View all posts by Anna:
September’s awesome disability carnival is up at Astrid’s Journal: Disability Blog Carnival: Identity.
October’s edition is scheduled to be hosted at Through Myself and Back Again, by lilwatchergirl. Keep an eye out for more details!
I’m still quite ill, and again, this is another pull from things I’ve been meaning to link since they were written. If there’s a theme (and my fever is a bit unclear on whether or not there’s a theme), it’s vaguely “disability-related discussions in places that are not specifically disability focused”, so please read with that in mind. Starred posts have video as well as written content.
rboylorn at Crunk Feminist Collective: This is Not a Fairy Tale: Black Women and Depression *
I have a confession to make. Despite my outward appearance and demeanor, some days it is a physical struggle to get out of bed in the morning. At least once a month I cry myself to sleep, to the point of waking up with puffy red eyes and hiccups. Dating back as far as I can remember (early childhood) my mood has always been generally melancholy, an oceanic blue. I experience bouts of depression that range from simple sadness to life re-considerations as predictably as season changes. It has become more manageable the older I get.
This feels like a confession because while I am only admitting to having moments of humanity and vulnerability, I am a black woman, and for me these realities are oftentimes seen as weaknesses. We (black women) are supposed to be strong. We (black women) are not supposed to break down.
I am considering, among other things: the figure of the disabled body as a problematic metaphor; the eroticization of medical apparatus as well as the disabled body; phenomenological prosthetics that transform consciousness of self in the world; the blurring of the always precarious line between medical-surgical discourses of necessary utility and rehabilitation and “elective” aesthetics and beauty; clothing (and shoes) as armor against access and intimacy; Seoul’s pink parking spots designated for women in high heels; and finally, this quote from Rosemary Garland Thomson
Rehana Mirza at Women & Hollywood: Why I Made Hiding Divya *
My sister, Rohi, and I have long fought against cultural norms — she, as the producer, and myself as a filmmaker. When I first started writing this film, it was because of Rohi’s friend, Rashi Shyam, whose father had shot himself. No one within the South Asian community even knew how deeply he was struggling with depression. No one acknowledged his depression even after that, when he was hospitalized. So we decided to make this film, hoping to de-stigmatize mental illness and bring awareness of the issue to all cultures.
LadySquires on viz: Excuse Me, But There’s Some Prejudice On Your Face:
Let’s take stock of everything that’s wrong with that, shall we? First of all, this line of critique makes several aggressively sizest assumptions about the relationship between larger body size, intelligence, and human worth. Furthermore, it eclipses the presence of the many progressives who happen to be fat (or poor spellers). Then we have the Flickr album labelled “Teabonics,” obviously a pun on the term “ebonics,” which was used for a time to describe African American vernacular speech. In other words, this pun posits a relationship between the quality of one’s grammar or spelling, intelligence, and worth as a human being, a logic that has historically been used to exclude African Americans and other minorities from the public sphere. Given the relationshisp between illiteracy and poverty, this is also a logic that erases anyone from a lower socio-economic background.
Colleen Hodgetts at Gender Across Borders: Prosecuting HIV in Germany
Nadja Benaissa, of the popular German all-girl pop group No Angels, has been charged in criminal court with grievous bodily harm and attempted aggravated assault. Her crime? Having unprotected sex with three men without informing them of her HIV-positive status. One of the men has since become HIV-positive as well. (The other two tested negative for the virus.) Although the singer is now 28, she was tried in juvenile court because her crimes allegedly began when she was only 17, the age at which she became infected with the virus. She faced a prison sentence of between six months and 10 years, but was given a two-year suspended sentence and 300 hours of community service working with those who are HIV-positive. Has this case educated the public to take strides against infection or further increased the stigma against HIV-positive people?
In The News
US: White Americans Living Longer with Muscular Dystrophy than African-Americans “A new study shows that white men and boys are living longer with muscular dystrophy due to technological advances in recent years, but that the lives of African-American men and boys with muscular dystrophy have not been extended at the same rate.”
US: Family Mourns Loss of Disabled Son “The family said his death was unexpected and an autopsy so far did not reveal a cause.”
US: Once You Know ‘Jesse’ Your Life Will Change “People see a kid in a wheelchair, or with Down syndrome or autism or any other kind of disability and think only of limitations. They forget about love.” (Yes, this review is everything you think it is from this particular quote.)
Late last week, PinkyIsTheBrain on tumblr began a campaign to bring attention to the new Investigation Discovery show “Who the Bleep Did I Marry?”, which equates someone being trans* with being a serial killer, a con artist, or a bank robber.
[Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Tumblr, it can be a bit hard to navigate. “Conversations” or comments or follow-up tend to be nested.]
Music plays in background: “Love and marriage, love and marriage”
The video opens on a scene of a wedding in an idyllic location surrounded by trees with an arbor of flowers. The camera zooms in on the bride, who turns and says:
(Marriage officiant in the background): Join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.
First Bride: Five years from now, I’ll find out that he’s a bank robber.
The camera cuts to a different couple, walking under a portico with their backs to the camera. The bride turns to the camera and says “Serial murderer.”
A zoom in on another couple, standing like they are being photographed with their families.
Third Bride (loud whisper): Russian spy!
Another couple, cutting a cake.
Fourth Bride: Cheater. With three other wives.
Another couple, surrounded by a crowd, the bride sitting on a chair while her husband kneels to pull off her garter.
Fifth Bride: And he’s a… a she.
We cut back to the original couple, kissing at the altar.
The closing shot is of a fancy black car driving away, trailing ribbons, tin cans, and toilet paper. ‘Who the (bleep) did I marry’ is chalked on the back window.
Marriage Officiant (sounding disgusted): Who the bleed did you marry?
Voiceover: Who the bleep did I marry? All new [episodes?], only on Investigation Discovery.
This is not just a ridiculous comparison, it’s a pretty damned offensive one that equates being trans* with being a serial killer – and once again equates being trans* with lying, which is the same argument that murderers make with they murder trans* people.
FuckYeahFTM looked up the contact information for the Discovery Network, encouraging people to get in touch and point out how bloody offensive and shitty this is:
Here’s more info about the show:
Who The Bleep? [Opens with sound & Video]
The other episodes they have include: Married to An Embezzler, The Biggest Con, Married to a Spy, Married to A Bank Robber
And they are including marrying a transman, or in their words “He is actually a She” on that level, with criminals and murderers.
Discovery doesn’t actually make it easy to contact them with concerns (I had to use a search engine to find the Contact page because it wasn’t anywhere on the Who The Bleep? page), so here’s how I did it:
32. How can I contact you with programming comments or questions?
We welcome your e-mail comments and questions, which you can send to us by clicking here.
This is the most efficient way to contact us. Comments or questions directed to anyone else at Discovery Communications will be forwarded to Viewer Relations, which means it will take us longer to follow up.
You can also write to us at:
One Discovery Place
Silver Spring, MD 20910
There is actually a lot of “required information” before Discovery will let you contact them. They want your age, your name, what network you’re writing about (Investigation Discovery in this case), post code, Cable provider, program time, and “information needed” (along with several other pieces of non-required information) before you can fill in your comment. I believe it’s five steps before you can tell them what your concern is, the site is very slow (at least for me), and I have no idea how accessible it is. (It does not like my computer at all)
However, reaching out and making it clear to Discovery that this stuff is not okay, that being trans* is not a crime, is not lying, and is not the equivalent of being a “Russian Spy” or a “Bank Robber”, is important, and I hope as many of you as possible will contact them and make that clear.
This is what I wrote, if you are looking for a template:
Hello Discovery Network,
I am disgusted and appalled at your decision to equate being a trans man with being a criminal, a spy, or a murderer. A trans man is not “really a she”. He is a man who married a woman. The decision of your network to “out” someone like this is especially dangerous, as many trans people are murdered for allegedly “faking” or “lying” or otherwise “cheating” their sexual partners.
I hope you will reconsider your decision to air such an exploitive, dangerous, and abusive program.
Again, here is Discovery’s Contact Form. I emailed them last week and have so far received only a form letter, but if we overwhelm them with numbers, surely they have to pay attention, right?
I’m clearing out my backlog of awesome posts that I meant to link oh-so-long ago, but really: This stuff is always timely, and always worth reading. Also, today is the Wednesday of our discontent because I’m sick and miserable.
Disability & Protests:
Laura Hershey: Last Word on the MDA Protests (At Least For This Year):
Yes, the Telethon was bad again this year, at least the bits I watched. One thing that continues to amaze me is how big a role Jerry Lewis’ big ego plays, all the way throughout the Telethon. Here’s one late-night quotation that I bothered to write down:
“This child in the [Boston] Hospital had muscular dystrophy, and I went to see him, and he smiled when I walked into the room, and he grabbed my hand, and he said, quote, ‘I’m glad I got muscular dystrophy, because that’s why I met you.’ I rest my case. If there are naysayers out there, and if they’re uncertain as to the validity of my soul, trust me – it was a moment in time that takes me through the program in 2001 all the way through 2010.”
John R. Polito: Charleston’s 20th MDA Telethon Protest
Forget for a moment the worthiness of the MDA’s cause. Instead, reflect on the consequences of pity based fund-raising that gets viewers to dig deeper and give more by making them feel superior and different, by using differing muscular abilities and muscle disease to foster sorrow, pity and tears.
Imagine painting life with muscular dystrophy as hopeless and dark unless the MDA can raise enough money to “find a cure.” Imagine the indignity of someone handing you money on Labor Day simply because your means of mobility is a wheelchair. As Harriet often asked, what is the cure for stigma?
Bad Cripple: New Ways To Create Social Change
Perhaps it is because I teach college students but I think the only way to make effective social and political change today is through online, multimedia, and creative civil disobedience. Here I am thinking along the lines as groups such as Improv Everywhere to far more obscure though no less interesting approaches taken by cripzthecomic. I suggest those unfamiliar with Improv Everywhere take a look at their “actions”. Some are very funny, others stupid, but the mass appeal cannot be denied. As for cripthecomic he recently posted about something he called “stair bombing”. This London Ontario based person went to a local school, spread about one dollars worth of caution tape across the entrance and posted a sign “Sorry, no access Stairs out of Order”. When I saw this I laughed myself silly! All I could think of was all the “No access elevator broken” signs I have come across in my life time. I also could not help but wonder did people circle the building looking for stairs that were not out of order. I cannot help but think this caused a stir–and made people think. And this, making people think and laugh, is exactly what disability rights has failed to do lately. If we can do this, make people think and protest in a way that appeals to young people who do not separate political change from humor we might be onto something big–we might be able to make disability rights cool.
Disability & Etiquette
Do not touch the damn chair! I do not know what kind of swoon overcomes the temporarily able-bodied, but they seem to forget everything they have learned about behaving in public when they come in contact with a person in a wheelchair. Do not touch the chair. Is it normally okay to mess with other people’s things without asking? No? Well, that is settled then. It is not your prop, leaning spot, or fucking toy. It is a tool, and part of a person’s personal space.
Do not touch the wheelchair user! For pete’s sake, if you would not normally casually touch a person, you do not get the right to do so when they sit down. It is okay to shake hands, the user of the chair will let you know if they do not want to or not able to do so. And I swear, if you pat me on the head, you may pull back a stump.
This particular one is very important to me because it shows a lot of the arguments used to invalidate the existence and identity of plural systems. They’re arguments that I have been fighting against for a long time and have forced me out of areas I had been a part of for even longer. These are the “skeptic” positions, the ones taken when people do just enough research to further justify their own prejudices. And if they’re not doing that, they’re spouting pseudo-science (fun fun).
In The News
Canada: Universal Pharacare Touted as a way to save billions [The last time I checked the comments they were pretty bad.] “But, above all, it says Canada pays too much for drugs – between 16 and 40 per cent more than other industrialized countries – in a bid to attract pharmaceutical investment.”
US: Haunted House Exploits Real Horror “While the number of people confined to institutions has dramatically declined since then, a plan to turn Pennhurst into a Halloween attraction suggests the stigma of disability has not been erased.” (Also ‘Pennhurst Asylum’ project is an abomination)
Today’s Recommended Reading focuses on Voting.
A blind voter has lashed out at politicians who chose mail-in ballots for an Oct. 25 Ontario city’s municipal election.
Geof Collis said he is “appalled” by the decision in Kawartha Lakes, in southeastern Ontario, which he says has “effectively discriminated against me and others, ensuring that my right to vote is neither private nor independent.
Faced with a mail-in ballot, he say: “How would it be possible to vote if you were blind without help from someone in one form or another?”
Canada: Voter access improved: city
Pauline Baker has always found it hard to vote for St. Catharines politicians.
No, she’s not particularly cynical about local politics.
The 68-year-old, who has multiple sclerosis and needs a scooter to get around, just has trouble getting into her local polling station.
“It’s not very accessible and it has been bugging me forever,” said Baker, who was left fuming outside a locked door at Prince Philip School during a previous election.
A wheelchair ramp led to the school’s side entrance, but safety rules prevented that door from being left open, even on election day. (A passing teacher eventually let Baker in.)
Tanzania: Disabled Persons Sidelined In Elections
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a two-day workshop last week to sensitize and educate people with disabilities on the forthcoming General Elections.
The workshop, which attracted about 100 special needs representatives from all regions in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, mainly dwelt on the Rights, Responsibilities and Roles of Voters in the country’s fourth multiparty election.
The UNDP election support project manager, Mr Oskar Lehner, said the government was duty bound to ensure special needs voters were equally involved in the entire election process.
Disabled people in Mwanza Region say they have not participated in this year’s General Election by contesting in various posts because of being stigmatized.
They made the remarks recently through the Nyamagana district chairman of the Tanzania Society for the Disabled, Mr Anthony Chacha.
Speaking to The Citizen after receiving five wheelchairs and
as many tricycles from the Mwanza City Council director, Mr Wilson Kabwe, he said the Tanzania society does not yet have confidence with disabled peoples’ ability to lead.
I am totally cheating and just reposting what Ouyang Dan said earlier!
Astrid, of Astrid’s Journal, has agreed after much consideration to host the September edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, and we at FWD/Forward are enthusiastic to support that decision!
Astrid has chosen the theme “Identity”:
Think of it as broadly as you want. Posts relating to transforming identities, are of course especially welcome, as they honor both themes. Just a reminder that, even though this is a disability blog carnival, we honor intersectionality, so racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and any other type of identities also count, as long as the post is somewhat relevant to disability.
Comments can be submitted preferably here or else at the Disability Studies, Temple U. blog. The deadline for submissions will be Tuesday night, September 21 – Tuesday night your time, so don’t worry about my living in Europe. I hope to post the carnival on Friday, September 24 – whenever it suits me, my time.
We hope you will consider submitting something for the Carnival. Remember, the theme is a way to get you started, and we hope that you will interpret it to how it applies to your own situation, keeping the general spirit of intersectionality in mind.
Again, thanks to Astrid for taking this on, because without volunteers, there would be no Carnival!
Be sure, if you haven’t already, to check out the August edition of The Disability Carnival at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, hosted by Kali.
Last week, Mathsnerd attempted to sign up for a new GoogleMail (know as Gmail elsewhere) account. I say attempted because this did not go well. At all.
Oh, wait, what’s that, Google? After trying more than three names, I have to go through CAPTCHA to prove I’m a real person? Okay, that’s kind of soon, but whatever. Gee, you sure scrunch those letters together and make them all wavy so that I have a real hard time figuring out what the hell you want me to enter…
Huh, okay, I’ve tried eight times, Google, and I can’t seem to read it well enough that you’re satisfied that I’m a real person. And while you offer a “read-aloud” accessibility option for the CAPTCHA down below for submitting the form (which, incidentally, doesn’t work in Chrome, yeah, you know, YOUR BROWSER!), for the CAPTCHA to keep trying different handles you conveniently don’t offer any alternate options.
Captcha is a sort of Challenge that a user must pass when a program thinks that the user might be a spambot instead of a person. Wikipedia’s article looks useful if you want to learn more about it. It’s certainly not the only Challenge software out there, but it is one that is widely used, especially by Google-related products, such as their web-based email and their blogging software, Blogger. In fact, Google likes Captcha so much they bought the company in 2009, making Google responsible for implementing their accessibility policy.
Some Captchas, including the ones used by Google, have an audio option. I’ve occasionally tried to use the audio Captchas, which are a series of numbers read outloud with a large amount of background noise, designed, I assume, to keep an automated system from being able to distinguish the Challenge. I’m an experienced audio typist, so while I found this irritating, I could cut through it. Earlier this year, Blind Bargains did a study and found that 73% of blind users were unable to succeed at the Captcha Challenge – and blind users, according to Google and Captcha, are exactly who the audio function is designed for. 1
Google has an Accessibility Feedback Form. In order to use it, you must have a Google Account. Depending on any number of factors, your attempt to get a Google Account to discuss their accessibility problem with Captcha could require you to pass a Captcha Challenge in order to prove you are an actual person.
Actually, let me highlight that: In order to tell Google about their problems with accessibility, you need to be able to pass through the inaccessible Challenge.
Those of you who already have Gmail or GoogleMail accounts, you can contact Google to raise your concerns at their Accessibility Feedback Form. The Feedback form has a lot of fields to fill out. I just filled out the one that I felt was most applicable, and it went through without requiring me to put in any more information.
Here is a template you can use. Please feel free to use, edit, or adapt this for your own purposes.:
I was very distressed to learn that Blind users and users with other disabilities were having difficulties in signing up for Gmail accounts through the Captcha challenge. One user has detailed her experiences here: http://accessibility-fail.dreamwidth.org/33494.html , and as well, Blind Bargains reports 73% of their users had difficulties with using the audio version of Captcha: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=5383
I know that Google wants to be a more accessible service for users around the world. I hope that the accessibility people at Google will have the opportunity to look into these complaints and work with various people with disabilities in order to solve these problems.
Thank you for your time.
This is an issue that cuts to the heart of the problems with inaccessible web content. Obviously there are thousands – maybe millions – of blind or otherwise visually impaired users of the internet, but in this increasingly-flashy internet age, where not only information but job applications are going increasingly online, web accessibility is a huge barrier to people’s participation in society. Google, as we all know, is a huge multi-national company with the ability to make an incredible difference by working with users with disabilities in order to make the web more accessible to us. By contacting Google, you will be adding your voice to the chorus asking for greater web accessibility.
- Thank you to Codeman38 for bringing this study to my attention. ↩
We’re reaching out across our bi-coastal networks to move to the Bay, specifically Berkeley because of the level of access that can be found there for disabled folks. This is a huge, complicated and multidimensional decision that we have struggled with and we will be writing more about it to you, our loved ones and family, in the coming months.
But right now we need you. We need help finding a place to live and creating a community careshift collective.
Check for more information about what Mia Mingus & Ms Crip Chick need at Leaving Evidence (mirrored at CripChick’s blog), and also check out the Book Sale at thaura zine distro: Revolutionary Love is More Than a Catch Phrase. There appears also to be an etsy sale in the works, so please keep an eye out for that as well.
CripChick also has a list of books she’s giving away, as their new digs won’t have room for all the books (woe).
For myself, I have only recently become aware of the amazing work that Mia Mingus does, but what I’ve read at her blog, Leaving Evidence, from hearing about her work this year at the Allied Media Conference, I am blown away by her passion, her drive, and her love. CripChick’s work I’m more familiar with, especially her work with young people with disabilities, as a youth organizer and a radical woman of color. Both of their blogs are outstanding, and as well they are also both heavily involved in community organizing and disability solidarity.
I know things are tight all over, but much of the help they need is not just in money, but in support and information. Check out what they need!