$500,000 to Build Stronger Communities?!?

AVIVA Community Fund LogoThat’s the pledge made by AVIVA Canada, an insurance provider who has decided to show that they have heart by putting out a cross-Canada call for projects that will improve local communities.  The top 25 projects will have the opportunity to share in a cool half-million dollars.

The competition began on October 13th with the first round of submissions.  A total of three submission rounds were held and the top 20 entries, based on a tally of votes submitted by anyone caring enough to join the website moved on to the semi-finals.  These top 60 entries moved into the semi-finals, where the top 25 submissions would be passed on to the judging round.  At the time this was written less than 23 hours remained.

What does this have to do What Sorts?  There are some great submissions that it would be great to give a last minute boost of support to.  Here are three:

  1. Medically Fragile Child Supported by Hope's HomeHelping Medically Fragile Children & Families Enjoy Better Lives. Hope’s Home seeks to improve the quality of life for medically fragile children in the community as it provides the very first medical daycare of its kind in Canada. Our mission is to help medically fragile children Continue reading

Bankruptcy for Justice?

Barb and Tim Farlow elected to have a malpractice suit against a Toronto hospital heard in small claims court, but a judge has ruled the venue is inappropriate. (Photo by Tim Fraser, National Post Files)

On Monday, November 30th the National Post (a Canadian national newspaper) posted an update on their previous coverage of the Farlow court case. Those of you who are regular readers will recall that the Farlows have made serious allegations against Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. These allegations amount to the claim that doctors at Sick Kids deliberately killed their baby, Annie, in 2005 because she had a fatal genetic abnormality. The decision handed down from Judge Herman amounted to a claim that small claims court was no place for the kinds of charges that the Farlow’s were raising: Continue reading

ATMac – A blog for accessible Apple technology

 

ATMAC LogoThis blog/website covers all Apple products with a slant towards disability. They have an interest in users with a disability, adaptive and assistive technology, and making accessible programs and content.  The aim is to cover all Apple products including all Mac OS X computers – the iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, and older models; the iPod range; the iPhone and iPod Touch; and other products such as the Apple TV and Apple Remote Control.
Visit the site by clicking on the image above or by clicking on the site URL: http://atmac.org/

The EyeWriter

This little tool kicks ass.  There’s no other way to put it.  Thanks to the EyeWriter development team, $50 and little hardware hacking will produce a fully functional eye tracker that allows the user to express themselves with art by only moving their eyes.  Check out the video to see for yourself: Continue reading

DisRespect Radio Broadcast: Barb Farlow and Rob Wilson

Many of you have likely been following the case of Annie Farlow (Here is a listing of all our Annie Farlow posts) and were looking forward to listening to yesterday’s radio interview of Barb Farlow and Rob Wilson by Geoff Langhorne. If you are unfamiliar with the case then this interview should provide a succinct introduction to the details of the case in an accessible form. The one thing perhaps unclear in the interview is that Annie was NOT a newborn, but 80 days old, and went in to the hospital 24 hours before her unexpected death.  You can also get more from the recently-formed Justice for Annie Facebook group, which you’re welcome to join (it’s an open group), and the Annie Farlow website linked there.

The interview was broadcast on the CFMU (McMaster Unversity Radio) program DisRespect (Here is a little about the show and the program’s host) and is available for listening/download by doing the following:

  1. Go to the CFMU website (http://cfmu.msumcmaster.ca/)
  2. Click the button near the top left side of the screen that says “PROGRAMMING”
  3. Click on “DisRespect” in the programming grid that appears; you’ll find it at 12pm in the Thursday column
  4. A pop-up window will appear. In the left column, just click “14.05.2009″ and the program will start playing. (If it doesn’t, you should be prompted to download some free software that takes less than a minute to download.) DisRespect starts a couple of minutes into the broadcast.
  5. If you would like to downoad the program to your own computer (useful for skipping past the intro and the compulsory musical interludes) then just click “14.05.2009″ and once the program starts playing there will be a new box in the bottom of the pop-up window with a download link that you can simply click (Note that the file is 60MB).

An unofficial transcript of the broadcast follows:

Unofficial transcript from DisRespect, with Geoff Langhorne, 14th May, 2009

Geoff: DisRespect welcomes Rob Wilson, who is a professor at the University of Alberta in philosophy is it Rob?,

Rob: ah, that’s right, Geoff.

Geoff: and coordinator with the What Sorts of People Network in Alberta, and Barb Farlow, who was a mechanical engineer and is now an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in Ontario. Welcome to the show.

Barb: Thank you.

Rob: Thanks for having us.

Geoff: Ok. Barb, this concern that brought you together with Rob started with an incident in your life that our listeners might not be aware of. Do you want to give us the once over lightly?

Barb: Sure, I’ll give you the brief version, Geoff. My daughter died in August of 2005 within 24 hours of arrival at the Hospital for Sick Children. Annie had a genetic condition that was related to disability. Generally the condition comes with very serious anomalies that are considered lethal, such as severe brain defects. However, like all genetic conditions there are a wide range that exist, and my daughter was mildly afflicted. We knew that we would have difficult decisions to make before she was born and ironically we had many meetings at the hospital, specifically to discuss policies and eligibilities for surgery, and ethics and what would happen if this and what if that because we really needed to understand the medical system so that we could properly manage our daughter’s heath within its confines. Once we were assured of the policies, her rights, the ethics, the matter in which any ethical disputes or dilemmas would be resolved, we placed our entire trust in the system. Continue reading

Regenerative Medicine

In this post, I pointed to a new technique for regrowing limbs that makes use of “Pixie Dust” to accomplish the seemingly impossible: regrowing the entire tip of a man’s finger.  It prompted the question, “Could we do more?”  To find out, watch this short video from Newsweek.  It features Shilo Harris, a man who suffered the loss of two fingers and extensive burns durring an IED explosion and a discussion of both the treatment he received and the progress that was made.

The Dark End of the Spectrum

In June 2008 the radio program Ideas from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired a program titled “The Dark End of the Spectrum.”  The two part program is an investigation and synopsis of autism.  The original summary is below. Links to both parts are below the fold.

First seen as a medical oddity, autism has a fascinating and troubling story. Bernice Landry takes us from the heyday of psychoanalysis, to the blame-the-mother era, the rise of the activist parent, and the decoding of the dark secrets of our genes. For Rain Man it was numbers; for Darius McCollum, it was the New York City subway. Meet the man whose compulsion to steal trains had cost him years in jail long before he ever heard about autism. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Rob Wilson Part 3

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third part of the presentation by Rob Wilson (The first part may be found here and the second here). Professor Wilson’s presentation is titled “Building Inclusive Communities Through Practices of Collective Memory: The Case of Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta.” Part interim report, part philosophical reflection, this presentation is a glimpse into the ongoing process of exploring the eugenics history of Alberta.

Part 3

Highlights:: details about the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta and its repeal; the Leilani Muir case and post-Muir settlements to sterilization survivors; Leilani’s book in progress; what is and isn’t known about Alberta’s history of eugenic sterilization; formation of the Alberta Consortium on the History of Eugenics (ACHE); development of the What Sorts Network.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Rob Wilson Part 2

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the second part of the presentation by Rob Wilson (The first part may be found here). Professor Wilson’s presentation is titled “Building Inclusive Communities Through Practices of Collective Memory: The Case of Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta.” Part interim report, part philosophical reflection, this presentation is a glimpse into the ongoing process of exploring the eugenics history of Alberta.

Part 2

Highlights: reaction to relatively recent publishing of sterilization rates, quote from MacEachran on the value of sterilization.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Rob Wilson Part 1

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the first part of the presentation by Rob Wilson. Professor Wilson’s presentation is titled “Building Inclusive Communities Through Practices of Collective Memory: The Case of Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta.” Part interim report, part philosophical reflection, this presentation is a glimpse into the ongoing process of exploring the eugenics history of Alberta.

Part 1

Highlights: collective memory, particular practices of collective memory, constructive value of the very activity of remembering, direction of the What Sorts Network.

Transcript below the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Q&A

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the question and answer portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The first and second parts may be found here, the third and fourth here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Q&A

Highlights: What is the relevance of John MacEachran’s position within the university? Should the university apologize? Should the Philosophy Department apologize?

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

An End to Disability?

Well, some kinds anyway.

Current medical technologies in the field of regenerative medicine have regrown the severed tip of a man’s finger (about a 1/2 inch) in 10 days.  With some refinement those who have lost entire limbs or who have suffered severe burns and/or scarring may also be given new hope… or would they?  I don’t think this is as clear cut an issue as it may first appear.

For many people their physical abilities and physical form are a huge part of who they are.  Giving this up to become “normal” may not be the obvious choice that many likely believe.  Nor is it clear that this would be a good thing, either for those facing the choice or the rest of us.  A richness of perspective and a host of other benefits are brought to the world as a consequence of there being people of differing abilities.  Whether it is something as commonplace as the installation of a wheelchair ramp that doubles as a bike jump or as world changing as the rise of the modern intensive care unit in response to the polio epidemic of the twentieth century* there are benefits to heterogeneity that would be lost in a world of normals.

I think the first response of our world would be to “heal the suffering” and to “save those in need”.  We’d see those who would refuse treatment as being slightly crazy, in the same way that parents who choose to keep children classed as severely disabled as being crazy (see this previous post for a chilling example), thereby giving us cause to step in an take make the choice that they are not in the right mind to make.  I admit that this is my initial response.  But in my gut I also have another hope, namely that some of those whom we would force our help on, either physically or through subtler forms of violence and oppression, will have the strength to hold us off—we never know what’s coming for us and if we should have learned anything at all from studying evolution it should have been that a diversity of ideas and people are the best way to play the odds.  Or perhaps I’m totally out to lunch?

Medical technology really does open a Pandora’s Box of ethical questions and moral trials, doesn’t it?

To read the original article about regrowing a finger with “Pixie Dust” as reported by the BBC, just click Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 3&4

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The preceding parts may be found here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Part 3

Highlights: exploration of validity of a purely consequentialist argument, challenge of academic cowardice, inadequacy of strict utilitarian approach, what features of the case justify removing the MacEachran prize, (un)importance of overstepping legal authority.

A transcript and the concluding Part 4, follow the cut; fiery Q and A to follow later. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 1&2

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the presentation by Martin Tweedale. Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations..

Part 1

Highlights: summary of the background events prompting the decision to cease offering an award in the name of John MacEachran, reason for prizes being awarded, who is doing the honouring in providing awards in a person’s name?

Part 2

Highlights: reflections on the negative impact on students of canceling the prize, listing of reasons both pro and con for honouring John MacEachran, investigation of the challenge that we honour for the good and only the good that people have done and none of us are saints, threat of scandal, moral posturing.

A transcript for both parts follows the cut.

Continue reading

An “Outbreak” of Autism?

The New York Times reported yesterday on an ongoing epidemiological survey into a clustering of autism cases among Somali families in Minnesota.  Given such a clustering there are a number of possibilities that might be true, among them:

  1. It is a statistical fluke.
  2. It is the result of misplaced pattern recognition, similar to seeing faces in clouds or patterns in the bombs dropped on London in WWII.
  3. There really is a significant statistical difference among Minnesotan Somali families.

Of course figuring out which of these is really the case will certainly not be easy for the investigators.  As the article points out, the process of diagnosing autism is less that ideal and since there is no known cause the investigation cannot be as targeted as anyone might hope.  Additional complexities, like the involvement of anti-vaccine advocates and the possibilities of racially biased diagnoses further muddy the waters.

If you would like to read the article, you can find it here.

If you are interested in reading more about what is being seen by some as an “autism epidemic” then you might also want to look here.

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Q&A

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here and the second here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Q&A

Highlights: Is selective abortion another form of sterilization? What was the reason for forming the 1929 commission in Finland and why did it take so long for the results to be passed into law?  How was moral insanity defined? How were illegitimate children viewed in Nordic countries in the early 20th Century?  What was the involvement of religion?

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 3

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here and the second here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 3

Highlights: the consequences of the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy for doing ethics in Europe, embarrassing statistical analysis of money saved from selective abortion, directed and coercive nature of prenatal genetic testing, strength of ideas of reproductive freedom and autonomy, critical assessment of Finns on “useless” philosophy, secret recipe for arousing passion in Finns.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading