Monday, December 1, 2014

While I Was Away …

Photo of an ink stamp of the word Recommended
I took a little over a week mostly off from blogging. My break included not reading much about disability matters. Here are some of the best articles I’ve been catching up with today:

Susan Davis, USA Today - November 26, 2014

This makes me happy. However, I still would like to see a more thorough analysis of who will be able to use the ABLE Act and for what. Most coverage and advocacy for the bill focuses on developmentally disabled people and their parents wanting to put money aside for them, without disrupting their benefits eligibility. There are also allusions to the ABLE Act helping with work disincentives, but it's not clear to me how far that will go. Will disabled people of all sorts be able to work at most any job without losing benefits like Medicaid or even Social Security? Or will this feature mainly affect people in the lowest wage jobs, or people born with developmental disabilities? To me the lack of clarity on this is another indication that lawmakers are still more responsive to families of people with disabilities than to disabled people themselves ... the awesome Sarah Wolff notwithstanding.

Sarah Kovac, The Atlantic - November 17, 2014

I appreciate this very personal take on one of the most common dilemmas of disability. Does accepting help and using specialized tools free us, or make us more dependent? I think one reason why so many of us resist "accepting help" is that there is this vocal minority of non-disabled people who feel it is their mission to get us disabled to "stop being so darned independent!" The blaming and shaming that comes our way on this can be astonishing. On the other hand, there is an equally loud and obnoxious chorus of other non-disabled people ... like the old man in Kovac's parking story ... who believe that the best thing for us is to do for ourselves and "stop using your disability as a crutch!" Another example of this is the younger disabled people I've met thru Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr who catch tons of flack from their parents when they decide to start using a cane, walker, or wheelchair to make their mobility easier, more practical and less painful.

In my adult life, I have had little problem using adaptive tools and accepting help from people on stuff related to my disability. My real weakness is that I then tend to put off asking for help on things that are not connected to my disability. I seem to think that since I need help with disability things, I shouldn't need help with things that aren't affected by my disability. That kind of flawed thinking has got me into trouble several times.

Emily Ladau, Accessible Travel Worldwide - November, 2014

One of my favorite bloggers, Emily Ladau, gives an impressive endorsement of Amtrak's accessibility and friendliness to disabled travelers. Her article reminds me of one of the most valuable long-term advocacy accomplishments we had at my local CIL. There is an Amtrak line that runs from New York City north to Montreal, Quebec. North of Albany, none of the stations have built-in accessibility, and many of the stops are only staffed at all when trains are due, so the infrastructure is very ad hoc. As a result, there was a huge stretch of this line that was well nigh unusable by people with physical impairments. On paper, Amtrak promised accessibility and accommodations, but in practical terms, it was a gamble with the deck stacked against you. It's still a bit of a risk, I think, but we at least got Amtrak to focus on each of the stations between Albany and Montreal, and make specific equipment, training, and policy changes that at least make decent access possible.

Lydia Brown, Autism Women’s Network - February 27, 2012

I am A. fascinated by autism, B. still somewhat under-informed about it, C. prone to embrace stereotypes of autism that show up in popular culture, and D. afraid to say stupid / offensive things about autism. So, this article is just right for me. Based on Lydia Brown's impeccable credentials as an activist and her personal experience with autism, I feel confident taking the advice in her article.

Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker - December 8, 2014

I found out about this article when I noticed an interesting Twitter conversation going on this morning between Nussbaum, (one of my favorite pop-culture critics) and a few disability bloggers I follow, who always have interesting things to say and questions to ask about disability in entertainment media. I read the article then joined in the discussion a bit. As I noted to the others, I still haven't started watching "American Horror Story: Freak Show". I'm procrastinating for two contradictory reasons. I am worried that despite maybe being a great show, it will be intolerable to me, personally, because in the 1950s under slightly different circumstances I might have been a "freak". In social justice parlance, it might "trigger" me. On the other hand, I may find that it's brilliant, insightful, and provocative about disability, in a good way, but that I will have a hard time justifying that to people who see it as little more than amped-up blackface. Obviously, the thing to do is watch it with an open mind and say what I really think and feel about it. I've got a great incentive to do so, as the great disability podcaster Jane Hash has agreed to do a podcast discussion of the show with me this month. So, I'll get to it. I promise!