Top 10 list for 2006
Following are ten outstanding events, products and developments that impacted people with disabilities in 2006:
- Merry Christmas Gallaudet: Robert Davila’s introduction to the U.S. was in a migrant camp; his first language was Spanish, his second ASL and his third is English. On December 10, he was named the interim President of Gallaudet University, bringing to a conclusion almost a year of unrest on the campus of mostly deaf students. A former assistant secretary for the department of Education, the widely respected Davila is also a presidentially appointed member of the National Council on Disability.
- The podcast you can’t miss: it’s impossible not to laugh at the BBC’s Ouch monthly podcast hosted by Liz Carr and Mat Fraser. Check it out at www.bbc.co.uk/ouch and especially don’t miss when these British humorists play “Vegetable, vegetable or vegetable,” a phone in game where the hosts try to guess the disability of the caller.
- Best disability blog: all of a sudden there are so many, but the one that does the best job of tracking them all and is itself beautifully designed and illustrated is: http://disstud.blogspot.com/, created as a disability blog portal by the Temple University disability studies folks.
- Best mainstream disability-related film of 2006: well, as far as we know there weren’t any, but edgewise, the most fun scenes were in “Borat: cultural learnings of America for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakstan”. A sort of Candid Camera for politicos, this documentary recorded with glee the consternation of a U.S. Southern gentleman when his description of being retired was misheard by Borat as “retarded.” The scene is not drawn out but captures perfectly how easy it is to challenge a person’s sense of self.
- You read it everywhere else first, but surely the year’s premiere event was the adoption of the UN Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons, officially signed off on by a December 5 meeting and to be presented on December 13 to the UN General Assembly. The treaty will come into force following ratification by 20 countries. The convention was the culmination of five years of uphill advocacy by disability rights groups from all over the world, participating in unprecedented numbers and with unprecedented access to the UN system. At the final meeting on the text in August, delegates representing 115 countries participated. News will appear on various websites and here is the UN one: www.un.org/disabilities/convention/index.shtml
- According to the delegates, the person of the year was Ambassador Don Mackay of New Zealand, who patiently shepherded the hundreds of conflicting additions to the UN text into negotiations, compromises, deals and face-saving concessions late into many nights over the last three years. As Chairman of the UN Ad Hoc Committee that developed the text, he was able to bring to bear his numerous diplomatic skills and every one of them was tested.
- Best biography of the year was Blindness and the Visionary, a well told tale of how Sir John Wilson built his life around helping blind people develop services in what was left of the African and Asian parts of British empire after World War II. It is reviewed in this issue.
- Best beer of the year has to be Düsseldorf’s Uerige, first to add a Braille label.
- Best disability film by an Emerging Artist: The Third Parent, a 6 minute punch-in-the-gut documentary, conceived and produced by Christina Frenzel, a university student. This gem is quite successful at capturing how it feels specifically to be an older sibling of a child with autism, and in general, a teenager who questions whether she will ever be free of this responsbility, and if she wants to be.
- Finally, the most disappointing outcome this year for disability rights advocates this year was the retrial and re-sentencing of Chen Guangcheng. The young, blind Chinese activist attracted the government’s attention when he gave free counsel to women who claimed they had been forced to abort or be sterilized to avoid having a second child. His sentence of four years in prison was reconfirmed in early December: www.ananova.com/news/story/sm-2108640.html