Disability Day of Mourning Date in the current year: March 1, 2022

Disability Day of Mourning The Disability Day of Mourning is an annual remembrance day observed on March 1. It was created to commemorate all disabled people who have been murdered by their caregivers, including and especially parents.

The need to care for a disabled relative who cannot live independently usually becomes a heavy burden for caregivers. Some, out of caregiver burnout and despair, they decide to take a terrible step and murder their wards. Although the media coverage of such murders frequently depicts such caregivers as sympathetic, a murder is still a murder. It cannot be justified by the victim’s disability.

The first vigils dedicated to disabled people murdered by their caregivers were held in the early 2000s. The inaugural Disability Day of Mourning was organized in 2012 by Zoe Gross, director of advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a nonprofit organization run by and for people on the autism spectrum.

The primary incident that incited the Disability Day of Mourning was the murder of George Hodgins and its subsequent media coverage. George Hodgins was a 22-year-old autistic man shot dead by his mother Elizabeth, who then killed herself. The mainstream media covering the murder described Elizabeth as a loving and devoted mother while referring to George as an aggressive and high-maintenance man, a burden whose death was somehow justified by his disability.

One of the main goals of the Disability Day of Mourning is to draw attention to how the justice system approaches murder investigations and trials differently depending on whether the victim was a non-disabled or a disabled person. Very often, the double standard comes into play: the same action is regarded as a crime if committed against a non-disabled person, and as an act of mercy when the victim is a disabled person.

According to statistics provided by the Ruderman Family Foundation, one disabled person is murdered by their caregiver every week. In most cases, such murders are classified as manslaughter, and the murderer gets a very short prison sentence.

The media also add fuel to the fire. As we’ve already mentioned above, it is not uncommon for media coverage of disability murders to describe murderers as victims of circumstances who deserve our sympathy and to justify their behavior by saying that they have put the victim out of their misery. But who gave them the right to decide who deserves to live and who has to die?

The Disability Day of Mourning is marked by vigils held across the world. These vigils feature the reading of names of murdered disabled people. Since the number of victims is growing every year, the list is usually restricted to the names of the people who’ve been murdered since the last vigil. Vigils have been held in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, China, and other countries.

The Disability Day of Mourning used to be criticized due to supposedly stigmatizing the parents of disabled children. However, its perception has grown more positive over time. The creators of the day aren’t “anti-parent”; they just want to emphasize that a murder is a murder, even if it was committed out of desperation.

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International Observances

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Disability Day of Mourning, international observances, remembrance days, disability murder, Zoe Gross