Recommended Reading for April 23, 2010

This is going to be a quick one from me as I’m out of town right now, attending a Graduate Student Conference on Disability Studies, because my life is awesome. I can’t wait to tell everyone all about it, at length.

Disability Blog Carnival 65: Balance is up at The River of Jordan! The posts are, as always, varied and wonderful.

Eyesight to the Blind [Problematic language in title – see Rainbow’s comment]

When my great-aunt says she’ll pray for me, she’s not saying it because there’s something messed up about me that needs fixing. She’s saying it because she prays for the people she loves. The person I encountered today wasn’t saying it to everybody she passed. She probably saw a person using a mobility scooter and thought something like “disabled person = in need of healing”.

What would healing look like for me?

Tributes paid to David Morris

Tributes have been paid to David Morris, much-loved and respected disability campaigner and mayoral adviser, who passed away yesterday (Sunday), aged 51.

Mr Morris, who was on secondment from his role as Senior Policy Advisor on Disability to the Mayor of London, had been working with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) as External Access and Inclusion Coordinator.

Wild Ride for Number 9

In the end, the name was the same atop the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon yesterday, but for Ernst Van Dyk it hardly was a typical triumph.

The South African won for a record ninth time, but it was his toughest victory yet. Van Dyk had to surge over the final 2 miles to overtake American Krige Schabort to finish in 1:26:53, a mere 3 seconds ahead of Schabort.

An Open Letter to Charles Tan

When I read your essay you seemed to define promoting cultural diversity by “encouraging people to write about other cultures”. Certainly Buck was encouraged and rewarded – she received a Pulitzer in 1932 and a Nobel Prize in 1938 “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China”. If writing about the Other were such a truly prodigious feat, then surely Vikram Seth should be bestowed with more renown for not one, but two books, set entirely in white people western land?

But transcultural traffic is hardly such an egalitarian affair. You say: “That there is a small but growing awareness of the literature of other cultures is, in my opinion, a liberty that only occurred because of humanity’s continued struggle for “enlightenment” but this flies in the face of a vast body of historical evidence that cultural currency has been a tool of capitalist trade and colonial enterprise. Furthermore, by whose standards are you defining awareness of such literature “small”? There are many Indians who will tell you about Rustam and Sohrab, about Laila and Majnu–stories not actually from our subcontinent. And as Fatemeh Keshavarz points out, Iran has a long history of translating books into Persian.

Follow-up on the Clitoraid post earlier this week: Clitoraid responds to their critics, but key questions remain unanswered

Clitoraid have officially responded to questioning of their organisation and the controversial ‘adopt a clitoris’ fundraising scheme (a summary of discussions to date on this topic can be found here).

On Being Well

Not every disability can be healed. I learned long ago that being “incurable” and being well are possible. But don’t go looking for this anomaly in the rule book. In effect what you need to do is break the rules that have long been established for how to think of being well. I am for instance the best blind sailor in my family. Never mind that I’m the only blind sailor in my family. I did in fact teach my sighted wife how to dock a boat. There’s no rule book for this.

Disability as a Game

In the coming months my children will come to know the terms disablest and able-bodied privilege, because it has become clear to me that while they are empathetic of my personal circumstance because they love me, they are not aware that this very same empathy needs to be extended beyond our little family. Not only do the differently abled have a right to take up space (a struggle they have seen first hand), we deserve not to have our lives mocked for the purposes of entertainment or to deliver a cruel retort.

Top 10 Things That Annoy People in Wheelchairs

In a recent poll done by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, wheelchair users were asked :

What do family, friends, and strangers do to you when you are using your chair that annoys you?

The Virus-Ridden DNA of Aborted Babies

Well, a new group of people has joined this fight. Rather than being autistic-adults, parents of autistics, or researchers, this group has little personal contact with actual autistic people. Instead, it is one group of pro-life people wanting to use autism as proof of why abortion should be outlawed – never mind that it has no basis in fact!

Bullying – How Can We Stop It?

Here’s another horrific story of bullying, this coming out of Dickson, Oklahoma.

Austin Avery was born prematurely and suffered developmental issues as a result. Last week, when the school called [his mother] Sharlene,  she  knew something was seriously wrong. “We had a call from the school to come pick him up cause he was hallucinating. I just don’t understand why your child goes to school and comes home in a drunken stupor,” says Avery. So, she put him in the car and drove to the emergency room. That’s when doctors told her something she never imagined. “The doctor said that [Austin] was way over the legal limit [for alcohol]. Now, can you imagine a 14-year-old child and what kind of damage that can do to his brain?”

The investigation yielded a report from a fellow student, who reported that bullies had been putting Germ-X, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, in Austin’s milk at lunchtime. This had been occurring regularly since January, without detection by the school or any adult in a position to discipline the bullies.

There are a couple things of note about this story. First is that it got virtually no coverage – I saw it only because I read several hip-hop gossip sites that picked the story up because the child is African-American. Other than those sites, I found absolutely no mention of it anywhere on the web other than the initial report from a local news outlet, quoted above. Intentionally poisoning a child with hand sanitizer seems like a pretty big deal to me – there could have been much more significant and detrimental side effects than alcohol intoxication, and even alcohol intoxication is dangerous enough when we’re talking about a 14 year old with developmental disabilities.

The second thing of note about this story is that Oklahoma already has an extremely robust anti-bullying law and state policy aimed at eliminating bullying. A watchdog anti-bulling group gives the Oklahoma law an A, indicating it is “near perfect” by their standards. Here is a description of their anti-bullying law:

Requires Safe School Committees to give special attention to bullying, incidents of unwanted physical or verbal aggression and sexual harassment and make recommendations. Encourages community involvement, one-on-one student/staff relationships, use of problem solving teams of counselors and/or school psychologists and requires the review of bullying prevention programs utilized by other states, agencies or school districts.  Requires each school district to have policies addressing the prevention of bullying and education about bullying behavior.

So – given that all those rules, policies, requirements, and education were insufficient to stop Austin from being regularly and consistently poisoned for almost four months – how can we realistically address and stop this kind of bullying from happening? How can we provide meaningful protection for children with disabilities? Is it possible to do so through laws and regulations, or will only a long term shift in ableist attitudes be effective?

Recommended Reading for April 22, 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

A very messy workbench sits in an equally cluttered room with an unfinished wall. Art supplies are scattered everywhere. In the center is a white plastic bucket which someone has used a marker to label "ANTI-DEPRESSANTS."

A very messy workbench sits in an equally cluttered room with an unfinished wall. Art supplies are scattered everywhere. In the center is a white plastic bucket which someone has used a marker to label "ANTI-DEPRESSANTS."

Photo by David Shrigley, via Learning Log.

Strict Deadlines, Disabled Veterans and Dismissed Cases

Three years ago, the [United States] Supreme Court said there are some filing deadlines so rigid that no excuse for missing them counts, even if the tardiness was caused by erroneous instructions from a federal judge. The court’s decision concerned a convicted murderer who had beaten a man to death. But now it is being applied to bar claims from disabled veterans who fumble filing procedures and miss deadlines in seeking help from the government. The upshot, according to a dissent in December from three judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, is “a Kafkaesque adjudicatory process in which those veterans who are most deserving of service-connected benefits will frequently be those least likely to obtain them.”

HODASSU: Help Orphans and Disabled Stand a Skill in Uganda

HODASSU vision is to develop a healthy and self-sustaining community that protects the rights of orphans, vulnerable peoples and persons with disability, through economic development, vocational training, education and counseling.

Disabled must figure in Sierra Leone rebuild

People with disabilities must not be left out as Sierra Leone rebuilds after ten years of civil war, say the writers of a new study on living conditions for the country’s disabled. Disability is a major issue in the west African country, where thousands of people had limbs cut off dightinguringthe1991 -2002 fighting which completely devastated the country, its infrastructure, its economy and people. Leonard Cheshire Disability’s report, just out, is one of the first comprehensive studies into disability in Sierra Leone. It is hoped the findings will help the needs of people with disabilities be included in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and social services. “The disabled community’s voice is generally a voice that is not heard in discussions of development,” said Bentry Kalanga, the organisation’s senior programme manager for Africa. “Up to now disability has not been regarded as a major development issue; it must be highlighted more.”

Disability rights activists [in India] oppose copyright regime

The Indian Copyright Act does not explicitly allow for conversion and distribution of reading material in alternative formats that are accessible to persons with disability. A draft amendment, that was made public in February by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, introduces a copyright exception for reproduction or issue of copies in formats “specially designed” for persons with disabilities, such as Braille and sign language. However, this “token exception” leaves out a large section of people affected by cerebral palsy, dyslexia or partial impairment. A sizeable section of the visually impaired is not trained in Braille and relies on audio, and reading material with large fonts and electronic texts. The proposed copyright exception is of no use to this section.

New disability laws [in Scotland] are welcomed as spur to close pay gap and improve business practice

CAPABILITY Scotland has welcomed the introduction of the UK Equality Act, which it claims will help challenge discrimination against disabled people across the country. The disability organisation has offered its backing to the legislation, which will bring together all of the UK’s anti-discrimination rules under one banner and replace the existing Disability Discrimination Act. The act, which will come into force in October will compel companies to publish their pay scales for men and women and require public sector agencies to presume in favour of firms with good equality records when issuing public contracts.  But it also strengthens the duty placed on all service providers – including schools and other public sector organisations – to make reasonable adjustments to their facilities or the way they carry out their activities to enable disabled people to access their services.
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