Friday, August 1, 2014

The New Symbol

Color photo of three accessible parking spaces featuring the new wheelchair symbol design
I approve of the new wheelchair symbol design, though I hope everyone gives it a chance to replace the old one gradually naturally, before making some big expensive push for it. It’s possible that non-disabled people … including people who own and arrange parking lots … will embrace the new symbol with some enthusiasm, just because it looks so great.

From the Disability History Tumblr blog, via Licking The Road.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Video Of The Day: Mannequins 2, JCP Edition

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Jane Weaver, Today, NBC - July 15, 2014

I am glad to see this, but I am surprised they didn’t mention the similar project done in Zurich, Switzerland last Fall. The video for that made me cry for real, not out of pity, but because of a strong feeling of identification with the participants. One thing I like about this project is that they don't focus on disability per se, but on differences ... including weight and height.

"20 States On Wheels" Update

I decided to check in on the 20 States On Wheels project … four college students, one of whom uses a wheelchair, traveling from San Francisco to Boston and blogging about the accessibility they find, or don’t find, along the way. Today they are in Denver!

It looks like they have found a fair amount of full accessibility so far, with the biggest problems being when promised accessibility and accommodations fail to materialize. This seems most notable with car rental and hotel reservations. Restaurants and tourist attractions seem to be mostly accessible and accommodating.

That all sounds familiar to me, and highlights one of the best aspects of architectural accessibility. For the most part, a physically accessible feature can't disappoint. People frequently do, as do their policies and practices.

Browse the blog. The group has posted lots of great photos, along with descriptions of their accessibility experiences.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Welcome Ramps!

Doorway ramp styled like a welcome mat

It’s accessibility day, I guess. These ramp / welcome mat things go well with the article on cardboard furniture.

"Exile" of "Wrong"

Jim Dwyer, The New York Times - July 29, 2014

It’s the phrase, “the Exile of Wrong Furniture” that hooked me. I can think of so many variations on it that would describe living with disabilities, in a world of full of barriers. The Exile of Wrong Entrances … The Exile of Wrong Sidewalks. Fantastic.

The subject is terrific, too … using cardboard to make custom furniture for disabled kids. It should work for disabled adults as well. I could sketch out a piece or two that would help me out a lot. Like maybe a computer desk, and a properly proportioned chair.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Coming Soon ... "Disability.TV"

Photo of old tv set with four disability symbols on the screen - Disability.TV - disability
I have been toying with the idea of starting a podcast on TV depictions of disability for quite some time, but I think I’ve finally reached the point where a vague idea is ready to turn into reality. If all goes well, I’ll have an introductory episode of “Disability.TV” out on August 1st. I will probably post it initially on, but eventually it should be added to iTunes as well, so people can download episodes to their computers and mobile devices.

Each episode will focus on a single TV show and its disabled characters. My main goal throughout will be to answer the question, “What do we want in TV depictions of disability?” In the process, I hope listers will enjoy a tour of past, present, and even future TV shows featuring disabled characters and themes. To get a good head start, here is a tentative list of episode topics: 

Ironside - Original Series - Chief Robert Ironside

Ironside - New Series - Detective Robert Ironside

The Michael J. Fox Show / Growing Up Fisher - Mike Henry / Mel Fisher

Friday Night Lights - Jason Street

Game Of Thrones - Tyrion Lannister

Game Of Thrones - Jaimie Lannister, Bran Stark, and Hodor

Glee - Artie Abrams, Becky Jackson

Big Bang Theory - Sheldon Cooper

Parenthood - Max Braverman

Red Band Society - (New Fall Show)

Breaking Bad - Walter Jr. “Flynn” White

Star Trek - The Menagerie 1 & 2 - Captain Christopher Pike

Star Trek: The Next Heneration - Ethics - Lt. Worf

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Melora - Ensign Melora Pazlar

American Horror Story - “Freak Show”

ER - Dr. Kerry Weaver

ER - Mental Illness

Downton Abbey - Mr. Bates, Thomas Barrow, Matthew Crawley

The West Wing - President Josiah Bartlett

The West Wing - Joey Lucas

Life Goes On - Corky Sherwood

I think I have everything I need to get started … except for one thing. I need ideas, insights, and most of all, some co-hosts! If you are tuned in to disability issues and popular culture, have a look at this list, and if you see something that interests you, let me know. Hopefully, we can work out the technical side of long-distance podcasting and make these episodes real discussions rather than monologues. Two viewpoints are almost always better than one!

Stay tuned for the first, introductory podcast!

What Are We Arguing About?

white 3-d stick figure of a person pondering a thought, leaning against a red question mark
When you start reading around the disability blogs, as I did a year and a half or so ago, you get the impression that there are some pretty big arguments going on just under the surface of things. People with opposed views on disability topics rarely clash with each other directly, but there are obviously some high-stakes disagreements and misunderstandings sparking a lot of passion. The problem is that the terms of debate are almost never spelled out, and a newcomer to disability culture can become easily confused. What’s it all about?

I don’t want to fan the flames, but it might be useful once in awhile to try to articulate just what it is we are fighting about … or being passive-aggressive about as the case may be.

For example:

- Is disability a complex web of medical, social, and political factors that all affect how people with specific impairments live? Or, is all the social and political stuff a sort of mirage, distracting us from the pain and hardship of unpleasant medical conditions we should be trying to solve? This argument is at its most concentrated when there is a clash between efforts to eliminate certain disabilities entirely, and a view that doing this would be tantamount to genocide. However, a more moderate but similar argument goes on over where people prefer to direct their attention and money … to making life better for disabled people, or to ridding people, and society, of disabilities?

- What is autism? Is it a baffling and often debilitating brain dysfunction that kids and families suffer greatly from? Or, is it a very particular kind of brain and perception difference where autistic people are essentially ok if they’re allowed to be themselves and use their coping mechanisms, but parents and other “neurotypicals” make them miserable by trying to force them to “act normal”? It’s hard to stake out a middle ground here. It feels like one or the other side is not only wrong, but tragically, horrifically wrong. People disagree over the true nature of a few other specific disabilities, but autism seems to be the most divisive.

- Are most intellectually disabled people quite capable and fully self-aware, and just in need of some extra help and guidance to live satisfying lives? Or, are most of them severely impaired and in need of constant, life-long care and supervision? Most people would say some of both, and lots of in-between. But, one side tends to stress a more minimalist, positive view, while the other side focuses more strongly on needs and what they see as serious, insolvable deficits. The two sides seem to be looking at two different groups of people, while speaking as if to encompass them all.

- Are people with substantial care and assistance needs better served in their own homes with visiting nurses and paid personal assistants? Or, do they get better, safer care in specialized care centers like nursing homes and “assisted living facilities”? This argument is inseparable from the question of which model is more financially sustainable. Not to mention … whose needs are paramount, the person with a disability, family, or care providers?

- Which is more crucial to successful life with a disability … positive thinking and good behavior of the disabled person, or accessibility, accommodation, and respect from society, towards the disabled person? How we answer this question seems to depend a lot on which we believe is easier to change … ourselves or society. The answer to that is not obvious, either way.

- Is disability prejudice the result of ignorance or evil, confusion or hostility? Does it make a difference?

If you have read even just a little bit of this blog, and of other blogs by people with disabilities, you should be able to guess how most of us would answer these questions. Yet, they are questions, and the opposite answers are not so easily dismissed, once they are fairly laid out.

I have no grand point here. I just think it’s important that we remind ourselves of what we believe, and of what others believe who disagree with us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Recommended: Excellent CRPD Information

Andrea Shettle MSW, Rambling Justice - Updated July 22, 2014

This is by far the best thing I have seen so far explaining the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and providing everything an advocate would need to help push for ratification.

I would also like to give a qualified, cautious endorsement of @FightingCRPD, a Twitter feed satirizing the beliefs that have prevented the CRPD from being ratified. It is satire, right? RIGHT?

The Guaranteed Income Idea

Picture of a hand held palm up with a green dollar sign above it.
Dylan Matthews, - July 23, 2014

I wonder how many disability policy problems would be solved or simplified if every American 18 or over could start each year with, say, $20,000 of guaranteed income? As Dylan Matthews points out, the idea is probably politically infeasible, and for a lot of people morally upsetting, but it’s not economically impossible.

From a disability perspective it would not only give all of us a firm … but not lavish … base to work with. It would also eliminate a lot of the anguish over eligibility we go through to get support. If everyone got a guaranteed income, it wouldn’t matter whether or not we have someone else’s conception of a “qualifying” disability. We might need to prove greater, more specialized need if we needed services in addition to income, but for many of us, that wouldn’t be necessary.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

T-Shirt Of The Day

Top 10 things NEVER to say to a Disability Rights Activist. 1. What’s wrong with you. 2. It’s so great to see you out in public. 3. People like you are such an inspiration … if I were in your situation I’d probably kill myself. 4. Yeah we’re accessible … we only have two steps. 5. I was just parking there for a minute. 6. Wheelchair access is around the back … through the alley … behind the dumpster … just knock and someone will take you through the kitchen. 7. We’re covered by the Grandfather clause (NOT). 8. You can’t bring that dog in here! 9. Can’t he just read lips? 10. Can you drive? Who do you live with?

Recommended: Hashtag & Podcast

Maddie Ruvolo and Emily Ladau, who started a new podcast yesterday, Disabled Girls Talk, also started a great Twitter hashtag: #BecauseOfTheADA. This morning they posted a Storify page showing some of the resulting Tweets.

If you are the Twittering kind, why not keep the hashtag going? Also, be sure to listen to Disabled Girls Talk. In Episode 1, "Generation ADA", Maddie and Emily discuss what it has been like for them to grow up with disabilities in a post-Americans with Disabilities Act world.