Monthly Archives: May 2010
The DiaSpace project in Bremen is running a brand new quick (5 minute) online web study into how people give route instructions in dialogue. This will be our final call for participation so we hope you can take this study!
The goal is that our findings will help us develop more responsive wayfinding systems so that people who can’t manually control their wheelchairs can interact via dialogue instead. Another application which we’re working on is about helping elderly people find objects in their home by describing where they are in an understandable way. So it’s all in a good cause!
Please participate, and just as important, please forward this email on to your friends! We’re really having a hard time getting enough participants who are native English speakers, as DiaSpace is based in Germany. The only conditions for participation are that participants be native or very fluent speakers of English and 18 years old or older, and not visually or cognitively disabled.
The experiment only takes 5 minutes, and if you’re using Windows Vista, you’ll need to run it on Firefox, as it won’t work on Internet Explorer for Vista. (It works on Internet Explorer for other operating systems than Vista though.)
[I completed it and I assume it worked fine in Google Chrome.]
It also really is a very short experiment.
Comics and disability: XKCD and dyslexia, Natalie Dee and Tourette’s syndrome [I strongly recommend checking the comments on this one]
I’m not an expert in either of these disabilities. But I know enough about ableist jokes to recognize it when I see it: jokes that appropriate experiences and conditions without thought, without care, without any kind of redeeming value beyond a short laugh from a likely mostly able-privileged audience. And that is what both of the above instances look like to me.
I like both of these comics, and I’ll continue reading them. But this synchronicity of ableism was pretty disappointing.
The pressure to be a “Strong Black Woman” plays a huge role in the way many of us were taught to deal with stress. Related to the concept of a “Superwoman”, the “Strong Black Woman” appears to hold everything in her life together seamlessly. Yet, there is often nothing further from the truth.
Disabilities that directly rule out paid work** involve not only medical identity questions, but material consequences, too. Under capitalism, for example, everyone in the working class who is “able” to work — able to try to sell their labor power — is forced to do so in order to survive. People who are unable to work may or may not be sufficiently supported by governments and families, but regardless are often seen as burdens (unlike non-working owning-class people, whose mere existence and proprietorship are supposedly essential to a functioning economy). And so “disability” becomes its own system of distribution and class organization under capitalism. Welfare services help keep permanently unemployed disabled people alive (at least the ones deemed “worthy”), while both stigma and artificial scarcity of benefits help ensure that everybody else keeps working.
Well, I am not internet famous, and I don’t particularly aspire to be internet popular. So I am just going to say this, and I hope you will say it with me: not seriously considering your white privilege when you are repeatedly called on it, and calculatedly using cultural appropriation to make yourself seem marketable and “glamourous” is racism. And deleting comments that call you out on this behaviour is unsurprising, but equally shitty behaviour.
Almost a month ago, Worn Journal posted a condensed version of this interview on their website. It caused quite a stir, being linked everywhere from Jezebel, to Bitch Magazine, to Sociological Images. Today, if you haven’t already seen American Able somewhere in the blogosphere, you can catch it on the TTC in Toronto. And you can read the entire extended interview and article here!
70 books on feminism – note for ableist language throughout the piece. *sigh* And, of course, no books about disability & feminism. However, there are a long list of books there, and I know “what books should I read to get a taste of feminism” is a common question.
Oh, Miss Conduct. How could you?
The Miss Conduct column at the Boston Globe published on 2 May featured the following letter:
I eat a healthy diet and incorporate fruits and vegetables into all meals, especially dinner. I have instilled the same habits in my toddler daughter. We frequently eat dinner at my in-laws’, and no vegetables are served. Would it be rude if I brought my own for me and my daughter to eat? J.C. / Waltham
The response begins:
Yes, it would be rude. Very rude, in fact. Food isn’t just nutritional; it’s social. People with medical or religious dietary restrictions can ask to be accommodated, and vegetarians in carnivore families can bring a side dish (enough to share, of course). If you have bona fide needs, you can make those known and negotiate as appropriate. However, when you are welcomed into other people’s homes to break bread with them, you do not implicitly critique their hospitality and lifestyle by bringing your own preferred foods. The message you would send to your in-laws by bringing along your own vegetables is “My dietary habits are superior to and more enlightened than yours.”
Is it rude or isn’t it? It can, in fact, potentially be rude to bring dinner along to someone else’s house when you are invited to dinner, unless, as Miss Conduct points out, you have dietary restrictions and you make a prior arrangement with the host.
This includes dietary restrictions such as limits on the kinds of food young children can safely eat, however. Young children cannot eat all of the same things that adults can. Bringing food safe for children is not being rude1, this is simply parenting, and making sure that the best interests of the child are looked out for.
It’s also not rude, I would add, if you have young children and you are concerned that the host might not serve food they want to eat2. Which is perhaps the case here; maybe J.C.’s daughter loves veggies, and if that is true, then, yes, it actually would be appropriate to bring along some veggies for her.
Lauredhel also pointed out, when we talked about this letter, that, setting aside concerns about allergies and kid-safe foods, it’s not necessarily rude in all cases to bring food along to dinner at the in-laws. Dinners at the in-laws tend to be more casual, and offering to bring a side dish to such events might be perfectly acceptable. There are also some communities and cultures where guests are expected to bring food and not bringing food would be rude. Of course, writing letters to the paper instead of communicating directly with the in-laws could also be construed as rather rude.
Miss Conduct continues:
The message you would be sending your daughter by bringing along the vegetables is even more disturbing: “Every meal must be perfect. You must always have vegetables. You can’t eat something just because it tastes good or because it’s polite to.” It’s good to teach children healthy eating, but rigid perfectionism will lead to social problems down the line. Is your daughter to be allowed birthday cake? Pizza parties? When she is invited to a friend’s house for dinner, do you plan to call and check on the menu? Part of the whole point of eating a healthy diet is so that we can splurge once in a while, after all.
Reasonably good. Miss Conduct is reinforcing some problematic stuff about ‘healthy’ food, but she’s setting a strong tone when it comes to talking about what is being modeled for the daughter here. It’s worth noting, too, that family pressures can contribute to the development of eating disorders.
Finally, do a little Web searching on the term “orthorexia.” Some people can get so obsessed with a healthy, “natural” diet that they wind up developing an eating disorder. “Orthorexia” isn’t a clinical diagnosis, but the term, coined by Dr. Steven Bratman, has gained attention and legitimacy over the past decade. I’m not diagnosing you with anything (I’m not a clinical psychologist, and even if I were, I wouldn’t diagnose anyone based on a four-sentence e-mail). But spend a little time thinking about how you would answer two of Bratman’s questions: “Is the virtue you feel about what you eat more important than the pleasure you receive from eating it?” and “Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing you from friends and family?”
I really loathe it when advice columns do this. They just have to throw in a little armchair diagnosis. Robin Abrahams just had to add in a little ‘you know, perhaps you have a mental illness’ at the end, didn’t she?
This letter missed the mark in a lot of ways. Accusing the letterwriter of orthorexia instead of acknowledging the reasons she might have concerns about what’s on the dinner table? So not necessary.
- After all, I’m never offended when I have friends with young children over for dinner and the mother starts breastfeeding! ↩
- However, I would like to note that the good host anticipates the needs of all guests, and when people with young children are invited to dinner, the host should ask the parents if any food options should be provided. Some kids may like coq au vin just fine and be delighted with the menu, while others might prefer the option of some braised plain chicken, for example. ↩
While I can never deny loving YouTube vids of singing in Sign, I’d like to post some examples of other art created by people with disabilities. Today, I thought I’d link to some poetry.
I’m only going to quote a line or two from each poem, as I think it’s important to read the whole poem.
Until the Day by Laura Hershey
(Inspired by, and dedicated to, Constance McMillan)
Until the day
the two girls in tuxedos
Fallen by Elizabeth Switaj [In Black Market Review]
I am watching the angels break their skulls
They are not the angels
Above the Cafe, by Elizabeth Switaj
darken night with coffee
April Poetry by cripchick
if i had time to make a zine, i’d put all these poems together. april is national poetry month so a bunch of radical women of color poets and i attempted to write a poem a day. this is what came about for me (ones on the top are the most recent):
[There are 8 poems, I don’t want to quote just one.]
I would give…. by blackamazon [Trigger warning for description of self-harm]
I would give….
of ever being seen as beautiful
This is our weekly Chatterday! open thread. Use this open thread to talk amongst yourselves: feel free to share a link, have a vent, or spread some joy.
What have you been reading or watching lately (remembering spoiler warnings)? What are you proud of this week? What’s made your teeth itch? What’s going on in your part of the world? Got any questions for your fellow FWD commenters?
Today’s chatterday is hosted by a mantis, via The Daily Squee.
A note to commenters: Please, as with other threads, keep the length of your comments down. A usual guideline, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, is to stick to around three pithy paragraphs or so, and to avoid making back-to-back comments.
Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.
Photo by Flickr user The Workers’ Party of Ireland, Creative Commons license.
A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday approved a measure to remove the words “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal labor, health and education laws to help remove what supporters describe as a hurtful label.
The bill, approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would replace the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability.”
Karen Dolan at the Huffington Post: World MS Day-Give Us Jobs or Give Us Wheelchairs
For many years, none of my colleagues knew I had the disease. It is hard to detect unless debilitating symptoms such as loss of mobility occur. A few years ago, I began to use a cane to walk. I began daily injections of a disease-modifying drug called Copaxaone. Last year, my colleagues and friends helped me to buy a WalkAide which my insurance company, CareFirst, refused to cover. Now, I am on a new “miracle drug” Ampyra, that enables me to walk almost as a “normal” person for several hours a day. I am one of the lucky ones.I have a job and health insurance. I am beating MS rather than MS beating me.
Sharon Wachsler at After Gadget: BADD: Q&A on Being an Assistance Dog Partner [Yes, I am still catching up on BADD posts!]
Q: Who trained your service dog (SD)?
A: I did. Yes, me, a disabled person! I train my own dogs!
Q: That was sarcastic and overly emphatic. How come?
A: I get asked this question a lot, and it gets tiresome, especially because usually the question is put to me this way: “Who gave you your service dog?” or “Where did you get her/him from?” or “Who trained him for you?” or “Isn’t it wonderful that they [assistance-dog programs] do this?”
Sharon Weinberger at Nature: Airport security: Intent to deceive?
“No scientific evidence exists to support the detection or inference of future behaviour, including intent,” declares a 2008 report prepared by the JASON defence advisory group. And the TSA had no business deploying SPOT across the nation’s airports “without first validating the scientific basis for identifying suspicious passengers in an airport environment”, stated a two-year review of the programme released on 20 May by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the US Congress.
Kai Wright at The Nation: Counting on the Census
But the challenges the Census faces are both greater and more complex than the mechanics of a head count. Families like the DeLeons—young and brown-skinned migrants—are driving rapid demographic changes in the United States. Many of these new residents are uncertain about whether government is a source of support or a threat—the long arm behind immigration raids, detentions and record-high deportations. The answer becomes less clear as the right stokes an increasingly polarized debate over immigration. The tea party’s smears of the government as an intrusive, untrustworthy force are often vocalized simultaneously with the charge that government sold out “real Americans” in favor of “illegal” menaces. In October, Louisiana Senator David Vitter tried adding a question about immigration status on the stripped-down 2010 Census form. He hoped to spark a fight about whether undocumented residents should be enumerated at all. The Congressional Research Service countered that the Constitution clearly dictates that the Census count “persons” living in the United States, not citizens. But the question Vitter sought to force is one the modern Census—with its mandate of rendering a national portrait in hard, tangible numbers—cannot avoid: Who does and does not count?
Ruth at WHEELIE cATHOLIC: Who’s Counting?
I tell them that when I ask a stranger for help, I’m sometimes told “You should bring someone along to help”. My inability to do physical things is seen as an unacceptable burden, a bother to some very vocal people.
This kind of attitude is why we have warehoused people with disabilities in institutions for years, out of sight. It’s as if some in our society are afraid of what would happen in a world where people who need help getting straws out of paper covers were set loose. Do they imagine hordes of us hitting Starbucks at noon, causing havoc by holding up the line and asking “Can you open this for me?”
Since February our project team has been creating awareness of the Liberated Learning Youth Initiative, which strives to empower students with disabilities through access to a new Speech Recognition transcription system. During the project, participants will be given special user accounts where they will be able to upload recorded lectures and receive speech recognition generated, multimedia transcripts.
The call to participate is now available. Brief application forms for Students, Faculty, and Support Professionals are posted at www.transcribeyourclass.ca. This fall 2010 academic year, there will be 75 user accounts available. Given the project focus, applications from students with disabilities directly will have priority. Applications from Faculty and Support Professionals provide institutions with the opportunity to reserve an account, given that many prospective students are not accessible over the summer/not yet registered for fall courses.
We encourage you to review the participation criteria on the website, share this message within your institution and various networks, and apply to participate. Please contact any of our project team for assistance with the application or for more information.
We look forward to working with you.