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Indybay Feature
Realities: Vol. I
by Robert Maxim
Saturday Nov 7th, 2020 7:57 PM
Academic Article on Disability Discrimination and Stephen Hawking, with verified soures. Joy Division reference included.
Realities Vol. I

The realities imposed upon the disabled are arbitrary and harsh. Ambiguities are employed to deprive the disabled of basic rights, in matters of accessibility, employment, and housing. According to Inside Higher Ed, statutes such as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA, exist to offer protections to disabled students as well (Collins). Similarly, states such as California offer additional, more stringent legal protections via the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA. Should torts occur under these acts, prosecution ensues in the hopes that unscrupulous employers and landlords cannot successfully employ a pretext, as to discriminate against the disabled-- further pressing them into the margins of society.

The spirit of these laws come from the having recognized the importance of equal access. Indeed, it would be discriminatory to simply preclude a disabled person from an education simply due to their inability to physically enter a classroom. Any argument to the contrary, violates public policy—a concept that shall be explored at length herein.

The Darwinian pecking order, which has for so long dominated societies, synthesizes in the modern context; it manifests as torts pursuant to antidiscrimination statutes. The United States Code of Federal Regulations is explicit. At 29 C.F.R. § 1630.9, the statute indicates that it is unlawful for a liable entity to not make reasonable accommodations to those who are disabled. Essentially, any request for a reasonable accommodation must be granted unless that entity can demonstrate, objectively, that said accommodation would impose an undue hardship to the “employer.” Section 29 C.F.R. 1630 and relevant subsections outline these provisions upon which civil litigation commences. While the language of the ADA uses, “employer,” the court does not apply this definition literally. Employer, as it were, is a term of art extended to any liable entity under the ADA. Short of hiring an analyst and objectively demonstrating an “undue” profit loss percentage on the balance sheet, reasonable accommodations must be granted in all circumstances, lest that entity be held liable for disability discrimination. Thus, the argument in favor of online education has been made through and through—no legitimate argument can be made to suggest that online education might pose an undue financial hardship to any legitimate educational institution. Online education appears to be financially beneficial for both institutions, and students alike; an analysis of the respective balance sheet should prove this. As this matter is now settled, one might benefit from considering the realities of systemic discrimination; one might consider the absurd hypothetical of Stephen Hawking being denied
access to education.

Without technological advancements, minds like Hawking would have once been thought to be an invalid. He would have never been able to express his continuation of Einstein’s work through a speech synthesizer, secure his tenure at Cambridge. He would have never come to be quintessential face of disability achievements. As one might remember Hawking with fondness, one must realize that, had it not been for the progression of modern technology, Hawking would have been prohibited from expressing his inner brilliance and unknown pleasures to the world.

His ideas would remain confined within his own reality, inside of his presumably absent mind. It implores one to consider Hawking as he is so often depicted—unable to express the secrets of the universe outwardly. As technology advances further, unrestricted by the status quo and old social constraints—society is perhaps less progressive, less accepting than technology.

Discrimination continues to strike at the heart of most every institution imaginable. It comes in the form of microaggressions, and overt racism. It comes in the form of eugenics movements, forced sterilizations. It comes in the form of civil litigation and criminal complaints, hence the vast array of statutes which attempt to address the matter preemptively. One must understand that the spirit of these laws attempts to address the very microaggressions which have, in other societies, set precedent for mass murder and genocide.

As noted in biography, regarding the first inception of his disability, “Hawking had noticed that he was becoming unaccountably clumsier and was occasionally slurring his speech. During winter break, he returned home and, at his father's insistence, underwent a series of medical exams and tests. Doctors diagnosed him with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease" (Witherbee).

On the precipice of greatness at Oxford, the first inception of Hawking’s intellect in matters of physics and science appears to follow a linear trajectory, which seems to be directly and proportionately related to his cognitive decline. One might assert, that the more intellectually absorbed he became in the material, the more unrefined he appeared “on the face of it. One might have taken Hawking for an unmotivated mess. Yet, one cannot speculate on Hawking’s internal experience; one might infer that his ascent to excellence is Hawking’s way of defiantly crushing the debilitating stigma of his disorder. This is a reality known only to Hawking himself, wherever he might exist in space time today.

To the outward observer, he appears frail, perhaps void of an inner experience. This immediate presumption is inherently discriminatory, and example of why antidiscrimination statutes exist in civilized society. His reality is unknown and incomprehensible to the so-called normal person. To the so-called functional person, Hawking is mocked for his disabilities as sighs of relief are exhaled by those who deliberately silence their inner sense of empathy--in the vein of not wanting to rock the boat, ruffle feathers, or blow the whistle. As he descends into disability and disorganization, intellectually he seems to compensate. As his body wastes away, yet his mind compensates in an even greater manner. Thus, a life experience far beyond whatever one experiences in the traditional sense of being confined to walking, of being forced to use one’s own arms to manipulate one’s environment.

It is the freedom from the obligations of this physical reality, and the ascent to a higher plane of intellect, that is the unintended consequence of Hawking’s affliction. Unable to walk, he sits for decades in his wheelchair, left only to ponder the complexities of the universe at the technical level. His entire life schedule is cleared; as he descends into total disability, he can focus with no distractions. In considering Hawking, one must consider the absurdity of the prospect, that had he been living in the United States rather than Britain, then Hawking well could have been confined to an asylum for his “insanity," in acts of diagnostic overshadowing. Absurdity, in knowing that had he been born in the wrong time and place, he would have absolutely been murdered in a Nazi execution camp.

One must consider the obscenity in the notion that, within the minds of the six million murdered Jews in The Holocaust, and additional five million murdered , so-called, “undesirable,” souls, genius which far exceeds Hawking’s was undoubtedly, arbitrarily terminated. The absurdity in snuffing out this brilliance, defines criminality. Had Hawking been discriminated against systemically and denied equal access to education, the world would never come to explore the recesses of the universe with his scientific contributions. Innumerable future technologies will never come to exist—technologies which this generation will never know.

One must consider the absurdity, in shoving the only mind capable of producing these profound revelations into an insane asylum, throwing away the key. This is reality when systemic discrimination goes unopposed.

It begs one to question one’s own sense of reality, in understanding that someone who appeared to be so confined on the outside, was in fact liberated from the confines which weigh us down on the inside. As one separates oneself from the madness of the bureaucracy and codes, and regulations, one might approach a singularity of sorts. It is a singularity of knowledge; it imbibes all which comes near

As one approaches the event horizon, one appears to the outside observer more and more strange—progressively more unrelatable. As one passes the event horizon—as Hawking approaches the singularity—perhaps he is overcome with even more brilliant revelations vivid and hallucinatory, which only he knows in these last moments.

He vanishes into oblivion, perhaps into eternity, perhaps still existing, yet even still, he is imperceptible on this plane of reality.

Works Cited
Collins, Brittany R. "Online Education Is a Disability Rights Issue." Opposing Viewpoints
Online Collection, Gale, 2019. Opposing Viewpoints in Context,
http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/QSMQIE482417219/OVIC?u=odl_seosu&sid=OVIC
&xid=fdb78241. Accessed 6 Mar. 2019. Originally published as "Online education is a disability rights issue; let's treat it that way," Inside Higher Ed, 29 Aug. 2018.

United States Code of Federal Regulations. “§ 1630.9 Not Making Reasonable Accommodation.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.9, Accessed via Thomson Reuters Westlaw,
September 13, 2020

Witherbee, Amy. “Stephen Hawking.” Stephen Hawking. Great Neck Publishing, May 2020, p.
1–N.PAG. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n9h&AN=22650397&site=ehost-live.
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