Category Archives: events

Disabled? Don’t Plan On Driving to the 2012 London Olympics

This post has been edited with updated information.

Here’s a completely bizarre policy move for you: Planners of the 2012 London Olympics announced today that a request to allow disabled ticket holders to use the games lanes set aside for athletes and dignitaries will be turned down. 100 miles (161 kilometers, if you must) of roads are being set up with a prioritised scheme to move official Olympics traffic along1, and disabled drivers don’t get to use any of those, although they might have benefited from the accommodation, avoiding the stress of traffic or inaccessible public transit.

The reason?

…it would not be possible to distinguish between bona fide ticket holders and disabled drivers using the lanes illegally.

That’s right. Because there’s a possibility that a person with a blue badge might use one of the games lanes without necessarily holding a ticket to the games, the organisers have decided to just go ahead and bar all blue badge holders from the lanes. This reminds me of a lot of the ‘fraud prevention’ policies when it comes to disability benefits; everyone’s got a passel of stories about ‘benefits cheats’ or people who use placards without ‘really’ being disabled, and thinks governments ought to move the earth to prevent even one person from falsely claiming benefits, even if the expenses of programmes aimed at addressing fraud far outweigh the payouts in terms of catching people.

We talk about placard panic here a lot, and there’s a reason for it. The media likes to devote utterly absurd amounts of attention to the idea that there are scores of people out there using disabled placards to get away with sneaky sneaky things, like parking closer to the grocery store. There seems to be a very common assumption that a car with placards should be viewed with suspicion because the driver is faking or someone is using placards for a family member of any number of other things, and the level of parking and driving policing that goes on in the media while ignoring other stories of far more importance and relevance is pretty breathtaking. This, of course, reinforces social attitudes and encourages media consumers to also get involved with placard policing.

It’s things like that that lead to decisions like this, where out of fear that a handful of people might abuse their disabled placards to take advantage of the dedicated lanes, people decide to just bar all disabled drivers from those lines after a reasonable request for accommodation. Including, I’m assuming people attending and competing in the Paralympic games, if the policy about the games lanes is taken to its logical conclusion. Which is, uh. Yeah. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Caroline Pidgeon, quoted in this article, puts it well:

When less than one in four Tube stations is wheelchair accessible it is appalling that the ODA have ruled out such a modest proposal.

So, basically, what organisers here are really saying is that they think disabled people shouldn’t bother attending the Olympics. For some people interested in attending, I’m sure that getting to various events was a concern, and being able to use the games lanes would have made it easier and more possible. Have an interest in sports? Too bad. Your kind are not wanted here. Which is interesting, since the organisers have indicated they are interested in accessibility issues; for example, there’s a discussion about making volunteering accessible, and their website has an accessibility statement. I guess accommodations only go so far, eh?

Methinks either the right hand knoweth not what the left hand is doing or someone has some seriously confused priorities.

  1. I would note that Londoners are already not very stoked with this idea; congestion is a serious problem in the city and many people are concerned that the Olympics will make it functionally impossible for people who actually live and work in London to go about their business. This has been a problem for other Olympic hosts, as has the very high cost of costing compared to limited returns, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

Signal Boost: United States: Ninth Annual Tennessee Disability MegaConference in June 2011

The Tennessee Disability MegaConference is Tennessee’s largest disability-specific conference for individuals with disabilities, families, and professionals.  At the conference, people share the latest information and innovations on many topics including housing, employment, education, health care, recreation and leisure, mental health, and others.  Continuing education credits are offered in many categories.  People attending make new friends and important connections as everyone works together to encourage the full participation of all people with disabilities in their own lives!

More information here!

Congratulations, Gregory Hlibok!

Gregory Hlibok, for those who do not know (and there’s no particular reason you should!) is a Deaf attorney who was just appointed to head the disability rights office at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States.

This is news for two important reasons.

1. The FCC is responsible for regulating communications in the United States, including addressing issues like providing mandatory subtitling on media, approving designs for accessible telecommunications devices, and other such matters. Having a disability rights office is a good thing, because the FCC’s work directly impacts people with disabilities. Having a disabled person head that office? Even better.

2. This is the first time the head of the FCC’s disability rights office has been a disabled person. The reason they thought it might be a good idea to get a PWD heading the office? Because they are getting ready to start work on developing a framework for enforcing the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and, hey, maybe a disabled person would know a little something something about that kind of thing!

What does the disability rights office do, exactly? Some important stuff:

According to its website, the DRO addresses disability-related telecommunications matters, including telecommunications relay service, access to telecommunications equipment and services by people with disabilities, access to emergency information, and closed captioning. In addition, DRO provides expert advice and assistance on issues relevant to people with disabilities, and initiates rule making for the development of policies to ensure that communications are accessible to this population. (source)

Hlibok is a pretty great candidate for this job, I have to say. He’s not just a Deaf attorney with almost 10 years of experience in the disability rights office; he’s also been an activist for Deaf rights in the United States. In 1988, he acted as a spokesperson for the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet.

“Greg will be heading up the Disability Rights Office at a crucial time, as the FCC ramps up to implement the most significant disability law in two decades,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a press release. “Greg possesses extensive knowledge in the field of telecommunications access for people with disabilities as well as the leadership qualities necessary to lead the office.” (source)

He sounds like the right person to get the job done. It’s a pity that the FCC apparently didn’t think it was necessary to have a person with disabilities heading the disability rights office until they were faced with a major disability-related law they have to enforce. Yet another reminder that it is generally assumed we don’t need to advocate for ourselves and certainly won’t have anything to add to discussions about our lives.

I wish Mr. Hlibok success in his new job position, and I’m really looking forward to the changes in telecommunications and media communication in the United States that are going to come about as a result of this landmark legislation.

Signal Boost: The Netherlands: ‘Diversity in Quality of Life’ Conference

Disability Studies in Nederland and VU University Amsterdam have the pleasure of inviting you to the International Disability Studies Conference to be held around World Disability Day:

Conference: ‘Diversity in Quality of Life’

Date: December 2-4, 2010

Location: VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

On the occasion of the first anniversary of Disability Studies in Nederland and the start of its research program an international conference will be held from 2 till 4 December in the VU University, The Netherlands.

The conference will be held in cooperation with VU University and will focus on a key concept in mainstream academic approaches to disability, namely ‘quality of life’. It raises the question of how this concept can be used in a disability studies perspective.

One of the basic principles of the disability studies approach is to enable people with disabilities to tell their own story. This principle is meant to counteract the tendency in scientific approaches – whether in medicine, psychology, or sociology – to represent people with disabilities through the lense of impairment, need, or adaptation.

Having this principle in mind, this conference will bring together two types of reflections:

– One the hand presentations about (aspects of) quality of life from particular perspectives (e.g. young adults with visual impairments; developmental disabilities; deaf persons; or regional ‘reports’: Indonesia, South Africa).

– On the other hand presentations regarding the study of Quality of Life (e.g. predicting the relationship between social participation and QoL; conceptual comparison of methodological issues; QoL, intellectual disabilities and cultural differences).

The conference will bring together about 200 people from various communities and nationalities. We aim to build bridges between the world of science, education and people with disabilities and their organisations.

We are happy to announce keynote speakers: Lennard Davis, Adrienne Asch, Maya Thomas, Jackie Leach Scully, Hans Reinders, and Anja Hiddinga .

You can get more information about the programme and how to register on the conference’s website!

Upcoming Events for the Week of November 15 to November 22

Events from the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.

US: San Francisco, California, November 15:

The Disability Issues Caucus of the National Communication Association will have a memorial for Paul Longmore at 7 p.m. Monday, November 15. It will be in the Franciscan A room of the Hilton San Francisco, at 333 O’Farrell Street. All are invited to attend.

Paul’s submission to the conference, his paper titled “what we have been prepared to see”: Charity Professionals and the Framing of Disease and Disability, was selected by anonymous review to receive the 2010 Top Paper award in the Disability Issues Caucus. His paper will be presented at the memorial and participants will have the opportunity to share their memories of Paul and his work.

For more information, please email Jim Cherney at jlcherney@wayne.edu

Canada: Langley, British Columbia, November 20:

Civil Rights Now! in Langley Nov 20

What is wrong in BC for people with disabilities and what can be done to make it right? Zosia Ettenberg and the Langley Pos-Abilities Society Present Civil Rights Now!

Saturday November 20
1:30 to 3:30 pm
Langley Senior Centre
20605—51B Ave, Langley

Civil Rights Now! Is a not for profit, non-partisan, all volunteer society that thinks the way the government of BC delivers services to people with disabilities strips them of their freedom and dignity. What do people with disabilities and their families need?

  • Law that gives the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter practical force and effect in their daily lives.
  • Law that gives every person with a disability truly-portable, sufficient-funded, consumer-driven Individualized funding.
  • The ability to enforce the law by government funding of test cases involving civil rights of people with disabilities.
  • Civil Rights Now! is organizing a campaign to persuade the provincial Liberals and NDP to make a commitment that if they win the next election they will put these three ideas into action.

    RSVP pos-abilities@telus.net 604.961.0117

    Everyone is welcome!

Canada: Toronto, Ontario, November 26

Students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing a career in rehabilitation research are invited to attend Toronto Rehab’s 6th Annual Research Day, a unique and fun way to learn more about research at Toronto Rehab.
Toronto Rehab’s 6th Annual Research Day

When: Friday, November 26, 2010, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Where: Sheraton Centre – Dominion Ballroom, 123 Queen Street West, Toronto

This year’s event will feature morning Minute Madness sessions where researchers are challenged to present their work in just one minute, a keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Philippa Clarke on “Optimizing Independence in Later Life: The Role of the Urban Built Environment”, as well as a poster session and interactive displays. Another highlight will be the awarding of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities, funded by TD Bank Financial Group.

This exciting event is a great way for students with disabilities to find out more about rehab research which encompasses a broad range of fields, and to meet scientists, students and award recipients.

Who can attend: All are welcome. Please join us!
Lunch will be provided. Registration is free. Space is limited so RSVP now.
Register online at this website. Registration will remain open until November 19, 2010. The Sheraton Centre is wheelchair accessible. (Attendees are asked to let us know about your accessibility requirements in advance – we will do our best to accommodate you. Please see the registration form.)

Check the Research Day webpage for more information. Questions? Contact Toronto Rehab’s Conference Services at conferences@torontorehab.on.ca or 416-597-3422 Ext. 3866.

New Zealand (all), November 3 to December 17
Via the Rolling Rains Report:

Have Your Say On International Disabilities Report

The Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Tariana Turia, is inviting public comment on a draft government report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Government is required to report to the United Nations on how the Convention is being implemented in New Zealand.

“This is the first time New Zealand has reported to the United Nations about the Convention. I am very keen for disabled people and their families to have the opportunity to have input into this report” said Minister Turia.

From 3 November 2010 through to 17 December 2010 the Government is seeking public input into this report through face-to-face meetings, online discussion and written submission.

Sadly, I can’t answer questions about any of these events.

The 2010 Don’t DIS My ABILITY Campaign Has Kicked Off!

People. People. I cannot even tell you how excited I am. In November-December in New South Wales, the awesome-est state in Australia1, we have a little something called the Don’t DIS My ABILITY campaign. There are loads of events run around the state leading up to the International Day of People with a Disability.

My personal favourite bit is the campaign magazine, Made You Look. You may remember that Lauredhel wrote about playground accessibility for disabled parents for the magazine last year. This year, Ouyang Dan and I both contributed pieces. OYD’s is on ableist language and is called “Think before you speak,” mine are “Type (re)Cast,” about popular culture representations of PWD, and “Seen and not heard,” on my experiences of being young and disabled. If you’re in NSW, you can pick up a hardcopy at your local library, all over Sydney and at loads of regional newsagencies (full list of places you can obtain the mag here). If you are elsewhere, you can download a copy, in one go or in sections, if that’s easier.

But that’s not all! Check out the Don’t DIS blog. I’m going to be writing there over the next month about such topics as who gets to speak about disability advocacy, narratives of disabled laziness, where conversations about disability tend to stop, body image while disabled and what respecting disabled people means. You yourself can participate: check out this post about blogging for the campaign here.

It’s going to be a fabulous month, readers.

  1. My esteemed co-blogger Lauredhel might disagree with me there.

Open Thread: Election Day in the USA!

Here in the US, the long-awaited midterm elections have arrived at last. As I think readers know, I take voting pretty seriously and adore voting, even though there are some pretty stark problems with the political process in the United States.

Vote By Mail Ballot Envelope: The back of my unsealed ballot envelope, warning the reader that voting twice 'is a crime.' An 'I voted early' sticker is propped up on the flap.

This open thread is for people to talk about their voting experiences (you don’t have to be USian to participate, and you don’t just have to talk about the current midterm elections!) and, most importantly, I would really like to hear from people who encountered accessibility issues at the polls in regards to this election.

If you couldn’t access your polling place, spotted problems with accessibility, had trouble getting an absentee ballot, etc., please let us know. As I mentioned recently, California voters can report problems with the polls to Disability Rights California, but I didn’t see similar systems in place in other states, let alone on a national level (if you know of any, please drop information in comments). I’ll be compiling the reports we receive and forwarding them on to the appropriate parties.

Disenfranchisement of disabled voters happens on a de facto level all the time and I’d like to start highlighting individual cases to illustrate how systemic and widespread this is.

Now, if you’re eligible to vote and you haven’t done it yet, get thee to the polls!

ETA: I can’t believe I left this out! *headdesk* If you experience/witness problems at the polls, you should immediately contact a poll worker and ask to speak to the precinct supervisor to report it. Document as much as you can, if you are able. Also contact Election Protection, a nationwide nonpartisan organization. You can also report problems with the polls to your Secretary of State as well as political organizations, and if you are registered with a party, contact the local office to tell them what happened.

Review: Stand Up for Mental Health

Last night I attended Stand Up For Mental Health Days on Campus, the first evening of the cross-Canada tour of Stand up for Mental Health.

I was trying to sort out a good way of summing up what Stand up for Mental Health (SMH) is, but I figure I’ll just use the description on the website:

David Granirer counsellor, stand-up comic and author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success, created and leads Stand Up For Mental Health (SMH). David teaches stand up comedy to people with mental illness as a way of building their confidence and fighting public stigma, prejudice, and discrimination.

Our shows look at the lighter side of taking meds, seeing counsellors, getting diagnosed, and surviving the mental health system. We perform at conferences, treatment centers and psych wards in partnership with numerous mental health organizations. SMH performs in Prisons, on Military Bases and University and College Campuses, at Government, Corporate and Community fundraisers and Forums, and Most Importantly, for the General Public across Canada and the US.

SMH will be on several university campuses over the next week, so I wanted to take the opportunity to review the show in case people are trying to decide if they want to go.

Go.

While some of the jokes and routines are funnier than others (my sense of humour is a lot dryer than this sort of thing does), the whole point of them is to talk about being Actually Crazy, to humanize what Actually Crazy looks like, sounds like, and behaves like. And it is, remarkably, not like in the movies.

The performance I attended opened with the CBC documentary “Cracking Up” (unsubtitled), which covered a year in the life of the program, highlighting five people who started out afraid to even say their names and ended giving a sold-our comedy performance. The documentary manages to somehow be both hilarious and harrowing, making it clear how much of the social stigma about mental health and mental illness deeply affect those of us who live with it. The people in the documentary learn that they can be funny, that they can talk about what’s happening in their lives, that they can speak about being Crazy. At the same time, though, the audience sees that this is not all just fun and games and being silly. It’s very apparent that these are people whose lives are incredibly difficult because of both the social stigma of mental illness and the actual affects of their conditions. Many of them live in very very small spaces in what are considered dangerous areas of Vancouver. One of them disappears and attempts suicide part way through the year the documentary covers. This is not a Very Special Lesson, but a pointed commentary.

The thing that Granirer and his group does in this is talk seriously about mental health issues while surrounding them with safe and easy-to-digest humour. This isn’t the first talk I’ve gone to at University that does exactly that. Jorge Cham’s talk about Procrastination and how he developed PhD comics also uses humour as the bread in a “people in grad school kill themselves and that’s something we’d like people to avoid doing” sandwich. It’s like folks in North America need to be eased carefully in to acknowledging that short-term or life-long mental health conditions exist, and the way to help is to talk about what’s going on, and what this culture of silence and stigma actually does to people.

On the surface, SMH looks like it’s going to be a fairly simple “come out and see a bunch of crazy people talk humourously about being crazy”, but there is a very serious point to it: mental health stigma kills.

I really recommend people in the Canadian cities the tour is touching down in this week take the chance to go and see the show.

If you’re interested in supporting the program but can’t make it out to a show, consider voting for them in the PepsiRefresh Challenge (Canada), as they’re hoping to mount a larger tour next year.

ADAPT Protests partially lock-down White House! Media Yawns, Changes Subject

I spent most of my weekend pretty much glued to Twitter following ADAPT’s latest action in Washington, DC and wondering where the media was, especially after a huge group of wheelchair users blockaded one of the White House gates and 16 people were arrested. I actually thought that the White House security arresting a group of people with disabilities would surely be the sort of thing that the media would pick up on.

Foolish me! Just like with the Arnieville protests that s.e. wrote about last week, the media is basically ignoring this four-day-long protest in Washington in favour of more important things. Despite repeated hunts by me and several other people, the only mention of the protest, “partial White House lockdown”, arrests, and march is this CNN report, which only quotes White House staff and the ADAPT webpage. Apparently CNN couldn’t even find someone from ADAPT to quote directly. (Also, the photos of the event that ADAPT have posted make it clear that CNN’s report is factually inaccurate.)

[If you would like to read NationalADAPT’s tweets, a good place to start is their September 18th tweet, and just keep going from there. Their timeline includes a variety of photos taken of the event, and also will point you towards other tweeters that were there.]

ADAPT has been protesting at the White House at least once a year (sometimes twice a year) since 1997, and has been holding protests in other cities across the US for 25 years. The focus of their protests for the last 11 years has been the Olmstead Decision and the Community Choice Act.

Eleven years ago, in the Olmstead decision, the Supreme Court said that Americans with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Yet today, states are responding to budget shortfalls by drastically cutting home and community-based services. These draconian cuts are forcing seniors and people with disabilities into nursing facilities and other institutional settings because they don’t have the services they need to remain independent.

On Sunday, ADAPT held a funeral, complete with casket, to both mourn and bring attention to the number of people with disabilities who have died in nursing homes around the country while fighting to get out of them. Monday involved marching directly on the White House. While CNN reports that 9 people handcuffed themselves to the White House gates, the ADAPT photos and Reports make it clear that far more than 9 people were involved in this action.

The Park Police had closed the sidewalk and street in front of the White House around 10 in the morning as ADAPT approached. When the police used an SUV to block ADAPT and the sidewalk, the bulk of ADAPT charged into the intersection of 15th and G Streets stopping traffic completely. The police had believed they had successfully stopped the line of activists when suddenly all the traffic was stopped and the intersection was packed with activists.

“The people they thought were meek or expendable,” said Jennifer McPhail about the police force, “were the people who had taken their power.”

While ADAPT’s actions continue today across Washington, DC, members who are required to attend court this morning after being arrested have been illegally challenged at the court to produce documentation for their service animals, and need to bring attention to ADA violations to the very people one would expect to be enforcing the ADA.

When a local Washington paper was challenged on their decision not to report anything about the ADAPT protests, their response was first that they don’t cover national protests and then, when it was pointed out this was also a local protest, that it was a matter of debate, and there were protests every day in DC. Other media sources haven’t responded to questions about their lack of coverage.

I do understand this, to a point. Certainly I’ve attended protests that have received very little media coverage, and most of that in either local papers or in grass roots news organizations. However, at what point do we start to seriously question why multi-day – or, in the case of Arnieville, multi-week – protests by people with disabilities are getting ignored? The ADAPT actions have decades of history, and touch on issues that are hot-button topics in the US right now, such as health care, funding for social programs, and the standard of living.

And yet, still, despite everything: we protest, and are ignored.

Guest Post From Jesse the K: Making Space for Wheelchairs and Scooters

Jesse the K hopes you can take a disabled feminist to tea this month. Her previous guest post was 20 Years and a Day for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Originally Posted at Access Fandom.

These guidelines come out of my experience working on WisCon, a 1000-person annual convention in a recently remodeled hotel.

There are many elements to making your event wheelchair-accessible. While U.S. law requires minimal wheelchair access, never rely on a venue’s general assertion of “oh yes, we’re accessible.” Those little wheelchair stickers? Anyone can buy them and post them at will, even at the bottom of a flight of steps.

There’s an entire shelf of 2-in (5,08 cm) thick books on this topic; so consider this the Twitter version. Links to helpful resources appear on June Isaacson Kaile’s site.

David Hingsburger is a long-time disability rights activist who’s begun using a wheelchair in the last few years. His essay “12 Steps? Me, I’d Rather Sit” captures the frustration of a last-minute change from an inaccessible venue to one that worked for him:

…These things are difficult because while I appreciate everyone’s understanding, I didn’t want it. While I was thankful for the extra effort made to find a room immediately, I didn’t want it. What I wanted was simple. Accessibility.

Accessibility doesn’t just mean I get easily into a building. Accessibility means anonymity. It reduces the need for compassion, understanding, special consideration, to Nil. It allows me to slip in unnoticed and set up quietly. This doesn’t mean it masks my disability, it just makes it mean something very different.…

Verify & report

Do an on-site survey with someone who’s truly familiar with the needs of wheelchair and scooter users. (Not all wheelchair users automatically have this knowledge, just as not all walking people know everything about sidewalk construction. Some non-wheelchair users also have these skills.)

Check for level paths to every area. A single, unramped step is as significant a blockade as two flights of stairs. Wheelchairs need at the very least 36″ (1 m) for corridors and 60″ (1,5 m) to turn around.

Describe any non-conforming areas in your publicity and program: forewarned is forearmed, and it demonstrates that you’ve actually checked the place out. Don’t use the term “wheelchair-friendly,” which has no defined meaning. Do reference any standards the venue meets: “ADA compliant” in WisCon’s case.

Make sure that stages are ramped as well. (Our venue can only ramp one stage at a time. This requires members to self-ID at reg, and program coordination to place ensure the ramped stage and the wheelchair using panelists are in the same room. I know from experience it’s easy to blow this one.)

Wheelchair Parking aka Blue Zones

Providing designated wheelchair parking in all seating areas permits wheelchair users the same freedom to come and go as those using the seats. Well-meaning non-disabled people will often say, “oh, but of course I’ll move a chair out of the way if you just ask.” And from their viewpoint, that’s a one-to-one personal issue. But from perspective of us wheelchair users, it’s a one-to-many problem, since we must ask for seating rearrangement every where we go.

While leaving empty spaces seems like a solution, chairs inevitably migrate further apart, filling them in. The inexpensive and highly effective alternative are “blue zones,” 36 in (1 m) squares outlined with 1in (2,54 mm) blue painters’ tape. It’s bright, stays down on carpet and comes up easily.

If you know how many wheelchair users are in attendance, be sure you make that many blue zones at the big get-togethers. (Otherwise, 1 for every 100 is a rough guideline.) Always have at least one blue zone, especially in the smallest program rooms (where crowding is most an issue). When you have room for two, put one up front and one in the back. The former is great for the wheelchair user who may also have hearing or vision impairment; the latter works well for those of us who get claustrophobic and need to be able to leave right away.