Call me a hippie, but on days like today, the work of advocates for those with intellectual disabilities like Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche International and the Globe and Mail’s Nationbuilder of 2008 seems too few and far between.
The abuse and discrimination of those with intellectual disabilities makes it clear that better understanding and education is needed for the general public, and for youth in particular on this issue. Disturbing accounts of a man being tortured in a Hamilton apartment for several weeks to the point of near-death peppered the newspapers this morning. The man had not been reported missing. Those being charged are between the ages of 17 and 30, and the man who was held was only 22.
This kind of horrific scenario makes it obvious that there is a pressing need to advocate on behalf of those with intellectual disabilities at all levels of community. Cases of torture and abuse like this one are hate crimes, but are also a sign of the unresolved misunderstanding and phobia of those with disabilities. This fall, another man with an intellectual disability was tortured in Minnesota by four young people, aged 19 to 33. In both the Minnesota and Hamilton cases, the authorities were stunned and said they had never seen anything as severe.
An Australian report from the Law Reform Commission just over ten years ago reported that 25% of people with an intellectual disability are likely to be assaulted, as compared to 10% of the general population.
PHOTO OF JEAN VANIER AND FRIENDS: HARRY PALMER,1996