Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review: Beyond Ramps

In Beyond Ramps, Marta Russell gives an excellent critique of disability policy & cultural attitudes in the American political & economic system. She shows how inadequate the Americans with Disabilities Act is in broadening opportunities and inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream society. There is not enough of a push for businesses to hire people with disabilities, and there was too much compromise on not putting an "undue burden" on businesses to make their buildings accessible.

Russell also covers issues of bio-ethics, the history and current practices of eugenics & euthanasia. She gives some terrible examples of people who were put to death against their will, by people who thought they knew best. Though I do have to disagree with her on the Terry Schiavo case- doctors were almost all agreed that she was beyond help, not conscious at all, and really just artificially being kept alive. Really, it's a big example of why we all need to write living wills. There is a lot more awareness & encouragement of writing living wills by health care professionals now.

Russell also challenges us- what is the "perfect baby" anyway? Where do we draw the line as far as parents choosing what traits their unborn children have? Are we loosing important parts of the human condition or playing God by aborting these embryos or screening out "bad" genes?

How much is the pro-choice movement quietly supporting selective abortion as a parent's choice? (Though she does overall support a women's right to choose) Lots of disturbing things to consider, both on an individual and societal level.

Keep in mind, however that this book is now 14 years old- Clinton was president at the time, and so the statistics and policies are now quite different. I don't have all the information as to *how* they differ, but one thing I can say is that the tides have turned a lot regarding nursing homes vs. Personal Care Attendants. During the 2000's it became realized that PCAs were cheaper, and better for the people involved, and so there has been a strong shift in that direction, though funding for them is often not enough.
I also thought she was too harshly critical of nonprofits. I think non-profits and charities can be a good *supplement* to government aid, but they definitely cannot replace them, and I agree we can't just depend on people to donate to them.

I learned a lot from this book, and it often challenged my views, and deepened my understanding of disability rights issues. I hope it will for you too!

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