You Can’t Say That In A Press Release!

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is upset that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the right of entertainers Cher and Nicole Ritchie to use the swear words “f—” and “s—” on broadcast television — but not so upset that Martin refused to use the words himself, repeatedly, in chastising the court.

In a statement issued via e-mail, Martin used the f-word three times and the s-word twice. One example: “I find it hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that ‘s—‘ and ‘f—‘ are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience.”

Using the words once to explain the ruling might be necessary (though readers certainly can get the point from hyphens as inserted in this blog entry). But repeating them multiple times is overkill. I wonder what Martin will think if broadcasters read his statement on the air this evening in reporting the court’s ruling and the reaction.

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A Blogospheric Eruption Over Hawaii’s Future

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Back in 1893, a small band of U.S. Marines, acting at the behest of a renegade U.S. diplomat and greedy businessmen, staged a successful coup against Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii. President Grover Cleveland fired the diplomat, condemned the “subversion of the queen’s government,” and urged Congress to seek a solution “consistent with American honor, integrity and morality.”

Instead, the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898. And in the century since then — even after Hawaii voted overwhelmingly to become the 50th state in 1959 — battles over the sovereignty of the Aloha State have continued to erupt. In 1993, for instance, the U.S. government officially apologized to Hawaiians for the overthrow of their monarchy.

The latest fight is over “the Akaka bill” in Congress, and blogs have become a weapon in the ongoing warfare over that legislation. From Hawaii to Washington, blogs both large and small, with audiences national and regional, have demonstrated the power of their technology to explore a niche topic in great detail and to try to rally opposition to a relatively obscure proposal.

The bill, authored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, would recognize native Hawaiians much like the federal government recognizes Indian tribes. That step would make Hawaiians who meet certain ethnic standards eligible for federal aid in education, housing and other arenas.

Although the measure has the support of the state’s congressional delegation and its governor, some Hawaiians still want to live in a sovereign nation and see the bill as a threat to that goal. Some conservatives, meanwhile, oppose the measure on racial grounds because it would grant federal aid based on Hawaiians’ blood lineage.

Opponents from both angles are blogging against the legislation. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin’s rants are generating the most attention because of her broad readership. She dubbed the measure “the worst bill you’ve never heard of” and has characterized it as “apartheid in Hawaii.”
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Does The ADA Belong In Web Design?

Originally published at Silicon Alley Reporter
By K. Daniel Glover

When Slashdot.org early this year raised the issue of whether Internet sites should cater to the needs of people with disabilities, the debate turned ugly at times. Many users of the Web log for the technologically savvy argued that designers must try to make their sites accessible to all. Others insisted that the 10-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act is unwelcome in, and even a threat to, the information age. When it comes to the Web, they argued, the disabled deserve no special attention.

An “anonymous coward” (the moniker Slashdot gives writers who refuse to identify themselves by name or email address) summarized that viewpoint in a bluntly worded Feb. 7, 2000, note: “While I have sympathy for the disabled, and even agree with the ADA in general, this is ridiculous. The Web is naturally evolving into a graphically rich source of information that could not be expressed in words. … I’m sorry. The burden is on the user. I’m not going to dumb down the graphics on my sites for anyone!”

David Rose, the co-executive director of the Center for Applied Special Technology, whose Bobby service tests the accessibility of Web pages, winces when he reads comments like that. “I used to live in the South,” he says, “and I remember the same comments about ‘coloreds,’ questioning why we should spend so much money to educate them or to remodel restaurants and gas stations so that there was one bathroom for both whites and blacks. To many, white people mostly, it made the most sense just to stay with what was working fine — one for whites and one for coloreds.”

But if Rose and his colleagues get their way, the anonymous cowards of Slashdot will become as marginalized as the bigots of the 1950s South. Web designers — and the corporate executives who give them marching orders — will think before they code. They will create pages that bridge the digital divide between the disabled and the able-bodied. And in the end, the Internet will empower the disabled and help them overcome the obstacles of a bricks-and-mortar world.

Ask the disabled what they think, and indeed they will tell you that the Internet can make their lives better. An online survey of disabled people, taken between March 22 and April 5 for the National Organization on Disability, showed that they spend nearly twice as much time online and using email as able-bodied people, and that nearly half of them believe the Internet has improved the quality of their lives.

The results do not surprise people who have worked to guarantee the disabled unimpeded access to online information. “The Internet has the greatest potential for enabling people with disabilities [out] of any technology ever developed,” says Chris Ridpath, who works at the Adaptive Technology Resource Center at the University of Toronto in Canada.

But potential is the key work because as a March report for the Disabilities Statistics Center at the University of California at San Francisco shows, people with disabilities do not have the same access to the Internet as others. “New technologies hold great promise, but … the computer revolution has left the vast majority of people with disabilities behind,” H. Stephen Kaye wrote in “Computers and Internet Use Among People with Disabilities.” “Only one-quarter of people with disabilities own computers and only one-tenth ever make use of the Internet.”

The lack of “alt-text” tags, which describe images for blind people who are using screen readers, presents the greatest obstacle. “Images can be displayed, but they can’t otherwise be processed the way text can,” says Michael Cooper, head of CAST’s Bobby project. “And images are used quite a bit in the Web, so that’s a fairly common and quite severe problem in website design.”

The issue was at the heart of the National Federation of the Blind’s decision to sue America Online last November for being inaccessible to the blind and therefore violating the ADA. But the NFB withdrew its suit in July when AOL agreed to ensure that its next version of software would be compatible with screen-reader assistive technology.

The issue of Web accessibility goes beyond alt-text tags, however. Sound files are of no use to the hearing impaired. Timed responses on dynamic pages, small targets on image maps, and mouse-only commands make online life difficult or impossible for people with motor disabilities. And long lists and pop-up windows can confuse people with learning disabilities.

“Most websites these days have some degree of access barrier,” says Kynn Bartlett, director of the HTML Writer’s Guild AWARE Center and director of accessibility at Edapta, a San Diego startup company working to give websites the intelligence to morph to varying needs and technologies. “I’d say at least 90 percent of them impose serious hurdles to access by people with disabilities.”

Technology experts familiar with Web-design obstacles are reluctant to mention any offenders by name. Instead, they prefer to encourage greater accessibility by rewarding it. CAST, for instance, allows websites to post “Bobby approved” banners on their sites if they pass the center’s accessibility test. The center maintains a list of approved sites in a database.

The Bobby service enables anyone to check the usability of his or her favorite sites — and a little surfing quickly reveals the extent of the disability divide. Few of the big-name dot-coms — Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, eToys, E*Trade and iWon, to name a few — could win Bobby’s approval. Tests of those systems on July 20 triggered numerous “blue helmets” that indicate accessibility problems.

The inaccessibility of online grocers (Peapod.com), health-related sites (Vitamins.com and MedicineNet.com), and airlines (Continental and Delta) is perhaps more noteworthy. If the disabled could benefit from anything online, it would be the ability to shop for groceries, vitamins and airline tickets, or to access the “100-percent doctor-produced medical information” MedicineNet says it provides.

“Shopping online can be a real godsend,” says Geoff Freed, project manager for the Web Access Project at the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media. “But it does you no good to visit a grocery service if you can’t navigate its website. You might as well try to get on down to the grocery store instead.”

Commercial sites are not alone in their oversight of the needs of the disabled. Even with measures like the soon-to-be-implemented federal rule commonly known as Section 508, which would require government agencies to procure, develop and maintain technologies that are accessible to the disabled, many government sites fall well short of meeting accessibility standards.

High-profile federal sites such as the Senate’s also failed the Bobby test. (The White House and House of Representative sites passed.) Even more telling, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission/Justice Department ADA Handbook online is not accessible, according to Bobby. While the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability would be Bobby approved, its publication “Working While Disabled: How We Can Help” did not pass the test.

Presidential candidates also do not seem to “get it,” if a December 1999 study by the Internet consulting service OrbitAccess is any indication. Sen. John McCain’s site won the accessibility battle, according to “Web Accessibility of the Presidential Candidate Sites,” with with Vice President Al Gore’s in a close second. Texas Gov. George W. Bush finished next to last, rating higher only than Alan Keyes’ Web page, because Bush’s site was “crowded with unclear links and decorative, undescribed image maps,” among other things.

The report lambasted the candidates for producing “brochureware” that “conflicts with the Web paradigm of fresh information with direct, accessible navigation, useful for everyone.” When OrbitAccess revisited the presidential sites six weeks after issuing the report, and after notifying the candidates of the study, it found that the campaigns not only had not addressed the problems but that some had actually created new hurdles.

Bobby is not the only tool available to webmasters who want to make their sites accessible. The ATRC, for instance, created A-Prompt, a software toolkit that checks for accessibility problems in HTML files and then prompts the user to make changes.

The World Wide Web Consortium also has published several versions of its detailed “Web Contents Accessibility Guidelines” and even began printing a pocket-size “Quick Tips Reference Card” because of popular demand. The Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison serves as a clearinghouse on Web accessibility.

With such tools and guidelines widely and readily available, people who praise the potential of the Internet to help the disabled argue that ignorance, arrogance and bigotry have kept the Web from fulfilling that potential. Advocates of a disability-friendly Web say their efforts have been hurt by myths about the time and money involved in making sites accessible and the dullness of “accessible” designs.

The AWARE Center’s Bartlett, for one, rejects what he calls the false dichotomy between “flashy design” and “accessible design.” “Web accessibility is never about removing the fancy stuff but rather about including alternate ways to get the same information or perform the same task,” he says.

The ATRC’s Ridpath emphasizes that accessibility is not just a disability issue. The changes that make the Web more accessible to the disabled, he says, do the same for people who browse the Web by cell phone or other nontraditional means, or who disengage multimedia offerings in favor of text-only viewing.

“The real tragedy of access barriers,” Bartlett says, “is that nearly all of them are avoidable. With a little care, a little education and a little more time, nearly all can be solved.”

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Every month when I pen my historical essay looking at “Congress Back Then” for IntellectualCapital.com, I have one goal in mind: Cast the congressional news of today in the context of the past to show readers the “big picture” of American policy and politics. In the spirit of George Santayana’s familiar warning about history, I aim to remind us of the mistakes of our forebears to keep us from repeating them.

This month, in writing about the creation of my home state of West Virginia, I have no such higher purpose. I am simply availing myself of the columnist’s prerogative to write about whatever he chooses. Oh, I do have a news peg: West Virginia celebrated its 137th birthday on Tuesday. But that is really just an excuse to write about a topic dear to my heart.

Fortunately for IC readers, the story of West Virginia’s birth, coming as it did in the heart of the Civil War and under constitutionally questionable circumstances, is an engaging one, as Granville Davisson Hall made quite clear in his 1901 book “The Rending of Virginia: A History.” “To carve a new state out of an old one … in the midst of a civil war threatening the existence of the Union itself,” Hall wrote, “was a task as serious as any people ever had to confront.”

One state, two peoples
Despite its link to the most tumultuous time in American history, West Virginia statehood had less to do with the Civil War and slavery than with the decades of enmity between Virginians separated by the Blue Ridge Mountains. For reasons geographical, political, economical, ancestral and cultural, the plantation aristocrats of the east and the rugged mountaineers of the west were destined to part ways some day. The Civil War and slavery were just expedient means to that inevitable end.

Serious talk of splitting the Old Dominion surfaced at least as early as 1830, after a state constitutional convention long sought by westerners. The convention largely failed to address complaints ranging from voting rights and legislative representation to taxation and the distribution of state money and debt. One frustrated Wheeling Gazette writer called for a division — “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.”

Reforms adopted at a second state constitutional convention in 1850-51 alleviated some of the festering east-west tensions. But the national uproar over slavery in the 1850s resurrected the talk of two Virginias — and the talk was not confined to Virginians.
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The Disability Divide

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Ask most anyone to define “digital divide,” one of the catchphrases of the information age, and they are likely to talk about the technology haves and have-nots — the white, wealthy and urban Americans who own computers and have Internet access, and the minority, poor and rural Americans who do not.

But there is another oft-forgotten element to the digital divide: people with disabilities. They are the “haves” who nonetheless have wont of technologies that meet their specific needs. They are a population for whom computers and the Internet have the potential to open new doors or to shut them out just as they have begun to gain greater access to the bricks-and-mortar world.

“Technology is a double-edged sword,” says Cynthia Waddell, the author of a report on the disability-related barriers to the digital economy. “It can create the problem, but it can also solve the problem.”

Technology as hero and villain
To a large extent, the Internet has been a boon to the disabled. A recent Harris poll conducted for the National Organization on Disability confirmed the Internet’s value to the disabled. According to the poll, computer users with disabilities spend nearly twice as much time online and using e-mail as others, and 48 percent of them (compared with 27 percent of people without disabilities) say the Internet has improved the quality of their lives.

Even people like Waddell say technology is not the problem. But the way technology is used definitely can create obstacles to the disabled. Just as architects once designed buildings that were inaccessible to the disabled, she says, e-architects today are designing high-tech structures that effectively lock them out.

That problem is particularly acute for the visually impaired. Screen readers enable them to “see” materials online that might not be as readily accessible to them offline. But screen readers lose much of their functionality on graphics-heavy sites that lack caption-coded images or that use tables and columns.
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Coming To America

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Presidential contenders woo them in their own language. Employers in both big cities and small towns recruit them to fill vacancies in a tight labor market. Communities nationwide celebrate their heritage every fall. Who are they? Latinos. And over the past decade in particular, “they” have become a larger part of “we, the people” — and thus a greater force in America.

Cuban Americans’ quest to keep Elian Gonzalez in the United States and Puerto Ricans’ battle to halt Navy bombing on Vieques are two high-profile examples of the growing impact of America’s Hispanics, whose population has grown some 30 percent in the past decade. But their interests and influence extend far beyond narrow, albeit heated, debates about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and U.S. military operations on a remote island.

Hispanics are forcing WASPy America to confront an array of new issues — immigration and bilingualism are chief among them — and to look at familiar issues like education, health care and taxes from the perspective of an ethnic group that has the highest dropout and uninsured rates in the nation, and where low incomes are common. They also are reshaping schools, the workplace and communities from Rome, Ga., and Perry, Iowa, to Detroit and Milwaukee, as well as in traditional border enclaves like California and Texas.

Recent examples of the Hispanic influence include: the creation of a holiday to honor Mexican civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez; new educational programs like Denver’s “Soul of the Race” and Houston’s bilingual spelling bee; and a reversal of the long-time AFL-CIO opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants in the workforce.

“The [Latino] impact can be seen in every walk of life,” says Judy Mark, communications director for the National Immigration Forum, whose mission is to make U.S. policies more welcoming to Latinos and other immigrants. “Latinos really are tremendously influential and will only grow in influence.”

Keeping the boom times alive
As of March 1, the Census Bureau estimated the U.S. Hispanic population, excluding the estimated 3.9 million people who live in Puerto Rico, at nearly 32.1 million, or 11.7 percent of the total population. That is up from some 22.4 million, or 9% of the total population, in 1990. Nearly two-thirds were of Mexican descent.

Hispanic-Americans accounted for some 37.3 percent of the nation’s population growth in the 1990s, a figure that is expected to climb to 44.2 percent between 2000 and 2020. The Census Bureau estimates that Hispanics will surpass blacks as the largest minority group in America by 2005 and that there will be 52.7 million Hispanic-Americans, or 16.3 percent of the total population, by 2020.
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Not Your Father’s Television

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

When it comes to the entertainment content on today’s television, folks at the Hollywood-based Parents Television Council see less and less redeeming value on the tube. They made that opinion perfectly clear in a new study released March 30 that examined the changes in broadcast content from 1989 to 1999.

A summary of the results: Sexual content has increased threefold in the past decade; homosexual references are 24 times more common; and foul language, including the use of once-forbidden profanities, is up more than 500 percent. Broadcast newcomer UPN won the not-so-honorable citation as the network providing the most offensive content on a per-hour basis. The only moderately good news, according to the PTC, was that incidents of violence on the networks remained at about the same level.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, among other groups, has reported on similar trends. In a study on sex and TV released Feb. 9, 1999, the foundation noted that more than half of today’s shows, and two-thirds of network prime-time shows, include sexual content. Only one in 10 shows that include such content, however, address the risks or responsibilities of sexual activity.

Add to that mix the fact that television viewing in America reached an all-time high of seven hours, 26 minutes a day in 1999, that 53 percent of children (and 26 percent of 2- to 7-year-olds) have televisions in their bedrooms, and that content-screening approaches like the V-chip and the TV ratings system instituted in 1997 thus far have proved ineffective, and you can understand why questions about the appropriate use of the public airwaves continue to arise.

No taboos too sacred to break
One thing is certain: Television’s taboos, both written and unwritten, continue to fall. Broadcasters, for instance, banned the words “damn” and “hell” from television until Arthur Godfrey first used them in 1950. Last week and this week, CBS repeatedly promoted its Monday-night sitcoms — “King of Queens,” “Ladies Man,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Becker” — with prime-time ads blaring “Neighbors from Hell.”

Television tested the boundaries of what then was seen as “good taste” in 1961 when it aired its first bare navel, that of actress Yvette Mimieux, in “Dr. Kildare.” Today, bare bottoms and breasts are recurring images on shows like “NYPD Blue.” And the appearance of the first gay character on “All in the Family” in 1971 seems tame in a decade marked by the first lesbian kiss (“L.A. Law,” 1991), the first on-air “outing” (“Ellen,” 1997) and leading roles for homosexuals in shows like NBC’s “Will & Grace.”
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Who Needs The Media?

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Politics, politics, politics. Much to the dismay of our wives, that is what a fellow West Virginian (and now fellow transplanted Virginian) and I debate almost every time our families socialize. And inevitably, our conversation turns to the mainstream media and how poorly they cover the political world.

Brent is about as conservative a Republican as you will find — even his six-year-old daughter says she can “hear the ‘rats’ in Democrats” and wonders if her teacher, who thinks Arizona Sen. John McCain is a Republican, watches a different television than her father — so he often rants about “the liberal media.” Non-liberal media outlets may exist, he says, but the masses get their news from less-than-objective journalists like Sam Donaldson and Dan Rather and thus often are misinformed.

I consider myself a fairly harsh media critic, and after more than a decade in the news business, I even agree that too many journalists’ liberal view of the world influences their political coverage. But my pat answer to Brent’s complaint is this: Forget the mainstream media. In this information age, we voters can and should take the initiative to explore political candidates’ views and the issues of the day on our own.

Journalism unplugged
One of the best places to turn is C-SPAN. That cable system pioneered the unfiltered approach to political and policy coverage in the late 1970s, and its Campaign 2000 coverage, available via cable or the Internet, continues an admirable two-decades-old tradition.

At its Web site, voters can watch the speeches and interviews of all the candidates, including those no longer in the race, and an array of campaign events, among other things. And unlike most media organizations — whether print, broadcast or online — C-SPAN does not discriminate against the lesser-known candidates.

Voters who rely on major media for campaign news probably do not know the presidential race extends beyond the five leading Republican and Democratic candidates still in the race. C-SPAN’s links, on the other hand, will take you not only to the Web pages of experienced third-party presidential candidates like Reformer Pat Buchanan and the Green Party’s Ralph Nader, but also to the Internet homes of the Constitution Party’s Howard Phillips and Socialist David McReynolds.

C-SPAN is one of the few places where you would you learn that there is a contested race for the Libertarian nomination. And only C-SPAN is likely to invest the time and equipment to tape events like the Feb. 20 presidential debate among the Libertarian candidates — or even the Jan. 26 New Hampshire debate among “alternative” candidates like Jim “Run Some Idiot” Taylor, who earlier this year sought unsuccessfully to question Democrat Bill Bradley at a campaign-finance forum in New Hampshire.

What C-SPAN pioneered, the Internet has perfected. Even C-SPAN’s coverage has its limits, but with the Web, candidates can take their messages more directly to the people. They need not convince any editor or producer of the merits of their campaign events or views; instead, they can spend a minimal amount of campaign cash to hire a webmaster and post whatever they want for the world to see.
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The Great Slavery Debates

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Vice President Al Gore surprised his Democratic presidential contender, former Sen. Bill Bradley, with an unconventional campaign proposal Dec. 19 when the two made a joint appearance on “Meet the Press.” Rather than sell ourselves and our ideas for America to voters through 30-second soundbites, Gore asked Bradley, why don’t we vow to debate each other twice a week and drop all radio and television advertising?

Bradley, then a surging underdog rather than a humbled loser in the Iowa caucuses, refused to take the bait. He smugly rejected Gore’s invitation as a ploy. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was among those to agree with Bradley. In a Dec. 21 editorial, it called Gore’s proposal a “transparent effort to embarrass Bradley” that “rang hollow” and “portrayed the vice president as borderline desperate.”

Bradley and the Journal-Sentinel’s editorial board may be right. But Gore’s proposal raises some good questions: Are regular and frequent campaign debates a good way for voters to get to know their candidates. Or are they, in our telegenic era, just another forum for candidates to vogue for the cameras, posture to the people and attack their opponents?

A look at our nation’s most famous debates, the clashes over slavery between Sen. Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln just before the Civil War, may provide some answers.

Two men with a past
Douglas and Lincoln were anything but strangers when they trekked across Illinois for their seven official debates in that state’s 1858 Senate campaign. The two had known each other for nearly a quarter-century by then and had been political and personal foes for years.

Douglas lost his first House bid (in 1838) by 36 votes to Lincoln’s law partner, John Todd Stuart. Lincoln also condemned a law that enlarged the Illinois Supreme Court — a law that, as a lobbyist, Douglas helped enact, and that led to his appointment as a judge on the court in 1841. Douglas and Lincoln even competed for the affections of the same woman: Mary Todd, whom Lincoln eventually married.

Philosophically, the two battled repeatedly on the hottest political issues of their day: the pros and cons of territorial expansion, the rightness of the Mexican War and, most importantly, slavery. Douglas was a rabid expansionist, and his appointment as chairman of the Senate Territories Committee thrust him not only into the center of that debate but also the debate on whether slavery would expand as the nation’s borders did.
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The Right To Know Who You Are

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

More than a half-century ago, Jean Paton, like many adopted children, decided to act on her long-time curiosity about her past. She wanted to learn more about her beginnings, so she went to probate court in Detroit, where her birth mother had lived when she decided to give Paton up for adoption. “I asked for my record, and they gave it to me,” Paton recalled in a recent telephone interview from her Arkansas home.

A few years later, Paton returned to the same court to see her record again. She was told that she first must get a judge’s approval. In the interim between her visits, the law had changed; the records pertaining to her adoption, to her life history, had been sealed, the result of a movement that had begun in the 1930s to keep the details of adoptees’ pre-adoptive lives secret.

As a social worker in Philadelphia, Paton later wondered what other adoptees thought about their pasts and laws that hindered access to their histories. Her curiosity led to the publication of the 1954 study “The Adopted Break Silence” and ultimately to a movement to unseal decades-old adoption records. That movement now has its own rallying date: National Adoptee Rights Day, which will be commemorated for the second time tomorrow (Dec. 3) at courthouses across America.

From open to closed … and back?
The debate about adoption records is an emotional one that pits the rights of birth mothers who believed their identities would remain secret against the rights of their children to know intimate details of their own lives. It also includes adoptive parents, who may fear the impact of a reunion between birth parents and birth children, and the adoption agencies and attorneys responsible for adoptions under sealed-records laws.

The laws date back to an era when there was “an incredible stigma attached to being an unwed mother” or a child born out of wedlock, said Madelyn Freundlich, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “It was a time when people were not very open about adoption,” she said, adding that adoption agencies and attorneys often tried to match adoptees to parents with similar physical characteristics.

The thinking back then, said Jane Nast, president of the American Adoption Congress, a group working to overturn sealed-records laws, was that by eliminating an adoptive child’s true birth certificate and replacing it with one bearing the adoptive parents’ names, the children would be “starting off with a clean slate.” The birth parents would simply forget about the children that they agreed to let other people raise.
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