Disabled community discusses injustices

by Nathan Whalen

Members of the University’s disabled community gathered to discuss inequalities they’ve endured as the University’s Race Dialogue Week continued Monday with a discussion on hate crimes, civil rights and the impact on disabled students.
The discussion, which was held at Coffman Union, centered around a goal of eliminating the image that a disabled person is inferior. The discussion was sponsored by the Disabled Student Cultural Center.
The talk comes several weeks after President Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno advocated the broadening of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by victims’ sexual orientation, disability or gender.
The discussion also comes shortly after the center decided not to have a Homecoming float in next year’s Homecoming parade. They cited harassment they and other riders on other floats received, and they can’t ask potential participants to take that kind of risk.
“This is my civil rights movement and something I should do,” said Sue Lindgren, a cultural programming specialist who has been an activist for six years.
“So much stuff that happens to disabled people aren’t considered hate crimes,” said Linda Wolford, director of the Diversity Institute of Multicultural Affairs. She noted that many crimes are attributed to factors other than hate.
There was also concern over the lack of dialogue within the disabled community over possible backlash, said Nehrwr Abdul-Wahid, coordinator of the Diversity Connections Internship at the Diversity Institute.
The talk also focused on comparing the situation of disabled people with other groups.
“The atrocities that happened to people with disabilities happened to slaves,” Lindgren said as the speakers compared institutionalized disabled people with the institution of slavery in the 19th century.
Lindgren and Wolford said there are similarities between the sexual abuse of slaves and disabled people and it is easier to cover up the abuse of disabled people because they can be sterilized or given birth control.
Lindgren said that people become more vulnerable if they are removed from society.
The discussion began with a video “Healing by Killing,” which examines the Nazi’s treatment of disabled people before World War II. Many disabled people were institutionalized, then sterilized and subjected to experiments. The documentary also reported that disabled people were systematically euthanized.
The University’s Dialogue on Race Week continues through Wednesday.