Did Disabilism Lead to Death?

Shawn Gallaher died in a fire. He was locked in his apartment and couldn’t escape. Why? Because he is disabled and the building’s attendant care workers would frequently fail to leave the door in a way that he could come and go.

His death was probably preventable. If his attendants had followed his instructions to leave the door open, he may well have survived.

It also seems like he may have been being punished for being a drug user. Drug users should still be able to have visitors and come and go from their apartments as they please. Landlords and attendant care worker should not decide whether someone gets to leave their apartment. If he weren’t disabled, they wouldn’t have been able to restrict his access the way his friends say happened.

The CBC says: “It is not clear why Gallaher was allowed to be locked in, though friends admit he had a drug problem and had been letting dealers into the building.” I think it is important to notice the two really disturbing things happening here. Firstly, removing someone’s access into and out of their apartment is not an appropriate way to deal with addiction issues – it is abusive. Secondly, it is a violation of housing legislation to simply lock someone into or out of their unit or to decide what guests tenants are or are not allowed to have.

Imagine a non-disabled person being locked in their apartment on purpose and then dying in a fire. There would probably be a lot of media coverage and everyone would know it was wrong.

What would justice for Shawn Gallaher look like?

For the CBC story, click here.