[Content warning: sexual and physical assault; police brutality.]
I’ve been thinking a fair bit about justice and disability lately, both because of my scholarly work and because it is concerns about justice that motivate much of my advocacy work. Justice, most broadly, is the virtue that governs interpersonal interaction in terms of giving people what they are due, what they deserve. And as folks who have thought about the history of how people with disabilities are treated know, it’s often the case that they’re treated unjustly in a wide range of ways–from the history of institutionalization and force sterilization to the ableist ways our communities and interactions are set-up. People with disabilities don’t deserve to be treated worse simply because they have disabilities. But they are. And not just historically.
There are active kinds of injustices against people with disabilities that many folks aren’t particularly aware of. Sexual assault against people with disabilities is rampant. Over 80% of woman and 30% of men with developmental disabilities are sexually assaulted; here’s one recent story. Most of that assault is done in the institutions in which the victims live.
People with disabilities are at increased risk of police violence; according to one report, “disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers.” Things are even worse, unsurprisingly, for people of color with disabilities.
Schools continue to push away students with disabilities, despite the sorts of protections that IDEA and other laws are supposed to secure. Students with disabilities receive harsher punishments at school. And Trump and DeVos continue to roll-back the current protections, which I think are already not enough.
Parts of our community—and, unfortunately, especially churches—continue to be inaccessible, as the #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow campaign continues to show.
Lots of you reading this are, and have been, very supportive of our family. For that we are thankful. But we also need to be honest about the injustices that disproportionately affect people with disabilities. And then we need to figure out how to do something collectively about them.
These are some of the things that run through my mind as I prepare to teach again tomorrow on the importance of justice for the flourishing both of individuals and communities in Plato’s Republic.