Monthly Archives: April 2010

Recommended Reading for April 28, 2010

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010 Reminder: Blogging Against Disablism Day is coming up on May 1. Diary of a Goldfish has hosted BADD since 2006. It’s an awesome blogswarm, and it’s this Saturday. You can participate by spreading the word, making your own post, commenting on people’s posts, and/or linking posts for others.

Remembering and Commemorating a Complicated Past [Nellie McClung supported Eugenics in Canada, specifically the sterilization of undesirables.]

White continues in his article to discuss some of the basic historic contours of eugenics in Canada, noting briefly that Tommy Douglas – the social democratic father of Medicare – was a proponent, and sterilization was made provincial policy in Alberta and British Columbia. There was a long and brutal history of eugenics in Canada, with patients being sterilized without their knowledge. For example, in Alberta, Leilani Muir received appendix surgery in 1959 and was sterilized without her knowledge, a fact that she discovered only years later when she was unable to conceive. It wasn’t until 1996 that she was able to achieve some justice, setting the path for many other victims to settle with the provincial government.

In my own teaching this year, I found eugenics a tricky subject to tackle.We had a great debate in our tutorial. The prevailing view was that eugenics was ‘fascist,’ thanks to an article we had read that week on Nazi reproductive policies. Thanks to the memory of the Second World War, this is the popular memory, and was instrumental in dismantling many forced sterilization and eugenics programs after it all came to light. Yet once I began bringing up the history of eugenics in Canada, from Tommy Douglas to Leilani Muir, one student gutsily argued that eugenics was ‘progressive’ for the time, with respects to public health, poverty, etc. It was an uncomfortable discussion, to be sure, when speaking of these devastating policies that had such an impact on people’s reproductive rights and privileges. But these are the same questions that must vex people as they ponder whether to honour somebody like Nellie McClung. At the time, how common were her views? Ought she to know that they were wrong?

Book Review: Wintergirls

Anderson uses a number of typographical and structural tricks in this book—crossed out words, chapter numbers counting down, and others I won’t spoil by revealing— and they’re all there for a reason and they all work. The supporting characters, unusually for a novel which is so firmly set within the point of view of a character being sucked into a solipsistic state of mental illness, are sharply believable and non-stereotypical despite those constraints. (Since I know everyone who’s already read the book will be wondering, yes, I did indeed loathe the “free-spirited nonconformist” guy she gets involved with, but thankfully Anderson did not represent him as the undiluted essence of awesome that I dreaded the moment he launched into his defense of mooching food from other diners’ plates.)

President Obama: A Transgender Veteran Is Not An ”Impersonator,” ”It,” Or ”Shim”

Dear President Barack Obama,
My name is Autumn Sandeen, I’m a retired, disabled Fire Controlman, First Class Petty Officer; I retired in 2000 from the U.S. Navy after twenty years of service. You may know my name already, as I was one of the six military veterans who handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010, to put pressure on you to include the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in your submission of the Defense Authorization Budget. I am writing today to bring to your attention the discriminatory behavior I was subjected to as a transgender woman by your federal law enforcement officers.

Dreamwidth has a new community: Disabled Rage

This is a community for all of us with disabilities to rage about the overwhelming ableist bullshit in the world around us. It’s a place to vent our anger and frustration with the inaccessibility, the condescension, the ignorance, the mistreatment – in short, the rage-making things we’re forced to fight every day.

This is a rage community. We like anger. We think it’s healthy and happy to be angry. Rage is most effective when it stays more or less on target, though, and to that end, the comm has a few guidelines.

Links & Things

fter missing last week’s episode of Parenthood, I watched this week, only to be annoyed and un-entertained again. More “woe is me, I have an autistic child” dramatizing, more cliches and sappiness.

But I have to admit that I was personally hoping that Sydney would turn out to be on the spectrum, too.

Why? Well, because having more than one autistic character in one work shows audiences that not all autistic people are alike–including those who share an “Asperger’s” designation. It also helps to avoid stereotypes, as perhaps writers won’t feel compelled to shoe-horn every single autistic trait into one character, as so many do. I actually think the Parenthood writers have been doing a fairly good job in presenting a believable character so far, but it can’t hurt to have another character. And a girl! Girls and women on the spectrum are so rarely represented and I was kind of hoping there’d be a concrete example. Alas, no.

Hell Hath No Fury

Like a woman after her insurance benefits.

Last week I was told my insurance company wouldn’t cover any more PT sessions.

However I could pay out of pocket and could continue to be treated.

The verdict that was reached that my PT would try to talk to the insurance company personally and rewrite the progress note. There’s no point to pay for something out of pocket that I’m already paying an insurance company to pay for. It’d be like paying for the same thing twice, actually it is.

Susan recommends a BBC radio programme about language & disability that is available online till next Tuesday. I know I can access BBC radio programmes in Canada, so I assume they’re available everywhere if your computer/download limit can handle them.

Hot Pieces of Ace is a new asexual youtube channel.

Ontarians! The Law Commission of Ontario is at the Consultation Stage regarding how the new accessibility laws will be implemented. There are focus groups!

Has your country ratified the UN Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities? Or has it, like mine, only agreed with parts of it?

The International Network of Women with Disabilities spoke at a parallel side-meeting to the 54th Commission on the Status of Women.

Quoted: Francisco X. Stork in ‘Marcelo in the Real World’

A scene in which the title character (who speaks in the third person) is explaining the way his brain works to another character:

”Cognitive disorder’ is not an accurate description of what happens inside Marcelo’s head. ‘Excessive attempt at cognitive order’ is closer to what actually takes place.’

‘Yeah? I like excessive order myself. Is that an illness?’

‘If it keeps you from functioning in society the way people think a normal person should, then our society calls that an illness.’

‘Well, society is not always right, is it?’

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

Recommended Reading for April 27, 2010

A young Indian woman, wearing a brightly-patterned sari, using Sign.
A young deaf woman talks passionately as lunch is served following the Kerala Sign Language Bible dedication event in Kochi, India. Over 1200 deaf people attended the event, a small representation of the estimated 9 million deaf people in India.
For more: Door International

Where the Disabled are not welcome

I would love it if you would spend a day looking at the various buildings that you enter and consider how easy they are to enter or exit. If there are no barriers to entrance, how wide is the walk way? Is it easy to negotiate without pulling things off of the racks or shelves? Are items set down low so that they are easy to reach? If someone is using a mobility devise, is the isle wide enough to go down with another person, or will the mobility device completely block the way? Is staff easily visible to help with items? Are the bathrooms completely accessible? Is the change room completely accessible?

The Kids are (kinda) alright: crack babies speak out [There’s a video that opens this piece – as I’m compiling these links, I can’t see it, so I can’t tell you what’s in it. Hence I have the note to edit this post before it goes live]

I enjoyed Vargas’ article, but I still have questions surrounding the role of race.

Crack was a drug with a heavy racial identification – while all types of people used it, the most prominent image of a crack user was a black person. Vargas’ article discusses how experts learned from the crack baby hysteria and have not rushed to proclaim dire circumstances for children that are turning up meth exposed. But is the lack of hype due to meth being a white identified drug? Also, the pictorial accompanying the article focuses on Anzelone, and his nuclear family. Was there a difference in recovery and allocation resources by race? If so, how did that impact the lives and fates of these kids?

Following Up On What Neil Gaiman Said

Part of why I am taking the time to lay it out is my second reason for this post. I think it important that we see how celebrity fandom can obscure the work that my original post (and all my work on this blog) is trying to do. That is, pushing everyone to think about HOW they think about American Indians, what they THINK they know about American Indians, and how all of that comes together in the words they write and speak aloud.

Why are iPad Factory Workers killing themselves?

A growing string of worker suicides and attempts has plagued a Chinese factory operated by Foxconn, the China-based tech company that produces, among other products, the new Apple iPad. In the past month, four employees at a single factory have attempted suicide, and 11 workers have killed themselves since 2007. And perhaps even more telling, all four of the most recent attempts have taken place at the factory. What is happening to these workers that is causing so many to turn to suicide?

The Madwoman in the Attic

Unfortunately, the programme finishes on the rather clichéd interpretation that the novels demonstrate how women who didn’t conform ended up being branded mad and locked up – essentially, madness as a form of female repression.

This is the classic feminist criticism of historical ideas about madness and despite there being some truth to it, it is only supportable by ignoring the other side of the coin – the traditional interplay between insanity and masculinity.

News Headlines:

Canada: Manitoba Police use taser on mental health patient

US: Civil Rights Division pushes for Internet Accessibility

Taking a fresh look at brain injury: Having troops in combat has revived interest in concussive effects of bomb blasts

Apple admits using Child Labour [in a plant where people have been disabled by chemicals]

When Accommodations Conflict (Continued)

Reflecting on the extremely thought provoking post by abbyjean earlier, I was walking to breakfast with The Guy (caution, try not to walk while lost in thought, OYD) on a day when I was low on sleep, high on pain, and therefore using my cane. (edit: I just saw my typo! I had a funny visual of me trying to balance on a can! HA!)

Conflicting accommodations do not always mean that the conflict will occur between separate PWDs. For example, on a high pain day, I am in desperate need on my cane due to the intense pain in my hip and legs in general (though, which leg I want to use if for is debatable, even though I favor one hip). When I am that fatigued, however, using the cane is an intense use of my spoons, to the point where if I have too much to do I can’t even bother because it just winds up with me on a chair or bench in tears. Or the cane causes additional pain in my back or shoulders.

There are others that come to mind. My medication provides me with more pain free days, which is a good thing. This is an active choice I made with the advice of my doctor whom I was lucky enough to find at this duty station. The flip of that coin is that I have side effects which means that I can not always drive places, or have the energy (HA!) that I want to do things with my family, to name a few. This might not sound like a huge accommodation, but it makes a great impact on my family life, people who play a huge role in my care.

I know that some people use caffeine to both relieve some pain and migraine effects (I sometimes do) but that this has the crash effect at the end of the day (for me it means my spoons run out faster).

So, gentle readers, what accommodations do you have/use that conflict…uhh…internally? What individual needs to you have that you have to weigh daily?

Signal Boost: Customer Service for PWD Survey

Customer Service Survey

Help change business practices toward people with disabilities!!

Many people with disabilities face challenges when trying to access everyday goods and services.

Ensuring accessible quality customer service to all is becoming a business and legal imperative.

PSN – Performance Solutions Network and LLR & associates are seeking your opinions. We want to understand the major barriers and issues you experience when attempting to access every day goods and services and quality customer service. We also are seeking your ideas and suggestions on what can be done to make your customer service experiences better.


Recommended Reading for April 26, 2010

As I’m writing this, I’m still on my trip, so again – very quick! [The conference has been awesome, y’all. Seriously – I met so many great people and had so many great conversations. And people liked my presentation!]

The Lady Thing I Won’t Talk About, Even With Feminists

So, I have been thinking (ahahaha, I know, right? I NEVER do that). And it was because of the Jezebel post about the MTV True Life episode, which I just watched, on Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

And, you know, it’s MTV, so it’s not the most tasteful or thoughtful show, but: I don’t really want to talk about reality TV. I was thinking about how being feminist and being aware of privilege makes me really struggle with my own BDD.

I was diagnosed four years ago. It’s definitely gotten worse as time as gone by, and exponentially worse after the rape. It’s also not a disorder that stands alone; it ties in to my bipolar disorder, my anxiety problems.

Autistic Teen Charged With Assault, Disorderly Conduct

Via Terri over at Barriers, Brigdes and Books comes news that an autistic teen was charged with assault and disorderly conduct a few weeks ago, after he became physically aggressive when there were four fire drills in one morning at his school. We do not know whether an appropriate behavior intervention plan was in place, as should have been the case.

I’ve Gone and Done It Now

I have written a manifesto. It’s short as manifestos go… and I think fairly low on scary ramblings (edit, edit, edit!!! 🙂

Here it is:

I believe in the Disability Rights Community.

That is to say, I believe that disability is a natural part of the human experience that is often misunderstood by our culture and I believe in the people with disabilities and their allies who recognize that human beings are undiminished by disability. I support these people who strive for respect, recognition and rights.

Arizona’s Immigration Laws

I came here to study at a university. I took a job from approximately 299 Americans who, presumably, could have done it as well as I did. (Interestingly, the other person on the shortlist told me that he believed hiring me was an act of discrimination and that I had “dogged” him.) I have brown skin. I married an American. I was told I was only into him for the visa. (Almost 20 years later, I still worry about whether I have to prove our relationship is genuine.) I use the health care system. I have paid my speeding ticket and been to traffic school. I pay my taxes. I very definitely pay my taxes; I have been audited and found to owe nothing. And a little while ago, I began the process to naturalize myself as a citizen.

Spending a Moment with You

If you live with a disability, I encourage you to speak up about your experiences. Make a YouTube video, start a blog, participate in a message board. And let me know about it.

I look forward to spending a moment with you.

Lean On Me

Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.

I read a recent article in the Chicago Tribune about the increase of peer support groups as mental health treatment, rather than wholly centering on a physician or therapist to guide treatment. The article talks about how people with mental illness use these peer support groups to get

“a chance to discuss and maybe get help for problems that, all too often, their friends, families and even therapists didn’t seem to understand. How do you feel comfortable at social gatherings when everyone there knows you tried to kill yourself? Should you abandon your religious faith if you’re prone to thinking that you’re God? How do you handle your illness when your child has it, too?”

I obviously believe in the benefits of this kind of peer support and discussion, or I wouldn’t be writing about my mental health issues on a blog for people with disabilities. I have gotten invaluable support, information and insight from friends with mental health disorders. Not only the big issues, like reassurance that depression will eventually lift and the sky will not fall on my head. Some of the most useful stuff I’ve gotten is a discussion of which facial scrub best deals with the flaky dry skin caused by taking lithium. (I use Pond’s Fresh Start Exfoliating Scrub with microbeads! They do not send it to me – I buy it.) I also strongly support the centering of people with mental illness and their own experiences.

But I’ve also had a couple of times when being so close to friends with mental illness may have been a bad idea. My roommate and best friend in college also was struggling with newly diagnosed mental health issues of her own, and a crisis for one of us tended to precipitate a crisis in the other. I vividly remember sitting in the waiting room of the emergency room as she was being admitted, folded up in the plastic chairs in the waiting room, reading The Bell Jar while I waited for her to be processed. And going into an immediate spiral that ended with me checking myself into the hospital a few weeks later. Where, despite being strip searched and in a carefully controlled environment, I learned from my fellow patients how to find things to use to self-injure.

For me, the scariest thing about depression is how seductive it is. Just giving up, since nothing matters or will accomplish anything anyway, and letting myself turn out to be the failure and disappointment I know myself to be. (Says the depression voice.) And getting well, and staying well, and maintaining the wellness, can be so exhausting that it can be tempting to just chuck it all. So I can find myself fetishizing the experiences, the memories. The accessories – the things I used to self-injure, the dark rooms and shapeless clothes. The feeling of being insulated from the world, wrapped in cotton wool, removed.

That’s why these support groups scare me. I saw that article and I felt it in my stomach. I can close tabs and scroll past these things on the internet, but in a room, talking to someone, I can’t just put my hand over their mouth. Maybe this is something totally unreasonable, an unfounded superstition I have, but I feel like it might pull me back in.

No, Actually, Cracks About Mental Illness Don’t Make Me Want to Donate to Your Organisation

When I’m at home, I usually have a regional radio station that plays mostly classical music and some NPR on in the background. One of the features I happen to really like is Car Talk, a call in show about car issues which has been running for a number of years now. Car Talk is not without problems; sometimes I really cringe over the things said on the show, but it’s also sometimes really sweet, and funny.

They don’t just offer advice about cars, sometimes there are discussions about life problems, and I’m thinking in particular of an ongoing series which ran when a college student who was really confused and unhappy called in to the show to ask for help. Not only did they give great advice on the show, they read followup letters from readers in future episodes, and eventually got a letter back from the student, and it was pretty neat. Not just for her, but for other people in the same position who might have heard it and gotten something out of it.

I say this to set the stage for a promotion the station airs sometimes.

Car Talk sponsors a program called the Vehicle Donation Program. Basically, if you have an old car you don’t want, you can donate it, and the program will sell the car and send the proceeds to your radio station, and then you get to take a tax deduction. Car Talk has recorded a couple of promotional spots which radio stations can air to alert listeners to the existence of the program. Since public radio relies on support from listeners, stations want to make sure that people are aware of as many donation options as possible, and thus the local station airs some of these promos on a pretty regular basis.

Some of the promotions for the car donation program are cute and funny. Jokes about clearing the driveway of old jalopies, or trading in your gas guzzler for a car with better mileage, for example. Tom and Ray, the hosts of Car Talk, are good at silly patter.

One of them isn’t. It centers around the idea that people who are reluctant to get rid of old cars are ‘suffering from Vehicle Dissociative Disorder.’ Har har har, it’s so funny, get it?

Yeah, I don’t laugh either, and the radio station plays this promo all the time. I just…want to throw things every time I hear it. I wrote a letter to Car Talk and the station about why that promo bugs me so much, and why can’t they use the promos that aren’t so enraging, but I haven’t heard back.

I’m just one listener, right? What does it matter.

And I thought about the fact that the local station just ran their biannual fund drive, and how, honestly, one of the reasons I did not want to donate was because of this one promotional spot. This one thing, this casual ableism, is a barrier to me joining the station as a member. And the station could swap it out for a different spot, and solve the problem. Does the station care about not having my membership? I don’t know. And I don’t know if there are other listeners out there who are also choosing not to contribute to this station’s fund drive because of this promo, or who choose not to be involved with fund drives at other stations (Car Talk is syndicated) because of this promo.

I am not the only person who writes letters about things like this. And these letters are ignored all the time. Even when people organise a mass letterwriting campaign, it doesn’t seem to work very often. Sometimes, the consequence of saying ‘hey, please don’t use this language’ is having your letter presented for mockery, or being banned from the comments of a web site, or having people roll their eyes every time you start talking. It’s a hard thing to do, to say something unpopular, especially for people who keep doing it, and I have immense appreciation for people with disabilities and allies who communicate about this stuff on a regular basis, sometimes in very hostile spaces.

It never ceases to amaze me that we make up around one fifth of the population and, for the most part, we are treated as though we don’t matter and don’t exist.

Get Your Dance On

First, a note on how I curate content for this series: I specifically look for videos of reasonably good production quality, which rules a lot of things out. The reason that I do this is that I’d rather not trigger vomiting, seizures, or other adverse reactions to the videos posted here. I’m particularly concerned about videos that are really shaky, have sudden changes in volume, or have flashy things; unfortunately, a lot of the videos of disabled dancers I find are shot with handheld cameras which wobble all over the place or have weird background sound going on, so even though the piece is amazing, I can’t use it. It takes me a while to hunt things down and rule out candidates which are unsuitable and, yes, I always appreciate recommendations!

Reader Mo passed along this lovely piece:

The video opens with a bunch of apparently nondisabled people practicing in a ballet studio. The camera cuts to the outside, where we see an amputee roll up in a wheelchair. He looks in on the dancers, swings out of his chair, and goes into the studio, where he starts dancing with the dancers and then performs a splendid pas de deux (duet) with one of the women. The clip is from ‘The Cost of Living’ (2003).

Reader Janet brought up the question of gendering in some integrated dance pieces, asking specifically about wheelchair dancing with a woman in the chair, which led me to hunt down this video:

This piece, an excerpt from “the beauty that was mine, through the middle, without stopping” choreographed by Joe Goode (2007), is performed by AXIS, an integrated dance company based in Oakland. It’s a modern piece with a mixture of a variety of bodies.

A very short clip from ‘Spoke’, by the Touch Compass Dance Trust in New Zealand:

Finally, a short piece on cheerleaders at the Maryland School for the Deaf:

I happen to be a huge fan of cheer, so I thought I’d end on a high note!

Why SF’s Proposed Sit/Lie Laws Are a Terrible Idea

In San Francisco currently, there is something of a debate brewing about Mayor Newsom’s proposed sit/lie laws, which would make it illegal for anyone to sit or lie on any public curb or street in San Francisco (with a couple of exceptions).

The intersections with disability here are rather clear. For one thing, there are some intersections between homelessness and disability, because some homeless people are, for example, mentally ill or have disabling physical problems. Do either of these things make them unworthy of compassion, or not human? Of course not, but from the way this proposed ordinance is designed, it is, on a very basic level, criminalizing homelessness even more than it is already criminalized (not to mention socially stigmatized), while taking extra “common sense” steps to avoid citing non-homeless people for an offense. Observe the following response to concerns that SF police would begin to crack down on non-homeless people were the laws to go into effect:

During a heated, five-hour Board of Supervisors public safety committee hearing on the issue Monday, Adachi showed photographs of behavior that would be illegal under Newsom’s proposed law: a well-heeled tourist sitting on her luggage as she waits for a cab, a little boy sitting on a sidewalk clutching his skateboard, and tourists sitting on a curb and gazing up at the sights.

Assistant Police Chief Kevin Cashman said all of those people would be warned first to move and that none of them would probably receive a citation.

“Obviously common sense is going to be part of the training with enforcement of this statute,” he said at the hearing.

Ah, yes, “common sense.” Common sense, apparently, still makes the further stigmatization of homeless people de rigeur. Because apparently, they don’t deserve to sit down in public, unlike “well-heeled” tourists and neighborhood residents. I wonder what the response to a person with disabilities — tourist or not — needing to sit down on a public street might be? Someone waiting for an ambulance? While that is approaching a bit of a slippery slope argument (which I generally like to avoid), it is worth considering, simply because “common sense” will mean different things to different people — those whose job it is to enforce the statute included.

Also interesting is the framing of this ordinance in terms of concern for children. From one of the SF Gate articles:

Newsom, who bought a home in the Haight recently, was convinced to support an ordinance after walking along Haight Street with his infant daughter and seeing someone smoking crack and blocking the entrance of a business.

Certainly, children need to be protected from dangerous situations or potentially dangerous situations, but is an ordinance that criminalizes the poor and homeless — not all of whom are recreational drug users or addicts — really the way to do it?

Additionally, nowhere have I seen any plan to increase the number of homeless shelters or services for homeless people attached to this ordinance. The implicit message behind these proposed sit/lie laws seems clear: It’s too bad you’re homeless, but don’t you dare be homeless on our streets, because it might make our city look bad. Oh, and you certainly shouldn’t expect the city to help you not be homeless — even after it cites you for breaking the sit/lie law.

(Cross-posted to ham blog)