Monday, December 28, 2015


I have claimed several times that I would be moving this blog to another platform, and never carried through. This time, I’m serious. Really.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll re-open the Disability Thinking blog as the Disability Thinking website. It will include a Blog (with all the past posts intact), the Podcast (I may or may not transfer past episodes, still debating that), and a Links page meant to be my personal “must visit” collection of disability websites to share with visitors. I am hoping to have a new site address, too … something like

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Break

Cartoon of Santa Claus in a wheelchairI’ve just finished a last piece of pre-holiday work. I’ll go back to daily blogging on Saturday, December 26. Happy Holidays to all!


Monday, December 21, 2015

More Debate Coverage

Red white and blue with white stars election 2016 buttonMy review of the 3rd Democratic Presidential Debate is up at the Center for Disability Rights blog:

… and Emily Munson’s take on the same debate:

It’s interesting that we both took notice of the candidates’ campaign against opiates. It might be a thing, and it’s certainly the kind of issue that can unique disabled people across party and ideological lines.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up

Angled close up of a monthly calendar page with purple numbers
A bit of a catch up on the last two weeks …

Tuesday, December 8

Tuesday, December 15

Wednesday, December 16

Thursday, December 17

Friday, December 18


Friday, December 18, 2015

Disability Blogger Link-Up

The word Blog surrounded by word cloudTake a moment off from the holidays and post something you’ve written or read about disability. It’s the last Disability Blogger Link-Up of 2015. Let’s make it great!

To make the links easier to browse, in the “Your name” blank, please type the title of the article you are posting. In the "Your URL" blank, paste the URL address of the item. Like this:

Name = Title of your article.
Your URL = Link to your article.

Then click the "Enter" button. That's it!

A note about multiple posts:

If you have more than one item you want to post, please feel free. However, since I plan to keep doing these linkups every other weekend, indefinitely, you might want to post one or maybe two in one week, and save other items for later linkups. In other words, if you blog a lot, don’t blow all your best stuff on one linkup!

Go ahead and post, read, and enjoy! This Link-Up will close at Midnight Eastern on Sunday. The next  Disability Blogger Link-Up will start Friday, New Year’s Day, 2016.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Debate Coverage

Red white and blue with white stars election 2016 buttonMy take on the 5th Republican Presidential Debate is up at the Center for Disability Rights blog:

Emily Munson also wrote about the same debate for CDR:

Our politics are different, but I think our posts go together pretty well.


What I'm Thinking About Today

Illustration of a person in profile view with moving gears around the head symbolizing intense thought
Blogging Note: I am going to start doing more posts that are short, underdeveloped sketches of stuff I'm thinking about from day to day. Eventually, I hope to get into a routine of blogging every day, with only one or two fully-developed essay blogs per week. I welcome feedback!

I found my way to a Jezebel article about different styles of commentary in online journalism. Opinions, Arguments, Hot Takes, Trolling. It has me thinking about how disability blogging and social media matches up with broader online genres and habits ... good and bad.

*** *** ***

In yesterday's post about Inspiration Porn, I linked to an article in the UK's Daily Telegraph, about a wheelchair using man who choked to death in a McDonalds, right in front of staff and other customers who didn't take any notice until it was too late. It was clearly a terribly sad thing to have happened, and it doesn't reflect too well on bystander indifference. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like there are two very distinct shades of "bad news" disability stories. There's stories of injustice, which prompt the reader to ask why and think about how things might be better. And then there are stories that mainly encourage readers to scold, risk risk, and disapprove of individual wrongdoers, and lament a perceived decline in general morality and virtue. I am wondering if there’s more significance to this difference. Do people who gravitate towards the more individual-condemnation variety of “bad news” disability stories have different overall ideas about disability than those who focus more on stories of systemic awfulness?


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Inspiration Without Inspiration Porn

Green highway-style road sign reading InspirationFirst read this …

Charles Roberts, America News - November 11, 2015

… and marvel at the stunning insensitivity it took for this woman to congratulate herself for doing a good deed, after “stubbornly” overruling a disabled veteran who said several times he didn’t need or want her help, and forcibly helping him anyway. It takes a lot for a news item to stun and offend me personally, but this one had me swearing aloud to my iPhone.

Now read Dominick Evans’ terrific blog post about the story:

Dominick Evans - December 16, 2015

Yes, it’s “Inspiration Porn” again. Why are we so bothered by people who are just trying to be kind? Why won’t we leave it alone?

Because it keeps happening, it’s genuinely disturbing, and people keep finding ways to make it even worse.

Still, I hate being a sourpuss. Just because I loathe sentimentality, doesn’t mean that all sentiment is wrong. Just because I don’t exist for your inspiration, doesn’t mean it’s wrong to feel inspired by whatever happens to inspire you. The alternative to Inspiration Porn isn’t gross negligence, like stepping over a disabled man choking to death in a McDonalds. There are decent, acceptable ways to be decent, kind, and helpful to disabled people.

Can you do a "good deed" for a disabled person without offending them?

Is it possible to do inspirational stories about disabled people without being smarmy and condescending?

Yes and yes!

First ask, "Can I help you?", and then respect the answer. And if the answer is "No thank you," or even just plain "NO!", don't take it personally. How each disabled person answers depends on many factors. I’m not often asked if I need help. When I am, I usually say, “No thank you, I’ve got it” because I’ve got it. Sometimes I say, “No thanks,” then pause a moment, survey my situation, and say, “Actually, yeah, that would be great, could you …?” and then I tell the person exactly how they can help. Sometimes, I say, “Yup!” right away, and hand them the whatever that I’m trying to carry while inching my way down some stairs. The point is, it’s fine to ask, I call the play, and the only really offensive thing is if you don’t listen to my answer.

What about pictorial depictions of bravery, kindness, perseverance, inspiration, like Facebook memes or YouTube videos?

Never snap a photo, never shoot a video about a disabled person without the disabled person's consent. It doesn’t matter that you admire the thing you are depicting. It doesn’t matter that you do it to make people happy or uplift them, or teach them a lesson about gratitude. What matters is the result, and if the disabled person isn't on board with the situation or being used in your little morality play, any good you think you’re doing will be undone.

Above all, make sure the disabled person has a voice in the story or scenario or whatever it is you’re focused on. If you write about an actual, named, identifiable disabled person, ask the disabled person to comment and include what they say. You’ll discover pretty quickly whether they think the situation is amazing and remarkable, or pretty standard and nothing to crow about. And that should be your guide on how to think about it, too. Follow the disability rights movement motto: "Nothing about us without us."

If you focus on a disabled person overcoming adversity, ask questions about that adversity and why it is there. Stories of individual courage and character are uplifting, but disability discrimination and hardships don't happen in a vacuum. The problems disabled people face usually come from or are made worse by the bad choices and neglect of actual people and institutions that should be challenged. Battling institutional ableism doesn’t translate so easily to cute Facebook posts that make people go, “Awww!” but that’s part of the point. And anyway, fighting discrimination IS inspiring!

Finally, remember that not every disabled person craves "going viral." Most disabled people just want to get on with life. Believe it or not, many of us strongly prefer anonymity! Most importantly, we all want to be treated as people, with three full dimensions, unique points of view, and complex feelings, not cardboard cutouts employed to symbolize abstract values, or tools to make you feel swell and become Internet-famous.

But what if I can’t follow all these conditions and still tell my story?

Simple … just don’t tell the story! Sometimes, a little restraint is the best, most uplifting gift of all.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Weekly Reading List

Picture of a stack of multicolored booksI’ve got to cut down on the blogging breaks. It’s hard to get back into the daily habit. A rundown of articles I’ve read recently is a good way to get back in shape, though.

Lydia Brown, Autistic Hoya - December 12, 2015

As far as I know, I am not autistic, but I am fascinated with the way autism is understood, misunderstood, and often grossly misinterpreted. One of the biggest hangups people have about autism seems to be the idea that autistic people are, by definition, impenetrable and unknowable. In that light, personal testimonies from autistic people about what it’s like to be autistic should be absolute gold, especially to parents of autistic kids and other people who want to help autistic people. Sadly, few people who say they are deeply invested in the “problem” or “epidemic” of autism seem to read or take seriously the actual words of autistic people. I can even understand that a bit when it comes to some of the more defiant, challenging, or poetic things I’ve read by autistic writers, even though they’re great, too. But this is such a matter-of-fact description, largely free of judgment, that I can’t believe it isn’t required reading for everyone connected in any way to an autistic person. With, clear, accessible things like this available for anyone to read, the biggest mystery to me about autism is why it’s considered a mystery at all.

Shelia Cosgrove Baylis, People Magazine - December 11, 2015

In many ways this is a pretty standard story of bonehead disability discrimination. I call it “bonehead” discrimination because it is both unintended and completely, easily avoidable. I am including this article on the list because it’s so unusual to see a disability story that is entirely about accessibility … and not at all teary or heartwarming … and in a popular magazine read by people who mostly aren’t tuned in to disability issues. It’s even better that readers probably won’t feel sorry for Ms. Jay, but will instead be angry right along with her. That’s absolutely central to the difference between the Medical Model and Social Model approaches to disability … the difference between “misfortune” and “injustice.”

By the way, at some point I’m going to have to do a post about what “unintended” actually means in the context of disability discrimination. I think this incident might be a good starting point for that conversation.

Alfred Ng, The New York Daily News - December 14, 2015

I hesitate to post this item, because there is so much fear and hysteria around ISIS, and with some justification. One the one hand, I'm a bit suspicious about the sources of this story ... mostly virulently anti-Muslim groups and tabloids like The Daily News. On the other hand, I have no trouble imagining that a group like ISIS might, in fact, institute a horrible policy like this. Totalitarian regimes based on hatred, that are focused on human nationality or affiliation as if the group is an organism that can be pure or poisoned seem to lead to a particularly extreme form of disability rejection. If the "nation" matters more than the individuals who make it up, then ordinary ableism can easily become a mandate for elimination. The parallels to Nazi Germany are pretty obvious.

I also think it's interesting that ISIS may be connecting disabled children in their territories with "foreign" fighters ... people from other countries who join ISIS. Is that the only way they can rhetorically explain the presence of disability in the "perfect" little world they are creating?

Still, we should be at least a little cautious. By all accounts, the Imperial German Army behaved truly horribly in the opening months of the FIrst World War. That doesn't alter the fact that the Allied countries didn't whip up a bunch of preposterous anti-German propaganda anyway.

Rachel Stockman, WSB TV 2 Atlanta - December 7, 2015

Stories like this make it harder and harder to maintain the sober, sophisticated take on disability rights, wherein everyone acknowledges that most disability discrimination is accidental and everybody accepts disabled people now. If that’s true, then why do segregated programs and facilities for disabled people still exist … not just in isolated pockets, but endorsed and supported by entire states? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that a critical mass of people in any given area or state still, basically, don’t want disabled people around, getting in the way, and sucking up resources from normal, proper people. I have no call to be regionally snobbish about Georgia, either. My state, the vaunted Empire State, still sends at least some students to separate schools. They even have a catchy acronym like Georgia’s GNETS … in New York it’s the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, BOCES.

Samuel Bagenstos, Democracy, A Journal Of Ideas - December 16, 2014

I have had a weird sort of attitude problem for many years about parents of disabled kids who get really scared and angry when they realize that seamless, comprehensively planned services for their disabled sons and daughters won’t automatically extend into adulthood. First of all, I tend to think that the problems themselves are not as terrible as they are often portrayed. Adult disability services are fragmented and you have to do a lot of planning and advocacy to make them work, but they are there and they do work for lots of people. Second, the outrage parents express about this has a tinge of privilege and entitlement … “How dare you all walk away as soon as my child turns 21!” Like I said, I have an attitude problem about this. That’s why I found this article so valuable. It finally really convinced me that the “Disability Cliff” is real, and that it’s a lot worse than it needs to be. Support services for adults with disabilities should be a lot simpler, easier to access, and secure. And Sam Bagenstos’ article explains precisely how. It’s a long read, but well worth the effort.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blogging Break

Blogging Break printed over old-style color band TV test pattern

I won't be blogging this week, as I work on a couple of deadlines I will be paid to meet. I will return next Monday with the usual Weekly Reading List.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Remembering Stella Young

Stella Young died one year ago today. She is still my favorite well-known disability activist, writer, and role-model, and I miss her voice and her “cracking brain” so much.

I wanted so much to re-post some amazing videos from Stella’s Memorial Service in Melbourne, Australia, but it turns out the Australian Broadcasting Corporation owns those videos, and though they are still on YouTube, they can’t be viewed here in the United States. What the hell?! That really pisses me off!

Instead, I’ll share my two favorite pieces of Stella’s writing:

Her TED Talk on “Inspiration Porn” is essential:

I would so love to hear what Stella would have to say about Kylie Jenner.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Disability Blogger Link-Up

Word cloud around the word "blog"It’s been a rough, eventful week. Share your current favorite disability blogs and articles right here, at the Disability Blogger Link-Up. It’s open from Friday, December 4 to Midnight Sunday, December 6, 2015.

To make the links easier to browse, in the “Your name” blank, please type the title of the article you are posting. In the "Your URL" blank, paste the URL address of the item. Like this: 

Name = Title of your article. 
Your URL = Link to your article. 

Then click the "Enter" button. That's it! 

Go ahead and post, read, and enjoy! This Link-Up will close at Midnight Eastern on Sunday. The next  Disability Blogger Link-Up will start Friday, December 18, 2015.