Recommended Reading for 13 December, 2010

You are Here: Safety Haiku: Automatic Captions

This is the reason why you should not send me breathless, excited emails about the wonders of automated speech-to-text. You see the “CC” button and you think you and I will both enjoy the same media. This is what I actually get. (On the other hand, in a black turtleneck and beret, with bongos in the background, this little poem could actually be kind of cool.)

Where’s the Benefit: Demolition of the Case for DLA Reform

In fact, though the report claims that there exists a “perception of disability permanently precluding work is prevalent among individuals with disabilities not already in employment”, there is no evidence cited in the report that suggests DLA could be a barrier to work. The section and all references to it in the consultation paper could be interpreted as an attempt to misdirect, and should be removed forthwith. Further, it should be noted that the consultation commits the statistical crime of confusing correlation with causation. Whilst RR No. 648 does provide evidence that low employment is correlated with claiming of DLA, this in no way implies that one causes the other.

Guest Post at MarfMom: Jennifer’s Birth Story #2

Jennifer Levesque, 38
Diagnosed with Marfan at age 12 -inherited from father
Mother of two
Methuen, MA

Boing Boing: Universal Subtitles: add subtitles to any video on the web

For video creators, this is a dead simple way to increase the audience for your work — especially since there’s a full-text search coming shortly. For subtitlers, the upcoming workflow management and collaboration tools will make volunteer efforts even easier to run.

Both Mozilla and Wikipedia will be including the Universal Subtitles tool for their videos — and the tool itself is free/open source software, which means that the community can be sure that it won’t be orphaned and that the tool can always be improved.

Trigger Warning for violence against disabled people: Damn Interesting: Howard Dully’s Lobotomy

Howard Dully was brought in for the procedure because his stepmother described him as “unbelievably defiant,” saying among other things: “He objects to going to bed but then sleeps well. He does a good deal of daydreaming and when asked about it he says ‘I don’t know.’ He turns the room’s lights on when there is broad sunlight outside.” After Howard’s stepmother visited with Dr. Freeman, he suggested that “the family should consider the possibility of changing Howard’s personality by means of transorbital lobotomy.”

First UK Survey in 13 Years Reveals Significant Barriers to Participation in Society for Disabled Persons

A Life Opportunities Survey in the UK, conducted for the first time since 1997, surveyed 18,000 Britons and the findings on disability are striking. (As are the way the headlines about the survey are framed.) Bottom line? There are significant social obstacles to full participation in society for people with disabilities, leading to increased isolation in comparison with nondisabled people.

There’s a reason we talk about the social model of disability a lot: Because it matters. Many of the obstacles encountered by people with disabilities are created by society, yet disability is framed as a personal failing, and we are told that it’s our responsibility to get the inclusion and access we need, even when this is functionally impossible. One person cannot fundamentally rejigger the very structure of society; I, for example, cannot singlehandedly make sure that every new construction in the United States, or even in my own community, is accessible, because there are too many obstacles in the way. Access and accommodations are treated as a tremendous hardship and a nuisance and disability is framed as a burden: On society, on family members, on schools, on hospitals. This contributes to persistent social attitudes about disability that make it harder for us to achieve inclusion.

This doesn’t mean we should just give up. But it does mean that looking at disability solely from the perspective of a more personalised model makes it inherently difficult to address a lot of issues impacting people with disabilities. Making the focus on individuals, rather than institutions, also allows society to get a free pass on the barriers it creates; it’s our fault, evidently, that we are more likely to experience poverty, rape, sexual assault.

In employment, 56% of adults with impairments experienced restrictions in “the type or work they did or the salary they were paid” compared with just 26% of the general population.

This income inequality severely disadvantaged those with disabilities. Almost a third of households with an adult with impairments said they could not afford a week away on holiday each year – compared with just one in five of other households.

Shockingly, 12% of adults with impairments experienced difficulty “accessing rooms within their home or difficulty getting in or out of their home” compared with just 1% of adults without impairments. (‘Disabled people ‘twice as likely’ to miss out on careers, courses and holidays‘)

The survey also found that stress is a significant contributor in the lives of many people with disabilities, and when you are disabled, you are much more likely to be living on the edge. From the same article:

An unexpected bill of £500 would leave 38% of impaired adults struggling compared with 26% of their able-bodied peers.

“It is hard to know whether this is because people with impairments have reduced incomes or because they have higher living costs,” said Howe.

I would note that the UK is also in the process of putting through brutal cuts to the disability living allowance, making financial hardship even more likely in the future. Writing at Comment is free, Sharon Brennan notes:

A disabled person’s disability will not go away just because the government has decided to save 20% on its DLA bill. The only change will be that those affected will have to fund the higher costs of living out of their own pocket. And these pockets are already threadbare. These cuts will affect a sector of society that the Disability Alliance UK states is already twice as likely to live in poverty as other citizens.

The Daily Telegraph took the ‘but disabled people really want to work‘ tack in its reporting, stressing the barriers to employment for people with disabilities and how this translates into increased financial hardship.

Almost half of households where at least one person had a disability (45 per cent) were unable to afford expenses or make loan repayments, compares to 29 per cent of households where no-one had an impairment.

Barriers to transport were also noted as a significant obstacle, whether people with disabilities are trying to get to work, socialise, or access an education. We are more likely to rely on public transport, for a variety of reasons, and we often encounter inaccessible transportation, essentially trapping us at home. This is a social obstacle, not a personal one. Wheelchair users, for example, are not inherently immobile; they are immobilised by inaccessible transit, by broken buses, by drivers who refuse to pick them up, by sidewalks that are not maintained.

The study also noted that some social obstacles, like high costs for housing and transport, impact nondisabled people as well. Addressing those barriers to access would benefit not just disabled members of society, but low income people in general. Making changes to work towards a more inclusive society, in other words, isn’t just about ‘the disability agenda.’ It’s about basic measures that would be helpful for all humans.

These results are being called ‘enlightening,’ which is what happens when you ignore people who have been shouting loud and clear for decades about barriers to social access, and when you decide that conducting surveys to learn more about the specific needs of the disabled community is so unimportant that you only need to do it every 13 years or so. These results are only ‘enlightening’ and ‘shocking’ to people who haven’t been paying very close attention.

Meanwhile, in the United States, another study recently released notes that people with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violent crime.

By 13 December, 2010.    accessibility, social attitudes   



Videos: Flying Wheelchairs!

Here is something you may not know about me: I enjoy hang gliding and paragliding. There are few things in this world I love quite as much as jumping off a mountain. It’s an experience that’s kind of hard to explain to people who haven’t done it, most of whom look at me highly askance when I say that I enjoy a sport many people think of as highly dangerous and also highly unsuitable for fat people. Au contraire to both beliefs, incidentally.

Here’s the thing. It’s awesome. There’s the ‘oh shit’ moment when you start taking off and realise there’s no going back and ack you really are jumping off a mountain and the ground looks very far away oh no what have I done and then you are soaring above the world. Sometimes birds cruise by and check you out. The view is incredible. It’s quiet and you can feel the wind on your face. It’s, well, the closest we can really ever get to flying, without a set of wings. It’s so glorious it almost hurts sometimes.

One of the attitudes I encounter a lot when I talk about people with disabilities and sports is the idea that we can’t do sports because of our impairments, or just puzzlement over ‘how it all works,’ despite the ample evidence for disabled athletics all around us. For those of us who are athletes or who are interested in sports, trust me, we figure out a way to make it work.

With hang gliding and paragliding, there are some definite accessibility issues; for example, sometimes you need to hike out to good spots, but there’s absolutely no reason full time wheelchair users can’t hurl themselves off mountains too, should they feel so inclined, and as is often the case with sports, people are often really interested in working together to make something happen for someone who shares their love of an activity. There are a lot of different options for people with physical disabilities interested in gliding, including both solo and tandem rigging with baskets or sports chairs designed (or hacked) for gliding.

So, when I was talking to a tandem partner the other day and he expressed skepticism about wheelchair users and paragliding…I went on a YouTube hunt to disprove him, and here’s what I found.

Be advised that these videos have a lot of background wind noise so you may want to mute them.

A video showing a wheelchair user’s paragliding start. The rigging is checked and someone runs behind the sports chair pushing it until the canopy swoops up and she takes off. The video concludes with a shot of the glider hovering over a wooded landscape, rapidly disappearing from view.

Another wheelchair paragliding start, also with an assistant to push the chair. The glider takes off halfway through, and the video zooms in to track the flier across the landscape.

A takeoff and landing, including some time spent in the air. Voices in Polish can be heard in the background.

A paraglider who chooses to transfer to a basket for flying. Assistants help get the flier in the air and he skims over water on what looks like a great day for flying before being joined by other gliders. Piping music with a strong beat comes on as he soars. This is an excerpt from the film Shared Flight.

I try to contain my gliding evangelism in the interesting of not boring/annoying people, but I will say that chances are high that if you’re interested in flying, someone would probably love to take you up!

Signal Boost: Call For Participation: Spectral Amoebas – A Blog Carnival about Asexuality and the Autism Spectrum

We are asexual bloggers on the autistic spectrum who want to explore the intersection between autistic and asexual identities.  The basis of this project is to have a conversation about our unique experiences being autistic and asexual without looking for a “cause”.  We want to create a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about the issues that affect us.  If you identify as asexual (or demisexual, or gray-a) and as on the autistic spectrum (diagnosed or not, AS, autism, PDD-NOS, NLD), you are invited to write a blog post for this project. If you are not asexual and autistic you are welcome to contribute provided you focus on the issues experienced by this particular intersection. The scope of the project is general, and open to any experiences of being autistic and asexual.

However, please keep in mind that asexuality here is to be discussed as a sexual orientation in its own right, not as discussion of the desexualization imposed on autistic people by mainstream culture.

More details at Writing From Factor X!

By 12 December, 2010.    signal boost  , , ,  



Creative Work: Sculptor Steve Eastwood

Sculptor Steve Eastwood is disabled as a result of a stroke at 19. Initially the prognosis for recovery was poor, and during his lengthy period of time in rehabilitation, he was exposed to pottery and started exploring sculpture. Today, he produces sculpture and also teaches a pottery class for disabled students.

Here’s some of his work:

A limestone sculpture of a man with flowing hair and a very expressive face, and a giant pair of wings.

‘Angel of the Midlands,’ a sculpture done in limestone.

A resin sculpture of David triumphant over Goliath's head. He's leaning on his sword and has his head propped on his other hand, looking down at the head on the ground.

‘David and Goliath,’ a resin casting.

And a segment on him, done by the BBC. It’s a bit patronising, especially at the end, but I thought some people might be interested in seeing him at work in his studio:

Transcript below the fold! (Note, this appearance is from 2008.)

Read more: Creative Work: Sculptor Steve Eastwood

By 11 December, 2010.    creative work  , , ,  



More Notes to Web Developers: How NOT to do RSS

Way back in the dark ages of the Internet, I had a massive bookmarks file. And a few times a day I would go through bookmark by bookmark (this was before the heady days of ‘open all in tabs’) to see if those sites had updated. Then, people started generating feeds, and my whole life changed. Instead of laboriously checking for updates by hand, I could load those puppies into a feed reader and read at my leisure.

Massive time saver! Almost everyone I know these days uses a feed reader because it’s just not feasible to keep up with this stuff any other way. I heart my Google Reader very very ferociously (it’s in my quick access bar). There are numerous other RSS readers out there, of course, including desktop versions which look pretty neat. (I fear change so I will never adopt them, but I sure will comment about how purdy they are!)

But there are also some disability-centric reasons to want to use feed readers, like being able to control how content appears when it displays to make it readable. There are a lot of sites I just plain will not read because they are not just inaccessible, but they actively resist accessibility requests. Some people are less bullheaded than me and really want to be able to read what someone has to say even though that person says it in eight point dark purple font on a black background with random flashing animations. RSS makes that possible; you can adjust it to display however you like it best et voila, you’re happily reading again! The ability to file stuff to read later is also very handy for people with limited energy. Basically, RSS=accessibility win!

Which is why it really, really pisses me off when people intentionally break RSS feeds.

Perhaps the most obvious offender is truncation of feeds. I know a lot of sites that do this and I’ll tell you right now, when sites start truncating their feeds, I unsubscribe and stop reading. There are a lot of reasons why people truncate feeds and I understand the arguments behind it (it can prevent scraping, for one thing, and some people are worried about ads and pageviews), but I don’t support it. And in fact a lot of people argue against it, arguing that truncating feeds can actually cut down on traffic and make people feel like your site is not user friendly. I’d be interested to see some studies on traffic (and I suspect some commenters will have links for me!).

And, for some people with disabilities, truncated feeds means they can’t read your content. Not the stubborn people like me who won’t read you if you truncate, but the people who are using your RSS feed because they can’t access your site. If you’re going to make an inaccessible site, you might want to consider at least leaving your feeds whole so disabled people can read it. Unless you don’t give a shit.

Fixed fonts, images, and colours. One of the greatest things about an RSS reader is the ability to completely configure it. If you need white sans serif fonts on a black background, you can do that. If you need text magnification, you can do that too. Using RSS is awesome for this and it’s a terrific accessibility tool in that sense. That is, until people force specific fonts, colours, and sizes with HTML. I’d pull an example for you from my own RSS so you know what I’m talking about, except that I don’t subscribe to sites that do that. (I told you, I’m stubborn.)

A lot of people use HTML this way and it really pisses me off. They will often say pompous things about ‘artistic integrity’ and ‘thinking about design’ but, in fact, if you are a good web designer, you should be able to design a site that looks good at any magnification, not just in 10 point or what have you. In RSS, this is really frustrating, because your settings usually can’t override the imported text. Consequently, you end up with annoying things like vanishing text, etc.

Embedded ads. I understand why people feed ads to RSS. But I wish that a little bit more thought went into them, because, guess what, flashing ads in your RSS reader are as problematic as flashing ads on a website. So far I don’t think anyone has come up with a method for making interstitials that work in RSS, all thanks be to ice cream, but I suspect it’s coming. I use pretty aggressive ad blocking and even with that I encounter ads in RSS. One animated ad can shut down my brain for a surprisingly long period of time and I freely unsubscribe from sites that inflict them on me.

Images without alt tags, embedded videos lacking subtitles or transcripts. Guess what! They’re annoying on your website, and they are also annoying in your RSS feed! And by ‘annoying’ I mean ‘significant barriers to accessibility that inform disabled users they are not welcome on your website.’

RSS, as we know, stands for Really Simple Syndication. Make it simple for your disabled readers: Feed plain, full text, reject flashing ads, and commit to making image, video, and audio content accessible. This angry cripple, for one, will thank you.

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   



Recommended Reading for 10 December, 2010

Well, if it isn’t Friday again. I suppose it is for you, readers of the future, but I am writing this from Tuesday, in the past! Such is the power of the blog’s scheduling function.

Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

An Actor Finds Truth & Power Negotiating her Vision Loss by Marilee Talkington guest posting at Brains of Minerva. Extremely relevant to this disabled actor’s interests, and a pretty wonderful piece in any case.

So I decided I wouldn’t tell the directors or anyone on the casting end that I was visually impaired. Which always felt like a betrayal. And I would show up as early as I needed to to re-write the entire script by hand in large print.  I hadn’t learned how to vocally advocate for myself yet in a way that didn’t feel angry or demanding, so at times I flat out lied. I remember calling an audition hotline once using a different name and asked if someone who was visually impaired could get the script ahead of time to memorize.  I was told that they couldn’t because it would pose an unfair advantage over the other actors.

Why CART in Government? by Martha Galindo at CCAC In Action:

1. Good government leads the way for all its citizens by setting best standards for equality and inclusion.

2. To reduce discriminatory gaps which now still exclude many able citizens (who happen to be deaf, deafened, or have a hearing loss, or who need quality text for many other good reasons) from regular and important government meetings, workshops, rallies, advisory committees, and public input to city, state, or federal bodies.

Lene Anderson at The Seated View: Disability Time

So there I am, sitting in the waiting room a full hour and half before my appointment and although I had a book, I was annoyed, so instead I started thinking about Disability Time. You don’t find it mentioned much in Google in the way it’s used in the disability world, but maybe some day, it’ll make its way into search engines. Disability Time refers to the way in which most things take much longer when you have a disability. There is personal Disability Time, as in it probably takes me double the time to make a cup of hot water in the microwave that it would you and then there is the Disability Time that’s imposed by others and there are a couple of those.

Donna Jodham: Out of sight out of mind

A few months ago I had a meeting with some officials of a financial institute to discuss making more financial planning services available to blind and sight impaired persons and at that time I raised the issue of making information available in alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and electronic text. To my chagrin but not to my surprise, the officials admitted that they had never thought of doing so. I also had a similar meeting with a major supermarket chain in Toronto to discuss making their weekly specials more available to their blind and sight impaired customers either online or through a phone service and again, I was told that this had not been thought of up until now.

Claudia Dreyfus for the New York Times: A conversation with Julian L. Seifter, Nephrologist and Patient. It’s an interesting interview with a physician, Dr. Julian Seifter, who just cowrote a book on living with chronic illness.

Q. Has being a patient helped you be a doctor?
A. I’ve certainly learned things I’ve brought back to the clinic. I have a retinopathy, for instance, which can be a complication of diabetes. I don’t have good vision in my right eye, as a result. When this first happened, I said to my ophthalmologist, “I can’t lose vision. I need to read.” And he said, “Any vision is better than no vision.”
That was important. I started thinking, “Concentrate on things you still can do and develop some new things.” I’ve since started gardening, which doesn’t require the most acute vision. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. I counsel my patients to replace what they’ve lost with something new.

Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com. Let us know if/how you want to be credited. And have yourself a fabulous weekend.

Howard Hyde Inquiry Ignores Ableism As Cause of Death

Note: This post discusses police violence against people with mental health conditions.

The results of the Hyde Inquiry were released on Wednesday.

Some things about the Hyde Inquiry, since I don’t think it’s been widely covered outside of Nova Scotia. I wrote this summary several months ago:

Howard Hyde had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The treatments he was on were making him sick, so he stopped taking them. He became violent.

His wife called the mobile mental health team – a project in Halifax that will go to you rather than you needing to go to them. She then called 9-1-1.

Two days later, he was dead in police custody, having been tasered.

Various things went horribly wrong. Among them were -and continue to be – the police’s inability to deal with people who have schizophrenia, amongst other mental health related conditions.

What they should have done was taken him to the hospital. Which they did, for a bit, and then left, returning him to lock-up.

His wife had tried to contact them and make sure that he was okay, and that they were aware that he had schizophrenia.

“I really wanted him to be in the hospital and get the treatment he needed for psychosis,” she said.

He had been taken to hospital for assessment, and the hospital staff requested that he be returned to the hospital after his arraignment hearing. He was not.

Parts of the surveillance tape of the tasering itself are “missing”.

“Hyde began struggling when officers tried to cut the string from his shorts. Though images were not caught on tape, surveillance audio recorded sound of the scuffle. Edwards can be heard saying “Howard, sit down.” Fellow Const. Greg McCormack is then argued to have said “You’re going to be doing the f***ing dance next, Howard,” although his voice is muffled.

It was also revealed that more than 30 minutes of footage of Hyde in a cell waiting to be booked has gone missing.”

I’ve since learned that what was actually said to Howard as the police officers approached him with a knife:

A surveillance camera captured the moment when an officer told Hyde a utility knife would be used to remove a knot from the drawstring in Hyde’s shorts, saying: “I just have to cut off one of those balls there.”

Anyway, as I said, the results were back. After 11 months of looking into the death of a man who police were called to help, we’ve all been told that Howard’s murder was an “accident” and it had nothing to do with his mental health condition.

“The only useful approach is to understand that Mr. Hyde died because of physiological changes in his body brought on by an intense struggle involving restraint,” Derrick wrote. “He did not die because he was mentally ill.”

I suppose this is technically correct. Howard’s death was not because he was mentally ill, his death was because the police were ill-equipped to deal with someone having a mental health crisis. I don’t have statistics about the number of men having mental health crises that are murdered by police officers every year, but I do know that I can’t go a whole month without at least one report, and it’s an issue that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada feels needs to be addressed.

I think it is naive to state that Howard wasn’t murdered because of his diagnosis. I think it ignores a frightening history of people with mental health conditions being murdered by police officers. I think it ignores that the criminal justice system is not equipped to effectively deal with people with mental health conditions. I think it ignores that there are limited resources available for people with mental health conditions and their families to get the help they need to cope with crisis situations.

I think it completely ignores the fact that Howard’s wife called the police for help, and two days later he was dead.

So yes, Howard Hyde isn’t dead because he had schizophrenia. He’s dead because ableism kills.

Recommended Reading for Thursday, December 8, 2010

I hate this time of year because I live in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s dark really early. At least we’ve been avoiding the snow-dumps I hear are all over central Canada, but it’s only a matter of time.

Civil Rights Now!: Civil Rights Now! speech at Dec10 CLAS Forum on UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

As my lawyer friends say there’s no right without a remedy; because most BC voters with disabilities cannot afford a good lawyer their rights have very little meaning because they have no way to enforce them. And that’s why our governments, Health Authorities, businesses, School Boards, service providers and unions can do anything to you if you are a voter with a disability.

That’s why Civil Rights Now! believes BC voters with disabilities need:

  • Law which gives the equality provision of the Canadian Charter practical force and effect in their daily lives.
  • Law which gives them truly-portable, sufficiently-funded, consumer-driven Individualized Funding.
  • Law which gives them funding for test cases involving their civil rights.
  • Civil Rights Now! launched a campaign this year to persuade BC politicians to commit that whichever of them wins the next election they will enact such laws. By so doing they will fulfill the intent of the Convention and, more importantly, the equality provision of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, many decades after it became the supreme law of our country.

Urocyon: Disability and UK fuel poverty

I felt pretty bad, because until I started reading about the extent of problems this winter, I hadn’t considered just how bad the situation is. (Bit of a shame this is another thing that it apparently takes larger numbers of middle-class people being affected to draw more news attention.) This is in spite of having dealt with parental disability-related poverty and substandard heating for years, in a colder-winter climate not moderated by the Gulf Stream. This isn’t the coldest month, but it’s supposed to be 10°F/-12°C tonight back home–not unusual. It honestly didn’t seem that cold to me, even though I was aware that last winter was the harshest in 30 years for the UK, and this one is looking to be if anything worse. (Climate change? No…) But, even though it isn’t very cold in absolute terms, if you’re not used to its getting, much less staying, below freezing very often? That’s a pretty big problem.

Then I started thinking about how disabled people just weren’t getting mentioned much.

Anna Racoon: The Orwellian Present – Never Mind the Future.

No, he can’t, he has no access to the Mental Heath Tribunal – Autism isn’t a mental illness. This action isn’t being taken under the Mental Health Act – it is being taken under the Mental Capacity Act. Under the MCA he only has access to a ‘Best Interests Assessor’ – who is appointed on a consultancy basis, and paid, by…..the Local Authority.

He can be deprived of his liberty for up to a year, which period can be renewed indefinitely, for the purpose of ‘assessing’ him – see above – being sent to Wales to ‘assess’ why he is unhappy at being locked up.

Sharon Brennan at Comment is Free: It’s now officially ‘unsustainable’ to support disabled people

Let’s be clear: this increased DLA caseload is not because of fraud. DLA has one of the lowest fraud rates of any benefits. In fact, government figures published by the House of Commons work and pensions committee suggest that benefit fraud for DLA, carer’s and attendance allowance among others has reduced since 2001 from 2.2% to 0.8% between 2008-2009 (the most recent year for which statistics are available).

Diary of an NHS Buff: The Government is implicated in creating negative attitudes to disabled

Clearly there is a negative perception of disabled people in the UK, which can undoubtedly be attributed in part to right-wing media representation of the disabled. The Daily Mail is notorious for this. A recent front page screamed, “75% of claimants are fit to work”, and carried on: “Tough new benefits test weed out the workshy”.

You expect this kind of thing from the Daily Mail. But what shocked me is that the 75% figure came from a press release from the Department of Work and Pensions. And the figure is wrong. So it amounts to blatant Government propaganda.