Saturday, January 18, 2014

Music For A Saturday Evening

People Just Don't Know

Michael Wilson, New York Times - January 17, 2014

A disability activist in the heat of the moment might say that both of the things that Frederick Brennan suffered … the robbery and being stranded in a snowstorm … were crimes. I don’t think that would be quite right. However, I really wonder which of these two misfortunes was more harmful to Mr. Brennan. That might be too close to call. 

The article reinforces what I think is a very major theme in everyday ableism. People just don’t understand the logistics of living with disabilities. My guess is that it never occurred to the police involved that getting to their station and back might be extremely difficult … or perhaps impossible … for a guy in an electric wheelchair. I’ll bet that when the officer called for the bus, he figured his job was done … not realizing how often lift-equipped buses are late or never come. Not realizing that an immediate response accessible transit vehicle is basically a unicorn, especially in New York City. And if he didn’t make those mental connections, then he didn’t have a chance to wonder if a young man, new to the City, might be extra vulnerable when that City was in the midst of an epic snowstorm.

By the way, I found the comment from Mr. Brennan’s boss interesting. There’s a blame-the-victim tone to what he said about Mr. Brennan being unwilling to ask for help. Underlying the comment is another common, and faulty assumption … that there is always help available and ready to serve, we just have to ask for it. Sometimes that’s true, and a lot of us do probably wait too long before asking. But just as often, asking for help results in bewilderment and sudden bouts of catastrophic incompetence, in which cases we are no better off logistically, and twice as pissed off.

Most of the modern, western world still doesn’t know how to deal with significantly disabled people. That’s a fact of life for us, and a fact that most people don’t really realize.

Disability On Downton Abbey … Nerdy Followup

A week ago, I posted about the different ways that the hit TV show “Downton Abbey” uses and depicts characters with disabilities. I’m happy to say that the piece got me my very first “Internet Honor”. I am now, officially, “Cousin Andrew”.

You see, at least half of my enjoyment of “Downton Abbey” comes not from watching the show, but from listening to a podcast about the show after each episode. The podcast is “Up Yours, Downstairs” - [Facebook Page]. As the name suggests, husband and wife podcasters Tom Schneider and Kelly Annaken love the show, but have a keen appreciation for how ridiculous it can be. So, their episode recaps are very snarky, and tons of fun. That said, at the right times … like what happened to Anna in last week’s episode … Kelly and Tom’s emotional responses are very real and heartfelt. It’s a great combination.

Kelly and Tom refer to their listeners, collectively, as “Cousins”, because of the important role that Cousins have played in the plots of “Downton Abbey”. At the start of each podcast, they read “Telegrams” (emails) and “Carrier Pigeons” (Tweets) from “The Cousins”, and name one of the writers “Cousin Of The Week”. After I posted about “Downton Abbey”, I Tweeted about it to Kelly and Tom (@5maggiesmiths). They, in turn, talked about it on their next podcast, and gave a very kind endorsement … concluding by naming me, “Cousin Of The Week”.

It’s a silly thing, but as a longtime listener and “Downton Abbey” fan, I was thrilled.

By the way, Kelly and Tom have occasionally made some astute comments themselves on the disability aspects of “Downton”. Most memorably, in their very first podcast, recapping the very first “Downton” episode, they commented that the naked prejudice against Bates’ disability demonstrated the need for the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was impressed that they, a. knew about the ADA, and b. made the right kind of connection with one of the least understood parts of the ADA, the employment discrimination sections.

So, cheers to Kelly and Tom, from Cousin Andrew.

The Derrick Coleman Duracell Ad

I’m sure all you football fans have seen this ad dozens of times already. My high school friends in Washington State probably know it backwards and forwards at this point! But do read this great discussion of why and how this is such a rare and valuable exercise in disability awareness:

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, Disability and Representation - January 17, 2014

For myself, I just want to underscore how brilliant and crucial it is that Colman first identifies his disability not as a hearing impairment, but as other peoples' inability to communicate with him.