The Trouble with Jerry Lewis

Posted on 2 February 2009. Filed under: Advocacy, Announcements | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Subject: The Trouble with Jerry

Dear members of the Facebook group “Tell Oscar — NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis!” —

The Oscar Awards ceremony is now just 20 days away. As it approaches, “The Trouble with Jerry” campaign is mobilizing disability community leaders, activists, and allies to protest the “humanitarian award” to Jerry Lewis.

Here’s the latest news:

*We have a newly-designed, easy-to-navigate, super-jazzy website! Go to http://thetroublewithjerry.net and then tell everyone you know about it, post the link on your Facebook page, link your blog to it, etc. Remember, that’s
http://thetroublewithjerry.net

*We are seeking organizations to endorse The Trouble with Jerry campaign, and in particular the letter we sent to the Motion Picture Academy. Does your organization want to lend its official endorsement to the letter? If so, please message me back. You can read this letter at http://thetroublewithjerry.net%2Fletter-to-the-academy

*NOW is the time to start organizing an Oscar protest in your town. Contact me if you are thinking about doing this, and I’ll help you get started.

*Also, let me know as soon as possible if you’re planning to come to LA for the national Oscar protest actions on February 20, 21, and 22. We are holding a limited number of accessible hotel rooms, so let me know if you need lodging.

In solidarity,
Laura



The above letter was recently circulated to the Facebook group Tell Oscar — NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis!

People who have a Facebook account will want to follow the above link to join the Facebook group organizing protests against Jerry Lewis’ homophobia, sexism, and pity-drenched attitude toward people with disabilities. But if you don’t have Facebook, you can still get involved by visiting http://thetroublewithjerry.net/, or by sending an email to info@thetroublewithjerry.com.

Visit Bloggers Protesting Pity to learn why bloggers are protesting pity.

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Protesting Jerry Lewis’ Humanitarian Award

Posted on 17 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will award Jerry Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Oscar award ceremony. Please join disabled people and our allies in protesting this.

Jerry Lewis’s MDA Telethon, rather than working for equality and social inclusion of disabled people, portrays us as hopeless, pathetic, eternal children. Lewis has said, “My kids cannot go into the workplace. There’s nothing they can do.” He has said that a disabled individual is “half a person,” and [If] you don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!” His telethon reinforces the notion that cure and prevention are what disabled people need, not social change. The LBGT community has protested Lewis’s numerous anti-gay slurs–recently, he referred to cricket as “fag baseball.” Lewis has also stated that he doesn’t like women comedians because he thinks of a woman as “a producing machine that bring babies into the world.” These statements are de-humanizing; the one who uttered them should hardly be given a humanitarian award.

Please sign a petition protesting this at:Jerry Lewis Protest and please forward this email to others. It has been less than a week since we put this petition online, and it has already gathered more than 1900 signatures–including that of Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer!

Thank you!

Anne Finger

You can also join a Facebook group devoted to protests against Jerry’s award. Also read what is being said by other Bloggers Protesting Pity. Or write a letter directly to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

I first found this email from Anne Finger at Planet of the Blind.

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Jerry Lewis, Hersholt Award, and Gay Slurs

Posted on 15 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

People with disabilities are not the only people who are offended at Jerry Lewis receiving a humanitarian award. GLBT people object to the idea because Jerry has made homophobic slurs. Read more at http://www.altfg.com/blog/actors/jerry-lewis-gay-slur-controversy/

Bev at Asperger Square 8 has once again lent her visual talents by combining pictures of Jerry with some of his more insidious quotes about people with disabilities. At http://aspergersquare8.blogspot.com/2009/01/protest-pity.html

Learn more about Jerry Lewis’ humanitarian award and the petition campaign protesting against it at https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/protest-pity-sign-the-petition/ or by following the links at https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/bloggers-protesting-pity/

Consider signing the petition protesting the award at
http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html You can significantly strengthen the impact of your petition signature by using the comments line to explain IN YOUR OWN WORDS why you object to the award. (Don’t let the tiny comments space in the petition fool you. You can actually fit in several full sentences, if you wish.)

And consider joining the Facebook group so you can learn about other ways to get involved: http://www.facebook.com/groups.php#/group.php?gid=40538392681

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Joining the Anti-Pity Movement

Posted on 12 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

An increasing number of bloggers are encouraging their readers to sign the petition protesting Jerry Lewis’ humanitarian award, and also to join the Facebook group coordinating protests against a man who has helped entrench negative stereotypes of all people with disabilities–and Deaf people.  Here are a few of the most recent examples below.  Or, read the full list of links by clicking on the page Bloggers Protesting Pity in the top navigation bar.

Confused what this is all about?  Jerry Lewis, the man who runs the annual telethon raising money for research into Muscular Dystrophy is about to receive a humanitarian award.  Many Deaf people, Autistic people, people with Muscular Dystrophy, and people with all disabilities strongly object to this decision.  Has Jerry raised money for charity?  Yes, lots of it.  But these funds come with a heavy price tag: the manner in which Jerry raises these funds generate pity for people with disabilities in ways that reinforce outdated stereotypes.  These stereotypes make it harder, among other things, for job applicants to be judged on their genuine qualifications for the job instead of on mistaken beliefs about what people with disabilities can and cannot do.  Read on to learn more …

Petition regarding disabilities and their perceptions…
http://specialparents-exceptionalchildren.blogspot.com/2009/01/petition-regarding-disabilities-and.html
Has a few links to web pages and blog posts that explain why some people with disabilities dislike Jerry’s annual telethon and quotes some of the negative things Jerry has said (such as referring to wheelchair users as “half a person,” etc.)

Jerry Lewis the Humanitarian?
http://www.philosophercrip.com/2009/01/12/jerry-lewis-the-humanitarian/
Includes the full text of the petition (and a link to it). The introductory blurb, among other things, says: “How many of us cringe when someone feels “terrible” that we are LPs/deaf/chair users/learning disabled/autistic/etc? That cringe is what this petition is giving voice to.”

Jerry Lewis to be Presented with Humanitarian Award
http://thecurvature.com/2009/01/12/jerry-lewis-to-be-presented-with-humanitarian-award/
Encourages people to sign the petition, saying “… [I]t seems kind of strange and wildly offensive that someone might receive a humanitarian award after having referred to the people he “helps” as not fully human ….”

Petition to cancel humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis
http://whatsortsofpeople.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/petition-to-cancel-humanitarian-award-for-jerry-lewis/
In addition to presenting the text of the petition, this author also recommends a book to read analyzing how telethons promote discrimination and negative images of people with disabilities.

Please do remember to  sign the petition protesting Jerry Lewis’ humanitarian award.  And please also join the Facebook group coordinating the protests against this “humanitarian” award.  Also, check the full list of links about the protests by clicking on the page Bloggers Protesting Pity in the top navigation bar.

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People with Muscular Dystrophy Protesting Jerry Lewis

Posted on 11 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

People from outside the disability community, and even some people with disabilities, often wonder what people with muscular dystrophy themselves think of all the protests against Jerry Lewis’ annual telethon and Jerry’s upcoming humanitarian award. After all, Jerry’s fund raising efforts are meant to help them–aren’t they?

Some people with muscular dystrophy, and their families, do in fact support the telethon. But it may surprise some people to realize that people with muscular dystrophy are consistently among the most out-spoken leaders in the protest movement against Jerry’s annual telethon. And they are once again in the forefront of protesting the choice to give Jerry a humanitarian award this February 22, 2009. The person who founded the Facebook group coordinating the current protests, Laura Hershey, used to be a poster child in Jerry’s telethon. Some of the people signing the petition protesting Jerry’s award have identified themselves as people with muscular dystrophy, or as people who know someone close to them with MD.

Follow the links below to various blog posts and newspaper articles to hear the voices of people with muscular dystrophy themselves explaining why they feel that Jerry’s telethon–and the pity that it generates–does more harm than good. At the bottom, I have also collected some quotes from people signing the petition protesting Jerry’s humanitarian award.

From Poster Child to Protester
http://www.cripcommentary.com/frompost.html
Once, Laura Hershey was a little girl with muscular dystrophy and one of many “poster children” in Jerry’s annual telethon. Now she is one of a growing number of former poster children who has worked tirelessly for years protesting the manner in which Jerry promotes pity. Read her story, which she wrote in 1993. And, no, her involvement with the protests didn’t stop there: Laura Hershey happens to be the woman who established the Facebook Group coordinating protests against Jerry’s award in December 2008.

The Kids are Alright
http://www.thekidsareallright.org/
Mike Ervin was a “Jerry’s Kids” poster child in the 1960s. Today, he protests the way that the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Jerry’s telethon, have portrayed people with muscular dystrophy in the quest for charitable donations. Read about a half-hour documentary analyzing how pity makes it harder to advance true social equality.

Disability Activists Demand an End to Jerry’s Labor Day Pity Party
http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/croisdale294.html
This article shares more about the story of Mike Ervin and his sister–both of whom were used as Jerry’s “poster children” in the 1960s, and both of whom are now active in protesting the telethon.

No Longer One of Jerry’s Kids
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/31/AR2007083101273.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
A former poster child, Ben Mattlin, explains why he now protests against the same telethon he had appeared in when he was six years old.

Telethon’s Cost is in Dignity
http://www.thestar.com/article/489291
Harriet McBride, who had a muscle-wasting condition, was one of the key leaders of protests against Jerry’s Telethon until she died last year age age 50. This article tells the story.

Jerry Lewis’ Unforgivable Harm to Young People
http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/2007/09/jerry-lewis-unforgivable-harm-to-young.html
Diane Coleman, a woman with a neuromuscular condition who is the founder and President of Not Dead Yet, writes about how Jerry Lewis has promoted the idea that people with disabilities are simply better off dead.

From a place of love
http://crip-power.com/2007/09/02/72/
A young woman with muscular dystrophy writes about the evolution of her identity as a person with disabilities and why she opposes a telethon “drenched in pity.”

Guest blogger at “If the World Had Wheels”
http://karasheridan.com/?p=165
A young competitive swimmer with muscular dystrophy shares her thoughts on Jerry’s telethon in this guest blog spot.

Tom and Jerry and other Telethon Stories
http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/2007/09/tom-and-jerry-and-other-telethon.html
Dave at “Chewing the Fat” shares several stories related to Jerry’s annual telethon; among them are comments he once heard about the telethon from a young boy with muscular dystrophy.

Signatures in the Petition Protesting Jerry’s Award
A number of people signing the petition against Jerry’s humanitarian award have indicated that they themselves have muscular dystrophy, or were once one of “Jerry’s kids,” or are close to someone with muscular dystrophy. Here are a few examples I’ve noticed:

The comment with signature #1060 says: “As a person with muscular dystrohpy, i strongly object to the presentation of any humanitarian award to Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis and the MDA have actively fought against the progress of the disability rights movement and have acted only in self interest to appear as “humanitarians”. He is protested against by people with muscular dystrophy themselves every year. Could we be any more clear?”

The comment with signature #911 says: “I personally know people with MD. They are hardworking and intelligent people who deserve to be viewed as contributing members of their communities. If the telethon producers want to be supportive they need to show how the money can be used to purchase equipment or services which will enhance independence. Adults with disabilities are sick and tired of being viewed and treated as “kids”. Stars like Jerry Lewis have a strong influence on public perception and opinion. They need to use that influence to help reverse stereotypical thinking. It is this type thicking which promotes fear and subsequently, discrimination”

The comment with signature #656 says: “My son was considered for National Poster child – he knew Jerry Lewis, Bob Ross, Jerry Weinurg – when he passed away there was nothing from them- no acknowledgemnt at at.”

The comment with signature #626 says: “I have muscular dystrophy and I am offended at the way jerry lewis has characterized and caricatured those of us who have this disease. Jerry is a bigot. Raising money, in the manner he does, and using it for a humanitarian cause DOES NOT make him a humanitarian!”

The comment with signature #586 says: “I have a form of muscular dystrophy and I am gay therefore iI cannot possibly support this award going to someone who perpetuates pity and inequality to people like myself.”

The comment with signature #544 says: “As a person with MD I abhor Jerry Lewis’s negative stereotyping of my people and his belief that we are useless”

The comment with signature #344 says this: “As a former “Jerry’s Kid” I know first-hand the harm that Mr. Lewis has done to people with disabilities! He deserves no reward for humanitarian efforts and instead should be more scrutinized for his de-huminizing attitudes towards people with disabililties (and other groups.)” (The emphasis is added.)

The comment with signature #292 says this: “I am a 64-year-old woman with muscular dystrophy, and I have found the telethons humiliating since I was a young woman. They give false hope to parents and turn individuals with disabilities into childlike, charity figures. I’m retired, but managed to work all my life.”

The comment with signature #267 says: “If Mr. Lewis thinks tyhat people with MD cannot work, then he needs to meet my friend with MD who is an electronic enginerr for the Air Force designing radar and weapons systems. She is far from stupid.”

The comment with signature #236 says: “My boss of two years has MD. Attitudes and comments like Jerry Lewis’s diminish the the capabilty and accomplishments of people with MD in the eyes of the public. His work is NOT humanitarian.”

The comment with signature #190 says: “I personally know several people with Muscular Dystrophy who are gainfully employed. Jerry Lewis is wrong and paternalistic.”

The comment with signature #126 says: “As someone with a neuromuscular disability, I am among the many Jerry Lewis has labeled “half a person.” Someone who denies the full personhood of others does not deserve to be recognized as a humanitarian.”

The comment with signature #88 says: “Jerry Lewis treated me like crap while I was an MDA ‘poster girl’ in 1977. He never stopped smoking around his ‘kids’ and refused to talk to us or give an autograph. He treated us like prop objects to make his image look good instead of kids who adored him. It was a crushing momment for a seven year old.”

The comment with signature #82 says: “As a disability advocate (for the past 35 years) and a person with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a form of Muscular Dystrophy) I find the tactics and rhetoric used by Jerry Lewis personally offensive and degrading.”




Read “Cancel Humanitarian Award for Jerry Lewis Petition” at http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html

Sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition-sign.html

Join the Facebook Group, “Tell Oscar — NO humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis!” at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681

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Protest Pity! Sign the Petition!

Posted on 10 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

PROTEST PITY!

Deaf people, Autistic people, people with Muscular Dystrophy, and people with ALL disabilities are joining forces to take a stand against PITY. At best, pity may trigger a momentary impulse to donate a few dollars to charity–for example, via Jerry Lewis’ annual US telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. But the pity remains entrenched long after the fund raising events are over. People who pity people with disabilities usually never think to challenge the assumption that we should be passive recipients of charity. They don’t think to question why we don’t have better access to full participation in society. Fueling pitying attitudes undermines progress toward social equality for people with ALL disabilities. This same pity also harms Deaf and Autistic people, whether or not they consider themselves as people with disabilities.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on February 22, 2009. Disability rights activists object to this award. During his decades of hosting the Labor Day Telethon, Jerry Lewis has perpetuated negative, stereotypical attitudes and PITY toward people with muscular dystrophy and other disabilities.

Read and sign the petition protesting this undeserved award at: http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html

Join the Facebook Group that is coordinating efforts to protest the award: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681

Read this blog post on the petition campaign; on the important difference between “pity” and “empathy”; why Jerry’s brand of pity is destructive; and why real empathy is more likely to lead to human rights: https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/protest-pity/

Read what other bloggers say about the award, and why the disability community is enraged, at https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/bloggers-protesting-pity/

Please circulate this text freely. Thank you.

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Bloggers Protesting Pity

Posted on 10 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A growing number of bloggers have been joining the protest against Jerry Lewis’ humanitarian award. If you didn’t already know, Jerry is receiving a humanitarian award for his work in fueling pity against people with disabilities–pity that has undermined progress toward social equity and human rights. (Of course, what they say is that the award is for his work in raising money for charity. But it works out to the same thing.) Read and sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html, or join the Facebook Group coordinating protests against his undeserved award at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=4053839. Follow the various links below to see what other bloggers have said about Jerry’s award. The oldest links are at the bottom, and the newest are at the top.

https://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/protest-pity/
Here at ReunifyGally, I discuss the difference between “pity” and “empathy” and why pity is always harmful whereas empathy is not. Links to the petition campaign.

http://media-dis-n-dat.blogspot.com/2009/01/petition-available-to-protest-jerry.html
The Media dis&dat blog has come out in support of the petition. Explains how Jerry has been consistently derogatory, not only toward people with disabilities, but also gay people and women.

http://autism.change.org/blog/view/petition_to_protest_hersholt_award_choice
Author Dora Raymaker appeals to people on the Autism spectrum to support the petition campaign also.

http://dawgoregon.blogspot.com/2008/12/jerrys-kids-or-jerrys-orphans.html
Written before the petition was available, DAWG Oregon protests Jerry’s award.

http://badcripple.blogspot.com/2008/12/protest-jerry-lewis.html
“Bad Cripple” writes about how Jerry’s pity undermines the search for social equality.

http://www.patriciaebauer.com/2008/12/11/jerry-lewis-oscar/
It’s worth checking Patricia E Bauer’s post for its multiple links to more articles on why people with disabilities have been so consistently enraged toward Jerry and the manner in which he fuels pitying attitudes toward people with disabilities.

http://www.laurahershey.com/?p=53
This is the earliest blog post I could find on this topic. Not surprisingly, its author, Laura Hershey, is the woman who created the Facebook group dedicated to protesting Jerry’s award.

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Protest Pity!

Posted on 10 January 2009. Filed under: Advocacy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Whether you’re Deaf or hearing; old or young; poor or rich; have muscular dystrophy or not; gay or straight; male or female; have disabilities or not—chances are, you would never want someone to pity you. Yet, too many of us think pity is okay as long as we do it to someone else. Meaning someone who leads such a pathetic life that they “deserve” pity. And, not so incidentally, charity.

Jerry Lewis is someone who perpetuates pity against all people with disabilities–and, yes, against Deaf people and Autistic people as well, even if not all identify as having disabilities–every time he runs his annual telethon for people with muscular dystrophy on Labor Day weekend. For his annual task of attacking the dignity of millions of people, Jerry is about to receive a humanitarian award.

There is now an on-line petition campaign against Jerry’s humanitarian award. If you already know you want to sign it, then skip the rest of this post and follow this link to the petition signature page! (Be sure to use the Comments line to explain, in your own words, why you support the petition. This will vastly strengthen the impact of your signature.)

Not sure yet? I will explain more about the petition and why all Deaf people, Autistic people, and people with disabilities should sign it. But, first, I will share a few words on why we all should take a stand against the destructive force of pity where ever we find it–whether it’s perpetuated by Jerry or by someone else (see “Protest Pity“). Then I will talk about why Jerry does not deserve a humanitarian award (see “Protest Jerry’s Pity-a-Thon“). Last, I will explain about the humanitarian award and the effort to protest it (see “Join the Petition Campaign!“)

Protest Pity

Those of us who are Deaf, or who are Autistic, or who have muscular dystrophy, or who have disabilities, all know first hand how pity can damage lives. It undermines our efforts to seek out access to our environment; to full, independent lives; to our basic human rights; and to our fundamental freedoms. People who “pity” us don’t think about things like supplying us with closed captions (for Deaf people), or a quiet, dim environment (for Autistic people with sensory issues), or ramps (for wheelchair users). People who pity us are more interested in putting a quarter or two in our begging cup (because, surely, we must have one, don’t we?) so they can go away feeling good about themselves. Never mind whether our lives are truly improved by the charity they bestow upon us. Because, unlike empathy, pity doesn’t really have anything to do with providing the kind of help that people necessarily want and need to receive. Pity, and the charity it triggers, is really about the giver and their need to see themselves as kind and generous. By definition, it is never about the recipient.

Pity can frequently masquerade as more benign emotions such as “sympathy” or (better) “empathy.” But unlike empathy, pity dehumanizes the target. We feel empathy with our equals: empathy implies that we identify with the pain of someone we perceive as being mostly like ourselves. Empathy also implies that we believe the target deserves all the same kind of support we would want for ourselves if we were in the same situation. But we feel pity only for people we perceive as being, not just different from us, but beneath us. Maybe even contemptible, or less than human. Empathy binds people together and drives people to fight for things like justice, equality, and human rights. Pity separates us and stratifies us into “superior” beings (people who should never be pitied) and “inferior” beings (people who should be pitied, or who should be passive recipients of charity).

When we empathize with someone, we recognize their fundamental dignity. We may not necessarily share all their values and interests, but we acknowledge that they deserve to have access to all the same services, human rights, and freedoms that we do. If someone we empathize with is denied the right to informed consent to medical care (because they are denied the interpreters they need to understand the treatment options being offered to them), or the right to read an important brochure on HIV/AIDS prevention (because it is not available in Braille), then we become enraged on their behalf. We take as a given that they deserve the same things that we do. And we stand in solidarity with them when they fight for their human rights.

However, if we pity them rather than empathize with them, then it doesn’t occur to us that the barriers they face to full participation in society are a travesty of justice and human rights. Instead, we simply say, “How sad that they have disabilities.” Then perhaps we throw a few dollars in their general direction so we can move on and forget about them. Pity does not inspire people to support enduring equal access to the environment. It only inspires short-term, feel-good charity.

Protest Jerry Lewis’ Pity-a-Thon

If pity is such a terrible thing, then why do some people, like Jerry Lewis, do so much to encourage it? It can be tempting to fall into the trap of promoting pity for two reasons. One, too many people still confuse pity with its more productive counterpart, empathy. Two, pity does happen to be very effective at luring people to donate millions of dollars, in charity–which can do a lot of short-term good, even if the pity itself can do so much harm.

Hence, Jerry’s annual “pity-a-thon,” which has raised enormous amounts of money to support medical research. However, many people question whether the harm caused by Jerry’s pity-a-thon justifies the ends. They point out that events such as Jerry’s telethon can generate massive amounts of pity that last well beyond the event ends, with all its destructive implications. Last year, dozens of Deaf people, hearing people, Autistic people, non-autistic people, and people with various disabilities wrote about why they oppose Jerry’s telethon: you can read those blog posts at http://karasheridan.com/?p=164. And in case you were wondering: yes, there are people with muscular dystrophy who don’t like Jerry’s telethon either.

Join the Petition Campaign!

So what about Jerry’s upcoming humanitarian award, and the petition campaign protesting it? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will give Jerry Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar Awards ceremony on February 22, 2009. This is largely for his work raising money by entrenching negative, stereotyped attitudes toward people with disabilities. Most people with disabilities do not oppose the need for more medical research into muscular dystrophy, or for services for people with muscular dystrophy. What we object to is the destructive means by which Jerry raises these funds.

Read and sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/jlno2009/petition.html. Please be sure to use the Comments line to explain, in your own words, why you support the petition. This will vastly increase the impact of your signature (because it shows you feel very strongly about this subject.)

If you’re on Facebook, you can join the Facebook group organizing efforts to protest Jerry’s award at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40538392681

(If you’re not in Facebook yet, it’s pretty easy to set up an account for yourself, and it is free.)

Please do blog the petition campaign (be sure to link to the petition and to the Facebook group!) And please do twitter it as well.

You can increase the visibility of this blog post by “Digging” it–go to http://digg.com/arts_culture/Deaf_and_disabled_people_urge_others_to_Protest_Pity, then click on where it says “Digg it” (if you don’t already have a Digg account then you may need to create one, which takes just a few minutes).

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Doing Good Work? You’re Fired!

Posted on 28 October 2007. Filed under: ADA Court Cases, ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy | Tags: |

This is a story about a man who got fired because his disability did not interfere with his ability to perform the job for which he was hired. No, that word “not” is not a typo. The courts have persistently mangled the original intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to the point where being qualified for your job automatically robs you of any legal protection from discrimination on the basis of being Deaf or disabled. And this is why we need the ADA Restoration Act of 2007.

If your disability, or being Deaf, makes it impossible for you to do your job, then you can’t qualify for coverage under the ADA because the ADA is not meant to protect people who can’t do the job they’re hired for (or for which they’re applying). That’s just as it should be. And the ADA Restoration Act does nothing to change that.

But if you CAN do the job as well as any hearing, non-disabled person or better–but your employer decides to fire you anyway BECAUSE you’re Deaf or disabled–then the very fact that you can do your job will itself disqualify you from ADA protection.

In the story below, Carey McClure, a professional electrician, happens to have muscular dystropy. He is demonstrably able to do his job well. His muscular dystrophy does mean that he needs to do certain tasks a little DIFFERENTLY, but no less competently. But his employer still chose to fire him because of his muscular dystrophy.

So, two things went wrong here. First, the doctor and employers missed an opportunity to carefully re-examine their medical requirements for the job. If a person who cannot raise his arms above his head clearly CAN still work with electrical wiring above his head, then is it really reasonable or fair to require that all employees necessarily have this capability? Are their medical requirements really as closely related to the job requirements as they must have originally thought when they were first written up? Or, is there a better way to evaluate an employee’s actual physical capability of performing the actual, specific tasks of the job?

Second, when this case came before the courts, they should have looked at the evidence of the case and then asked the employers, “Wait a minute, if he can still do the job, then where’s your justification for firing him?” But instead, they turned Carey McClure into the defendant and forced him to defend his allegation that muscular dystrophy counts as a disability.

Because whether or not it “counts” isn’t the point. Some culturally Deaf people strongly reject the idea that they “count” as disabled (which can sometimes, depending on how it’s said, come across as if they see something “wrong” with being disabled, which I think ought to be disturbing in itself. But that’s a wholly separate essay.) But Deaf people still–quite rightfully–want to be protected under the ADA, too–without necessarily needing to be defined as “disabled”.

The point here is, and should have been, “When his employer fired him, did or didn’t that count as discrimination?” That’s the only question the courts should have addressed. If we can get the ADA Restoration Act passed, then that will force the courts to start doing their jobs. Some of the time, the correct answer to this question will be “yes,” and some of the time the correct answer should be “no.” It should never be, “Maybe yes, but we don’t care because the person can do the job too well to count as “disabled.”

This story is taken from text prepared by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

State: Texas
Disability: Muscular Dystrophy
Court: 5th Circuit 2003 (LA, MS, TX)

Carey McClure

Since age 15, Carey McClure has had a form of muscular dystrophy that affects the muscles in his upper arms and shoulders. Carey has difficulty raising his arms above shoulder level and has constant pain in his shoulders. In his work as a professional electrician, Carey performs most of his job functions without modification, and has adapted how he performs overhead tasks like changing light fixtures or working on ceiling wiring. Carey performs these job functions by (a) throwing his arms over his head to perform the work, (b) repositioning his body so that he can raise his arms, (c) supporting his arms on an adjacent ladder, or (d) using a ladder, step-stool, or hydraulic lift so that it is not necessary for him to raise his arms above shoulder level.(47)

Carey was living in Georgia and had 20 years of experience working as an electrician when he applied for a better opportunity at a General Motors’ assembly plant in Arlington, Texas. GM offered Carey the job pending completion of a pre-employment physical examination. During that exam, GM’s physician asked Carey to raise his arms above his head. When he saw that Carey could only get his arms to shoulder level, the physician asked how Carey would perform overhead work. Carey, who had performed such work in the past, responded that he would use a ladder. Despite the fact that other electricians in the plant often used ladders or hydraulic lifts to do overhead work, the physician revoked GM’s offer of employment. (48)

Carey challenged GM’s decision. Even though GM revoked its job offer because of limitations resulting from Carey’s muscular dystrophy,(49) GM argued that Carey did not have a “disability” and was not protected by the ADA.(50)

Carey responded with highly personal information regarding the many ways that his muscular dystrophy limits his daily life activities. Carey explained that:

• he is able to wash his hair, brush his teeth, and comb his hair only by supporting one arm with the other;
• he wears button down shirts because it is too difficult for him to pull a t-shirt over his head;
• he must rest his elbows on the table in order to eat, and lowers his head down over the plate so that he can get the food to his mouth;
• he cannot exercise or play sports, and cannot care for his grandchildren by himself; and
• his ability to engage in sexual activities is limited by his muscular dystrophy.(51)

GM argued that – because Carey had adapted so well – he was not substantially limited in any major life activity.(52)

The courts agreed. According to the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit,

[Carey] has adapted how he bathes, combs his hair, brushes his teeth, dresses, eats, and performs manual tasks by supporting one arm with the other, repositioning his body, or using a step-stool or ladder. . . .[Carey’s] ability to overcome the obstacles that life has placed in his path is admirable. In light of this ability, however, we cannot say that the record supports the conclusion that his impairment substantially limits his ability to engage in one or more major life activities.(53)

Because the courts found that Carey did not have a “disability,” GM’s decision to revoke his offer because of limits resulting from his muscular dystrophy was never questioned.

(47) McClure v. General Motors Corp., 75 Fed. Appx. 983, 2003 WL 21766539, at *1-2 (5th Cir. 2003); Brief for Appellant, 2003 WL 22452651, at *4-5 (No. 03-10126).
(48) McClure, 2003 WL 21766539, at *3; Brief for Appellant at *5-8.
(49) Brief for Appellant at *7.
(50) Brief for Appellee, 2003 WL 22452652, at *5 (No. 03-10126).
(51) McClure, 2003 WL 21766539, at *1-2; Brief for Appellant at *2-5, 18-23.
(52) Brief for Appellee at *6.
(53) McClure, 2003 WL 21766539, at *2.

The introduction to CCD’s text is posted at ReunifyGally in the entry entitled “Real People, Real Stories: Why We Need ADA Restoration.”

Also see the first case story I posted, entitled “Thinking isn’t a Major Life Activity, Say Courts.”

The second case story is in the entry entitled “Where is Todd’s Day in Court?

The third case story is entitled “Qualified to Work = Disqualification for ADA Protection

The fourth is “Give Orr a Break.”

The sixth, after this one, is “Why Everybody Loses Without the ADA Restoration Act.”

The seventh is “A Hearing Woman, but a Deaf Story: Why We Need the ADA Restoration Act.

The eighth and last court case is “Unfair Precedent Ties Hands of Sympathetic Court: Why McMullin’s Case Highlights Need for ADA Restoration Act“.



I’m taking these stories from a 13-page file of case studies written up by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD); this file is available in both Word and PDF format.

PLEASE make an ASL vlog (or a written blog, if you like) on the ADA Restoration Act! If you do, I’d be delighted to link to you!

CCD has compiled an excellent collection of materials on the ADA and on the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, so it’s well worth following their link to www.c-c-d.org/ada.

See my continually-updated list of blog entries from all over the web about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, always available from the top navigation bar at “On the ADA Restoration Act.”

Also, don’t miss these links: One group of activists has posted a short list of simple ideas of things you can do to help get the Restoration Act passed. And do check out the ADA Restoration Blog for updates. Or browse through background information on the ADA Restoration Act. Or contact your legislators.

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