Friday, July 25, 2014

"Criptiques" & "Criptionary"

Caitlin Wood, Criptiques - July 23, 2014

There's another great "Criptiques" interview out! Follow the link above to hear Caitlin Wood interview poet, performer, and disability activist Maria Palacios. Someone should really collect writings from all of these amazing people Caitlin is interviewing, into some sort of book. Oh, wait ...

During the interview, Catilin and Maria refer to Maria's book, "Criptionary". I haven't read it yet, but I have read a few sample definitions from the book, and they're hilarious.

If you want to know a little more about the book before you buy, visit the "Criptionary" Facebook Page.

Two Bills To Fight For

picture of a green highlighter pen highlighting the word Advocacy on a page of textThe UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD):

I regret sounding overly pessimistic about the CRPD the other day. Andrea Shettle, who has been keeping the Internet up to date on the CRPD left a comment that basically encourages everyone to keep the pressure up, and remember all the legislative barriers the disability community has faced and overcome in the past.

Objections to the CRPD are, in fact, ridiculous. It’s mainly a tiny sub-group of voters who hold these beliefs about how it would affect U.S. sovereignty or home schooling. One reason they stick, though, is that the vast majority of Americans aren’t even aware that the CRPD exists. If more people knew what it was, and heard exactly what has kept it from being ratified, they would be disgusted. So, tell your friends! Bloggers, tell your readers!

Meanwhile, you can click here to contact your Senators … especially the ones who are “on the fence” at the moment, or who voted "no" in the past.

The ABLE Act:

I wrote about the ABLE Act for Shared Abilities a few months ago. The bill has been active again this week, so Shared Abilities’ CEO, Julie Steckel, reposted my piece on her Facebook page.

I also recommend reading this more recent article on the ABLE Act,l on the MSNBC website. 

The bill still seems to be promoted mostly as a solution for parents of disabled children, which it is … but that’s not all it is. It is worth remembering some key aspects of the ABLE Act:

- In addition to being tax-free, ABLE Act savings accounts would allow people with disabilities to set aside savings above $2,000, up to $100,000, without losing eligibility for benefits like SSI and Medicaid.

- Savings could only be used for disability-related goals, not everyday living expenses. However, these funds would be more flexible and less restricted than Special Needs Trusts or PASS Plans.

- The law would also allow self-directing adults with disabilities to set up and manage their own accounts, without needing a third-party trustee or manager. They could accept gifts from others to build their accounts, but also deposit some of the money they earn in jobs, which would then not be counted as monthly income, helping preserve benefits eligibility. This would help reduce work “disincentives” … the common situation where people with disabilities hold back on work and promotions because they can’t afford to lose key benefits.

The ABLE Act has broad, bipartisan support in Congress. It looks like it is on a path to being passed in the House and Senate in September. In a situation like that, the most valuable thing for advocates to do is to contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to keep up the pace. The bill seems unlikely to face opposition, but even a popular bill can fade from apathy.

Call your members of Congress. Don’t let them forget about the ABLE Act!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Open Thread

I am going to be very busy today with life stuff, so I thought I’d try an Open Thread. This is where a blogger publishes a post without actual content, purely so people can discuss whatever they want in the Comments section of the post. I’d like to keep it disability-related, but obviously that covers a lot of ground, so … what’s on your mind? Add your comments below!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More On The CRPD

Anne Laurie, Balloon Juice - July 23, 2014

Here is a mainstream take on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. By mainstream I mean not from a disability advocacy group. It is, obviously, from a fairly liberal, Democratic blog. Still, liberal blogs don’t always quite get the point on disability issues, even when they're on the right side. This post doesn’t say much about the disability aspect, but it does, correctly I believe, identify the real problem, which has nothing whatever to do with disability, and everything to do with right-wing, “black helicopter” paranoia. I hate to be pessimistic, but how do you fight that?

Digging Up Disability History

Elizabeth Picciuto, The Daily Beast - July 22, 2014
"The moral arc of the universe may indeed bend toward justice, in disability as in race, gender, and class—but that arc doesn’t flow smoothly: It contains many hills and valleys.”
I have seen several versions of this story about the skeleton of a person with Down Syndrome, dated to the 5th or 6th century A.D. Most of the references present as established fact the idea that because the child was buried the same way, with the same burial rites as others in her clan, it shows that people with Down Syndrome were fully integrated, valued members of their communities, even in the “Dark Ages”. Even though this article acknowledges how little we really know about ancient attitudes towards disabilities from such sparse evidence, I still find this new evidence tantalizing.

book cover of History Of The World, Updated, by J. M. Roberts
A few years ago, one of the first audiobooks I listened to was History Of The World, Updated, by J. M. Roberts. In one of the early chapters, Roberts mentions that archeologists had found the prehistoric remains of a man who appeared to have had a physical impairment. Yet, he also appeared to have died fairly old. Roberts speculates that the man probably had to be sustained by his clan, and indeed, this man, too, seemed to have been buried surrounded by gathered flowers and nick-nacks … indicating that the people of that age were more than just beasts that looked human. They were, just maybe, compassionate and sophisticated in their understanding of human value.

photo of a marble bust of Roman Emperor ClaudiusAt the other end of the historical scale, the article refers to the fact that in the 1800s, people with disabilities were quite often integrated into their communities, and only separated and institutionalized later, during the “Progressive Era”. In fact, how the well-meaning “progressives" of the early 20th century dealt with disability is an important reminder of how good people throughout history often get things wrong … sometimes terribly wrong … and confuse altruism and charity, with prejudice and condescension.

Were institutions and "state schools" for disabled people created to protect us from society's harshness and cruelty? Or, were they really meant to get us out of the way, out from under foot, so to speak. Probably both.

Finally, I think again of my favorite disabled person from history, the Roman Emperor Claudius, who historians believe had cerebral palsy and epilepsy. We will probably never know exactly how extensive his disabilities were, or the degree to which he was stigmatized. Yet, once again the shreds of evidence are tantalizing.

I would like to know more about disability in ancient and prehistoric times. Does anyone know of any other studies, articles, or books on the subject?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Video Of The Day


Via the CP and Me - A Tale Of A Trex Tumblr blog.

“Inspirational”? Technically, yes … although that word is so cliché and inadequate that when applied to a disabled person, it’s borderline insulting. It reminds me of when a certain era of “liberal” white people would compliment a prominent African-American, like, say, actor Sidney Poitier, by calling him, “a credit to his race”.

Sorry, just a grumpy aside.

This is amazing and it about blew my damned mind. I especially liked seeing how she handled needing some help, and how that was depicted.

Oh, Weird Al ...

Inquisitr - July 20, 2014

I have never been a “fan” of Weird Al Yankovic, but I've always liked him and his style of song parody. He seems like a “good guy” who’s schtick is to poke fun at popular music and pop culture trends that most everyone can agree on. His satire is usually easy to take because although he sort of takes stands on things, he rarely chooses anything that’s very controversial. He would probably never make an anti-Obama video, but during just about any Presidency, he might well make a video saying, essentially, “Wow, Presidents and their silly politics. Amirite?” Truly offending people isn't part of Weird Al's formula.

That’s why it did bug me that his “Word Crimes” video includes several insults that rely on equating stupidity with actual disabled people. He doesn’t use the R-word, because as I say, Weird Al is basically a decent and slightly more progressive sort of guy than most “insult comics”. But in the video, he talks about people being “spastic” and “drooling” as if it signifies ignorance and lack of intelligence. 

I think this is further proof that people who in general don’t engage in cruel or bullying humor (the advantaged “hitting down” to make fun of the less-advanteged), still think it’s okay to make fun of mental impairment, lower intelligence, and visible disability. More precisely, they don’t think about it at all. When they do finally think about it … as Weird Al seems to have, prompted by criticism … they tend to realize that it’s no more acceptable or tasteful than racial, ethnic, or gender slurs they would never consider using. I think it says more about the status of disabled people in society today than it does about Weird Al.

What distinguishes Weird Al at the moment is how quickly he apologized, and without weasel words. Maybe it’s because he really does care about language that he is willing to acknowledge his mistake, and own up to it without hemming and hawing. Also, because his humor has always had a Middle School flavor to it … on purpose … I believe Weird Al when he says he didn’t know “spastic” would be insulting to disabled people. Most of all, I am massively grateful that he didn’t go on a tiresome rant about “political correctness” and “freedom of speech”, as so many comedians do nowadays, even some that I enjoy.

The thing is, it’s not just offense that is at issue with this kind of thing.

Comedy doesn’t have to be tasteful or respectful to be funny, but lazy comedy is pretty deadly. And calling less informed people “stupid”, “spastic”, and “drooling” is lazy. “Old school” comedians should be on alert for this, if they don’t want to date themselves. Trouble with the progressive Twitterverse might be the least of their problems. Irrelevancy is much, much worse for business. Weird Al is mainly another generation’s comic. Maybe that’s another reason he was so quick to apologize and without undue angst. Maybe he realizes that he risks dropping off the cultural map altogether if he doesn’t make an effort to keep up with the times.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Buy It: The Revolution Was Televised

If you are interested in what makes a great TV show different from bad or mediocre TV, The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, by TV critic Alan Sepinwall, is a good book to start. It’s also just plain fun to review some of the best TV shows you may have watched over the last 20 or so years. It also is the book that finally convinced me to watch Friday Night Lights, one of the best disability TV shows that wasn’t a disability TV show.

A New Disability Show, Maybe?


Last week, I wanted to know, “Where are the disability shows?” I assumed that there weren’t any disability-themed TV shows, or shows with disabled characters in the works for the coming year. Then yesterday, I noticed some Tweets from the Television Critics Association summer tour, discussing an upcoming new TV show called Red Band Society.

Red Band Society TV show poster
Although it doesn’t really seem to be intended as a show about disability, it looks about as close as I have ever seen to my dream disability show, about people with various disabilities living together in some kind of care institution. The kids in "Red Band Society" show seem to be more “sick” than “disabled”, but I have a feeling the two kinds of experiences on may overlap on this show.

It's interesting that none of the TV critics I follow seem to have recognized it as a disability show, as they did right away with some of last year's new shows. It seems more like they are expecting the show to deal with health care issues. Or, maybe they're not sure what the show is really going to be about.

Polseres Vermelles
I hope Todd VanDerWerff's prediction that the show might fall back on tired illness / disability tropes doesn't come true. The premise of this show is so promising ...

It's also worth noting that the Fox show is a remake of a Spanish / Catalan TV show called Polseres Vermelles, or "The Red Band Society". I'm hoping to find a way to check out that series, too.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maria Bamford

Sara Corbett, New York Times Magazine - July 17, 2014

I don’t think everyone is fully on board with the idea that people with “mental illness” are also disabled people, subject to similar experiences and treated in some of the same ways as wheelchair users, deaf and blind people, and people with cognitive impairments. Without meaning to, I think comedian Maria Bamford proves that the connection is valid. Read the New York Times Magazine profile, watch some of her webisodes, and if you have disabilities, you’ll recognize a lot, especially her imitations of the weird and amusing ways family and friends sometimes treat us.

Weekly Wrap-Up