People with learning disabilities used to be unseen members of our communities, hidden away in institutions with no voice and little contact with their more advantaged neighbours. The changes in philosophy that came with Wolfensberger’s ‘Normalisation’ thrust in the early 1980s led to closure of institutions and the end of inappropriate incarceration for people whose only ‘fault’ was one of intellectual limitation.
I have worked in some of those institutions and I have also worked in services at the leading edge of change. In the 21st century, it is the norm for people to live as independently as possible with support from agencies set up to assist. It gives people pride. It gives them a sense of purpose. It enables families to live as units and not separated entities – one part able, the other not.
Unfortunately, it also brings people into contact with society’s exploiters, abusers, and manipulative psychopathic killers. People who use drugs that obliterate any sense of decency and empathy. People who are so distanced from their humanity that they can imprison, torture, rape, and terrorise vulnerable individuals unable to fight back.
Today I tried to find the details of another death but all trace of it had vanished, due probably to world and national events. A volcano causing travel chaos and our political leaders on the trail of electoral glory. This man has vanished from sight, my sight anyway, and so I am unable to give him just this tiny acknowledgment. It occurred to me that many such deaths and tragedies may go unremarked and so the shame of our society’s behaviour will remain unaddressed because, well, they don’t add up to much do they, if their headlines don’t last? Well they might if they are all on one page.
This new page will keep a record, a dishonourable record, of the names of people with learning disabilities who have been murdered, raped, or tortured. It starts now, from 2010. I hope it’s short and I hope it gets shorter. If you have details that are reported in the press, please send the link and I will put the person’s name here so that they are never forgotten.