Discrimination based on disability: Why it matters


Today’s society is filled with discrimination against those with different ethnicities, views, and challenges. Some of these are obvious, with at least one mass shooting connected to white supremacist views and transgender women being removed from a Los Angeles bar, according to NBC News.

However, there is one group that doesn’t get nearly as much attention when they are harassed. This group is those that have disabilities.

One recent, glaring example of this is how Lucas Goodwin, a student with autism, had his desk moved to a bathroom and was expected to learn and work in there. This particular incident took place at Whatcom Middle School in Bellingham, Washington.

According to Komo News, the student’s mother, Danielle Goodwin, was concerned and posted a picture of her son’s new environment on social media. Whatcom Middle School then gave a statement where they stated that “limited space” was a factor in the controversial decision.

We are all probably aware that state funding for schools is limited, particularly with regards to construction, and thus schools often have limited space to meet students’ instructional and social-emotional needs. We are always looking for creative ways to best use our facilities to meet students’ needs,” Superintendent Greg Baker explained.

The supposed solution was not only inappropriate but insensitive, especially to someone who has autoimmune issues on top of autism.

“It’s not an appropriate place for anyone, but especially for Lucas with his PANDAS condition (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), he can’t be around germs. That’s something that can really affect his body,” said Danielle Goodwin.

With this kind of situation, one would believe there were multiple news outlets waiting to get their hands on the story. However, that’s only far from the truth.

Only two news outlets, Komo News and Newsweek, reported the incident as soon as September 19, three days after the student found his desk moved. However, it took two extra days after Komo News reported it for other media outlets, such as Fox News and People.com, to give any information on the incident. 

For comparison, a potential hate crime in Dallas against a transgender woman took place on September 20. Five news stations reported on this event on September 23 despite the weekend, with major names such as CNN, CBS, and The Dallas Morning News. 

As for the former, only four news stations reported on it by September 23.

Even in a schooling environment, students with disabilities are more prone to restraint from teachers, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Nationally, use of restraint and seclusion is rare—but students with disabilities and boys are disproportionately affected,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated.

Even though events such as the Whatcom incident took place outside of Utah, the Beehive State is not immune to discrimination based on disability.

“Nearly one in five (17.8%) Utah adults is living with a disability,” the Utah Department of Health’s website stated. “The most common are mobility-related disabilities (9.1%), followed by cognitive disabilities (8.8%), disabilities that impact independent living (4.5%), vision-related disabilities (2.8%), and disabilities that impact self-care (2.3%).”

In Utah, 1 in 54 children is diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC’s [Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s] website.

“This estimate is higher than the average number of children identified with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] (1 in 68) in all areas of the United States where CDC tracks ASD,” the CDC added.

The likes of Whatcom Middle’s situation should bring concern into the hearts of Utahns, especially those who have a voice to defend the voiceless. In some situations, those with disabilities are voiceless.