Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Fuller Picture Of A Disability Hero

Photo of a marble statue of Emperor Claudius
I have blogged before about Claudius, the fourth Emperor of Rome, and arguably the most powerful disabled person in history. When I say that he is one of my disability heroes, though, I am indulging in a bit of artistic license and selective ignorance.

Like many modern people, I was introduced to Claudius by Robert Graves’ books, I, Claudius and Claudius The God … and by the late ‘70s BBC series, I, Claudius. Although based on the writings of contemporary Roman and later European historians, Graves’ account of Claudius and his fractious family is fictionalized. The books are novels, not histories.

It’s also easy for a disabled person like me to focus too much on Claudius’ disabilities, about which specific information is sketchy. Besides not really knowing how severe his disabilities were, or what kind, (Cerebral Palsy? Epilepsy? Polio?), there is the matter of his less-than-admirable personal life … especially how he treated the women in his life ... and the fact that he was a “good” Emperor in the context of a former republic that had more or less voluntarily opted for dictatorship, and a political system where bribery, assassination, and purges were standard operating procedure.

Still, despite all the caveats, it’s hard to escape the essential fact that a man who was at least regarded as being an “idiot” became Emperor, and instead of being someone's puppet, was one of the most effective and honest Emperors in he long history of Rome.

For a more complete, history of Claudius, (though brief), I highly recommend the following episodes of The History Of Rome, the epic historical podcast by Mike Duncan. It’s interesting how he sort of plays along with the idea that there was something inherently comical about Claudius’ rise to power, while clearly admiring Claudius and his record of achievement. Personally, I find my affection and admiration for Claudius stronger for knowing more of the historical facts.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Season 1, Episode 8 Of "Red Band Society”

Photo of an old-style TV set with the wheelchair symbol on the screen
Gotta Watch It! - November 21, 2014

There’s something about a doctor strumming a guitar in a hospital. It doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s more likely to provoke eye-rolling. But don’t give up on the singing doc just yet. He might be onto something.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tiny Tim

Smart Ass Cripple - November 19, 2014

I'm sharing yet another Smart Ass Cripple post, mainly because "big time Tiny Tim shit" needs to become official terminology for the kind of thing it's referring to.

I wonder, would people who engage in actual "big time Tiny Time shit", un-ironically, be terribly offended reading Smart Ass Cripple?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Best Reply To Little Kid Questions

... when you're having one of those days ...

Little Girl: "What’s wrong with your foot?"

House: "War wound."

Little Girl: "Does it hurt?"

House: "Every day."

Little Girl: "Is that why you’re so sad?"

House: "Oh, aren’t you adorable."

Season 2, Episode 11, "Need To Know".

Shovel Ready

Small all-terrain vehicle plowing snow
Tami Tremblay, - November 17, 2014

Like many small and medium-sized towns throughout the winter weather regions of the U. S., my hometown takes a semi-voluntary approach to keeping sidewalks and curb cuts clear of ice and snow. Property owners are required by law to shovel and sand any pedestrian pathways on or adjacent to their properties. They have two or three days after every snowfall or "ice event" to clear their sidewalks, or the City can, theoretically, clear the path itself and bill you for it.

In practice, the ordinance has little effect, other than to trigger a brief annual spasm of moral judgement on those lazy property owners who don't shovel. The sidewalks don't get cleared, everyone morally disapproves, and disabled people slide, stumble, or stay put for four months.

Sidewalk snow removal policy would make a great example for a political science class explaining how liberals / progressives and conservatives respond to community problems:

The liberal / progressive view:
  • It is quite possible to keep sidewalks clear and passable for all pedestrians for most of the time during harsh winters. We do it pretty well for streets, and it's one of local government's highest priorities, so it should be done for sidewalks, too.
  • It's doable for streets because local government uses tax revenues to pay for people and equipment to get the job done effectively and efficiently, for everyone.
  • Sidewalks are public infrastructure which should be maintained in an organized, deliberate, publicly-funded way.
The conservative view:
  • Snow and ice come with the territory. If you live where winters are harsh, you learn to deal with it or you move.
  • We should be cutting back on government spending, not adding whole new repsonsibilies and costs, like clearing sidewalks. We plow roads because if we don't, commerce would cease, and because we've always done it and we're used to it.
  • The real problem here is that people these days are lazy and don't care about their neighbors. In the old days, people cleared their sidewalks instead of sitting on their butts playing video games!
That’s what it all sounds like to me anyway.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Thoughts On Ableism

Paul Dodenhoff, Disabled World - November 6, 2014

Paul Dodenhoff, Disabled World - November 17, 2014

A lot of practical, everyday ableism seem to stem from beliefs about scarcity. Some people believe that everything is a competition, a zero-sum game where one person’s gain is always another person’s loss. That’s what you often hear when people do and say the most horrible things about disabled people, while trying to convince everyone, inclduing themselves, that they are just being honest and realistic. It’s nothing personal, I like cripples just fine. It’s not their fault, but I have to look out for my own kid / family / neighborhood / job, etc.

On the other hand, there really are people who find disabled people just plain irritating, disturbing, disruptive, or distasteful. They really would prefer it if we were all in special programs somewhere, where they wouldn't have to see us or deal with us. Some of this is a sort of grumpy annoyance with anything that stands out ... a loud, restless child in a restaurant, or a customer in a big wheelchair taking up space in the grocery asile. Sometimes, it comes from that very old part of our brain, down by the stem, where our fear of lizards and spiders resides.

Personally, I find the first type of ableism ... mostly defensive and transactional ... easier to deal with, and more common. The second, more instinctive ableism I find hard to believe, and becuse of that even harder to handle on the rare occasions when I do see it firsthand.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Disabled TV Character Face-Off: Third Round

Dr. Gregory House beat Dr. Kerry Weaver in the second round.
The third round features President Josiah Bartlett vs. Chief Robert Ironside. Which character do you like best?

President Josiah Bartlett
Actor: Martin Sheen
Disability: Multiple Sclerosis.
Role on the show: Lead character of the show.

Chief Robert Ironside
Actor: Raymond Burr
Disability: Paraplegia.
Role on the show: Lead character of the show.

Voting in round three will stay open for two weeks.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Sepia-toned photo of handicapped parking spaces. Title reads Disability Thinking Weekly Wrap-Up
Keeping it brief this week ...

Sunday, November 9, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Disability.TV - Ep. 16 - The Big Bang Theory

Disability.TV logo on the left, Big Bang Theory logo on the right.
Sheldon Cooper’s mom may have had him tested, but that doesn’t stop Sarah Levis and I from discussing the now-familiar question of whether The Big Bang Theory’s breakthrough character is, or is not a disabled character, and whether his portrayal is a positive or negative influence on how people view autism and Asberger’s Syndrome today. More than with any previous podcast, I welcome comments and disagreements, especially from listeners who are autistic. You can email me at, leave comments on the Disability Thinking blog, or send an audio file … whichever you prefer. And please do let me know whether or not its okay to include your comments in an upcoming podcast. You can find my guest, Sarah Levis, at Girl With The Cane, and on Twitter @GirlWithTheCane.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Season 1, Episode 7 Of "Red Band Society"

Gotta Watch It! - November 13, 2014

This week, everyone on ‘Red Band Society’ got a rough but arguably overdue reality check, the viewers included.