Basic attitudes have really not changed

"It is amazing that there has been scant public debate about this revolutionary new technology that allows us for the first time in all of human history to ascertain certain medical facts about a person before the person is a person," writes Lisa Blumberg in our cover story for this issue, The 'Bad Baby' Blues. She goes on to offer a cogent explanation for this: "The disability rights movement in the quarter century it has been in existence has been successful on some nuts-and-bolts access issues," she writes, adding that "important civil rights laws have been passed. However, basic attitudes toward disability really have not changed," she adds.

"It is a premise of the movement that a person with a disability is limited more by society's prejudices than by the practical difficulties that may be created by the disability. Unfortunately, by and large, nondisabled people don't believe it."

That's the problem the movement's having with Christopher Reeve as well. Just as nobody sees anything wrong with getting rid of "deformity," nobody sees anything wrong with Reeve shilling for a cure. What's to debate? says society.

Mary Wilt reports on websites devoted to "selective abortion." She says the websites are designed to make the women feel better about themselves, to feel "validated" for eliminating "defective fetuses." "These pages are a paean to eugenics," writes Wilt, who has a child with Down Syndrome. "What is it they hope parents will learn from this page? That people with Down syndrome are to be greatly feared? That it is a good thing to abort them? That sometimes ignorant people make fun of people with mental retardation, so it is best if they are not born?"

If you can, check out the websites; then hold Mary Wilt's thoughts as you read about the $10 million lawsuit filed by the family of "Monkey Boy."

It seems most of the stories in this summer issue seem to touch on similar issues - mostly, it seems, having to do with society's attitudes about disability (attitudes that, as Blumberg points out, haven't really changed all that much).

For a fun "thought problem" related to this very thing, you might try the exercise we thought up -- imagine Chris Reeve as Barney Frank, and see what you come up with. We'd like to hear from you about that.

In fact, there's a bunch of stuff scattered all through this issue on Chris Reeve. Is he coming around on disability rights? We're not holding our breath on that one (neither is On A Roll's Greg Smith; see our interview). But we write about him because, like it or not, he's the public's biggest image of our world. And we keep hoping . . . .

Come to Louisville

If it bothers you that Chris Reeve's image of disability (cure it!) seems to be the main message the media hears, and if you'd like to start figuring out how we as a movement can change that, plan to come to Louisville next spring and hash it out with other like-minded crip activists. May 21-23's the date. Mark your calendar, look at our ad, and think about joining u here. We'll be sending you more stuff in the mail about it soon.

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