In a recently published book, a longtime Parker resident tells the story of the 1974 death of her 10-year-old brother, who was developmentally disabled.
Janet Farmer-Selden's brother, Jules Farmer — who was also deaf and blind — contracted a fatal disease while in the care of Ridge State Home in Arvada.
“It is a look at the value his life really had and what value came with his death,” Farmer-Selden said.
Farmer-Selden's parents struggled to find ways to help their son to thrive despite his disabilities and often ran into challenges from the state, she said.
Farmer-Selden wrote the 104-page book, titled “Value of a Life,” in part to let readers know about the legislation that came from her family's advocacy, she said.
“I wanted others to know as a society we have not really come that far in inclusion for people with disabilities,” she said. “It is my personal belief that you can measure a society's moral compass not by the rhetoric of its public officials but by the way traditionally marginalized groups are faring and honestly, I believe that Colorado still has a long way to go especially in providing equity in services outside of the metro area.”
Farmer-Selden began writing the book in November 2019 and it was published in February 2021. In her writing, she used documents and journal entries from her mother about the struggles the family faced in “attempting to provide the best possible life for my brother,” she said.
She also used documents showing the lack of services that were available to her brother due to the severity of his disabilities.
Farmer-Selden said that during her writing process, she was challenged by memories of the “negative attitudes” her brother and family experienced for “allowing him to be an active member of our family.”
“This did not just come from neighbors but from some members of our extended family,” she said.
The final chapter of the book is a copy of Farmer-Selden's mom's diary from the final days of Jules' life.
“As my mom passed away in 2002, I felt an incredible sense of responsibility in representing what she would want to communicate if she were writing the chapter herself and I felt it was only fitting that she gets the final word in this book,” she said.
Farmer-Selden decided to write the book after trying to find services for her foster son, who is on the autism spectrum.
“I struggled to understand why nearly 50 years after my brother's death, Americans with disabilities are still challenged with physical environments that are not accessible,” she said.
Farmer-Selden also said she believes people with disabilities lack assistive technology and internet access and experience negative attitudes from others.
“We need to be conscious of the attitudes we hold regarding others who are not like us,” Farmer-Selden said. “If I can have one person act on this message, I have been successful in this effort and honored my brother and my parents.”
The book, sold for $12, is available for purchase at tinyurl.com/Value-of-a-life.