Structural violence against those with intellectual disabilities

paul farmer structural violenceThank God it’s Friday because, while there was a lot of good news this week, it had some pretty bad news as well. And, that’s beyond Atlanta coming to a stop by a few inches of snow. In bioethics, there’s this idea called “structural violence,” where little and big things in a society can enact violence on those who are in the minority or under-privileged. These headlines show there’s still structural violence against those with intellectual disabilities.

  •  The law allows employers to pay individuals with intellectual disabilities less than the minimum wage. And, this CEO says that’s just right, because:

Bee: “Paint me a picture of a person whose work would be worth $2 an hour.”
Schiff: “You know somebody who might be? Maybe somebody who is, uh, you know, what’s the politically correct word? Uh, you know, uh, for, uh, you know, mentally retarded?”
Bee: […]
Schiff, later on: “I’m not going to say that we’re all created equal… you’re worth what you’re worth.”

  • NBC reports on Goodwill as an example of the low wages paid in sheltered workshops, with some workers receiving only $0.22/hour.
  • Unfortunately, President Obama’s wage increase for federal contractors does not include those with disabilities. The National Council on Disabilities calls for all workers to be paid at least the minimum wage.
  • In some states, it can be required that individuals who work with children must have a background check, but not for those who work with the disabled, allowing abusers to go from job to job. Kentucky lawmakers are trying to change that.
  • In England, parents want answers for why their 4-year old with Down syndrome collapsed and died while in foster care.  


  1. […] wise man, as well as a loving father. And, yet, his set last night reveals the cultural biases, the structural violence, that persists in our society against those like my daughter. That such a devoted craftsman to his […]

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