By Michael Rock:

The latest news cycle highlighted a number of developments in including people with disabilities: negative and positive alike.

On March 25th, Clifford Poetz of Minnesota died at the age of 71. Born with cerebral palsy, he became the first person with a developmental disability to testify before a congressional subcommittee in 1973. In addition to organizing various advocacy projects in Minnesota, he urged federal lawmakers to abandon the use of “the r-word” decades before larger society came to see it as offensive. 

Poetz’s advocacy has surely helped lead to other programs and opportunities to better accommodate the needs of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, such as East Orlando, Florida’s Quest Village. Since opening in 2017, Quest Village has offered 48 adults with disabilities who can live independently, but may need help with certain tasks such as budgeting or housekeeping, an affordable place to live.

In Paterson, New Jersey, the long abandoned and run-down Lou Costello Park will finally undergo renovations to accommodate children with autism. Funded by the local and national governments, the new park will feature special lighting, colors, and equipment.

North of the border in Edmonton, Alberta, researcher Grant Bruno had begun studying the role of autism in Native American and First Nations cultures to better help himself raise his two sons who have the condition. Focusing on the Cree nation, Bruno has found that understanding autism as a disorder is unheard of among indigenous peoples, who widely accept it as a way of perceiving the world differently.

Meanwhile, Apple TV recently released “Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie” a documentary about Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt of Rhode Island: two friends with Down Syndrome who successfully produced and starred in 2016’s 45-minute gore fest “Spring Break Zombie Massacre.

Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.