Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's Next for the Disability.TV Podcast?

There are 16 episodes of the Disability.TV Podcast so far. I’ve had some terrific guests to talk about some interesting TV shows that have disabled characters. Some we loved, some we liked, some were disappointing, and some I change my mind about approximately twice a month. I have also received some really interesting feedback on the episodes so far, that I think will help me make Disability.TV a better, more engaging podcast. I’ll have more to say about that next weekend, when I plan to post the 17th podcast episode.

Since I have lost the original calendar of episode topics I had all planned out, now is probably a good time to reassess where to go from here. What other TV shows should I discuss next? Are there other topics related to disability on TV worth exploring? Which topics are listeners most looking forward to?

To answer that last question, I have put up an online survey at SurveyMonkey. It would help a lot for as many people as possible to complete the survey so I can make my plans with some sort of direction.

The survey has two parts:

First, which TV shows with disabled characters would you like me to cover? Here is a list of possibilities, with a note on the disabilities portrayed:

Autism / Asperger’s

Amputation, chronic Illnesses

Various physical deformities

Cerebral Palsy

Mobility impairments

Mobility impairments, chronic pain, drug addiction

Various disabilities over 5 TV series

Multiple Sclerosis, Deafness / Sign Language use

Intellectual disability (unspecified, not clear?)

Various physical deformities


Paraplegia / wheelchair users

Various disabilities

Cerebral Palsy

Family that includes several Little People

Down Syndrome

Cerebral Palsy, stuttering

Second, which other topics would you like included in the podcast. For example:

Familiar disability tropes and clich├ęs.
Disability in comedy.
Disability in sci-fi and fantasy.
Disability in horror.
Disability on reality shows.
Disability on shows for kids.
Supporting and guest characters with disabilities.
Cognitive impairment on TV.
Sensory impairment on TV.
Physical impairment on TV.
Mental illness on TV.
Aging on TV.
What is "representation" and why does it matter?
Should disability depictions on TV be realistic or idealistic?
How important is it to cast disabled actors in disability roles?
How important it is to for portrayals of specific disabilities to be completely accurate?

In each section of the survey, you can also make your own suggestions of TV shows and topics.

I’m looking forward to getting lots of feedback and suggestions!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Season 1, Episode 9 Of "Red Band Society”

Photo of an old-style tv set with the wheelchair symbol on the screen
Gotta Watch It! - November 28, 2014

I expected a classic Thanksgiving episode this week, with the ‘Red Band’ gang making their own ‘family’ dinner with turkey roll from the cafeteria. It looks instead like the writers had some unfinished structural business to attend to, and took the opportunity to fill in some of the weaker characters and neglected themes. This isn’t the most exciting episode, but there’s some good repair work here that sets the show up well for the second half of this premier season.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Blogging & Podcasting Update

Next week, between Thanksgiving and work on a grant application for my local CIL, I won’t have time to do much blogging. If something really interesting comes up I’ll post something, but otherwise I probably won’t get back to a daily schedule until after Black Friday.

I am also going to take a week off from the Disability.TV Podcast. For one thing, I lost the schedule I had planned out, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to rethink which shows to review and when.

Bear with me for a moment while I take a moment to reflect that it has been YEARS since I literally lost anything, computer-wise.

I’d love some feedback on which shows to look at. Also, I had planned to discuss Parenthood next, but I haven’t found a co-host for that show yet. Is there a "Parenthood" fan / hater out there who’d be willing to join me?

Finally, I got some really interesting responses to the podcast about The Big Bang Theory. I do plan to engage with them on the next podcast, but again, that might not happen until next weekend.

I hope everyone who celebrates the holiday has a great Thanksgiving. I’ll be more or less back to my usual blogging and podcasting self after next week!

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, including 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 aisle. 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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Independence Inversions

If you need a lot of help with everyday self-care, then you're not safe and home care agencies won't serve you. If you need less help, then you may not qualify for home care at all.

If you have family around to contribute to your care, then you'll get less home care. If you don't have any additional support systems, then home care doesn't want to take responsibility for your safety and may refuse services altogether.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

My maternal grandfather, Carroll Dana Fearon, was an ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War, serving in the United States Army Ambulance Service. He was in basically the same outfit as Ernest Hemingway, in a conflict that started 100 years and 3 months ago.

Grandpa was deaf. I think, though I’m not positive, that he lost much of hearing during the war. For all of the time I knew him, he used a hearing aid that worked reasonably well, and I don’t think he ever learned Sign Language. However, his hearing loss was noticeable to others, and I’m sure that while he was a highly functional and successful businessman, being deaf was something he had to consciously grapple with every day.

Grandpa Fearon died 1987, when I was 20 years old. I wish we had overlapped a few more years, so that I could have talked with him more about his war experiences and how he felt about his own disability. I bet he could have told some stories about the disabilities he saw imposed in such massive quantities by a modern, mechanized war fought with strategies that were already out of date in the Civil War.

The Credibility Conundrum

If you are disabled, then your judgement and objectivity can't be trusted. On the other hand, if you demonstrate sound judgement and express sensible ideas, then you must not be truly disabled, which means that your ideas about disability aren't relevant to actual disabled people.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Losing A Teacher

Steven E. Brown, Disability Visibility Project - November 10, 2014

“Mouth” magazine was one of my first introductions to disability culture and what we might roughly term “radical” disability philosophy, back when I was a new staff member at a Center for Independent Living. Along with the somewhat similar “Disability Rag” / “Ragged Edge", Lucy Gwin’s “Mouth” is where I discovered that disability rights and awareness are about more than a few ramps and superficial acceptance. In the newsprint pages of these two pre-Web journals, I learned:
- Why, exactly, nursing homes and other institutions are terrible, not just distasteful. They not only rob residents of their full humanity, they are an outdated, inadequate, and inefficient way to meet the needs of elderly and disabled people who need some help with everyday tasks. I first read well-researched details about all this in the “Mouth”.
- How the experiences of physically disabled people are similar to those of cognitively or mentally impaired people … surprisingly similar to me, at the time when I read about it.
- The various “Catch-22” traps all sorts of disabled people face daily … For example: Either you’re too disabled to be trusted to run your own life, or you aren’t disabled enough to get services you need to function with the disabilities you do have.
- That truly horrific injustices happen all the time to disabled people, not just small indignities and embarrassments.
- That the sheer absurdity of ableism is it’s key weakness, and laughter is one of our most effective weapons.
The “Mouth” was one of my textbooks, which I guess means that Lucy Gwin was my teacher. I suspect there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other disabled people, and allies, who can say the same. I’m so sad that she’s gone.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It's Just Creepy

Josh Dehaas, CTV Toronto - November 8, 2014

It's an interesting comparison I kind of wish I'd thought of ... catcalling or "street harassment" of women, and the staring, gaping, and weird comments disabled people get out in public.

I suspect that both stem from roughly the same thing ... the unregulated impulse to look at a person who "stands out” somehow and blurt out a variation on, "Wow, look at that!" I chose those words deliberately. I think that when this happens, to women and to disabled people, we are not hes or shes, we are THATS. We are pieces of scenery, curiosities. That's what makes it galling.

One key difference is that in catcalling, the man usually wants the woman to hear, while most people who are rude to disabled people in public spaces try to hide it. No matter. It feels shitty either way.

To be clear, it doesn't matter what people say. The problem is the presumption by total strangers that it's okay engage with us in a way they wouldn't with other strangers. It's much the same with men catcalling women. "Smile, honey!" is friendly on paper. In person, tossed at you by a total stranger, it's creepy at best. So is, "Hey, little man!" from someone you've never met or even seen before.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Well, Two-Weekly, Actually ...

Sunday, October 26, 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Friday, October 31, 2014
Monday, November 3, 2014
Friday, November 7, 2014
Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Disability.TV Podcast - Ep. 15 - Mini-Cast

In this Mini-Cast I, fish for feedback, check on who’s listening to the podcast from where, and once again appeal for hosts to talk with me about disabled characters on TV shows. Plus, all about the Disabled TV Character Face-Off!

Email comments to:
Subscribe at iTunes or Stitcher.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Season 1, Episode 6 of “Red Band Society"

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

We pick up immediately after the last scene of the last episode. Nurse Jackson has just switch Coma Boy’s blood sample. Now she’s carting a crate full of blood samples down the hall, each step bringing her closer to the point of commitment, when she hands over the samples and leaves behind any possibility of changing her mind.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brief Update

The last few days in disability world has mostly been about:

a. People incorporating wheelchairs into elaborate Halloween costumes, and

b. People killing themselves or allowing loved ones to be killed, legally, because “compassion” or “dignity” or something.

I’m still working on a thing, so it may be Wednesday before I post anything more substantial.

P.S.: If you are a U.S. citizen, please vote tomorrow ... especially if you live in Texas. And remember the candidate in a wheelchair isn't necessarily the one who's best for disabled voters.