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Police Violence Against People With Disabilities

Latrea Wyche/Contributing Writer

In recent months, law enforcement across the country has come under fire for incidents of police brutality within African American communities. The brutal death of George Ford has caused America to take a closer look at the people who are armed with the charge of “protect and serve” but instead chooses to shoot and kill. Police brutality is nothing new, and this not just an African American thing, people with disabilities have had to deal with some of the same treatment. According to a report done by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability organization, proposes that while police interactions with minorities draw increasing scrutiny, disability and health considerations are still neglected in media coverage and law enforcement policy. I know you are probably sick of me making everything about people with disabilities, but these are the un-talked about issues that our community faces on a daily, basis but yet, they receive no attention.

When police officers encounter a person with a disability, they do not have the proper training to handle the situation. That’s where it all starts, training. with such a large population of disabled people in America, it would seem like common sense to me, for police officers to receive some type of training on how to handle a person with a disability. For example, when arresting a deaf person or a person with a hearing impairment, cops should not cuff them with their hands behind their back because in most cases, they use their hands to communicate, it would be kinda difficult to communicate with their hands behind their back. Another question how many police forces in America offer basic sign language courses, some would argue it would be a waste of time, but you never know as a cop when you might have to stop a deaf person, and just imagine how much more comfortable that person would feel knowing that you are able to communicate with them.

According to a database maintained by The Washington Post, in 2018, at least 139 people with mental illness have been shot and killed by cops. based on the research I conducted, a large number of people with disabilities that are killed by cops have some form of mental illness. “Police have become the default responders to mental health calls,” write the authors, historian David Perry and disability expert Lawrence Carter-Long, who analyzed incidents from 2013 to 2015. They propose that “people with psychiatric disabilities” are presumed to be “dangerous to themselves and others” in police interactions. So, the question now becomes what do we do with this information, how do we use this information to better our community…..knowledge is power the more knowledge we have the more powerful we are.

Latrea Wyche

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Black Disabled: our place in Hollywood and Mainstream Media

Latrea Wyche/Contributing Writer

This article came from two very different places: one, me sitting at home watching a program on BET called “Black Girls Rock.” While watching this show I began thinking, why is there no representation of African-American women with disabilities, or just African Americans with disabilities period represented in mainstream media or in Hollywood. The more I thought about it the angrier I became. As an African-American woman with a disability, I want to see all aspects of me represented – and this includes in the mainstream media and Hollywood.

Sometimes I feel that African-American Hollywood events are not welcoming of African-American people with disabilities. By not actively promoting that African-American, disabled actors to play character roles of a disabled person, Hollywood continues to give an inaccurate representation of African-Americans with disabilities and takes away jobs from African-American actors with real disabilities. For example, Ray: The story of Ray Charles, Ray Charles was played by Jamie Foxx who did a wonderful job, but why couldn’t the director find an actual African American blind actor to play the part? think about how much more realistic it would have been because you would have received the experience first hand of what a blind person in the music industry deals with verses a representation of a blind person.

To me that like choosing a caucasian to play a role that was meant for an African American actor, a caucasian person has no idea what’s it is like to be black just like an able body person has no idea what it’s like to be disabled. Think of the little African American disabled children that seeing someone that looks like them on the screen, which gives them hope that it could be them one day.

My second reason for writing this article is, the feeling like I am not accepted by my culture because I am disabled. which would explain why there is no representation of African Americans with disabilities in mainstream media or Hollywood, because we are not accepted in our own culture. This not me having a pity party for myself as some would think or me feeling sorry for myself. The above statement is based on my first-hand experience and not just my experience but the experiences of many African Americans with disabilities. When I make statements like that, I usually get “don’t lump us all in the same category” or my personal favorite “some may not understand disability,” it’s 2020 we all have resources available at our fingertips to educate ourselves about various disabilities, not understanding is no longer an excuse.

Latrea Wyche

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Black and Disabled in America: The unheard population

Latrea Wyche/ Contributing Writer

This is an issue that I have been speaking on for years, the struggle of being a woman of color, and having a disability. The experience of disability is different for members of the African American community, just as I am sure the experience of disability is different for the members of various other sub-communities. For the sake of this article, we will be focusing on the African-American community. From birth, African- Americans are born into a world that does not make all needed resources available for them to flourish and succeed the way other groups have. There is a link between students with no-apparent disabilities, (I want to pulse right here for a minute, just because a disability is not apparent does not mean that someone does not have one. The thing that people need to understand about disability, is it manifests itself in various forms. We are not always going to be able to look at a person and recognize whether or not they have a disability). where there is also and over-classification of impairments with challenging behaviors that place them on the fast track of the “school to prison pipeline”.

For those who are not familiar with the “School to Prison Pipeline”, this system is defined as the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated, because of increasingly harsh school and municipal policies. We already know that more than half of the prison population are African- Americans males. Every 1 out of 15 African- Americans males are imprisoned each year compared to 1 in 106. It has been learned that 1 out of 3 African- Americans males can expect to go to jail and some point in their lifetime. Our society focuses on the word “criminal” not really trying to gain an understanding of the larger issue that lies within these institutions. A surprising fact that I just learned while doing this research, 60% of the inmate population has some form of a learning disability. The struggles inmates face on a daily basis vary, however, they share the common experience of having their disability either undiagnosed or ignored. In many cases we see inmates being reprimanded and disciplined for inappropriate behavior and not following rules and regulations of the facility. Most of the time their physical or cognitive impairment is not taken into consideration and unfair punishment is served. This again highlights the school to prison pipeline due to the simple fact that while attending school their disabilities went unnoticed or diagnosed incorrectly. This inmate population is then composed of a group of African-Americans who are left to navigate their world with a known or unknown impairment whether it is physical or cognitive.

The next question becomes what can we do about this? I believe that prison reform is just one part of the problem, we have to also look at our education system as it relates to disability and preparing children with disabilities for the real world, Are we providing them with the tools and techniques needed to survive in this ever-changing world?. Another piece to this puzzle is home life, as an African-American parent of a child with a disability what are you instilling in that child? What are you telling that child about him or herself? And lastly, as a community, we need to become more educated about disability. It is 2020 there no reason that we should still be using the excuse that “I don’t understand disability.” These are some of the things to think about as we continue to move toward the future.

Latrea Wyche

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email: coachlatreawyche@gmail.com

When Race and Disability Intersect

Latrea Wyche/ Contributing Writer

Lately, I have been researching the topic of race relations as applies to people with disabilities. As a woman of color who happens to have multiple disabilities, I connected with my race and my culture before I even knew what the term disability meant. As a matter of fact, as a kid, the word disability was not used in my home. That’s a conversation we will have in another post. At any rate, while conducting my research there was one word that continued to show up in every search; Intersectionality, this was not a word that I was familiar with so I decided to look it up. According to Oxford the word internationally refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations, such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating an overlapping and interdependent system of discrimination. A person belonging to more that one sub-group where they face discrimination, for example being gay and black both of those sub-groups deals with discrimination in one form or another.

The question remains, what does this all have to do with disability and race? According to the CDC, one out of every four African American adults has a disability, which means that one out of every four adults belongs to two sub-groups that deals with discrimination, not only are they African Americans but they also have a disability. The challenges of being a part of a group that is being discriminated against can intensify when an individual faces multiple biases simultaneously. In these instances being disabled may not be the biggest barrier to community inclusion.

Disability Pride can be tested when a person is seeking to honor and balance all the identities that make him or her a unique individual. Some identities create barriers to disability services, while others further exacerbate exclusion and identification of people with disabilities, this the case in point for undocumented immigrants. People who fit in this category, may not be eligible for all of the services they need, based on the fact that they are not a US Citizen which means family supports are often required to supplement care even when disability stigma exists within the family or culture.

Latrea Wyche

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For Mothers Of Black Children With Disabilities, Living With Twice The Fear

By Allison Norlian -Forbes Women

Kim Kaiser’s son was 10 years old when she first spoke with him about the challenges he’d face as a black man with disabilities. 

It’s a conversation they’ve continued every day since, and it covers a little bit of everything. How should he act in public? Where should he put his hands? How should he respond if police stop him? What type of people should he avoid?

In the days following George Floyd’s death, Kaiser was careful to speak with her son about that, too. Her son, now 14, had questions of his own.

“He said to me, ‘Mommy, are you going to be here to save me when the police put a knee on my neck? Because George Floyd called for his mommy. What would happen if I called for my mommy?’” Kaiser said.

For many mothers of black children across the country, it’s an all-too-familiar refrain: raising black kids means raising them in the specter of fear.

“Now add in a disability,” said Kaiser, who’s been an advocate for people with disabilities and disenfranchised communities for nearly four decades.

“We are twice as fearful raising our children in this country.”  

It’s a fear Maria Davis-Pierre knows well. Following her 8-year-old daughter’s autism diagnosis, she createdAutism in Blacka companythat supports black parents through education and advocacy services while bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorder.

“Our children having interactions with the police is a constant worry for us,” said Davis-Pierre, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

“Because they are black and autistic, they automatically have certain characteristics that could look suspicious to first responders.”

Detroit resident Camille Proctor, a mother of a 14-year-old son with autism and founder of The Color of Autism Foundation, agrees. 

“When an African American person is disabled and can’t process a police command – with any luck – he’ll end up in handcuffs, but most of the time, it’s fatal,” Proctor said.

“Police need training. But they need to stop killing black people before the training about people with disabilities will be effective.”

According to Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide, black Americans are killed at disproportionate rates by police than their white counterparts. Black Americans are more likely to be subjected to force by police, and according to 2019 data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, black men are nearly three times more likely than white men to be killed during a police intervention. 

Since George Floyd’s death, there have been calls around the country to reform or dismantle police departments, and move the money to support and serve communities through other means.

Already changes are being made.

The Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to dismantle their city’s police department, promising to create a new public safety system in the city. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said NYPD would face budget cuts with the intention of funneling the money to youth and social services. In the wake of protesting, Richmond, Virginia, Mayor Levar Stoney said the city is committing to a citizen review board, and something called the Marcus Alert.

A group called the Richmond Transparency, and Accountability Project has been advocating for the citizen review board and the Marcus Alertsince the 2018 death of a science teacher named Marcus David-Peters, who was killed after lunging, unarmed, at a police officer while experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Chelsea Higgs Wise, an organizer for RTAP, said the Marcus Alertwould provide those suffering a mental health crisis with wellness checks, rather than enforcement. 

“If someone is having a mental health crisis, crisis stabilization would be called, and they would have authority over the scene instead of police – as long as there is no lethal safety issue,” Higgs Wise said.

Proctor, Davis-Pierre, and Kaiser all think something like a Marcus Alertshould be implemented across the country, not only for people with mental illness but also for people with disabilities.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 plus years, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been lunged at by a person with disabilities,” Kaiser said.

“You go through a lot of emotions in your head, but if you’re receiving ongoing training, you should know how to restrain someone without force.” 

Kaiser, Davis-Pierre, and Proctor all believe there needs to be a variety of changes made at both state and federal levels, specifically when it comes to policing. They advocate for civilian review boards made up of people that diversely represent the community who can hold officers accountable, including people from the disability community. They believe police should partner and work consistently with mental health professionals and disability experts and advocates to learn best practices and experience more in-depth training more frequently. They advocate for bias training too.

“Police need to understand if someone says something you don’t like, that doesn’t mean you put a knee on their neck and kill them,” Kaiser said.

“Police must be trained on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of disability and mental illness.” 

Davis-Pierre said police must receive culturally responsive training or consistent, in-depth training that teaches officers how to interact with the black and disabled communities. She also encourages officers to hold their colleagues responsible for racist and prejudiced behavior and believes police need anti-racist training.

“Until then, we will be preparing our children as much as we can,” Davis-Pierre said. 

Pierre-Davis gives her daughter a card/bracelet explaining she has autism in hopes that if police ever stop her, it’ll help the situation.

“But my concern as a black parent is that it won’t even get to that point because of her skin,” she said. 

Proctor insists her son stay close to her when they’re in public. Kaiser advises her son to keep his hands outside of his pockets. She also tells him not to carry anything that could be perceived as a weapon, and if approached by police to put his hands up. She tells her son to immediately inform a police officer who is questioning him that he’s on the autism spectrum. 

“My son doesn’t know how to make consistent eye contact, but I tell him to the extent that he can, he needs to try,” Kaiser said. 

These moms say they will never be entirely comfortable until racism is abolished, laws are changed, and systemic and cultural improvements are made. Still, they will continue doing the tireless work to improve their children’s lives and for black Americans with or without disabilities that come after them.

April Green’


Email: woogreen78@gmail.com

IG: 4aprilgreen

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“Disability Meets Depression”

Latrea Wyche/ Contributing Writer

Depression is not a topic you hear much about within the disability community.  But I guess when I  really think about it, I could see how they could be connected.  Depression is caused by a number of different factors, such as low self esteem lost of direction, a feeling of not belonging  just to name a few.  All of these things can also be directly connected to having a disability. In some cases it may not be the disability itself that causes the depression, it could be the effects of having a disability that may cause the depression.
Being disabled can cause one to have to face many ups and downs obstacles, hurdles, uphill battles, and valley experiences throughout our lives, the upside to this is all of this is God has used all of these experiences to shape and continues to shape who He has created us to be. But sometimes these experiences can also play on our emotions and self-esteem which makes life a little difficult deal with which can cause depression to set in if we are not careful. Depression is defined as a mental disorder characterized by being depressed, low, or “blue” mood that lasts more than a few days. Depressed people often lose interest in activities they formerly found pleasant, feel hopeless and sad, and suffer from low self-esteem.  Depression and disability often times goes hand and hand, depending upon the support system that a individual may have. But then the question become why does disability lead to depression:

Why does disability lead to depression?? 

No life direction or purpose – Many individuals who are disabled often feel as though because they are disabled they have no purpose which cases them to feel lost and out of place.  Then there is the individual who become disabled later in life, they have work hard to achieve a certain career goal. Acquiring a disability that no longer allows you to no longer work at that job hat you have been at for years, has a significant impact on your direction in life and may also impact your sense of purpose. For example, an airline pilot whose vision becomes seriously impaired is no longer able to fly. Such a devastating loss can easily open the door for depression.

The painful loss of a sense of purpose affects many disabled individuals who were formerly the primary breadwinner in the home. When you’re no longer able to provide for your family, it’s not unusual to develop the lingering helplessness or frustration that leads to depression. Feelings of worthlessness, another common symptom of depression, can begin to take a firm grip. This is seen commonly in a lot of disabled vets.

Decrease in self-esteem – Being disabled affects how you perceive and feel about yourself, as well as your place in society. A study of individuals with traumatic brain injury revealed they had lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of depression than healthy individuals. Some disabled individuals lack confidence in their ability to control their body and manage their life adequately. The loss of autonomy can take a severe toll on self-esteem.

Sadness, anger or frustration – A disability can sometime prevent you from having you dream job or your dream career, but it isn’t always serious enough to keep you out of the workforce entirely. Feeling forced to take a job that isn’t as challenging, fulfilling, prestigious or well-paying can elicit negative feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration or resentment. 

Struggle of living with a disability – Quality of life often decreases after a significant injury or illness, especially when it limits the ability to perform normal daily activities. A serious brain injury, for instance, requires a person to relearn any number of tasks, from how to speak to how to button a shirt. In some cases, he or she simply isn’t able to relearn important functions. Likewise, a disability such as vision loss completely changes how someone lives. A newly blind person must learn how to navigate a dark world, losing at least some independence in the process.

Feeling bored – Some disabilities leave a person housebound, with few opportunities to interact with others. You may find yourself at home alone all day while your spouse is at work or confined to an assisted living center where community activities don’t match your interests. Boredom fosters negative emotions, including loneliness and frustration, which can trigger symptoms of depression.

Disability definitely raises depression risk; however, depression can also make the disability worse. For example, depression can make it more difficult for you to take proper care of your health. You are more likely to miss important appointments, such as a doctor visit or physical therapy. You may neglect to take your medications as directed. The result is a cycle in which the injury or illness triggers depression, which, in turn, makes the disabling condition worse.

Latrea Wyche
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The Unheard Voices: How COVID-19 impacts People with Disabilities

Latrea Wyche/ contributing Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives, but its impacts are especially acute for people living with disabilities. Emerging research on COVID-19 shows that the coronavirus pandemic has increased distress among high-risk groups. There are unique stressors and challenges that could worsen mental health for people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.  Behaviors such as physical distancing, as well as their social and economic impacts are also known to play a significant role in mental health consequences.  

Research on past pandemics shows that disabled people find it harder to access critical medical supplies which can become even more challenging as resources become scarce. Some people with disabilities report higher levels of social isolation than their nondisabled counterparts (O’Sullivan & Bourgin, 2010). They may experience intensified feelings of loneliness in response to physical distancing measures which can lead to depression as well as other mental illnesses.

None of this is surprising and let me tell you why, people within this community already experience social isolation and feelings of loneliness  just do to the mere fact that they are disabled so just imagine the stressors that are added to an already difficult situation. People with disabilities have always had more of a difficult time accessing the basic medical needs, now it even tougher because the supplies are so limited.

There is another piece to this puzzle that I have not seen or heard discussed, what about those group of people with cognitive -disabilities, that are accustomed to routines, it could be going the library at a certain time of the day or going to the mall a certain day of the week and now they can’t do that due to the COVID-19.  Throughout this pandemic I have seen numerous news reports and articles about nursing homes and people becoming ill in these nursing homes due to COVID-19, but not once and have I heard any mention of group homes for people with disabilities, what do their numbers look like how are they dealing with this situation.

My real issue, communication, or lack thereof.  Finding ways to get information has become increasingly difficult for people with disabilities due to the variables associated with being disabled.  For example, disability is not just one category that is made up of various sub-categories.  It is visually impaired and that blind (yes there is a difference).  There is hearing impaired and the deaf (again, there a difference) and even. It is the responsibility of news sources to do their best to make the information as accessible as possible, to all this large subgroup of people, especially when information is changing quickly. As a visually and hearing-impaired person this something that I had to struggle with firsthand.   Keeping all of us informed is key to the COVID-19 public health response, but the information is not always accessible to the disabled community, leaving us sidelined. That is not right nor is it fair, we deserve access to what going on just like everyone else especially if it directly impacts our health.

Latrea Wyche

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