This week I researched high and low in order to keep you updated on current events in the community of people with disabilities. Hope you enjoy!
1. For those of you who are unaware, October is national Down Syndrome Awareness Month. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, this is a time to celebrate the history and triumphs of the community of people with Down syndrome. In keeping with this theme, I thought I’d share with you some of the achievements of people with Down syndrome this year.
• Although William and Kate cannot possibly keep all of the numerous gifts they receive, there is one artist whose work they decided warranted a place in their home. Tazia Fawley, a forty-three year-old painter with Down syndrome, dedicated six-months to creating a beautiful painting of the Bristol Balloon Festival in England, and was overjoyed when she heard that William and Kate had accepted her painting as a gift for the birth of their son Prince George.
• Homecoming was exceptionally special for two teenagers at a Florida high school this year. Semone Adkins and Travjuan “Bubba” Hunter became the first ever couple with Down syndrome to be voted homecoming king and queen in central Florida this month. With the help of their community, who pitched in to set the couple up with fancy outfits and accessories, homecoming night was made for Semone and Bubba.
• When Karrie Brown, a seventeen year-old girl with Down syndrome, and her mom made a page on Facebook detailing Karrie’s wish to model for Wet Seal, they were unaware of the events to come. After the page received 10,000 “likes”, Wet Seal granted Karrie’s wish, flying her to California for her very own professional shoot.
More thought-provoking stories can be found in the Huffington Post article, titled, “During Down Syndrome Awareness Month, These 7 People Remind Us that Labels Don’t Matter”.
2. With all our favorite television shows returning this fall, it’s important to consider the demographics these shows represent. According to a study conducted by GLAAD, a media advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, there has been an increase in characters with disabilities on mainstream television for the 2013-2014 season. Unfortunately, this increase serves more to highlight the lack of representation of people with disabilities. Despite the fact that 19% of people in America have a disability, as estimated by the 2010 U.S. Census, only 1% of the characters on prime-television shows have disabilities. However, this is twice the number from last year, and we can only hope that the representation of people with disabilities on mainstream television continues to rise.
3. While some people view Google’s phenomenal new invention, Google Glass, as technology taken to the unnecessary extreme, the device is proving to be greatly beneficial for people with disabilities. The glasses, which act as a voice-commanded wearable computer, were given in advance to about 8,000 individuals, and are proving to be very advantageous for those with limited sight, hearing, or movement. One of the people chosen to receive a Google Glass was fifty-two year-old Tammie Lou Van Sant. Paralyzed from the chest down almost two decades ago, Tammie has struggled with finding a way to express her passion for photography. Since she started using Google Glass, she is no longer forced to ask others to take photographs; now, she simply verbally commands Glass to capture the desired image for her. Having Google Glass has not only increased her individual power, but given her a means for self-expression. Researchers are also focusing on developing facial recognition software, which is intended to benefit people with autism, who struggle with recognizing emotional cues.
To explore in more depth, read the article, “Beyond a gadget: Google Glass a boon to disabled” in USA Today.
4. This month a young boy with autism made a valiant attempt to stand up for his educational rights. On October 7th, Christian Ranieri, a fourteen year-old freshman in high school, stood in front of the Board of Education in Northport, New York to talk about how he believed that he was being discriminated against because of his disability. Christian stated that there had been several cases of teachers disregarding his Individualized Education Plan, and that he had been wrongly disciplined and suspended because of his disability. According to his mother, the Ranieri family had tried to deal with the issue within his school, but had been ignored. But when Christian tried to speak up for himself, the president of the school board, Stephen Waldenburg, refused to hear Christian’s story, insisting that Christian be silent. According to Waldenburg, the “entire discussion which involved disciplinary action is totally improper for a public session”. Since then, the video of the incident has gone viral, with almost 70,000 views on Youtube. With pressure increasing, it remains to be seen whether or not the Northport Board of Education will take action.
The video can be viewed at, “Video of Self-Advocate Silenced by School Board Goes Viral”, on Disability Scoop.
I’ll leave you with our quote of the week:
“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” – William Arthur Ward