It has been an amazing and very full year with a Presidential (re)election, the plunge of the American economy, Hurricane Sandy’s visit to the East Coast and of course, the demise of all civilization as we know it (as foretold by the Mayans). However, as exciting (or non-exciting) those events may have been, we’d like to talk to you about events that will continue to shape the future – especially for individuals with disabilities. So put on your party hat and grab a flute of champagne because here are the Top 10 Disability Events for 2012 –
1. Closed Captioning Required on the Internet
In January, the Federal Communicatons Commission released a Report and Order adopting rules to implement certain closed captioning provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). Why this is a big deal? All video programming that is shown on television with closed captions MUST BE closed captioned when delivered on the Internet. Think about it; many of us watch more programming via the Internet now than regular television. We are in a new era of digital distribution and playback (via the web) so ensuring that accessibility at the very least stays in programming is critical. Now this won’t happen immediately, but will be phased in over a two-year period with a “drop dead date” in 2014. There was much cheering from us folks here at Lead On as this is one more step toward the place where accessibility is second nature. Click for more
2. Repeal of the CLASS Act
One of the biggest issues of the last couple of years (and arguably the most controversial) has been the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a key component of which was Title VII, the Community Living Assistance Services and Support program, or CLASS Act. The CLASS Act would have created a voluntary and public long-term care insurance option for employees. The supports would have been most beneficial to the significant number of Baby Boomers that are aging into retirement over the next few years. Not only will this group need additional supports, they will also be aging into disabilities. Note we said, “would have.” In February, the CLASS Act was first suspended, and then repealed. An ominous sign of the arguments to come throughout 2012.
3. Failure of the Senate to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Disability advocates and pundits continue to voice their displeasure with the U.S. Senate and their failure to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Though this issue has been present in the disability community’s discussions since the George W. Bush Administration, the attention given to the failed CRPD ratification by advocates outside of the disability field brought disability to the forefront for the nation . In addition to making the rounds on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report, the failed CRPD vote has been highlighted as yet another example of partisanship outweighing the ideas and concerns of American people and has the potential to become a rallying cry for change and a return to the common-sense decision making that is supported by many Americans. Perhaps what is of even greater concern to us as a community is that historically, Disability has been an issue that easily crossed party lines, and for the first time, this was not the case.
4. Disability in the Mainstream Media
Disability has slowly been creeping out of the shadows in the entertainment field. Though 2012 did not mark any firsts as it related to characters with disabilities on television or film, there has been a significant jump in the levels of inclusion as well as the types of stories being told. Individuals with disabilities are beginning to tell more of their own stories and the entertainment industry is providing even more content. Projects in 2012 such as Push Girls and the Sessions or web series like My Gimpy Life not only illustrated that individuals with disabilities can participate in all forms of the entertainment industry, but that also the intersection between disability, entertainment and culture is more accessible and acceptable than it was previously. 2012 also offered a major entertainment coup for the disability community when Turner Classic Movies offered their Disability Film series with Lawrence Carter-Long in October.
2012 offered the Games of the XXX Olympiad where athletes from around the world convened in London for competition. The last Olympic held in China offered some coverage of the Paralympics and due to the extreme delays in time, many world audiences had the opportunity to see Paralympic Sports and Athletes with disabilities for the first time. This year, the world got something event better. The opportunity to see an athlete with a very visible disability compete on the world stage with the athletic elite. The inclusion of Oscar Pistorious in competition at both the Olympic and Paralympic games was just the beginning. In addition individuals with disabilities were present in the opening ceremonies, and the Paralympic ceremonies were broadcast by NBC and available for the world. This is not to say that the playing field has been made totally inclusive, but the presence of Oscar Pistorius is as significant as Jesse Owens contribution to inclusion in organized sports.
6. Violence Toward Individuals with Disabilities
In addition to the ups and downs of disability policy and inclusion, 2012 also saw a serious discussion about violence toward individuals with disabilities – specifically the death of people with disabilities at the hands of their parents and caregivers. The disability community was shocked, not only by the killing itself, but by the apologetic and empathetic tone taken toward individuals who in any other case would have been called murderers.
A National Day of Mourning was held on March 30, 2012 and self-advocates began calls to focus attention on the victims rather than the stresses their caregivers face. This recurring sentiment of sympathy towards caregivers who perpetuate violence against individuals with disabilities and the underlying attitude that because of the significant disability, their lives are somehow less than anyone else’s represents a dangerous path that all who support the values of inclusion and justice should work to avoid.
7. Parents with Disabilities Battle for Custody
Individuals with disabilities are still fighting every day to create a world that believes in their abilities and rights as human beings. In 2012 the National Council on Disability pulled back the veil on parents with disabilities and in their report, “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” identified the significant amount of discrimination and eugenics fueled bigotry that impacts parents with disabilities and the more than 1 in 10 Americans that has a parent with a disability. The report not only offers suggestions to protect the fundamental rights of all parents but also shines a light on the significant number of parents with disabilities and the practices that seem to specifically separate them from their children. Combating this type of discrimination in a time where all Americans understand the importance of families is key and the report offers food for though as well as action.
8. Cuts in services related to disability around the world
In addition to supporting the passage of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, the International disability community has been working to ensure that services and resources are available in their respective countries. Though the interest in disability has been steadily rising in the world forum, many countries have also significantly cut services related to disability.
Atos, the company currently holding UK contracts to reassess individuals for disability benefits being specifically mentioned. As described in the Guardian, “If there is another company in Europe that has waged such a considered, unrelenting war against the disabled, such an unaccountable, cheese-paring, suspicious-minded erosion of disability’s already meagre compensations, I can’t name it.” This was a running theme of 2012 and a variety of examples of poor planning and judgment – People dying soon after being pronounced fit to work and their benefits cut. Protests over these and measures have taken place in Spain, Bolivia, Ireland, Greece, and India and have been part of both international and local disability efforts. As the entire world struggles with financial recession it will be more than an interesting value judgment if disability is seen as a luxury item that cannot be afforded in tight financial times.
9. Passage of the Affordable Care Act
No matter what feelings one has toward the current administration or your personal opinions on healthcare, it would be difficult not to admit that the Affordable Care Act has a significant impact on the lives of all individuals with disabilities – whether they consider themselves a part of the community or not. The Supreme Court’s Decision to uphold the legislation represents a value shift in the way that care will be offered to individuals with disabilities who have historically had a hard time gaining coverage because of their “pre-existing conditions.” The legal issues the Court considered were: (1) the constitutionality of the individual mandate, (2) whether the federal government could force states to expand their Medicaid programs, and (3) whether the law as a whole would stand if one provision was unconstitutional. The only part struck down was the required Medicaid expansion. A big win for the disability community. However, we at the Lead On Update want to make sure our readers get the WHOLE story. Though the ACA stands, the impact of the loss of the Medicaid expansion means that there are potentially 16 million poor Americans (many with disabilities) who will NOT have access.
10. Shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut
Finally, the last of the Top Ten events affecting disability in 2012 is one that has already indelibly marked the entire nation’s memory of 2012. The Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were not the first incidences of violence in a public place for the year, but do represent one of the most tragic and senseless losses of life that has impacted many Americans. The outcry from the events in Newtown have caused many to raise questions about how to prevent incidents like this one and the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora Colorado from happening. These events have always led to an outcry for more gun control measures, to which the firearms lobby always inserts issues related to mental health and the inherent disability of the shooter.
The suggested measures often offer few changes in policy with the exception of limiting the rights of individuals with disabilities who are often caught in the demand for something to be done and the lack of a powerful lobby to offer policy protection. Within mere days of the Sandy Hook Shooting, there were calls from media pundits to abandon the inclusion of anyone with mental disabilities in the community and a return to institutionalized care. Mental health registries were demanded to track these individuals. The rights of children with mental health conditions, HIPPA concerns, and violence against individuals with mental health conditions were all parts of discussions around the country. Because of these events in 2012, this next year promises to be one of change around the arena rights of individuals with mental health challenges and can either provide greater inclusion and support, or discrimination.
The disability community is a vast and diverse group of individuals. We have our interests and our dislikes; we have our own thoughts and opinions, particularly on policies and programs, and events and issues. Things that make us angry, and also those that make us cry with joy. But the best things, the very best, are those that are shared. So take a look at our Top 10 Disability Events of 2012 and share with us yours! Write a comment or send us an email. And as we look forward into the new year of 2013, our family at the Lead On Update will continue to share the latest Disability Updates.
Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!
Lead On Update Staff