Accommodating less visible disabilities in our courtrooms

In today’s Governor’s Council hearing for a nominee to the Family Court, an important issue came up, which is one I’m always very mindful of: Courtroom approaches to handling mental differences, particularly for people on the autism spectrum. As I note on my campaign website, “We must also guarantee that our courts themselves are accessible and accommodating to all varieties of disabilities, including physical and mental challenges that may or may not be visible.”

There’s still a long way to go on accommodating physical disabilities that are plainly visible, but their visibility has also contributed to progress on that front. We haven’t had as much progress on less visible things. It’s critical that our judges exercise flexibility, restraint, and understanding in dealing with adults and children with autism in the courtroom. “Unusual” or “disruptive” behavior isn’t always disrespectful, and sometimes judges need to work around it, rather than trying to control it. Courtrooms are very stressful environments for everyone, but they can definitely be overwhelming to people who aren’t neurotypical (especially for children), and it’s important to make provisions for that.

Wendy Davis team attacks opponent’s wheelchair

There have been a lot of things to criticize the campaign team of Texas Democratic governor nominee Wendy Davis for. It hasn’t been well run. But perhaps the most egregious so far was the recent decision to run an attack ad against her Republican opponent that focuses on his disability (wheelchair-bound partial paralysis from an accident).

Don’t get me wrong: Attorney General Greg Abbott is awful. And he is indeed probably justifiably labeled a hypocrite (see below). But calling politicians hypocrites isn’t that effective in general, because most people kind of assume it anyway, and this is bound to make her look far worse than it does him.

The ad argues that Abbott successfully sued for his 1984 injury, but later as a Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general opposed similar efforts from other people suing hospitals and corporations.

“Abbott argued a woman whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb,” the narrator says. “He ruled against a rape victim who sued a corporation for failing to do a background check on a sexual predator. He sided with a hospital that failed to stop a dangerous surgeon who paralyzed patients.”

 
Here’s the the thing: Those actions are terrible, but emphasizing his own disability and criticizing him explicitly for being a heartless hypocrite wasn’t necessary to make that point. He’s been campaigning all year with ads talking about and featuring his disability. Given that many of Abbott’s own ads mentioned or showed his wheelchair, she could just have pointed out his shameful positions without also explicitly bringing up the wheelchair and suggesting he’s a hypocrite. People could figure that out on their own because they already know the other half, without it being brought up explicitly, and without empty wheelchair images.

Therefore, this seems like a really bad move, even if the criticisms raised are warranted. Instead of the focus being on how horrible his record is, the focus is on how nasty the Davis campaign’s TV ads are. Already, most of the past long weekend was taken up debating whether or not it was out of bounds, and she keeps defending it. I don’t really see the point.

100th Episode! September 24, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 100

AFD-logo-470

Topics: Implications of the Scotland no vote, ADA non-compliance in higher ed, 100th episode celebration. People: Bill, Nate, Persephone. Produced: September 21, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– What are the implications of the Scotland referendum outcome for the United Kingdom and other European separatist movements?
– Why aren’t colleges and universities doing more to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act?

Part 1 – Scotland:
Part 1 – Scotland – AFD 100
Part 2 – ADA Compliance, 100th Episode:
Part 2 – ADA, 100th Episode – AFD 100

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 1

Boston Globe – Opinion: On education technology, college lobbyists are keeping disabled students behind
USA Today: U.S. Justice Department sues Kent State over student’s therapy dog
CentreDaily: ADA football parking changes off to rocky start

Segment 2

BBC: Madrid opposes Catalan referendum
Financial Times: Alex Salmond brushes aside the foreign policy facts for Scotland
AFD: April 14, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 80, Part 2: European Nationalism

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

What have we learned so far from Wisconsin’s police shootings law?

According to an article from Al Jazeera America, Wisconsin’s groundbreaking law on investigations of shooting deaths by police has not (so far) resulted in any cops facing consequences, but it has revealed a lot more information on cases that previously would have remained shrouded in mystery.

So far this year, law enforcement in the state has shot and killed 6 people. Not a big pool of data, but still worth examining. Of those 6 cases, 2 were suicidal (so, not a helpful response by police), 1 was allegedly attempting to burn down the house of his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend (a sheriff’s deputy), and 3 were schizophrenic (but not necessarily having an episode). At least 3 of the victims were already known to the specific law enforcement members involved in the shootings.

This is, of course, not really a revelation — mentally ill or developmentally challenged civilians in the United States have long been the victims of fatal incidents with the police — but it provides more information and case studies that should be used to advocate for increased training for how police can and should respond to people with serious mental health issues or other mental difficulties, to avoid chaotic responses that end in tragedy.