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Not just a pretty Facebook
I have mixed feelings about Facebook. I log on almost every day, to catch up with friends or to play Scrabble. I am delighted to be back in touch with people from school, and to have made new mates worldwide. It's a convenient way of sharing news and participating in debate; at the moment, I am arguing with the great Nabil Shaban about the ethics of assisted suicide. Facebook is a huge network of human beings, however, and human beings, particularly teenage ones, are sadly, remarkably and continually prejudiced about disabled people.
The user generated content of Facebook enables ordinary people to create networks and form groups for discussion between those who are like-minded. Which is great, most of the time, but depressingly obnoxious some of the time.
I've always known, and research my team conducted has proven, that people with restricted growth commonly experience staring, name calling and prejudice. But a quick scan of some of the groups on Facebook shows both how common, and how idiotic, this discrimination can be.
There are more than 500 of these groups which include the word "dwarf" in their title, and a similar number called something like "midget". This includes, but is not limited to, groups like: "I kick midgets", "Dwarfs are for life not just pantomime", "Give blind people dwarfs instead of dogs" and, particularly close to home for me, "Let's ban dwarfs from South Shields beach in summer months".
Now, most of these groups have no more than a dozen members, and probably drunken student ones at that, but the whole thing is distinctly unsavoury. Particularly when you realize that some of these groups exchange photographs of restricted growth people or refer to "sightings", none of them with the consent of the individuals concerned.
Photographs are posted for mutual amusement and ridicule, and sometimes the addresses of restricted growth people are added. The organizers and members clearly believe they are hilariously funny, with semi-literate descriptions, such as: "This is a group that concentrates about improving the living standarts for the small people. we demand full pay for the midgets because even if they are only half human and half nothing , they to have feelings even if it is only small feelings. our second demand is that they are to be released into the wild where they belong.. put them back into the great forrests and onto the mountains that are the dwarfs natural habitat.. release them from the mines and the very small sweatshops where they now reside..."
A recent campaign organized by members of the Restricted Growth Association resulted in some of the more extreme sites being removed by Facebook, but others have sprung up in their place. Two police forces have been involved, and it is possible that action will be taken in response to behaviour which probably infringe the 2003 Criminal Justice Act by inciting hatred and harassment of disabled people. The wheels of justice, as usual, move slowly.
Clearly, nastiness like this has always happened, and many disabled people have heard the same or worse in their own lives. But Facebook and similar social networking sites provide a forum which bored idiots can fill with prejudice and filth. Perhaps some people are happy just to look the other way or ignore it, but it feels distressing to know this stuff is out there, and it encourages negative attitudes and quite possibly harassment and physical violence against disabled people.
Parents of children with disabilities have told me how upset this material makes them feel, particularly as many Facebook users are themselves children and young people, who may have fragile self esteem already.
Above all, the existence of these attitudes and these groups makes me suspicious of people who ask to be my friend on Facebook. Most of the strangers who get in touch are no doubt Ouch! readers or people who know my academic work. But perhaps some of the people I approve are just voyeurs, eager to laugh at my picture and point me out to their mates when they return home drunk from the pub. I'd rather run that risk than reject everyone I don't know, but I put strangers on "limited access" settings as a precaution.
Although the world has improved for disabled people in many ways, this dimension of Facebook is a sad reminder that old attitudes die hard.
Groups that can be found on Facebook todayDwarf Haters - 11 members - A group of people that simply just hate dwarfs.
Midget Lovers - 217 members - "I'm on a mission to find ALL midget lovers. Come join me in the quest! Add as many pics or vids as you want - as long as they're funny! Let the midget hunting commence!"
Dwarf Busters - 10 members - A group for like-minded (sane) individuals, to plot the downfall and eventual destruction of vertically challenged old men with [deleted] frogspawn".
Dwarf Power - 10 members - "We think dwarfs are the funniest thing - do you?"
Midget - 262 members - "Join the midget group. Midgets are awesome."
Dwarf Punchers - 6 members - "A group dedicated to winning fights with little people."
Midget Strippers - 401 members - "Midget female stripper required urgently. Anyone know where I can get one from?"
Midget Mayhem - 53 members - This to anyone who as spare midgets for sale or wanting to sell .. Things i have learned from midgets: every midget in the world was a Ewok or starred in Willow ...
Midget Fighting - 56 members - Midget fighting is so funny.
Special Advisor for International Disability Rights
Third workshop on monitoring and implementation CRPD in Serbia
Second workshop on monitoring and implementation CRPD in Serbia
Educating Students with Disabilities: Some Say It's Not Worth It
Workshop on monitoring and implementation CRPD in Serbia
INFORMATION BULLETIN - European Court of Human Rights upholds the right to vote of persons with disabilities
European Call for Protest: Inclusion - "Being there from the start"! 05 May, 2010
European Day of Solidarity between Generations, 29 April 2010 - ENIL
Rights and reality: disabled people’s experiences of accessing goods and services
ENIL calls for an end to Death by Social Indifference
Four more countries ratify CRPD
Disability Awareness in Action Newsletter
SEMINAR IN NIKSIC, MONTENEGRO
CIL in Belgrade too
We have our lives back
JOBS FOR ALL
MD persons continue hunger strike
Call for 140 financial support for 140 students with disability
Council of Europe calls for deinstitutionalisation of children with disabilities
NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US: THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DRIVES FORWARD DISABILITY RIGHTS
“Incredible stories of invisible lives” exhibition in Uzice
Draft of Law on Social Protection
30 years United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Opening Conference of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion,
The sky's the limit for disabled athletes in Serbia
CRPD Ratifications reach 76
Round table "Development the advocacy capacities of organisations of persons with disability in Serbia"
With Parthership Towards Development
FREE OUR PEOPLE NOW!
COMMEMORATING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, USA
Persons with disability in politic life everywhere
ENIL has 777 members in Facebook
Disability and policy
„Love and Kindness“ Fund
Women with disability
„A Midnight Summer Dream“
Court Cases filed in the Name of Persons with Disability
Freedom Drive 2009 - Demands
INFORMATION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ABOUT H1N1 VIRUS
My world has changed – two stories in one
European Citizen Award
Not just a pretty Facebook
First deaf Member of Parliament is sworn in
Letter to Prime Minister Cvetkovic
PA Service in Leskovac too
International Day of Persons with Disabilities - 3 December 2009
New TV broadcast
Malta: MOTE - My Opinion My Vote
Access to persons with disability
„CLOSER TOGETHER“ PROJECT
SERBIA RATIFIED UN CONVENTION
Court case dealing with UN COnvention in Germany
WHY SHOULD EUROPE INCREASE THE MATERNITY LEAVE?
Learning disability genes found
Poland: Disabled People Excluded from EU Elections
International Autism Day
Coucil for persons with disability
My right to be healthy
International Day of Rare Diseases
PERSONAL ASSISTANCE BILLS
Disability Equality: Promoting Positive Attitudes
SERVICE IN JAGODINA
White House launched a new website today and disability issues are highlighted under the Agenda heading
Conference on Cooperation for Improvement of Disability Policy in Serbia
Workshhop on CRPD
First Committee of Experts on Disability Rights Convention Elected
GREAT SUPPORT TO ANTONIJEVIC FAMILY
Parking for everyone
Electoral rights for PWDs in Albania
The ways of integration
Finding a College That Suits Students “With Special Needs”
Another silver medal for Serbia
The Annual march for Disabled Visibility in Madrid
Good Practise/Bad Practice
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Free our People!
All... but not retard.
European Day of Disabled People 2008
Parents' fury at 'Down's Syndrome dolls'
Eurobarometer on discrimination
Less sex, less fun
Coming Soon, a Braille Silver Dollar
Roads to integration
Disability proves no barrier to Olympic inclusion
Media and Disability
Media and disability
Are there any changes in preparations for Paraolympics?
U.N Issues Stamps to Commemorate Disability Treaty
Beijing 'sorry' for offending disabled
Government unveils new package for disabled children
China Sets Gold Standard in Offending Disabled
Way to Independence
Wishes could come true
Seminar on reforms of social protection system
National Conference on Gender Equality
Mobility International Seeks Young Adults
Wal-Mart settles with applicant with disability [USA]
First Contestant with a Disability to Compete for Miss USA Title
INFO - CENTER
INACCESSIBILITY IS DISCRIMINATION!
UN Convention on PWDs rights
Conference on National strategy for Youth
Bits and pieces from Slovenija
Meeting with Bozidar Djelic
Focus group “Social services for PWDs“
SHARE SEE Grantee Training
Make a date
It's Okay to Stare... Then Engage a Question!
Sombor hosted workshop "sex, gender, disability"
Dancing Beyond Disability
Seminar HUMAN BEING AND ITS ENVIRONMENT
Project From Alternative to Standardisation
The regional group of experts in social service provision for people with disabilities
Youth Regional conference
Are we going to Europe?
Disability Guide to Disneyland Paris
POI Conference "From cause to the result: New approaches towards disability"
Open Letter to the Government, Members of National Assembly Competent Institutions and Policy Makers
Centre plan for disabled actors
An Autistic Dream
MEETING ON DISABILITY ISSUES IN SERBIA
A PARAGIDM SHIFT FROM 'CHARITY' TO 'RIGHTS AND DIGNITY'
New Visa rules
Disabled rights champion honoured
Map of the World
Serbia is going to sign UN CRPD
WORKSHOP IN CAIRO
Seminar on Women with Disabilities
Adaptation of living environment for Persons with Disabilities
Program „Contact Organisations from the Civil Society”
Community Living for Disabled People Must Be Made a Priority
Celebrating 3rd December
Celebrating the 3rd December 2007
FILM FESTIVAL OBSERVING 3 DECEMBER
National Umbrella Organisation mark 3rd of December
ENDING OF SHARE SEE TRAINING PROGRAM
SHARE SEE IV MODULE – NISKA BANJA
IMPORTANT DAYS TO CELEBRATE
To Ministry of Labor and Social Policy
SHARE SEE training in Predejane
Recognising the Rights of Girls and Women with Disabilities
SHARE SEE IV MODULE IN SMEDEREVO
Creation the Local Plans of Actions in Disability Area
SHARE SEE IV MODULE – BELGRADE
TODAY IS THE DAY OF UN
Goodbye mouse hello voice controls
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF POVERTY REDUCTION
ADA RESTORATION ACTION CENTER
WHERE IS SERBIA
Disability Rights Treaty on Verge of Making History?
The Days of European Heritage in Belgrade, 20-30 of September
Council of Europe in Zagreb
Virtual interpreter turns speech into sign language
Strasbourg Freedom Drive
Jagodina hosted the Third Table tennis tournament "Jagodina Trophy"
Hungary ratified UN Convention
Convention on Child Protection
UN convention on disability rights reaches milestone in signatories
IIIrd INTERNATIONAL SMILING CHILD FESTIVAL
Your dressing room on the Internet
Chosen home life a basic right for disabled people
What Can They Do?
III Module of trainings accomplished
SHARE SEE trainings
Project with young activists finished
Special EUROBAROMETER 263 “Discrimination in the European Union”
Seminar on Independent Living in Macedonia
It's Deaf Awareness Week 7-13 May
International Day of Families (15 May)
Social services in South East Europe
Test on Autism
UN Headquarters, New York, NY
Presentation the UN Convention in Belgrade
Presentation of UN Convention on rights of persons with disabilities in Jagodina
SHARE SEE training in Belgrade
SHARE SEE training for Leskovac cluster
SHARE SEE Module II in Nis
The U.S. Embassy has a pleasure to invite you
SHARE SEE trainings Module II
I N T E R V I E W
UN Study of Violence Against Women Finds 50% of Disabled Women Experience Abuse
Launch of the Year of Equal Opportunities
Survey reveals social attitudes to disability
Homes that Meet Life’s Changing Needs
Awards for the best Campaign, PAs and users within the PASS project
Design for Everyone, Disabled or Not
EDUCATION FOR MEMBERS OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN NOVI SAD ON BASIC FACTS ON DISABILITY ISSUES!
UN Convention adopted
Tribune on UN Convention in Novi Sad
Round table in Sarajevo
Evropean Union and Persons with Disabilities
Promotion of International Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
PASS presentation in Bosnia and Herzegovina