The following three children with disabilities have died or their bodies have been found within the last month.
Avonte Oquendo’s body was found in the East River. He was 14 and autistic.
Keith Vidal was shot by the police. He was 18 and diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Randle Barrow was allegedly drowned by his mother. He was 8 years old and autistic.
I know there have been more within the last few months, but every time I try to google for their stories, my heart breaks. The fact is, when I do that search, I find the blog posts and reddit threads of people who believe that the disabled should die.
What occurs to me, is that those people are probably completely okay with the fact that these children die. As a member of the disability community, I have met so many amazing and wonderful adults with disabilities – and I can only imagine what it would have been like if these three young men had been able to live to see the future.
Here in the New York Area, a law is being proposed to protect children with autism. But it is not enough.
Deaf children need protection. schizophrenic children need protection. Blind children need protection. Mobility impaired children need protection. Mentally handicapped children need protection.
And so do their adult counterparts.
People with disabilities are the targets of many crimes, be they sexual in nature, violent in nature, or both. Every time I hear that someone from my community (whether or not I know them) has died, it hits me hard. Every time I hear that we’ve lost another member of the community, I cry for them.
I cry, because our lives are not valued at the same level as the able-bodied. I cry because until one of us dies, and dies tragically, we are unprotected. I cry because we are blamed for the things which happen to us, whether we live or die.
Just like able-bodied people, PWD’s are not ASKING to be murdered. We are not asking to be groped. We are not asking to drown, or be stabbed, or shot. Just because a Deaf person cannot communicate with the police does not mean that they should be tasered. Just because a blind woman is groped in the dark does not mean that the police should blame her for being out at night.
People with disabilities are fighting for the right to be seen as equal, and to have our deaths seen as more than just Extra Sad. I want my people to be safe, and with Avonte’s death, I hope maybe someone will start to listen.
It took me until today to write about Avonte, because I couldn’t think of how to talk about it. I was filled with rage and sadness. I still am. I don’t know what I can do to protect children with disabilities, or my peers. But I have to do something.
If you see a mentally ill person having an episode, PLEASE make sure that you tell the 911 operator that they are mentally ill and that violence should not be used to get them to a hospital.
If you are the parent of a child with a disability, please find resources to help you – raising a child with a severe disability can certainly be challenging, but you can get help. You don’t have to do it all alone, and your child will benefit from help.
If you actually believe that children with disabilities should die – please consider meeting the adults those children grow into. We are members of your community, your social circle, your world. We contribute, we live, and we have friends.
We deserve to live.
If you have suggestions for services, methods of support, or other ways to make the lives of PWD’s livable, please leave them in the comments!