This week I researched high and low in order to keep you updated on current events in the community of people with disabilities. Hope you enjoy!
1. In my last column I touched on the predicted success of the upcoming Paralympics, especially in Sochi, Russia. The Paralympic Games are scheduled to take place in early March of 2014, with seven hundred athletes set to compete, representing forty-five different countries. However, according to Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, ticket sales for the Sochi Paralympics are worryingly low. While international ticket sales have been successful, with an increase from the Vancouver Paralympic Games in 2010, ticket purchases by the Russian public are below expectations. Nevertheless, Craven stated that despite the problem with sales, “[the International Paralympics Committee] are very happy with the way the Games have been prepared for athletes and the Russians have made significant progress in working on barrier-free access”. Compared to the 1980 Olympic Games, when the Soviet Union refused to host the Paralympic Games on the grounds that impairments didn’t exist in their nation, the current situation is by far an improvement. Following the accomplishments of the London Paralympics, Craven is looking to the future, stating of the success, “It is an amazing opportunity for Paralympic sport. We are now at a critical moment. There are great opportunities ahead for all but it is critical that we face the challenges and deliver – not squander – the opportunities.”
Read more at “Sochi Winter Paralympics: Ticket Sales “A Problem” – IPC President”, on the BBC.
2. Renowned photographer Robin Hammond has set forth to document the mistreatment of people with disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa in his award-winning project, Condemned – Mental Health in African Countries in Crisis. In conflict-stricken parts of Africa, the absence of proper health care combined with a lack of awareness surrounding the issue has resulted abuse and torture being the established treatment of people with mental illness. A common effect of a chaotic environment, such as the current situation in some African countries, is an increase mental illness. Brain damage can result from malnutrition, and people can come out of warzones with mental illnesses such as PTSD. According to Hammond, “Families who struggle to cope often abandon their mentally disabled child, or resort to chaining them or just hiding them away”. Extreme methods of “treatment” for people with mental disabilities in Africa, documented by Hammond, include a Somali child tied to a stick for years, a Nigerian child held in prison, and a Kenyan man held in a shed at a refugee camp for years. Despite this reality, there is an extreme lack of treatment for mental disabilities in African countries when it comes to international aid. Disaster-stricken African countries often depend on the aid of outside agencies, yet international organizations rarely recognize the need for treatment for mental illness. Hammond stated that, “If international non-governmental organizations and other donors are not going to acknowledge mental health as an integral part of primary health care and give it the attention it has to other important issues such as HIV, TB, Malaria then it is unlikely African governments will give mental health any significant attention”. In 2013 Hammond was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Fund Grant of $30,000 in order to continue work on his project. Said one of the grant judges, “Condemned is a powerful look at people balanced on the edge of life who are generally neglected, forgotten and often abused. His images, often shocking but always tender, highlight this tragedy and search for moments of hope. His work stood out among many worthy candidates.”
Learn more about Hammond’s project in the Huffington Post article, “Out of Sight, Out Of Mind” – The Mentally Ill in African Countries in Crisis”.
3. The major British clothing brand Boden has kicked off the modeling career of Holly Greenhow, a seven year-old with cerebral palsy. After two years of trying to get an audition, Holly was chosen to be featured in an online catalog, making her the first model with cerebral palsy to be hired by the company. When asked about her motivation to encourage Holly’s interest in modeling, Holly’s mother stated, “I wanted to show that you don’t have to be perfect to be in a magazine or online or in photographs, so that was my desire to push forward and get it done for Holly”. While Boden isn’t the first major company to hire a child with a disability to model, there is still a major lack of representation for people with disabilities in mainstream media. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Inclusion in the Arts and Media of People With Disabilities, 12% of the American populace are people with disabilities, while less than 1% of characters on television represent people with disabilities. The president and CEO of the American Association of People With Disabilities, Mark Perriello, expressed pleasure that major retailers have begun to represent “the one billion people with disabilities worldwide”, and stated that, “many people with disabilities face lowered expectations and stigma, and the positive impact of [disability representative] advertising can’t be overstated”. Holly’s mother voiced similar sentiment, saying, “I hope it will help the image of disabled children, and also open people’s eyes to the fact there are lots of children out there who aren’t perfect”.
Read more at “Adorable Girl With Cerebral Palsy Lands Major Modeling Gig” on Yahoo.
4. A new book is soon to be released that aims at helping readers empathize with and further understand people who have dyslexia. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, “people with dyslexia have a neurological disorder that causes their brains to process and interpret information differently”. People with dyslexia can experience reversals of letters and numbers, and can have issues with grammar and vocabulary, which results in trouble understanding reading material and sometimes with hearing conversations accurately. The book, called “I Wonder What It Feels Like To Be Dyslexic”, is being funded from a Kickstarter project and was created by Sam Barclay. Barclay, who studied graphic design in the United Kingdom and has dyslexia, intends the book to imitate the symptoms of dyslexia by flipping letters, adding odd colors, and departing from traditional book format. When Barclay first put his idea for the book on Kickstarter, his goal was to have raised $23,000 by the end of November, 2013. With his deadline fast approaching, the book has already gained twice that amount in donations. Barclay has announced that upon the conclusion of the Kickstarter campaign, there will be a public event to celebrate the launch of “I Wonder What It Feels Like To Be Dyslexic”.
See images of the book’s designs at “New Book Shows What It’s Like To Be Dyslexic” at Seattlepi.com
I’ll leave you with our quote of the week:
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller