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Times are changing; people who used to be discriminated against are now starting to be treated with more equality and respect. The disrespect and abuse that the disabled community has gotten in the past is a very dark topic that comes with many sad and scary truths. There are many groups and laws at the present time that are helping this community grow. By integrating more disabled people into public services helps them gain a higher esteem for themselves.
The abuse problem amongst the developmentally disabled still does exist today. The most controversial abuse problem happened behind closed doors, in the institutions. The one institution that was in Tucson was called Arizona Training Program Tucson (ATPT). In these such institutions, people with all many varieties of disabilities. This problem of institutional abuse was recognized for at least two centuries (Sobsey, 89). The term institutional abuse refers to neglectful, psychological, physical, an/or sexual abuse that took place in the managed institutional car of human beings (Sobsey, 89-90). Hearing stories from both the patients in these institutions to the workers is horrifying. Some of the things the staff would do to the patients: use heavy sedation, locks, restraints, sexually abuse them, take inappropriate pictures, time outs for long periods of time, and takedowns with several large staff. Other things that were done to the patients was doing the same routine over and over never teaching new tasks, no outside contact, and no luxury items just bed dresser and clothes. Yes, ATPT was one of the better institutions there were. Many were worse.
Institutional abuse is characterized by the extreme power iniquities that exist between staff and residents. In extreme cases, staff control when residents wake up, sleep, eat go to the bathroom, wash, communicate, exercise, rest, and virtually every other aspect of their lives. These extreme disempowerment of institutional residents is rationalized by the paradoxical notion of “good intentions” (Sobsey, 90). The public was hidden from the real truth till recently when they were shut down or changed into day programs and smaller residential settings, to be more like a home environment.
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The act that banned discrimination based on disability was called The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Arcfacts, 1). This act was signed on July 26, 1990, and enacted in 1992. It gave individuals with disabilities civil rights protections like those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. It guaranteed equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunication relay services. These rights had to be put in place because they were not covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, just with that Act they were sometimes denied equal, effective and meaningful opportunities to participate in society (Arcfacts, 1). There were many other laws that came about from 1973 to the present time that are specifically writing down their rights (Guide, 1).
Following this great revolution to build and strengthen their community the People with Disabilities Task Force came up with a Final Report in 1993 regards to that community. The Community Profile was convened in order to identify, determine, and prioritize recommendations about issues, circumstances and resources that impact the live of people with disabilities. Now the definition of a person with a disability would be defined as: A person who has, or is perceived as having a physical, mental or psychological disability, which affects one or more major like activities (Final Report, 1). Such activities included are caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working (Arcfacts, 2).
A very large group that was developed by The Arizona Department of Economic Security called the Division of Developmental Disabilities or DDD plays a large role in Tucson’s community. The Division provides services to Arizona, and there families, who have autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or mental retardation and who were diagnosed as such before the age of 18 (Mission and Value Statement, 4). This organization has been around for many years and helps many great people, they provide respite sitters for in or out of home care, care homes, foster homes, funds, schooling, day programs, insurance, and many other great programs and services.
One person that I have great regard for, Jackie Cieslak, is a well-respected worker for DDD. She started working at ATPT in 1971 when it was still an institution and stopped working there in 1980. From 1980 to 1984 she worked with a research program for disabled people. This research project involved a pilot program for Structure Training Employment Transitional Services (S.P.E.T.S.) this program was for the disabled to train them by putting them in regular jobs. She researched the success rate in the employment in the community after using the program. After being divorced in 1991 Jackie choose to have disabled people live in her home with her and her two children (my sister and me). The reason she switched to having an adult care home was because was now single mother and wanted to be with children and knew this field of work well and thought the this community could benefit from her working and living with them. At the present time she has two permanent people living with her family and she also does respite in her spare time. I asked Jackie what was the biggest the biggest contribution to the disabled community was her answer was very straight forward. She said that taking the disabled people out of the institutions and putting them in to residential homes made them a lot fell more independent. Instead of being around a robotic lifestyle with no changes and putting them in to a comfortable living environment, letting them work, putting them in public schools. Really helped to merge them into the social community out there. She has seen a very large improvement and has seen wonderful changes with the community.
These great programs and laws have really helped this community grow and develop more unity and approval from others. I am very close to this community I have lived with and worked with this community for 11 plus years. Having the interactions I did made me think and realize the fact these are very this are very special people who still need to be respected and revered by larger extent by everyone.
Cieslak, Jackie. Personal Interview. 18 Nov. 2001.
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National Headquarters. “The American with Disabilities Act of 1990.” Arcfacts
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Sobsey, Dick. Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities.
Baltimore: Paulh Brookes Publishing Co., 1994.
United States. Maricopa Advisory Council on Developmental Disabilities. A
Guide for the Criminal Justice Practitioner. Arizona: Pima Council on Developmental Disabilities.
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