Mixed messages

Sometimes my brain feels like it's going to burst from trying to make sense of the mixed messages I read every day about disability.

Today I was working on the next science roundup for the BLOOM magazine. Here are a few headlines:

On the one hand:

A child's disability benefits family and society, parents say

On the other hand:

Risk of violence almost quadrupled for disabled children, report finds (i.e. my child is almost four times more likely to be the victim of violence than a typical child, based on data from 17 studies in five high-income countries)


Isolation strongest predictor of depression in youth with special needs


Study questions value of inclusion for youth with autism

No wonder it's hard for the general public to understand what it means to raise a child with disability or to live with disability.

In other media news, an Australian government inquiry is looking into the practice of sterilizing disabled people, which is legal in that country. A briefing paper by Human Rights Watch on forced sterilization of girls and women with disabilities gives a picture of the practice internationally.

And while pondering this, we read great reviews of the film The Sessions, about the true story of a man who relied on an iron lung to breathe and hired a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity (let us know your thoughts if you've seen it -- and an important question: are there male sex surrogates for women with disabilities, or surrogates for gays with disabilities? We know men with disabilities are more likely to have romantic partners and get married than disabled women).  

In other news: An Israeli entrepreneur has created a cardboard wheelchair made out of less than $9 worth of recycled cardboard, plastic bottles and recycled tires. This could make mobility affordable to disabled people in developing countries.  

And a BLOOM reader told me about an incredible story of how Westjet employees bent over backwards to help a family whose daughter with Down syndrome refused to board a connecting flight due to anxiety. This included putting the family up for a night in a hotel, providing food vouchers, giving the girl a private tour of the plane and allowing her to try out the intercom and choose her own seat.

Sometimes the extremes of compassion and oppression evoked by disability are simply too much for my poor little brain (and heart) to fathom. Louise