Monday, January 23, 2017

Ed Roberts activist Google Doodle honors leader of the disability rights movement

Google Doodle pays tribute to Ed Roberts, an early leader of the disability rights movement and co-founder of the World Institute on Disability.  
After contracting Polio at age 14, the disease left Roberts paralyzed from the neck down. In spite of spending the rest of his life in a wheel chair and unable to breath without a respirator, Roberts fought for his rights – starting in high school when he was told he wouldn’t receive his diploma because he had failed to complete phys-ed and driver’s ed requirements. 
Roberts petitioned his school and was awarded his diploma. He went on to be the first University of California Berkley student with severe disabilities. 
The Google Doodle Blog on Roberts shared the following quote from Roberts’ mother, Zona: “I watched Ed as he grew from a sports-loving kid, through bleak days of hopelessness, into self-acceptance of his physical limitations as he learned what was possible for him to accomplish. His years at UCB were great ones as he both enjoyed his college status and got in touch with his leadership qualities. He took great pleasure in watching people with disabilities achieve greater acceptance.” 
Among his accomplishments as a disabilities rights actives, Roberts created the Physically Disabled Students Program at his University. California Governor Jerry Brown named him Director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1976. Seven years later, Roberts co-founded the World Institute on Disability – a nonprofit focused on disability rights policies, research and consulting. 
Marking what would have been Roberts’ 78th birthday, the doodle leads to a search for “Ed Roberts activist” and is being displayed on Google’s U.S. homepage.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Disabled veteran, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth delivers impassioned speech at Women's March on Washington

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth delivered a passionate speech at the Women’s March on Washington, telling the massive crowd that she “didn’t shed blood… to have the Constitution trampled on.” 
A combat Army veteran, Duckworth lost both legs co-piloting a helicopter in Iraq in 2004. She handily defeated former Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, in the 2016 election to reclaim former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat for the Democrats.

“This is about our country,” Duckworth said Saturday, “I didn’t shed blood to defend this nation – I didn’t give up literally parts of my body — to have the Constitution trampled on.”

“I did not serve, along with the men and women in our armed forces,” she continued, “to have them roll back our rights.”  

Duckworth, who said she brought her 2-year-old daughter to the march, made specific mention of the Americans with Disabilities Act because “without the ADA, I would not be here today.”

She also encouraged the crowd of approximately 500,000 people to stay involved and active in the political process.

“This is what it’s about – it’s about you going home after today and standing up and fighting in your communities,” she said. “Don’t take what you do today and don’t let it end. Take it home, run for office yourselves. Get out there,” she added.

The rally in Washington was the largest of more than 600 "sister marches" planned around the world - including the Women's March on Chicago that drew an estimated 250,000 people. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Disability activists in Hollywood on Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech

From Buzzfeed:

As she accepted her Cecil B. DeMille award on Jan. 8 at the Golden Globes, acclaimed actor Meryl Streep sharply criticized President-elect Donald Trump for ridiculing a journalist’s disability. “The person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter — someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back,” she said. “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head.” Streep was referencing a moment in November 2015 when Trump mocked Serge F. Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter with arthrogryposis. 
Streep denounced Trump’s incivility toward Kovaleski: “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.” 
In response to Streep’s speech, Oscar-winning actor Marlee Matlin tweeted, “SPEAK THE TRUTH!” 
Comedian, writer, and disability rights advocate Maysoon Zayid (pictured) responded similarly to Streep’s speech. “She won’t get the Cecil B. DeMille Award again — it’s once in a lifetime, and she chose to use that platform to condemn something that was so painful to so many of us,” she told BuzzFeed News on the phone. 
The speech, however, was a reminder that Hollywood itself has a long way to go in destigmatizing disability. “Last night, the only mention of disability was Meryl Streep reminding the world that Donald Trump mocked us and became president,” Zayid said. 
According to the US Census Bureau, people with disabilities make up nearly 20% of the population, and yet — as Zayid said — they were not represented at the Golden Globes. A recent study by the Ruderman Family Foundation confirmed that those with disabilities are grossly underrepresented in television — and when they do appear, they are almost always played by actors who do not have a disability themselves. 
Danny Woodburn, an actor who is on the Screen Actors Guild’s Performers With Disabilities Committee, wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News: “To progress as a people, we need to embrace those who have been excluded.” 
Matlin, speaking with BuzzFeed News via a Twitter direct message, said that Hollywood needs to “make disability and actors with disabilities part of the diversity conversation, which includes hiring actual people with disabilities to play disabled roles.” 
As Woodburn put it, “My industry, [which] has always been the standard-bearer for addressing injustice … needs to continue on the path that has really only just begun for the disabled.” 
Zayid offered concrete steps. She said Hollywood needs to “make sure that studios and auditions are ADA-compliant so that the disabled community — the largest minority in America — can actually have representation on television. Right now, we’re barely there.” 
Streep’s speech has come under fire from conservatives, for illustrating a “liberal bubble.” Countering this charge, Matlin said that increased inclusivity on TV shows and movies can work to puncture a bubble that mostly excludes people with disabilities. “When you create a role for a character with disability, you get a potentially richer, more interesting story that accurately reflects the varied fabric of America,” Matlin wrote.