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History of Handicapped People in the United States
Transcript of History of Handicapped People in the United States
During the 1600's the isolation of the
mentally and physically disabled
really began to take its toll.
In the 1700's the mentally
ill were viewed as senseless
animals. Society even believed that they were possessed by demons.
The physically handicapped were not regarded in a much better manner; 17th and 18th century Europeans saw handicaps as "biological inadequacies" that must be corrected. However, in early America, this was luckily not always the case, due to the fact that some famous and influential founders, including one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, were handicapped.
History of Treatment
Changes and Awareness Movements
Current Rights, Laws, and Issues
Are the handicapped
That was the question
in the late 1700's when
people started to question the
treatment of the handicapped.
The mentally ill were treated like worthless animals. They were kept in hazardous dungeons along with physically handicapped people and criminals. They were all kept chained to walls and unclothed (people of all ages including men, women, and children)
To Dorthea, the way people were treating the
mentally and physically handicapped was not okay.
Handicapped Children Today
Current Issues and HR Violations
Handicapped Adults Today
Humanitarian active between the 1840s and 1880s
This made her want to do something about it. Over the next 40 years Dorthea Dix created 32 state hospitals. She even tried to teach people about the mentally and physically handicapped.
Today when you step into a public school, you can see many children of all backgrounds mixing together with little discrimination or injustice.
You might see a girl with Down syndrome talking to two other girls, or a boy in a wheelchair being assisted by a non-disabled student. You can see both specifically special ed classrooms as well as mentally challenged students sitting in regular classrooms, learning their studies.
This was an early cell in the first mental asylum built for the handicapped in America. As you can see they were kept chained to walls, with little food and water, a blanket for a bed, and a filthy room overall.
What does society
think of them?
Today, mentally and physically disabled Americans can live a fairly normal life, especially as opposed to how it used to be. There are still mental institutions, but they are VASTLY different from the "public hospitals" of old. There are also many other options for each handicapped individual, and disabled people now have equal rights. It was a struggle to get where we are today, but now the public's view of the mentally and physically handicapped has improved greatly. There are appropriate terms in use today, instead of "crippled" or "retard". We have really accepted a large variety of individuals into our society.
Between 1870 and 1925 the mentally
and physically handicapped were thought
to be possessed by demons. Society referred
to them as "feeble-minded," which means they
cannot learn or hold enough information like a
What do we do
The answer scientists
The key words in the answer were "came up with" in this case the scientists just truly wanted an
answer. They decided that they could just blame
all human problems on genetics. So scientists said the answer was to make the "inadequate" people sterilized or no longer able to reproduce.
There were several ways the handicapped
were viewed by society.
These views of the handicapped were mostly
negative until the late 1900's when The image of handicapped
people started to change into more of a "developing" individual. As you can see in this picture students walk by the
handicapped without even a second glance.
Some of the views included:
Being considered a "threat" to society
Being compared to animals or vegetables (de-humanized)
Considered a "freak"
A pity/charity donations
To remain a "child" forever
Being sick or contagious
As with any culture that has come to accept and accommodate a certain population of people, we also still have issues to deal with. There are still violations of handicapped people's human rights going on. These are not rare, but not particularly common, either. Some are national, some are localized. It is terribly unfortunate, but it is a fact we must face if we are to make any change. My hope is that one day, we will live in a country free of discrimination and HR violations. But until then, here are just two major cases that made US-and international-news within the past few years.
Judge Rotenberg Center, Canton Massacustts
Special school in Massachusetts that is home to approximately 200 severely disabled children
the school uses controversial aversive shock therapy as a form of behavior modification
painful electric shocks are administered when a mentally disabled child acts out in violence or misbehaves
has killed five and brought on many lawsuits
Rotenberg center remains a strong proponent of their "therapy, claiming it is humane and effective.
The torture specialists at the UN have qualified this BM technique as torture.
As of January 24th, 2012
The JRC has been using its aversive shock therapy for 40 years. There has recently been a large public outcry over the treatment of these children, and many are petitioning for an end to the shocking. However, there is currently not much the government can do about the situation due to the fact that there are no specific laws in place to prevent the use of aversive treatments in schools.
Mentally Handicapped in US Prisons
One major human rights issue that has come to the attention of the media in recent years is the living conditions of the mentally handicapped who are incarcerated in United States prisons.
A 2003 report by Human Rights Watch revealed absolutely deplorable care for the mentally ill in US prisons.
One in six US prisoners is mentally ill, and many suffer from serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.
In fact, there are three times as many mentally handicapped in prisons as in our country's mental health hospitals.
Mentally disabled inmates forced to live in the conditions jail offer often rant and rave, babble, seclude themselves, talk to invisible people, lash out at guards or other prisoners, beat their heads, smear themselves with feces, self harm, and even attempt suicide.
Says Jamie Fellner, the director of the US program of Human Rights Watch, "Prisons have become the nation's primary mental health facilities. But for those with illnesses, prison can be the worst place to be."
Prisons are dangerous and damaging places for the mentally ill.
Other inmates often victimize and exploit the mentally ill ones, referring to them as "bugs". They are often physically and sexually abused and manipulated.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
(president from 1933-1945)
In the summer of 1921 President Roosevelt contracted polio and became paralyzed from the waist down. In this president's day it wouldn't be good for the people's image of him. The people would see him as a "weaker" leader of the country.
As you can see in this video President Roosevelt's disability was well hidden from the public.
The shortage of qualified staff, poor facilities, and strict prison rules make for a t.errible combination.
Many prisoners are left under-treated or not treated at all.
Now, everyone knows in every scientific
theory there must be an experiment to test it.
Now what an experiment needs in this
case is a guinea pig.
In this case the two guinea pigs were a mother (Emma Buck) and a daughter (Carrie Buck) who people thought would be a good choice because they both had children before marriage. This made the
people consider these women as "feeble-minded" as well as their children (Vivian Buck) daughter of Carrie.
Prison staff often punish inmates for symptoms of their mental condition including noisiness, disobedience, or even self mutilation or attempted suicide.
Prisoners who fail to comply often find themselves with unsuitable disciplinary actions used against them, even solitary confinement, which can lead to an intense form of psychosis for these inmates. Under-trained staff often have to resort to excessive force.
In 1942 the supreme court made a law allowing criminals to be unwillingly sanitized. Along with the law in 1924 saying that any "feeble-minded" person could be sanitized for the bettering of society.
According to HRW, this situation was "a consequence of underfunded, disorganized, and fragmented community mental health services."
It was even found in school biology textbooks.
The sad and ironic thing is that if publicly funded treatment had been made available, many inmates would never have ended up in jail.
Teacher Profiles: Lakeview Middle School
Eugenics was so common from 1920-1940 that it was found in state fairs and people could see a movie about it in the theaters.
In the mid to late 1900's, a newfound awareness of handicapped citizens began to emerge among the general American public, and there started to be a call for change. It is hard to say a exactly what started this revolution, but it is easy to tell the major groups of people involved. The main protagonists were the American public, many privately operated national organizations (such as Mental Health America) and eventually the federal government.
Other Forms of "treatment"
Many scientist and doctors came up with ideas to "cure" a person's mental illness. In turn most of the treatments resulted in torture.
A few of the treatments were:
Insulin induced comas
He graduated from Yale as a businessman and was devastated when his brother came down with an illness and soon died from it.
There were many change movements that started popping up in the 1960's; here are just two major ones.
Clifford was then hospitalized in a private mental institution where he was dehumanized and taken care of poorly by untrained nurses
Clifford then went on to write and autobiography about his negative stay in a mental facility.
Disability Rights Movement (DRM)
After writing a book Clifford decided that he wanted to do something about the poor living conditions of mental facilities. He ended up creating the Connecticut Society of Mental Hygiene.
The Connecticut Society of Mental Hygiene soon evolved into the largest umbrella organization known as National Mental Health Association.
movement that began in the 60's and continues to this day
Objective: to achieve equality through the use of mechanical aids (i.e. special doorknobs)
While the DRM had widespread support, it also had a great deal of critics among the disabled community. Many say that it tries to force standardized ideas that are not always necessary on all handicapped individuals.
Independent Living Movement (IL)
This movement for a different kind of change emerged alongside the DRM
Promoted independent living as a means of total equality for the disabled.
This movement began the formation of a network of IL centers across the US.
Other Changes 1960's-1980's
There were many diverse ways in which American citizens and foundations/charities worked to raise awareness and improve the lives of the disabled. Some ways may seem small and insignificant, but all were instrumental in raising awareness and changing the public's view.
Community Mental Health Centers Act
federal legislation passed 1963
authorized construction grants for community mental health centers
called for deinstitutionalization and increased community service
1966-Mandated mental health services included in Medicare.
n 1971, Mental Heath America produced and distributed the film "Only Human," which aired on 150+ TV stations, helping to improve public understanding and acceptance of mental illness.
In the 1980's change really started to pick up. Many new commissions and foundations were formed and began carrying out their duties to raise awareness, research funds, and acceptance.
Society in general was becoming more accepting every day. In fact, in the late 1980's, huge companies like McDonald's, Toys 'R' Us,and JnCPenney began using disabled individuals in their advertising campaigns.
All of the early changes in the US were really leading up to one huge improvement for disabled Americans: the passage of the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act.
This federal legislation, passed in 1990, set in motion major changes that improved the lives of handicapped people everywhere and helped to reduce discrimination.
There were four major articles which established:
Reasonable accommodations for both applicants and employees in the workplace (i.e. special equipment or interpreters).
Accommodations and non-deniance of service for the handicapped for public services and transportation.
Special adjustments to public accommodations (i.e. restaurants, hotels, stores, and privately owned transportation systems).
Special telecommunications services for the hearing impaired.
Today society has changed so much and become so accepting. There are many new opportunities for handicapped adults to become happy, independent, productive members of American society.
Instead of being locked in a filthy asylum like pigs for their whole lives, handicapped people can now hold jobs and live like the rest of the population as much as possible.
Along with the increasingly high quality special education programs in American schools today, there are several federal laws that help protect handicapped individuals' rights to fulfill their whole potentials
The ADA is one of the most commonly recognized ones, as it is so huge and provides the handicapped the ability to live a much more "normal" life.
Other legislations, like the Rehabilitation Act and the Workforce Investment Act establish laws and grants to help disabled people live independently and ensure the right to work for the handicapped with guaranteed simple jobs and job training.
Federal Legislations on Education
There are several federal laws ensuring the protection of disabled children by providing IEP's (individual education plans)
IDEA (the individuals with disabilities education act) is the main legislation ensuring a quality education for disabled students
IDEA guarantees a free and appropriate education (FAPE) for students in America's schools. The main point of the IDEA legislation is an assurance of a least restrictive environment (LRE)for each child. This means that INDIVIDUALIZED placement should be determined for each child based on specific needs, not necessarily medical diagnosis.
Some main Points of IDEA
parent and student participation in decision making
Some Other Laws and Acts
ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act - helps to reduce discrimination and protect handicapped individuals of all ages
Olmstead - community based treatment regulations
ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) - generally governs the education process for disabled students and establishes guidelines for defining disability
Each and every day, special education teachers go to work to do an amazing job. They help even the most severely handicapped children to make the most out of life by giving them a quality education. Here are just a few profiles compiled on some functional program teachers at Lakeview.
MISS HARRINGTON-"They are students first, and students with disabilities second."
Miss Harrington is a functional teacher working with students with moderate autism at our school. She spoke to me about her job, her students and the daily routine for her kids.
DID YOU KNOW??
Approximately ten percent of the student population has a disability.
Miss Harrington explained that the functional curriculum works to teach students independent living and basic job skills through practice and immersion. She says that she wants a group home to be the last resort for every child.
The curriculum consists of:
Math (counting money, telling time, shopping skills)
Writing & Reading (reading safety signs, filling out applications, recognizing different gender terms)
Social Skills (personal hygiene, turn taking, conversations, interpersonal relationships, leisure skills)
Social Studies and Science (ancient cultures and basic biology)
There are also several ways in which the kids use real world experiences as learning tools. They attend school social functions. They participate in an immersion program at the Park Hill Clothing Closet house to learn cooking, cleaning, and homemaking skills. Education in the functional program is specifically tailored to each and every child.
MS. ALLISON SASSO-"Everyday is a new adventure."
Ms. Sasso is a teacher in a classroom for both verbal and non-verbal children. She works most specifically with two mentally disabled twins This class strives to promote appropriate behaviors and interactions, such as following directions.
The class is very focused on hands-on activity and improving motor skills through sequences.
The day for the twins includes:
PE- building large motor skills
cleaning lunch tables
time in sensory room provides stress release, fun, and muscle toning
reading activity- story on current events, reading comprehension
art or FACS- contained classes
Ms. Sasso's classroom also provides very individualized attention. They work on basic home skills such as folding clothes, as well as skills like working on an assembly line. Ms. Sasso tells me that every single day is an adventure.
Ms. Kathy Wagner
Ms. Wagner is a teacher's aid who has an extra special duty: to assist and accompany Karma, a physically disabled student at our middle school.
Karma is in a wheelchair and also uses a walker
She participates in the same program as the other functional kids
However, she has to have some special accomodations icluding:
chair lifts on stairwells
an adjusted schedule
Ms. Wagner says that she and the other fuctional teachers hold Karma and all their students to an even higher standard than all the other kids at Lakeview
Ms. Wagner says of her job, quote, "It's a very challenging job, but it's a very rewarding job."