballot today, and in order to vote, I actually have to self-identify, by check mark, as “physically incapacitated”…. have we really come that far from “mentally defective” (the term used to differentiate, institutionalize and sterilize thousands of Albertans from 1929 – 1972 under the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act)?”

Alberta’s eugenic history influences our attitudes towards individuals with disabilities and differences, as our electoral process demonstrates. People with disabilities and vulnerable Albertans are being treated in exclusionary ways. The wheelchair athlete who is trying to participate explains: “… in order for my vote to count. I need to plan 2 weeks ahead. Navigate an unclear and difficult to manoeuvre electoral system. And self-identify with words that lack any dignity… words and ideas that I have spent my adult life fighting against. And this extra electoral burden is put upon the time and bodies of folks who are already forced to spend more energy and time to navigate other inaccessible and disabling structures.”

The effects of our eugenics past are present in our contemporary attitudes towards individuals with disabilities and the language that is required. The extra electoral burden placed upon individuals who are already forced to spend more time and energy to navigate so many other inaccessible and disabling structures such as housing, public spaces, transportation issues and more, is unacceptable.

As Mr Westwater said, the advanced polling stations throughout Alberta are wheelchair accessible but he could not explain why ALL polling stations are not accessible. Who else is excluded from our electoral process? How can our provincial government continue to exclude Albertans in our electoral process? Why do elected officials insist upon using language that treats its citizens without respect and dignity?

Instead of placing the burden upon those who already face multiple barriers as persons with disabilities, we need to place the responsibility upon elected officials to ensure all public spaces are accessible for all members of the public and create inclusive policies that guarantee electoral participation for all Albertans.

To find out if your polling station is accessible go to: http://wtv.elections.ab.ca/wtWhereDoIVote.cfm?MID=WH1

Write or call the candidates in your riding and after the election call again!  The fight for inclusive communities can not be left to those who already face so many barriers – all of us must work towards change!

Remember to Vote on April 23, 2012 – if you can get into your polling station

Eugenics in Toronto – Hiding Ultra-sound results

The Toronto Star recently released an article on the fact that many GTA hospitals, “particularly those in ‘ethnic’ areas [...] won’t let their ultrasound staff tell pregnant women the sex of the fetus,” in order to prevent abortion.

A study from St. Michael’s Hospital reveals that while male/female rations for first child of immigrants from India is 105/1oo, the ratio for third children of immigrants was 136/100.  Although researchers caution that their findings are not actually evidence of female feticide (indeed, they do not know why results have turned out as such) and urge people not to racially profile citizens after that, it has caused some concern in the community, and resulted in withheld ultrasounds.




Bioethicist, Tom Koch, commented on pregnant women who choose to abort a fetus with Down syndrome, “We’re engaged in eugenics.”

Dr. Phil.com Mercy or Murder

Deadly Consequences

Annette says she wants the right to euthanize her severely-disabled children, who are being kept alive only by feeding tubes. What would you do? Then, former model, Stephanie Vostry, says she’s fighting to survive chronic Lyme disease, an illness some believe she may be faking. Plus, chronic Lyme disease hits close to home for a “Dr. Phil” staff member.

Dr. Phil.com.





Dr Phil polls the audience


Pop Culture’s 100-year Obsession With Eugenics

For the past century, pop culture has told plenty of stories about eugenics. Some of them have criticized the notion that you can make people “better” — but others have been wishful fantasies about making a better world through genetics. Here’s the weird history of eugenics in popular culture. From Pre-World War II to Genetic Engineering and Beyond, this article traces our fascination with eugenics.  This article includes a clip of a radio presentation, lists of novels and movies that highlight eugenics. Past Intern Jenney McNaughton brought this article to my attention, thanks Jenney!

Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Johns Hopkins wrote:

“The first victim of transhumanism might be equality… If we start transforming ourselves into something superior, what rights will these enhanced creatures claim, and what rights will they possess when compared to those left behind? If some move ahead, can anyone afford not to follow? These questions are troubling enough within rich, developed societies. Add in the implications for citizens of the world’s poorest countries — for whom biotechnology’s marvels likely will be out of reach — and the threat to the idea of equality becomes even more menacing.”

Continue reading

cool device

As a full-time wheelchair user, I am thrilled to see this stand-up mobility product where a person who is paralyzed can get around standing up. In the video you can see the person shopping, cooking, cleaning, and interacting with others from a standing position. The device is relatively narrow compared to even a small wheelchair. I would love to be able to get around upright and to interact with others at eye level without craning my neck! Standing upright and being “tall” again is something I really miss! Here is the link:   Instead of a wheelchair

Maine law changes disparaging language in state statutes, programs

from Bangor Daily News Maine, April 9th, 2012:

Christina Mailhot got teased a lot as a child.

Born with Down syndrome, words like “retard” were flung at her every day, meant to be insulting. So when Mailhot, now 33 and a member of the Augusta-based self-advocacy group Speaking Up For Us, heard state officials using “mentally retarded” in relation to people with disabilities, she cringed.

“It’s legal talk; they’re legal words saying we are stupid,” she said. “I’m not that stupid, you know.”

Soon, such words will be wiped from Maine law and removed from the names of some Department of Health and Human Services programs. They will be replaced with phrases like “intellectual disability” and “person with a disability.”

Read the whole article here

Offensive words and phrases and their recommended replacements:

  • Afflicted (eliminate or use “affected”)
  • Crippled children (children with disabilities)
  • Deranged (persons who have mental health diagnoses)
  • Drunkard (person with alcoholism)
  • Handicapped (eliminate as a noun, as in “the handicapped.” Replace with “disabilities” when paired with a person, as in “child with disabilities”)
  • Lunatic (person declared legally incompetent)
  • Mental deficiency (cognitive disability)
  • Mental retardation (developmental disability)
  • Mentally defective (has a cognitive disability)
  • Senile (eliminate or use “people with dementia” or “people who have dementia”)

What sorts of academics should there be?

from Carl Elliott, “How to be an academic failure: an introduction for beginners”, The Ruminator Review, but also:  whitecoatblackhat.com/academicfailure/

Carl visited us up in Edmonton a few years ago, courtesy in part due to the work he was doing at the time on big pharma and also as a member of the What Sorts Network.  In addition to enjoying and learning much from his public lecture, we also had a great informal, roundtable session with about a dozen people that was focused on his then-developing work on a particular case in psychopathology that involved a senior professor who had murdered his spouse.

I also had a fun dinner with Carl in which he confessed his slight ill-ease with me.  This was caused by the fact that every time I started speaking, I managed to disappoint his expectation that I would sound just like The Dude.  “Damn it, how can that be?” he wondered aloud, almost with sufficient pathos for me to consider peppering our conversation with some of the many lines I know from heart from The Big Lebowski.  But despite the short-term fun this would have involved, I thought that this might actually exacerbate the problem in the long run, so I resisted the temptation.  “But that’s just like, your opinion, man.” I still hear a small voice inside my head say.

Here’s how his recent article, with all its sage advice on academic failure, begins:

How to be an academic failure? Let me count the ways. You can become a disgruntled graduate student. You can become a burned-out administrator, perhaps an associate dean. You can become an aging, solitary hermit, isolated in your own department, or you can become a media pundit, sought out by reporters but laughed at by your peers. You can exploit your graduate students and make them hate you; you can alienate your colleagues and have them whisper about you behind your back; you can pick fights with university officials and blow your chances at promotion. You can become an idealistic failure at age 25, a cynical failure at 45, or an eccentric failure at 65. If failure is what you’re looking for, then you can hardly do better than the academic life. The opportunities are practically limitless.

Call me arrogant, but I like to think I have a knack for failure. Having started and abandoned one abortive career, participated in the dissolution of a major bioethics center, published dozens of articles nobody has read and given public lectures so dull that audience members were actually snoring, I think I have earned my stripes. It is true that I am not an alcoholic yet. I do not have a substance abuse problem, and no university disciplinary proceedings have been brought against me so far. I am still a novice at failure. Many other people in my own field have succeeded at failing in a far more spectacular fashion than I have, some of whom are rumored to be living in South America. But I am learning. And I think I have something to contribute.  Read more