Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dear Imprudence: How terrible when blind people are seen and heard

I read this letter to Dear Abby and Abby’s awesomely ableist response. I wonder how she would have responded to a different letter. One that was more like this:

Dear Abby,

I was really looking forward to the opportunity to go out with my friend the other night and enjoy a good movie. I don’t get to go out to many of the popular films when they’re playing and everyone is buzzing about them, because very few theatres have descriptive audio available in them, and even when they do, not all films come packaged with such things. I should probably mention that I’m blind.

For example, if I go through the Regal Entertainment Group’s website, I see they have 605 screenings of movies with Descriptive Audio. This may seem like a lot, but counting up all their movie theaters across the US and guessing an average of 10 screens per theater, they have 4400 screens! That’s about 14% of all their showings! And I know from experience that dealing with staff at these theaters can be difficult: When I called a theater in my neighbourhood about descriptive audio, they told me where I could go to see movies that are captioned, which is not exactly helpful.

Anyway, my friend gracious agreed to not only go to a movie with me, but take the time and effort to let me know what was going on on the screen, so I could enjoy the movie too – at least, if the theater we went to didn’t have a descriptive audio option. Blind people are well aware of the various options they have to enjoy movies and other visual art – they certainly don’t need sighted people scolding them over such things!

So, you can imagine my dismay that, at this opportunity to enjoy a movie together, and be able to enjoy a movie while everyone else was talking about it, people were rudely “shushing” my friend, telling her to shut up. I know that it can be difficult and frustrating to have noise when you’re enjoying a movie, but I wonder why these people couldn’t find a less rude way of asking my friend to keep her voice down, or even just move a bit further away so that we, too, could enjoy the movie.

I know you’ll understand my frustration, Abby. I hope that you’ll remind sighted people that blind people have social lives and like to go out and enjoy things just as much as they do. I believe in my heart you’d never tell a blind person to just stay home and watch DVDs rather than risk bothering the sighted public.


A Blind Person Who Wishes the ADA Meant Actual Accessible Content For All

P.S. Abby, surely you have statistics on the number of DVDs that are packaged with descriptive audio, right? According to Wikipedia, such DVDs are pretty rare. I bet you already know that the number of DVDs released with descriptive audio in the US in 2009 was 11.

Recommended Reading for 16 August 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.

NPR: FDA OKs Five-Day Emergency Contraceptive

The pill ella from HRA Pharma reduces the chance of pregnancy up to five days after sex. Plan B, the most widely used emergency contraceptive pill, begins losing its ability to prevent pregnancy within three days of sex.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Friday as a prescription-only birth control option. The ruling clears the way for U.S. sales of the drug, which is already approved in Europe.

Houston Chronicle: Inmates train dogs to help disabled veterans

Eighteen dogs have been placed with owners since the Rockwall-based nonprofit, headed by veteran canine coach Lori Stevens, was chartered four years ago. Selected inmates at Gatesville prison units joined the effort as trainers in early 2008. Last year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals crowned one of the program’s graduates, Archie, a Labrador retriever, “Dog of the Year.”

Melodye Nelson, Crain Unit’s assistant warden, praised the program for giving incarcerated women a sense of self-worth.

Thus Spake Zuska: Comtemplating Ability and Disability (Thanks to Penny with Disability Studies, Temple U, for the link!)

I think people just expect disability to look a certain way.  When I’m talking with people, and they find out I’ve had a stroke, and they say “you don’t LOOK like you’ve had a stroke” I hear that.  I hear, “I have an image in my mind of the drooling limping stroke victim, and you don’t fit that”.  I hear that people with disabilities need to look really disabled in the way that the currently-not-disabled are comfortable with understanding people with disabilities,  in part so that we (and I include myself in this) who are currently mostly abled can go on dreaming that we will never LOOK LIKE those freak show disabled folk.

BBC News: How do blind people play football so well? (Thanks to Miriam Heddy for the link!)

Mesmeric footwork, accurate passing and the ever-present rattling of the ball gives the game a hypnotic quality that makes it easy to forget that the players can’t see what they’re kicking.

There are occasional reminders – perhaps a misplaced pass allows the ball to roll away, or the action stops – and the spectator’s gaze lifts from the players’ feet to the unfamiliar sight of footballers wearing eye patches.

The Awl: The Dementia Bonus: Football as Black Servitude

Life-changing injuries are what precipitated the poster in the first place. According to a study from last year, NFL players develop dementia and Alzheimer’s at a rate more than five times that of average Americans. The same study showed that “players ages 30 through 49 reported dementia-related diagnoses at a rate of 1.9 percent—19 times the national average of 0.1 percent….”

In others words, many professional football players–almost 70 percent of whom are black–are literally killing their brains, and that’s just the numbers on players in their 30s and 40s. For players over 50, it’s more than 1 in 20.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Recommended Reading For 12 August 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.

Dancing With Pain: Practice entitlement. Because disability access is more than a physical issue (Thanks to livingartist for the link!)

I glared as I passed. I continued glaring as they served us. I also stopped eating, having lost my appetite (which seriously never, ever happens). My mom knew something was pissing me off, but I didn’t want to tell her what it was, so as to spare her feelings.

When I saw the bread assistant standing by himself on the other end of the patio, I got up and walked over to him. “What’s your name?” I asked. He told me. “It is in bad taste to mock disability and age,” I said evenly. “Yes ma’am,” he replied solemnly. I was impressed that he neither tried to deny his actions nor defend them. I walked back to the table.

WEEI: An Expert’s Guide to Telling When Players Fake Injuries

Look, I’m no medical expert. But I can spot a guy who’s faking an injury a mile away. I can tell a goldbricking slacker when I see one because… well, because I am one. You know that expression, “It takes a thief”? Well when it comes to stealing the company’s paid sick leave, I’m D.B. Cooper.

Alternet: Army Chaplain Tries to Cure PTSD With Jesus

In a nearly 11,000 word essay, “Spiritual Resiliency: Helping Troops Recover from Combat,” Command Chaplain Col. Donald W. Holdridge of the 200th Military Police Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, argues belief in Jesus Christ and Bible reading, particularly King David’s Psalms, can help cure a soldiers’ PTSD. “Combat vets need to know that most of these [PTSD symptoms] do fade in time, like scars,” writes Holdridge, a professor at the Baptist Bible College, as the Army Reserves banner hangs from the top of the Webpage. “They will always be there to some degree, but their intensity will fade. What will help them fade is the application of the principles of Scripture.”’s Women’s Rights Blog: BPA in Plastic Blamed for Sparking Puberty in Seven-Year-Old Girls (Possible Trigger Warning for body shaming)

You’ve probably heard of BPA, or bisphenol-A, a chemical used in most plastics. BPA is synthetic estrogen, and since I’ve already mentioned that increased estrogen triggers early puberty, I think you can connect the dots here. So how much plastic do you use everyday? What food, hair products, drinks, make-up, or other items come in plastic containers? See how this might be a problem?

Philadelphia Daily News: Our famed forensic sculptor wryly reflects on a fading life

Thirty-three years after Bender, 69, sculpted his first bust of an unknown murder victim – a woman found near the airport in 1977 – he would seem to be at the top of his game: He fields calls daily relating to his work and is the subject of “The Murder Room,” a book that goes on sale next week, and an “America’s Most Wanted” tribute scheduled to air on Fox at 9 tonight.

But he’s dying of pleural mesothelioma; he lost his longtime wife, Jan, to nonsmoker’s lung cancer in April, and he has been forbidden to practice his craft by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is overseeing his care.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Recommended Reading for 30 July 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.

abstractions of chinchilla: HAND HOOKS. HOOKS FOR HANDS

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the most giftedly bad book I have read in the past year and possibly ever, and if you fail to acknowledge its disastrous triumph, I will punch you in the speen. $10 million not enough to restore justice and dignity to Indigenous women in Canada

After 600 Aboriginal women and girls go missing or are found murdered in Canada, the federal government decides to throw-a-bone and give $10 million dollars. In March, the Canadian Minister of Justice budgeted $10 million over two years to address the issue of murdered and missing women in Canada, however, they have yet to figure out how to use the money.

The Neon Season: Never make friends with people who have more problems than you

I was talking (separately) to both sartorias and faithhopetricks about a peculiar YA and middle-grade genre which proliferated in the 70s, 80s, and to some extent 90s, which I think of as the “friendship is pointless” novel. This may overlap with the dog/horse/falcon/best friend/sibling/ALL the dogs die genre, but death is not essential in this genre, and many dead hamster/etc novels don’t belong to it.

In this story, a young person meets a Person with a Problem: they are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, physically disabled, dying, very old, or being abused. The young person befriends them. Catastrophe ensues. The young person, sadder but wiser, learns the valuable lesson that you can’t ever help anyone, and people with problems are doomed. Women-to-women PTSD: Post-traumatic support

“I asked them how many women from Vietnam they had treated, and he said I was the first,” said Evans, who now lives in Helena. “The first thing I saw, hanging on the wall, was a naked woman wearing only Harley chaps and a helmet. It was a place for the guys, very unwelcoming for women.”

So last August, Evans set out to establish a group specifically for military women, whether in active duty, the National Guard or the Reserve, where they could confide in one another and share their fears, their symptoms, their triumphs and their pain in a safe setting.

She knew the need existed for a women-specific program, since nationwide, 1.8 million women are military veterans, which includes almost 8,000 women in Montana. They make up 14 percent of those in active duty, and 15 percent in the Reserve and National Guard.

Serotek Blog: What is the Future of Screen Readers Anyway?

Serotek hopes wholeheartedly that in 2015 we can say the screen reader space has vanished. This change will be brought about through our efforts as a company, and through advocacy by consumers, to encourage universal accessibility in all mainstream products. When screen readers were invented in the early 1980’s they were essential tools to make an inaccessible digital world accessible. They were never meant to be a business, only a means to an end. They were developed by private companies aided by government funding to correct an inequity and make it possible for blind people to use digital tools to become economically viable again. They were for vocational rehab, helping us get off the dole and back to work as contributing members of society. Unfortunately this wonderful leg up soon became a barrier for blind people. Digital technology raced ahead but without universal accessibility built in. Screen readers lagged behind and rather than leveling the playing field, they tended to add extra cost and training while restricting access to the most advanced mainstream software features. Companies producing screen readers were more concerned with preserving the government funding cash cow than with helping the blind community achieve total equality. Fortunately that business model is finally disintegrating. We’ve been a part of the push to change the model from day one of our existence, but truthfully it didn’t really start to shift until mainstream companies like Apple embraced universal accessibility in their core product design.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Inclusive education wrangling on Weekend Sunrise

“Social commentator” Prue MacSween dropped some turds on talk show Weekend Sunrise a couple of weeks ago, saying that children with disabilities should be “put somewhere they can be properly trained” away from “kids without special needs”, that inclusive education holds back “normal” children, and that schools should be gender-segregated because “boys are so retarded”.

Protests ensued, and the show today held a followup with two parents of children with disabilities, a Teachers’ Federation representative, and South Australian parliamentarian Kelly Vincent.

The video of the first segment is up at Weekend Sunrise . The segment is a panel in which two panel members – journalists, shock-jocks, and so on – are asked for soundbite opinions on issues in the news. The segments are usually orchestrated so that the two commenters will have a disagreement. Here’s a transcript of the relevant section, which starts about two-thirds of the way into the video. [All emphases in transcripts are mine.]

Announcer: Anyway, moving on. A teacher is suing the government claiming that she’s damaged her larynx by having to scream at kids. [laughs] Some of the – well, as a parent I kind of understand! – Some of the kids in her classmates are special needs, and she claims she wasn’t given proper assistance. The 39-year-old is now seeking four hundred thousand dollars. Was she training as an opera singer? Anyway! Does this sound reasonable to – hang on, I’ll start with Paul Murray. [incomprehensible]

Paul Murray: [explains that teaching is a ‘tough gig’ and she could have got more help, but that four hundred thousand is a ‘stupid number’]

Prue MacSween: But it’s a number of issues. The woman is put into this room with all these special needs kids. So many of them! She should have – for a start, it’s a reflection of the bad system. These special needs kids should not be in a class with, you know, kids that don’t have special needs for a start. So we need to throw more money at the education system, make sure that these kids are properly administered to, because they almost need one-on-one help!

Paul Murray: Yeah, but I disagree with that. [Announcer in background: Yeah, I disagree with that too.] I think that they should –

Prue MacSween [interrupting] I know, I know what you intelligentsia are saying –

Paul Murray: No, that’s rubbish.

Prue MacSween: No, it is, it’s thought police stuff!

Announcer: It depends on the nature of the special needs.

Paul Murray: They need two teachers in the room, to be able to make sure that there’s one who can cover the gap. But you can’t just –

Prue MacSween: No, I’m sorry, I can’t agree with that.

Paul Murray: It’s about socialising. It’s not about –

Prue MacSween: I understand that, but what about the kids who are quite normal and adequately able to understand? They’re being held back. It’s like girls going into schoolrooms with bloody boys! Boys are so retarded, they keep them back!

[Announcer laughs heartily in the background; Paul Murray smiles and shakes his head dismissively]

Prue MacSween: I honestly think that we need to make sure that we have these special needs kids put somewhere where they are properly trained. And then slowly, once they are in a capacity of being able to –

Announcer: We’re running out of time. [sarkily] That’s next week’s topic, “Are Boys Retarded?” And I look forward to hearing your views on that, Prue.

When people kicked up about this bigotry, including a Facebook group “Prue MacSween and Channel 7 Should Apologise“, MacSween ‘splained to us all that she’s not prejudiced because she once employed a “Down Syndrome boy” in her office – so she knows that integration should only occur in “controlled situations”.

Continue reading Inclusive education wrangling on Weekend Sunrise

Depictions of Disability That Make Us Happy

Movie poster from Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon: a night-blue sky with a full moon, and a midnight black dragon with large, pale eyes stares down at a pale, brown haired boy who reaches up to try to touch its face. The poster text reads: Dreamworks [next line] How to Train Your [next line] Dragon [next line] 3D.We took The Kid to the base theatre on Wednesday night to see Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon, which is loosely adapted from a YA Book series of the same name.

[Tame OYD Review with mild SPOILERS ahead]

It is a story of a teen boy, Hiccup, who lives in the Viking village of Berk, which is on an island. His village of one of fierce dragon slayers, and Hiccup is the only son of the chief, Stoick the Vast. Except, he isn’t really very good at slaying dragons, because he is kind of clumsy (I can relate). Longing to be accepted, despite his awkwardness, among his tribe and the other viking teens, and naturally wanting to win the heart of the beautiful girl, Hiccup wants to be a great dragon slayer, too, until he actually catches one of the fiercest and little-known about breeds of dragon, the dreaded Night Fury.

Just when Hiccup has the chance to Slay the Dragon, he realizes that he doesn’t have the heart to kill the creature that looks up at him and surrenders its will in such a helpless manner. He lets the dragon go, and in turn, the dragon doesn’t kill him, which goes against everything he has ever been taught. Slowly over time he earns the dragon’s trust, and learns that that the reason the dragon hasn’t left is because part of his tail has been lost when Hiccup captured him.

Using his knowledge of the forge, Hiccup fashions a sort of prosthetic half-tail for the dragon, and together he and the dragon learn how to fly together, because the dragon now needs assistance using the new tail piece.

There are many themes in the movie that I am not going to excuse. If you think by now that you are going to see a Dreamworks movie that has a fair representation of girl characters, you are wrong, as they even manage to throw in some boob jokes, and once again, the main character has lost his mother in another ridiculous excuse to not have to write one in or to draw out some sympathy for him. Mothers in pop-culture and YA literature/movies are never to be known and always to be mourned. If you think there is anyone who is non-white in this movie, think again. And if anyone tries to excuse it by telling me that “This is a Viking village!”, I can tell you that there were probably more non-white people around Villages than actual dragons, so they could have maybe thrown a bone in there, especially since they had America Ferrara voicing the female lead, because I think that might have been a nice nod to her character. (But at least she wasn’t a wilting lily of a wee girl.)

But I can tell you that I don’t have to love every aspect of things that affect my marginalization to be impressed when something actually goes right once in a while.

At the end of the Epic Battle (no I won’t spoil that), Hiccup loses his foot, and is fitted with a prosthetic one made in the forge, and other than two brief mentions of it, and a heart warming moment when his dragon helps him start to adapt to learning to use it, that was pretty much all the attention given to it. Hiccup, being a mechanical tinkerer, says he might play around with it and improve upon it, but, no one makes a Big Deal. While this might not be realistic and probably dismisses the reality of dealing with that type of loss (and in the mythical world they created this is a common thing they deal with), I liked that this loss of Hiccup’s foot was not treated as The Worst! Thing! Evah! Hiccup actually just goes out, and climbs aboard his dragon. Life as usual. In fact, his fancy new foot fits better into his riding harness, the one he made for the prosthetic tail for his dragon.

I like it when we can see people with disabilities in a positive light. Moreover, I like it more when the characters in pop-culture around this character aren’t reacting in a way that makes it seem as if this is the worst tragedy to ever hit their lives. They are Vikings, and in the long view of things, they have managed to avert a major crisis and now have dragons for pets, which is pretty cool. Stoick is thrilled to have his son, the person, with him, and the depiction of the girl is still…well, painfully stereotypical.

But this depiction of disability, it made me very happy.

Doctor Who: The Doctor and Disability

The title card for the current serial of Doctor Who. It says DOCTOR WHO with a red flame-like background
The title card for the current serial of Doctor Who. It says DOCTOR WHO with a red flame-like background

This post presumes you’ve seen Doctor Who up to and including “The Lodger”, which is episode 11 of the current season. Since I know this episode hasn’t aired everywhere yet, I’m going to put it behind a cut tag. I’m also going to distract you with a picture of a kitten.
A large grey cat pats the top of a TARDIS toy.  The caption reads Good TARDIS *pat*.
A large grey cat pats the top of a TARDIS toy. The caption reads Good TARDIS *pat*.

[I went with the smaller size because otherwise it dominates the page like woah. Anyway, final warning: Here be spoilers.]

Continue reading Doctor Who: The Doctor and Disability

Recommended Reading for Wednesday June 9, 2010

A person who is using a wheelchair and wearing a t-shirt that reads Feel the power of the disability vote

Image: “Feel the power of the disability vote – Protest of California health care budget cuts (2009)” by Steve Rhodes, used under a creative commons license.
Description: Person who is using a wheelchair, wearing a t-shirt that reads “Feel the power of the disability vote”

Don’t forget to submit to this month’s Disability Blog Carnival!

The Media’s Struggle with Disabilities

Restaurants, airlines, and other companies tend to struggle when it comes to dealing with a person with a disability. But one line of work we haven’t touched on yet is the media. And believe me, despite working in the journalism field, the media is not exempt from my disdain!

There are three phrases found in almost every article about a person with a disability. And each of these statements drives me up the wall. Let’s examine them individually.

In Michigan, HIV Positive no longer equals terrorist

For Smith, the fact that Allen was HIV-positive was like he was walking around with ticking time bombs inside of him, waiting to tear down people in his wake. By all accounts, it was a gross misuse and misapplication of the Michigan anti-terrorism law (even the authors of that law eventually criticized Smith for labeling HIV-positive people as terrorists), but for months Smith wouldn’t cave in to demands to drop the charges. He wanted Allen to be charged with bioterrorism, solely for living with HIV.

My Deafness Wishlist

We chatted about technology for a while and this eventually turned into useful apps for my iPhone in terms of my deafness and other things I’d like to make life easier in my Hard-of-Hearing World.

When we were talking though, my mind went quite blank, but now I’ve had a chance to think a little bit more about it, it’s made me resolve to start compiling my Deafness Wishlist – things I want changed or services I’d like to see.

I mean I know I write about them often, but perhaps if I put them all in one place, it’ll make it easier when I bump into VIPs on the bus…

So here we go

Meet the “New” Autism Speaks

But other research projects that Robison has been blogging about strike me as problematic. Take, for instance, this post lauding some new Autism-Speaks grants. Basically, it seems to me more of the same: research pushing for earlier identification, insistence on the centrality of “early intervention,” etc. What does this do for autistic people right now? I note that autistic children are already being identified at earlier and earlier ages. Why is it so vital that we keep pushing the age down? Does it really matter that much if we identify an autistic child at 22 months as opposed to 28 or 29 [months] for instance? I’m not convinced, and the endless repetition of the “early intervention” mantra is not a substitute for actual science which is willing to question supposed “truths.” Nor does this kind of research truly deserve, IMHO, the amount of money it is receiving. Where are the supports for older autistic people, as researchers rush to “identify” earlier and earlier?

Preventing tragic outcomes starts with us

The Province of Nova Scotia spends about 3.5% of its annually recurring health care budget on mental health, and a fraction of that on child and youth mental health services. This is in spite of the knowledge that about 3/4th of all mental disorders arise prior to the age of 25 years and increasing realization that early intervention and effective treatment may prevent substantial long and short term negative outcomes and yes, maybe in this case would have prevented such a tragic outcome.


Namibia: Women Petition Against Forced Sterilisation

“HIV-positive women are holding the healthcare system accountable for the wrongs done to them,” said Veronica Kalambi of the Women’s Health Network.

Kalambi said these alleged violations of women’s rights are in the context of a broader set of violations occurring against women at hospitals and clinics.

“People should have peace of mind that if they are HIV-positive, they can still go to the hospital and be treated with dignity and equality,” said Vicky Noa, who claims that she was sterilised in 2001. She organised the Ondangwa sit-in.

US: Winning Wheelchairs Kids roll to victory in special track meet
It’s a right of passage for so many kids: the end-of-year track meet where schoolmates race against each other. [I think this article is problematic.]

Teenagers face stigma of mental illness

Canada: School Moves Away From Coding Kids Classes integrate all types of students

Tucked in the city’s deep south near 42nd Street and 12th Avenue, it is one of 16 city public schools testing an innovative new program that mixes kids who have special needs into regular classrooms.

The two-year pilot project is part of an attempt to move away from “coding” students according to disability, then allotting funds based on the number of children with special needs.

Canada: No Taser on mentally ill: Lawyer This case is about the death of Howard Hyde in police custody in Halifax, NS. Here is an archive of news stories about the tasering case.

UK: Wheelchair ramble along Y Lôn Goed Gwynedd Council is supporting a joint project which arranges an annual programme of guided countryside walks for the less abled and wheelchair users – again this year the walks will visit some of Wales’ most fantastic locations.

Dear Imprudence: Thank You for (Proving) Your Service!

Slate Magazine’s Dear Prudie got one right this week, with a letter from a woman who’s husband is a U.S. military veteran, who recently lost his leg “due to a medical condition that was unrelated to his time in the military”. According to the letter writer, her husband has adjusted well to his recent amputation, however, it is the passers-by who seem to not be able to just let it go. She writes:

[O]ften strangers will pause to talk to him while we are in public, and these well-meaning individuals will ask whether he is a veteran. When my husband answers yes, it is inevitably assumed that he was injured in Iraq, and he is often thanked for his sacrifice for our country. One elderly gentleman hugged him with tears in his eyes! While my husband is a veteran and technically qualifies for the warm gesture, it seems deceitful to allow these people to believe he suffered a grave injury in Iraq. We don’t want to share my husband’s complicated medical history with strangers, but we don’t want to discourage people from giving thanks to vets in the future. What should we do?

Prudie’s response is pretty solid, in my opinion here. People with disabilities face nosy questions all the time. Everyone from children who can’t help but be unabashedly honest to grown-ups of the well-intentioned and otherwise variety. People with visible disabilities are constantly questioned about the whats, the hows and the whys of their conditions, as if they are under some obligation to share private pieces of their personal medical information. PWDs with invisible conditions are scrutinized by even their close friends when their health varies from day to day.

Veterans also face a barrage of these questions even when they are able-bodied, from people wanting to know about their service, where they’ve been, even if they have killed someone (hint: you should NEVER ask a veteran this question). Sometimes this line of questioning ends in tears and hugs and thank yous because people are grateful and some even want to share common experiences. Sometimes this creates tense situations. One place where I was stationed in California this actually resulted in people throwing their drinks on sailors and calling us “baby killers”, resulting in a lockdown on how and when we were allowed to leave the base or our houses.

The place where this intersects creates a wholly unique situation. Like Prudie says, people see a person of about the right age with a disability and presume that this person must be a combat-wounded veteran. Cue the questions and thank-yous, and demands for, once again, medical information that is none of their business. All based on presumption.

I agree with Prudie here. “Didn’t” and her husband are under no obligation to correct these people, no matter how well intentioned they may be in their demands for information or genuine their appreciation of his service. It is an invasion of his privacy, of their privacy, and it should be enough to appreciate the sacrifice that they made as a family (however much of that time was spent together) and he himself for his time spent in service, because it is a sacrifice of time and life. If these strangers want to assume that his loss of leg is related, then that is on them, but there is no litmus test of injury or illness that is required in order for your service to be appreciated.

Being patient and understanding that some of these people mean well is one thing, and it reflects well on Didn’t and her husband if they are willing to do so, and thank them for their gratitude. But when it goes beyond a thanks and violates their comfort levels they should feel no guilt over drawing a line and letting them know that they would rather not discuss it.

Recommended Reading for June 3, 2010

Two totally adorable golden lab puppies with floppy ears, wearing blue cotton bandanas with the tag "Service Dogs."
Two totally adorable golden lab puppies with floppy ears, wearing blue cotton bandanas with the tag "Service Dogs."

Service puppies in training!!

Miami Herald – Embedded therapists protect National Guard members’ mental health

Roger Duke is a Vietnam veteran, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Since 2006, he’s spent at least one weekend a month embedded with a California National Guard unit. Duke, 57, wasn’t deployed with the unit’s soldiers in Iraq and Kosovo, but he’s a trusted face whom the soldiers confide in before and after their deployments. “Some of the best conversations I have with them are at one in the morning in a Humvee during a training exercise,” said Duke, who’s part of a California program designed to help returning Guard and Reserve members by attaching mental health counselors to their units.

Threadbared – Hanky Pancreas: insulin pump accessories and cyborg embodiment [this post was so nuanced and complex and beautifully written that I hesitate to even do a pull quote because I strongly (strongly) encourage you to click through and read the whole thing]

Floeh’s designs permit wearers to make a strategic double-move around camouflage and visibility, simultaneously hiding the pump and drawing attention to its location (i.e., waist, hip, bustline). When I’m in disability-pride mode, I’m troubled by this kind of hiding, following the logic that visibility is good (i.e., wearing the pump on the outside makes us legible, shows the limits of clothes designed for bodies without peripherals, disrupts conventional, hetero feminine gender presentation) and hiding is, well, hiding, with its affective companions: shame, fear, desire for normalcy, willingness to pass.

But visibility is only one tactic among others, and hiding the pump can also be a radical act – especially if it facilitates feeling-good-while-diabetic (for example: the best act in my burlesque repertoire hinges on repurposing a strap-on harness as an under-dress pump-holder; most of the time, my solution to the dress-problem is a jury-rigged system involving a black garter with small cosmetics pouch from Benefit, bra straps, and safety pins to keep things from sliding down my leg – unless I’m already wearing a garter belt). Of course, in the case of hiding or disguising one’s pump, feeling good can also mean feeling closer to a conventional femininity and mythic norm. I don’t want to elide that possibility, but I also return to the reality of living with chronic illness: that we live in a space of contradiction, that we work with what we have & do what we need to do to claim our (sick, cyborg, incurable) bodies as desirable. In my ideal world – one I suspect Floeh wants, too – we’ll recognize that transformation can (and should) mean more than transforming the pump, or the wearer’s relation to it, to align more closely with a dominant, normate feminine ideal. Creating, enabling, accommodating, and celebrating a multitude of diabetic, cyborg embodiments — and advocating for wider access to the pump (with all of its troubling potential) for those who are uninsured and can’t afford the $6000 price tag — these are the kinds of social transformations that need to happen in conjunction with personal ones.

BBC News – Mental health research is ‘incredibly underfunded’

Only 5% of medical research in the UK is into mental health, despite 15% of disability resulting from disease being due to mental illness.  Last week, one of the major research funders, the Medical Research Council, published one of the most up to date reviews of the strengths and challenges of mental health research in the UK. It not only showed that the research that does get funded is world-class but that the UK is well-placed to lead the way in this area. The review concludes that there are several opportunities to fund more research in the UK that would help accelerate progress in developing new treatments, or lead to better ways of preventing mental illness in the first place.

7 News Denver – Is Xcel’s Tiered Rate Program A Surcharge On Disability?

Xcel Energy’s new tiered-rate program [for electricity] began Tuesday. Customers whose lives depend on electricity aren’t given an exception. Xcel users who need electricity 24 hours a day to power oxygen tanks or ventilators have to pay the same usage costs as someone who wastefully keeps on their air conditioning.”That’s what the problem is, it’s basically a surcharge for disability,” said Julie Reiskin, executive director of Colorado Cross Disability Coalition.Reiskin told 7NEWS her organization was never notified by the Public Utilities Commission prior to the tiered-rate system decision. The PUC oversees Xcel.”I was shocked we did not know about it,” said Reiskin. “It’s disturbing that the PUC saw fit to get input from Xcel, but not from the people who are directly affected by this.”

A Happiness That Forgets Nothing – You know what? I take back that shit about not hating people.

SO. My brother—my clinically depressed brother—was met by police today. You know why? Because he mentioned to his friends that he had suicidal feelings. So what did they do?
I am in tears right now. Enraged tears.
My brother has a mental illness. But he is still an autonomous, competent fucking person. He can make his own goddamned decisions without alleged friends having  him hunted down like a fucking criminal.

[and finally, a mystery in which I ask for your assistance! I have seen several blog mentions of this thing – product? service? – called ‘Buddy’ that has a contract with the NHS and is supposed to help people with disabilities and I cannot understand it! Perhaps you can help?]

Buddy is a post-digital social care service that seeks to improve the well-being of people living with long term conditions, and at the same time, reduce the cost of service provision. At the heart of Buddy is a social media radio which lets users broadcast from a physical device, to a range of social media platforms. By using social networks, Buddy extends the community of carers around an individual beyond healthcare professionals, to friends, families and peers. Our idea is to decentralise and socialise care, creating a more people-powered service, where friends and families are working alongside professionals to support individuals, in real time. Co-production is the jargon.