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A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.

(Merriam-Webster)

Stigma 101

Whether because of our race, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, level of education, economic status, age, or for any number of other reasons – most of us, at some point, have felt the sting of stigma.

Young people with disabilities routinely face the consequences of stigma – staring, whispers, name-calling, social exclusion, bullying, and outright discrimination. Many kids, and even young adults, are overprotected or patronized. Those who go to college or university may have their accommodations questioned or struggle with a myriad of transportation, health, and other challenges. And once they reach adulthood, young people face lower employment prospects on average compared to their peers without disabilities. Those who do not work are often treated as a drain on society, rather than as people contributing their own strengths and uniqueness – like anyone else – to Canada’s diversity.

Stigma can come from anyone. Whether we are young or old, male or female, or identify with one marginalized group or another, we all have biases that we were socialized to as children and have perpetuated stigma at some point in our lives.

"At some point, people need to overcome their discomfort with people they perceive as different from themselves, and once you do that, attitudes can begin to change for the better," says Dr. Sally Lindsay, senior scientist at Holland Bloorview’s research institute.

Read the hospital's anti-stigma position paper

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Dear Everybody

"The minute we judge and tell someone they cannot do something because they are disabled, we disempower them."

- , Holland Bloorview youth advisory council member, age 22
53

Barriers to inclusion

"My daughter doesn’t get invited to any birthday parties. She knows they are happening; other kids talk about them at school, and so she asks me, "Are we going to so-and-so's party?" And she didn't get an invitation so I don’t know what to tell her." - Parent of a five-year-old Holland Bloorview client with autism

Children with disabilities often struggle to make friends. They have lower participation rates in summer camps, volunteer work, recreational activities, and part-time or summer jobs – important experiences for many young people to develop life skills and have a full life. And they can face a lifetime of barriers and painful experiences, from showing up at inaccessible restaurants to receiving pitying looks and intrusive comments.

Not to say that every child with a disability will face all of this at every turn. So many factors play significant roles – such as the degree and type of their disability, parental support, the training and rehabilitation available, their school and teachers, their family's financial and other resources, and the presence (or absence) of other differences that might marginalize them too.

But make no mistake: every child and youth with a disability faces significant adversity in life, their lives governed by barriers. And behind those barriers are the attitudes of people who placed them there.

Read the hospital's anti-stigma position paper

DOWNLOAD POSITION PAPER

For Allies

Challenge

the assumption that kids and youth with disabilities lead less fulfilling lives.

Understand

that disability is part of life and should not be viewed as inherently tragic or inspirational.

Listen and learn

from the experiences of kids and youth with disabilities.

Consider

the person first, before their disability. Disability is just one part of a person's identity.

Teach

those around you that difference is valuable and part of being human.

Actively

invite kids and youth with disabilities to join your social and community activities.

Share

the message that kids and youth with disabilities belong in your community, classroom, and workplace.

Stop

using negative and 'ableist' language, like "confined to a wheelchair" or "suffers from a disability" that implies having a disability is bad. Instead use, "uses a wheelchair" or "has a disability."

Respect

how each individual chooses to describe themselves and their disability. For example, some people use "autistic person," while others use "person with autism."

Celebrate

differences!

Take accountability

to prioritize and support diversity in your life and take action when you witness stigma and exclusion.

Self-reflect

about your own views about disability and acknowledge your own biases and exclusionary actions.
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital believes in creating a world where every child and youth belongs. In partnership with our clients and families, we call on everybody to take action to end stigma of children and youth with disabilities.
Each person with a disability is unique and some of these actions may need to be adjusted to best support individual needs and wants.
For Parents/Guardians

Teach

kids that difference is valuable and part of being human.

Talk

about different types of disabilities and what we all have in common.

Discuss

with kids how everyone (classmates and friends) can work or play together and encourage those connections.

Share

the message that kids and youth with disabilities belong in your community, classroom, and workplace.

Help

kids avoid negative and 'ableist' language, like "confined to a wheelchair" or "suffers from a disability" that implies having a disability is bad, and instead use "uses a wheelchair" or "has a disability."

Encourage

kids to ask questions about disability, including asking kids and adults with disabilities directly. Teach kids how to use respectful language and to seek permission before asking follow up questions.

Explain

that each individual chooses how to describe themselves and their disability. For example, some people use "autistic person," while others use "person with autism." The best way to understand how an individual wants to be described is to ask them.

Ask

kids about times they have felt different and reflect on those experiences.

Celebrate

differences!

Identify barriers

(like stairs, videos without captions or doors without access buttons) and talk to kids about how we can find solutions.

Actively

invite kids and youth with disabilities to join your social and community activities.
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital believes in creating a world where every child and youth belongs. In partnership with our clients and families, we call on everybody to take action to end stigma of children and youth with disabilities.
Each person with a disability is unique and some of these actions may need to be adjusted to best support individual needs and wants.
For Parents/Guardians

Recognize

kids and youth with disabilities can help YOU grow.

Understand

that part of your role may involve developing new skills to better support and advocate for your child.

Support

kids and youth with disabilities in identifying and reaching THEIR life goals.

Encourage

kids and youth with disabilities to participate in recreation, work, or volunteer activities to help them build friendships and life experiences.

Celebrate

differences!

Expect a lot

from kids and youth with disabilities when helping them create good lives.

Assist

kids and youth with disabilities in taking calculated risks to achieve their goals.

Help

kids and youth learn how to communicate with others about their disability and advocate for their needs and goals when they choose.

Discourage

stigmatizing kids and youth with different types of disabilities than your child.

Appreciate

that goals can change or be adapted over time and that is okay.

Build

on your child's strengths and goals rather than focusing exclusively on disability.

Maintain and develop

and develop social networks with people who have common interests and who can be allies to your family.
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Community programs
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital believes in creating a world where every child and youth belongs. In partnership with our clients and families, we call on everybody to take action to end stigma of children and youth with disabilities.
Each person with a disability is unique and some of these actions may need to be adjusted to best support individual needs and wants.

Dear Allies,

"Sometimes when I’m at the park kids stare at me. They think I need more help than I actually do."

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Sept. 8
2016
Citation:
Olah Carter, 2016

Recurrent neural networks are one of the staples of deep learning, allowing neural networks to work with sequences of data like text, audio and video. They can be used to boil a sequence down into a high-level understanding, to annotate sequences, and even to generate new sequences from scratch!

The basic RNN design struggles with longer sequences, but a special variant— “long short-term memory” networks [1] —can even work with these. Such models have been found to be very powerful, achieving remarkable results in many tasks including translation, voice recognition, and image captioning. As a result, recurrent neural networks have become very widespread in the last few years.

As this has happened, we’ve seen a growing number of attempts to augment RNNs with new properties. Four directions stand out as particularly exciting:

Individually, these techniques are all potent extensions of RNNs, but the really striking thing is that they can be combined, and seem to just be points in a broader space. Further, they all rely on the same underlying trick—something called attention—to work.

Our guess is that these “augmented RNNs” will have an important role to play in extending deep learning’s capabilities over the coming years.

Neural Turing Machines

Neural Turing Machines [2] combine a RNN with an external memory bank. Since vectors are the natural language of neural networks, the memory is an array of vectors:

But how does reading and writing work? The challenge is that we want to make them differentiable. In particular, we want to make them differentiable with respect to the location we read from or write to, so that we can learn where to read and write. This is tricky because memory addresses seem to be fundamentally discrete. NTMs take a very clever solution to this: every step, they read and write everywhere, just to different extents.

As an example, let’s focus on reading. Instead of specifying a single location, the RNN outputs an “attention distribution” that describes how we spread out the amount we care about different memory positions. As such, the result of the read operation is a weighted sum.

Similarly, we write everywhere at once to different extents. Again, an attention distribution describes how much we write at every location. We do this by having the new value of a position in memory be a convex combination of the old memory content and the write value, with the position between the two decided by the attention weight.

In contrast, the factors identified by Erickson and Cook are meaningful, but not essential. We can all stand to be more conscious of how power disparities contribute to inequality, and it’s never a bad idea to involve end-users in the design of a product. The only really problematic criterion is the question of non-profit vs. for-profit provenance — we must resist ascribing morality to a tax status!

The authors point out several for-profit, non-artist-centered platforms, such as Apple Music, Spotify and Facebook. Yet there are plenty of counter-examples of for-profit technology tools that do put the artist in the center – typically by treating her as the customer to be served. To stick with the music industry, consider Breckelles Women Velvet Slide Casual Lounge Everyday Open Toe Slipper GG15 by Black oEajZ8j83H
, which essentially allows independent musicians to serve as their own record labels. It charges them setup fees and takes a cut of sales, but puts them in control of their own catalogs and pays them both the artist’s and the label’s share of royalties. There are countless examples from elsewhere in the arts – digital cameras, graphic design software, film editing tools, some (but not all) crowdfunding platforms.

At the same time, many non-profit efforts fail to heed this principle. I’ll avoid calling out specific peers, but suffice it to say that non-profit initiatives sometimes put the needs and desires of third-party funders ahead of those of artists. The times when I’ve badly misstepped on Artful.ly and other projects have invariably been when I’ve fallen into this trap.

Technology innovation is hurdling onward, propelling us into the future at an ever-accelerating pace. The dangers that Erickson and Cook identify are real. We may yet find ourselves in a dystopian landscape where a handful of mega-corporations control all media consumption and treat artists as just another exploitable resource. This vision is hardly inevitable, however. If we are smart and intentional in our use and design of technology systems, we can just as easily put artists and creators in the driver’s seat. The good news is that the essential principle – make the artist the customer and emphasize her needs above other stakeholders’ – is remarkably easy to identify and equally easy to follow.

Adam Huttler is the founder and Executive Director of Fractured Atlas , a nonprofit technology company for artists. Follow him on Twitter @adamthehutt .

Photo by Tracy Thomas via Ferrini Womens Ladies Wild Flower Choc Square Toe Western Boot Chocolate rR7xa
/ Creative Commons .

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Published March 23, 2016

#creativz

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