Friday, August 13, 2010

Disability Discrimination - Part I

Ellis Island -Medical Exam Changes Over 30 Yea...Image by Erica_Marshall via Flickr

A friend of mine has spent years bringing public attention to issues of disability discrimination and its history. She recently informed me of a practice at Ellis Island that shocked me.

When public health officials tested the potential immigrants, those suspected of having a "mental defect" would be stopped and an official would place an "X" on the persons shirt with chalk. This greatly offends me. Can you imagine being greeted in a new land by somebody who write on you with chalk? Here is an article that describes the practice. Here is a powerpoint about the practice.

I know that immigration is a big issue in today's news. What do you think about the big X written in chalk? Isn't this a harsh way to make the point? What would you do?

I am also intrigued by the fact that some of the immigrants were clever enough to remove the chalk marks or simply turned their shirts inside out! Some people were just destined to be Americans.


  1. I think the issue of disability and immigration is an interesting one that is CURRENTLY very relevant in society. There could definitely be a lot more energy put into studying and raising awareness about just this and looking at how countries treat disability when making citizenship decisions about immigrant individuals. I believe some countries actively deny immigrants citizenship based solely on the presence of a disability.

  2. Alison,

    thanks for your comment.


  3. Why are you "intrigued" by the chalk removal? Just wondering... Like many "plain vanilla" students, many Spec Ed students know to "chill" when authority figures are around (or act up, as the case/inclination may be).

    1. The United Nations held a convention on disabilities, and now has an arm devoted to the issue (think ILO or UNICEF). You want international horror stories just check out orphanages... and compare them to our system, where doctors opine on "expected quality of life" when making treatment decisions.

    2. I have heard, several times now, people trying to get SSI-DI for relatives living abroad (foreign nationals). While every person should get what they need, the sense of entitlement becomes offensive when I'm tired after, say, battling for years for a wheelchair...

    Watch out: your opening a very very large package with this thread!