Recommended Reading for January 21st

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post. I attempt to provide extra warnings for certain material present in articles, but your triggers/issues may vary.

The Baltimore Sun: Young, gifted and disabled
Zarifa Roberson in front of a poster-size front cover of i.d.e.a.l. magazine. DJ SupaLee is on the cover.

This was the summer of 2003, and she had recently graduated from college, was studying for the LSAT and browsing the store’s magazine selections. There were magazines for bikers and hikers, runners, travelers, eaters, golfers — just about every category of person one could think of, except disabled people, a group to which Roberson has belonged since she was born with a rare condition that contracts joints throughout the body, dislocates hips, locks the jaw. […]

She took it on. She saw the need for a magazine and decided she’d produce one. She called it “i.d.e.a.l.,” an acronym for “Individuals with Disabilities Express About Life,” and put the emphasis on young disabled people.[…]

Along with reported stories, Roberson contributed a first-person piece about how her disability and her bisexuality complicate her personal life. It’s the sort of frank treatment of the lives of disabled people that she feels has been missing from available publications, and was missing even from the first two issues of “i.d.e.a.l.”

“I’m my own worst critic,” she said. “I don’t think it was as relatable to me” in her life as a disabled person. Her hope is that disabled people reading the new magazine will find their lives reflected in it, “so people will disabilities can say ‘Oh my God, I’m not the only one going through this.’ “

Su Sayer at The Guardian: Politicians must recognise that people with learning disabilities have a right to vote too

Yet when it comes to democratic rights, the overwhelming majority of adults with learning disabilities still find themselves largely excluded by the complexity of the system and low awareness of their right to vote. Our research found that while 80% of people supported by United Response in England were registered to vote in the 2005 election, only 16% used their vote. This compares with a turnout of 61% in the general population.

As regular users of social services, public transport, health services and much more, people with learning disabilities are affected by political decisions in the same way as everyone else. The majority of adults with learning disabilities do have the capacity, as well as the legal right, to vote, and would like to do so if given the opportunity.

Ethan Ellis at NJ Voices Public Blog: Disability: the hidden horror of Haiti

Those of us with disabilities who know the island also know that after the last body is buried, the last hospital is rebuilt and the country begins to come alive again as its rescuers move on to the next disaster and the eyes of the watching world move with them, that people like us, now multiplied by the earthquake’s crush will be buried under the crushing weight of the country’s other unmet priories.

CNW Group: Women with heart disease are more likely to be poor than men

“Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of death and a leading cause of disability among Canadian women,” said Dr. Arlene Bierman, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and principal investigator of the study. “In fact, eight times as many Canadian women die from heart disease and stroke every year as from breast cancer. If we’re going to change this we need prevention programs that reach out to low income women and that focus on the effects of poverty and the factors that lead to poverty among women.”

The Telegraph (UK): Hi-tech prosthetics are getting our injured back on their feet

Historically, war has provided a great spur to technological development in prosthetics. Before the First World War, amputations were comparatively rare in Britain and most artificial limbs were primitive objects made by saddlers. […] The sudden influx of 41,300 young military amputees, many hoping to return to some sort of employment after the war, generated a new prosthetics industry and encouraged co-operation between limb-fitters and surgeons for the first time.

[Jerome Church said]: “But the warfare of the past eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan has produced a paradigm shift in the way we consider prosthetic possibilities.”

[Ian Jones, prosthetics manager said] “With a BK [below knee] injury there is no reason why a soldier should not return to front-line infantry. Some will be as fit as anyone else.

The Michigan Daily: Silently Disabled: The everyday struggles of those with invisible disabilities

It wasn’t until a week before the end of the academic year that [Leslie Rott] was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus — a chronic inflammatory disease that attacks the body’s tissues and organs. Rott said she was unsure of what accommodations she would be entitled to going into her second year. Unlike those who have lived most of their lives with disabilities, she had no previous experience as a disabled individual and didn’t even know how to go about asking for accommodations. […]

Felder, who is fairly upfront about her Crohn’s disease, says that despite her attempts to inform her classmates about her disability, she has received less-then-ideal reactions as sometimes, students “literally scoot their chairs away” when she talks about the disease in class.

There is also, at times, the issue of other students thinking accommodations means disabled students are getting “special treatment.” For example, LSA sophomore Sarah Rabinowe, who was diagnosed with two learning disabilities in the beginning of elementary school, said her classmates often judge her for getting accommodations because they don’t understand how difficult it is to live with her disability.

“I’ve had a little bit here of ‘she gets special treatment, she gets this,’ the sort of jealousy, almost, because they don’t understand how hard it is to live with this,” Rabinowe said.[…]

Though some members of the disabled community would like the University to take a larger role in advocating for and raising awareness of disabilities on campus, SSWD “acts under a philosophy of self-advocacy,” Segal said. “In other words, part of what we’re trying to do is turn people into young, responsible, independent adults, and part of the way of doing that is making people advocate for themselves,” Segal said.

Part of this notion of self-advocacy includes changing the campus’s perception of the disabled community without the University’s help. For example, if individuals want peer mentors or support groups, it’s their responsibility to make that happen. Likewise, if individuals sense a stigma associated with disabilities on campus, the disabled community must find a voice within itself to raise awareness of disability issues rather than rely on the University to make this change for them.

7 thoughts on “Recommended Reading for January 21st

  1. OK I haven’t read the full article yet, but I find this really problematic:

    “In other words, part of what we’re trying to do is turn people into young, responsible, independent adults, and part of the way of doing that is making people advocate for themselves,” Segal said.

    … Likewise, if individuals sense a stigma associated with disabilities on campus, the disabled community must find a voice within itself to raise awareness of disability issues rather than rely on the University to make this change for them.

    Why is it always the responsibility of the unprivileged to fix things?

  2. Whoa, an article about my school. I saw the “SSWD” and it caught my eye, and then I saw the name Segal and my suspicions were confirmed.

    As someone who has used that office’s services, I can definitely confirm its so-called policy of “self-advocacy.” When my sibling’s lupus flared up, I recommended she try to get accommodations through SSWD, but no one there really did a ton for her, and she ended up dropping all courses that semester. (On the other hand, there was a dietician at her dormitory who was wonderful.) I have used their services but must always do so on my own initiative; no one there ever checks in with me, inquires as to whether I have needs that are not being met, etc.

    One of those interviewed in the article, Rott, mentions wanting a potential disability support group; someone in the comments mentions UHS having one now, and I’m not sure if it’s the same thing, but I know there is a chronic pain support group which began this year (I’ve yet to attend it but my sibling has gone a few times). However, the group is framed around “chronic pain” rather than disability, and this obviously also excludes/includes specific people. I’m unaware of another support group, but it might exist.

    One thing I’ve heard from a friend who tried to use SSWD’s services (though not specifically mentioned by Rott in the article, who was the only graduate student mentioned in there, I believe), is that most of SSWD’s services are targeted at undergraduates, and there is little understanding of the needs of graduate students, or how to accommodate those needs. Being an undergraduate myself, I can’t speak to this. The SSWD services I have used were very helpful; on the other hand, I wasn’t even aware SSWD existed until my second year of college, and didn’t use any of their services until my third year.

  3. @JoSelle, you beat me to the punch! Why is it always the responsibility of the unprivileged to fix things? Wholeheartedly seconded. I think that advocacy and de-stigmatization ought to fall under the umbrella of accommodations that enable disabled students to fully participate in the college experience. As an invisibly disabled college student who dealt with tons of bullying in elementary school, I know that you can’t participate fully in the college experience if nobody wants to make friends with you because you’re “weird.”

    And, you know, it’s not like we don’t already have enough to deal with. It’s amazing that they effectively had students talking about spoon-budgeting in that article, and the administration still turns around and says, “This is your problem,” with no sensitivity to the fact that it’s enough of a struggle just to make it to class or get work done.

  4. The i.d.e.a.l. magazine looks great! I’ve oftened wondered where amongst all those glossy magazine MY demographic is. I had to dig around online for awhile to figure out how / where to contact the magazine about subscriptions or more info, since the article didn’t mention it, and I found the one has to email the author. Here is her address: zarifaroberson[@]hotmail[.]com. Thought I’d post and save someone else the hassle.

    Ed. Note–I changed the formatting of the editor’s email address so that it wouldn’t get harvested by spambots.

  5. also, as an ASD person I feel like part of the nature of my disability is that it’s difficult for me to advocate for myself. Which is something I need to (and do) work on, but that doesn’t mean that it’s other people’s job to not reach out to me so I can practice self-advocacy, especially if it’s their job to help disabled people. And this (self-advocacy being hard) could go for a lot of disabilities, from anxiety to physical disabilities that cause a person to get tired more easily and maybe not be super motivated to go trundling around meeting with professors and stuff. Why would you require a disabled person to do something that’s especially hard for them given their disability? How is that equal treatment?

    It is nice for everyone to learn to be an independent adult and stuff, but disabled college students should be allowed to be just as lazy and unmotivated as nondisabled students (if they are in fact being lazy and unmotivated, rather than just doing what they can on the energy they have).

  6. @Monica. Yes to all of this! Oh yes.

    Thanks to a ton of traumatic events, the recurrent, moderate-to-severe clinical depression I’d had since AGE 7 became unmanageable shortly after I arrived at college. Despite being (mis) diagnosed with (a personality disorder) and depression at the time, I was not aware that I could even seek accommodations or help. I thought I was simply screwed up and needed to “stop whining” and “get over myself,” and then when I couldn’t manage my life like “everybody else” I beat myself up more.

    This is the main reason why people with disabilities, and invisible/psychiatric disabilities in PARTICULAR, should not be forced to be advocates for themselves, especially when they are teenagers or very young adults. Thanks to our ableist and psychophobic society, a lot of the time people have no idea that they not only can get help, but deserve help.

    (This is one of the many reasons why I loudly and proudly identify as disabled today, because I think people with psychiatric disabilities are encouraged by family, friends and sometimes the disability community itself to just shut up.)

    The worst thing of all was how profoundly ignorant most students at my school were about depression, however. When you’re 18 years old and nobody wants to be your fucking friend because you’re “weird” and “clingy” and “intense,” it does a lot of damage that takes years to deal with.

    But yeah. PWD don’t have the time or the spoons to get all of our course work done, deal with the isolation and the physical/mental exhaustion and then go out and tell abled people on campus to treat us like human beings.

  7. @AWV. EXACTLY. The adiminstration’s “let them eat cake!” attitude towards self advocacy is profoundly ablist and particularly psychophobic because it assumes that everybody is capable of advocacy (including, most tellingly for me, people with panic disorders/social anxiety, depression, and disabilities that impair communication).

    Telling disprivileged people to just shut up and deal is what the administration has done. It’s never just and it never works.

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