All posts by abby jean

Online University Course: Introduction to Disability and Diversity Studies

Please see below for a graduate level Introduction to Disability and Diversity Studies course I am teaching online in the Fall. I welcome students from across the U.S. and internationally. The course is offered via the University of Hawaii Outreach College for individuals who are non-UH students and non-residents pay the resident fee because the course is entirely online.



INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Megan Conway
Email: Tel: 808-956-6166


This course is designed for graduate students and professionals in a variety of disciplines concerned with disability and diversity issues. The course is open to currently enrolled UH students and to non-UH students (via the UH Outreach College).

This is a core course for the interdisciplinary Disability and Diversity Studies Certificate Program but can also be taken as an elective. Emphasis will be placed on introducing students to knowledge and theories about disability rights, policy, and culture from a diversity perspective in the context of multiple disciplines.

WHEN: Wednesdays, 1:00pm – 2:30pm HST, August 25th – December 8th


REGISTRATION INFO: (UH Students only) Fall 2010 CRN 77335; (Non-UH and UH Students via Outreach College) Fall Extension 2010 CRN 1237

WHERE: Via Elluminate (live online interactive sessions) and Laulima (online course materials and discussion board)

Signal Boost: Girls with Disabilities’ Event, Michigan, US

Girls with Disabilities’ Event
Michigan Disability Rights Coalition
DATE: August 13, 14, 15
LOCATION: Camp Cavell, Lexington, Michigan

Are you a high school girl with a disability between the ages of 14-19?
Would you like to meet other girls with disabilities from across the state of Michigan?

Then you need to register TODAY for Michigan’s girls with disabilities event: Her Power · Her Pride · Her Voice

As a group, we will explore what it means to be a girl teen with a disability, in today’s world.

You will challenge stereotypes and shatter myths about what it means to be a girl with a disability. The media and some adults are continually telling us how us how we are supposed to act, who we are supposed to be, and what we are supposed to look like. It is time for us to CHALLENGE it all.

At this interactive weekend, we will use art-based activities to learn from each other and how to teach the world how we see ourselves. You will find and use the your POWER. You will find your disability PRIDE. You will find your VOICE.

*This event is only open to high school girls with disabilities (any visible and/or invisible) ages 14-19.

For more information, contact the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition.

Bad Behavior, continued: More on School Discipline

s.e. smith recently wrote about abuse of autistic students in Pennsylvania and the distressing rise in abusive ‘discipline’ for students with disabilities. Ou mentioned a recent study from Delaware that found that students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended for ‘behavior’ problems than students without disabilities. Ou discussed some easy ways that a disabled student’s behavior could be categorized as disruptive and make them subject to discipline:

Are students suspended for not using modes of communication familiar to teachers? For needing to stand or pace while learning? For needing a quiet environment for learning, and for becoming upset when one is not provided? For needing orderly and precise schedules? For not completing assignments they don’t understand or find impossible to finish? For attempting to create and maintain personal space? For expressing any number of needs and needing a space where they are accommodated? For tics in the classroom?

I had all this fresh in my mind when, at work, I came across a recent report on school discipline in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Although one of the organizations involved in researching and preparing the report is an organization focused on mental health disabilities, the executive summary does not have any data or recommendations about students with disabilities. But it did have a couple of points that I found very interesting and thought were worth discussing.

The first underlines the point that s.e. smith was making in ou’s previous post – that disproportionate discipline demonstrates broader societal disregard for the targeted group. The report re-frames the student dropout crisis as a “student ‘push-out’ crisis,” arguing that discipline reform “requires respect for children’s dignity, meaning schools will not exclude, get rid of, or criminalize them for misbehavior or underachievement… If the policies and practices of every school were geared to fulfill their human rights, our children would not be excluded, tracked, and pushed out… [nonconforming] students are more likely than other students to be ‘pushed out’ of school and ultimately find themselves in the juvenile delinquency or adult criminal justice systems.”

s.e. said the same thing in ou’s earlier post:

This is a reflection of a lot of problems with the way society views and treats people with disabilities, and of serious inadequacies in the education system. Teachers who abuse students clearly should not be in the classroom, yet they are, and they are sometimes allowed to remain even after abuse is reported. Teachers who have received no training in working with disabled students shouldn’t be assigned to classrooms with disabled students, yet they are.

The primary focus of the report was highlighting the extreme racial disparities in LAUSD discipline. African-American students make up 22% of LAUSD students, but about half of disciplinary actions involve African-American students. These students were also more than twice as likely to be suspended than other ethnic groups. As the report concludes, “the gross disparities apparent in the past and current application of suspension to African-American students by LAUSD make clear that … the District employs practices that are inconsistent with federal, human rights, and state mandates.”

Although the report highlights racial disparities, it seems that one of the primary recommendations of the report would benefit all students targeted for discipline, including those with disabilities:

Priority: Share Power with Parents.

Recommendation: Share the first signs. Schools shall contact parents at the first sign that something is wrong with a student’s behavior so there is an opportunity to take preventative measures rather than wait until an issue escalates into a major problem.

Recommendation: Share planning and decision-making. Schools shall include parents on their [discipline] teams and give them equal say in decision-making and planning related to [discipline policy.]

Recommendation: Create shared trainings. The District and schools shall conduct [discipline policy] trainings jointly with administrators, teachers, and parents in the same room.

Recommendation: Enable parents to enforce accountability and transparency by schools. Schools shall establish parent committees to observe discipline practices, especially in the classrooms, play areas, and cafeteria. Schools shall make disciplinary data, practices and procedures, and outcomes and benchmark data available on a monthly basis to parents and the community so they can also monitor implementation of [discipline policy] and do whatever necessary to hold LAUSD accountable. The District shall effectively inform parents of what schools are required to do according to [discipline policy], and what parents should do if their schools are not following through.

A final thought: it would be very interesting to see data of discipline rates of disabled students of color. They must be through the roof.

Recommended Reading for July 7, 2010 – Louisiana renews request for mental health funding from BP

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is again requesting $10 million from BP to fund ongoing mental health services in communities affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, after a request made on May 28 failed to spur any action. In a second letter to Doug Suttles, BP America’s chief operating officer, Louisiana DHH Secretary Alan Levine asked the company Monday to set aside $10 million to support outreach efforts by the department’s Louisiana Spirit teams and pay for “a needed spectrum of therapeutic and psychiatric services” offered through local districts and community organizations. – Accessible technology for all students, including those with disabilities

Yesterday, the Departments of Justice and Education announced the publication of a joint ‘Dear Colleague‘ letter reaffirming the agencies’ commitment to ensuring students with disabilities have equal access to emerging technologies in institutions of higher education. The new ‘Dear Colleague’ letter is in response to the use of Kindle electronic book readers by certain colleges and universities. Kindle devices are not accessible to students who are blind or those with low vision. While many of the devices have a text-to-speech function, which “reads” on-screen print out loud, they lack menus and controls that individuals who are blind or have low vision can navigate. The Department of Justice recently entered into settlement agreements with colleges and universities that used the Kindle as part of a pilot project, and the Department of Education has resolved similar complaints against colleges and universities. As a result, the universities agreed not to purchase, require, or recommend use of Kindle devices, or any other electronic book reader that is not accessible, unless reasonable accommodations are made.

Arab News – Learning disabilities: A reality in the Kingdom

Learning disabilities (LD) affect around 4 to 10 percent of every country’s population, including Saudi Arabia. Considered a high incidence disability, learning disabilities represent nearly 50 percent of all disabilities. “In Saudi Arabia, we don’t have any valid standardized tool in Arabic that we can use to identify individuals with learning disabilities. However, based on the international prevalence rate, we expect to have a minimum of 215,000 students in our school systems struggling with LD,” says Dr. Saja Jamjoom, Program Manager for the Learning Disabilities Program at the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research based in Riyadh.

Discover Magazine Blog – New Nicaraguan sign language shows how language affects thought

In the 1970s, a group of deaf Nicaraguan schoolchildren invented a new language. The kids were the first to enrol in Nicaragua’s new wave of special education schools. At first, they struggled with the schools’ focus on Spanish and lip-reading, but they found companionship in each other. It was the first time that deaf people from all over the country could gather in large numbers and through their interactions – in the schoolyard and the bus – Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) spontaneously came into being. By studying children who learned NSL at various stages of its development, Pyers has shown that the vocabulary they pick up affects the way they think. Specifically, those who learned NSL before it developed specific gestures for left and right perform more poorly on a spatial awareness test than children who grew up knowing how to sign those terms.

Wheelie Catholic – Some thoughts on the 20th anniversary of the ADA

We’re in the midst of many changes, some good, some bad. As we celebrate our progress, cutbacks threaten our right to live in the communities we care so much about. Too many of our brothers and sisters with disabilities still remain in institutions, faceless and often voiceless. They can only dream of an opportunity like the disability blog carnival, in which our voices are heard. Each time we speak up for change, we help ready our communities for our children and others who may not be able to speak for themselves. We may not feel like doing it, we may do it and feel as if we’re unheard, or we may even be silenced by families and friends who fail to understand our unwillingness to suffer indignities. Despite this, we need to realize that showing up matters. The words that accompanied the signing of the ADA still ring in the air, even though we have a long way to go, especially with employment of people with disabilities.

The Tyee – Don’t Write About Me Just Because I’m Disabled

At other points in my life, such as when I was featured in an article in the Elliot Lake Standard, I have been portrayed with pity as well as having superhero status: “Though bound to a wheelchair, unable to move her limbs, her voice silenced by a severe form of cerebral palsy.” When I see myself portrayed this way, I feel uncomfortable because I do not want people to feel sorry for me. I do not feel mentioning my disabilities was necessary. By stating I was wheelchair-bound, the reporter made it sound as though I’m not able to participate in daily activities. The media places much emphasis on portraying people with disabilities as victims and heroes, which causes people with disabilities to feel they might not be normal unless they fit into one of these stereotypical categories. Others probably view people with disabilities the same way. This creates a distorted picture of our society.

Recommended Reading, June 30

A stick figure of a girl dressed in a superhero costume, captioned 'ANXIETY GIRL! able to jump to the first conclusion in a single bound!' The girl is thinking 'oh, god ... these tights are too tight. i think i'm gonna die!!'
A stick figure of a girl dressed in a superhero costume, captioned 'ANXIETY GIRL! able to jump to the first conclusion in a single bound!' The girl is thinking 'oh, god ... these tights are too tight. i think i'm gonna die!!'

Anxiety Girl, by Natalie Dee. Seen at Learning Log.

Danger Room blog at Wired – [US] Military’s Mental Health Treatment Leader Stepping Down

The director of the military’s top center for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries is resigning, after ongoing criticism of the facility’s inability to cope with the thousands of troops suffering from the “signature wounds” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton announced the decision to staffers at the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) on Monday, ProPublica is reporting. The center is at the crux of the military’s massive efforts in bolstering both psychological and brain injury-related diagnostics, treatment, prevention and research. Sutton was instrumental in creating the DCoE in 2007, and has held the top job ever since. The timing of her departure, which has yet to be publicly announced, is another indication of the armed forces’ messy, mismanaged mental health program.

restructr! – Keanu Reeves Is More Awesome Than You Think

Paul also told me that Keanu once explained to him why he was getting so many action roles. He had injured himself at some point and had fused vertebrae in his upper back or neck, so when he turned his head, his shoulders and chest tended to follow, because of his limited flexibility. “It makes me look dynamic, rather than disabled” was his explanation.

The Tyee – Canada Short Changes Mental Health

“There is a fundamental structural problem with the Canadian health care system,” former Senator Michael Kirby told a conference on Health of the Homeless today. “Mental health and addiction represent roughly 35 per cent of the disease burden in Canada, yet these illnesses receive only about 5 per cent of the resources,” said Kirby, who now chairs the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Kirby argued that this structural problem costs Canadian taxpayers dearly, and diverts treatment from other health care.

Sunshine Coast Daily – [Australia’s Sunshine] Coast Gets Funs Shot In Arm for Mental Health

MENTAL health services on the Sunshine Coast have received a $1.5 million shot in the arm. Queensland Disability Services Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland Health had identified the Sunshine Coast region as a priority area for mental health services. The funding will benefit two non-government organisations providing support to Coast residents recovering from mental illness.

Sydney Morning Herald – Call to Change Disability Bias of Migration Law

MICHELE NISINGIZWE breaks down when she speaks of her mother in Rwanda. The 28-year-old migrated to Australia with her sister seven years ago, fleeing genocide and rape. But the sisters, of mixed Hutu and Tutsi ethnicity, were unable to bring their mother because she had a disability. Gunshot wounds sustained in a civilian attack had maimed her legs. This week the federal government said it was overhauling migration laws that could refuse people on the grounds of a disability. Regulations caused a furore when they threatened to expel a German doctor, Bernhard Moeller, in 2008 because his son had Down syndrome. In the same year, a husband and wife working as renal nurses in Brisbane had to return to Britain because one of their four children had Down syndrome.

Electronic Medical Records

Ezra Klein, a columnist in the Washington Post who focuses on United States health policy, recently wrote a post about electronic medical records, arguing that it is absurd that we have not yet adopted their use:

The fact that it’s 2010 and we’re having a conversation about how to move records from paper to computers is evidence of how screwed up the American health-care system is. In part, you’re dealing with the fractured incentives in the system: It’s good for patients and good for insurers if doctor’s offices spend money setting up computer systems, but it’s not necessarily going to make doctors any money, and the doctors themselves are frequently older and don’t want to learn a new system. That’s one reason why systems where the insurer and the provider are the same — think Veteran’s Affairs or Kaiser Permanente — tend to be ahead of the curve on electronic medical records.

But even if the economic analysis makes you sympathetic, the end result is still absurd. Imagine walking into a bank where clerks scrawled all your information in a giant ledger book. You’d run out and tweet all your friends about this hilarious bank from the 18th century. But we actually let people do this with our medical records, and then some of us die or have serious problems because our records get lost or our doctor’s handwriting is illegible.

I have a few different perspectives on medical records. First, I’ve generated a significant number of my own records and have been annoyed and frustrated many times by the lack of coordination in the care I’ve received and the seemingly endless need to provide the same information over and over again. It does seem anachronistic to me to rely almost entirely on handwritten documents to track care.

For another perspective, I often gather, review and interpret the records of others to support their applications for disability benefits. Benefits programs have definitions of “disability” that require complicated analysis and review of a person’s entire medical record to pick out enough information to decide if they meet whatever the disability standard is for that program. And for the low-income folks I work with, who have choppy and intermittent access to health care that is usually spread out among a staggering number of disconnected health care providers, the task of coercing and cajoling the various doctors and medical facilities to copy the handwritten notes in a medical file is often overwhelming and sometimes Sisyphean.

If people get past the initial barrier of gathering the records, there is often an issue of actually figuring out what the damn things say. I know it’s cliche to joke about doctor’s handwriting, but in my experience, those jokes are founded in page after page after page of incomprehensible scrawl with a seemingly infinite series of baffling abbreviations and large sections that we sometimes cannot decipher even after 6 of us (including a doctor and a nurse!) spend an hour trying to make it out. I create my own indexes and chronologies and piece together when each medication started and stopped and when a diagnosis was made.

Sometimes, our clients have gotten medical services through the Veteran’s Administration (VA). The VA mails me a CD-ROM that loads the entire medical file in chronological order in typed PDF format, entirely searchable. (With the proper HIPAA-compliant releases, of course, you can’t just get people’s records from the VA.) Periodically, around every 6 months, the system automatically generates a list of medications and diagnoses in the records. The CD has the medical imaging on it, so I can get one of my experts to look at it. It is such a big difference that we sometimes squabble over the cases with VA records because they’re so much easier to deal with.

On the other hand, there are obvious and significant privacy concerns. I do not want it to be easy for an employer, law enforcement, insurance companies, or really any person or entity to whom I haven’t given direct and explicit permission, to get hold of my medical records or to be able to send them in an email in the blink of an eye. And given the existing level of ableism and discrimination, that is certainly an issue with life and death consequences for some people with disabilities. I do not know whether it’s possible to safeguard medical information to the necessary level while still allowing the accessibility and coordination that make electronic medical records so appealing.

Interpreters and Emergency Rooms

I recently came across a news article about a lawsuit by several d/Deaf or hard of hearing people who were denied interpreter services in emergency rooms. It sounds both infuriating and terrifying:

One deaf hospital patient in Jacksonville Beach said she was given a stuffed monkey instead of the sign-language interpreter she requested for hours. Feeling isolated, she finally asked nurses for something to hold.

Another said she thought she was being denied medical care because there was no interpreter to explain why they needed her to wait in a hallway at Baptist Medical Center South. She later learned hospital staff lost a list of sign-language interpreters her mother had given them.

A third woman couldn’t hear when emergency workers at Baptist Medical Center downtown called her name.

The three women are among seven hearing-impaired emergency-room patients suing Baptist Health Systems for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to provide qualified sign-language interpreters. The lawsuit was filed in federal court last week by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Legal Aid attorney Sharon Caserta,  who works with hearing-impaired clients, said the pattern of complaints at Baptist facilities from 2006 to 2009 indicated a breakdown in services that denied deaf patients full access to care.

She said the act requires interpreters or effective auxiliary aids to be provided if needed for communication with medical professionals. The U.S. Justice Department has interpreted the law to mean a one- to two-hour response time is reasonable after an interpreter has been requested, Caserta said.

In Northeast Florida, she said, that shouldn’t be an issue because of a half-dozen organizations that provide interpretive services and the proximity of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. But Caserta said her clients never got interpreters and, if they didn’t have friends or family with them, had to fend for themselves at Baptist facilities.

Many are now scared to return to Baptist or any emergency room, she said.

These problems are not limited to that hospital, or even to the United States. According to one survey in the UK, “70% of deaf respondents reported being unable to have access to an interpreter when they attended an accident and emergency department.”

These incidents would be bad enough if their impact was limited to the incident itself. Being denied the right to communicate in an emergency situation is beyond unacceptable. It denies people the right to understand what’s happening to them. It denies them the ability to consent to treatment or make any decisions or have any agency at all in their treatment.

Even worse, these incidents undermine the reliability and usefulness of the health system itself. As the article above mentions, many of the plaintiffs “are now scared to return to … any emergency room.” This is echoed by the UK survey, which found that “communicating with health care professionals was such a struggle that 28% of deaf people responding to one survey were left so confused and dissatisfied with their inadequate GP health care that they avoided seeking medical help.” These people have learned that the health care system is unwilling to communicate with them in their time of urgent need. Is unwilling to take the time or make the effort to treat them as autonomous people participating in their own care.

In a demonstration of intersectionality, the facilities and areas in the US that have the best policies and practices about providing sign interpreters to d/Deaf and hard of hearing people are those with good policies for accommodating people with limited English speaking proficiency. (I would expect the same holds true for non-US locations which accommodate folks who don’t speak the primary language.) These places have created an infrastructure where interpreters are available and staff are trained on how to access them, and they’ve prioritized communication access in their facilities.

Quick Hit: The Horrors of Solitary Confinement

When I first saw this post on the ACLU’s blog about solitary confinement for juvenile girls in criminal detention, I was so horrified that I opened it in a tab and then couldn’t look at it again for several days. When I read through the entire post, I cried. I believe that when the United States takes control of a person, whether in criminal or immigration detention, they take on an obligation to care for that person, or at least not put them in mortal danger. And that is simply not happening. On the contrary, the solitary confinement policies seem to target girls with existing trauma and/or mental health histories for further isolation and victimization.

[Trigger warnings for sexual assault and abuse based on disability.]

In June 2008, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit challenging inhumane practices at the Brownwood State School, a youth prison in central Texas. Girls at Brownwood are regularly placed in punitive solitary confinement in oppressively cold, concrete cells, that are empty except for a metal slab intended to be used as a bed. Solitary confinement is imposed for minor misbehavior, for self-harm or for expressing a desire to commit self-harm, and can be brief or can last for days, weeks and even months. It’s hard to imagine a more destructive reaction to a child in crisis, but it’s the norm. Unfortunately, these practices are not limited to Brownwood, or Texas, for that matter.

There are currently more than 14,000 girls incarcerated in the United States, a number that has been rapidly increasing in recent decades. Most of these girls are arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses and probation violations. Locked up under the guise of rehabilitation, girls nationwide — the vast majority of whom have been sexually/physically abused — are subjected to punitive solitary confinement, routine strip searches, and other forms of abuse. Meanwhile, they are denied the essential mental health care, education, and social services they need. Far from helping girls cope with the trauma they have suffered, youth prisons’ use of solitary confinement only retraumatizes them and further impedes their rehabilitation.

This is abundantly clear in a recent collection of testimonies from girls imprisoned in Texas juvenile institutions printed by Harper’s magazine this week. On newsstands today, the May 2010 issue features excerpts from ACLU interviews with incarcerated teenage girls. A few noteworthy excerpts include a girl who states that her crying is treated as “problem behavior,” another who was locked in a solitary confinement cell surrounded by her own vomit for over 24 hours, and perhaps even more disturbing, the following testimony from a girl in solitary confinement:

“A staff [member] gave me a pill, and he told me he was going to take me to get my meds. We ended up in this dirty room. It had pipes, buckets—it was dusty, it was nasty. I was like, I want to go to sleep, and he was like, You’re not leaving until we have sex. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know to scream, I didn’t know to do none of that stuff. I told him I wasn’t going to lie on that dirty floor, and he was like, Well, just bend over, and so—I didn’t know what he was going to do to me. I don’t know if he could’ve killed me and it would’ve been on the news: We just found a dead teenager at TYC and nobody knows what happened.

— 17-year-old, Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit

Recommended Reading, June 24 2010

Static Nonsense at I am Not – Exceptionally Creative [discussing the new study concluding that creativity and schizophrenia are related]

Awareness, be it of mental illness or physical disability, includes all of the effects, not just positive or negative. To ignore one in favor of the other strips the depth from the experience, and strains us not just individually, but as a whole. The experiences of an individual being erased doesn’t just harm them, but all of us because then the support and awareness that we all need to thrive are strained. And sometimes, they’re not offered at all.

Paja – Tangible Communication

We’re planning to create some ways of tactile communication, especially for people with impairments (physical or visual). For example, a squeeze on a stress ball generates a ‘Hello’ on a display to a person along with a tactile feedback on a glove, by way of inflation. The same principle can also be used the other way, where a typed mssage like ‘Hello’ inflates the respective Braille bubbles on a surface of the receiver.

Change Blog – Families [in the US] with Disabled Members Aren’t Raking It In

A new study published by the National Association of Social Workers shows that households that include an adult with a disability earn less per year and have a lower net worth than families without a disabled member. In studying more than 16,000 households, including more than 4,000 with a disabled adult, researchers from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Social Work and the University of Haifa in Israel found that regardless of family structure (single parent, married, etc.), households with disabled members faced obstacles, including attaining suitable housing and accommodating employment, that kept them from earning at the same level as households that didn’t include a disabled member.

Square 8 – Executive Functioning Blues

I put the items into a list. I categorize the list: Work Stuff (my job), Other Work Stuff (things I have promised to do that are also work, but I don’t necessarily get paid for them), Home Stuff (chores and bills), and Phone. Phone goes at the top of the list, then the bottom. Get it over with? Put it off until I forget or find it doesn’t matter anymore? Or just move it around? Phone goes to second on the list. There are a number of items under Phone and this is a problem. If I get to the first item under Phone today, I’ll consider it a victory. I realize that one of the Phone calls will be of an automated nature. I make that one right away, but it doesn’t count. I highlight it anyway, but I know better. I toy with the idea of sorting the rest of Phone into the three other categories, according to what the call is about. No, Phone deserves its own place in the Purgatory of the list, third place out of four.

Partners in Health – Wheeling Around Haiti

With knobby mountain bike tires and a sturdy, specially designed steel frame, Whirlwind’s RoughRider wheelchairs enable its occupants to go where conventional wheelchairs cannot, wheeling over broken pavement, rocks, roots, mud, and ramp-less curbs that are common  throughout Haiti and other developing countries. In fact, the non-profit organization designed the vehicles in collaboration with wheelchair riders in over 20 developing nations. The resulting design is a winner, at least for Lelan. “When we first rolled the new RoughRider into her yard, she began clapping and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, now I can go to church,’” recounts Whirlwind’s Rachel Kishton. “She took to her chair quickly and was downright fearless while rolling around her patio. She quickly started figuring out how to move into and around her house.”

Sweet Perdition – The Right Kind

Somtimes I’m the right kind of person; other times, I’m not. There is “good” or “bad” behavior involved, no secret way to stay on the right side of personhood. There are only the whims of others; whether you line up with them or not, ultimately, has nothing to do with you. You can be privileged to be the right kind of person, sometimes, but it is no skill you possess, nothing you have done. The only thing you or I or anyone else can do is stop chopping people up into pieces, into kinds. And when we are the right kind of person, we can recognize our luck-our privilege-for what it is.

Quick Hit: The Relationship Between Disability and Poverty, Part 1,293,495,594 in a continuing series

Did you know that being poor puts people at greater risk for disability? And that people with disabilities are more likely to be poor? And that there’s a very strong relationship between poverty and disability, the worst kind of vicious circle? Well, you probably do, especially because we talk about it a lot here, but here’s another study confirming that, from Wayne State University (bolding mine):

Dr. Bowen and Dr. Gonzalez said the study suggests that early socioeconomic conditions play a role in a person’s risk for disability that persists throughout the course of their life.

With much of the available literature on disability focused on the role of mid-life diseases, Dr. Bowen and Dr. Gonzalez took a unique life-course approach to the topic. “This study set out to determine if early life conditions contribute to the risk for developing a disability, and if so, what those risk factors are,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

The study utilized data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative study that followed more than 18,000 Americans 51 and older over the course of eight years. Using generalized linear latent and mixed-model commands for their statistical analysis, they examined the early-life parameters of parental education ranging from zero to 17 years, as well as the father’s occupation when the respondent was 16 years old. They factored in respondents’ social mobility — education, income and wealth — and health behaviors like smoking, drinking, exercising and body weight, throughout their lives, examining whether these factors mediated the effect of early life conditions. Analyses adjusted for the predisposition for certain forms of disability caused by characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity and disease, and tracked the changes from baseline measurements over the course of the study.

Dr. Bowen and Dr. Gonzalez said the study suggests that early socioeconomic conditions play a role in a person’s risk for disability that persists throughout the course of their life.

Our research strengthens the argument that poor conditions during childhood can put you on a path of heightened risk for health problems,” said Dr. Bowen, now a patient-safety research fellow at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Fla. “This isn’t to say that people who grow up with certain socioeconomic risk factors are going to be disabled, but it does provide evidence they will be at a disadvantage. This is most likely due to the lowered access to good nutrition and to important health information characteristic of people living in poverty.”

(Note: I can’t say I care for the implication that this is an education issue, which implies that it’s caused by volitional choices of people in poverty. I think it’s much more accurate to look at the constellation of socioeconomic factors which are strong determinants of health outcomes – stables and habitable affordable housing, financial and locational access to nutrition, and health care access – all of which are systemic issues, rather than individual actions. But the overall conclusions are, well, exactly what we already knew.)