Anna Stubblefield and Facilitated Communication

Planet of the Blind

By Ralph Savarese

As someone who has written a lot about the communication predicament of nonspeaking people with significant motor impairment (particularly autistics), I have held off commenting on the Stubblefield case because I continue to believe that it is a very poor vehicle for talking about a range of important issues: from the efficacy of certain forms of augmentative communication, to the sexual rights of disabled people, to the role of race in the study of cognitive disability, to so-called “standards” of academic publication. (Disability Studies Quarterly printed an article that was co-authored by Ms. Stubblefield and Mr. Johnson—some scholars are now calling on the journal to withdraw it.) While I sympathize with what appear to be Ms. Stubblefield’s intentions and while I have no problem imagining that Mr. Johnson is intellectually competent or that he both consented to and actively desired sex, I question her judgment—especially with…

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