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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Disability Justice ----- Front Door Justice

This short essay is to suggest adoption of some new terminology. Even this new terminology will have a half life and will succumb to yet newer terminology at some point. But the effort to freshen language may have some benefit.

Words have weight. Labels carry meaning. And where labels are applied, as they often are, to people who have been devalued or stigmatized, labels affect how those people are treated.

The Pennhurst institution (Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital), was originally called an institution for "the epileptic and feeble minded." I have the original architect's drawing of the facility in my office, with that title.  Words like "idiot" and "retarded" and "moron" have given way to "developmental disabilities." Clients, patients, inmates, self-advocates, residents, etc., all have or have had their day.

Among legal advocates, there have been short epochs of terms such as "patients rights," "disability rights," "civil liberties," and more recently "disability law." Very early on, 1972, I founded the first in-hospital legal advocacy group in a mental institution and called it the "Mental Patient Civil Liberties Project." I'd not call it that today.

I suggest that "DISABILITY JUSTICE" replace the terms "disability law" and "disability rights." The word JUSTICE carries with it nuances of fairness, and right-ness, and references both biblical and other notions encompassed by the breadth of the word JUSTICE.

Recently, a state court appellate judge speaking in this field, and inspiring lawyers and other advocates in this field, used the phrase, "FRONT DOOR JUSTICE."  People with disabilities no longer are willing to have a separate entrance to the halls of justice. People with disabilities are demanding first class entry. No more back door ramp is what the judge is calling for. A great phrase. The judge is blind; he knows whereof he speaks.

My next step: To see if I can change the title of this blog!

Your thoughts?

Seeking questions and suggestions for issues to cover in this blog

Blogs typically, and appropriately, express the author's thoughts, opinions and information on topics chosen from time to time by the blog's author.

I've decided here to invite readers to suggest topics on which I might comment, or to request disability law information, or to muse on issues of concern. Note that, of course, on the internet, I cannot provide legal advice on particular individual cases.

Consider this an experiment in interactive blogging on disability related legal issues.

Etymology of "blog." Note that this site is already out of date. It classifies blog as a noun, and is unaware that it has become a verb.

blog (n.)
1998, short for weblog (which is attested from 1994, though not in the sense "online journal"), from (World Wide) Web + log. Joe Bloggs (c. 1969) was British slang for "any hypothetical person" (compare U.S. equivalent Joe Blow); earlier blog meant "a servant boy" in one of the college houses (c. 1860, see Partridge, who describes this use as a "perversion of bloke"), and, as a verb, "to defeat" in schoolboy slang. The Blogger online publishing service was launched in 1999.
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