Handicap This! March-April 2013

April 11, 2013

by Suzanne Rose

Chicago, Ill.—After a Seattle couple ordered their six-year-old daughter with disabilities to undergo a treatment to keep her physically small, a coalition of disability rights activists including ADAPT, Not Dead Yet and Feminist Response in Disability Activism met on Feb. 19 with leaders of the American Medical Association to discuss the AMA’s reaction. The advocates asked the AMA to issue a statement opposing the “growth attenuation” treatment that the girl endured, which included a hysterectomy, removing her breast tissue and giving her massive doses of estrogen in order to keep her from going through puberty. Disability activists around the world have condemned the practice, some calling it “mutilation” and “abuse.”

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New Delhi, India—Disability rights groups joined the One Billion Rising global campaign to end violence against women, spotlighting harassment and poor treatment faced by disabled women. Samarthyam Anjlee Agarwal, an organization which promotes accessible environments, organized events highlighting violence against women with disabilities. Their initiative got the support of the Delhi Metro, which displayed digital flash messages on violence against women in its train coaches and at all Metro stations. At the YWCA and Parliament Street, dancers in wheelchairs performed “Delhi Rising.” Their message to women with disabilities was “Celebrate life, celebrate diversity and celebrate freedom.”

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New Market, Md.—The death of Robert Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome killed in police custody, has been ruled a homicide. He was asphyxiated on Jan, 12 while lying handcuffed and face down on the ground. The police were called to the movie theater where Mr. Saylor was watching a movie with his caregiver. When she left the theater to get her car, Robert waited for her in his seat and wouldn’t leave. That’s when a theater employee called the police. When his caregiver returned, the police ignored her and her efforts to de-escalate the situation. They said Mr. Saylor was distressed after being handcuffed, appeared to panic and started to struggle. He had not threatened anyone. “Robert just loved everybody,” said his mother, Patti. “If the police had gotten the proper training on how to deal with someone with Down syndrome, this wouldn’t have happened.”

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St. Louis, Mo.—The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing to a Missouri family after agents at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Feb. 9 detained Lucy, a three-year-old with spina bifida in a wheelchair heading to Disney World for a vacation. Agents took away her stuffed animal and tried to stop her parents from filming their body search of Lucy and her pink wheelchair, telling them it was illegal which is not true. The family had made it through the TSA checkpoint, but as they walked to their gate, another TSA agent pulled Lucy aside for additional screening. Annie, Lucy’s mother, refused to stop filming. The video shows Lucy weeping uncontrollably and screaming that she no longer wanted to go to Disney World.

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