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Is Game of Thrones A Victory for Disability Rights?

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By Letha Sgritta McDowell, CELA

Recently, approximately 10.1 million people watched the premier of this season of Game of Thrones, making it the most popular show on cable television. For those of you who are not familiar, Game of Thrones is based on the book series by George R.R. Martin. It is fictional and fantastical with a medieval feel including the existence of dragons, giants, sword fighting, kings and queens, and a noticeable lack of internet, smartphones, electricity, and telephones. The series is a fascinating study in intertwined relationships among friends, enemies, and things in between. The series also includes a number of main characters with disabilities. One main character is paralyzed, one has an intellectual disability, one is missing a hand, and one is a little person. All of these characters are strong characters who have a significant impact on the plot and story line. Many who advocate for people with disabilities are thrilled with both the number of people with disabilities in such a popular program as well as the fact that they play main characters whose roles are essential to the story line. Their disability is not emphasized, instead their diversity and talents are celebrated.

While many are celebrating the success of Game of Thrones and believe its positive portrayal of those with disabilities; other are not as convinced. One character suffers from a skin disability and is later burned by her parents. The focus on her disability is meant to invoke sympathy, but some disability activists are concerned that the writing perpetuates the stereotypical portrayal of a person with a disability as a victim. In another scene, a play which makes fun of little people is performed while one of the strongest and most interesting characters is a little person himself. Unfortunately, that crass humor could be seen as perpetuating stereotypes which unfortunately continue to exist.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990. It extended the civil rights protections offered to people of color, women, and older adults to people with disabilities. Protection was necessary due to discrimination which existed and which was perpetuated by stereotypes of people with disabilities. Certainly it can be said that a lot has changed since the ADA was enacted. The prominence of people and characters with disabilities in the most popular show on television can be seen as evidence of this positive change.

However, while progress has been made, there is still much to do in the way of advocating for people with disabilities. For every famous television star there are many more persons in need of assistance with finding appropriate health care, services in the community, income and more. In addition, these services are often costly and a small amount of money may cause the loss of services. Proper planning and knowledge about services available in the community can assist a person with a disability in remaining independent in the community.

While it is unclear as to whether the prominence of people with disabilities in Game of Thrones will have a positive impact on the overall lives of people with disabilities, it is a great pop-culture reminder that we have come a long way in treating people with disabilities as equals. Its popularity can be a reminder that there is still work to be done to ensure all people with disabilities are treated equally and have access to the services and supports they need.

If you have questions about services available to assist people with disabilities in either North Carolina or Virginia, please contact the Hook Law Center to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our attorneys.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Too Many Geese?

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, does Hampton Roads have a problem with too many Canadian geese?

Kit Kat:  Well, that probably depends on whom you ask. Certain neighborhoods certainly seem to be struggling with the issue. Kings Grant in Virginia Beach recently was the subject of controversy. The neighborhood had tried to discourage the geese from settling there, but to no avail. Residents then petitioned the US Department of Agriculture to have 103 geese rounded up. These geese were then taken to a processing plant to be made into food for use at wildlife sanctuaries. Why are certain areas having problems with too many geese? They certainly are beautiful to look at. However, too many geese in a small area produce so much fecal waste (about 1.5 pounds per day per goose) that it can be a health hazard. Their poop contains pathogens that can cause diseases like E.coli, listeria, salmonella, and giardia.

Overall, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries reports that the number of Canadian geese is declining; however, it reports that this is not true in urban areas. Jennifer Cromwell of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries attributes the differing settlement rates to the fact that rural areas permit hunting, and urban areas do not. All is governed by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which limits hunting to certain times of the areas and certain geographical areas. The geese used to be migratory passing through Hampton Roads on their way further south. Now, they are staying for longer periods and rearing offspring. Those that are born here do not seem to leave.

To deal with this increasing problem, the US Fish & Wildlife Service since 2006 have permitted destruction of nests and eggs. A permit is not required, but one must register with the service. The US Fish & Wildlife Service in conjunction with the Dept. of Agriculture will also come and inspect a particular area and offer suggestions about how to discourage geese from settling in an area. So stay tuned as the struggle continues. Citizens are torn about what is the best way forward to deal with these beautiful creatures. Judy Braley, of the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation, says the city does it best to keep park areas clean, but she will admit, ‘It’s a never-ending battle with our feathered friends.’ (Lee Tolliver, “Tubular and on the green,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 15, 2017, pgs. 1 and 9)

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Posted on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017. Filed under Newsletter.