Friday, 24 May 2013

Cam ''n Eggs — May 25 — Memo to Dave Rutherford: What do you mean by "these people?"

  Perhaps the most practical thing to do is send Dave Rutherford an email. Sometimes, though, practicality goes out the door. This is one of those times.
Rutherford is a talk show host on the Corus Radio network, weekdays from 9 a.m.  to 12 p.m.. On Wednesday, he interviewed Frank Oberle,  associate minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities about the provincial government’s cutbacks to Persons with Developmental Disabilities. Rutherford is to be congratulated for bringing the issue to the air waves. But only to an extent.

Before I go any further I must preface my comments: I have cerebral palsy, use a wheelchair and began in the news business as a reporter with the Edmonton Journal in 1979. In covering issues and great human interest stories about disabilities, I tried to choose my words carefully to promote inclusion. That’s why I found it hard to hear Rutherford calling people with developmental disabilities as “these people.”

More concerning is the story itself: the provincial government is moving towards moving people with developmental disabilities into living in the community. They are going to go shopping, to movies, to work, to church and many other activites They are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, aunts and uncles. Not “these people.” 
They have hopes and dreams. They fail, too. But they a chance to try again.

Just like everyone else.

The media has a fundamental right to treat citizens equally. Rutherford missed the point: instead of welcoming new community members, he built barriers by calling them “these people.” They are, most certainly, Albertans first. And disability second. I could have emailed him. But, given his previous comment, he might consider me as “these people.”

And I refuse to accept that.