Not Being Able To Read The Signs Can Cause Harm For People With Disabilities
There are at least two types of people with disabilities. There are those who have been disabled from birth or for as long as they can remember. The pain and struggles of disability can be diminished because some people were born with disabilities. So they have never known what it’s like to be “normal,” so they have merely lived and learned to deal with the struggles their disability presents.
There are those who became disabled after living as a non-disabled person. The struggles are more severe. They’ve had to re-learn a number of things or deal with the constant degradation of their body. A person who is diagnosed with ALS, for example, will have to suffer from constant changes as their body loses its ability to function.
Imagine a person who used to live their life to the fullest and suddenly went blind because of an accident. An athlete who can no longer run because of an incident. A singer who cannot sing anymore because of aphonia. A person who used to be the life of the party and is always giving a positive outlook in life decided to shut off everyone because of depression. There’s a lot of factors that can cause disability to a lot of people.
I hesitate to say that the people who are born with a disability has it easier or harder than the people who acquired disability because of certain incidents, because the word “disability” covers a vast array of ailments, and being disabled is not a contest. We all struggle with things most able-bodied people don’t think about in their daily lives.
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If there is one thing to change about society, it would be the value they don’t place on people with disabilities. Too often we see people with disabilities as an inconvenience, an eyesore, or perhaps as a cute figure for our entertainment. Society will laud an amputee who finishes a difficult obstacle course or race, but when it comes to understanding how we can help the same amputee in society, we leave them to figure it out.
Do we even have the initiative to ask them if they are alright? Or if there are some other things we can do to help them? Or maybe ask them how to make their lives easier somehow? No, we don’t. Because we never know what it feels like, not to be able to run in the fields again or to walk on the beach, the warmth of the sand on their feet.
Every day is a struggle for people with disabilities. It was supposed to be everyone’s job to make sure that their rights are not being violated. That they are safe from all threats and dangers this life can offer. It is our sole responsibility as human beings to protect the vulnerable and make their lives easier somehow. When they don’t have the voice to scream their rights, we should lend them our voices. When the world seems so bleak and they feel lost, we should be the ones to lend our eyes and guide them out from the dark emotions that they are dealing with from time to time. May we become the symbol of hope in their eyes knowing that our advocacy is to ensure their safety.
Will Caudle, Head Trainer and Certified EDS and ECS
Our EDS (Elite Direct Support) partner program would enable police officers to have a more intimate and better understanding of people with developmental disabilities with expert guidance. When a police officer goes through the EDS training program, their approach to 911 calls involving people with developmental disabilities will be much more efficient. This is because they are equipped with the tools to recognize key indicators, ways to de-escalate and calm a person with developmental disabilities down without the use of excessive force which sometimes ends in tragedy.
Implementing this program means a lot to people with disabilities, and to their families. They are often the victims of violence involving police officers who do not have any hint of an idea to handle crisis calls that involve people with disabilities. How will they know what approach to follow when they cannot even recognize if the person involve has a disability? Brute force is not always the answer in handling critical situations. How many lives are we going to risk because of our blind ignorance to acknowledge that we are wrong?
Americans with disabilities are victims of violent crimes at nearly three times the rate of their peers. Imagine the horrors of these cases to their families. Also to some other people who have a family member or loved ones that have a developmental disability. These are some of the cases that were recorded all throughout the years:
In 2009, Antonio Love felt sick and went into a Dollar General store to use the bathroom. Time passed and he didn’t come out, so the store manager called the police. The officers knocked on the bathroom door, ordered him to come out, but got no response. They sprayed pepper spray under the door, opened it with a tire iron, then tasered Love repeatedly. Love is deaf. He couldn’t hear the police. Again, if news reports are any indication, deaf people are too frequently treated as non-compliant and tasered or beaten by police.
In 2010, Garry Palmer was driving home from visiting his wife’s grave when a dog darted in front of his truck and was hit. Palmer reported the accident as he should have, but because he was slurring his words and shaking, he was arrested for drunk driving. Palmer has cerebral palsy.
In January 2014, Robert Marzullo filed a lawsuit citing battery, excessive force, false imprisonment, unlawful seizure, and supervisory liability against the town of Hamden, Connecticut and its police department. News reports reveal that Marzullo was tasered by two police officers while having an epileptic seizure in his car.
While specific details vary by case, the common threads that link these stories together are often disconcerting. Law enforcement officials expect and demand compliance, but when they don’t recognize a person’s disability in the course of an interaction, the consequences can be tragic. Misconceptions or assumptions can lead to overreactions that culminate in unnecessary arrest, use of pepper spray, or individuals being tasered.
Stop police violence. Embrace the change. It is time for a reform!