Saturday, July 25, 2015

Attitudes Toward People with Intellectual Disability

Michelle Diament, in Disability Scoop (July 24, 2015) offers up a telling headline, "Poll Finds Public Perception Varies On Intellectual Disabilities".

First the good news: "...56 percent (of respondents) said they know someone with an intellectual disability. That connection appeared to be directly correlated with how comfortable individuals were with the idea of their children being in class with, dating or marring a person with an intellectual disability as well as their own ideas about employing or working with individuals with special needs."

Respondents who knew someone with ID were much more open with these attitudes toward integration. Presumably, the negative stereotypes of ID are vanquished with interpersonal contact.

But, especially in the absence of familiarity, biases are observed. For example, while most people thought persons with ID should be employed, 20% indicated that they would not be comfortable hiring such individuals. And, 39 percent of respondents said that kids with ID should not be educated in classrooms with other children their own age. These findings reflect both implicit and explicit biases in our ableist society.

On a hopeful and just note, consistent with other surveys, the millennial demographic seems to be the most progressive-especially women: "More than 60 percent of young women said they would be okay with their child marrying or dating a person with intellectual disabilities".

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


We  are in Washington DC, privileged to be presenting at the international conference of the Alzheimer's Association. Our focus is a changing perspective on the conception of elder and disabled adult abuse as exclusively a family based problem. We do not discount the tragedy that, like child abuse, families abuse each other. Rather we join with organizations like the World Health Organization and the American Psychological Association in noting the rise of  institutional abuse: "Abusive acts in institutions include physically restraining patients, depriving them of dignity (by for instance leaving them in soiled clothes) and choice over daily affairs, intentionally providing insufficient care (such as allowing them to develop pressure sores), over- and under-medicating and withholding medication from patients; and emotional neglect and abuse"  (WHO website).  

In cases like the Sonoma Developmental Center abuses, we unequivocally call it  torture. 

My introductory remarks at the conference were followed by advocate Linda Kincaid's case study presentation of "Mrs. H", an elder held by her guardian in a congregate care setting.  Kincaid reviewed not only the abuses suffered by Ms. H but also the failures of legal safeguards to protect her.  Like the title of the  paper by Disability Rights California, Mrs. H was truly Victimized Twice-first with institutional abuses, and second by those failures of protective services to save her before she passed away. 

Kincaid dedicated the presentation
in memory of Mrs. H. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Our Letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Following a template from Physicians for Human Rights, this is our letter to the Attorney General:

As a member of the American Psychological Association  (APA), I am writing to urge you to open a criminal investigation into the conduct of the APA  in connection with the Bush-era torture program. I am gravely concerned by new evidence that the APA changed its ethics policy to protect and support psychologists' participation in torture. Any role that the APA played in assisting this unlawful program must be fully investigated as a first step toward accountability for these crimes.

I have read a new report by independent reviewer David Hoffman confirming that APA officials engaged in a secret, multi-year conspiracy to aid and abet the torture and mistreatment of detainees, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense, the CIA, and other elements of the Bush administration. These individuals not only subverted the APA's own ethics policies to comport with the needs of the torture program, but also obstructed ethics investigations into psychologists implicated in detainee abuse.

The APA's secret and corrupt practices enabled the use of torture and helped inflict profound physical and psychological harm on detainees, as documented by Physicians for Human Rights. Torture is a crime under U.S. and international law and the U.S. Department of Justice must investigate and prosecute anyone who authorized, committed, or otherwise facilitated these crimes.

Many  psychologists have taken up the critical struggle to hold the APA to account and to restore the public's trust in the profession of psychology. In the wake of the disturbing revelations in the Hoffman Report, I urge you to take immediate action to restore the public's trust in the rule of law and to hold torturers to account for their crimes.

To participate in the email campaign contact Physicians for
Human Rights

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


There are circles of support that somehow naturally develop around persons incarcerated in America. The national circle now includes President Barack Obama who acknowledged Tuesday that "Mass incarceration makes our country worse off, and we need to do something about it".  We wholeheartedly agree and emphasize that  among those incarcerated are people with mental, intellectual and cognitive disabilities as a result of trainsinstitutionalization
(release from mental institutions with no supports only to end up in prison).

The President also addressed solitary confinement and that the "social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent. Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, for months—sometimes for years—at a time? That is not going to make us safer.” Solitary confinement is torture.

We also decry the incarceration of people with disabilities in state developmental centers, group homes and nursing homes which have rightfully been called institutions and just another form of incarceration. There chemical and soft tie restraints combine with other forms of abuse, neglect and torture.  Upon release prisoners with felony convictions are stripped of many of the rights and privileges of citizenship. Those placed under guardianship and released from institutions are similarly slammed: “The typical ward has fewer rights than the typical convicted felon. They no longer receive money or pay their bills. They cannot marry or divorce … It is, in one short sentence, the most punitive civil penalty that can be levied against an American citizen, with the exception … of the death penalty.” Senator Claude Pepper

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Harm that is implicitly state sanctioned. This blog most recently reviewed abuse and neglect in state operated developmental centers charged with the care of people with disabilities.   It was  proposed that after more than a century of torture, these heinous acts cannot reasonably be attributed to "a few bad apples", in an otherwise functional system. Instead, we assert that this is a system devoted only to its perpetual paycheck-based existence, with harm to residents an understood and accepted cost of doing business. Effective public relations by state administrators and complicit disability organizations keeps the lid on the chambered torture.  If  that seems unlikely, consider the do no harm profession  of psychology in a similar, if more directly secretive and sinister context.

It  has recently been revealed that the American Psychological Association sanctioned torture by psychologists involved with  (the deceptively named) "enhanced interrogation techniques" or EIT.  According to the recently released Hoffman Report,  the “A.P.A. chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping D.O.D., managing its P.R., and maximizing the growth of the profession".  Another paycheck-public relations based  mentality.  It could be argued that California's institutional abuse is mostly an incidental consequence of incarceration on the cheap by administrators with their eyes wide shut. Employees are not formally trained to torture. But there is an implicit on the job training at institutions of incarceration that teach caregivers to preserve their own well being at the expense of resident welfare. Just add  a culture of  dehumanization  for a status quo of abuse and torture.

These two stories contain many differences of course. The psychologists involved   were explicitly charged with developing and overseeing  EIT in directed torture of prisoners including water boarding, stress positions, slapping, slamming prisoners into walls and other painful methods.

But, APA sanctioning of torture  while claiming ethical authority, provides an eerie and scandalous reflection of the disability world. There,  bureaucrats and their lofty mission statements claim the ethical high ground as they avert their collective gaze from atrocity.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


We take this Independence Day to remember all persons with disabilities denied independence in and out of care homes, institutions and facilities. Readers are familiar with David's loss of rights in a general conservatorship and his life in custodial care where the dignity of choice is surrendered everyday.

David is not alone.

Readers ask, "how can something like this happen?"  Well here is another very similar case.

Today attorney Thomas Coleman of the Spectrum  Institute writes on behalf of a young man with autism in an article entitled  "Why Independence Day Never Comes for Gregory Demer:
Autistic Man Yearns for Freedom".

Like David, Gregory comes from a family with divorced parents. Using the subjective standard of "what's best" for Gregory (instead of what would Gregory prefer) parents, courts and lawyers got lost in a maze of paternalism over Church attendance . Gregory did not want to go. His father apparently thought Church was "what's best". As Coleman puts it, "Gregory also had a resistance to spending time with his father, partly because of the forced church attendance and partly for other serious reasons that will not be addressed here".

Disagreements between a  father and an adult son create intergenerational conflict with which all readers are familiar. But only in certain cases of disability can the courts and attorneys steal away independence and civil rights: "The father obtained a court order forcing Gregory  to visit with him every third weekend. Then, when Gregory would resist by leaving home prior to his father’s arrival to pick him up,the court ordered the support staff to“prompt and redirect” (trap) Gregory so he could not leave.  Another court order gives the father authority to decide Gregory’s activities during a forced visit.  The father makes Gregory attend church despite his wish not to do so".

My position for David has been the opposite of Gregory's dad- I have asked courts, lawyers and conservators to put their  own (often self-serving) opinions on "what's best" for David on the back burner .  I have asked instead that they observe his rights and ascertain what David would prefer.  But  as in Gregory's case, personal choice  is crushed for David and, in effect, his personhood.

Gregory has petitioned and complained, but to no avail, so far.

According to the Spectrum website "A complaint was filed on June 26, 2015 for Gregory Demer, a limited conservatee, with the Department of Justice against the Los Angeles Superior Court for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act".

Please take a look at that website for more details-

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Thanks to Dr. Nora Baladerain  (and Anne Kincaid) of The Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute for  their ongoing abuse newsfeed.  Their focus is on "people with disabilities across the life span, any type of disability and any type of maltreatment, abuse, crime or, articles regarding law enforcement issues and individuals with disabilities".

These are selected headlines across the nation during June, End Torture Month:

Lawsuit Alleges Student at Anchorage Charter School Had Tape Put over Her Mouth

Man Who Stole Electronic Wheelchair from Elderly Man Faces 40 Years to Life if Convicted

Sheriff Recommends Charges for Group Homes Accused of Abuse

Lawsuit Says 13-Year-old Boy with Autism Was Sexually Assaulted at School

Man Convicted of Raping Disabled Woman

Man Accused of Stealing Money from Blind Victim

Former Developmental Center Aide Sentenced for Abuse

Peabody Group Home Worker Charged with Assault on Disabled Resident

Caregiver Charged with Attacking Disabled Client

More News can be found at: