Recommended Reading for February 4th, editorialising edition

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 material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Disability Scoop: ‘R-Word’ Remark Prompts Emanuel To Meet With Disability Advocates

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will meet with a group of disability advocates Wednesday, more than a week after a media report quoted him using the word “retarded.” […]

Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver, Andrew Imparato of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States, were invited to the White House meeting. Two self-advocates and a parent advocate are also expected to attend.

Some of the advocates say they intend to ask Emanuel to become involved in the Special Olympics campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word.”

And today’s followup:

Washington Post: Emanuel says he will join effort to stop use of ‘retarded’

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel apologized again Wednesday for using the word “retarded” during a private meeting last summer, telling advocates for the disabled that he will join their campaign to help end the use of the word.

I’ll note here that it is Shriver and the STILL unnamed self-advocates that reported Emanuel is joining the campaign. Emanuel’s staff declined to comment. WHY are the currently-nondisabled people the only people who have had names throughout this debate? Why are the CND people the ones accepting the apologies? What the fuck is this, also in the WaPo article?:

The meeting at the White House included Shriver; Andrew Imparato, the president and chief executive of the American Association of People with Disabilities; Peter V. Berns, the chief executive of the Arc; and three advocates for disability rights. A spokeswoman for Shriver said Wednesday after the meeting that, “Tim accepted the apology.”

A. Rahmnan Ford at Racialicious: Race, Disability and Denial

[description of photo on post: a thin black man stands naked apart from a sign in front of his pelvis saying I AM A MAN. His face is half in shadow, his head slightly turned but eyes facing the camera.]

The photo, titled “undesirable,” is essentially about me ultimately beginning the journey of accepting my disability as I have my blackness. More broadly, it is to protest what I refer to as the negative fetishism of poor bodies, bodies that are deemed broke and broken, crooked and criminal, dilapidated and degenerate, ugly and useless.

liz at Dis/Embody: Everyone’s a little bit disabled?

Though the ads may do a good job of cracking through public ignorance of the employment issues often faced by people with disabilities, and they have gotten positive responses from people with disabilities involved with the campaign, I doubt their potential to ameliorate workplace conditions. By placing disability on a level with various quirks, the realities of disability as a lived experience is erased. How will a hiring manager inspired by this campaign react when they realize that they hired someone who will need significant accommodations to succeed in the workplace?

The question of ability or needs is conspicuously absent from the campaign, evidencing the desire to move beyond “labels” but not to address real physical or social challenges. Think Beyond the Label describes itself as “committed to making the business case for employing people with disabilities” – this is really similar to the dominant discourse on web accessibility (it can optimize your search engine results and bring new customers!). Where is the social justice case? The moral argument? The rights-based realities of the ADA and other legislation?

The Drama Student Online: Don’t Play Me, Pay Me – Campaigning for disabled actors

For the issue is not just that there are very few disabled parts being written for mainstream media, but that when disabled characters are featured they are too often portrayed by able-bodied actors ‘putting on’ the disability.

A new campaign, entitled Don’t Play Me, Pay Me, has called for this to be seen as akin to blacking up, and for only disabled actors to be cast in disabled parts. The campaign is run by Nicky Clark, whose daughter Lizzy has Aspergers Syndrome, and appeared in Dustbin Baby in 2008 playing a character with the same condition.

Joanna Whitehead: Gym changing rooms: the last bastion of body realism?

Colleagues ‘A’ and ‘B’ were both vehemently opposed to taking their clothes off in a designated changing area, fleeing instead to the individual changing cubicles.

When I heard this, I was shocked – and then I was sad. […]

As someone who is not restricted, however, I feel entitled to disrobe in such an environment, rather than hiding myself away. My reasoning is based on a simple fact: my body works, and while it continues to function healthily, I should not feel shame at its mere aesthetics, but exceptional and infinite thanks for its very functionality.

[My comments on Whitehead’s piece remain unpublished, however, a number of other commenters have expressed their hurt. Whitehead subsequently “apologised” – putting ableism in quotemarks – “if anyone felt offended or hurt “.]

Alecia Simmonds at The Age: Barring disabled migrants makes Australia the loser

A Senate committee inquiry into the migration treatment of disability in Australia is revealing that Australia systematically discriminates against people with impairments. The committee, which has been holding public hearings in capital cities and will continue to do so throughout the month, is assessing the appropriateness of health tests for people wanting to migrate to Australia.

Under the Migration Act, people with impairments have their disability taken into consideration in meeting the health criteria as a condition of entry. The Disability Discrimination Act is suspended for the purposes of the Migration Act. As a result, disabled people are automatically excluded from consideration.

The Irish Times: 4,200 intellectually disabled ‘should be rehoused’

Of the people with intellectual disabilities living in institutional care, some 300 are residing inappropriately in psychiatric hospitals, even though they may not have a mental illness. A further 350 disabled people live in “de-designated” units, parts of psychiatric hospitals that were reclassified as community units about 20 years ago.

Latest international research indicates that the best outcomes for people with disabilities in residential care are for those living independently. However, the quality of support is considered crucial to avoid creating “mini institutions”.

Experts say the numbers still living in institutions in Ireland are out of step with most western European countries which have been shutting institutions for the past 30 years.

By 4 February, 2010.    recommended reading   



5 Comments

  1. I don’t think you have to have any kind of disability to feel uncomfortable about changing in an open room with lots of other people. When I was a teenager at boarding school, I would always find a single cubicle to change in if possible, despite the fact that they were all designated “adults only” and anyone younger was supposed to change in the open room. This was despite the fact that we all showered nude in open showers at school.

    As for disability and immigration, this was discussed at length on Bad Cripple recently with regard to Canada. I posted my own article on it here. I speak as someone with a friend (with multiple physical disabilities) is seeking to migrate from Canada to the UK. I don’t see why disabled people cannot migrate among developed countries much as they can in the EU, and much as there is opposition to aspects of European integration in this country (mainly, ridiculous laws, bureaucracy and lack of accountability), I don’t hear many complaints about the “burden” of disabled migrants from the EU.

    Also, it speak volumes that they refuse an entire family because of one disabled child, i.e. that “burden” outweighs the contribution of four or five others, even if one of them is a distinguished surgeon or something similar.

  2. BTW … in my last post, I was talking about the open changing versus cubicles at the local swimming pool. At boarding school itself, there were no cubicles.

  3. For what it’s worth, the self-advocates who are meeting with Rahm Emanuel are mentioned in this Special Olympics press release. It is rather ridiculous that the mainstream media has left them unnamed, though.

  4. Wow.

    I didn’t want to change in front of the other kids becuase for a long time I was far more developed than most of my class mates and I was the only person of color in my grade. Being treated like a freakshow didn’t really make gym class any better for me.

    Did that entire post seem very reminiscent of the attitude , “if you’ve got it, flaunt it,” to anyone else?

  5. In regards to the changing room piece – having privacy rooms or stalls to change in would have been crucial to me because of my religious beliefs around modesty. I always think it’s better to have an option. I love that my local community center has an open locker area, stall showers with curtains, AND large family/disabled changing rooms with showers (and lockers). Many choices! And that’s how it should be.

    I think the first part of the author’s statement about her body makes sense – if I only see my body as an imperfect object of sexual desire/social attractiveness, I’m going to feel ashamed of myself – but she goes awry in using the word “while” in this context: “while it continues to function healthily, I should not feel shame at its mere aesthetics, but exceptional and infinite thanks for its very functionality.”

    It just sounds like she’s saying that “so long as” her body is healthy she’s not going to feel ashamed. Which makes no sense. Should my elderly grandmother be ashamed of her body? Should a person with cancer be ashamed of their body? I mean, really, who should be ashamed? Because even an unhealthy body has functionality.