In recent months it seems one cannot turn on a news program or pick up a newspaper without hearing or reading about someone who has taken their own life as a result of suicide. There seems to be a kind of epidemic spreading. It is not limited to just the uneducated, the poor, teenagers or the influence of social media.
The list of famous, successful people who have committed suicide is a long one: Alan Turing, mathematician and computer scientist, James Forrestal former secretary of the Navy, Junior Seau 10 time All-Pro football player, Kurt Cobain singer-songwriter, Lembit Oll chess grandmaster from Estonia, Meriwther Lewia an American explorer, Samuel J. F. Thayer American architect, Vincent van Gogh post-impressionist painter, George Eastman inventor of rolled film and founder of Eastman Kodak Company and many, many others. Samuel Austin Kendall, spent 14 years in the House representing Pennsylvania. He lost a re-election bid and shot himself in the House Office Building just before his successor was sworn in. All of these people suffered from some kind of depression or emotional disorder and committed suicide.
Throughout my life, I have lived with the feeling that there has been this storm cloud following me, or I was continuously walking in a rain storm. For all those years I have tried to find a reason why but to no avail.
Family: While searching for answers I have felt it was my parents’ fault, dressing me in out of date hand me down clothing which didn’t exactly fit right, or with their busy lives didn’t give me enough attention. Was I beaten as child? Did I have poor toilet training? Looking back in all honesty I really can’t say that. We were far from the richest family, but my parents were loving people. They were not June and Ward Cleaver, they were more like Archie and Edith Bunker. They were hardworking people who did the best they could with what they had. If there was a problem with them the hardworking part might have something to do with it, but they spent as much time as they could, not only with me but also with my siblings.
Were there other family members with the same condition? I’m not really sure if I can say that. Like most families, there was the odd duck here and there, although some branches of my family tree may have been weighed down with more than its share of odd ducks.
Walking through life followed by a storm cloud became a daily state for me as far back as I can remember. One episode I clearly recall is a conference my parents had with my teacher at school. I was labeled a dreamer, an underachiever, a bit of a discipline problem and possibly had a learning disorder. As a result, I was packed up and sent to a Catholic school. I have to confess that this didn’t really force me to pay closer attention in school; I had average or slightly less than average grades. I did just enough to get by, with no idea of what I wanted to do after graduation.
School: I should take a step back at this point and explain that I was placed in a Catholic school, but I’m not Catholic. I should say that being different may not be a bad thing; it can make a person more interesting. However, being well established as a little strange and then being a non-Catholic in a Catholic school is a recipe for feelings of isolation. To further my isolation, I was six feet tall at the start of ninth grade, very skinny, really never grew into my ears and did not have the right kind of hair for the time period. So here I am a non-Catholic, head and shoulders above everyone else, being so skinny I looked like a feature picture from Mission Magazine, with ears that looked like both car doors were open, dressed in clothing that was in style ten years ago and didn’t fit quite right. This combination just added to my feeling like a “Freak”.
College was never encouraged for me in high school, but as I remember, it was considered a waste of time for me to apply. I actually thought I would like to be a history teacher or study art history. My dad grew up during the depression, and was a blue collar worker all his life. He did not understand why anyone would waste time on college, so I was told to learn a trade. I did manage to be accepted at a local two year college for accounting but after my first year I realized accounting was not for me and dropped out.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was self-medicating, drinking way too much and totaled a car. I should have been seriously injured but wasn’t. I was a young adult and didn’t know it then but I was on a down slide. Then I met my wife.
Romance: Romance was equally challenging for me, not being comfortable in my own skin. It seemed young men and women had no difficulties with dating. Somehow I did manage to acquire a girlfriend, who I cared very much for, but it didn’t work out.
I had a few other short term relationships but once again nothing that seemed to be permanent Finally, I met a women who at first I really was uncomfortable with. We met in December were engaged in April and married in October. We are still together, have three children and through my darkest times she has become my rock. Looking back I think I first married because everyone I knew was marrying, it was expected, the next state of my life. I have found numerous creative ways to mess up my life and she has always been there to put me back on track and I still to this day don’t always understand why, but I am very grateful she is there.
Careers: I bounced around a lot from job to job; my average life expectancy at a job was 3 years at the most. I have had a multitude of different career experiences but none seemed to work out. I guess I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and truth be told I still don’t. What is interesting is that despite all my different careers, I always seemed to find myself in a position of supervision or management.
Working in management for most of my working life was not something I sought out. I could never understand when I was so out of control inside how I was able to keep things running on the outside.
Also at this point I had become so insecure, I didn’t really want to deal with other people’s problems or have to encourage others. But I did, sometimes I would be so nervous for example if I had to terminate someone. As I remember I would shake after the task was done.
The First Crisis: I didn’t know it at the time, but I was working in management, in a field I did not realize I hated; I was married with two small children a third on the way and had just bought a house. I was twenty eight years old and my first storm cloud hit me. I had no interest in anything, never wanted to get out of bed, wouldn’t do anything around the house, I had no interest in doing anything with my children, I was miserable to live with and blamed the world for everything and lived in a constant state of anger which showed itself at home
I am not going to explain how I had planned to do myself in; I’ll keep my plan to myself as I don’t want to give anyone ideas. My wife knew I was having difficulties, but unbeknownst to her and I believe she is just finding out as she reads this, it was the birth of my third child that stopped me in my tracks. I was all set, I had a plan, but I just couldn’t leave her and my new child.
Help: I became aware that I was falling into a deep black pit with no bottom and no way out and, with the insistence of my wife, I began to seek help and started seeing a counselor, I started out with two times a week visits. They seemed to be helping although there were so many thing running through my head, sorting out where the problems were or what caused them became murky for me after a while and I was saying “oh yes” to anything that was suggested as an issue for me.
The Second Crisis: This one came about around a year and a half later. I had become very frustrated with my job, things were not going right at home, there were financial issues and it seemed like I was working continuously and get nowhere at rocket speed. Friendships were very limited. My own family (father, mother and siblings) seemed to be aliens and understood nothing about me. I felt very alone and isolated with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Once again I had a plan to do myself in, I just couldn’t take it anymore, and nothing was going right. I was close to getting off work for the day and had planned on ending the pain once my shift was over. Out of the blue my middle child called me, and told me I was missed and asked me to come home. I melted.
Back for Help: Now I went back for additional help, but this time I was put into a group. I can’t honestly say the group did any more for me than individual psychotherapy, but there was a kind of awakening. I realized that no matter how I bad I felt, there were many more out there with bigger problems.
Working My Way Back: It has been a long difficult road back and I continue to experiment with how I handle life, but I have come to realize a number of things about myself, depression and the wrong beliefs I had, as does much of the world:
Smoke and Mirrors: I was certain that because I was creative with a good imagine I had everyone fooled. I believe no one realized how much trouble I was in. WRONG!! The only person that was fooled was me. The problem was no one who knew me dared say anything out of fear of my reaction. The exception was my wife, but again she had to walk on eggshells at times when approaching the subject. It turns out I was not only hurting myself but those closest to me. I became so absorbed with the illusion and myself, I never saw the pain I was putting others through.
Medications: I was very resistant to psychotropic medications at the onset of my depression; it was many wasted years before I’d agree to take any. Once I finally went along with using them I made the same mistake many people make; I was feeling better so I must be cured and therefore I don’t need them anymore. WRONG!! The feeling better is directly a result of the medications, I failed to realize that and that is a mistake I’ll not make again. If you stop the medications you can fall deeper into the bottomless hole.
Male Ego: Like most men I was raised that males should strong, with no emotion or at least they should never show or, heaven forbid, talk about them. WRONG!! What destructive foolishness. I now believe because of this thinking depression in males may be harder to deal with, and actually because of the communications breakdowns may very well cause the depression to be more intense. As a man you just don’t talk about such things.
The Unspoken Illness: Perhaps because of the unpredictability of the actions of people suffering from depression we hide it. Too many people believe if we ignore it will go away, or he/she needs to grow up and get tougher or you need a thicker skin, or they are just looking for attention. WRONG!! The person with depression is in very real pain. We offer sympathy for people with heart conditions, or lung disorders or a stomach problem, why can’t we see the human brain can malfunction just like the rest of our body. We need to take depression seriously, have serious conversations about depression and hear the cries for help. We need to recognize it as a disability and ailment just like cancer and realize no one is immune.
What Works For Me: I have been told writing this article may be therapeutic for me, I’m here to tell you for me it is not, just too many demons under my bed that I have no interest in revisiting. There is very much I have held back, but I want everyone to know I live with depression every day. It’s an ongoing challenge that will never go away. I take medication. It does not stop it, but helps me to deal with the illness. I am not cured, but I have gotten to the point where, when morning comes, I still want to pull the covers over my head and hide there all day, but I rely on my knowledge of the illness to keep me going and I openly talk about it.
Most day I still feel like the odd duck, very much left of center. I’m still not comfortable with my height. I have learned to adapt to those feelings of being different, sometimes even take pride in it or embrace them. It has been said in every career I have had that I’m supposed to be very talented and creative; I never believe it, I always think there is an ulterior motive and have become a master at sabotaging myself in everything I do or have done.
I found I use humor to overcome my discomforts; I have become an expert at self-deprecation. I shouldn’t admit this it is partly a defense mechanism against my own mistakes I make and negative comments directed to me. It’s like disarming you enemies.
Over time I have come to the conclusion that, for me, depression is more of a chemical problem. The dark clouds are still there and may never go away and some circumstances can exacerbate this preexisting condition but meds are my umbrella from the rain cloud over me. I have come believe those dark clouds are what make me who I am. They are part of me and make me the unique individual I am.
The key for my survival are those little places of “ZEN”, where I find time slows down or distorts, and where I can clear my mind. Those places are where there is no outside world and I try to relish those moments and try to keep them in my head as long as possible.
Suicide and depression appears to be at epidemic proportions. What I hope readers take away from this article is to realize how important it is to change our views on depression and suicide. This article is about me, but it not about me, it’s about depressions and the feelings of loneliness, isolation and uselessness that accompany depression. Change cannot happen until people are willing to listen and depression is brought out into the light.
I did somehow manage to go back to college with a great deal of support from my wife, in fact I received a Master’s Degree. So much for a learning disability!
One final note for all of you marching to a different drummer: I no longer feel like the world is dressed in plaid and I’m wearing polka dots. Everyone is still wearing plaid, but I’m dressed in pin stripes. I’m not marching to a different drummer, it’s a whole different band and I’m learning to be proud of it.
This post is dedicated to my wife for her tireless encouragement; I still don’t know what you see, but the world needs more of you.
24 Hour Suicide Hotline in the U.S.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
For Additional information please visit the following: (General Information)
(These are just a handful, there is much more information available. Get Informed, Get involved and make a difference)
Prevent Suicide Apps:
I took a class with Cheryl Sonstein, an occupational therapist, of the Wellness Center of Glens Falls Hospital. She came to the SAIL Center a while ago to show us how to stay fit with chair exercises. She said, “Staying fit is important for good health and well-being. It doesn’t really take much effort to remain fit. In fact, you don’t even have to get out of your chair!”
Chair exercises are slow movements, such as rolling your shoulders or stretching your hands above your head. They might sound simple, but don’t underestimate their physical and mental benefits. Some of the benefits are improved vitality, range of motion, pain relief, and mind improvement. This is especially true among those who are older. Please remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program and make sure your doctor gives the OK on each exercise. Sonstein said that some, for example, are not good for people with problems or hip replacements. Below are some of the chair exercises I learned how to do. You can do them in the comfort of your living room.
1. Start by pulling up a chair, sitting down, and taking 3 deep breaths. Now, with a bent elbow, lift one hand over your head; hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with the opposite hand.
2. Relax your shoulders. With arms stretched straight out, move arms in circles – 10 times forwards, then 10 times backward.
3. Make sure your shoulders are still relaxed. Place your hands on your shoulders and roll them forward 10 times, then backwards 10 times.
4. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, and your hands on your shoulders, touch your elbows together 10 times.
5. Place both hands above your head, lean to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Then lean to the left and hold for 10 seconds. You can do the reps more than once. Gradually increase them up to 10, as your body feels more comfortable.
6. Now for the lower body. Move your hand down your leg toward your foot, and back up again – as if putting on socks. Repeat 10 times. Switch to opposite leg.
7. Place your hands on your thighs, keep your back straight and lean forward and back 10 times.
8. Stamp those feet. With your feet above the floor, wiggle those toes and don’t forget both feet.
9. Now let’s exercise those feet and leg muscles. Place your feet flat on the floor. Then point your toes up toward the ceiling. Repeat 10 times. Now lift up your knees 1 at a time. Repeat 10 times. Repeat with the opposite foot.
10. Don’t stop at your knee, touch hand to opposite toe. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with opposite hand. You may increase these repetitions up to 10 times as well.
11. Wiggle your fingers, with arms stretched out straight, as if playing the piano. Also, use your hands to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air. Silently scream! Open your mouth wide, as if to yell, but don’t make any sound. Try saying the vowels out loud – AEIOU.
12. Cool down by taking 3 deep breaths.
Hopefully by reading this you can become more motivated to get moving and get fit. You don’t need a fancy gym membership or even an exercise video. All you need is will power and a chair. Good Luck!
The ADA was passed on July 26, 1990 so this year is the 28th anniversary. Here is the anniversary website for the ADA beyond their just regular site if you want more anniversary information. https://www.adaanniversary.org/
When he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky state: “George Bush proclaimed ‘Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.’” (p.1)
The history of disabilities and the ADA did not begin on July 26, 1990 at the signing ceremony at the White House. It did not begin in 1988 when the first ADA was introduced in Congress. The struggles for equality go back much farther.
Looking back, our approach to people with disabilities has been less than desirable; there is a long history of abuse, discrimination and lack of compassion and understanding. One could also argue that throughout history there have been many forms of discrimination of those with disabilities and that included such perceived disabilities as being a minority race, female poor.
For the early tribes and nomads, survival was paramount. It is not exactly known for sure how a person with a disability was cared for; there has been some research that indicates they were cared for. Then again early live was a matter of survival, if an individual was unable to join in hunting and gathering, they were of no use and as the tribe moved on the disabled were left behind if they couldn’t keep up.
The following is a summary timeline:
Greek Empire: Were obsessed with human perfection.
· They believed beauty and intelligence were intertwined. This may have laid the ground work for future beliefs.
· Societies attempted to rationalize disabilities with ideas such as Meggie Shreve wrote in her research: “people who were deaf could not learn because communication was essential to learning.” (para 3)
Roman Empire: Developed a similar attitude to the Greeks.
· Romans considered the disabled inferior.
· There was no Latin word for “disabled”, so the Romans used the word “monstrum” which was the word used for mythical monsters.
· According to the Disability History Exhibit web site: “response to disability: Abandonment, Exposure, Mutilation.” (Alaskan D.H. & S.S. 2011)
· A disability was a mark of the god’s wrath.
· In many cases it was up to the father if a disabled child was to live or die. The disabled child was often taken and left naked in the woods.
· The attitude was to kill quickly
· In Sparta, children were the property of the state, not the parents and by law abandonment of a disabled child was mandatory.
Fall of Roman: The rise of Christianity.
· This was time of increased sympathy and pity towards the disabled.
· This period of compassion would soon be replaced by fear.
Middle Ages : (approx. 1060-1490) A time of social oppression, economic hardship and intellectual decline.
· Describing society, Shreve wrote: “became fearful of people with disabilities as their attraction to the attraction of the supernatural increased.” (para. 5)
· Those born with disabilities became outcasts and homeless beggars.
· Those born with disabilities were considered evil and a disability was the work of the devil as punishment for sins.
· Institutions developed more to hide the disabled than to treat, and conditions were less than humane.
Renaissance: (approx. 1400’s thru 1600’s) Increase in religious influence
· There was a change in the treatment of the disabled with the introduction of medical care and institutionalization.
· Many of the disabled were cared for by monks and religious organizations.
· Shreve claims: “People with disabilities were ridiculed, such as a court jester who was actually someone with a humped back.” (para. 5)
· Under King James I, creation of Bethlem Royal Hospital, Europe’s first psychiatric hospital
1700’s: Disabilities were common place.
· Start of industrial revolution.
· Long hours, in dangerous working conditions. No job safety regulations.
· Poor medical facilities
· Bloody battles, leaving many with permanent disabilities.
In an article by Stephen Weisman, he writes: “in the 18th century, having a disability was a death sentence in some instances.” Weisman goes on to report: “those who weren’t able to work were often left destitute and without other options aside from begging.”
· Many could not afford to have assistive devices made.
· They were the subjects of public mockery and scorn.
1800’s: those unable to fend for themselves were left to wander the streets, becoming beggars.
· The number of people homeless and living on the streets became a social issue and new policies developed. As described by the Alaskan Department Health and Social Services, Disability History Exhibit: “Moral Viewpoint – Persons who lived in extreme poverty, including many with physical or mental disabilities were often put into poorhouses or almshouses. Such establishments, supported by public funds, began in the Middle Ages as a means of removing economic outcasts from society.”(panel 6)
· Social and moral changes during this time brought training schools for the disabled bringing some relief to families of the disabled.
At the end of the Civil War job opportunities for those completing training dwindled.
Twentieth Century: Rhonda Neuhaus, Cindy Smith, Molly Burgdorf on the American Bar Association web site wrote: “the laws of the United States devalued persons with disabilities as society as a whole viewed such persons as a group of people to be pitied, ridiculed, rejected, and feared, or as objects of fascination. Persons with disabilities were seen as objects of charity or welfare or as needing to be subjected to medical treatment or cure.”
· 1907 Immigration Act
o People found by an examining surgeon to be mentally or physically defective, affecting their ability to earn a living, were not permitted to enter the country, often even with family members.
o There was a fear of making the U.S. a country of defectives.
· Late in the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century a number of cities passed what were known as “Ugly Laws”. These laws made it illegal for any person diseased, maimed, mutilated or disfigured in any way to show themselves in public view. The last city to repeal ugly laws was Chicago in 1974.
· At the turn of century many families who had a child with a disability kept them hidden or they were sent to an institution and they were often forgotten. A disability in many cases was a family embarrassment.
o With the advent of industrialization of the world, more than not the disabled were institutionalized. As Shreve explains: “society believed people with disabilities might be educated, but usually in “special” schools, far from urban or heavily populated areas.” (para. 7)
· In the Midwestern U.S. county fairs commonly entertained spectators by presenting oddities such as the “bearded women, the dog faced boy, giants, dwarves, five legged calves and learned pigs.” Fair promoters quickly learned that fair goers were so captivated by this mangled miscellany of humans and animal “oddities” that the “sideshow was born and became instrumental to the fairs and popularized the term “Freaks” and the “Freak Show”. Longmore and Umansky wrote: “so-called exhibitions, displays of the disfigured, disabled, or exaggerated bodies masquerading under the guise of scientific enlightenment.”(p. 178)
o It should be noted that one plus to the sideshows was that this gave people with disabilities a source of income and a feeling of community.
· 1930’s The rise of Hilter and the so called “Master Race”
o Perhaps the greatest abuse of the disabled.
o Those with physical deformities and in particular those with mental disabilities were subject to brutal experimentation and used as human guinea pigs.
o There is no record as to how many were put to death. Shreve reports: “Jews, Gays and Lesbians and other minorities and their supporters and people with disabilities were put to death by Hitler’s concentration camp staff.” (para. 8), anyone who failed Hitler’s view of the superior race.
· 1933 Franklin Roosevelt elected president.
o Roosevelt tried to hide his disability, but most people knew and he inspired many people with disabilities.
o Roosevelt created a nonprofit foundation, the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation
· 1938 Passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Employers may pay lower wages to employees whose productivity is limited due to physical or mental disability.
· 1946 The National Mental Health Foundation; Helped to expose the abusive conditions at state mental institutions and became an early advocate for people with disabilities to live in community settings rather than institutions. The precursor to de-institutionalization.
· 1947 First ever meeting of the President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. It began an ad campaign emphasizing the competence of people with disabilities.
· 1953 In-home care for adults with polio as a cost savings began in Los Angeles County.
· 1954 The office of Vocational Rehabilitation provided federal funds for over 100 university based rehabilitation programs.
· 1958 The Rehabilitation Gazette began publication, focusing on disability rights across the US. Many of its articles were written by disabled writers on their experiences.
· 1961 The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) this became the basis for architectural codes of accessibilities.
· 1962 The President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped became the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped; there was increasing interest relating to employment for people with cognitive disabilities and mental illness.
Edwards Roberts sued and gained admission to Berkeley. Surviving polio, Roberts used a wheel chair and iron lung. He became the first university student admitted with a significant disability.
· 1964 Passage of the Civil Rights Act which became the inspiration for future disabilities rights legislation.
Invention of the “acoustic coupler”, leading to the telephone modem which allowed type written message across telephone and that in turn paved the way for the today’s “TTY communication, allowing the deaf and hard of hearing to use the telephone.
· The National Technical Institute for the Deaf was created at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY.
· 1967 The National Theatre of the Deaf was established.
· 1968 Passage of the Architectural Barriers Act, required all federally owned or leased buildings to be accessible to the disabled.
· 1970 The Urban Mass Transit Act required all new mass transit vehicles to be equipped with a wheel chair lift.
the Physically Disabled Students Program (PDSP) founded by John Hessler, Ed Roberts, Hale Zukas and other from Berleley. Promoted community living, personal assistance programs and political advocacy, was the foundation for the nation’s first Center for Independent Living.
Judith Heumann founded the Disabled in Action in New York City after a successful lawsuit against the city’s public school system for employment discrimination.
Passage of Developmental Disabilities Service and Facilities Construction Amendments, contained the nation’s first definition of “Developmental Disabilities” and provided grants for facilities for the rehabilitation for people with developmental disabilities.
· 1971 WGBH a public television station in Boston begin providing “Closed Captioned” programming for deaf viewers.
Wyatt v. Stickney, the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama decided that people in residential state schools and institutions have a constitutional right to receive such individual treatment as would give them a realistic opportunity to be cured or to improve his or her mental condition. Disabled people could no longer be locked away in institutions without treatment or education.
· 1972 The US District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled the school system could not exclude disabled children from attending public schools. In the same year the District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania struck down a number of state laws used to exclude children with disabilities from public schools. These rulings worked to inspire passage of the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975.
Disabled activists in New York City and other cities around the country held demonstrations to protest Nixon’s veto of the Rehabilitation Act.
Outraged by a television broadcast from Willow Brook State School in Staten Island; parents of the residents filled suit to end the deplorable conditions at the institution. Thousands of people were relocated to community based living arrangements.
The Center for Independent Living was found in Berkeley, California. It is recognized as the first center for independent living.
The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law was founded in Washington, DC. Its mission is to provide legal representation and advocate for the rights of people with mental illness.
· 1973 Passage of the Rehabilitation Act. The law states, “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, shall solely by reason of his handicap, be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” This was intended to prohibit discrimination in federallly funded programs and services.
Passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act; Provided government funding for the construction of curb cuts.
The first handicapped parking sticker was introduced in Washington, DC.
· 1974The First Client Assistant Project (CAPs) to advocate for clients of state vocational rehabilitation agencies.
The first convention of People First held in Salem, Oregon, became the largest People First organization. It was led by people with cognitive disabilities.
The city of Chicago repealed that city’s Ugly laws. (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ugly-laws/)
· 1975 Passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act; allowed the right of disabled children to be integrated into a public school environment. This was later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
The founding of Parent and Training Information Centers (PTIs) was established to assist parents of disabled children to exercise their rights under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.
The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities was founded. It became an important cross-disability rights organization of the 1970s by pulling together disability rights groups representing blind, deaf, physically disabled, and developmentally disabled people.
The Supreme Court ruled that people could not be held against their will, or placed in a psychiatric hospital institution, unless they are proven to be a threat to themselves or to others. (O’Connor v. Donaldson)
· 1976 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1972, provided for services for the physically disabled students entering college.
The Cerebral Palsy telethon in New York City is picketed by “Disabled in Action” calling the event the telethon “demeaning and paternalistic shows which celebrate and encourage pity.”
· 1977 Disability rights activists in ten cities staged demonstrations and occupations of the offices of the federal department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) to force the Carter
Administration to issue regulations implementating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The demonstration in San Francisco lasted nearly a month. One 28 April, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano signed the regulations.
The first ever White House Conference to discuss federal policies towards people with disabilities. The conference brought together 3,000 individuals with disabilities and was the beginning of a grassroots disabilities right organization.
· 1978 A sit-in demonstration by disability rights activists was held, blocking the Denver Regional Transit Authority buses due to the inaccessibility of the mass transit system. The year-long protest forced the Denver Transit Authority to invest in wheelchair lift buses.
Passage of VII of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments provided for the first federal funding for the Centers for Independent Living (CILs) creating the National Council of the Handicapped through the Dept. of Education.
· 1979 The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is founded in Madison Wisconsin for the parents of persons having a mental illness.
· 1980 Congress passes the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. This allowed the Justice department to file suit on behalf of those institutionalized whose rights may have been violated.
The US Supreme Court ruled that Southeastern Community College must make “reasonable modifications” for qualified disabled individuals while receiving federal funding. This was test of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is an important principle of disability rights law.
· 1981 The International Year of Disabled Persons began with speeches before the United Nations General Assembly. During the year, governments were encouraged to sponsor programs bringing people with disabilities into the mainstream of their societies
· 1985 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, that localities cannot use zoning laws to prohibit group homes for people with developmental disabilities from opening in a residential area because its residents are disabled.
· 1986 The National Council on the Handicapped issued “Toward Independence.” The report outlined the legal status of Americans with disabilities, documented the existence of discrimination, and cited the need for federal civil rights legislation (what will eventually be passed as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).
· 1988 The Fair Housing Amendments Act added people with disabilities to those groups protected by federal fair housing legislation. It established minimum standards of adaptability for newly constructed multiple-dwelling housing.
· 1989 The original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, introduced into Congress the previous year, was redrafted and reintroduced. Disability organizations across the country advocated on its behalf.
· 1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local Programs and services.
· 1995 The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that continued institutionalization of a disabled Pennsylvania woman, when not medically necessary and when there is the option of home care, was a violation of her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Helen L. v. Snider).
Disability rights advocates viewed this ruling as a landmark decision regarding the rights of people in nursing homes to instead live in their own home and receive personal assistance services.
· 2004 The first ever Disability Pride Parade was held in Chicago and other communities around the country.
2006 The first bill requiring that students in a K-12 public school system be taught the history of the disability rights movement is passed, largely due to the efforts of 20 young people with disabilities from the state of West Virginia
2010 According to FBI 1.5% of hate crimes are due to bias against disabled.
Rosa’s Law, which changed references in many federal statutes that referred to “mental retardation” to make them refer, instead, to “intellectual disability“, became law in the U.S.
2011 Delta fined for violating rules protecting air travelers with disabilities
2011 On March 15, 2011, new Americans with Disabilities Act rules came into effect. These rules expanded accessibility requirements for recreational facilities such as swimming pools, golf courses, exercise clubs, and boating facilities. They also set standards for the use of wheelchairs and other mobility devices like Segways in public spaces, and changed the standards for things such as selling tickets to events and reserving accessible hotel rooms. The new rules also clearly defined “service animal” as “…any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” This portion of the law also states that the services the service animal provides must be “directly related to the handler’s disability” and dogs that provide only emotional support or crime deterrence cannot be defined as service animals.
2014 Employees of federal service and concession contractors with disabilities who had been paid less than minimum wage under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act were included in an executive order (signed in 2014) raising the minimum wage for employees of federal service and concession contractors to $10.10 an hour.
2016 An ethics rule of the American Bar Association now forbids comments or actions that single out someone on the basis of disability, as well as other factors.
Disclaimer: We acknowledge there are events which may have not been included on this time.
Alaska Department of Health & Social Services. (2001) Disability History Exhibit Retrieved June, 2018 from: http://hss.state.ak.us/gcdse/history/HTML_Content_Main.htm.
Longmore, Paul, K. & Umansky Lauri.(2001). The New Disability History, American Perspectives. New York: University Press.
Neuhaus, Rhonda, Smith, Cindy, Burgdorf, Molly. (2014). Equality for People with Disabilities, Then and Now. Vol. 31 No. 6. Published by the American Bar Association. Retrieved from:
Shreve, Maggie. (1982). The Movement for Independent Living: A Brief History. Attitudes Started It All. ILUSA, Retrieved from: http://www.ilusa.com/articles/mshreve_article_ilc.htm
Weisman, Stephen. (2018). Living with a disability in the 18th century. Retrieved from: http://history1700s.com/index.php/articles/14-guest-authors/1670-living-with-a-disability-in-the-18th-century.htm
Additional Information gather from:
Author Unknown. Disability Rights History Timeline. Retrieved from: http://www.yodisabledproud.org/organize/docs/PRIDE/5_High_School/Unit_3_High/3_1h-History_Timeline.pdf
Brignell, Victoria. (2008). Ancient World. From: The New Statesman website.
Gracer, Bonnie L.(2003). What the Rabbis Heard: Deafness in the Mishnah. From: Disability Studies Quarterly website.
NCLD. Timeline.National. Consortium on Leader and Disability for Youth. The Institute for Educational Leadership. Washington, DC. Retrieved from: http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61
PAEC. (2018). Timeline of Events, Legislation, and Literature that have Affected the Lives of Persons with Disabilities. Panhandle Area Educational Consortium. Florida. Retrieved from: https://www.paec.org/disabilityhistoryawareness/pdfs/Timeline.pdf
Timeline of disability rights in the United States. https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/Timeline_of_disability_rights_in_the_United_States.html
For more useful information on this topic visit:
Reckase, Will. (2013).Disability in Ancient Rome. https://www.rootedinrights.org/disability-in-ancient-rome/
People with disabilities are people first, like everyone else, and wish to be treated as such. There are certain ways that you should interact with people with disabilities. Here are a few examples of how to do that using disability etiquette.
· Use the term “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.” Say “people with disabilities” rather than “The disabled.” For specific disabilities, saying “person with cerebral palsy” is preferable.
· Avoid terms like “handicapped,” “crippled,” “physically challenged,” or “wheelchair bound.”
· Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as “see you later” or “did you hear about this” that seem to relate to a person’s disability.
· Speak directly to the person rather than to the companion or sign language interpreter.
· Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending that same familiarity to all others.
· Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them or touching them.
When meeting people who have physical disabilities,
· Offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands and offering the left hand is an acceptable greeting.
· Never lean against or hang on someone’s wheelchair.
· When possible, place yourself at eye level when speaking to someone in a wheelchair.
When meeting people with visually disabilities,
· Always identify yourself and others who may be with you. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.
· Never distract a work animal form their job without the owner’s permission.
· If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted; then listen or ask for instructions.
When Meeting people with speech or hearing difficulties,
· Listen attentively when talking with people who have difficulty speaking, and wait for them to finish. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, or a nod of the head.
· When approaching a person who is deaf or hearing impaired, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand to get his or her attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Try to face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.
· If a person is wearing a hearing aid, don’t assume that they can discriminate your speaking voice. Don’t shout. Just speak in a normal tone of voice.
University of Texas at San Antonio. (2018). Disability Etiquette 101. Retrieved from: www.utsa.edu/events/documents/disability-etiquette-101.doc.
United Cerebral Palsy (2018). (UPC.org). Interaction and Etiquette Tips. Retrieved from: http://ucp.org/?s=disability+Etiquette.
Mass Legal Services. (2013). The Ten Commandments of Communicating with People With Disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.masslegalservices.org/system/files/library/10%20Commdandments%20Commun_PWD%20(1)_2.pdf.
How many of us have noticed someone taking up an accessible parking space and then walking in a store with no apparent signs of a disability? They may have no wheel chair, cane or walker visible the driver merely stepped out the vehicle and strolls on their way. How many of us have complained about the number of accessible parking place at a local store? The word visible is the key here, what the eye sees may not be the whole story. Many of us may judge from a false assumption that these spots are just for mobility issues.
Some disabilities are more obvious than others. There are visible and invisible disabilities. So what are invisible disabilities? Simply, this refers to disabilities we cannot readily be seen. There is a whole gamut of hidden disabilities. Before we judge, make comments or worse yet to stare and giving “dirty” looks. Awareness of some of these invisible disabilities might benefit us all and enhance our understanding of not only our own lives but the difficulties others may face. Just like most people, people with disabilities strive and work, sometimes twice as hard, to be part of a community. People work to keep their life as independent as possible. This is not to say there aren’t people in the world who feel entitled and feel privileged about having a right to use these reserved spaces. Those people are out there and have to live with themselves. Invisible disabilities can offer as many challenges to everyday life as a visible disability, but because they are not seen they can add additional hardships.
To begin discussing invisible disabilities, there is a very good website: https://mymoderndeardiaryblog.com/2017/12/17/50-invisible-reasons-someone-needs-accessible-parking/
The site list 50 different invisible conditions, qualifying as a disability, warranting an accessible parking permit. It should be mentioned that this is by no means a complete list, but rather a good start at learning that there is often more than meets the eye. Here are a few other conditions which place a non-visible strain on the body:
Cystic Fibrosis: A genetic disorder, damaging the lungs and other parts of the body.
Congestive Heart Failure: The heart pumps an inadequate amount of blood for the body’s needs. Commonly people with this condition have shortness of breath and excess tiredness.
Pulmonary Fibrosis: A lung disease, damaging the lungs causing scar tissue to form. As a result there is often breathing difficulties with shortness of breath, weight loss, aching muscles and joints and fatigue.
Huntington’s disease: A progressive brain disease normally with uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs, face and upper body, also there is a decline in thinking and Reasoning skills which includes concentration and ability to plan.
Fibromyalgia: Often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, symptoms are generally wide spread muscle aches and fatigue.
This is by no means a complete list, these are real disabilities having a dramatic impact on a person’s life, but they are not readily recognized. For many of these unseen disabilities also have the side effect of unwanted weight gain, which bring about even more glares as if to say “if you parked at end of the parking lot and walked you wouldn’t be so fat.” We all need to understand that obesity itself is often the result of many different factors. Although it is unhealthy, we are not all petite sized and maybe totally unaware that not all weight gain is the consequences of being a lover of eating and laziness.
Finally, we have all heard criticisms relating to the number of reserved parking spots in front of our local mall or favorite store, but according to the U.S. Justice Dept. website at: www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm “More than 50 million Americans – 18% of our population – have disabilities and that’s on national level.” Looking a little closer to home, the New York State Department of Health website at: http://health.ny.gov/community/disabiity/prevalence.htm shows in New York State,” about one in five of the non-institutionalized population (about 3million people) or 22.5% of the population report an activity limitation.” While we consider the number of accessible parking places disproportionate, many have not taken into account the number of people with disabilities; thoughtful appreciation for those who are forced to live a totally different life style from many of us because of a disability is required. There is no doubt that anyone forced to have a special license plate or tag hanging from the rear view mirror, would gladly give it up to enjoy a non-disabled life.
If you browse the internet you will find many articles about the history of the word “handicapped”. It has been suggested by many that the word originated with the disabled having to beg for a living. For example, David Mikkelson (2011) writes: “People have been saying ‘”handicapped”’ for years. Since 1504, in fact”.
Mikkelson suggested one belief for the origin of the word has been: “In 1504, after a brutal war in England, King Henry VII had an idea. King Henry knew that the war had left his country with a great number of disabled veterans. And King Henry, who unfortunately had skipped his REELife Solutions [not a trademark, thank God] training session that morning, could not envision disabled veterans being able to hold a job, or contribute to society.
So King Henry VII passed some landmark legislation. He proclaimed that begging in the streets be legal for people with disabilities. So into the streets, with their “cap in hand”, went King Henry’s disabled veterans, to beg for money”. So with cap in hand referred to beggars, or people of no value in society.
The term is also used in horseracing and wagering. It measures the superiority of one contestant over another. This is the belief that one participant is stronger or better than another. The word “handicap” is rating one thing better or worse than another.
It appears that “handicapped” seems to have begun to describe a wide range of disadvantages, including social, economic and even moral standards. The website by Arika Okrent (2015) reports: “Handicap began to be applied to physical and mental differences in the early 1900s, when the new fields of sociology and social work started looking at people in terms of their place in society as a whole”. The term was used to describe people viewed as physically or mentally flawed.
The 1964 Americans Civil Rights Act gave inspiration to people with disabilities. By the 1970’s changes were developing and terms like cripple, lame, gimp and a host of others became offensive terms because they focused on a person’s deficits rather than the person themselves. Over time, “Handicapped” began to be replaced by the term disabled. By 1990 this movement for equal rights brought about The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).The purpose of the ADA and accessibilities is to level the playing field and to remove the need for so called “handicapping” and gives everyone an equal chance to demonstrate their skills and talents.
Additionally, using the word “handicapped” to describe a parking spot, bench at the park, or bathrooms doesn’t make any sense. Is there something wrong with the parking spot or bathroom? No, it is an “accessible” spot not one that has been handicapped.
Realistically, life is not a horse race and people with disabilities are just that, people. Those with disabilities are far from being beggars or useless individuals. Society and culture seem obsessed with labeling everything, including each other. Unfortunately, many of the old terms and cultural ideologies still remain. And the words we use perpetuate our view of reality, even if subconsciously. After over twenty-five years since the passage of the ADA, regardless of which origin we choose to accept for the word “handicapped”, for many, is a term with unfavorable connotations of that useless beggar in the street, or a less superior person.
Today, there is even a shift from using the word “disabled” to placing people first. Rebecca Atkinson (2015) blogs that: “Cripple, deaf-mute and lame all fell out of favor a long time ago and are now considered insults. By the 1980s and 90s “handicapped” was gradually replaced with “disabled” as a new way of thinking about disability emerged – called the social model. Attitudes change and as a consequence so does language”. With the shift to people first language it has now become “people with disabilities” as opposed to “disabled people”.
More and more the focus is beginning to be on “ability” rather than dis-ability. Once again Atkinson describes: “The definition of “dis” in one English dictionary is to ‘”have a primitive, negative or reversing force”’. To discredit. To disengage. And in recent parlance “’diss’”, with an extra s, has been popularized as an abbreviation of disrespect – “’Don’t diss me.’”
For now the “people first campaign” is spreading, and hopefully soon we will first recognize people for what they can do. People with disabilities can and do have talents which are often not being utilized.
Atkinson, Rebecca. (2015). Viewpoint: Is it time to stop using the word “disability”? Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-ouch-34385738
Mikkelson, David. (2011). Etymology of Handicap: Did the word ‘handicap’ originate with the disabled’s having to beg for a living? Retrieved from: https://www.snopes.com/language/offense/handicap.asp,
Okrent, Arika. (2015). Why Did ‘Disabled’ Replace ‘Handicapped’ As the Preferred Term? Retrieved from: http://mentalfloss.com/article/69361/why-did-disabled-replace-handicapped-preferred-term
In previous posts, we reviewed the ADA requirements regarding service dogs. We also discussed the different types of support animals and gave a general overview of the types of tasks these animals perform and the limitation of each type. In his final segment we will try to explain the current problems with misrepresentation of service animals, identifying legitimate service dogs and finally service dog etiquette.
Misrepresenting Service Animals
People bringing their animals into a business today is not an uncommon sight. For most pet owners, their pet becomes a member of the family and provides years of companionship. However, as understandable as this may be, many have begun to take this love for their pets too far. As a result “service dog fraud” has become an issue of concern and does a great disservice to all those who truly depend on these animals for their daily independence and in some cases health concerns. Therefore, falsely claiming to be disabled for selfish needs diminishes the effectiveness provided by federal protection under the ADA for public accommodations. It creates skepticism among the general public and business owners about the legitimacy of any animal entering a business.
As discussed previously, the regulations were created in such a way that a true service animal and handler are not required to show proof of disability and documentation of the service animal.
The results of this seemingly harmless faking of a disability simply to gain access for your fraud dog to a business that typically restricts animals has increased skepticism among business owners, their staff and the general public. Subsequently, an attitude of distrust has developed among many business owners and the public questioning the legitimacy of service dog and their handlers. Access challenges, especially if not settled quickly; according to the web site Please Don’t Pet Me: “can be the beginning of very negative and psychologically tolling experiences, for service dog teams.” Unresolved challenges result in undue stress for the service dog and handler.
The end result of this has increased doubt brought about from fraud dogs and their owners. Legitimate service dogs and owners face increasing discrimination, in forms beyond basic access challenges. Negative experiences with misrepresented service dogs and owners are likely to result in business owners and employees (again as reported on the by Please Don’t Pet Me): “they are likely to hold legitimate service dog teams to the low standard that has been set by their previous experience with pets, who have been misrepresented as service dogs.” Some resulting discrimination could appear as, i.e., isolating service dog teams, seating them apart from other patrons of a restaurant or perhaps providing less service to the handler than given to other guests, or treating service dogs and owners with a lack of trust by assigning an employee to follow the service animal team throughout a store looking for anything that could justify asking them to leave.
Identifying a Legitimate Service Dog Team
Every pet lover in the world who has housebroken their dog and has taught it to sit believes his/her dog is well behaved. Unfortunately, owners confuse dogs who have gone through good citizen training and been certified as therapy dogs as qualifying as a service dog. Often, a person who has a pet for which a doctor has written a letter or prescription for emotional support, confuses those animals’ rights as those of a service dog. Compounding the problems, anyone can buy a service animal’s vest on-line. Finally, just to add one more bit of confusion to this already complex topic, there are now businesses that allow pets in their establishments.
This has become the subject of bewilderment for many business owners. On one hand they want to do what’s right but on the other hand they worry about alienating customers and the possibility of property damage.
Though the suggestions here a not foolproof, they can be used as a guide to determine the difference between a legitimate service dog team and a pet lover with a fraud dog.
Pet dog behavior
It is important to remember that the ADA does not require an identification vest.
There is nothing wrong with companion dogs, but service dogs have had hundreds of hours of socialization. Additionally, they received many hours of training in different environments and have been taught obedience for each.
A dog that demonstrates poor basic obedience skills and ignores owner’s commands to undesirable behaviors is generally a good giveaway of misrepresentation.
While it is possible for a service dog to have an off day, the difference is the handler of a service dog will address the situation promptly and effectively or remove the dog from the situation. The owner of a fraud dog is likely to remain with an out of control dog.
Fraud dog owners, when challenged typically cannot properly respond:
The companion pet owners most often feel they are prepared to defend reasons for having their pet accompany them, but will not be well versed in the ADA regulations meant to protect people with disabilities and the service dog they depend on. A pet owner who is well versed in accessibility laws would not risk being caught, as many states have laws against misrepresentation of service animals.
Service dog etiquette
Unlike service dog handlers, pet owners are generally unaware of things they should and should not do regarding their dogs and the consideration of others. It is unlikely for a service dog team to exhibit the following behaviors:
Lack of consideration for others around them. Allowing their dogs to roam around seeking attention, blocking aisles or in general getting in the way.
Lack of consideration of their surroundings. Allowing their animal to freely explore products on store shelves, sniffing and licking merchandise or other customers.
Lack of control in a restaurant or food service business. Allowing dog to sit in booth or on chairs in the restaurant, feeding the dog table scraps or beg from other customers.
Lack of consideration for the public facility and staff. Failure to clean up after or notifying staff that the dog has had an accident or become ill in a public place.
General public etiquette
Many people know you should not pet a service animal, but fewer people realize that a service dog should not be distracted in any way. So what do we mean by distracting?
NO talking to
NO saying his/her name
NO eye contact
NO action in an attempt to get the dog’s attention.
Why? Simply put, these animals are always working, they have a job and that is to keep their handler safe. Any distraction from their primary duties risks causing a potential medical crisis for the person they are assigned to protect. That handler may not have a visible disability, but rather a host of invisible disabilities that could be life threatening. So, as a rule of thumb, if you see a service animal team, remember if you distract the dog and the owner is harmed, it is your fault.
This is a very complex issue, and for further information visit: https://www.anythingpawsable.com/service-animals/how-can-i-tell-if-a-service-dog-is-legitimate/ Or http://pleasedontpetme.com/servicedogs.php
Resources: Please Don’t Pet Me. (2016). Pets Being Misrepresented as Service Dogs. Retrieved from: http://www.pleasedontpetme.com