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