Image description: A color photo posted to Flickr by zombie squirrels shows a Sea World, San Diego, sign with art deco stylings. The text of the sign directs "Disabled" to the left and "Child Swap" to the right. If you have a disabled child you'd like to trade in, apparently you're out of luck.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Did Palin's speech last Friday in Pittsburgh meet my low expectations for details on actual concerns of people with disabilities?
Palin reiterated her convention announcement that, if elected, "families and caregivers of special-needs children all across this country" would have a "friend and advocate in the White House." That's sweet, and needed. She might have said she'd be a friend and advocate to actual disabled people too.
She did reference both the IDEA and IEPs, though she never mentioned the ADA -- the premier disability civil rights law that secures not just friendship and advocacy, but citizenship rights. She pledged to create a sort of voucher program that would allow federal funding for children with physical and developmental disabilities to be used at either public or private schools the parents choose.
The catch? There are several: Portable federal funding will only apply where state funds are deemed portable as well. And no private or parochial school will be required to accept or accommodate these students, which is already a serious problem with educational voucher programs.
She also declared that a McCain-Palin administration would fully fund the IDEA, seriously underfunded now for decades. That would be welcome, except she made clear that availability of this funding relies completely on cutting it from earmarks elsewhere. So, once your state passes education funding reforms designed to deregulate the public school system and her administration proposes a federal budget that moves earmark funding to IDEA and Congress approves it, then parents can look for a private school that will accommodate their disabled child, though those schools will not be required to make the effort.
Palin briefly mentioned the high "medical and other costs" concerning parents of disabled kids, but, predictably, didn't mention how a McCain-Palin administration refuses to support the Community Choice Act and would limit insurance opportunities for kids (and adults) with pre-existing conditions through their health care plan.
Palin also falsely claimed that an Obama administration would tax the special needs trusts parents set up to protect and support their disabled children into the future. That's not true, as independant estate planners (and the Obama campaign) have clarified. (h/t Patricia E. Bauer)
In contrast, as stated on a dedicated page at their website (something the McCain-Palin site lacks), the Obama-Biden administration has a four-point plan to support disabled people:
1) provide educational opportunities (fully funding the IDEA -- yes, before McCain took on Palin as a running mate Obama had pledged to do this),
2) end discrimination and promote equal opportunity (this means funding the offices already pledged with the task, like the EEOC, where there's an astounding backlog of disability discrimination complaints),
3) increase the employment rate (Obama mentions that insuring federal job opportunities for the disabled includes fully accessible information technology, while McCain claims he can't use a computer himself because of his disabilities), and
4) support independent, community living (including the Community Choice Act).
Read the detailed .pdf of the Obama-Biden commitment.
Read Palin's speech yourself at the McCain-Palin campaign site.
Two years ago, I wrote something about how I thought absentee voting as a standard practice for disabled citizens, or as a plan for all citizens, was detrimental to the rights of disabled people. I believed that it would undermine the push for accessibility at all the schools, churches and other public polling places required by law to have disability access -- not just for the actual voting, but in building access:
One solution to this whole mess that seems to be gaining currency is voting by mail. Absentee voting is being expanded to "permanent" absentee voting and then to "no excuse" absentee balloting and voting by mail for all. Many claim it's a much better system and supposedly many disabled people would prefer to always vote by mail.I've changed my mind on this. I do still believe there's value to meeting with your community and voting on the same day, and to this activity requiring accessibility of those public meeting places. And I do believe that a disabled individual who physically needs help voting absolutely needs ready access to a system that is supposed to provide a neutral assistant to help, if necessary. That neutrality may not be available for many disabled voters asking someone in the privacy of their own home for help. Family or hired caregivers' politics can differ radically from that of the person needing assistance, so somehow the availability of that check on abuse needs to be maintained.
I think it's a bad idea. Oh, it might be smart in the short-term while the numerous problems with voting are minimized, but in the long-term it's maybe bad for democracy and certainly bad for the disabled. If the solution to problems of accessibility is to not require anyone to show up, then all the churches and rec centers and other polling sites that are not currently accessible will have less pressure to become so. And all the poll workers who will be trained on how to interact with disabled people to help them vote will never be trained. And all the disabled people who rarely get out of the house because of Medicare homebound laws* and lack of transportation, will have one less reason to interact with the world. All this equals less accessibility and freedom for the disabled in the long-run.
Additionally, I believe the assurance of maximizing privacy and actual casting of the votes disabled people choose themselves can only happen at polling sites.
But read what my friend Skylanda has to say about the importance of voting early. Here's an excerpt:
I sat in on a meeting a few days ago for partisan volunteers who are aiming to work the precincts on election day. It was an interesting talk, from a strategy perspective. The on-the-ground democratic strategizers are predicting - assuming, preparing for - regular and systematic challenges to every voter with any iota of irregularity worth challenging in any precinct that has traditionally leaned blue. A misspelling of a long ethnic name, a discrepancy between "street" and "avenue" on your drivers license, a typo that transposes a couple of numbers in the address on your voter registration card. If you live in a heavily democratic zone, expect there to be any guff that can be cooked up over your right to vote. It may not happen, this may be a regional over-reaction to national scrapping between the big guns, but after Florida circa 2000? I'm not gonna call it conspiracy theory; the democratic brass aren't calling it that either.While many bloggers voting early have reported short waits, Mustang Bobby at Shakesville writes that the happy experience did take him four hours in Miami-Dade County.
In historically democratic precincts, it won't just be about throwing individuals off the rolls - that's small potatoes. The real goods are in a different goal: slowing down the lines at the polls until people by the handful or the dozen or the hundred get bored, cold, or compelled to go back to work/pick up their kids from daycare/return to the demands of their lives before they reach the front of the line to cast their vote in those blue-hued precincts. Even if your personal data line up like the moon in the seventh house, the time will be taken - if you are in those precincts - to inspect your credentials. Slowly. Carefully. Painstakingly. Just, ya know, to make sure you're legit. While someone in line behind you considers if they can really wait another five minutes before their kid's daycare closes, or their afternoon shift starts, or that chill in the November air turns out to be too much for their elderly lungs....
No one who has the ability and the wherewithal to vote before November 4th should be taking a space in line that day.
Here's the link to find out about absentee and early voting in your state.
Remember to bring photo identification. And bring a sample ballot that you've already marked, if possible, to shorten the time you spend in the voting booth, whether you get there early or on November 4.
Most importantly for everyone -- be persistent and get it done. By this, I mean go early. If you need a ride, ask someone. Don't be afraid to get a fresh ballot if you make a mistake. Don't let anything discourage you, voting is your right. Just get there and be counted.
Friday, October 24, 2008
The latest Disability Blog Carnival, on the theme of "Capacities and Capabilities" is up over at Barriers, Bridges and Books. Go check it out!
And participate in the next carnival over at I Hate Stairs where the theme will be "Lists." Because I'm lazy today, I'm copying the following submission info from Penny at Disability Studies, Temple U, who keeps the whole carnival traveling over these intertubes:
Dos and Don'ts, Top 10s, bucket lists, packing lists, to-do lists, reading lists, shopping lists, you name it, [Blake at I Hate Stairs] wants your links, by all the usual means. You can leave a comment here, or at I Hate Stairs, or submit a link for consideration through the blogcarnival.com form (warning: inaccessible CAPTCHA feature). Or you can put the phrase "Disability Blog Carnival" in the text of your post, [Penny] usually finds those too. Deadline for submissions is Monday, 10 November, and the carnival should post on Thursday, 13 November.Also, browse previous carnivals through the blog carnival page's listing of "past hosts."
Image description: The image above is CripChick's icon, made for a previous carnival. It shows a color image of a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo with the words "DISABILITY BLOG CARNIVAL" in bold black type across the painting. The image is a close-up of Frida in her wheelchair from the 1951 painting "Self-Portrait with Portrait of Dr. Farill" described in detail in both English and Spanish here.
I haven't really blogged yet about my opinion on veep candidate Sarah Palin and her claim that having an infant son with Down Syndrome gives people concerned with disability issues a "friend" in the White House. Frankly, I don't find her a credible enough candidate to get very wonky about: I find anyone who believes that the End Times will occur in their lifetime fundamentally unfit to be a steward for the future of my country.
Palin is expected to speak in Pittsburgh today, and according to a Palin advisor she will offer specific policy details of how a McCain-Palin administration will be of any use at all to people with disabilities. It will be interesting to see her pledge her advocacy while simultaneously opposing funding for services to assist disabled people.
Earlier this week in Denver, Palin spoke against a Colorado ballot initiative designed to address the wait list of over 12,000 developmentally disabled citizens needing services like home health care and job training. Although there is reportedly no organized opposition to the initiative, Palin made a point of expressing her lack of support for Colorado disabled waiting years and years for help.
What Palin won't be mentioning in her speech today: McCain's dismal health care plan and how its goal of deregulating health insurance will assuredly shut out many Americans with pre-existing conditions -- like, for example, Down Syndrome. Or McCain's refusal to support the Community Choice Act, a bill designed to break the nursing home monopoly on government-funded health care and allow people to receive care in their own homes.
But let's see if she can play the acronym game. Look for some sort of minimal competency on the ADA, IDEA, and IEPs. See if she can do better than the rote speech on "curing" autism. Listen for even one mention of aid for adults with disabilities, those pesky grownups that should be part of any genuine "commitment to protecting life." If she references her choice to not abort a child with developmental difficulties, wait in vain for her to say what her policy details do for institutionalized disabled girls or women who get pregnant by the rape of their caregivers. Those women (possibly institutionalized due to lack of funding alternatives) would be forced to carry the fetuses of their rape to term under McCain-Palin policies, of course.
Look also for some more baby-cuddling because that's substantive policy we can all appreciate.
h/t several times over to Patricia E. Bauer
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Image description: A color photo posted to Flickr by まてぃあすMattias shows a complicated sign for priority seating on a Tokyo commuter train. The sign shows the stick figure images of five people in green with the reasons they get priority seating highlighted on their bodies in orange. The first guy holds an orange cane (because he's elderly, I think), the second figure is a pregnant woman with three straight cartoonish lines (usually for indicating motion or noise) emanating from the orange heart in her big belly. The middle figure holds an orange infant. The fourth figure wears a giant orange sock, er, cast, and carries an orange crutch. Or maybe it's a cricket bat. And the last figure has orange double parentheses showing off his orange and apparently troubled heart, beating uncertainly in his chest. It's quite a lineup, really.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
About a month ago ABC news' correspondent Jake Tapper reported on John McCain's choice to not use computers. Barack Obama's campaign had just released an ad criticizing McCain for being out of touch in a number of ways, including his self-confessed computer "illiteracy."
Tapper explains for us, though:
Assuredly McCain isn't comfortable talking about this -- and the McCain campaign discouraged me from writing about this -- but the reason the aged Arizonan doesn't use a computer or send e-mail is because of his war wounds.
I realize some of the nastier liberals in the blogosphere will see this as McCain once again "playing the POW card," but it's simply a fact: typing on a regular keyboard for any sustained period of time bothers McCain physically.
He can type, he occasionally does type, but in general, the injuries he sustained as a POW -- ones that make it impossible for him to raise his arms high enough to comb his hair -- mean that small tasks make his shoulders ache, so he tries to avoid any repetitive exercise.
Again, it's not that he can't type, he just by habit, avoids when he can, repetitive exercise involving his arms. He does if he has to, as with handshaking or autographs.
Now, I have no doubt it's true that McCain's injuries affect him enough that typing causes chronic pain that the man would rather avoid. And I've also no doubt he has minions who can and should do many of the computer-related tasks of a busy U.S. Senator and presidential candidate.
But Tapper explicitly claims McCains lack of computer use is not a choice and is because of physical impairment:
It's certainly possible that the Obama campaign did not know this, since McCain makes it sound in interviews as if this is a matter of choice, not discomfort because of his war wounds.
So, McCain is not computer illiterate, though he did once say he was. (That's okay. I know a few septuagenarians on a steep computer learning curve.) And he can type, he knows how and can physically do so, Tapper says. It's just so uncomfortable that he chooses not-- no, wait. It's not a matter of choice. His discomfort means he cannot.
Except that is total crap.
Plenty of us on the intertubes manage to tap something out now and then without full use (or any use) of our fingers, hands or arms. There's voice recognition software and even free software that allows the somewhat tedious-but-effective typing with a mouse instead of a QWERTY board. I used the latter for a while last year and didn't even need to sell one of my many cars or houses to make it happen.
Here's my point: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. One of our presidential candidates has significant physical impairments that, according to Tapper, his own campaign claims are the reason he cannot readily use a computer. Of the 56 million Americans with disabilities, about 65% of disabled adults are unemployed.
Let me say that again. 65% of disabled Americans. Conservatively, that's 6 out of 10 disabled adults without a job. Compare that to the national rate of unemployment, currently freaking everyone out at a whopping 6.1%.
The rate of unemployed disabled Americans has remained virtually unchanged since WWII, so you might say that it's an issue needing knowledgeable and committed public officials addressing it. And McCain either does not know that physical disability is not an excuse for not using a computer, or he does not care if he is perpetuating the stereotype that disability makes a person incapable of a basic skill needed for employment in today's workforce.
Here's a one-minute YouTube video, with in-screen captioning and open audio description, on the topic:
Brief description of video: Karl Rove, McCain campaign advisor, states for a FOX News interview that McCain can't use a computer because of his war injuries. His voice and the audio description continue as a number of disabled people, with prosthetic limbs, amputated stumps, and mouth pointers type at computer keyboards. A final collage of these computer users includes an image of FDR in his wheelchair, then fades into a photo of Obama and chants of "Yes, we can!"
Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Image description: A color photo posted at Flickr by sobriquet.net shows a blue sign from a train or train station with white lettering that has been vandalized. Whole words and some letters have been whited out so that the sign reads: "On request eat an elderly or disabled person."
This is progress. Those willing to help will now wait for our request.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Image description: The color photo posted at Flickr by drewm shows a closeup of a sign, apparently for disabled access parking. There's a big white "P" on a blue background just above the symbol of Universal Access Wheelchair Guy, only Wheelchair Guy appears to be holding, well, I think it looks like a crown that royalty might wear. Beside these two images are the words "Disabled badger holders only." Is it possible the crown image is really a largish weaselly creature?
I know there's significant competition for parking spots everywhere these days, but these extra requirements just exhaust me. Now I have to find a badger that will sit in my lap?
Friday, October 10, 2008
Kristen Hersh began performing in the college-radio band Throwing Muses at age 14. She's been writing music, performing and touring her whole life, with the Muses, as a solo act, and with her other band 50 Foot Wave. (Throwing Muses included Hersh's half-sister, Tanya Donnelly, who went on to form the Breeders, Belly, and have a solo career herself.)
Photo description: The photo shows Hersh, standing with arms crossed in front of her, looking to the camera. She's wearing a black sweater and her hair is blonde here. She has startling blue eyes.
Hersh has been public about her troubles with mental illness, both difficulty with diagnosis and how her mental processes relate to her music. From a March 2008 interview with Scotland on Sunday, Hersh explains how she writes songs:
“It’s not a calming endeavour,” she says. “It’s intense. When it first began it was considered hallucinations, but no amount of medication would make the songs go away. I disagreed with the doctors’ diagnosis of schizophrenia and talked them down to bipolar which, if nothing else, kept me off of those scary meds that they had put me on.”And from a 1988 interview in Big City Redneck, Hersh says:
Why did she not accept that she was schizophrenic? “I believed in what I was hearing. And I still do. But that is one argument you can’t push through the medical community – that just because they don’t hear it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The music doesn’t seem to be in me or come from me. I truly believe that it’s there and I’m just copying it down.”
Many people believe that there is a direct correlation between bipolar disorder, or manic depression as it was once known, and the artistic imagination; the rather romantic theory is that the condition actually drives creativity. But Hersh doesn’t buy this. “I have never had a good experience with mania,” she says. “It’s also hard for me to relate to the idea of depression as a waifish sadness. It was more of a shameful darkness. And I would certainly never write any songs when I was depressed. I don’t want creativity to be associated with illness in any way.”
Personally I don’t want to think that you could make art from mental illness, you should only make art or science from health. At the same time I have to admit I did turn out bi-polar. But I think they get it backwards, I don’t think I play music because I’m bi-polar. Music needs to be played and in order to do it I have to be bi-polar. If that makes sense. It doesn’t does it? I don’t know if I’m expressing mental illness in my music.Hersh is part of CASH (Coalition of Artists and Stake Holders), which, as I understand it, is an endeavor to remove the middle men of the music business from the equation so that artists and their audiences can interact more freely. One example of how this works is that tracks of Hersh's latest music are available at the CASH site, and fans can download them for free (if you're a cheapskate), but easily donate what they believe the music is worth directly to the artists using PayPal.
A favorite of mine, from Hersh's first solo album Hips and Makers, "Your Ghost" with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Here's Hersh's latest band, 50 Foot Wave, playing an updated version of the song. And here's an acoustic live performance by Hersh alone in Athens earlier this year.
"Gazebo Tree" -- I saw Hersh sing this on a Lilith Fair tour back in the '90s. This is a 2007 live performance in London.
"A Loon" -- From Hips and Makers, this is a 1994 video filmed in Amsterdam. Beautiful cello played by Martin McCarrick. The lyrics for "A Loon":
Some store"Me and My Charms" -- Another of my personal favorites, again from Hips and Makers. This is a 2007 live performance from Pittsburgh.
I'm not going back there anymore
Don't think I'll do that again
No I don't think I'll do that again
Look at me cross-eyed and I don't know what to do
No I don't know what to do
There's a room in his pallet
There's a pillow for his head
Sees an offshoot in his bottle
When he wants to see me dead
Heirlooms A loon
Never thought I'd see that silly grin
Never thought I'd see that fool again
Never thought I'd love that lunatic
Nothing left to dance around
What a hero
What a black and blue bird
What a loon, A loon
What a loon, A loon
"Sundrops" -- Another Hips and Makers song. A live TV performance from 1994, and also a great example of Hersh's guitar skills and style.
"In Shock" -- From Hersh's solo album, Learn to Sing Like a Star.
"Dizzy" -- A Throwing Muses tune from their Hunkpapa LP. A 1989 live performance.
"Bright Yellow Gun" -- The video for the Throwing Muses song from University.
"Clara Bow" -- The video from her band 50 Foot Wave's album Golden Ocean.
"Pneuma" -- The video from the Golden Ocean song. The video is really a bunch of blurs, but the audio is worth hearing to see how 50 Foot Wave differs from her solo work.
An NPR World Cafe interview in audio where Hersh also sings. The interviewer gets the name of her album "Learn to Sing Like a Star" wrong twice (he says "Learn to Sing Like the Stars" and "Learn to Sing Like a Girl" -- ack!), even as he's asking about the origin of the title, but Hersh is interesting to hear talk about her life and creative process.
Last June, Liz Spikol at The Trouble with Spikol compiled a list of famous people with mental health issues. It's an interesting list of successful artists and actors that I'll probably mine for other Friday Music posts here in the future.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Michael Bérubé is back in action at his place:
I’m not going to rely on concepts like ‘intrinsic human worth,’ but I can try to learn a little from history. And let’s imagine that we might have learned—very slowly, very gradually, because as a species we’re really not very bright about such things—that every attempt to banish some humans from the category of rights-bearing beings, every attempt to lop off some members of the human family, has had vicious and catastrophic results. So let’s say that we’ve learned to err on the side of caution, and include every human born, just to avoid these past catastrophes.Flea at One Good Thing presents a reader's email on autism and schooling.
The ADA Amendments Act was signed into law a couple of weeks back. You heard about it, right? No?
Wheelchair Dancer on "ElderSpeak, RaceSpeak, DisabilitySpeak":
Words have effects. Detrimental effects; they can transform you into someone else's negative image of you. True enough. I'd like to see this go fullscale. I'd like to see recognition of the power of language to create negative space in which others must live, must see themselves, and must accept if they are to gain access to some of the basic needs of everyday life. Why limit the discussion to just senior citizens? We know it is true for people of colour; I (and I suspect many of you) know exactly how this kind of language works for disabled people."Gallaudet's New Aesthetic of Openness" at the Washington Post:
Since its founding 144 years ago, Gallaudet's separation has been driven by the belief that the deaf were better off immersing themselves in their own culture. Their insularity is symbolized by the eight-foot-high fencing and thick stone walls that line the university's perimeter.
But the school intends to begin removing those barriers in part because of recruiting challenges and a younger generation that desires more integration into the broader world. The shift also reflects cultural changes and technological innovations that have made it more inviting for deaf people to navigate realms beyond their own, said Fred Weiner, the university's executive director for program development.
"When my parents grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, there were negative views of people with disabilities, and it drove the community inward," said Weiner, who is deaf. "What you see is a reversal. You have a more diverse America. You see technological advances. There are still challenges, but you have so much more access, and that's why students are saying they want to be part of it."
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Provided by the Ohio Legal Rights Service. (Link leads to a chart showing the positions of both McCain and Obama on a wide variety of disability issues, both professed positions and voting records as of this September.)
An update for that chart: Tucked into the financial bailout bill that just became law is the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, listed in the above chart as the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act that previously McCain had opposed and Obama had supported. As an add-on to the bailout bill, both candidates voted for it.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
A random collection of links, starting with blog posts on Palin and disability:
Sarahlynn at Yeah, But Houdini Didn't have These Hips wraps up her assessment on the veep and presidential candidates' stances on disability with a look at Sarah Palin's actions on disability issues (as opposed to her convention declaration of a "friend ... in the White House"). See her posts on Obama, Biden and McCain. Also, her initial reactions to Palin's nomination as McCain's running mate.
In a "Memo to Governor Palin," Penny at Disability Studies, Temple U. responded to Palin's RNC speech, and she includes a link round-up of other disability bloggers on Palin's statement that her having an infant with Down Syndrome gives parents of special needs children "a friend and advocate in the White House."
More on Palin's RNC speech from early September at Shakesville: Shapeling and Shaker Sweet Machine write on "Disability, Parental Martyrdom, and Reproductive Choice."
At Feministing, drahill writes: "Undecided: Sarah Palin, Disability Rights, and Abortion."
In a guest commentary at Patricia Bauer's disability blog, Paul K. Longmore also responds to Palin's announcement by writing on What Kind of Advocacy Do Americans with Disabilities Really Need?"
By the way, since she took point on bringing publicity to the ableist humor in the summer comedy Tropic Thunder, Patricia E. Bauer's News & Commentary on Disability Issues has become a must-read for me. She's always thoroughly covered the latest news, but comments have become especially lively as well.
Back to Shakesville, where Melissa McEwan recently requested:
I just wanted to take a moment to ask that we all please refrain from using the term "McLame" in comments. It's ableist, and therefore violates the tenets of the safe space.My comments on that:
I know I set a terrible example, because I once used it myself, but it was pointed out to me that I was being an asshole, so I don't use it anymore, and I'm sorry that I did.
YAY! Yay to working for ableist-free safe space. Seriously.
Also, though he'll never label himself so, McCain is a candidate with significant disabilities, so referring to him as "McLame" does matter. It's not just rhetorical play.