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Monday, August 31, 2015


wanted to share a nice article on #DisabledLivesMatter from The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) blog post.
"Police incidents against people with disabilities of all colors and backgrounds should also have glaring in-your-face media coverage, and build widespread outrage among the public. These incidents need to shock our community into action too. Disabled lives do matter."
August 31, 2015 | Barbara L. Kornblau
Power Grid Blog 

By now, there isn’t anyone who lives in the US, owns a television, or is attached to social media who has not heard of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. The attacks on black individuals and needless deaths by police officers have shocked a community into action. Of late, the movement has garnered much press attention forcing several Presidential candidates’ campaigns to respond to its issues.

Unfortunately, people with disabilities face many of the same issues faced by black lives, but without the glaring in-your-face media coverage, and widespread, building, outrage, most people do not know about it. Many in our community remember Ethan Saylor, the 26-year-old man with Down’s syndrome, who was killed in a confrontation with police in Maryland, when they forcibly removed him from a movie theatre. Sadly, Ethan Saylor’s experience with the police is not an isolated incident among people with disabilities. Police incidents with people with disabilities seem as common as the incidents that gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. I’d like to tell you about just a few of these incidents that I find rather shocking.

Last year, a Daytona Beach police officer shot and killed a deaf man who was sitting in his SUV with his adult son. The windows of the SUV were rolled up when the police officers opened fire. The pair had had a loud discussion with a towing company employee, which the police overheard. The man, who carried a legal gun in a visible holster, was accused of “yelling” and being rude. He explained that he was “hard-of-hearing” or deaf and could not monitor his voice volume. His son confirmed that. The employees reported they feared for their safety because of the gun but the man never took out the gun. A deaf man is dead because he talked too loud? You can read more about that and watch the news reports here.

This past July, in West Saint Paul, Minnesota, police used their taser on a 49-year-old man with developmental disabilities, while in pursuit of a gunman reported to have a goatee. The man they tased did not have a goatee and was well known in the community for his habit of walking around the neighborhood. Tasing a man for having a developmental disability and not understanding why police would want him to get down on the ground in his own neighborhood? You can read more about it here.

Also in July, in Chester City and Chester Township, Pennsylvania, two Philadelphia suburbs, police officers got together beat and tasered a man with developmental issues and a speech impairment, who drove the wrong way down a one-way street. They could have given him a simple traffic ticket and continued to investigate the home break-in – the reason they were in the neighborhood in the first place. A beating and tasing for driving the wrong way down a one-way street with a disability? You can read more about it and see the video here.

What really prompted me to write this blog post was an incident that happened a few weeks ago in August. My son, who also has a disability, alerted me to this one in utter shock. One commentator reported this as an incident of “walking while handicapped.” Someone called the police to complain about a man waiving “sticks” around. The police came to subdue the man and take away the “sticks.” The gentleman, who had one leg and a prosthetic leg, tried to explain to the police that the “sticks” were his crutches and he kept repeating that they were crutches and he needed them to walk. Fourteen police officers took this man down, pinned him - back and naked buttock exposed to the crowd - to the “piss-stained concrete,” restrained him, handcuffed him, and stomped on his prosthetic leg. All for the crime of walking with crutches? You can see the video and read more about it here.

This last incident hits close to home for me. I walk with a cane. I have been known to point with my cane and move things out of the way with it while I am walking. Am I at risk? There is one difference. Two of the victims of police incidents I described above are Black. NCD’s Rebecca Cokley and Lawrence Carter-Long point out in their article “Police Violence Against People With Disabilities,” that many of the deaths at the hands of police in the Black Lives Matter movement are also people with disabilities. Eric Garner had asthma. Freddie Gray was reported to have a developmental disability, and Kajieme Powell, shot and killed by the St Louis Police Department, had a history of mental illness. (Reference here).

So, as people with disabilities, the Black Lives Matter campaign hits home. At the same time, I think it is time for us to come together to make these incidents and deaths known as part of a Disabled Lives Matter movement. Police incidents against people with disabilities of all colors and backgrounds should also have glaring in-your-face media coverage, and build widespread outrage among the public. These incidents need to shock our community into action too. Disabled lives do matter.

This post was written by guest blogger Barbara L. Kornblau, who serve the community as a Disability Policy Consultant.

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