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FWD/Forward: FWD (feminists with disabilities) for a way forward: Page 33

John Stossel Wants YOU! To Be Afraid of the ADA

Not being from the US, I had this idea in my head that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must be awesome. I mean, come on! It’s been 20 years now! Ramps to every building, disability friendly policies, accessible washrooms in every hotel lobby! I get all starry-eyed just thinking about it.

People with disabilities who have actually been in the US are probably either rolling their eyes or giggling at my naivety.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read about airlines being fined for not following the ADA, despite repeated complaints from customers that they hadn’t been, continuing issues with post-secondary education, online content, and accessibility for students who are blind or otherwise vision-impaired (no mention of blind or visually impaired teachers) and students needing to sue in order to get attention to the fact that the new content delivery system was not accessible to them (again, no mention of blind or visually impaired teachers), the Attorney General of Massachusetts needing to step in to demand movie theater chains provide accessible content in all their theaters… The list goes on, while “advocates” tell people with disabilities not to sue because it upsets the non-disabled when they do.

And maybe those “advocates” have a point. Because even though one can find example after example after example of law suits – threatened or actually carried out – before businesses, universities, and even government offices will follow the ADA and “allow” people with disabilities the “rights” they’re guaranteed in the US, some folks still feel the need to produce opinion pieces claiming these lawsuits are frivolous and that the people who take them on are parasites (Content Warning: John Stossel).

Under the ADA, Olson notes, fairness does not mean treating disabled people the same as non-disabled people. Rather it means accommodating them. In other words, the law requires that people be treated unequally.

The law has also unleashed a landslide of lawsuits by “professional litigants” who file a hundred suits at a time. Disabled people visit businesses to look for violations, but instead of simply asking that a violation be corrected, they partner with lawyers who (legally) extort settlement money from the businesses.

Some disabled people have benefited from changes effected by the ADA, but the costs are rarely accounted for. If a small business has to lay off an employee to afford the added expense of accommodating the disabled, is that a good thing — especially if, say, customers in wheelchairs are rare? Extra-wide bathroom stalls that reduce the overall number of toilets are only some of the unaccounted-for costs of the ADA. And since ADA modification requirements are triggered by renovation, the law could actually discourage businesses from making needed renovations as a way of avoiding the expense.

I feel like I’ve taken apart aspects of this argument before, mostly because it seems the arguments get repeated over and over until one wants to make a Bingo Card and be done with it. But, to save me some keystrokes: Let’s Bust Some Myths: People with disabilities just want to sue the world into compliance (there’s a transcript to the video linked there in the comments 1), Needs Are Not Special and Accommodation is not “Special Treatment” (written by s.e.), Why Being Nice Isn’t Enough (which is meant to address the “just ask for accommodations!” part), “Bad Cripple” – you know, the fakers who are just scamming the incredibly generous disability system for the huge cheques they can rake in – oh, and we’ve got multiple posts just here at FWD about workplace accommodations being treated like a huge drama and a favour that doesn’t need to be granted rather than a right, people who work with actual people with disabilities assuming all people on prescription drugs are dangerous addicts, and how the opposite of disabled is not employable.

I think my favourite bit of the quote above, though, is the “If a small business has to lay off an employee to afford the added expense of accommodating the disabled, is that a good thing — especially if, say, customers in wheelchairs are rare?” I love that sentence, I want to cross stitch it on a little sampler and hang it up on my wall.

A Very Short List Of Businesses You Are Unlikely To See Wheelchair Users In:

1. Ones that don’t have a ramp to allow access to wheelchair users.

Seriously, that’s the basic criteria for shopping in this one-wheelchair-user household. We choose our restaurants, our coffee shops, our bookstores, our yarn stores, our sex toy shops, our grocery stores, our housing, our favourite tea place all on whether or not the shops themselves allow wheelchair users to enter. We don’t even go to one of the malls in the city because half the shops are too crowded to allow wheelchair user, so yes, John Stossel, if your business doesn’t accommodate wheelchair users chances are you don’t have many customers who are wheelchair users.

(Gentle reader, I cannot believe I just typed that sentence 20 years after the ADA passed into law.)

Honestly, that John Stossel is paid actual money to write opinion pieces that amount to “cripples are just sue-happy freaks, the ADA is why the Exxon oil spill happened, and service animals like snakes are ruining it for everyone else” – especially while service animals are constantly being turned away illegally – is especially irritating when we’re still fighting for something as simple as the right to be paid minimum wage for our work.

  1. Back when I wrote this I felt like I was making a very witty point by not “choosing” to be “nice” and putting the transcript up – if you wait for people to be “nice” then you wait a long time! I wouldn’t do that now because I think it’s shitty to make people sit around and wait so I can score some sort of political point.

“We’re not his kids, we’re adults, and we’re our own people”: The Trouble with the Jerry Lewis Telethon

Today is Labour Day in Canada and the US, which for many people means the end of the Labour Day Weekend Jerry Lewis Telethon. Wikipedia conveniently describes the Jerry Lewis Telethon so I don’t have to:

The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (also known as The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon and The Jerry Lewis Stars Across America MDA Labor Day Telethon) is hosted by actor and comedian, Jerry Lewis to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). It has been held annually since 1966. As of 2009, the telethon had raised $2.45 billion since its inception. It is held on Labor Day weekend, starting on the Sunday evening preceding Labor Day and continuing until late Monday afternoon, syndicated to approximately 190 television stations throughout the United States.

On the surface this probably looks like a good thing, but digging a bit deeper: For many people, this is one of the few times they’ll see images of people with disabilities on their t.v. screen (and from a noted authority and beloved celebrity), and the entire thing is one drawn out pity parade.

Since 1991, protesters, including Laura Hershey and Mike Irvine, have tried to raise awareness about the way that the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and Jerry Lewis himself, treat actual adults with disability, and have discussed how these sorts of pity parades affect the public perceptions of people with disability. In 2001, Hershey wrote:

As we in the disability-rights movement keep trying to explain, our biggest problems come not from our physical conditions, but from a society that fails to accommodate us. Lewis’s telethon plays up the problems, without suggesting their sources or solutions. For instance, those sappy vignettes will make much of an “afflicted” person’s inability to wash his own hair, or get herself to the toilet, without any discussion of the urgent need for publicly funded personal assistance, or of the problems posed by the architectural barriers designed right into the layout of most private homes.
Trouble also arises from the fact that thousands of families dealing with disabilities in the U.S. and Canada are denied adequate medical care and equipment – necessities which should be basic human rights, not handouts accompanied by a drum roll and tally.

I’ve written about my disdain for both the Telethon and for the praises Lewis gets despite referring to people with disabilities as “half-persons” who should “stay at home”, and I think this is still an idea that people find very challenging. It’s easier to view these sorts of fund raising telethons as doing Good Things. They are supposed to, after all. That it’s still leaving people with disabilities begging for basic rights, access, and assistance that shouldn’t be necessary in this age of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessibility for Ontarioans with Disabilities Act (AOWD) isn’t comfortable to think about. That the main use of these funds is for finding a “cure” – by which they mean a pre-natal test – rather than assisting families in purchasing wheelchairs or renovating a home to make it wheelchair accessible, or in assisting people with disabilities in getting support during or immediately after a move seems to surprise people. Your money isn’t going to help actual people with disabilities. It’s going to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and to aid Jerry Lewis in his continued insistence that he’s a humanitarian. These are not really the same things.

Many people with disabilities have written about their perceptions of these telethons, and the damage they do, as well as the issues with giving a humanitarian award to a man who treats actual people with disabilities with such disdain. Hershey’s most recent columns are Speaking Out against the MDA Telethon and Laura’s Labor Day Weekend Column. Liz Henry wrote last year about her dose of morning rage regarding the telethon, and there are many links there that highlight the issues around Jerry’s Kids. There’s also the 2007 Blogswarm, Protest Pity, which features more than 35 blog posts about the Telethon and the Protests. You can also read From Poster Child to Protester, which may be the first thing I ever read about the protests and the Issues with Jerry Lewis.

Sometimes, though, the best way to combat the pity parade is to show people with disabilities talking about their lives, and their lived experience. Laura Hershey made this video as part of the “It’s Our Story” Project. Transcript follows:

Transcript:

The ‘It’s Our Story’ titles roll while tinkly piano music plays. White symbols of sign language and a person in a wheelchair flash against the background, which is suggestive of a US flag, with the continental United States in the blue square instead of the usual 50 stars.

The video opens on Laura Hershey, a powerchair user wearing a nasal cannula and glasses. The title of the video is “Jerry’s Kids”, and I believe she’s referring to the group “Jerry’s Orphans”.

Laura: That’s actually a group that was started in Chicago by Mike Irvin, Chris Matthews, and several other people. And I worked with them a lot organziing these protests nationally. I think what the name says is that Jerry Lewis doesn’t have the right to claim us as his quote “kids”, especially as he’s not interested in our perspective. He completely trashes people who question or challenge the telethon approach. He’s attacked us in the press, calling us ungrateful, claiming that he bought us our wheelchairs which is, you know, completely untrue.

You know, whatever ego trip he gets thinking of himself as our saviour, or our daddy, or whatever it is he thinks, we reject that.

We’re not his kids, we’re adults, and we’re our own people. We don’t belong to him.

Signal Boost: The Attitude Test discusses Screen Readers TODAY

Via email

On this week’s Attitude Test, we will, as usual take a look at the news and put our distinctive slant thereon, all ready for you to disagree with if you want to.

The main subject this week concerns screenreaders.

The simple question, though with, I feel some complicated answers is: are we witnessing the demise of the stand-alone screenreader such as JAWS and Window-Eyes? With Apple now putting a screenreader in many of their products as a standard part of their system, is this the way things will go.

Is there much left for the major screenreader manufacturers to do? A new version of JAWS is coming soon, but most of what has been done in this new version are fixes to existing problems. Could it be that Microsoft may well decide to incorporate one of the major screenreaders into their own products?

We want your views on this.

You can interact with the program in several ways: either by skype at
the.global.voice, by email and msn at yourvoice@theglobalvoice.info, or by using one of our three phone numbers you can find on our website:
The Global Voice.

That’s the Attitude Test live on Sunday at 18:00 UTC, that’s 2 pm Eastern, 11 am Pacific in the US, 7 pm in the UK and 8 pm in Central Europe

Let your voice be heard on the Attitude Test, on the one and only Global Voice.

Weekly Events Roundup

As always, these events are not endorsed by us in any way, and unfortunately I can’t tell you any more about them than what is at the applicable links.

Also, things are a little wonky on my end because of Hurricane Earl, but both Don and I are fine, having made it back to our apartment during a lull in the storm. But I’m a bit scattered right now!

Memorial Events (All in North America) – Conferences (All in Europe) – Art Show/Call for Submissions of Art (All in North America)

Memorial Events:

Canada:

Unveiling Ceremony
Memorial Wall Plaques Dedicated to Patient Labourers Past

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the oldest part of the patient built boundary wall, constructed in 1860, which stands on the south side of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) at 1001 Queen Street West, Toronto. These patient-built walls, along with the 1888-89 walls on the east and west sides, are a testament to the abilities of people whose unpaid labour was central to the operation of asylums in the Province of Ontario during the 19th & 20th centuries.

Join us as we unveil a series of nine memorial plaques in remembrance.

Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.
Corner of Queen Street West and Shaw Street.

A tour of the wall and all nine plaques will follow the dedication ceremony.

Sponsored by Psychiatric Survivor Archives, Toronto (PSAT), CAMH,
and the generous support of many community donors.

For more information or media inquiries, please call 416-595-6015; 416-661-9975. (via NEADS)

Conferences:

United Kingdom

The Lancaster Disability Studies Conference is taking place 7-9th September 2010. Over 150 presenters will be giving papers and showing posters.

There will be a live webcast of the keynote sessions which can be can be viewed at http://www.lancs.ac.uk/iss/digital/disability/
The recordings will also be made available on the conference website afterwards http://www.lancs.ac.uk/disabilityconference/

Tuesday 7 September 2010
11.30-12.30 Plenary – Caroline Gooding
17.30-18.30 Plenary – Liz Crow

Wednesday 8 September 2010
9.30-10.30 Plenary – Ruth Gould
13.30-14.30 Plenary – Adolf Ratzka

Thursday 9 September 2010
11.30-12.30 Plenary – Alana Officer

Details about the plenary talks and the full book of abstracts are available on the conference website.

Registration is open for the Currents in the Mainstream conference:

The MeCCSA Disability Studies Network presents a conference on current images of disability at De Montfort University, Leicester on the 22nd September from 9-30/10.00 until 4-30. This day conference aims to re-visit and re-evaluate the complex issues at stake in contemporary representations of disability and impairment from a variety of critical perspectives, investigating both continuities and new trends in representing disability.

Presenters include Paul Darke, Debs Williams and Sonali Shah.Papers
/presentations will include work on televison, film, journalism and
performance. For more details please see Currents in the Mainstream

Amsterdam:

Conference: ‘Diversity in Quality of Life’
December 2-4 2010
VU University, Amsterdam

Disability Studies in Nederland wants to celebrate its first anniversary and the start of its research program with an international conference in cooperation with VU University, which supports this event as part of the lustrum agenda Freedom and Responsibility, on occasion of its 130th birthday. To promote the disability studies approach in The Netherlands the conference 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.

Slovenia:

ENIL invites you to an international conference co-organized with YHD (Association for the culture and theory of handicap), 8 & 9 September 2010, Ljlubljana, Slovenia

The conference will be implemented under the
EDFEO programme for the year 2010 (European driving force for equal opportunities), within which YHD is coordinating the Eastern European group.

Location: City Hotel, Dalmatinova 15, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.

There’s more information at the ENIL website (scroll down).

Art Show:

United State

Mad Gifts: An Art Show
What:

An exhibition of inspired artwork by Icaristas throughout the Northeast; a celebration of our visionary talents and community; a fundraiser; and an opportunity to share TIP with others.

When:

November 5, 2010 – December 7, 2010

Opening Reception: Friday, November 5, 7PM-9PM

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: October 1

Feel free to keep us updated on events!

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