Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

An older white woman stands holding a poster that says 'Not in my name' in capitals.

An older white woman stands holding a poster that says 'Not in my name' in capitals. Image from the javacolleen Flickr stream.

In many states of the USA, one of the penalties available for first degree murder* is death. While the USA is far from the only country to retain the death penalty, it is the only western country to still have it,** and to that extent, it appears to be a bit of an anomaly.

In this context, it’s useful to know something about the relevant international instruments.


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I did say this series would be irregular! You can find the first post in this series here. I will update this post with links to the other posts as I create them. You can also keep an eye on my list of series to see when posts get added to this series.

As is no doubt apparent from the title, this post addresses mobility accessibility on Sydney buses.

Signs in mobility accessible spaces

I’d like to start off by considering this sign:

Sign at wheelchair area on bus

Sydney Bus sign at the area designated for wheelchairs

There are three parts to the sign. At the top, there is a yellow sticker with dark writing that says 'For more information on travelling with wheelchairs, seniors and prams ... go to http://www.sydneybuses.info'. There are also three graphics: a stylised stick figure in a wheelchair; a stylised person wearing a dress with a jutting hip, cane and bag; a stylised pram.

Underneath that sticker, there is white writing directly on the glass. This says 'This area should be vacated by passengers when required for a wheelchair'.

Beneath that is a blue and white sticker. In the centre is a stick figure in a wheelchair. To the left, the writing: 'FOR SAFETY: wheelchair brakes must be applied while bus is in motion.' To the right, the writing: 'FOR SAFETY: wheelchairs must face the rear'.

I suspect the problems I see with this sign says a lot about Sydney Buses’ attitude towards people with different mobilities.


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(Yes, all my posts at the moment are coming from The Guardian. The journalism there is not perfect, but they do some pretty interesting stories that the media here in Australia doesn’t seem to even get wind of.)

Some Israeli women wield the teaspoon of civil disobedience and smuggle Palestinian women out of the West Bank for a day at the beach.

Riki is a 63-year-old from Tel Aviv who, like the other women did not want to give her surname. She said it took her time to sign up to the trips. “I was resistant to breaking the law. But then I realised that civil action is the only way to go forward, that breaking an illegal law becomes legal.”

But all the Palestinian women have just one request: to go to the sea. For most, it’s their first trip to the seaside, even though it is a short drive from home.

Fatima, 24, gazes out at the horizon. “I didn’t know that the sound of the sea is so relaxing,” she said. Sara asks for a sheet of paper, speedily folds it into a paper boat and writes her name on it, intending to set it out to sea. “So that it will remember me,” she said.


Cross-posted (with added pic)

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Two articles in The Guardian today which bear some thinking about.

1. A study has been conducted which seems to suggest that if a child is abused, that child will do better in the long term if sie is removed from hir family and not returned.

That may well be what the study found. And the result certainly has the force of logic behind it: if a child is abused in a particular environment, the child will be better off not being in that environment.

However, (more…)

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A woman is suing a bus company which refused to take her wheelchair (and so would not transport her).

Gemma Namey, a solicitor with [Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which is representing the woman], said the case could have major implications. ”This is a first, we believe, as there has been no previous test to enforce the standard,” she said.

One to watch, for those of you interested in accessible public transport.

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A Bill has been introduced into NSW Parliament which will alter the categories of people who are ineligible for jury duty. Relevant links are below.

In summary (ie why I am writing about this), having a disability will no longer be a blanket reason for ineligibility.

To explain the current position (from the government’s Agreement in Principle speech):

Under the existing legislation, three schedules to the Act provide bases for not serving on a jury: some people are disqualified, some ineligible, and some have a right to claim exemption. Disqualification essentially arises from past criminal conduct. Those who are ineligible cannot serve if they are summoned. This group includes the Governor, the Ombudsman, judicial officers and police officers, and those who cannot read or write English sufficiently, or are too sick, infirm or disabled, to discharge the duties of a juror.

And the new position (from the same source):

Two groups currently listed as ineligible will now have to show cause to be excused. They are a person who is unable to read or understand English, and a person who is unable, because of sickness, infirmity or disability, to discharge the duties of a juror. The Disability Council supported removing the ineligibility of those who are disabled, for example, on the basis that it remedies “an unjustified, outdated belief that people with a disability are unable to fulfil juror duties”. Clearly, a number of people who were excused from service under the current rule will still be excused for good cause, but the change reflects a principled move away from statutory excusal to showing good cause in each case.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much of a practical problem the current position causes. But, people being people, I suspect that if you show up to jury duty with a visible/evident/obvious disability,* someone would question you about that and maybe tell you that you are ineligible, or suggest that you could be ineligible if you got a note from your doctor. That suggestion would be based on the suggester’s assumptions about you rather than any actual evidence as to whether you are, in fact, unable to discharge a juror’s duties.


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Dear salespeople

If you are serving a person who talks and walks a bit differently from most people, when sie hands over hir credit card to pay, the correct response is your usual one, ie “signature or PIN”. This is a standard presentation of options and, I’ve noticed, is usually said rather than asked.

It is not correct to ask: “are you able to sign?” Especially when it is said in a patronising tone (with implicit “dear” at the end).

It’s even more obvious that you’re being a douche when you go back to the usual presentation of options with the next person, whom you apparently judge to have no difficulties with working a pen.

The standard presentation of options works just as well for people who do have difficulties working a pen (or, more to the point, people who you might think have difficulties working a pen, based on your minutes-long acquaintance with them, all of which was spent discussing a pair of shoes). Give them some credit to be able to choose the appropriate option for them.

Most utterly sincerely,
Jo Tamar

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[TRIGGER WARNING for forced detention following diagnosis of mental illness.]

Imagine a world in which you could be held by a government agency, against your will, for up to a month.

If you have a mental illness, that is now a real possibility.

Deborah Snow has reported on changes for the SMH – that’s actually how I heard about this – and has some interviews with various people. In summary: the doctors who are quoted are universally opposed to the changes. There’s only one person in the article who supports the changes:

The head of the tribunal, Greg James, a former judge, rejects the criticisms. He said patients retain a right under the Mental Health Act to call in the tribunal at any time to examine their case.

He argues the changes will avoid the many adjournments which occur now, where doctors tell magistrates they are not ready to seek a formal ruling.


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