It is a story where words fail to adequately describe the horror.


Tune in this Sunday at 7.30 p.m. when Contact presents an interview with Eric Rosenthal, director of Disability Rights International (DRI) regarding its scathing, ground-breaking report describing abusive and decrepit conditions in Mexican institutions for the developmentally and physically disabled.


The year-long investigation by DRI revealed what the report said was “atrocious and abusive conditions” that included lobotomies performed without consent, children missing from orphanages, widespread filth and squalor and an appalling lack of medical care. There are many instances where disabled patients were held in restraints for several hours at a time.

Mr. Rosenthal talks about these abuses were left to go unchecked and the response of the Mexican government. He also reflects on the continued viability of the concept of putting people, such as those with disabilities, in institutions. Is institutionalization an outdated and ineffective concept? dD


Hear more. Learn more. This Sunday at its new time –7.30 p.m. and make Contact …on VoicePrint.


VoicePrint can be accessed on the Secondary Audio Program of CBC Newsworld; on Star Choice (ch 825), ExpressVu (ch 49 and 967), Look TV (ch 400); Rogers Digital (ch 196), Eastlink Digital (ch 394); and Aliant Digital (ch 998); and and at

The ‘R’ Word: Language does matter


In the Ottawa Sun on Wednesday, Anthony Furey wrote a column titled ‘A lobbyist by any other name …’ in which he sought to denigrate lobbyists and the politics of language by which some re-fashion themselves as ‘government relations’ experts.

But he tracks the “history of their linguistics,” to use his phrase, by drawing a parallel with efforts to end the use of the ‘R’ word to label certain people and actions as deficient in some way. I won’t use the full word here; we all know what it is. It hurts too many people to hear it and to see it in print.

Almost universally, the commentary on this article on the Sun website and in social media was how offensive, demeaning and disrespectful Mr. Furey was in his use of the ‘R’ word. It’s as though he anticipated such overwhelming reaction.

In his article he dismisses efforts to remove use of the ‘R’ word from political and cultural discourse as ‘political correctness.’ That’s the question we need to take up. Does language matter? Does how we name ourselves and the world make any difference? Are social justice struggles to redefine our identities in more humane ways, stepping stones to a more inclusive society? Or simply histrionics?

For thousands of years people with intellectual disabilities have been denigrated, violated and rejected. In the 20th century, the Nazi regime made them a target and applied its methods. In the 21st century, the genetic technology revolution threatens the same outcome, but by sanitized means. Expunge the life pre-natally, it’s cleaner. Language does matter.

Throughout the centuries language has been used to organize rejection, often murder; then used to legalize it and produce an ethics to justify those actions.

Look at the “ethicist” Peter Singer, who argues there’s no need to use chimpanzees in medical experimentation when it can be done more justifiably on mentally “r**ded” people. If we didn’t have the language to separate human beings in such a fashion, we couldn’t build such a repulsive ethics.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Birmingham in 1963, he wrote in his famous letter from the jail, to those who challenged his impatience for justice: “When you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’— then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

People with intellectual disabilities, their families and advocates are also impatient. We are impatient because two thirds of Canadians reject inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities in regular classrooms.

Education laws for decades cleaved the population into children defined by the ‘R’ word and the rest of children, the latter seen to be deserving of public education, the former not.

We are impatient because only 26% of working age adults with intellectual disabilities are employed, and over 75% live in poverty. We are impatient because too many people with intellectual disabilities become ‘nobodies’ in others’ eyes, which helps to explain the rates of abuse that are higher than any other population group.

We are impatient because we have so many stories to tell of people with intellectual disabilities who make extraordinary gifts and contributions to their families, communities, schools and workplaces, stories that don’t seem to get heard.

Mr. Furey is right. There’s a history of linguistics. You can trace it in blood. But we could change it … by ending the use of the ‘R” word.

Michael Bach is executive vice-president of the Canadian Association for Community Living, a national federation of over 40,000 members, 400 local associations and 13 provincial/territorial associations working to advance the human rights and full inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities (

You can find the original article here –

I know there are bigger environmental issues out there than plastic bags, but it still is an important issue.  Seeing videos like this I can’t help but wonder what TV ads would look like if advertising companies used their skills more responsibly.


Following the interview I posted earlier this week, complaints have been made to the BBC. McIntyre has posted his thoughts on the interview to his blog, and says he finds the whole situation not that surprising. As for me, the whole situation has inspired me to keep tabs on how austerity measures are impacting people with disabilities, so look forward to more on that soon.


This video made my morning.  Setting aside some CP solidarity bias, this guy is awesome.  The BBC clearly wanted to seek public support against the protests against this video, but McIntyre did not let that happen.  I wish I could shake your hand man.


Here in Canada, we experienced similar incidents during and after the G20 where many people with disabilities were mistreated and the hands of police, and though people did fight back, the issues did not recieve nearly this much public attention.  People with disabilities were allegidly abused by police, or police accused other protesters of being mislead into attending.  We do have a mainstream disability movement, but where were they to support the victims of violence and seek the solidarity of others during the G20? (crickets chirping)

I’m starting to believe that the mainstream disability movement in Canada is happy to play victim, or stand by as a silent bystander while individuals fight for their rights.  Occasionally you might see a letter or two, but it seems like people are really afraid to make disability issues into public issues.  That is a shameful slap in the face to our history.  I congratulate McIntyre for taking the step to connect his issue, which could have easily become isolated as a disability issue, into a call for broader struggle. I hope someday we can fight beside you.

A blind Toronto woman faces off against the Government of Canada later this
month, launching a Charter Challenge in Federal Court in Toronto to seek
improved government website access for blind and partially-sighted

Donna Jodhan has urged the Federal Government to live up to commitments to
make all of its websites fully accessible to Canadians with sight loss, for
four years.  “The Canadian Government knows the necessary standards, and
exactly what to do to meet them,” Ms. Jodhan states.  “No special equipment
is needed to bring web pages to W3C international standards.  But, because
they haven’t bothered – I feel forced to launch this Charter case.”

Ms. Jodhan is supported in her challenge by the Alliance for Equality of
Blind Canadians, a national organization of blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted Canadians.  “The Canadian Government took a great step forward this
March by ratifying the United Nations Treaty on the Rights of Persons With
Disabilities,” Alliance President Robin East of Saskatoon says, “but they
still have not made their websites and related information fully accessible
to blind and partially sighted Canadians as the Convention requires.  Even
more outrageous, they’re spending taxpayer’s money fighting blind Canadians
through the courts!”

Ms. Jodhan explains that most web pages are designed with fully visual
orientation, for the vast majority of users.  The problem for blind
Canadians, Ms. Jodhan says, is that web pages written without “tags” or
“labels” – extra notations embedded in PDF forms and other online
documents – are not useful to users with sight loss, even with their own
adaptive computer screen readers.  “Because of this, we as blind Canadians
often have to wait for months before receiving information in a format that
we can read, or we must get sighted assistance to help us complete online
forms.  That means our right to the equality guaranteed under the Canadian
Charter of Rights, is trampled upon.”

Ms. Jodhan says that with properly coded websites, people with sight loss or
blindness would benefit professionally and personally just as much from
using the internet as sighted Canadians do.  “It’s simply one extra step in
writing pages.  Web developers don’t need additional software or hardware.
They should simply use accessibility experts and blind testers for their
projects, to ensure that every Government website can be accessed by all
Canadians in a meaningful manner”.

AEBC President Robin East cautions the Federal Government not to take Ms.
Jodhan’s court challenge lightly.  “It’s not the David versus Goliath fight
some people might think,” East comments.  “Ms. Jodhan won cases against Air
Canada at the Canadian Transport Agency, and Statistics Canada at the
Canadian Human Rights Commission.  She could come out of this battle with a
hat trick.  We want Donna to win this fight for full government website
access, because accessible and useable websites are vitally important to
Blind Canadians.”

Ms. Jodhan’s court challenge will be heard September 21 – 23, at 180 Queen
Street West in Toronto, from 9:30 a.m.