About Anna

View all posts by Anna:

Signal Boost: Personal Successes: Unlimited Potential eBook from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

(via email)

How would you define success in your own life? This is a very individual question, and there are many different answers, both large and small.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians collected success stories from blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians. These success stories were on any topic, whether on employment, community involvement or conquering your own personal goals. Most importantly, these success stories differ from others that tend to reinforce the “superhero” notion of disability, by highlighting the often simple and realistic techniques we employ to complete everyday tasks and achieve our goals.

We hope that this collection of stories will, on the one hand, educate the public by painting a more realistic image of blindness, and on the other, encourage those who have recently experienced vision loss to work towards their goals.

Visit Personal Successes, Unlimited Potential to download your copy of the book today!

AEBC continues to collect success stories from blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadians. Do you have a story to share? What do you constitute as “success” in your own life? Please email your story to info AT blindcanadians DOT ca.

Recommended Reading for November 11, 2010

Wheelchair Dancer: Wheelchair Shawty

How can we go there, again, without looking at the work of black disabled artists? Why is this move/dance a trend in the clubs and why not the moves of actual disabled artists? Don’t know who is out there? If you want to get started, check out the work of Leroy Moore. His Krip Hop Nation is one of the places where black disabled hip hop artists can be found not depicted as isolated individuals doing their thing, but, rightly, as powerful artists who have a culture, tradition, history, and place in the world.

Call For Submissions: It’s All In Her Head

I am seeking first-person, literary non-fiction essays from established writers and talented emerging voices detailing your experience with a mental health issue, and how you’ve learned to make peace with it. Although your essay may (and should) reveal the truth about what it is/was like to live with your particular challenge, I’m looking for contributions that have a positive and/or hopeful tone (humor is more than welcome), with concrete examples of how you’ve managed to be productive, successful, satisfied, and yes, happy–or at least content. It’s All in Her Head will both acknowledge the severity of treated and untreated mental concerns and also share women’s strategies for taking care of themselves and restoring themselves, given the tools at their disposal, from pharmaceuticals to meditation, and everything in between…the winning cocktail that gives them some measure of mastery over their lives.

Dave Hingsburger at Rolling Around In My Head: Service Interrupted

Purposeful exclusion,’ I said, ‘there is no way anyone could design this, approve this and build this, without knowing that people with disabilities will never be able to use it. That makes it purposeful. The fact that only certain people can now use it make it exclusion.’

‘I’m sorry,’ she said but I interrupted.

‘This is bigotry in concrete, this is prejudice made of steel and glass, this is how builders and designers and hotel managers spit in the face of those with disabilities. They knew, they didn’t care, they did it anyways.’

Lene Anderson at The Seated View: Old Game New Name

I know two people who have loved each other for a long time and who want to get married. They’re both capable adults, both single, nothing stands in their way. Well, except for the fact that they both have a disability. Because in Ontario – as well as any other province and country I know of – if you are in receipt of public assistance because you are what they so wonderfully called “unemployable” due to a disability, you lose your assistance if you get married or move in with your love. Social assistance also comes with coverage for medication and equipment, such as wheelchairs. Even if you could get a job despite the barriers in education and employment that are huge contribution to the upwards of 85% unemployment rate among people with disabilities, you’d need a very wellpaying job to be able to afford not just the regular expenses of living, but things like medication and equipment (a wheelchair cost $12,000, three quarters of which I paid myself) and all the other expenses that come with having a disability. Essentially, you’re forced to stay on assistance even though you’d rather be working. And that means that you’re forced to be financially dependent on someone, either the state or your spouse. Everyone can marry here in Canada, even same-sex couples. But people with disabilities are in effect not allowed to marry.

Anna Huebner at Access Tourism New Zealand: How A German Town Improved Access and Revitalised Itself

A wide range of facilities in Dahme now grant free ‘Accessibility for All’. Amongst other such facilities, a barrier-free swimmer’s pool was opened last year, the tourist information centre moved into the town hall (now providing a barrier-free entrance), a hotel in the city offers a large number of accessible rooms, access has been created to major city sites (e.g. to the castle ruins and the abbey), the town sports-centre upgraded its tennis court, and dropped kerbs have been created.

The regional tourism marketing advisor, Ursel Ochs, highlights the advantages: “accessibility means quality of life for all population groups. Older and disabled people, young families with buggies and younger children, and also cyclists profit from barrier-free facilities – it has become a market segment”. Future projects are already in planning. In 2011, for example, the main street is to be reconstructed, providing opportunity to develop barrier-free entrances to the shops along the road.

By 11 November, 2010.    recommended reading   

Honorable James Mwandha, Disability Rights Activist, has died

Via email from the Global Partnership for Disability and Development

Dear Friends,

I have received the shocking news from Uganda of the Death of Honorable James Mwandha. He has been suffering from Post Polio syndromes and Pressure. The World Disability Movement has lost an Asset. May his soul rest in eternal peace. I kindly request One Minute of Silence in recognition of the work done by Mr James.

Personally Mr Mwandha inspired me and he always welcomed My ideal of inclusion of youth with disabilities in the development programs.We shared the same name and he used to tell me in workshops that work hard to impact the world.

From 1989 to 2006 Mr James served as a Member of Parliament in Uganda, representing People with Disabilities. In Parliament he belonged to several Parliamentary Committees some of which he Chaired.

He was instrumental in initiating legislation for the protection of rights of Disabled Persons in Parliament. He was leader of Uganda’s delegation to the United Nations (UN) Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention on the Rights and Dignity of People with Disabilities from 2002 to 2006. He was a member of a group of Parliamentarians and ex-Parliamentarians who contributed to the compilation of the Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published by the inter Parliamentary Union.

At the time of his death,Mr Mwandha has been the Chairman of the Commonwealth Disabled Peoples Forum (CDPF) made up of Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) in the 53 Commonwealth Countries to advocate for the rights of Disabled Persons and promote the ratification and implementation of the Convention.

In Uganda, Mr. Mwandha has been the Chairman of the National Steering Committee on the implementation of the African Decade for People with Disabilities 2000-2009 and Chairman of the Uganda National Action on Physical Disability, a National DPO in Uganda and actively engaged in disability rights advocacy in Uganda.

Yours in Disability Services.
James Aniyamuzaala, Rwampigi
Human Rights programme coordinator
Youth with Physical Disability Development Forum

By 11 November, 2010.    deaths   

Recommended Reading for Wednesday, November 10

I am apparently a month behind as I originally dated this for October. Oh self. If it were October, I wouldn’t be so far behind! Wishful thinking?

Captain Kitt at A Gentle Nerd of Leisure: Our Mental Health System? More Mental than Healthy! (Note this post also includes discussion of eating disorders, self harm, and sexual assault but mostly focuses on experiences within the Australian mental health system) (via vass)

Thing is, often those services are really hard to access! I’m great with search engines – thanks to a librarian Mother – so it’s easy for me to find where the services are. Actually getting help from them? Not so easy.

Laura Hershey at Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis Community: Fairness for Attendants: Enacting Justice in an Unjust World

We can start by acknowledging the profound disconnect between the importance of the work and the compensation it offers. In understanding and analyzing this, we can call upon a radical understanding of how disability justice and worker justice intersect. Providing hands-on personal care has acquired over the years an aura of sentimentality. People are assumed to do such work out of pure compassion (which translates as pity), or because “it’s so rewarding” (rewarding in a vague, emotional, non-material sense). Within this framework, disabled people embody neediness, while support workers cheerfully fulfill our needs. Disabled people are passive objects of support workers’ active “caregiving.”

Elizabeth McClung at Screw Bronze: Aren’t You Proud?

We are, disabled and Able Bodied, all types of bigots, and one of the most supported forms of bigotry is how we encourage each other to give in to our fear of illness, and altered human function and form. Drool, and averting the eyes is ‘doing you a favor’ – haha. Yes, because having everyone glace, look away and then talk about you, because your being alive makes them uncomfortable is helping me? No, helping them. It is no different than spotting who the odd one is in grade school, and somehow, they end up with no friends. They are stared at. They are, as you will well know if you were one, asked, “Why do you keep coming?”, and the idea of invitation to a party, or even having anyone show up at one you host is laughable.

crabigail adams at if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit here by me: i am disabled

of course, this is a fixed income. if i find one day that it’s not enough money to get by, i don’t have any options. i can’t apply for a better-paying job. i can’t further my education in hopes of a professional career & the attendant boost in income. this is it. & there are other caveats as well: if i ever decide to live outside the united states, i lose my disability money altogether. if i ever get legally married, the government will pull the extra money i get from the disabled adult child program & i’m back to just my $525 or so in disability money. i would have to rely on my partner to support me financially, which is a lot to ask of someone, & which is something that makes me very uncomfortable. i’m not sure what the rules are around having assets (ie, if i were to sign a mortgage, even if i wasn’t the sole person responsible for paying down the mortgage). i’m not sure how social service programs i may be eligible for if i were to have a child (ie, WIC) would impact my social security income.

Casekins at If My Hands Could Speak: Martha’s Vineyard – Utopian Society (Caseykins is not Deaf – I’m linking this because the history is very interesting.)

The prospects for deaf people on Martha’s Vineyard were completely different. Many of the former residents of the island were interviewed, and they paint an idyllic picture of what it was like to live in Martha’s Vineyard during this time. Because everyone had a deaf family member, everyone in the community knew sign language. Deaf people were farmers, store clerks, anything they wanted to be. Hearing people would sign to each other over the large expanses the island farms created, a deaf person could walk into a store and the clerk would always know sign. Deaf people were even elected to high political office, becoming mayors and council members for the island, a thing unheard of in the rest of the country. When telling stories about the community, the people who were being interviewed could only remember after much prompting if the people they were talking about were hearing or deaf.

I’m closing comments on this one because I’m hip-deep in alligators (do people still say that?) and I always feel bad when people’s comments sit on Recommended Reading posts for days until someone can look at them.

Record of the Dead for October 2010

Please note that this list focuses on the murder of people with disabilities.

This list of October 2010 media reports about people with disabilities murdered or dying under strange circumstances is presented without commentary, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing people may want to discuss about it in comments. I do not believe for a moment that this list is complete. It is sorted alphabetically by last name. Almost all links are to news reports.

Salvatore Agostino, 73, undefined disabilities, Tampa, Florida, October 20. “Upper body trauma”, Agostino’s store was robbed as well.

Karandeep Arora, 18, blind with difficulties walking, Delhi, India, October 24. His parents strangled him before killing themselves. [More details about this case.]

Alan Atkin, 62, undefined disabilities, Darlington, United Kingdom, April 2010. Beaten to death in his home. [More about this case]

Zahra Clare Baker, 10, Deaf, cancer, prosthetic limb, Hickory, North Carolina, sometime after 9 October. As of this writing, Zahra’s body hasn’t been found.

Jessie Buchsbaum, 17, learning disabilities, Boyertown, Pensylvania, October 25. Jesse committed suicide after being bullied by classmates for being disabled.

Damian Clough, 12, autism and “learning difficulties”, Keighley, England, April 4, 2009. Died in a deliberately-set house fire. The inside handle on Damian’s bedroom door had been torn off. [More details about this case.]

Byron DeBassige, 28, schizophrenia, Toronto, Ontario, February 16, 2008. Shot by police in a confrontation over two stolen lemons.

Mario Eder, 55, spinal cord injury, speech difficulties, unspecified cognitive disability, Waianae, Hawaii, US, October 1. House fire.

Linda Gibbs, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, October 5. Hit by a car while crossing the street.

Brian Goh Kah Heng, 19, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, October 23. Severe internal injuries and bruises, ruptured spleen and severe injuries to his anus. The care center where Goh was living has since been closed.

Kevin Geyer, 19, undefined cognitive disabilities, Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, October 26. Shot in the back during an apparent robbery.

Francecca Hardwick, 18, “severely disabled”, Barwell, England, 2009. Mother killed herself and Francecca after years of bullying, police are currently being sued for not doing anything to end it.

Ernie Hernandez Jr., 37, “developmentally disabled”, Modesto, California, August 14. Stabbed to death.

Philip Holmes, 56, undefined physical disabilities resulting from a work-related accident, Rhyl, Denbighshire, United Kingdom, April 16, 2010. His body was discovered by his caretaker, having been “severely assaulted.”

Patrick Johnson, 18, “had the intelligence level of a 5- to 7-year-old”, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died after police used a “stun gun” twice on him, after being called to assist the family.

Courtland Lucas, 32, heart condition & pacemaker, St. Louis, Missouri, May 25, 2009. Died in jail because he was not given the medication he needed to survive. Other cases of people with disabilities in prison not receiving the health care they needed are also discussed in the news report.

David Lauberts, 50, undefined disabilities, Greeley, Colorado, Sept. 25, 2009. Apparently died sometime before the house fire his brother set to hide the death, Lauberts was found to have bedsores that had eaten through to his bones.

Jonathan Lowbridge, 20, undefined psychiatric-related disabilities, Reading, Berkshire, UK, May 23, 2008. Lowbridge was a voluntary patient who was supposed to be under close supervision due to suicide attempts, he escaped from the hospital and killed himself.

Shannon McLean, 39, “a rare disorder that left her immobilized and in bed nearly 24 hours a day”, Caesarea, Ontario, October 3. House fire.

Wieslawa Zofia Pytlinski, 57, undisclosed disabilities, Knox County, Tennessee, October 4. She died “of multiple blunt force trauma to the upper body”, murdered by her boyfriend.

Donnie “Butch” Phillips, 50, “developmentally disabled”, Wilkesboro, North Carolina, September 29. Choked to death on an outing from his group home. His caregiver has been charged with second-degree murder.

Brian Sinclair, 45, “double amputee with a speech impediment”, Winnipeg, Manitoba, September 19, 2008. Died of a bladder infection while waiting in the emergency ward of Winnipeg’s largest hospital.

Jaffar Shah, “lost his legs in a car accident”, Nazimabad, Sindh, Pakistan, October 22. Shah, a disability rights activist, was shot while playing with his 2 year old son outside his home. His death sparked multiple protests.

Joanne Sexton, 56, undefined disabilities that included being hooked up to oxygen tanks, Springfield, Massachusetts, October 19. House fire.

Henry David Vernon, 55, “deaf, mute, developmentally disabled and mentally ill”, Tacoma, Washington, July 29, 2009. Hyperthermia while in a group home. His temperature had reached 107 F/41.7 C.

Leonard Alfred Willson III, 53, paraplegic, Bath, South Carolina, sometime in the week before October 7. Murdered. Two people have been charged in his death, one of whom Willson was tutoring in school.

Lemuel Wallace, blind and cognitive disabilities, Baltimore, Maryland, February 4, 2009. Gunshot to the head. “A year and a half after Baltimore police uncovered a murder-for-hire scheme in which they say two men conspired to kill a blind and mentally disabled man for insurance money, detectives believe they have found the man who pulled the trigger.”

News Reports regarding allegations of abuse in long-term care homes:

Group Homes Owner Faces Loss of License

  • Failing to prevent a Northwest Care resident with a known history of drinking potentially harmful liquids from doing it twice: first a bottle of floor cleaner and later a 1.75-liter bottle of mouthwash containing 26.9 percent alcohol. The resident was hospitalized after the mouthwash incident with a blood-alcohol level of 0.42 percent — more than five times the legal limit
  • nadequately supervising group home residents, including three who were left alone at a community basketball game; one who was left in a hot, locked car and unable to get out while a staff member went shopping; and another who was found wandering in the street at 3:30 a.m. after a staff member had fallen asleep.
  • Locking a Northwest Care resident alone in his room for two hours despite his reported screams to be freed. Investigators said the facility had previously used this type of discipline in violation of state law and had reversed the resident’s door handle so it could be locked from the hallway.

Daphne Campbell: Big Debts, Shady Dealings

  • M.C., 48, “mentally challenged” and schizophrenia, died after being raped, October 12, 2006
  • In April 2006, a resident at a home in Lehigh Acres was admitted to a hospital with a facial cut and a fungal infection. He passed away soon after.
  • In July 2006, a resident at the same property perished after choking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • In August 2006, a man living in another of the Campbells’ group homes in Miami expired of a suspected bowel obstruction two days after entering a hospital.

By 10 November, 2010.    deaths, domestic violence, Record of the Dead   

Disability Activist Annie McDonald has died

I have only just learned, via Vass, that Australian Disability Activist Annie McDonald died late last month at age 49.

Annie has gone but her legacy and fighting spirit live on

Annie was the tiny girl with severe cerebral palsy, institutionalised since three, whose intellect was assumed to be as dysfunctional as her body until, with Rosemary’s help, she persuaded the Supreme Court she had the wit and maturity to decide her future.

It was a huge story. When Rosemary cradled 18-year-old Annie – then the size of a five-year-old and weighing just 16kilograms – and helped her fight violent spasms and guide her hand to spell out her wishes, who was really speaking? ‘‘It was like the Lindy Chamberlain case,’’ recalls one old friend. ‘‘Everyone had an opinion.’’ The notion of intelligent life trapped in such a body distressed, and for many, including some of Annie’s family, beggared belief.

The court released Annie from St Nicholas’ Hospital – ‘‘hell’’, she called it – and she went home with Rosemary and Chris. There the book ended, but not Annie’s story. What happened next spills through the colourful rooms of their house.

By 5 November, 2010.    deaths   

Accessibility is Not An Individual Problem

If you spend a lot of time talking or writing about accessibility, someone will eventually tell you this apocryphal story:

When Steven Hawking (and it’s always Steven Hawking) started teaching at Cambridge, they needed to put in ramps in all of the buildings, since they all had those beautiful huge sets of stairs as the only way in. One security guard (and it’s always a security guard) protested. “What are you doing that for? I’ve been working in this building for 30 years, and not once have I seen anyone in a wheelchair come through those front doors!”

(I know when people tell me this story I’m supposed to laugh. It’s kinda hard, though: I’ve basically been told exactly that by university administrators; professors; graduate students; student representatives; municipal, provincial, and federal candidates and elected officials; bus drivers; taxi cab drivers; small business owners; large business owners; Fox news commentators; bloggers of a variety of political stripes; apartment building managers; independent book store staff; national chain bookstore staff; people who run on-line campaigns, tea shop staff, coffee shop staff….)

I think what I’m supposed to get out of this story is the ha-ha, look at the ignorant person.1 What I end up getting out of this story is that the burden of pushing for something to be accessible pretty much consistently falls on people with disabilities themselves. We have to ask because no program, no building, no website, will be willingly designed with the idea that people with disabilities are part of a broader target audience. Only websites, buildings, and programs aimed right at people with disabilities will do so. 2 (Until laws are passed, of course. And even then the law will be only grudgingly followed.)

Accessibility is often treated like a favour that non-disabled people do for (or even to) disabled people, one that is given out of the goodness of one’s heart. It’s an individual’s problem to bring up, and the solution is for individuals to come up with.

This attitude comes up in lots of different ways, both online and off. To focus specifically on what larger entities do:

– The issue of subtitling the political ads on YouTube is brushed aside because D/deaf people apparently don’t complain enough about subtitling for politicians to bother subtitling their ads.

– I am on the planning committee for a conference and was told that if actual disabled people signed up for the conference they would bother moving one of the events to a wheelchair accessible space, but otherwise they’d keep it in the room down a flight of stairs because it’s a nice room.

– As I have also pointed out before, having your requirement for receiving funding to complete your education being “student leadership” while simultaneously telling students with disabilities that they’re not able to attend events that are sponsored by the university (which is what having your event up two flights of stairs not suitable for “the very elderly or disabled” is doing) is telling students with disabilities that they can’t get the funding to complete their education. And yes, student funding in Canada is increasingly tied to poorly-defined “student leadership.”

When I point out these issues, I’m often told that these are individual problems: D/deaf people need to complain more! More people with disabilities need to attend conferences! Here, let me give you a list of individual solutions! It basically asks people with disabilities – people who already have a lot on their plate – to do more. And it often puts people in the situation where they may find a solution for themselves, but it’s one that leaves everyone else – whether friend, ally, or fellow traveler down the road – to sort out their own individual solution. To re-invent the wheel every time.

This isn’t the way this needs to work.

How it needs to work: Assume people with disabilities exist. Just like we assume people without disabilities exist.

So, politicians should make their political ads with both disabled & non-disabled people in mind, and thus the idea of subtitling isn’t one that’s new or unusual to them, it’s one they thought of all along. (Bonus points: maybe they could think of actual disabled people when making their platforms, too.) Plan events without assuming that everyone attending is going to be non-disabled. Then no one has to say “I’m disabled, I can’t go down a flight of stairs.”

We don’t act like putting a door in the front of our building is a favour we are doing. We assume that doors are necessary. And yet, people treat having a ramp to that door as a favour they are doing, when the ramp serves the same purpose: it allows people to come inside.

  1. I’m not particularly exploring the class issues here, but that’s only because I’m focusing on disability and not because I don’t think they’re there. Of the dozen or so times I’ve been told this, roughly half have had the teller start mimicking a “lower-class” accent when repeating the security guard’s words.
  2. Before the website upgrade last month, the only page on my entire university website that passed an accessibility challenge was the Student Accessibility Office website. Because of course that’s the only website that a student with a disability will look at, right?

How Can Teachers & Professors Help Students With Disabilities?

One of the things we often get asked after one of us, or a guest poster, makes a post about education and accessibility is to tell teachers and professors what they can do to ensure their classes are accessible. I understand and appreciate the motivation for this question, but the problem is that we can’t really answer it with any usefulness because it depends too much on the location you’re in, the access to resources you have, and the flexibility of your educational institution.

There are two things that teachers and professors can do to have their classroom be as accessible to students with disabilities as possible.

1. Learn what your educational institution can do for students with disabilities.

One of the things that student accessibility services often do is ask students “So, what accommodations do you need?” While this is helpful for getting a conversation started, it’s not necessarily in the best interest of the student to have them just come up with a few suggestions and then focus on those. Frankly, most students won’t be aware of what accommodations are available for them, which someone working in student accessibility services would be aware of. (To give an example, I only learned recently that the university that Don dropped out of due in part to difficulties in getting accommodations had the option of adjustable tables for students with disabilities. Having never encountered them before, he never thought to ask.)

As a teacher or professor, being aware yourself of exactly what accommodations are available, and what is required to get them, will allow you to work with your students to ensure that they get the best aid possible. It will also allow you to know what you can do for any students who may be temporarily disabled due to injury or accident.

Last year I was part of a review committee for the university, and learned that none of the professors I asked had any real idea of how they would assist a student with disabilities in getting accommodations, or how they’d need to adjust their academic advising for a student with disabilities. Being that there are whole buildings on my campus that are not accessible to someone who can’t walk up a flight of stairs, which actually prevents students with mobility-related disabilities from taking any classes at all in certain disciplines (a fact that always seems to surprise people when I point it out), this strikes me as something professors, especially those who do academic advising, would need to be aware of.

2. Let students know that you’re aware that accommodations may be necessary and that you’re open to discussing those issues. Let students know how they can contact you if they need accommodations – whether you prefer email or coming by during office hours, or both.

One of the things many universities require students to do is go up to strange professors that they’ve never met before and start discussing their disability. While on the surface this probably looks like “a reasonable amount of self-advocacy”, the students with disabilities I’ve talked to often describe this as the worst part of getting accommodations. They have no idea what they’re going to face. Will it be someone who grudgingly agrees to something, obviously irritated? Will it be someone who rolls their eyes and suddenly starts talking about how easy it is to fake being disabled? Will it be someone who gives them a little “Everyone’s a bit disabled!” speech? Or will it be one of the many professors who are very accommodating and happy to make their class as accessible as possible?

(I assure you, there are many many professors who are happy to help! But, of course, the stories most passed along, and the ones that worry students with disabilities the most, are the ones where something terrible happens.)

Having this conversation also gives you the chance to let any students with disabilities know that you don’t know everything, and that you’re willing to learn what you can do to best assist them.

I believe that a lot of professors and teachers, just like a lot of the staff that works with students with disabilities, really want what’s best for their students, and want them to be able to do well in school. I know that a lot of times there’s only so much they can do, due to lack of funding or lack of assistance from other people in an educational institution. Knowing what you can do can be endlessly helpful to assisting students with disabilities in your classroom.

Recommended Reading for Wednesday, November 3

I’m sorry this is at an odd time today. I forgot it was Wednesday. (I forgot yesterday was Tuesday, so this makes total sense.)

Monday was Autistics Speaking Day:

Corina Becker at No Stereotypes Here: Preparing to be Loud

When I proposed Autistics Speaking Day, I merely thought that it’ll be myself plus a couple of others participating. However, it turns out that there are a lot of people who feel the same, and different names for it, from Autism ShoutOut! to our Autistics Speaking Day.

The name for it doesn’t matter. This is a day that is supposed to be about spreading Autism Awareness, therefore it’s OUR day. It doesn’t just belong to me, it belongs to all of us, and what matters is that we stand together to raise Autism awareness.

Corina followed up with The Success of Speaking

I will be honest, when I proposed Autistics Speaking Day, I thought that at best it would be myself and a few others, tweeting on Twitter and maybe putting up a few blog posts. And when the criticisms came in, with people saying that much wouldn’t happen, so why bother, I thought of two things. The two things that leads me to be active in the Autism and Disability communities.

Corinna and Kathryn Bjørnstad have made a very long list of bloggers that participated in Autistics Speaking Day. I recommend checking them all out.

Steve Silberman at Neurotribes: I’m Right Here: Rudy Simone on Life as an “Aspergirl”

Unlike autistic author and animal-behavior expert Temple Grandin — whose life was the subject of an acclaimed HBO biopic starring Clare Danes — Simone wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her 40s. Diagnosis in mid-life is common for women with Asperger Syndrome. Often highly intelligent and articulate, they’re able to mask their social deficits while leveraging their ability to focus intensely into achievements in school and the workplace.

Simone had a relatively happy — if eccentric — childhood, but when she hit adolescence, the social tide seemed to turn against her, washing away most of her friends. Suddenly, her trusting exuberance and hyper-focus made her weird in the eyes of her peers, and a convenient target for bullying and abuse. One day, Simone’s chief tormentor at school brutally beat her in front of a cheering crowd of older kids. Humiliated, the 12-year-old Simone stopped singing and laughing in public

The Untoward Lady at the Vibrating Square: Memories [Discusses bullying]

I expected to remember the bullies. I expected to remember the pain that had been caused. I had thought that the faces of my memory, the pain, would come and surface again as I looked at the rows of portraits.

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING ON THIS ONE: Dave Hingsburger at Rolling Around in my Head: Curbing Anger: Daring Difference (TW for abuse of autistic boy)

What they did defies understanding. Maybe it just defies MY understanding. For three days they tortured a young 17 year old man with autism. The list of what they did is astonishing in its length, in its cruelty, and (it must be said) in its creativity. Here’s a brief survey of what a teen boy with autism suffered at the hands of his tormentors.

The Quixotic Autistic: New Age & Autism Part One: The Horse Boy (See also Part Two)

My very first instalment in my series on New Age perspectives on autism begins with the book and movie of the same title, The Horse Boy, the book being written by Rupert Isaacson, the movie directed by Michael O. Scott. At the centre of both though is Rowan Isaacson, son of Rupert and Kristin. He is the titular “Horse Boy” and he has autism. The book and film both chronicle his parents taking him on a special trip to Mongolia to consult with traditional Mongolian shamans, in hopes of “healing” Rowan from his tantrums and incontinence, as well as helping him become more social and less agitated by overstimulation. The idea is that the combination of riding horses and shamanistic healing will benefit Rowan emotionally and physically.

jholverstott: A Shade unDifferent: Latent Bullying and ASD, the Epidemic Grows

Most of what I have read in the literature suggests that anti-bullying campaigns are ineffective, at best, and potentially damaging, at worst. Kid with ASDs are a tricky audience, regardless. They are kind, too kind to stand up for themselves with the empowered and sometimes sassy words that stand down a bully. They are not equipped to recognize the savviness of cyber- and mobile-bullying, with its faceless and nameless tactics. They are primed targets because they want so desperately to believe in others, to believe in a friend, to have a friend. They are cyclical victims because of the flaws of the system that shields them; “tattle” and enlarge the target.

Guest Post from Jesse the K: Voting Opportunities and Mechanics

Jesse the K hopes you can take a disabled feminist to tea this month. Her previous guest post was Making Space for Wheelchairs and Scooters.

There are many things we can do to improve everyone’s lives. Voting is not the only thing, but it sure is easy to do. Many have given their health, their peace of mind, and their lives for the right to exercise the franchise. If you live in the U.S., join me1 and head on down to the polls in your municipality this coming Tuesday.

And while you’re there, you might be wondering, “Gee, just how do people with disabilities vote?” As it happens, I know a little about this.

Description is below text
CAPTION: laptop size plastic machine with letter-size screen. Woman using powerchair, wearing purple hat and favorite2 purple jacket feeds ballot into slot below screen.

One decent result from the G.W.Bush administration was that the voting process must be independently accessible to people with disabilities. Before then, most people with disabilities would enlist the assistance of a helper where needed. Then they’d vote absentee (returning the ballot in the mail) or bring the helper into the voting booth on the day. I remember assisting a blind person with a mechanical voting machine–a lever for each name! Xe jested that it was a refreshing change to depend on someone with whose politics xe was unsure (as opposed to xir long-time partner), and yet the joke had a bit of a sting to it.

Reflecting strong republican sentiment in the U.S., voting is controlled at the lowest possible administrative level. Voting techniques vary widely from state to state (sometimes city to county). In Wisconsin you can register to vote five minutes before casting your ballot, but in some states you must register 30 days in advance. But since I can now depend on getting my power wheelchair into the polling place, it seemed like a good year to volunteer as a poll worker. I went to the “new election official in Madison” training today [Editor’s note – October 28].

Two points up front:
1. I wasn’t expecting the disablist training, so I wasn’t taking verbatim notes. I could not swear to any of the following in court; as far as the essential drift, I do believe I’m correct and I heard the trainer acknowledge this. (Memo to self: take notes on life.)
2. I am not hosting a discussion of the political or technical validity and/or vulnerability of voting machines. (For the record, I support 3b; it works for us in Wisconsin, which used to be an exemplar of clean politics.)

When our trainer finished walking us through the various elements of a correctly marked ballot, I raised my hand and said, “And then there’s another way to mark the ballot, right, with the accessible voting machine?” Her response began with a non-verbal eye-roll, which I interpreted as ‘yipes, why did she bring this up?’ Then, she spoke aloud “Yes, that’s right. The accessible voting machine is challenging and we’ll get to that later.”

3. Since she never did do a decent job, let me tell you a bit about accessible voting. The access depends in part on the underlying voting technology. Either
a) Everybody votes using a machine.
In this case, one of the machines needs to supply large print, speech output (usually to headphones), touch screen input (no grip required), single-switch input (more details below) and various other hardware “hooks” to the wide variety of assistive tech in use today.
b) Everybody marks a paper ballot, then feeds the marked ballot into a tabulator (a tallying box like the dollar-bill slot on a vending machine).
Typical people use the ballot-marking tools at the end of their wrists. The rest of us have an accessible machine as above which just marks the ballot. (Ridiculously, the manufacturer’s link don’t provide a fully-accessible presentation.)

OK, back to the end of my training session, where I noted she had never gotten back to the voting machine.

She said the accessible voting machine is very important and everyone must have one working at each polling place. She said they could be used by someone who’s blind, or someone who has low vision, or can’t read for any reason, or really just anybody who wants to. She also said that they were very fussy mechanically, so they may not work as well as you’d like.

(At this point fury stunned me into silence. What I should have said is, “And here we have an excellent chance for you to get in front of these issues by training us in how to get them to work correctly! Seize the moment!”)

Another trainee asked what poll workers should do if they thought a voter was being unduly influenced in filling out a ballot. Xe said, “This happened around 6 years ago, when someone who, well, frankly, he was just not cognizant enough to be voting. And the person with them was filling out the ballot for them.” I piped up that this could be a good option to use the accessible machine: somebody who can’t read could be able to understand the speech.

(FWIW, the “Six years ago this r#tarded person was influenced in their vote” is a perennial election year rumor. Neurotypical people are quick to define the minimum IQ they’d set for voting, without exploring the profound mismatch between IQ and ability. Absolutely every social justice activist would do well to read Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man.)

When the training was over, I’d been cleansed by fury and recovered the power of speech, I stopped to discuss my issues with the trainer. I said I was disappointed in her presentation of the voting machine. She reiterated they were frustrating and difficult to use. “Don’t you realize,” she asked, “that most poll workers are over 60 and they are not going to be able to understand this computer?” (Reality check: accessible voting machines are no more a computer than an ATM. Ninety percent of the people in the training were under 55; in all regards it looked like Madison: gender presentation, ethnicity, education levels, evident disability, income levels, number of piercings, which made me happy about my city.)

I asked if that meant my rights as a voter were also frustrating her? How would she feel if I said that permitting her to vote was too difficult? The penny dropped, and she began to apologize for “not presenting in the most effective manner.” At this point her supervisor’s ears pricked up. “Who was deprecating use of the voting machines?” The trainer allowed that her “initial presentation was sub-optimal.” While I was gratified that she’d finally understood, I was frustrated that this right, so long fought for by so many, is still not a matter of fact in our daily lives.

If you’re up for some voting day advocacy, the U.S. Department of Justice provides a detailed guide for access verifiers at Voting Checklist. Folks outside the U.S., what’s the voting situation for you?

  1. As long as you’re government approvable, that is, you’re the right color or rich enough to become a citizen or you haven’t been arrested or too recently paroled as part of your systematic community destruction program
  2. How do I know it’s her favorite jacket? I modeled for the photo
Next page →
← Previous page