Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tweet Of The Day

FDR and pals!

Disability.TV Podcast - Mini-Cast

Disability.TV logo on the left, podcast microphone icon on the right
In this Mini-Cast I make a pitch for more guest hosts, take stock of how the podcast has done so far, and look ahead to the TV shows I want to talk about through the winter and into spring. Help support the Disability.TV Podcast by making a Paypal donation, or shopping at the Amazon Affiliate links on the Disability Thinking Blog. You can also leave comments there, or email them to: Plus, take a moment to post an iTunes review or Tweet what you liked about the episode. Subscribe at iTunes or Stitcher.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Podcast Co-Hosts Wanted!

Crude cartoon of person sitting in easy chair watching TV
So far, I have worked with four fantastic guest hosts who talked with me about disabled characters on TV for the Disability.TV podcast.

Maddy Ruvolo and I compared notes on the paraplegic ex-quarterback Jason Street on Friday Night Lights.

It took two episodes for me and Alice Wong to do justice to the many disabled characters on Game Of Thrones.

Cheryl Green and I cofessed our love-hate relationship with Glee to the podcast listening public.

And next Friday’s show will feature a detailed postmortem on the 2013 remake of Ironside, with co-host Kamilah Proctor.

The podcast is off to a great start, but there are lots more shows I want to talk about, and I’m looking for people to discuss them with me. It’s a pretty simple process. We have a roughly hour-long Skype discussion about the TV show in question and how disabled characters and disability themes play out. Are they stereotypical, groundbreaking, realistic, inaccurate, three-dimensional, flat, cliché, original, uplifting, or revolting ... helpful to the cause, or horrific?

Or, more simply, do you like the show and its disability depictions or not?

Here’s a list of shows with disabled characters I plan to cover in upcoming podcast episodes:

Star Trek ... selected episodes of any or all of the series

Let me know if you are interested in any of these shows, and if you might be willing to co-host the podcast with me. My email address is:

Employment Talk

Icon of a large desktop microphone to symbolize podcasts
Maddy Ruvolo and Emily Ladau - October 20, 2014

Maddy Ruvolo and Emily Ladau discuss what it’s really like for young disabled people to be looking for work right now. They are joined by Maria Town, of the Youth Policy Team at the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the CP Shoes blog and Twitter feed.

Maddy, Emily, and Maria are realistic about the dire employment rates and barriers to improvement, without being too depressing. Best of all, they go way beyond the usual bullet points and problematic clichés about disability and employment … employers just need to “look past” our disabilities … they should hire us because we’ll be more loyal than non-disabled workers … we’re all totally ready to work and we never have any problems as long as we’re given a chance.

They talk about transportation barriers, how important those “first jobs” are for teens with disabilities, and the fact that sometimes, our disabilities really do interfere with our ability to work to full our full capacity.

This podcast is well worth a listen. I can’t wait to hear their next episode!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Questions For Candidates

voteIt's mid-term election time here in the USA. All seats in the House of Representatives are open. A third of the Senate seats are open. Plus, there are legislative and executive elections (judicial, too in some places), in states, counties, and municipalities all over the country.

Apart from the usual angst about "negative campaigning" and "partisanship", the most frustrating aspect of mid-term elections is that voter turnout is always much lower than years when the President is up for election. Yet, electing Members of Congress is probably more important, not less.

Another sad fact is that disabled people still vote at a lower rate than most other constituencies. A lot of that is due to inaccessible polling places. I suspect the new wave of Voter ID laws will have a negative effect as well. I also believe that too few disabled people can easily identify how their disability experience translates into meaningful policy issues and, therefore, votes. The other side of that coin is that few candidates are ever challenged to come up with thoughtful, specific positions on disability issues. Nobody asks, so they don't have to think about it.

So, how about we ask? Here are some ideas that should be relevant enough no matter where in the U.S. you happen to live.

Ask candidates running for the House or Senate:

"What is your position on Sheltered Workshops?"

"What is your position on paying some disabled workers less than Minimum Wage?”

"Do you support the ABLE Act?”

Ask candidates for state office (legislator, governor):

"Do you know this state’s current percentage of disabled students in regular classrooms vs. the percentage in separate classes? What would you do to improve these numbers?"

Ask a similar question about Long Term Care in your state ...

"What percentage of nursing home eligible people are in nursing homes vs. the percentage getting support services in their own homes? What would you do to improve these numbers?"

Ask candidates for local office (county legislators, town or city councils, mayors, commissioners, etc):

"What can local / municipal government do to improve accessibility throughout neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities?"

"What role do you think local government should play in meeting the needs of elderly and disabled citizens?"

Other issues you might want to bring up as partly disability issues:

Street and sidewalk maintenance, including snow removal where applicable.

Public transit and regulation of taxi companies.

Any well-known accessibility problems at major public facilities in your area.

Any proposed new nursing homes or sheltered workshop facilities.

Ask how “Community Development” programs are addressing accessibility issues.

If your state hasn’t done so already, ask about whether candidates would support Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which can help many disabled people access vital services they have previously been denied because they just miss income qualifications.

When you ask questions about disability issues, don’t let on upfront what you think about them. It is important for candidates to know that, “I support the disabled” isn’t a position. Elected officials should learn enough about disability issues to have specific opinions about them. But again, they won’t unless we insist on it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Disabled TV Character Face-Off: Second Round

Becky Jackson beat Artie Abrams in the first round.

The second round features two TV doctors who both have disabilities. Which do you like best?

Dr. Gregory House
Actor: Hugh Laurie
Disability: Chronic pain, walks with a cane, prescription drug addiction.
Role on the show: Lead character of the show.

Dr. Kerry Weaver
Actor: Laura Innes
Disability: Unspecified mobility impairment, always walks with an arm crutch.
Role on the show: One of the principal doctor characters in a large ensemble cast.

Voting in this round will be closed Monday, November 3, 2014.

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

Awareness For What?

Danielle Kurtzleben, - October 20, 2014

For the second day in a row I’m recommending a seemingly unrelated article that I think actually does relate to disability.

A lot of what’s said here about the colored-ribbon approach to social campaigning applies to a good portion of what we call “disability awareness”. The term and many of its most widely-used techniques tend to be so vague and content-free that anyone can support them, no matter how they actually treat disabled people or view disability and disability policy. One thought I picked up from the article is that maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s good for the disability community to maintain a “big tent” that allows the maximum number of nominal supporters. Maybe there’s something to be said for disability simulations, inspiration porn, and bland corporate “disability awareness” seminars … at least for some folks.

I think what bothers me about these approaches is that they seem to crowd out other initiatives that are sharper-edged, challenging, and focused on specific change of the kind that makes life better for disabled people, and often meets real resistance. It seems like energy spent on becoming more “aware” of, say, Down Syndrome, tends to draw attention away from efforts to transition and close sheltered workshops, even if the two perspectives often agree on the issue. The general public will almost always prefer a feel-good, non-confrontational appeal with no moral dilemmas or hard choices involved.

I’m not saying that everything about disability always has to be confrontational. Heck, personally, I hate confrontation. But sometimes it can’t be avoided, and if you avoid it, you also avoid the kinds of changes that improve peoples lives, not just their “awareness”.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Disability Thinking Weekly Wrap Up in white letters superimposed over sepia-tone photo of handicapped parking spaces
Politics and TV Edition ...

Monday, October 13, 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014


Judge John Hodgman, Episode 158

This is a bit off-topic, but bear with me. I’ll bring it all back to disability issues.

This episode of the fantastic Judge John Hodgman podcast is about tipping … that is, who one is expected to give a gratuity, how much, and why we give tips at all. “Judge” Hodgman, his “Bailiff” Jesse Thorn, and the married couple who are the “Litigants” discuss:

- who actually receives the money from tips (it’s not just your waitress)

- whether it is a reward for good service, or an expected component of service employees’ pay

- which services are you supposed to tip

- whether tipping low or stiffing service workers actually teaches them any lessons (what do YOU think?)

- how much should you tip

When Judge Hodgman also pointed out that generous tipping is an investment in better service, with people and places you plan to use frequently, it made me wonder whether good or bad tipping habits can affect service to customers with disabilities.

I don’t travel a lot, but when I do, I make sure to have a bunch of $5 bills on me just for tips. I’m not talking about tips for waitstaff so much, but in airports, it makes life a whole lot easier. True, I could probably get by purely on asserting my right to accommodations. On the other hand, the people who always have to carry out reasonable accommodations are the lowest paid and least respected people in the industry, and I feel like the extra money works for them, and frankly their improved attitude and more personal commitment to, say, getting me to the gate or hauling my bags off the baggage claim belt, works for me.

Of course, many disabled people can’t afford to be “generous” tippers. Sometimes, that can’t be helped. Nevertheless, I would recommend disabled travelers to budget as much as possible for tips when they plan a trip. Certainly don’t forget about it and just hope you’ve got a little extra cash when the time comes to give the lady pushing your wheelchair a tip.

The other problem is that some of us may actually be kind of clueless about tipping, from lack of experience or because nobody ever bothered to give us the lowdown on tipping customs. It seems like an important independent living skill, but one that probably gets forgotten a lot.

So, fellow disabled readers, what are your tipping experiences and practices?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Disability.TV Podcast - Glee

Disability.TV logo on the left, Glee poster on the right
Filmmaker and podcaster Cheryl Green and I dismantle the disability depictions on Glee, an overall high-quality celebration of music, dance, and creativity, that somehow manages to botch nearly every well-meaning attempt to use disability to make us all better people. You can find Cheryl Green at Who Am I To Stop It. You should also check out the Kickstarter Campaign for her documentary film on the culture of Traumatic Brain Injury. If you have comments, email them to me at And don’t forget, you can subscribe to Disability.TV at iTunes and Stitcher.

Upcoming Episodes:

October 24 - Mini-Cast

October 31 - Ironside (2013)
Guest Kamilah Proctor

November 7 - Mini-Cast

November 14 - Big Bang Theory
Guest Sarah Levis

November 21 - Mini-Cast

November 28 - Parenthood

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More Ways To Understand Disability

Ideas topic icon
Another way to understand the very different perspectives people have on disability is to think in terms of the three main academic divisions used by most colleges and universities:

Social Sciences

Just like in universities, these are three equally valid and important perspectives. Which one you choose depends partly on your personality ... what interests and excites you, and what doesn't.

Also, just as in universities, we really should all have a least a basic familiarity with with all three approaches.

How do disability issues fit with this model? Like this, I think:


Medical research
Treatment and prevention
Adaptive technology

Social Sciences:

Disability policy
Disability throughout history
Disability as culture and identity
Ableism … disability prejudice and discrimination


Art, music, and writing reflecting the disability experience
The language of disability used by the disability community and broader society
Philosophy, religion, ethics, and disability
How society sees disability … how disabled people define disability identity

Which of these poles of disability thought do you tend to gravitate towards?