Friday, September 30, 2005

Speaking of films...

There will be a Disability Film Festival and Speaker Series in October, co-sponsored by the SUNY-Buffalo School of Social Work and People Inc.'s Museum of disABILITY History. So if you're in Buffalo, NY, any Thursday night in October, make your way to the Dipson Market Arcade Film and Arts Center for 7pm. Here's the film schedule and the speaker schedule.

Desirably disabled

I like to think of myself as a hard liner social model activist when it comes to disability; the notion of disability is one in which I feel most comfortable and genuine speaking of in an academic and political context. I definitely don't like to euphamize it or inspirationalize it.

Temple MFA student Shelley Barry, award winning filmmaker on disability, and an international disability rights activist, presented her most recent work last night to my graduate Disability Rights and Culture course. Over the course of the film screening and discussion I became thoroughly convinced that disability is also a bodily and experiential phenomenon of beauty: a hardcore and erotic at that. She symbolically portrayed in film her experience of physical impairment and socially constructed disability, as it adorned and informed her many identities. What an experience! Everyone in the class had their senses stimulated; at the same time many felt serenely serenaded with feelings of peaceful coherence.

Shelley Barry's 20 minute docu-poem entitled "Whole: A Trilogy of Being" is available for purchase on DVD by contacting the filmmaker at Don't look for mere inspiration or encouragement. This raw and provocative video offer glimpses of how one's mind, body and soul might reach new planes of aesthetic and sensuous appreciation!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Disability History Image #4: "One-Eyed Frank" McGee

When I was a kid, I read the dictionary for fun (sad maybe, but true). Now, I get some of the same kick from biographical dictionaries. I've been trolling through the very searchable Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online for disability history stories to add to the Disability History Dateline. Mostly, you'll find asylum administrators, 19c. figures in deaf education, and nuns who started homes for "the aged and infirm." But every once in a while, there's someone more offbeat.

"One-Eyed" Frank McGee (b. 1882) was a hockey player, and a good one--he led the Ottawa Silver Seven to three consecutive Stanley Cup championships, 1903, 1904, and 1905. In one 1905 game, he scored a fourteen goals, a record that still stands. Then he retired, in 1907. McGee had lost an eye as a teenager (in a hockey accident), and was thinking maybe he'd get out of the violent sport that could put the remaining eye at risk. But that cautious approach seems to have been short-lived, because in 1915 he enlisted in the Canadian Army to fight in World War I. Family legend says he tricked the examiner to get a passing vision test; but a look at the form itself shows the examiner left the crucial space blank--so maybe he noticed McGee's partial blindness and just decided not to record it. Anyway, McGee was injured in battle, and unfit for duty for seven months, but he insisted on returning to combat duty after recovering. He was killed in France in September 1916, during the Somme offensive. In 1945, he was in the first class of inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

In the news...

Update on the Rod Liddle editorial from last week's Times of London: today were published some replies (under the unfortunate headline "Coping with Disability"), including one brief comment, "I have no choice but to live with my disability, but I can choose not to be afflicted with Liddle's opinions." Unfortunately, when those ugly opinions are widely held, they're an affliction for all of us, whether we read them or not.

And big kudos to Joseph Shapiro, whose excellent NPR reporting from the Katrina zone this morning is worth a listen if you get a chance, here. Listen to a medical evacuation organizer tell Carmen Vidaurre that her son Joseph's wheelchair can't be loaded onto the plane. Listen to Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, comment that "There were really three vectors involved here, race, poverty, and disability."

On the same subject, Marta Russell has a new commentary up at Znet today, Being Disabled and Poor in New Orleans.

Increasing employment among people with disabilities: a major address in NYC, Oct 19, 2005

Plan to attend or watch Richard Thornburgh's speech at the New York Law School. The information below is reproduced from the New York Law School's Labor and Employment Law Program's website - click here.

The Honorable Richard Thornburgh, former Governor of the State of Pennsylvania and Attorney General for the United States, will be delivering a major address at the New York Law School about issues associated with increasing the employment rate among people with disabilities. The Lecture will be held on October 19, 2005 from 6:15pm to 8:15pm in the Ernst Stiefel Room at New York Law School. A light dinner will be served to all attendees.

If you would like to attend, please click here to register to attend the event.

If you cannot attend the Lecture, please click here and register for the Live Webcast and watch Mr. Thornburgh's speech as he delivers it.

If you have any questions, please email or call Jamie Wenger at 212-431-2127.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Capitol protest

About five hundred disability-rights protesters from across the US visited the Capitol on Monday, organized by ADAPT; over a hundred of them were arrested for refusing to leave private offices, and some spent the night in jail. They targeted members of Congress who had not signed as co-sponsors of MiCASSA and other legislative efforts to combat the institutional bias in long-term care services. The story was widely if briefly reported in local television stations across the US (so there must be footage), and carried, again briefly, to newspapers by the AP (here's a shortlived link to that account, so read it quick). ADAPT's got a longer version, of course, with photos, here, and in this press release.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why celebrate?

Sigh. Commentator Rod Liddle in the Times of London thinks the public display of Alison Lapper Pregnant is about "the fashion for disability," which he considers a "delusional ideology," and asks, "Why would we wish to pay tribute to disability; if we're being honest, isn't disability bad, wouldn't we rather not have it at all?" The argument sounds very undergraduate. So let's walk him through it like an undergraduate, shall we? This argument is the same as saying that we shouldn't celebrate any minority experience, because it's just so much easier and more pleasant to be a member of the majority. Why celebrate being a woman? It's clearly so much more noble and exciting to be a man like, say, Admiral Nelson (whose Trafalgar Square statue is fine with Liddle--he lost the limb and eye in battle, so that's indisputably tribute-worthy).

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Voices

While clicking around the excellent The Voices Recordings map at the BBC site, I lucked onto the dot over Edinburgh. Each dot on the map leads to a page of sound files of people conversing in that place--so you hear Scots women in Ayrshire talking about shoes, or a family of Kentish fishermen talking about the weather, that kind of thing. They're usually talking about language, whether it's quirks of local vocabulary or accents or the power of certain epithets. Anyway, the Edinburgh dot brings you to a page with five sound files of three actors with cerebral palsy, discussing disability terminology and disability culture. James McSharry, Robyn Hunt, and Malawi Logan are the wonderfully candid, articulate, and frank participants--if you get a chance, have a listen. On childhood taunts, for example, McSharry says, "Somewhere along the line, that language creates a stereotype that it's ok to throw a stone at me."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Philadelphia event to assist hurricane evacuees with disabilities

Dear Colleagues:

This is just one of many stories that are emerging of the difficulties that people with disabilities have had to endure in Hurricane Katrina evacuation and relief.

My employer, the Institute on Disabilities, is holding a 1 day donation event on Saturday, September 24th, 2005. From 8:00 am to 3:00 we are collecting medical equipment in support of people in impaced region who have dire needs for equipment. Many people with disabilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia were evacuated from their residences without needed equipment.

Location: parking lot at the SE corner of Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Broad Street; the entrance is half a block east of the intersection - turn off of Cecil B. Moore Avenue and head south on Park Street - entrance to the lot is then on the right.

Anyone is welcome to drive up with their donations. We will offer easy drop off and receipts for donated assistive equipment, such as walkers, wheelchair and wheelchair parts (footrests, armrests, seat pads), canes, shower chairs, commode chairs, etc. We ask those making donations to remember we are looking for equipment in good condition, that they themselves wouldn't mind receiving.

Thanks in advance for getting out the word on this, and watch this space for more information.


-----Original Message-----
From: SDS Listserv
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 10:03 AM
Subject: [Atlanta Journal-Const.] Disabled evacuees languish

Disabled evacuees languish
Advocates: Help for special-needs victims lacking

By Patricia Guthrie
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Dwayne Russ needs his electric wheelchair. Janelle Lytle needs her constant companion.

Both temporary residents at Roswell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, they face additional challenges that some local advocates say aren't being met for "special-needs" survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

They need wheelchairs, scooters and walkers that were destroyed or left behind. They need medication and their government disability checks. They need to know how they will ever live independently again.

At the same time, they're still tormented by the recent past. Many people just like them, they say, were left to die.

"It became self-preservation," says Russ, 44, who is paralyzed. He was among the last medically fragile residents rescued from New Orleans' floodwaters. "That's a sad thing. If you got your health and strength, you got out."

In metro Atlanta, 79 evacuees from Louisiana ended up at more than a dozen nursing and long-term care centers, said Edna Jackson with Georgia's Office of Aging. The majority are at the Roswell home because it had 50 beds open.

A few already have been reunited with family or friends, traveling with donated frequent-flier miles.

"The memories are very fresh and painful at this point," administrator Michelle Giesken said of the evacuees now at the Roswell home. "Many just don't understand the gravity of the situation. They've asked our social workers to cancel their doctor's appointment in New Orleans, things like that."

About 10 storm survivors were transferred from Louisiana mental-health care facilities to Georgia's mental health system, said Gwen Skinner, director of the Georgia Division for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases.

Hundreds more physically and mentally disabled and elderly evacuees who require supportive care are probably in Georgia, advocates and state officials say.

But there's little, if any, coordination of government services, or transportation, for them, said Mark Johnson, director of advocacy at the Shepherd Center, a specialty hospital and rehabilitation center in Midtown. He said the state needs to form an outreach team for disabled

"Wouldn't it make sense for some disability specialist to go to nursing homes instead of expecting people in wheelchairs who don't even know what city they're in, who don't know how to get accessible transportation, to find the Red Cross and other assistance?" Johnson said. "Haven't they been through enough?"

Many evacuees are dependent on Social Security disability checks and Medicaid, the government health plan for the poor and disabled. Some of the disabled who are veterans are getting help at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

Georgia's Department of Human Resources says numerous agencies are signing up evacuees for help at the one-stop "super service centers" for hurricane relief.

"Every social service agency is busy right now," Skinner said. The state also provides mental-health counselors to all shelters, she said.

However, Skinner added: "There is no single agency that is categorized or classified, that is serving people with special needs."

Regaining independence for the disabled and elderly who preferred, and were proud, to live alone is another challenge facing Atlanta and other cities who've accepted evacuees.

Russ had lived independently in a specially outfitted apartment and maneuvered around in an electric wheelchair. This week, he plans to join family members from New Orleans who are staying with relatives in Houston.

"If I have to learn my way around, I'll be disconnected from the support I'm used to getting. I'm concerned about that," Russ said.

He also worried about whether he would be eligible for Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency benefits if he leaves Georgia. He didn't know who to ask.

In the end, help came from Johnson, who drove Russ around in a wheelchair-accessible van to buy clothes and other items at Wal-Mart. He also connected Russ with an independent-living organization in Houston.

"Dwayne is just one person but he demonstrates there's lots of people out there in his same predicament who are not getting the help they need," Johnson said.

Lytle, 53, got tired of waiting for "official" help to arrive at the Roswell nursing home. She took matters into her own hands.

But it cost $80 in roundtrip taxi fare to get to the nearest Social Security Administration office last week. Suffering from the pain of bone cancer, Lytle waited in line in a wheelchair for eight hours, finally receiving her check.

The next day, Social Security showed up at the nursing home to deliver checks to remaining evacuees. Lytle said she would have waited had she known help would come to her.

Lytle's bigger concern is one facing other disabled and medically frail individuals. They're separated from human caregivers and animal companions.

She was forced to leave behind her beloved cat Mardi. The cat had been with Lytle since cancer struck 14 years ago.

"If Mardi dies, then I'm going to die," she said, looking at the two photos she saved of her cat.

Patricia Guthrie,

Alison Lapper Pregnant in Trafalgar Square

Crippled Monkey at Ouch has the latest on the Marc Quinn statue Alison Lapper Pregnant, to be unveiled tomorrow in Trafalgar Square. The Guardian's interview with Lapper, "Why Shouldn't My Body Be Art?" is here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Florence Kelley, 1859-1932

Today is the birthday of American reformer Florence Kelley (1859-1932). Besides being active in the suffrage, civil rights, and peace movements, and translating Engels, and living at Hull House, Kelley was Illinois' first chief factory inspector, appointed by the governor in 1893. In that role, she wrote reports of factory conditions, passionate reports that advocated child labor, minimum wage, and maximum day laws. The first report (1894) includes a section titled "Injurious Employments," where she describes disabled children exploited as workers, and child workers disabled by unsafe factory conditions (deafened by the noise, lungs and eyes damaged by the poor air quality, bones developed with curvatures from awkward positions, fingers and limbs lost to cutting machinery, hernias from heavy lifting, etc.). "The mutilation of children will continue to be a matter of daily occurrence," warns Kelley, without protective legislation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cloud Atlas

Been reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (Random House 2004), a novel that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize last year. This passage (pp. 360-361) caught my eye, as a commentary on disability (on ageism particularly, but the observation works more generally). Timothy Cavendish has been tricked into surrendering himself to the care of a nursing home, and is looking for a way to escape, while longtime residents Ernie and Veronica try to discourage his solo effort as futile:
"Scouting," Ernie answered, "for his one-man escape committee."
"Oh, once you've been initiated into the Elderly, the world doesn't want you back." Veronica settled herself into a rattan chair and adjusted her hat just so. "We--by whom I mean anyone over sixty--commit two offenses just by existing. One is Lack of Velocity. We drive too slowly, walk too slowly, talk too slowly. The world will do business with dictators, perverts, and drug barons of all stripes, but being slowed down it cannot
abide. Our second offence is being Everyman's memento mori. The world can only get comfy in shiny-eyed denial if we are out of sight."
She smiled fondly. "Just look at the people who come here during visiting hours! They need treatment for shock. Why else do they spout that 'You're only as old as you feel!' claptrap? Really, who are they hoping to fool? Not us--themselves!"
Ernie concluded, "Us elderly are the modern lepers. That's the truth of it."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Hogging the swing"

It's hard to know exactly what's up in this ugly story, but I'm suspecting it's a junior version of the "people with placards hog all the good wide parking places," or even closer, "why should that woman in the wheelchair get to use the nice big stall in the ladies' room?" For readers unfamiliar with accessible playground equipment, the Jenn Swing is pictured here. It's true that accessible playgrounds are often the most popular playgrounds around --in Los Angeles, the 2-acre Shane's Inspiration space at Griffith Park is counted as the single most popular playground in the city, for example. They're often the newest, safest, most creative parks available. But where two ten-year-old boys can threaten the mother of a three-year-old for "hogging" a therapeutic swing (when other swings are empty), and the nannies nearby are on the boys' side, that's a park that I'd avoid for reasons other than inaccessibility. It's not enough to build these playgrounds--there has to be some community education to make them function as they should. Or, in the case of the West 70th St. park, a whole LOT of community education.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Disability Blogs Roundup: Katrina edition

Mike beat me to the mentioning of Katrina here, but in this entry I'll take a tour 'round what disability blogs and lists are saying on the subject. Susan Fitzmaurice has set up a website to collect information about relief services for people with disabilities here, and it already has a wide array of contact details (you can target donations to independent living centers, or the transportation of emergency wheelchairs and personal supplies, etc.). It's also a place where people who have accessible homes of various kinds, even in other states, are offering emergency shelter. (Did I Miss Something? has some targeted donation details along the same lines.) At Quiescent Voices, there's a post about the need for ASL interpreters at the Red Cross shelters for Katrina refugees. The Angry Gimp is, like a lot of people, angry about the disproportional effect of the disaster by race, class, age, and ability, and collected some news clips about the current perilous conditions for people with disabilities. The Rolling Rains Report has a recent press release from the National Organization on Disability on disaster preparedness and people with disabilities.

Added soon after posting: Mary Johnson's got more links , some commentary, and news that the Ragged Edge site will also be posting details about relief targeted at refugees with disabilities as they become available.

Added the next day: Kestrell's got an entry titled "Living on the Edge of the World," musing on how tenuous "safety" is. "We like to think we live in families, communities, religious groups, cities, states, governments, which consider us valuable enough to lift a hand to save us, or at least reach out a hand to comfort us when nothing else can be done," she writes. But for too many in New Orleans, she continues, it's clear that no rescue, no comfort came.

An invitation to post (Katrina)

I hope that readers of this blog will use this as a stem to post their thoughts on the inadequate disaster preparedness for New Orleans' long feared 'Big One.' When drilling for this kind of hurricane impact, the needs of New Orleans poor, inform and disabled populations were never brought to the foreground. How were people living check to check on public assistance supposed to pay for transportation out of their soon to be submerged neighborhoods? Who was looking out for their best interests? Geographers like Craig Colton have been warning about these dire possibilities, but unfortunately have not been in a position to affect policy. See my further thought on the unfolding Katrina disaster here and in the comments fields to posts placed here.

Update, 4:11 pm - The Association of American Geographers (AAG) will be establishing an information clearinghouse and fund to help geography departments affected by Hurricane Katrina. More information here.