Month In Review: A Tale of Two Communities


Month In Review: A Tale of Two Communities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

In the six-week home stretch ramping up to the November election, the opening words of A Tale of Two Cities  sum up the dichotomy of the disability community…it truly is a tale of two communities in several key areas:


Youth with Disabilities and Media:

On one hand, our community welcomes with open arms the debut of ABC’s new show SPEECHLESS that chronicles the fictionary Dimeo family as 16-year old JJ starts a new school and is portrayed by Micah Fowler, and actor with a disability. In other news, the TV series BORN THIS WAY won an Emmy® Award; Motion Picture Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs mentioned disability as part of their commitment to increase diversity; and the USC Annenberg Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative included disability for the first time in its annual reports on movies. 

On the other hand, these media victories, and positive representation of disability were not strong enough to persuade one African American, disabled youth from buying into the stigma often attached to disability, and then believing that her life was not worth living. Much to the shock of the disability community, and unlike what would happen if any other non-disabled14-year old expressed a desire to end their life, she was not stopped. 

A newspaper editorial board even went so far as to chastise disability leaders for raising questions about the sufficiency of the teen's mental health care, pain management and support services, and their desire to connect her with adult role models who have her exact disability so she could imagine a future living a full and vibrant life with her disability. Because Jerika Bolen was a minor, not an adult, her mother had to consent to her decision, and whatever followed. In this country we don't legally allow 14 year olds to smoke, drink, drive, vote, go to war, open a charge account, rent an why did the non-disabled majority culture so easily and cavalierly co-sign and then celebrate a depressed 14 year old making a life and death decision?

Jerika Bolen of Ashton, WI -



The Workplace:

While the nation vigorously debates raising the minimum wage, the disability community is creating awareness of the travesty of sub-minimum wage often paid to disabled workers:

Rooted in Rights, which produces videos and social media campaigns exclusively on disability rights issues, plans nationwide screenings of its new feature-length documentary on sub-minimum wages, BOTTOM DOLLARS, beginning in October:

The October debut of BOTTOM DOLLARS coincides with National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Since 1947, Congress and the President have designated some form of October as NDEAM, originally proclaimed to honor returning WWII veterans with disabilities. This year’s NDEAM theme is #InclusionWorks… Check out great resources at:

Another disability employment victory came when one of the Presidential Candidates unveiled her Inclusive Economic strategy that garnered this national headline “In a Rare Move, Clinton Courts Disability Vote.” 



For disability leaders, this “rare move” by Sec. Clinton should come as no surprise on the heels of a new Rutgers Report ( that revealed, “If people with disabilities vote in the November election at the same rate as the non-disabled, there will be 3 million more disabled people casting votes.”

To reach that goal in this critically important election year, the disability community has been working diligently on GET OUT THE VOTE (GOTV) activities.  One national effort, with coalitions in over half the states is #RevUp. REV UP: Register, Educate, Vote and Use your Power

And, speaking of power – disability leaders this week (September 21-25) marched and rolled from Baltimore to Washington, DC, to dramatize the importance of the disability vote in this election. The march ended with a rally in conjunction with Rock the Vote. By the way, a number of the marchers had a level of disability similar to the disabilities experienced by JJ Dimeo and Jerika Bolen – Feel the Power of the Disability Vote.

The Disability Beat goes on – check out DisBeat --

“If we believed that ADA is the power and we are the recipients of its strength, rather than we are the power and ADA is a tool for us to use, I fear we may still have a long way to go.”Bob Kafka