Gun Violence by Emily Sohn

gunsOur hearts at JGRJ go out to the families and friends of victims of gun violence. There is no excuse for such senseless and tragic loss of human life. Once again, we must face the question: how ought we prevent a similar tragedy in the future?

The gun control debate occupies a complex space in our national dialogue. Besides self-defense, firearm possession stir emotions related to personal autonomy–both as an end (the right to choose responsible gun ownership for oneself) and as a means (in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “The best defense against tyranny is a well-armed populace.”)  At some point, however, shouldn’t our interests in public welfare and preventing needless tragedy outweigh our fear of “tyranny”?

Intriguingly, a recent Gallup poll, conducted after the Navy Yard shooting, shows that fewer Americans support more restrictive gun laws than in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. Furthermore, fewer Americans supported restrictive gun law after Sandy Hook than in late 2000. Rather, we are increasingly more likely to support more comprehensive mental health care, in place of gun control laws.

This makes it sound like senseless gun violence occurs only with the right mix of mental illness and legal loopholes–a sort of tragic happenstance. Media coverage of gun violence certainly suggests this is the case. President Obama has thrown his weight behind gun control reforms that appeal to these concerns.

Reality indicates otherwise. In Chicago in September, thirty-eight people were wounded or killed as the result of gun violence. This number includes 13 wounded in a mass shooting last Thursday, when a gang-affiliated gunman sprayed a public park with bullets from an automatic assault rife. Among the injured was a 3-year-old child. Chicago authorities have responded by pointing out that the rate of gun violence in the city is actually down about 20%.

Ultimately, national media was largely silent. Coverage went to revelations about Aaron Alexis’ mental health and financial situation. More extensive violence, affecting mostly disenfranchised, working-class neighborhoods, is relegated to the local news.

The effect on our national psyche is apparent. We shouldn’t discount the dangers posed by insufficient mental healthcare, nor should we ignore loopholes in background check requirements. But we can’t forget, gun violence isn’t a rare occurrence, and doesn’t necessarily stem from mental illness. It’s time to take steps to prevent any more senseless gun violence. But we can’t let selective media coverage blind us to the full panoply of its causes.

It Doesn’t Matter If You’re Black or White by Joanna Jordan

It shouldn’t matter, unless you attend to the University of Alabama (UA) and want to formally pledge a sorority. UA is not a stranger to racial discrimination. Just fifty years ago Governor George Wallace attempted to ban two black students from enrolling in the school. Today, allegations of racial discrimination were swirling in the midst of the university’s Pan-Hellenic rush. The aptly named school newspaper, The Crimson White, ran the story when several sorority sisters stepped forward to speak out against what they view as discrimination on the part of their alumnae.

On paper, one candidate was the perfect sorority pledge. She graduated from high school as salutatorian with a 4.3 GPA. She comes from a family with deep historical roots in the community She even has direct ties to the school. Her step-grandfather is a trustee at the UA, as well as the first black federal magistrate in North Alabama. Her stepfather is a member of the House of Representatives. Yet sixteen sororities turned down this perfect pledge. And she is not the only one.

It amazes me that this story is coming out today. The strides we have made as a country are astounding. Perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed, though. As a woman of color, I am well aware that racism is not dead. During my senior year of high school my boyfriend’s mother told him she was glad he didn’t invite me to his prom because, “She’s black and I don’t want people to talk about you.”  That was ten years ago. It still makes me stop short today. So what if people talk about me because I’m black, right? That speaks more to who they are than it does about me. I believe it should be the same for these sororities. So what if people talk about the sorority? It speaks more to the integrity and openness of the sisters to be colorblind and accept women no matter what they look like.

Most people don’t want to believe they are racist. The truth is, everyone is biased in some way or another. While it has become passé to be outright racist, I believe subtle racism imbues even the most diverse communities, including college campuses. By subtle racism, I mean accepted racism. It’s a gray area. When I encounter subtle racism, such as a racist joke told by a friend or every clerk in the store asking me if I need help finding something, I have to ask myself: is it worth the fight? Or do I just let it go and move on with my life? Most of the time, I just move on. In doing so, in accepting the racism, part of me feels like I’m betraying those who fought against racism, so that I can have the life I do today. The other part of me feels like, in a good way, I’m leaving the past behind me. Both are valid feelings. As for the UA, if some of the sorority sisters had not come forward publicly, this might be considered a subtle form of discrimination, because nobody was fighting against it.  Until someone spoke up.

“Are we really not going to talk about the black girl?” Melanie Gotz asked. She is a member of one of the sororities that blocked recruitment of the black pledge. Gotz first spoke out in the confines of the sorority, challenging the alumnae who have a vote in the recruitment process. It is alleged that the alumnae would withhold funding if the sororities pledged a black woman. I find this incredible.

Though the same alumnae deny the allegations, it is difficult not to question why Greek life is divided so blatantly along racial lines on this campus. Only one black woman, Carla Ferguson, made it through the formal recruitment process since the school was desegregated fifty years ago. That was in 2003. One black woman does not integration make; instead she is the exception to the traditional rule. This is terribly sad.

This story excites me, though. Yes, discrimination is reprehensible. The narrow minds of the sorority alumnae are severely disappointing. But the dialogue that is finally coming to light is enlightened. Our generation, the Millennials, are standing up and saying no to the preceding generations’ viewpoints. They do not think what happened is right; but not only that, they are not standing down and accepting it. They are changing minds. This is so exciting. The complacency with which we typically live our lives is being replaced with a crusade. In the face of discrimination, voices still speak out. Feet still stand up. The fight is clearly not over and I am thankful to those who fight on. This is what is right.

 

 

Southern Hospitality: Faith-Based Dorms & Racist Sororities By: David M. Allen

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In recent weeks two public universities in Alabama drew national attention. In early August, Troy University announced a plan to establish a “Faith-Based” dormitory. Private fundraising by the Troy University Foundation financed the multimillion-dollar facility. The dorm includes three Catholic and three Baptist resident advisors and requires sobriety and community service from its residents. When first discussed, Chancellor John Schmidt claimed the dormitory would preference Christian students.

Three weeks later, Greek sororities at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa were accused of discriminating against black students. University President Judy Bonner denounced the behavior and called for “profound changes” in the Panhellenic system. In response to Bonner’s desires, SGA President Jimmy Taylor announced the suspension of block seating for Alabama’s first home football game. Block seating is a process in which fraternities and sororities send representatives into the end zone bleachers before football games to reserve seating. In an attempt to “profound[ly] change”  and unify the student body, this reservation system is suspended for one game.

A commentary of the overwhelming contradictions, paradoxes, and ignorance of my home state is neither necessary nor productive. However it is tremendously important to recognize obstacles to equality that exist at institutions of higher learning. These two incidents represent such obstacles.

Perhaps more rabble-rousing, twenty-first century racial discrimination at a school infamous for racial discrimination is beyond deplorable. Images of George Wallace, “Bull” Connor, and high-pressured water hoses flash before the reader. One might believe Nick Saban resurrected more than championship football when he brought the Crimson Tide back to national prowess. But unfortunately racial discrimination is nothing unique to Greek life at Alabama or the South in general. It permeates the entire Panhellenic system. Thus it is unfair to crucify an individual sorority for the social norms inculcated by a fraternal structure that is centuries old.

More worrisome is not a racist social organization run by adolescents, but a religiously intolerant publicly funded institution. Only after Troy University was threatened with litigation did Chancellor John Schmidt redact his statement regarding preferential treatment for Christian students. Troy has since confirmed the availability of the dorm to non-Christian students, however the religious establishment remains troublesome. As previously mentioned, the dormitory contains six Christian resident advisors. There is no mention of a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist advisor. With six positions available, perhaps one spot may be open to an alternative religion? Furthermore, inside the dorm the Catholic archdiocese paid $17,000 to place a small chapel where a priest performs regular Mass. In response, The Freedom From Religion Foundation threatens to sue.

Because Troy offers many other secular living options, and because the dormitory was privately funded, the University may avoid litigation. But the ability to sidestep the Establishment Clause is not a quality that our academic or political leaders should endorse or pursue.

Sources:

http://blog.al.com/wire/2013/09/freedom_from_religion_foundati_2.html

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/university-of-alabama-sorority-discrimination_n_3943824.html

 

A “Messiah” By Any Other Name by Stephanie Worrell

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On August 13, 2013, reports surfaced of a Tennessee judge who used her power to order two parents to choose a new first name for their child, Messiah. The parents were in court to settle the issue of the child’s surname when Child Support Magistrate Ballew gave the parents one hour to choose a new first name for their child, and if they could not agree, she would choose one. Not surprisingly, the adversarial parents could not agree on a new name. Ballew eventually settled on the name Martin, the mother’s last name.

In Ballew’s ruling, she wrote: “‘Messiah’ is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ” and the name “places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill.”

Messiah’s mother heard the name on television and liked that it fit with the ‘M’ names of her other sons. It was not chosen to disparage any religion, or to place an undue burden on her son. Ballew used her position as a magistrate to make a judgment based on her own religious beliefs. Rarely, except in cases of obscenity, do courts impose restrictions on a parent’s right to name their child—American courts, that is. American courts have dealt with the question of a religious name change before. In 2008, an Illinois judge allowed an adult male to change his first name to “In God” and his last to “We Trust.”

In New Zealand, the government created a naming agency that must okay any proposed baby name that has not been ruled on before. The name Messiah, along with Christ, is not allowed. Sweden’s naming agency turned down the name Superman.

Names give their holder individuality and personality, even if that name seems ludicrous to some people. However, a New Zealand judge ordered a nine year old be put in the guardianship of the court until she could be renamed. The child was so embarrassed by her name, Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, that she kept her name secret and asked her lawyer to bring it up at a custody proceeding between her parents. The judge said: “[The name] makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap.”

The case of Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii is quite different than that of baby Messiah. The New Zealand judge did not make the judgment on his own, nor was it based in his religious beliefs. The girl asked for the court to do something about her name because she was mortified. Here, Messiah is a seven month old baby, and according to the United States Social Security Administration, has the “fourth-fastest growing name for boys in the United States from 2011 to 2012.” Messiah is ranked at number 387 in popularity, right between Scott and Jay.

We must ask ourselves, is the aversion to the name Messiah purely based on religious views? If so, why is the name becoming increasingly more popular? Names like Jesús, Muhammad, and Krishna are exceedingly popular around the world. Judges are not ruling that a boy named Jesús must have his name changed because he could not possibly live up to the reputation of Christ.

Perhaps Magistrate Ballew would consider the idea of implementing a naming agency like that of New Zealand in the United States. Or perhaps the government should create a list of names for us to choose from? This is a nation of choices and of opportunity—choices that a Tennessee magistrate cannot take away because she is concerned a child will not be able to fulfill the reputation of Christ.

Opposite Ends of the Earth, the Same Problem by Ellen Tolsma

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I spent the spring semester of my junior year of college studying abroad in the Middle East—specifically in Muscat, Oman. One of our course requirements for the semester was an independent research project. Being a political science major (and needing extra credits), I chose to study the changing role of women in politics in Oman.  Now in law school, that research got me thinking—in a society in which women were generally subjected to subservient roles in the past but have, of late, come into a more equal standing, how are women treated under Omani law?

According to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012, “The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens. However, economic studies…showed that women earned 75 percent less than men and that their unemployment rate was at least twice as high. Aspects of Islamic law and tradition as interpreted in the country discriminated against women, as did some social and legal institutions.  In some personal status cases, such as divorce, a women’s testimony is equal to half of a man’s.”  As one can see, women still face discrimination but not necessarily under the actual words of the law. In a similar way, women in the United States are considered equal under the words of the law, but women still make less money than men. Our laws specifically prohibit gender-based discrimination, yet it is still alive and well. This is, to say the very least, troubling. How can we, a country that touts freedom and equality, still have such clear discrimination, how do we change, and why change?

In an article reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Kim Keating writes, “If we want to make a change, everyone must commit.”  It is not about changing a few, we must as a whole change and we must all be “on board” in order to bring about those changes. Keating further writes, “Equality between women and men is vital for the creation of quality jobs providing greater profitability to the economy as a whole and a more equal, productive, and peaceful society.”  So ultimately, if we as a country can all commit to changing, we can potentially have an economy that is more productive. A novel idea that will help move our country forward to an equal future. However, that does not change the fact that other countries still have gender discrimination problems—such as Oman. What can we do to help, if anything? I think it starts with changing ourselves. If we can commit to creating a more equal society for women in the United States, maybe other countries will follow—this is not to say that we should force our changes on other countries, but model this commitment to equality first and go from there because “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” If we can take that first step as a country then maybe the thousand-mile journey will finally begin.

Eye of the Beholder: The Impact of the Media on Self-Image

A recent commercial by Dove shows how women tend to perceive themselves as less beautiful than strangers perceive them to be. The advertisement uses a forensic artist to create the image of an average women based first on the descriptions given by the women of their own appearance, then based on a the descriptions given by strangers who had spent only a short period with the women. The women were then shown a side-by-side comparison of how they look based on their self-perception and the perception of a stranger. The images showed that most women have negative perceptions of themselves, and are much more critical of their image in the language they use to describe themselves. The results of the “experiment” led by Dove provides an example of a common issue facing women in the United States.

Picture courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

In today’s technology-based society we are constantly being bombarded with images of “beautiful” people, which influence our perceptions of ourselves and what it means to be beautiful. These standards are heightened by the extensive use of Photoshop in advertisements and celebrity images. Taking the most attractive people in our society and further altering them, creates an ideal body image that is not based in reality. These unreal standards of self-image can lead to increased self-deprecation and self-loathing in failing to meet one’s desired image.

Some celebrities have stepped out in opposition to the use of Photoshop on their pictures in advertisements and magazines. While big names, such as Brad Pitt, have demanded that magazines publish their pictures without any alterations, others have released untouched pictures after altered photos were published to provide side-by-side comparisons.

While some celebrities and the American Medical Association have come out against the extensive use of Photoshop, there are still those that argue photoshopping is not a problem in our society. It is true arguments can be made for both sides. While the images are misleading, most people know that the images are doctored and should thus be able to avoid the pitfalls of relying on those images for examples of beauty. Yet examinations of real people, such as the Dove commercial, show that women are highly critical of themselves and do not recognize their own unique beauty. Although photoshopping may not be a clear sole cause of society’s general self-image dissatisfaction, “what is clear is the imperative to relieve our youth of the rampant pressures they feel when it comes to their bodies[.]”

Morning-After Pill Decision Good for the United States

By Journal Student Writer Courtney Thomas-Dusing

Earlier this month a United States District Court from the Eastern District of New York ordered the Federal Drug Administration to make the morning-after pill (such as the Plan B One Step and also known as emergency contraception) available to anyone without a prescription. This decision is huge for women and reproductive rights groups, particularly after the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s original decision to allow individuals to purchase the pill without a prescription in 2011. The court’s decision, by Senior Judge Edward R. Korman, basically reverts back to the FDA’s original scientific finding that the pill was safe for women of all ages while calling the Health and Human Services’ overrule of that evidence arbitrary and “politically motivated.” There are two huge reasons why this ruling not only is beneficial to women’s health, but to our country in general.

First, the politics surrounding the morning-after pill controversy have largely been focused on whether the pill is essentially an abortion or whether it is more like traditional birth control. CNN opinion writer Deborah Nucatola clears up this debate with science. The morning-after pill simply postpones ovulation so that sperm cannot fertilize an egg and contraception is avoided – not terminated. On the other hand, a pill called mifepristone blocks the hormone progerstrone in order to terminate an already fertilized-egg. This opinion brings to light the scientific discrepancies between abortion and birth control and will hopefully help to educate the public about the myriad of options women have.

Secondly, the prior rules about the morning-after pill weren’t equally enforced throughout the country. In fact, NPR reports that Boston University recently did a study of pharmacies’ practices in giving out the pill. The study found that one in five pharmacies were refusing to give it to seventeen-year-olds even though the law allowed anyone over the age of seventeen to obtain the pill without a prescription and those under seventeen to obtain it with an order from a health provider. The new rule is a bright line rule which is easy for pharmacies to enforce and individuals to understand.

While I’m sure that there will be political backlash from this court opinion, and it may be appealed to a Court of Appeals, we should all take the time to really educate ourselves about the various forms of contraception and their advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the science behind birth control and abortion will not only inform your political ideals but will also help you make informed decisions about birth control and how to respond when it fails. Additionally, our health providers and pharmacists need to be on the same page when it comes to women’s health so that women can get the assistance they need when they need it.

Iowa Senate Takes a Stand to Protect Academic Freedom

By Journal Student Writer Genevieve Craggs

While the big news coming out of Iowa’s legislative session may be the constant discussion involving Medicaid expansion, Governor Branstad took a hit recently when the Iowa Senate voted down two of his nominees for the Board of Regents. Nominees must pass the Senate with a two-thirds majority, and neither Robert Cramer nor Craig Lang was able to reach that number.

As a graduate from Johnston High School in 2005, I remember some of Robert Cramer’s actions and applaud the Iowa Senate for taking a stand. At one point during my time at Johnston High School, I recall him attempting to remove Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” as well as “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier, from the curriculum for Freshman English. He described it as “pornographic”.  While he claimed during his confirmation he simply didn’t want those works in freshman classes, as a junior at the time who had read the books for class, I remember being appalled. I felt happy to be graduating, as I didn’t know what direction our school district was heading in. However, thanks to other members of the Johnston School Board, the books were kept in the English curriculum and Cramer’s radical views were overruled.

Maya Angelou

Kids are growing up faster and faster these days.  We’ve all heard that the media, popular culture and easy access to any number of things on the internet is to blame. The answer can’t be panicking and trying to shelter them from all things difficult. Academic freedom is important for students to gain broader knowledge and a worldview that involves many walks of life.

The recent controversy in the Chicago Public School system shows that students crave knowledge and challenging subject matter. In March of 2013, the Chicago Public Schools came under fire for banning the book “Persepolis”. One of the teachers decided to let his students read the book and determine if they felt it should be banned. Out of 73 students, 53 did not agree with the ban. Many commented that while the book was violent, the students could relate and felt they saw violence every day. You can read more of the student’s comments on the ban here.

Why would this man be an appropriate nominee for the Board of Regents? If Robert Cramer had been confirmed, a man who tried to ban books in a local high school would be one of nine people overseeing all of our public universities. As a current law student at the University of Iowa, I find that terrifying. Academic freedom must be a cornerstone of education in Iowa, and that is clearly something Robert Cramer did not stand for. Thanks to the Iowa Senate for realizing that and taking action.

Marriage Equality Does Not Equal Adoption Equality

By Journal Student Writer Tyler Coe

The general consensus among industrial modernized nations remains that orphaned children need stable homes. Rather than growing up in an orphanage with potentially hundreds of other children, children develop best in a household with at least one parent raising them. As of January 2013, estimates indicate nearly one million Russian boys and girls reside in state-operated orphanages. Although Americans adopted over sixty thousand Russian boys and girls over the last two decades, Russian authorities have now banned Americans from adopting Russian children. Most recently, marriage equality measures across the world caused Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand a prohibition on gay couples adopting Russian orphans.

Photo courtesy of “Gay Adoption”

In Russia, same-sex marriage is not allowed. Because of that prohibition on marriage equality, Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) cannot legally adopt Russian children. This serves as a sign of Russia’s socially constructed moral beliefs supporting the belief that LGBT Russians do not hold equal rights to heterosexual men and women. As such, Russian politicians do not wish for Russian orphans to become part of progressive societies where same-sex couples raise children in stable and loving homes.

Why then did President Putin decide to call for a ban on LGBT adoptions of Russian children? The Russian Foreign Ministry recently learned of a Russian child adopted by an American woman married to another American woman. During the adoption process, the American woman did not tell Russian adoption authorities of her same-sex marriage. Now, after two years with the adopted child, the same-sex couple split up. The divorce proceedings continue with a legal dispute concerning the rights of each same-sex parent. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, same-sex relationships are “ratherquestionable from the point of view of morality.” Therefore, because Russian officials claim identifying whether or not adoptive parents are in or will one day enter a same-sex relationship or marriage, American adoptions of Russian children and same-sex couple adoptions of Russian children must not occur.

All of this raises a more interesting question here at home in the United States. How do we as a nation justify international adoptions when we have over four hundred thousand American boys and girls living without permanent families in the American foster care system? Some states do not allow same-sex couples to adopt orphaned boys and girls. These states rely on the same artificial justification on banning LGBT adoptions that Russia depends on. This does not make us better than Russia. Instead, we only increase the number of orphaned children without stable and loving homes. Perhaps instead of looking outward to adopt children, we as a nation should look at how our own orphaned boys and girls can get loving families of their own, regardless of the sexual orientations of hopeful adoptive parents.

Disability Human Rights at Home and Abroad

By Journal Student Writer Tai Blas

Access to education and employment are issues of fairness and justice in the United States. Scholars in other countries are trying to raise these justice issues to form inclusive cultures for people with disabilities. During spring break, a friend and I visited Renmin University Law School in Beijing, China. My friend is a law student at Harvard Law School. She is deafblind and I am blind. The goal of our visit was to explore ways of increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in the legal profession in China. Renmin University recently established a disability law clinic and is working in conjunction with the Harvard Project on Disability which seeks to promote disability human rights. Renmin University is committed to this admirable goal, despite many obstacles to the education and full inclusion of people with disabilities in China.

Article 45 of the Chinese Constitution states that “all citizens … have the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are old, ill or disabled.” China has established a welfare system which provides disabled citizens with minimal subsistence payments. China also has a law regarding the “Protection of Disabled Persons.”  Although issues of liability commonly arise in regard to disability in the United States, liability is of even more concern in China. After I arrived at the Beijing airport, I tried to hale a taxi to take me to my hotel. The airport staff would not let me leave the airport unaccompanied unless I wrote and signed a letter stating that the airport would not be liable for any misfortune that might befall me. Similarly, I was not permitted to travel to the Great Wall on a snowy day, despite the fact that I have lived in snowy climates all of my life and frequently ski, hike, and snowshoe in slick and inclement weather.

Although the China Disabled Persons’ Federation reports that seventy-seven percent of blind, deaf, and intellectually disabled students were enrolled in either mainstream or special education schools in 2000, parents of students with disabilities report challenges to enrolling their children in mainstream schools. Due to liability concerns, disabled students cannot attend mainstream schools unless a family member or friend accompanies them, something that is difficult for most working families. Consequently, most people with disabilities in China have only a basic education. Disabled students in China are unable to complete standardized tests throughout their education because the government only allows students to complete tests in hard-copy, paper form. The government refuses to provide any accommodations to students such as the use of a computer; wheelchair accessible rooms; Braille, large print, and audio files of written course materials; or the use of a reader to recite exam prompts and write down the disabled student’s verbal response. The Harvard Project on Disability and Renmin University’s disability law clinic are assisting the Chinese Ministry of Education to move to a more inclusive education system for students with disabilities.

In many countries, people with disabilities rarely travel independently. In attempting to speak with disabled individuals, I found that their disabilities were a source of shame not to be discussed, even among others with disabilities.  Despite right to work laws, employment quotas, and antidiscrimination laws specific to people with disabilities, my friend and I learned that all blind people are expected to enter the fields of massage or piano tuning. Blind people describe the most significant barriers to education and employment as the inability to take required standardized tests, the lack of accommodations in education, and the difficulty involved in accessing useful technology. If China will not allow changes in its standardized testing methods, schools should have discretion to waive testing requirements for promising individuals with disabilities so they can pursue higher education.

China does not provide independent living training to its disabled population because their families are expected to care for them. Consequently, people with disabilities rarely work or leave their family homes. During our visit, we educated law students, lawyers, disabled people, and their families about the training available in the United States, and we are hopeful that some will visit our training centers. We also discussed antidiscrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act which guarantee access to educational institutions and places of employment.

Unlike the United States, China has passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While this is encouraging, it does not guarantee that individuals with disabilities will have increased access to employment and educational opportunities. When my friend and I spoke with parents of disabled children, many concerns arose, ranging from the struggle to access education to protecting their children’s financial well-being. First, parents wanted their children to have the right to attend school without the supervision of a family member. Second, parents want the ability to set up trusts for their disabled children, an option currently accessible to only the wealthiest Chinese parents who can afford to arrange trusts with offshore banks. Third, the parents want to ensure that their disabled children will receive their portion of the family inheritance. Nondisabled children often misappropriate resources that parents set aside for their disabled children. The ability to set up a will is another option which is rarely available to parents.

I believe the Chinese government could reallocate some of its resources to better serve individuals with disabilities. For example, China has built expensive separate walkways for the blind on most, if not all, sidewalks. However, since blind people do not receive adequate training in how to travel independently, these expensive walkways go unused. Instead, they become parking strips for bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. This is just one of many examples of misallocated funding. The government could then use the funds that had been dedicated to the unused walkways for more beneficial purposes. First, the government could use the funds to create training centers to help those with disabilities learn to live independently. Second, the funds could be used to purchase technology that would allow disabled students to participate in public education. Finally, these funds could be used to make buildings more accessible by adding wheelchair accessible fixtures and Braille signage.

Critics may assert that accommodation technology is too expensive to implement in Chinese schools. If that is the case, then Renmin University could create an inexpensive accommodation: find highly qualified students to attend classes with disabled students to help with notetaking and in-class assignments.  Other options include using older or refurbished computers, typewriters, outdated but functional adaptive technology, books on tape or CD, assisted listening devices, magnification, or human readers to convey information from textbooks. Although such accommodations are not ideal, these were the types of accommodations people with disabilities in the United States received before Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. With such inexpensive accommodations, students with disabilities could succeed. Decades ago, determined blind attorneys passed bar exams in the United States, well before the creation of antidiscrimination laws. China must start somewhere. The pioneering law students with disabilities who will participate in the Renmin University disability law clinic could change the status quo. Now is the time for equal access to education!!

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