About lauredhel

Lauredhel is an Australian woman with a disability.

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New book: Living the Edges: A Disabled Women’s Reader

Living the Edges book cover, with a white title on background of an abstract type painting with a road or path and floating spheres of colourHere’s a book for your list, if you’re celebrating a gifty holiday soon – or just splurge on it for yourself!

Living the Edges: A Disabled Women’s Reader, edited by Diane Driedger, was launched last week in Canada, and it should contain plenty of interest for readers of FWD/Forward.

The McNally Robinson book-launch blurb is as follows:

Diane Driedger has written extensively about the issues of women and people with disabilities over the past 30 years. Diane is an educator, administrator, activist, and researcher in the area of disabled women’s issues in Canada and internationally. She is also a visual artist and poet, and holds a Ph.D. in Education. She lives in Winnipeg.

This collection brings together the diverse voices of women with various disabilities, both physical and mental. The women speak frankly about the societal barriers they encounter in their everyday lives due to social attitudes and physical and systemic inaccessibility. They bring to light the discrimination they experience through sexism, because they are women, and through ableism, because they have disabilities. For them, the personal is definitely political.

While society traditionally views having a disability as “weakness” and that women are the “weaker” sex, this collection points to the strength, persistence, and resilience of disabled women living the edges.

A partial contents list, from Disability Research Forum reveals a whole lot of must-read articles:

“Feminism, Disability and Transcendence of the Body” by Susan Wendell

“Living on the Edges” by Charlotte Caron and Gail Christy

“Mirror Woman: Cracked Up Crazy Bitch Conja Identity” by Marie Annharte Baker;

“Margins Are Not For Cowards” by Cheryl Gibson;

“Triple Jeopardy: Native Women with Disabilities” by Doreen Demas

“Coming Out of Two Closets” by Jane Field;

“Performing My Leaky Body” by Julie Devaney

“To Be Or Not to Be? Whose Question Is It, Anyway? Two Women With Disabilities Discuss the Right To Assisted Suicide” by Tanis Doe and Barbara Ladouceu

“Living Poorly: Disabled Women on Income Support” by Sally Kimpson

“‘Have You Experienced Violence or Abuse?’: Talking With Girls and Young Women with Disabilities” by Michelle Owen

“The Geography of Oppression” by Joy Asham

There was an audio interview with Diane Driedger at CBC’s Weekend Morning Show last Sunday, in which Diane speaks of the book and of her experiences with invisible disabilities and workplace accommodations.

My transcript of the Weekend Morning Show interview, titled “Double Jeopardy”, is below the cut. All errors in transcription are mine.

Read more: New book: Living the Edges: A Disabled Women’s Reader

By 14 December, 2010.    accessibility, intersectionality, social attitudes   



Portly + Powerchair + Pedestrian = Panic

Ow. My head hurts.

And this is why.

Power chairs: older and fatter Americans are on the move – St. Petersburg Times:

“A man on a moped crashed into a man in an electric wheelchair the other night in the middle of Fourth Street. There on the front page of the paper was a police tape picture of one of those objects we see all over. The wheeled mobility industry calls it a power chair.

A what? A “power chair”? Wow, I’ve never heard of one of those before! Whatever could this “power chair” item be? What is it for? Should I be frightened? It’s something to do with teh fat, right? Cos there’s “fatter” up there in the headline.

They’re everywhere, it seems, dotting the downtown streetscape, a kind of ant trail from the condos to the Publix and back.

The temptation is to declare these are the new symbols of this city. Used to be folks sitting on green benches, God’s waiting room and whatnot, and now it’s folks sitting on … these.

Truth is, though, power chairs and mobility scooters are far from just a Florida phenomenon, and mishaps are not unusual.

WHAT? These … contraptions … are in places OTHER THAN FLORIDA too? SOMEbody really did just discover powered mobility devices for the first time. And they’re not happy.

[…] Electric mobility devices, or EMDs, are everywhere because of trends in geriatrics and bariatrics. Those are the portions of the health care industry that deal with old people and fat people.

This is America, getting bigger and older, fatter and grayer, rolling into the future.

[Snip prolooooooonged agonising – they’re not quite motorised vehicles, they’re not quite bipeds, what do we CALL them? How do we TREAT them? The sky is falling!]

They don’t need to be registered, after all, and they don’t have state plates. And what about the people in them? They don’t need a license. Does that make them pedestrians? They’re clearly not using their feet.

[More agonised whining. Did you know that now and again, old people drink alcohol? Shocking, I know.]

State law also says sidewalks are for pedestrians. No motors.

Hmm.

Reeeeally? Are you sure about that State law? Did you, say, look up what “pedestrian” means? Here’s a clue, from a the 2010 Florida Code, TITLE XXIII MOTOR VEHICLES, Chapter 316 STATE UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL , 316.1995 “Driving upon sidewalk or bicycle path”, which I found with a 60-second Google search:

(1) Except as provided in s. 316.008 or s. 316.212(8), a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk, or sidewalk area, except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.

(2) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

(3) This section does not apply to motorized wheelchairs.

Section 3 is fairly recently clarified, but it’s clear from other law sites that motorized wheelchairs were considered pedestrians by custom before the clarification.

Now that that’s settled, back to the “older and fatter” article:

Read more: Portly + Powerchair + Pedestrian = Panic

By 10 December, 2010.    accessibility, shaming, social attitudes   



Pap smears, fat-shaming, and the lithotomy trap

[X-posted at Hoyden About Town]

So I’m sitting watching the evening news, and on comes a chap telling us women and girls that we oughtta go and get more Pap smears. Then on comes a woman to talk about how Pap screening rates are going down in young women, and to speculate about possible causes for this. The cervical cancer vaccine comes up, as does the “awkwardness” of the test, and our inappropriate embarrassment, which we apparently need to get over.

What I don’t hear addressed in the mainstream media in these discussions of Pap screening? Well, lots of things, like heterosexism, and ignorance about Pap age/sexual experience guidelines, and sexual assault (inside and outside the medical system). However, the one that really stood out in my mind today is also a factor that isn’t going to be fixed by lecturing women. Fatphobic abuse in the medical system.

There has been a fair bit of talk around the feminist traps about some of the other factors, especially the aftermath of sexual assault and its effects on medical interactions. I’m not going to go into that in this post, but it’s a huge, huge issue. What I would like to talk about for a moment, not because it’s more important but just because I have a first-person anecdote, is medical fatphobia.

We know fatphobia kills. In all sorts of ways, in all sorts of settings. And one way in which it can kill is the horrendous tendency of doctors – quite a few doctors, from the stories I hear around the place – to trap women and girls on their backs so that they can shame them while they’re vulnerable. And what they don’t realise, or don’t care about, is just how long-lasting the effects of this can be – and not in a good way.

Medical education materials abound with motherhood statements about ‘Preventive Medicine’ and ‘Lifestyle Intervention’ and ‘Opportunistic Behavioural Education’. General practitioners are exhorted, over and over again, to take any and all opportunities they can to tell people they’re fat. Really, over and over. And OVER. And doctors, labouring under the mistaken impression that this will cause said people to magically become skinny and therefore ‘healthy’, go ahead and do it, then smugly boast about it between themselves, sighing about how no-one ever listens to them. Or, perhaps, under the impression that they can then self-satisfiedly sit back and tick a box on the chart about how they’ve engaged in initial Lifestyle Education, which they learned all about at the last Lap-Band seminar.

Medical education is a powerful, powerful matrix of fat hate, based on the twin premises that telling people they’re fat is (a) helpful and (b) harmless.

So let’s talk about how that plays out in practice:

When I was 19, I had a Pap smear. It was my first. I went to the nearest available doctor, who worked in a setting where they dealt with a late of people in late adolescence and early adulthood. I wasn’t particularly concerned about it; a very little vague unease at the unknown, but no particular trepidation. I didn’t bother taking anyone with me, and I just booked the appointment in between other things I had to do, like med school classes and whatnot. And off I went.

I got my Pill script, had my BP taken, then assumed the position. And the doctor came up into his position, as they do, then stopped.

He looked at my thigh. “Not quite the right spot,” I thought, “but hey, he probably knows what I’m doing more than I do.”

Then he touched my thigh. Around the middle, underneath (in lithotomy position).

Then he JIGGLED IT.

He jiggled my thigh.

And then he grimaced.

And then he did the Pap smear. I was frozen, completely unable (by my inexperience, position, and by general medical disempowerment) to say anything.

And then I fled.

Was I ‘traumatised’? I didn’t have nightmares. I went and got my next Pap smear dutifully, largely because I really didn’t have any choice – no Pap smear, no Pill script. (Ask me about contraceptive hostage-taking! You know you want to!)

But every time I get a Pap smear, every single time, even now more than twenty years later, I see his face. I see him jiggling my thigh with that look of disgust. Every time I lie down and spread my legs for the speculum, I am reminded of exactly how repugnant my body is.

My first impulse is to tell you exactly how fat I wasn’t, back then. To tell you that it wasn’t ok for him to do that because I was physically fit at the time. To tell you at length about how my aerobic capacity was at the 95th centile, that I could do a hundred pushups, that I could swim a k without stopping, that I was beating my fit male friends at squash, that I was getting State medals in my chosen sport. But that’s all irrelevant – because fat-shaming isn’t ok for people who are actually fat any more than it’s ok for people who aren’t. Fat-shaming doesn’t get a pass when it’s limited to people as fat as I am now, or twice as fat as me, or whatever. Fat-shaming isn’t bad because it’s directed at inbetweenies as well as at fat people. Fat-shaming is harmful for EVERYONE. Fat-shaming is not.ok.

As long as some doctors keep seeing lithotomy position as a prime opportunity to ladle on the shame, girls and women are going to avoid Pap smears. So hey, ball’s in your court, medical profession. Fix it. Get your own house in order, and meanwhile, stop telling US we’re the ones doing it wrong.

By 24 August, 2010.    bodies, feminism, medical practice   



Inclusive education wrangling on Weekend Sunrise

“Social commentator” Prue MacSween dropped some turds on talk show Weekend Sunrise a couple of weeks ago, saying that children with disabilities should be “put somewhere they can be properly trained” away from “kids without special needs”, that inclusive education holds back “normal” children, and that schools should be gender-segregated because “boys are so retarded”.

Protests ensued, and the show today held a followup with two parents of children with disabilities, a Teachers’ Federation representative, and South Australian parliamentarian Kelly Vincent.

The video of the first segment is up at Weekend Sunrise . The segment is a panel in which two panel members – journalists, shock-jocks, and so on – are asked for soundbite opinions on issues in the news. The segments are usually orchestrated so that the two commenters will have a disagreement. Here’s a transcript of the relevant section, which starts about two-thirds of the way into the video. [All emphases in transcripts are mine.]

Announcer: Anyway, moving on. A teacher is suing the government claiming that she’s damaged her larynx by having to scream at kids. [laughs] Some of the – well, as a parent I kind of understand! – Some of the kids in her classmates are special needs, and she claims she wasn’t given proper assistance. The 39-year-old is now seeking four hundred thousand dollars. Was she training as an opera singer? Anyway! Does this sound reasonable to – hang on, I’ll start with Paul Murray. [incomprehensible]

Paul Murray: [explains that teaching is a ‘tough gig’ and she could have got more help, but that four hundred thousand is a ‘stupid number’]

Prue MacSween: But it’s a number of issues. The woman is put into this room with all these special needs kids. So many of them! She should have – for a start, it’s a reflection of the bad system. These special needs kids should not be in a class with, you know, kids that don’t have special needs for a start. So we need to throw more money at the education system, make sure that these kids are properly administered to, because they almost need one-on-one help!

Paul Murray: Yeah, but I disagree with that. [Announcer in background: Yeah, I disagree with that too.] I think that they should –

Prue MacSween [interrupting] I know, I know what you intelligentsia are saying –

Paul Murray: No, that’s rubbish.

Prue MacSween: No, it is, it’s thought police stuff!

Announcer: It depends on the nature of the special needs.

Paul Murray: They need two teachers in the room, to be able to make sure that there’s one who can cover the gap. But you can’t just –

Prue MacSween: No, I’m sorry, I can’t agree with that.

Paul Murray: It’s about socialising. It’s not about –

Prue MacSween: I understand that, but what about the kids who are quite normal and adequately able to understand? They’re being held back. It’s like girls going into schoolrooms with bloody boys! Boys are so retarded, they keep them back!

[Announcer laughs heartily in the background; Paul Murray smiles and shakes his head dismissively]

Prue MacSween: I honestly think that we need to make sure that we have these special needs kids put somewhere where they are properly trained. And then slowly, once they are in a capacity of being able to –

Announcer: We’re running out of time. [sarkily] That’s next week’s topic, “Are Boys Retarded?” And I look forward to hearing your views on that, Prue.

When people kicked up about this bigotry, including a Facebook group “Prue MacSween and Channel 7 Should Apologise“, MacSween ‘splained to us all that she’s not prejudiced because she once employed a “Down Syndrome boy” in her office – so she knows that integration should only occur in “controlled situations”.

Read more: Inclusive education wrangling on Weekend Sunrise

By 26 July, 2010.    Uncategorized   



Chatterday! Open Thread.

This is our weekly Chatterday! open thread. Use this open thread to talk amongst yourselves: feel free to share a link, have a vent, or spread some joy.

What have you been reading or watching lately (remembering spoiler warnings)? What are you proud of this week? What’s made your teeth itch? What’s going on in your part of the world? Got any questions for your fellow FWD commenters?

A note to commenters: Please, as with other threads, keep the length of your comments down. A usual guideline, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, is to stick to around three pithy paragraphs or so, and to avoid making back-to-back comments.

Today’s chatterday backcloth, a baby pangolin, comes via The Daily Squee.

Long Distance Noms: A baby pangolin extends a very long pink tongue

By 18 June, 2010.    chatterday   



Chatterday! Open Thread

This is our weekly Chatterday! open thread. Use this open thread to talk amongst yourselves: feel free to share a link, have a vent, or spread some joy.

What have you been reading or watching lately (remembering spoiler warnings)? What are you proud of this week? What’s made your teeth itch? What’s going on in your part of the world? Got any questions for your fellow FWD commenters?

A note to commenters: Please, as with other threads, keep the length of your comments down. A usual guideline, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, is to stick to around three pithy paragraphs or so, and to avoid making back-to-back comments.

Today’s chatterday is hosted by a stack of lemurs, from The Daily Squee.

twin lemurs riding on top of each other on a mother lemur's back

By 11 June, 2010.    chatterday   



Chatterday! Open Thread.

This is our weekly Chatterday! open thread. Use this open thread to talk amongst yourselves: feel free to share a link, have a vent, or spread some joy.

What have you been reading or watching lately (remembering spoiler warnings)? What are you proud of this week? What’s made your teeth itch? What’s going on in your part of the world? Got any questions for your fellow FWD commenters?

Today’s Chatterday is hosted by a Death Star watermelon.

Watermelon carved to look like the Death Star

A note to commenters: Please, as with other threads, try to keep the length of your comments down. A usual guideline, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, is to stick to around three pithy paragraphs or so, and to avoid making back-to-back comments.

By 4 June, 2010.    chatterday   



On Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter: It’s not ok for police to immobilise PWD for questioning

This post is not spoily for the Dexter TV series to date, except perhaps for the premise. It contains a very minor spoiler for an event that occurs at the start of Dexter By Design. Comments may contain spoilers up to the Chapter Ten of Dexter by Design, but no further please..

At the moment I’m reading Dexter by Design (2009), by Jeff Lindsay. It is the fourth book in the Dexter series, a thriller/crime series with a touch of spec fic, set in current-day Miami. Dexter Morgan and his foster sister Deb are both police officers working in homicide; Dexter a blood-spatter expert and Deb a sergeant. Dexter is also a serial killer, brought up by his police officer foster dad to follow “The Code”, to only kill murderers who have escaped justice, and to not get caught.

Last night I read the scene below, and it hit all my rage buttons. Coming on the heels of the Ayr incident where a police officer stolen a woman’s mobility scooter, and the episode in Colorado where a teacher duct taped a disabled 12-year-old’s only communicative hand to his wheelchair, it was all too much.

The scene is excerpted below the cut. Additional warning for lots of taboo language; NSFW.

Read more: On Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter: It’s not ok for police to immobilise PWD for questioning

Injuries to mobility-impaired kids: researchers suggest “consider avoiding stairs”

MSNBC is carrying a Reuters article, Insult to injury: More kids hurt by own crutches, about injuries to young people “related to the use of crutches, wheelchairs and walkers”. Apparently, these injuries are “on the rise”, with significant numbers of USAn emergency room attendances related to injuries sustained while using a mobility aid.

Note, firstly, that there is no formal E.R. category nor any panic about injuries related to the use of legs, despite this being a rather large category of actual injuries.

Note, secondly, that journalists reporting on this study make no attempt to interrogate the root cause of the injuries, preferring to attributing the injuries to the use of the device itself, despite this:

[…] three out of four times, the injury was caused by tipping of the device or falling as the result of coming upon some sort of obstacle such as stairs, a curb, a ramp, rough ground, or icy, wet conditions.

Why are these injuries being attributed to use of the mobility aid, instead of to poor, inaccessible design? Why are kids falling trying to navigate stairs when there should be ramps and elevators available? Why are kids falling on curbs when there should be curb cuts? Were these injuries on rough ground and ice preventable by salting, pathways, cover? 70% of the injuries occurred while children were using wheelchairs. How many were occasioned while these children were trying to negotiate inaccessible environments?

We have no idea. Because no-one, apparently, has bothered to ask. Nor has any mention of inaccessibility been considered worth reporting or putting in the press release.

Instead, we get headlines like “Crutches, wheelchairs can cause injuries” and “Injuries can be caused by crutches, wheelchairs“.

The authors of the Pediatrics study themselves chose to title their journal article “Pediatric Mobility Aid–Related Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments From 1991 to 2008“[1], and there is no mention of universal design or accessibility in their abstract.

In contrast, there are plenty of comments throughout the study of the issue of the supposed “misuse” of mobility aids, despite this accounting for only seven percent of injuries.

There is a mention of accessibility in the full-text article, buried deep in the discussion, but this never made it to anything that will be read by the general population, or indeed most of the medical profession. Furthermore, the mention of accessibility only talks about in-home modification – completely failing to address the number of injuries that occurred on curbs, rough ground, and icy conditions.

This is what the authors had to say about accessibility:

Curbs, stairs, rough terrain, and steep inclines and declines were common trigger factors for falls and other injuries, leading us to speculate that lack of accessibility, particularly in the home, may be 1 factor contributing to mobility aid–related injury. For children who were using mobility aids on a temporary basis, particularly crutches, home modification and avoiding stairs may not have been considered.

“Avoiding stairs”.

Mobility-impaired children should consider “avoiding stairs”! This is not just ignoring accessibility; it’s a giant slap in the face. Do the authors seriously think that it hasn’t occurred to anyone with a mobility impairment to try to avoid stairs? Really? We’d love to. That would be fabulous, thanks. However, we have lives. Lives in inaccessible environments, where we sometimes are left with the choice to take stairs or not go. To school and university, to work, to doctor’s appointments, to public transport, to artistic and political events, to social gatherings. Mobility-impaired people don’t take stairs and curbs out of choice; we do it because there’s no accessible alternative provided. And what happens to PWD who can’t take stairs no matter what? Confinement. Yes, PWD aren’t “confined” by wheelchairs; PWD are confined by discrimination, thoughtlessness, and inaccessibility.

Instead of using their platform to publicise an unequivocal call for safer public design, the authors choose to focus in their abstract and press release about how they think “additional research” is needed. The need for further research is, indeed, their ONLY conclusion! But if this research focuses on device malfunctions and children’s competence, “misuse” of mobility aids and custom in-home modifications, it is destined to fail.

If there is to be additional research, a broad, societal view must not be so studiously ignored. However, do we really need more and more and more research to tell us that kids with mobility aids have trouble negotiating stairs, have trouble getting up curbs, have trouble on icy ground? More research to tell us, five or ten or twenty years of inaction down the track, that PWD of all ages are endangered by inaccessible environments?

Without recognition of the systemic causes of a problem, there can be no successful systemic solutions. How much “additional research” is needed before there is action? How many inquiries? How many reports? How many white papers? We need to stop looking at the trees, and look at the forest.

The solution is to inaccessibility is accessibility. The first-tier principles of mobility accessibility are straightforward and long-established. Get on with it.

[Hat tip to Andrea of the Manor of Mixed Blessings]

[1] Pediatric Mobility Aid?Related Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments From 1991 to 2008
Alison M. Barnard, Nicolas G. Nelson, Huiyun Xiang and Lara B. McKenzie
Pediatrics published online May 24, 2010;
DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3286

Chatterday! Open Thread.

This is our weekly Chatterday! open thread. Use this open thread to talk amongst yourselves: feel free to share a link, have a vent, or spread some joy.

What have you been reading or watching lately (remembering spoiler warnings)? What are you proud of this week? What’s made your teeth itch? What’s going on in your part of the world? Got any questions for your fellow FWD commenters?

Today’s chatterday is hosted by a mantis, via The Daily Squee.

closeup of mantis holding its front legs in the air, as if in celebration

A note to commenters: Please, as with other threads, keep the length of your comments down. A usual guideline, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, is to stick to around three pithy paragraphs or so, and to avoid making back-to-back comments.

By 28 May, 2010.    chatterday   



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