Top 10 Disability Events for 2015 (well, actually 5)

Top 10Okay, okay, this year the list is a bit short. :) Usually it is the Top 10 Disability Events of the year. This year however, we have 5. However, as always, we encourage you to send us YOUR picks for disability events.
 
5.  Digital Access is at an all time high and is increasing

It has been a busy year for the FCC. To implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), the FCC adopted rules to make emergency information that is conveyed visually during a television program that is not a newscast, such as emergency information conveyed in a text crawl, accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The FCC’s rules require the use of the secondary audio stream to convey this televised emergency information aurally. An aural tone will continue to alert consumers to the presence of an emergency situation, and give them an opportunity to switch to the secondary audio stream to hear the emergency information. Compliance with the FCC’s new rules is required by May 26, 2015. That same month the Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program becomes Permanent. In November, the FCC put forward ans NPRM to ensure hearing aid compatibility for wireless voice technologies, along with a second to futher examine accessibility of user interfaces such as on-screen menus. These reports and order, and Notices of Proposed Rulemaking in tandem with the codification in final rules shows a promise of greater access for individuals who are D/deaf, hearing impaired and/or blind or visually impaired.
 
4. Increased Visibility of Disability in Media

2015 marks a year where the visibility of disability in the media has increased significantly, starting in February with mainstream media commenting critically on Oscar wins by Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore for playing characters with disabilities. As was noted in one article, “Since Dustin Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar playing “Rain Man,” a majority of Best Actor Oscars were taken home by men playing the sick or handicapped.” For the first time, media outside the disability community blogosphere was examining this trend and finding fault.

Of perhaps greater interest, advertising has taken a keen interest in the disability market. There has been a significant increase in very visible national advertisements that include individuals with disabilities – Swiffer, with a one-armed dad; a blind mom and her use of Facebook, a lesbian couple learning to sign to adopt a child from Wells Fargo, an aunt who is a wheelchair user in a Honey Maid commercial, and the presence of models with Down Syndrome in several Target print ads just to name a few.

And of course, one cannot talk about increased visibility and not mention Nyle DiMarco’s win in the last season of America’s Next Top Model or the success on Broadway of Spring Awakening with its diverse cast..

All in all, a promising year for disability in media and of course with the increased accessibility of the media systems, platforms, and networks, of course we should see more people like ourselves on them!
 
3. The Elimination Subminimum Wage?

In 2015 there have been several significant efforts to address subminimum wages for people with disabilities. There were protests in Michigan and a petition around the inclusion of language that could be viewed as supportive of subminimum wage for people with disabilities in the state’s new Employment First initiative. There were additional media stories and exposes.

Although controversy around subminimum wages for workers with disabilities is a long and heated story, what is of particular interest this year was a very specific state action. In 2015, New Hampshire outlawed subminimum wage for people with disabilities, becoming the first state to do so. Could this be the sign of things to come?
 
2.  The Stubblefield Lawsuit

Described in detail in a large New York Times article is the case of Anna Stubblefield, a Rutgers-Newark professor, who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault for allegedly abusing D.J., a man with severe cerebral palsy who the courts had determined is mentally incompetent and cannot consent to sexual activity. Stubblefield, claimed during the trial that D.J. is not intellectually impaired and was able to communicate through a controversial typing method, known as “facilitated communication.” Stubblefield said she and D.J. had fallen in love. The case is filled with ableist perspectives and rank stereotypes; there is triggering comments in media articles, and although this reader is unsure where the truth lies, the case does bring up the questions of competence, guardianship, communication, and the sex that many are uncomfortable with regarding people with disabilities – sex. Regardless of what each of us thinks occurred in the facts of this case, the issues and decisions will reverberate in the disability community for years to come.he Criminal Prosecution of Anna Stubblefield.
 
1.  California Passes Assisted Suicide Legislation

California not only passed its own assisted suicide legislation, but it was also quickly signed into law by the Governor.  Although a controversial topic with almost as many viewpoints as there are individuals, there is a concern by many in the disability community that it can (and has) been used to end the lives of people with disabilities; that it devalues the “disabled life” and begins the slippery slope towards termination of any individual for any acquired disability because of long-held public stereotypes of a “lesser life.” For many years, Oregon’s 1994 “Death with Dignity Act” seemed an outlier, however with more and more states passing their own physician-assisted-suicide legislation – Montana, Washington, Vermont, and now California (the largest and most populated state) – there will likely be growing concerns for the disability community.