Weekly news updates and cultural tidbits from the world of disability:
1. Disability is back in the movie spotlight this week with the release of The Story of Luke, a comedy featuring a protagonist with autism. According to a recent Disability Scoop article by Michelle Diament, The Story of Luke follows the trials and tribulations of Luke, a young man with autism, as he searches for independence, a job and a girlfriend following the death of his lifelong caretaker. The film’s writer and director, Alonso Mayo, based the film off of his second-hand experience with developmental disability – his mother runs a school for children with disabilities in South America. There, he watched the tensions that the students faced when transitioning to independent adulthood. Mayo took pains to ensure that the film’s portrayal of autism was true to reality. According to Disability Scoop, Mayo stated, “We wanted to make sure that we were true, that it wasn’t a caricature. We want people laughing with Luke, not at Luke.”
The film is certified Fresh by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with a positive rating score of 80 percent.
The movie has been running limited release in 14 cities across the country since last Friday. It will also soon be available on iTunes and other on-demand download services.
2. According to a recent Oregon live article by Bryan Denson , the state of Oregon intends to move away from sheltered workshops towards mainstream employment for people with disabilities in the workplace. Facing pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice and lawsuits from outside groups, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber issued an executive order last Thursday establishing Oregon’s new goal: helping people with disabilities to find and maintain jobs in the mainstream workplace, not in sheltered workshops.
Sheltered workshops are separated branches of a company or organization’s labor force where people with disabilities are employed for a given period – for less than minimum wage – with the intent that they will join the integrated workforce in time. These workshops have come under fire for holding their employees indefinitely, sometimes only paying cents per hour for their labor. They also unnecessarily segregate a portion of the population by placing them in a separate work setting.
According to Denson’s article, 61 percent of Oregonian laborers with significant intellectual or developmental disabilities currently work in these sheltered workshops. Only 16 percent work in the mainstream workforce. The goal is to get people out of workshops and into the integrated workplace. Kitzhaber’s plan states that Oregon will begin cutting funding for workshop placements on July 1, 2015.
This is a major step for Oregon in its path towards integration.
To learn more about sheltered workshops, see our Perspectives video featuring Michael Bailey.
3. According to a recent Disability Scoop article written by Michelle Diament, the popular TV show Glee has faced criticism this week for its portrayal of a student with Down syndrome bringing a gun to the show’s fictional high school.
Some disability advocates are worried that the show is perpetuating a stigmatization of people with Down syndrome that is neither true nor beneficial to the experience of people with Down syndrome.
“Acting like every other teenager in doing things like sports and going to college, those are things great to portray for Becky,” said Julie Cevallos, vice president of marketing for the National Down Syndrome Society. “Taking a gun to school is something very serious and would likely come with a mental health condition. That’s not appropriate for someone with Down syndrome and not a stigma they need.”