I feel, sometimes, that I am at war with the mentally-well world. This isn’t to say that many of them aren’t lovely or that I have a desire to harm anyone, but I do feel embroiled. And it’s mostly because the well population just doesn’t understand what it is to be unwell. They demonstrate this heartily by repeatedly saying the worst things possible to a person with a mental illness.
It is quite possible for a person from a very rich and privileged background to genuinely care about the plight of the poor, and to do something constructive to improve it (Osborne to cut £4bn more from benefits, 10 September). It is much harder for such a person to have any real comprehension of what it feels like to live in poverty, with little or no prospect of escape, no matter how hard they work.
Michael J. Berens at the Seattle Times: Hundreds of adult homes conceal abuse, neglect [strong trigger warning for content related to abuse]
In fact, a Seattle Times investigation has found, such cover-ups by adult family homes are not unusual. The Times found that over the past five years, at least 357 of the adult family homes in this state have concealed cases of abuse or neglect of their residents. Many of those cases involved serious injury or death. In dozens of these cases, untrained or unlicensed caregivers mishandled residents’ medications, sometimes giving them fatal overdoses. In other cases, residents became ill after being denied basic care and hygiene.
That I am a person with a disability who identifies as asexual is not a forgone conclusion. That I belong to both groups is incidental, and that both groups have been mistakenly thought, by people who are not part of that group, to denote a lack of maturation or inability to understand one’s social or physical development, does not mean I am, in fact, immature, or that I do not know my own body. The fact that I am asexual is not proof about the presence, or lack of a sexual desire in a person with a disability, or zir understanding of zir sexuality, or zir ability to express that desire, if indeed it does exist. The fact that I have a disability is, similarly, not proof that all, or even most, people who identify as asexual suffer from some kind of physical, mental, or chemical deficiency.
I get less and less likely to feel solidarity with it when THAT phenomena where in your experimentation , goals for what inclusion looks like , and execution are serious matters and the stuff you got it from , the places it came from aren’t even notable .
As well as EVEN less likely to believe it’s just experimentation or poking and prodding when certain aspects of those personae like your race,class, sexuality are seemingly
b) only poked in ways that continually exhibit you as a edgy for a member of privileged class or consistent appropriator or chosen vessel.
It’s not my job to tell you haw to do it but if you wish to explore why is THAT section so often missed .
Emily Yoffe has really been striking out in the advice sweepstakes lately, but she redeemed herself in this week’s livechat, when a reader wrote in to say:
Q. Dealing With the R-Word: How can I respond to people who use the word “retard” or “retarded” as derogatory term in my presence? I have two beautiful children (one has autism), but have never used the R-word even before I became a mother. While I realize a vast majority of the time, people who use this term are not referring to people with intellectual disabilities, it still hurts to hear the word since it’s generally used to mean stupid. I have been hearing this word a lot lately—sometimes from younger people, other times from people my age (mid-’30s) or older who throw this word around. When I am in my own home, I just tell the person, “We do not use that word in this house.” When I am at another person’s home, I don’t know what to say, so I keep quiet (even though it doesn’t feel right) or leave. And what about when I’m in a neutral place? By the way, my son is almost always with me and everyone I associate with knows he has autism, but that doesn’t stop people from using the R-word. Please tell me how I can respond when I hear this word used in everyday conversation.
Here’s what Yoffe responded with:
A: You need to say something in as neutral a way as possible. If the word is being used to describe someone with an intellectual disability, you need to say something like, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to be insulting. But retarded is an outmoded word that many people find offensive.” Then offer what you prefer as a better term. If it’s being used as a general insult, you should also speak up and explain that word is so hurtful that you’d prefer not to hear it.
On the nose, Prudie. It’s important for the letter writer to not just speak up when it’s used to talk about a human being, but also just generally, to explain that it’s hurtful and has negative associations. I imagine the letter writer is going to get some pushback on that, but a few seeds will be planted, as well, and people might start thinking twice about how they use words like the R-word. A lot of people use exclusionary language out of ignorance and may be unaware that they are hurting people around them, and providing a quick heads up on the matter in a way designed to make confrontation difficult (by making the other person look bad if ou gets confrontational about a perfectly reasonable request) can go a long way to eliminating hateful uses of words like this one.
And, of course, pushback appeared within the livechat itself:
Q. The R-Word: I feel for this woman, but when I buy mulch that retards weeds, do I need to apologize for that? Should we just remove that word from the dictionary?
A: Talking about retarding the growth of weeds is a great way to preserve a useful word.
This is a really common response to discussions about language. The interrogator decides the subject is ‘too sensitive’ and thus deliberately misreads the discussion and the request to stop using a particular word to drag in an unrelated use of a word, sometimes a word that sounds similar, but actually has an entirely different root and origins (although that is not the case with the R-word and ‘retard’ in the sense of ‘flame-retardant’). To me, it reads like an attempt to use the ‘bad word’ as many times as possible in a sanctioned way: ‘But I just want to have a discussion!’
This reaction also raises a fundamental point about our common humanity. When I first started learning about and engaging with exclusionary language (because none of us are born knowing these things, let alone in a language that’s not our first), I was sometimes puzzled about why particular words were being identified as harmful, but the immediacy of the situation struck me. Here was a person, another human being, right in front of me, saying ‘please don’t use this word around me, it hurts me.’ What possible rational response could there be, other than to stop using that word around that person even if I privately disagreed, or to say, ‘I’m sorry this word makes you feel uncomfortable, but I use it to self identify in a reclamatory way, not generally to refer to people or as a pejorative.’
Today’s Recommended Reading focuses on Voting.
A blind voter has lashed out at politicians who chose mail-in ballots for an Oct. 25 Ontario city’s municipal election.
Geof Collis said he is “appalled” by the decision in Kawartha Lakes, in southeastern Ontario, which he says has “effectively discriminated against me and others, ensuring that my right to vote is neither private nor independent.
Faced with a mail-in ballot, he say: “How would it be possible to vote if you were blind without help from someone in one form or another?”
Canada: Voter access improved: city
Pauline Baker has always found it hard to vote for St. Catharines politicians.
No, she’s not particularly cynical about local politics.
The 68-year-old, who has multiple sclerosis and needs a scooter to get around, just has trouble getting into her local polling station.
“It’s not very accessible and it has been bugging me forever,” said Baker, who was left fuming outside a locked door at Prince Philip School during a previous election.
A wheelchair ramp led to the school’s side entrance, but safety rules prevented that door from being left open, even on election day. (A passing teacher eventually let Baker in.)
Tanzania: Disabled Persons Sidelined In Elections
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a two-day workshop last week to sensitize and educate people with disabilities on the forthcoming General Elections.
The workshop, which attracted about 100 special needs representatives from all regions in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, mainly dwelt on the Rights, Responsibilities and Roles of Voters in the country’s fourth multiparty election.
The UNDP election support project manager, Mr Oskar Lehner, said the government was duty bound to ensure special needs voters were equally involved in the entire election process.
Disabled people in Mwanza Region say they have not participated in this year’s General Election by contesting in various posts because of being stigmatized.
They made the remarks recently through the Nyamagana district chairman of the Tanzania Society for the Disabled, Mr Anthony Chacha.
Speaking to The Citizen after receiving five wheelchairs and
as many tricycles from the Mwanza City Council director, Mr Wilson Kabwe, he said the Tanzania society does not yet have confidence with disabled peoples’ ability to lead.
I am totally cheating and just reposting what Ouyang Dan said earlier!
Astrid, of Astrid’s Journal, has agreed after much consideration to host the September edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, and we at FWD/Forward are enthusiastic to support that decision!
Astrid has chosen the theme “Identity”:
Think of it as broadly as you want. Posts relating to transforming identities, are of course especially welcome, as they honor both themes. Just a reminder that, even though this is a disability blog carnival, we honor intersectionality, so racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and any other type of identities also count, as long as the post is somewhat relevant to disability.
Comments can be submitted preferably here or else at the Disability Studies, Temple U. blog. The deadline for submissions will be Tuesday night, September 21 – Tuesday night your time, so don’t worry about my living in Europe. I hope to post the carnival on Friday, September 24 – whenever it suits me, my time.
We hope you will consider submitting something for the Carnival. Remember, the theme is a way to get you started, and we hope that you will interpret it to how it applies to your own situation, keeping the general spirit of intersectionality in mind.
Again, thanks to Astrid for taking this on, because without volunteers, there would be no Carnival!
Be sure, if you haven’t already, to check out the August edition of The Disability Carnival at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, hosted by Kali.
Last week, Mathsnerd attempted to sign up for a new GoogleMail (know as Gmail elsewhere) account. I say attempted because this did not go well. At all.
Oh, wait, what’s that, Google? After trying more than three names, I have to go through CAPTCHA to prove I’m a real person? Okay, that’s kind of soon, but whatever. Gee, you sure scrunch those letters together and make them all wavy so that I have a real hard time figuring out what the hell you want me to enter…
Huh, okay, I’ve tried eight times, Google, and I can’t seem to read it well enough that you’re satisfied that I’m a real person. And while you offer a “read-aloud” accessibility option for the CAPTCHA down below for submitting the form (which, incidentally, doesn’t work in Chrome, yeah, you know, YOUR BROWSER!), for the CAPTCHA to keep trying different handles you conveniently don’t offer any alternate options.
Captcha is a sort of Challenge that a user must pass when a program thinks that the user might be a spambot instead of a person. Wikipedia’s article looks useful if you want to learn more about it. It’s certainly not the only Challenge software out there, but it is one that is widely used, especially by Google-related products, such as their web-based email and their blogging software, Blogger. In fact, Google likes Captcha so much they bought the company in 2009, making Google responsible for implementing their accessibility policy.
Some Captchas, including the ones used by Google, have an audio option. I’ve occasionally tried to use the audio Captchas, which are a series of numbers read outloud with a large amount of background noise, designed, I assume, to keep an automated system from being able to distinguish the Challenge. I’m an experienced audio typist, so while I found this irritating, I could cut through it. Earlier this year, Blind Bargains did a study and found that 73% of blind users were unable to succeed at the Captcha Challenge – and blind users, according to Google and Captcha, are exactly who the audio function is designed for. 1
Google has an Accessibility Feedback Form. In order to use it, you must have a Google Account. Depending on any number of factors, your attempt to get a Google Account to discuss their accessibility problem with Captcha could require you to pass a Captcha Challenge in order to prove you are an actual person.
Actually, let me highlight that: In order to tell Google about their problems with accessibility, you need to be able to pass through the inaccessible Challenge.
Those of you who already have Gmail or GoogleMail accounts, you can contact Google to raise your concerns at their Accessibility Feedback Form. The Feedback form has a lot of fields to fill out. I just filled out the one that I felt was most applicable, and it went through without requiring me to put in any more information.
Here is a template you can use. Please feel free to use, edit, or adapt this for your own purposes.:
I was very distressed to learn that Blind users and users with other disabilities were having difficulties in signing up for Gmail accounts through the Captcha challenge. One user has detailed her experiences here: http://accessibility-fail.dreamwidth.org/33494.html , and as well, Blind Bargains reports 73% of their users had difficulties with using the audio version of Captcha: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=5383
I know that Google wants to be a more accessible service for users around the world. I hope that the accessibility people at Google will have the opportunity to look into these complaints and work with various people with disabilities in order to solve these problems.
Thank you for your time.
This is an issue that cuts to the heart of the problems with inaccessible web content. Obviously there are thousands – maybe millions – of blind or otherwise visually impaired users of the internet, but in this increasingly-flashy internet age, where not only information but job applications are going increasingly online, web accessibility is a huge barrier to people’s participation in society. Google, as we all know, is a huge multi-national company with the ability to make an incredible difference by working with users with disabilities in order to make the web more accessible to us. By contacting Google, you will be adding your voice to the chorus asking for greater web accessibility.
- Thank you to Codeman38 for bringing this study to my attention. ↩
In Germany, the toymaker Paraplush has evidently just released a line of psychiatry-themed plush toys. Each comes ‘packaged with a personalized medical history and treatment plan.’ They’re tied in with an online game made by the same company (warning, Flash, autoplay). Like, for example, Kroko the crocodile:
Kroko here ‘needs your help!’ His ‘patient profile‘ tells us:
The patient’s hypersensitive hallucinatory perception is a symptom of a paranoid psychosis. The signs are a mental block and a Gestaltzerfall (disintegration of structure) of the habitual field of experience. The consequence is a compensational reactivation of archaic reaction patterns.
The idea behind the toys, according to the creators, is that ‘Children and grown-ups like their [the plush toys’] vulnerability and find something in them that gives them a great sense of comfort in helping to heal them.’
I am reminded of the giant plush microbes I buy for my cats to play with. They experience a great sense of comfort in shredding ebola.
There are a couple of things going on here that I find troubling. I am, in general, not a fan of the cuteification of disability issues, and thus, plush representations of mental health conditions presented as an educational tool bother me. This is just a personal reaction; I know that other people may well feel differently, and I admit that a part of me is kind of bemused by the idea of buying a plush representation of one of my disabilities.
I think there’s also an argument to be made, though, that some people might find these toys beneficial (or just funny in a reclamatory way), and might enjoy subverting the ‘patient profiles’ and ‘treatment plans’ or even writing up treatment plans of their own as a way of reclaiming and owning their own experiences with the mental health establishment. Indeed, I wonder how my perception of these toys would change if they were being produced by and for people with disabilities with the specific goal of empowerment.
I am also really bothered by the reinforcement of psychiatrisation going on with these toys; there’s one toy labeled as having ‘multiple personality disorder,’ for example, whom we are informed is ‘unable to accept herself,’ stressing that the conclusion we are supposed to draw from the patient’s history is that she needs to be ‘fixed’ through integration. Likewise, I assume most of the treatment plans are predicated on the idea of mental illness as something that needs to be controlled, probably with the use of medication. I suspect that other approaches/perspectives/experiences are probably not included in patient profiles and treatment plans.
And, of course, the company’s store is labeled ‘The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddlytoys,’ which…could we not make ‘asylums’ cutesy and funny, please, given that people are forcibly institutionalised to this day in facilities where abuse really does happen? Sometimes really horrific abuse?
What about you? How do you feel about this line of toys? Do you think the context, of who is making them, for whom, and with what intent, is important to consider?
We’re reaching out across our bi-coastal networks to move to the Bay, specifically Berkeley because of the level of access that can be found there for disabled folks. This is a huge, complicated and multidimensional decision that we have struggled with and we will be writing more about it to you, our loved ones and family, in the coming months.
But right now we need you. We need help finding a place to live and creating a community careshift collective.
Check for more information about what Mia Mingus & Ms Crip Chick need at Leaving Evidence (mirrored at CripChick’s blog), and also check out the Book Sale at thaura zine distro: Revolutionary Love is More Than a Catch Phrase. There appears also to be an etsy sale in the works, so please keep an eye out for that as well.
CripChick also has a list of books she’s giving away, as their new digs won’t have room for all the books (woe).
For myself, I have only recently become aware of the amazing work that Mia Mingus does, but what I’ve read at her blog, Leaving Evidence, from hearing about her work this year at the Allied Media Conference, I am blown away by her passion, her drive, and her love. CripChick’s work I’m more familiar with, especially her work with young people with disabilities, as a youth organizer and a radical woman of color. Both of their blogs are outstanding, and as well they are also both heavily involved in community organizing and disability solidarity.
I know things are tight all over, but much of the help they need is not just in money, but in support and information. Check out what they need!