Tag Archives: disability 101

Recommended Reading for August 24, 2010

Wheelchair Dancer: Body Matters, Edges, and Disability

We all experience limitations and restrictions.  Not all of those — like not being able to speak a second language — are disabilities.  The second language example is a true comment, and I would have thought that it was a pretty obviously bad comparison.  But it and other similar remarks kept coming up.  In addition to those comments, I was also thinking about a second order of experience: the kind where someone claimed kinship/commonality/knowing what I am going through on the basis of their limiting, but non-disabling experience.  I’m referring to the kind of thing like, for example, comparisons of feeling tired from having flu and the tiredness in chronic fatigue syndromes or, say, multiple sclerosis.  A second example is that feeling sad or disappointed is not the same as the emotion of depression.

Lena at the ch!cktionary: What My Feminist Agenda Looks Like

I reject the argument that feminists can’t fight for women and for poor, queer, disabled, and non-White people. Because guess what? Many women are poor, queer, disabled, and non-White. For them, being part of the latter means many more disadvantages and much more discrimination than just being a woman. A feminist agenda has to recognize that women are not simply all oppressed in the exact same way because they share a gender.

Thea Lim at Racialicious: Sympathy Grifting: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Fraud

Much of [fraudulent cancer patient Ashley Kirilow’s] success seems attributed to the fact that she easily roused pity with her little lost girl story and her brave smile. Kirilow embodied a version of white womanhood that we want to believe in (or at least we’ve been socially conditioned to embrace it): pretty, plucky, determined, and in need of rescue.

Pam Belluck for the New York Times: Tai Chi Reported to Ease Fibromyalgia

A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.

Jane Hughes for the BBC News: New brain scan to diagnose autism

The Medical Research Council study looked at 20 non-autistic adults and 20 adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

They were initially diagnosed using traditional methods, and then given a 15 minute brain MRI scan. The images were reconstructed into 3D and were fed into a computer, which looked for tiny but significant differences.

Go educate yourself (please!)

Image description: A shocked-looking cat perches on a chair, staring straight at the camera. Text reads: Concerned cat is just looking out for your best interests when she says that your tone might be alienating well-intentioned potential allies who just need a little polite education.

[Image via Tlönista in this comment thread at Flip Flopping Joy. Description: A shocked-looking cat perches on a chair, staring straight at the camera. Text reads: “Concerned cat is just looking out for your best interests when she says that your tone might be alienating well-intentioned potential allies who just need a little polite education.”]

One unfortunately common response to marginalized people saying that there’s a problem is the “Educate me NOW” demand from “well-intentioned allies” who totally mean well, but they just lack education on these issues and so just can’t understand what the fuss is all about.

I am using the following example not to appropriate from the awesome anti-racist work that Jessica Yee and the fabulous Racialicious crew (and countless bloggers around the web!) do on a daily basis, but rather for two specific reasons: 1.) I have already talked about my personal relationship with this oft-used derailing tactic rather extensively, and could probably talk about it ’til I’m blue in the face; 2.) anti-racist activism and disability activism are not completely separate, independent social justice strains — many of us who are involved in these activist projects are, in fact, fighting similar (though NOT completely analogous) battles. For me, claiming an identity as a feminist disability activist has entailed doing my best to fight racism and white privilege alongside fighting for disability rights. This is because disability and race intersect in many, many ways — sort of like how disability and gender, and race and gender, intersect. In other words, this is not just a disability issue, or a feminist issue,  or a trans* issue, or an anti-racist issue; it affects many of us in the social justice blogosphere, if in differing ways.

The “educate me now because I want to learn, marginalized person!” response played out, yet again, fairly recently in the comments to a post on Bitch authored by Indigenous activist and writer Jessica Yee. [Full disclosure: Some of us here at FWD guest blogged for Bitch as the Transcontinental Disability Choir.] Jessica had written a post on white hipster/hippie appropriation of native dress and why it’s not only ridiculous, but racist. Makes sense, right? (If it doesn’t, you might be at the wrong blog. Or go read this. I don’t know.) Overall, this piece seems like it would fit right in on a website for a magazine that is dedicated to showcasing “feminist response[s] to pop culture.”

And then the comments started rolling in, and so did the “but you have a responsibility to educate people who mean well!” trope:

I’m sure this is in fact extremely annoying. However, you might consider that when people bring that up, they’re not saying, “Hey I’m just like you and I totally understand what you deal with,” they’re trying to make a connection and learn something. Ignorant people are a pain in the neck, but they’re mostly not trying to be ignorant on purpose.

I‘m merely suggesting that if this is a cause you deem worthy of championing, then you should have a prepared source of information for them—be it this blog, book titles, or documentaries. Encourage them to learn more about THEIR history and perhaps you’ll draw a new soldier to your army.

It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation.

Thea Lim at Racialicious pretty much nailed it in her recent post on what went down, entitled “Some Basic Racist Ideas and some Rebuttals, & Why We Exist” (which I highly recommend that you read in full, by the way). An excerpt:

This kind of hey-let-me-help-you-achieve-your-goal-by-suggesting-you-be-more-radio-friendly response totally misunderstands (and appears disinterested) in the anti-racist project, because it assumes that anti-racism is all about convincing white people to be nice to people of colour.   In other words, it assumes that anti-racism revolves around white folks.  Like everything else in the world.

Anti-racism and people of colour organizing is not about being friendly, being appealing, or educating white folks. While individual anti-racist activists may take those tacks to achieve their goals, the point of anti-racism is to be for people of colour.

I completely agree with Thea here — and I believe something similar applies to disability activism. That is: Those of us with disabilities are not here to make abled people feel comfortable, to hold their hands as they have a Very Special Learning Experience (most often, it seems, at our expense), or to make them feel good about themselves. I, personally, don’t care how “good” your intentions are, or that you reallllllly wanna learn, or if you think I’m being mean by not dropping everything to educate you when you demand it.  While I definitely don’t want to speak for Jessica, Thea, or any of the Racialicious contributors — or for people of color who do anti-racist work — I suspect that they may feel similarly about white people who come into PoC, WoC or other anti-racist spaces and demand that whoever is doing the activist work must halt whatever discussion is going on and educate them, now, because they are good “liberal” white people and have such good intentions, and you PoC want white people like me as allies, right? And if you don’t drop everything and rush over to educate me, well, you’re just a big meanie who must not want my support after all (such “support” is often conditional, and based upon whether the marginalized person can make the non-marginalized feel comfortable at all times), or you just want an excuse to be racist toward white people! Or some other ridiculous thing.

For me personally, the willingness that I “should” have to help well-meaning folks learn is also an energy issue. I am a person with disabilities, several of which I have written about at length on this website — and one of which is a pain condition subject to flare-ups. Thus, I have to manage my time and energy extremely carefully. Having to explain basic concepts over and over again to strangers on the internet because they’ve deigned to tell me that they “want” to learn — and some of whom may think, by extension, that they are somehow entitled to my time and energy — takes work. Writing takes work; additionally, a lot of bloggers do the blogging and responding to comments thing for free, on their own time.

And sometimes, those of us with conditions that intersect with our ability to do this work end up burnt out, frustrated, or we lose our patience. Though these end results are often nothing personal, they might read like it, and we end up paying the price energy-wise only to have that person who realllllly wanted to learn petultantly respond with something like, “You must not want to educate me, then, if you’re not up to answering all of my questions!” and leaving in a huff. But they reallllly want to learn. . . that is, if someone else does the brunt of the work for them and/or gives them good-ally cookies for just wanting to be educated about all this social justice stuff. Merely wanting is not enough; you have to actually follow through for your good intentions to matter.

There is, thankfully, a solution to this problem: those people who say, or comment, that they realllly want to learn must take responsibility for their own learning. There are several ways that this can be accomplished, among them lurking on blogs for a while before one starts commenting, reading a site’s archives (and most sites have them!), picking up a book (or two), reading some articles online or off. Certainly, there are a lot of things that are privileged about this assertion; of course, not everyone has the time to read about social justice, lurk on blogs, or take similar steps. But what is also privileged is the putting the responsibility for your own 101-type education onto someone else — someone who might not have all of the energy, time and patience that you might.

[A slightly different version of this post has been cross-posted at ham blog.]

Disability 101: What is Able-Bodied or Abled Privilege?

What is able-bodied or abled privilege?

The term able-bodied/abled privilege refers to the numerous benefits—-some hidden, many not—-that many societies and cultures accord to able-bodied and/or abled people. Despite many folks’ paying lip service to notions of equality for PWDs, the chronically ill, people with psychiatric conditions, and those with chronic health conditions, abled privilege still exists, and there are still a lot of people who are resistant to the idea of a truly equitable, accessible society. Able-bodied and abled privilege is often hard for non-disabled people to spot; yet, in the words of the famous Palmolive dish soap ad, [YouTube link] most of us are “soaking in it.”

Many cultures have social expectations, structures, cultural mores, and institutions that are set up to accommodate able-bodied and/or abled people with the most ease; this is, of course, problematic for those who do not fit the standard of “able-bodied,” or “fully able,” whether in whole or part. Able-bodied or abled privilege also encompasses things like not having to worry about one’s energy level and/or pain level on any given day, the possible negative reactions of others to one’s needs due to his/her/zie’s disability or chronic condition, being stared at or questioned about (with varying degrees of invasiveness) his/her/zie’s disability or condition by strangers, her/his/zie’s ability to move for long distances or on a variety of surfaces without inconvenience/discomfort/pain and at a pace considered “appropriate” by others, being able to make decisions about the course of one’s medical, psychiatric, or other type of treatment without being questioned by others as to whether he/she/zie is making “the right choice” or can make a “rational” decision about his/her/zie’s own treatment-related choices, or being ignored by able-bodied people when one needs assistance in public; these kinds of able privilege masquerade as “the norm” for those without disabilities. For more examples, see Rio’s update on Peggy McIntosh’s famous article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” [link goes to Amptoons].

An earlier version of this post was originally posted at Faces of Fibro on May 6, 2009.

Umbrella Terms

My pet peeve: Labeling “othered” groups as though everyone who falls under that umbrella term has the same needs to achieve full inclusion in society.

For obvious reasons, I’m going to focus on the umbrella of people with disabilities/disabled people right now, but these thoughts have been heavily influenced by reading posts from GLTB activists about trans* inclusion (or lack thereof) and blog carnivals like the Asian Women’s Carnival and International Blog Against Racism Week.

Over the summer, while I was in the process of ranting to Don about my disappointment with our current government’s inclusion of people with disabilities, I was stopped on the street and invited to a talk. “Is it fully accessible?”, I asked.

“Oh yes,” responded the person inviting us. “We have a wheelchair ramp.”

“Do you have material available in braille? Do you have a Sign interpreter?”

“No.”

“Well then,” I snapped. “I guess you aren’t fully accessible, are you?”

(As I said, I was just ranting about this when we were interrupted with this invitation, so it was already on my mind. People need to pick better times to interrupt me. I’d like to think that normally I’d be more polite.)

There’s a certain hierarchy of accessibility that “everyone” knows about. If you have a ramp, you’re good! That this doesn’t address the needs of any number of disabled people is irrelevant – the main image of people with disabilities is that person (usually white and male) in a wheelchair.

So, in the effort to be inclusive without thinking thoroughly about what disability means, and who is included when making accommodations, we end up with situations like this one, from the comments on a post on disability at Feministe:

Willow:

Fire alarms. So it’s great and all when fire alarms have bright flashing lights in addition to the blaring sound, so people with hearing loss (like my dad) will know if the alarm goes off and be able to evacuate, right? Yeah, well, it so happens that I have photosensitive epilepsy, and the light on pretty much every alarm cycles on a frequency that triggers my seizures. So if the alarm goes off, not only do I have a seizure, which sucks in the first place, but I also cannot evacuate the building because I am either (a) unconscious and convulsing or (b) in “zombie mode” and unable to navigate the world safely.

I always feel so, so guilty about advocating for accommodations for people with epilepsy that will make the place unsafe for people with other disabilities…but at the same time, I have EXACTLY THE SAME RIGHT to be able to be there and/or be safe there. It seems as though some types of disabled people–deaf, blind, and/or in a wheelchair, in particular–are privileged over others. I lived on campus as an undergraduate, and when the school installed a new fire alarm system that included flashing lights, I was told that they would have someone “come check on me” whenever the alarm went off. Excuse me? You can’t have someone come check on the zero deaf students in the building but the three of us with photosensitive epilepsy have to wait until the fire department shows up? Not to mention the risks that come with having a seizure in the first place (such as, for example, death)?

Thoughtless accommodations, but gosh darn it, we’re “accessible”.

I know next to nothing about epilepsy, and my knowledge of deafness is limited, so I have no idea what sorts of accommodations would balance both the need for a flashing alarm and the need not to cause seizures in people. But that’s not my point. The point is that full inclusiveness, rather than going for the “easy” solution, would actually consider those needs and work them both in. It would be working with people with disabilities to design safety systems that would accommodate everyone. (Deaf people can also have epilepsy, after all.)

Grouping “othered” populations under this umbrella term allows the “general” population to decide “Oh, I’ve included a ramp, I’ve got a flashing light, and there’s braille on my elevator buttons, I’m set.” But we don’t all have those needs.

We’ve been grouped together as having the same needs both because it’s easier for the “general” population to decide they’ve “done enough”, and because we have greater strength in both self- and group-advocating when we band together. But, just like when other “othered” groups band together, things get left out, put aside, maybe next yeared.

I’m still mulling all of this over. My main activism-related issues are The Big Ones – my city is full of “just one steps” and has a serious lack of Sign Language interpreters. But right now, I’m sitting in a room with fluorescent lighting (severe migraine trigger). It looks like the fire alarm is of the flashing-light type. The door is pretty darn heavy. I haven’t seen a single TTY- pay phone on campus. And probably several other things that I’ve missed.

It’s almost like the easiest, umbrella-term solution isn’t the best one.

I’m still thinking about a lot of this stuff – I certainly don’t have all the answers. Feel free to get into it in the comments. (My schedule is such that I won’t be able to respond to anything until evening my time at the earliest, although other moderators will be approving comments for me.)

Ableist Word Profile: You’re so OCD!

Welcome to Ableist Word Profile, a (probably intermittent) series in which staffers will profile various ableist words, talk about how they are used, and talk about how to stop using them. Ableism is not feminism, so it’s important to talk about how to eradicate ableist language from our vocabularies. This post is marked 101, which means that the comments section is open to 101 questions and discussion. Please note that this post contains ableist language used for the purpose of discussion and criticism; you can get an idea from the title of the kind of ableist language which is going to be included in the discussion, and if that type of language is upsetting or triggering for you, you may want to skip this post.

Someone walks into my kitchen for the first time looking for something they will more than likely find the cupboards nicely arranged.  I like things with the labels facing out, neatly lined up, dressed to the front.  I like to have like items together (my cooking items are in a separate area from my baking items, and snacks, to begin to scratch the surface) to make it easier to find things.  Our Korean apartment is smaller than we are used to in some areas, so being organized is a must when it comes to storage.  We have Tupperware canisters lining the counter tops with frequent used and bulk items in easy reach, and also in the fridge w/ the produce already prepped.  When we bring meat home from the market we divide it into portions and vacuum seal it before storing it.  Some of this is for space sake, some of it is because I like to cook and will use spoons I sometimes steal from elsewhere to do so, and having the kitchen arranged as such makes that easier.  I have had more than one guest wander through the kitchen chuckling and mention to me how OCD it is (which really doesn’t make sense if you think about the acronym).

No.  My kitchen is clean.  It is neat.  It is sometimes meticulous (when the dishes are done), it is user friendly, well organized, color coded, over-the-top arranged, even.  My aunt would say you could eat off of my floors (some days, but we do have a seven year old).

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, isn’t just the tendency to keep things all tidy like Mary Poppins on a sugar rush.  It doesn’t mean that you like your clothes hung in chromatic order or your socks folded a certain way, or even that you sort your M&M’s into color groups before eating them.  It isn’t your friend with her dust free home or Bree VanDeKamp hair or Emily Gilmore six-inch tapers.

It does mean that you tend to have thoughts (obsessions) that intrude into your mind and make you extremely uncomfortable, because you know that they are unreasonable.  Some people have thoughts where they hurt themselves or their loved ones.  When I was much younger I once had repeated visions of shoving a corkscrew into my eye while at the bar where I was working.  Understandably it was bothersome, and actually there were times that it worried me to tears, because I knew I wasn’t going to shove a corkscrew into my eye, and I couldn’t figure out why my brain was giving me that picture.  People often engage in repetitive actions (compulsions) to alleviate the stress of these thoughts.  I wiped bar glasses and liquor bottles until they were spotless, and later at home plucked my eyebrows into oblivion because they were never quite symmetrical.  I brushed my teeth until my gums bled…anything to keep my mind off of that fucking corkscrew.  In your mind you know that having washed your hands or brushed your teeth fifteen times before school has probably already taken care of any germs (and skin or enamel), but you can’t get the thoughts of those germs gone.  So you brush, or you wash.  And you still think your hands are covered in bacteria or you can feel your teeth rotting in your head (even though you know it isn’t true).  So you wash again…and you miss that first class…even though you know better.

It overcomes your life.  OCD isn’t just some cute little habit you have of always placing everything on your desk perpendicularly or always lining shoes by the door. It actually interferes with your life and how you are able to live it.

When I was in college I knew that I wasn’t going to blow up my apartment.  My rational mind was well aware of that fact, even though I could see the building on fire and me standing outside of it.  But after cooking, when I had to leave for class, I had to go over to the gas stove and turn all of the dials on to make sure I had turned them off…even if I hadn’t used them.  The oven too.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the gas on and having something happen to my roommate while she slept.  Then I would grab my bag…and even though I knew I had just. checked. the. damned. knobs.  I had to go back and check them again.  After this I might get out the door and lock it, but then I’d have to go back in and check again.  The next time I might make it all the way down to the main door of the building.  “What if you missed one?  You could blow up the whole building!”.  Back up three flights of stairs, unlock the door, and check the knobs again.  Of course they were fine, just like the last three fucking times I checked.  That didn’t stop me from having to go back two more times, once after thawing my car, and once after I had actually left the parking lot, made an illegal U-turn, and gone back.  I kept seeing the whole building go up like a giant bonfire on a July evening in Michigan.

I was two hours late for class.

I was obsessed with numbers.  If I had pieces of something I couldn’t eat it unless it could be divided into odd-numbered groups of odd numbers.  My weight became an obsession, which isn’t at all uncommon in people with OCD, and no matter how much I lost I was certain that I was disgusting and fat and gross to everyone who saw me.  I actually measured “ins” and “out”, and I will leave you to those pleasant details all on your own.

Years of therapy later I am able to find myself in a place where I can control my OCD, and I have come a long way in managing it.  This isn’t true for everyone, because each of us are unique and what worked for me isn’t going to work for the next person.  I am by no means “cured”, but there is something to be said for being in a stable home environment for the first time in my whole life that has turned the corner for me.  There are things that will cause me to slip…

Some other fun facts about OCD.

There are some lesser known offshoots, such as Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania.  These conditions begin with the same intrusive thoughts, but instead manifest with compulsive hair pulling and skin picking.  I have both of these conditions.  The hair pulling left me with little to no eyebrows, and an embarrassing bald spot on the back of my head that covered nicely with a military style bun.  Without babbling on as I am wont to do, it was another thing I had to work through with a mental health professional (and one awesome esthetician).  The skin picking is still a challenge, and as stress in my life heightens so does that.  This is the most embarrassing of my anxiety issues because this leaves the most obvious marks on my face.  My arms I can hide with long sleeves.  Even though I am incredibly aware of the marking and scarring left, most people don’t notice it, unless they are very close to me, and even then most don’t unless I am comfortable enough around them that they have actually seen me doing said picking.

So, I believe we can see why the usage of OCD is ableist here: it isn’t some funny quirk.  You are trying to be witty.  I get that.  But your witty words mean things about my life, parts of my life that I have worked to overcome, and which people I know are still living with daily and that just isn’t funny.  It isn’t something we close up in a cupboard and laugh about with friends*.  It is a daily struggle for people who absolutely know that they are doing things that are unreasonable to help them cope with the anxiety of things that they also know are unreasonable.  We slog through it, grind it down over years, beat it back, and work our asses off to gain chunks and pieces of our lives back from it.  That is no joke to us.  It is extremely ableist for a person who is in control of their thoughts and actions to appropriate this term to mean that someone is really particular about the way they like things.

So, no, your very tidy friend is not OC.  Unless sie is.  And then, ha ha, sie probably doesn’t appreciate having hir life poked at.

*OK, you got me.  Sometimes we do.  But that is our right, not yours.

Recommended Reading for October 19, 2009

In the Blogs:

Them and Us

A lot of people have caught on that they need to provide access for the disabled when they build something, but apparently access is only needed for Them.

You know, Them. There’s Them, and then there’s Us. They might be disabled, but We aren’t, and never will be.

Accessible restroom? Oh, no, because the restroom is only for employees, and none of our employees is disabled (or ever will be).

Elevator to the second floor? Oh, no, because the public doesn’t need to go to the second floor, and nobody who works there is disabled (or ever will be).

Access to the stage? Oh, no. There’s access for the audience (Them), but the actors and singers and stagehands (Us) aren’t disabled (and never will be).

[This really resonates with me, especially after Campaign School this weekend. Although they did address issues of making accessible campaign literature and ensuring your office was accessible, everything was spoken of as though no one with a disability would be part of a campaign, either as a volunteer, employee, or candidate. Them, and Us.]

Marginalized folks shouldn’t always have to be “the bigger persons”

But, you know, it’s not just people of color who are constantly expected to show extraordinary compassion when faced with bias. It is women, gays, lesbians and the transgendered. It is the disabled, the obese, immigrants and the poor. Ask any marginalized person and it is a safe bet that they have been told “have a sense a humor,” “don’t be so PC,” “that’s just how so-and-so was raised,” “here’s a great teaching moment, “you have to understand some people won’t be comfortable with x, y, z,” “he didn’t really mean it.”

Via Unusual Music: College Mental Health: A Different Diagnosis:

Students interviewed for this story reported that mental health seems like a low priority on campus. Alexa at New York’s Westchester Community College notes, “Mental health seems to be something that people really keep to themselves.” She describes her community college’s scarce resources as consisting of one social worker and a two-by-three inch bulletin board in the upstairs of the student center. “I only realized it was there while waiting for three hours in the hallway to register for classes.”

Access to services — such as individual and group therapy, consultation and referrals, support groups, medication monitoring and crisis hotlines — varies from school to school. However, most college campuses would benefit from improvement and expansion of their mental health facilities and services. Students are generally granted a few free counseling sessions, but due to increasing financial restrictions, the number of sessions can be scant — as few as five visits per student.

At two of my previous universities, you were limited to less than 10 sessions over a year. I believe my current one has unlimited sessions, but you must call the office between 9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. for a same-day appointment. There is no booking in advance.

In Our Own Words: Fighting for our DLA [UK] [Older post] [DLA = Disability Living Allowance]

DLA was established, after years of research, because the costs of living as a disabled person in a barrier-filled world organized by and for non-disabled people were considered to be so high. The estimated costs of disability that came out of this research were far, far higher than what is actually now given to DLA claimants. It was also emphasised that DLA should not be means-tested, because the costs of disability are high whether a person is extremely poor or generally has enough to live on.

Also, FrolicNaked did three posts about NPR’s American health care discussion. Post 1, Post 2, Post 3.

My new favourite website: Wave: Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. How does your website measure up?

Recommended Reading for October 12, 2009

Blogs:

The Invisible Crutch:

I’ve decided to build an invisible crutch from things that constitute abled privilege, without repeating too much of what is in McIntosh’s list (so read her list, and substitute “disability” for “color” for many of those things).

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to attend social events without worrying if they are accessible to me.

2. If I am in the company of people that make me uncomfortable, I can easily choose to move elsewhere.

This month’s Disability Blog Carnival will focus on Disability & Work:

Here are some suggested starting points: What work do you do? How’s that going? Do you get paid for it, or is it volunteer work or something you do because you just love it? What blocks you from employment? If you’re employed, what could be better? Do you want a paying job, or do you feel you contribute to society just fine without one? What unpaid work do you do that you value or that others value, for example, emotional support in relationships? If you’re a family member, friend or ally of a person with a disability, what thoughts do you have on work and employment? What’s the employment situation like for PWD in your country or region ?

Health Care & Vulvodynia [U.S. specific]

One of my concerns about health care reform in the US is how it will impact sexual & reproductive health, the domain in which vulvodynia and other pelvic pain conditions are usually classified. As far rights directly related to reproduction and abortion in particular, it’s looking grim. My hope is that patients with pelvic pain conditions will be covered adequately as well. This may not seem like the most pressing issue, since, frequently, sexual health problems will not be directly responsible for death. There are some definite exceptions, notably AIDS, and cancers.

For a few moments, I feel guilty thinking about sexual health in light of other deadly, catastrophic illnesses…

But then I remember that it’s not fair to minimize the very real suffering & misunderstanding that I and other pelvic pain patients go through. And I remember how hard it is to convince others, including doctors, of how very real it is & how difficult it can be to get an effective level of care.

Fat Hatred and Disability on the Cleveland Show:

Sidewalks that are functional for an able bodied person are not necessarily useable to someone in a scooter. Poles that can be easily navigated when they are stuck in the pavement, are not necessarily easy to move around in a scooter. Often curbs are not turned down. Sidewalks are carelessly blocked off by cars hanging out of drive ways, and let’s not forget those who think that they don’t have to shovel their walkway in the winter. My personal favourite are those that believe the scooter rider should always yield when faced with a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

My Use of Ableist Language:

I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life that I have used the phrase “that’s lame” or “don’t be lame” in my life. It’s been a part of my vocabulary since grade school. I wasn’t really aware of the exclusionary and offensive nature of the word until college. That’s when I made the connection between the word “lame” and it’s association to people with mental disabilities.

In the news:

McDonald’s in row over mobility scooter [New Zealand]

McDonald’s is yet to deliver on a promise to say sorry to a woman who was denied service in a drive-thru, because she was on a mobility scooter.

Margaret Todd says she could not squeeze her scooter through the front door of McDonald’s in Blenheim, so had no option but to head round to the drive-thru.

Disability 101: Defining Disability

Hello, everyone! I am Annaham of HamBlog, and since I’ve written a Disability 101 series of posts, I thought it would be a good idea to cross-post some of the series here.  My inspiration was piqued by the Finally Feminism 101 blog, which is brilliantly maintained by tigtog of Hoyden About Town. I hope that this series will answer some 101-ish questions about disability. My hope is that this will serve as a starting point for people (of all abilities) who wish to learn more about disability, chronic illnesses and health conditions, and the issues surrounding disability/CI/CHC terms, etiquette, and frequently-asked (and pontificated-upon) questions. (In case you’re wondering who the hell I am and/or why I am taking on this project, my bio is located here.)

If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments field. Please be respectful and on-topic when commenting.
Also, please keep in mind that I do not speak for *all* PWDs and folks with chronic illnesses or health conditions in this series. It is not intended as “the” guide to 101 questions on disability; my intent is to offer (pretty subjective) answers to common questions on disability, and of course, there will be folks who disagree.

Thanks, and enjoy!

What is “disability?”

The World Health Organization defines “disability” in the following way: “Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.”

Additionally: “[D]isability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” [ Source]

But aren’t we all disabled in some way?

No. This sort of “folk wisdom” implies, directly or indirectly, that mundane things—things that may be minor inconveniences (at least for some able-bodied people–those with whom this bit of “wisdom” seems to be most popular), but that are not fundamentally impairing or restrictive to one’s quality of life or participation in civic and/or private life—are disabling, when they are, in fact, not. Disability, additionally, is a term that refers to a long-term or lifelong condition.

What is “ableism?”

Ableism refers to discrimination, devaluation, misconceptions, stereotypes, and prejudice—conscious or unconscious—of and against people with disabilities, the chronically ill, and people with chronic health conditions. As a culturally-based structure that often intersects with other oppressive “isms,” systems of privilege, and “-phobias” (such as racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, white privilege, cisgendered privilege, class/economic privilege, and transphobia) ableism assumes that able-bodied people are the “norm” in society, and as a result, culture, various institutions, attitudes and social mores are formed in accordance with the needs of able-bodied people.

What is meant by the terms AB and TAB?

“AB” is an abbreviation for able-bodied; “TAB” is a slightly more to-the-point abbreviation meaning “Temporarily Able-Bodied.” TAB refers to the inevitable—namely, that most of us will face disability at some point in our lives; whether it comes sooner or later varies depending upon one’s circumstances.

Originally posted at Faces of Fibro.

By 7 October, 2009.    101, language  , , ,