Tuesday, May 27, 2008
There were obviously many reactions to Frida Kahlo’s life and works. My co-observers focused on different levels and features of the artist and her works. Some were solely concentrated on the aesthetic and technical aspects of her paintings. Others were immensely intrigued by her culture and social dynamics which influenced her creativity. Oddly enough, I didn’t overhear anyone comment on her disability. Her life and brilliance of her works may very well have overshadowed that particular element of her character and life.
I would say that the experience was memorable for me, but rather typical as far as museum expeditions go. It was not until I exited the museum that the real unveiling of life began. Wanting to go into the city, I began to board a tourist bus. With relative naivety, I said to the driver, “Will you please deploy the wheelchair lift?” I should have known when he looked a bit confused and annoyed that drama was right behind. It took 45 minutes for this untrained driver to learn from a tourist from California how to operate the wheelchair accessible equipment. The driver, besides being frustrated and embarrassed, was being harassed by a string of drivers who were behind the tourist bus. They honked and yelled as if that would expedite the process. Many people including the museum staff were visibly upset at this interruption in their schedule. They were people with places to go and people to see and this one stranger in their midst was holding up progress.
Part of me felt bad for the inconvenience but a larger part of me wondered how much the tourists who saw the exhibit were sensitized by their understanding of Kahlo’s life. Did they have a glimpse into the disability experience and how that may have impacted Kahlo’s emotional creativity?
[Image description: the painting "Broken Column" by Frida Kahlo, 1944]
Jim Hayes also had a lifelong passion for sports. He started wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis programs at UTA. In 2000 he became full-time coach of the Moving Mavs --who won seven National Wheelchair Basketball titles under Hayes' direction. Hayes was a wheelchair road racer himself; he won a gold medal at the 1984 Paralympics, and he volunteered at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. In 2004, one of his former students, Randy Snow, became the first wheelchair athlete inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame. UTA students or alumni have represented their home nations in every Paralympics Summer Games since 1984. As a result of Jim Hayes' work, the UTA sports program was one of the first in the US to give full athletic scholarships to physically-disabled students.
Hayes died Friday, at the age of 58.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
[Image description: Composite photo of a kindergarten class--mine--captioned "Jefferson School 11 1971-1972 Kindergarten"]Hey Alex, what happened to you should never, ever happen to any kid, anywhere--you had a right to a kindergarten experience that left you excited about school, not one that left you feeling rejected by peers and your teacher. I know--because I had a pretty awful kindergarten teacher too. It was a long, long time ago, and I'm pretty sure she's gone now; she was on the verge of retirement when I had her. She tried to switch me from lefthanded to righthanded, moving the marker from hand to hand whenever she caught me doing my thing. (It didn't work.) When she saw me reading, she snatched the book and told me my parents had "ruined" my life by letting me learn to read so young, without expert instruction. I went home and stood on my head and tried to forget how to read, figuring she must be right. (That didn't work either.)
But what I remember most was that she humiliated a little boy, made him stand in the middle of the room and take her berating in front of all of us, for the crime of.... leaving the toilet seat up. Did any of us object? We wouldn't have dared. Did any of us reach out to him afterwards? I don't remember. Do any of those sweet little boys in that photo above look like they deserved that? They didn't. They couldn't. A lot of us, including that little boy and me, we graduated high school together--and I'm sure none of us forgot that moment.
Alex, your classmates, the ones who were led to vote against you, will be haunted by this moment. They were asked to be cruel to you, by an adult they trusted. Two of them voted in support of you, by all accounts, and they're obviously great kids, but the others aren't bad kids, just five years old. The adult in this case should be removed from the classroom and disciplined and, if possible, trained out of whatever ideas got her to this place; but the kids are just kids who were put in a terrible situation.
And Alex, you're just a kid too--and you absolutely didn't deserve this. But hang in there-- with any luck, you will also meet amazing teachers and peers, and learn, and flourish. A whole lot of us are watching now, and we expect the best for you.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Petra Kuppers was my roommate at the first Society for Disability Studies conference I ever attended, in 1999, which was also where I first met Mike Dorn. (Petra laughed because I bundle up to sleep, socks and all. You might guess from her work that she's not so much for the bundling.) Whenever you think, wow, it would be so cool if someone could combine this topic and that topic and do something provocative with all the intersections and overlaps and contradictions--well, Petra's one of the people who can do such things, and does them beautifully.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Next edition will be hosted by Emma at Writings of a Wheelchair Princess, on June 12 (three weeks away). She's set the theme "If I knew then..." which seems like a very open invitation indeed, so write something and submit it for consideration: you can use the blogcarnival.com form, or leave your link in a comment here, or at Emma's blog, or you can just use the phrase "Disability Blog Carnival" in your post, and I'll probably find it that way, too.
A note about the blogcarnival.com site: We've known since before we started this Carnival in October 2006 that the CAPTCHA security system on blogcarnival.com is not great for accessibility. We've always had several alternative means of submitting links, and we certainly hope nobody's been left out. But it's lately come to my attention that blogcarnival.com does not have any intentions to update to a more accessible security feature; most inquiries on the matter (including my own) have gone unanswered. This is a problem. Let blogcarnival.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) know that they're behind the times with an inaccessible security feature, that better alternatives already exist, and that there are plenty of users who do care about this issue. (And let me know if you find a more accessible site to manage our carnival submissions.)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
My in-house science consultant (aka, my husband, the physicist) pointed me to this choice quote in the response by one of the attorneys seeking access to Seidel's email files. Apparently they think her connections should be treated as suspect because she's
"a person utilizing investigative ability well in excess of that available to the mother and housewife she claims to be..."Uh, whuh? I can't understand, maybe I'm a little distracted, what with the jangle of minivan keys in my pocket and the Spongebob songs running on a loop in the next room... but "mother and housewife" status doesn't limit my "investigative ability," and it is surely completely irrelevant to Ms. Seidel's capacity for finding and analyzing published or public-record legal and scientific documents, too. Now I'd say more about this, but my suspiciously excessive ability to use a search engine doesn't get the dishwasher loaded or the other kid off the schoolbus...
Monday, May 19, 2008
ADDED LATER: Wow, there are a lot to add. This is going to take a few days. I'm marking new additions to the blogroll "(new)," but truly most of them I've been reading for quite a while--kinda surprised to discover some of them weren't listed here yet!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Numerous blogs offer coverage of the events of the week, but here are just a few:
Given the high gas prices, there has been a lot of discussion lately in Philadelphia about creating new incentives for everyone to bike to work. So when Mayor Nutter takes to the road for Bike to Work Day, he of course travels with security, wearing a florescent shell and a smile.
But when Mike Dorn bikes to work at Temple University after dropping off books at the Van Pelt Library on the University of Pennsylvania campus, he has to cross the Girard Avenue bridge across the Schuylkill River. The trolley tracks that run down the center of Girard Avenue make it particularly difficult to transition safely to the left lane before turning left towards North Thirty-Third Street. With the trolleys running once again on Girard Avenue, the tracks are now smoother.
Riding across the bridge at 8:45 am of April 20, 2008, while transitioning to the left land my bike tire caught the trolley groove and threw me face forward. I caught myself with my outstretched right and left hands but still bounced my chin on the pavement. I was wearing gloves due to the coolness of the morning, but unfortunately no chin padding. Today I am still on the mend, after having eight stitches removed from my chin, but still wearing the flexible cast on my right hand.
I don't know what can be done about the trolley tracks around the city but they sure are a hazard for cyclists! I, for one, am not planning on biking from Penn to Temple again anytime soon.
I wish you all the best with your own adventures in urban mobility. By safe and have fun!
Friday, May 16, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Melania Moscoso and Mike Dorn traveled up to New York last Wednesday to check out the disTHIS! 2nd Anniversary Criptastic Celebration. The evening included a little bit for everyone, including some salacious film shorts (featuring special guests Mat Frazer and Liz Carr from the BBC Ouch! Podcast) and the East Coast debut of Bård Breien's "The Art of Negative Thinking." The Norwegian director's feature film debut is the story of Geirr, his girlfriend Ingvild, and their encounter with the "municipal positivity group" [must be a Norwegian thing!] Geirr has remained reclusive and bitter since his accident, turning to his heavy metal music for relief, and Ingvild is willing to try anything to break him out of his despond. But as it turns out, the positivity group and their leader have their own issues to work through. And Geirr is just the one to help them learn the negative arts.
Lawrence Carter Long organizes the events for the Disabilities Network of NYC and takes particular care - reviewing new film for works of interest. The audience has come to expect works that work creatively against the standard conventions of disability in film. Even works deriving inspiration from the "freak show" canon are considered, as long as they work to reinvent this time-tested genre. International films that lend insight into contrasting cultural frameworks (such as the Spanish films that Melania has been reviewing) are also very popular. We can't wait to see what Lawrence selects for this coming Halloween!
[Image description: Melania and another audience member listening in on the post-screening discussion.]
It was an easy and fun trip. Several busses a day run between between Philadelphia and New York. Over the years I've taken one of the various "Chinatown buses" several times, picking it up at the Greyhound bus terminal near the Convention Center in Philadelphia, and catching the return bus from the north side of the Manhattan Bridge abutment. But today Melania and I checked out a new alternative, the cheaper and more relaxing and accessible Bolt Bus, that leaves from 30th Street between Walnut and Market in West Philadelphia, and delivers the traveler at 6th Street between Canal and Grand in Soho. Arriving early (due to the Bolt Bus's limited schedule) we had a chance to check out some of the local sights, including the beautiful and fully accessible Mulberry Street Branch Library (another view) at 10 Jersey Street [Between Lafayette & Mulberry Streets].
Visit their website to learn more about the disTHIS! Film Series and plan your next trip to New York. Sign up on Yahoo for regular email updates, or "friend" them in MySpace. There are some exciting events being planned in conjunction with the upcoming meeting of the Society for Disability Studies, June 18 - 21 at Baruch College, the City University of New York, so stay tuned!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
[Image description: Stanley Elkin, head-and-shoulders view, he's wearing glasses and has a close-cropped white beard and curly hair; he's smiling slightly]American writer Stanley Elkin was born on this date in 1930, in New York City. Elkin was a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1972, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS); from the mid-1970s, he used a wheelchair or a walker.
There is no way in the world I could ever take revenge on the disease that has disabled me. It just seems to me that disease, because it flirts with death, is a rather important subject to write about.
Elkin's experience as a disabled person was reflected in his critically-acclaimed fiction, which had long tended towards dark comic observations, inventive language, and complicated plots centered on deeply flawed characters. Ben Flesh, the main character in The Franchiser (1976), has MS too; in Magic Kingdom (1985), the plot follows a group of terminally ill children who are treated to a Disney World vacation by a wish-granting charity. The children resent being made into pitiful spectacles by the charity's publicity, and wish only to be left alone together to share as peers. The novella "Her Sense of Timing" (1993) is about Professor Schiff, a political geographer with MS, who uses a wheelchair, and must prepare and host a party without the expected help of his wife. In 1993, Harper's Magazine published "Out of One's Tree: My Bout with Temporary Insanity," in which Elkin describes a two-week, prednisone-induced psychosis he experienced from prescription medication for his MS.
Stanley Elkin died in 1995, from complications following heart surgery. His papers are at Washington University in St. Louis.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
CripChick invites you to don a party hat and join in the festivities. She's assembled such an abundant collection of links to recent blogging on identity, community, passing, culture, difference ... and you'll pick up neologisms like "cripeleptic" and "chippy martyr." Mmm, better than cotton candy. I wouldn't mind one of the Frida t-shirts to mark the day, though. (Y'know, we might need a souvenir t-shirt. I don't think anyone makes a disability blogosphere shirt yet.)
Next edition of the carnival will be hosted at Ryn Tales, with the theme "spirituality and disability." Links are being accepted for consideration now through Monday May 19, for a Thursday May 22 posting, so leave them in comments here or there, or at the blogcarnival.com form, or just put "disability blog carnival" in the text of your post, I usually find those too.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
There's a really good, long, interesting oral history interview with Douglas Martin, conducted in 2002 by Sharon Bonney, available in transcript at the Bancroft Library website. (There are also audio and video clips. This might be limited access, I'm not sure.) One section that particularly caught my eye was about his three years in an Omaha hospital after contracting polio at age 5; television was new then, and a great distraction for a ward full of children in iron lungs. But the Army-McCarthy hearings were running on the only channel for much of the day! Martin remembers that planting a seed:
It just really gave me a sense of, there's a whole big wide world out there going on, and you know this political world and all this stuff. It was interesting. Didn't have that much to do with it at that point except take it all in. But later I guess, it might have been part of the reason I was interested in politics, and getting involved in Washington, and kind of having knowledge. There was so much information and detail about the system, and how it worked and how it didn't work, in those days. Some of the best and some of the worst in people in politics came out. It was fascinating, and I guess I got interested, I saw it to be a place where you could make a difference. I kind of filed it away in the back of my mind. I kind of remember that as possibly motivating, as some basis for later interest in trying to bring about social change, something more positive. (here)I don't watch TV if I can help it when I'm in the hospital. When my kid is hospitalized, it's usually in a shared room, and there's little choice. I remember being in a quad isolation room with him during the 1998 Clinton impeachment hearings; the mother across the room was shouting at the commentators a lot. Think I also saw an Olympics opening festivities in a PICU once? I know another mother whose son was born in July 1969--so she and the other women giving birth that week were among the Americans who did not see the Neil Armstrong moon landing live.
What have you seen--or not seen--on TV during hospital stays?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
"Toward a Politics of Disability: Definitions, Disciplines, and Policies"
"Good Jobs, Good Benefits (but not for disabled workers)" at Ragged Edge (2006)
"Love, Sex, and Disability: Maintaining Interest and Intimacy" (transcript of a conference appearance with Sharon Bacharach)
ADDED LATER: Beth Haller has this remembrance.
[Photo description: Signage outside a men's room shows two beige plaques--one, a symbol dressed in Western gear labeled "Men," and the other below is the usual access symbol; both are posted on a stone surface]
Disabled guy doesn't get a hat, neckerchief, chaps or boots, either.... spotted at Knott's Berry Farm last fall.
(There's an equivalent sign on the ladies' room, photo posted here.)
Saturday, May 03, 2008
This conference program titled "Before Depression: The Representation and Culture of Depression in Britain and Europe, 1660-1800," caught my attention today--the conference itself is just part of a three-year project that also includes an ongoing lecture series, planned publications and an exhibit this summer of visual representations of depression in the 18th century. Too bad for me it's all happening at the University of Northumbria and the University of Sutherland--but good for any of you who happen to be in that neighborhood. If you attend any component of this project, I'd love to hear more about it.
Friday, May 02, 2008
From time to time we will offer this space to organizations working in partnership with the disability community to address issues of widespread interest. The Wireless RERC in Atlanta has developed a new web portal that shows great potential. We wish them well in fostering cross-disability conversations (in English at first, but one hopes in additional languages as the utility of the portal is demonstrated), as we all grapple with a democratizing communication platform -- the cell phone. See Horst and Miller (2006) for an anthropological view of how this emergent technology is incorporated into particular communication cultures.
Reference: Heather A. Horst and Daniel Miller (2006) The Cell Phone: An anthropology of communication (Oxford and New York: Berg).
Dear readers and members of Disability Studies, Temple U.:
Congratulations on a great website/blog. It is clear that you have put in a lot of skill, effort and commitment into developing such extensive, useful and compelling content.
I just wanted to introduce the readers at Disability Studies to our organization, the Wireless RERC, based in Atlanta.
We are a research and engineering group funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education. NIDRR funds a number of other RERCs dedicated to research and engineering for people with disabilities [list]. Our group includes faculty and staff from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Shepherd Center, a critical care facility dedicated to spinal cord injury.
We obtained our original funding in 2001, and were renewed for a second five-year cycle in 2006. The mission of the Wireless RERC is to: “to promote universal access to and use of mobile wireless technologies and explore their innovative applications for people with disabilities.”
We are engaged in three main areas of activity:
1. Conducting research on the wireless needs of people with all types of disability.
We do this by:
- Inviting people with disabilities to participate in our ongoing Survey of User Needs and join the Consumer Advisory Network
- Assessing the usability of wireless products by representative users with disabilities, usually through focus groups
- Promoting awareness among consumers of accessible wireless options
- Promoting awareness among providers about the needs of customers with limitations due to age or disability
Additionally, we have just launched MyWirelessReview.com with the hope of creating a space where people of all abilities can share opinions, information, tips, news items about wireless technology as it relates to people with disabilities.
As we have just launched the site, we are eager to invite participation from the readership of DS, TU. While we ramp up, I have been posting some news items that have implications for wireless users with disabilities, and some comments from participants in some of our recent focus groups.
Also, I just posted an audio file from a recent brown bag luncheon at the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) here in Atlanta, in which the presented compares the features and functionality of Windows Mobile and Symbian (used on Nokia’s) operating systems. The presenter, who is blind, is a technology instructor at CVI, and consequently offers an important perspective on such technology. [Check it out]
I have another audio clip from a different technology instructor at CVI detailing her experiences downloading and installing Mobile Speak software onto her mobile phone. Great stuff! Very informative. I’m still waiting on final approval from the presenter.
2. Developing technology, including:
- Prototype systems for location-based services in public places
- Next-generation, digital emergency alerts that ensure equitable access to emergency information by people with disabilities over wireless networks and devices
- Prototypes of universal interfaces that accommodate diverse user abilities
- Guidelines and tools for the design of wireless interfaces that accommodate users with visual limitations
3. Conducting Policy and Regulatory Activities
The Wireless RERC examines and analyzes accessibility policy issues related to the use of wireless communications and other information technologies. Key activities include regulatory filings, policy briefs and timely advisories to stakeholders on municipal wireless networks, emergency communications and related issues. The RERC has developed a “Collaborative Policy Network” to bring together experts in various aspects of the policy process in the telecommunications and information technology-related fields. This Network will provide support internally to the Wireless RERC and to other RERCs in telecommunications and information technology-related fields.
Wireless RERC Members
The RERC is guided by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Shepherd Center. The Georgia Tech team includes the Center for Advanced Communications Policy, the Interactive Media Technology Center, the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the College of Computing, and the School of Psychology.
Check us out at: http://www.wirelessrerc.org.
Research Project Coordinator
Thursday, May 01, 2008
"That's right, funky business owner -- the mall is more radical than you are." (Willendorf)
"Nobody ever says 'this is what it is like to be 24 and applying for Social Security.' Well, this is what it's like." (Never That Easy)
"So he had to go to a special pre-school and then a special elementary/high school. I found myself wondering if they had a special society hidden away that Tristan would then work and live out the rest of his life in." (Chanelle and Tristan)
"Sometimes I have good days and take the stairs. Sometimes I have bad days and take the elevator. Sometimes I have good days and take the elevator to avoid the chance of my day turning into a bad day. All of these decisions are mine to make, and are no one else’s business."
(Three Square Meals)
"All it would take is truly accessible public buildings and a completely accessible public transport network, and Stephen would never again feel the desperate need to bungee jump over a waterfall, shuffle up a perilous mountain on his bottom, or wheel across the Arctic tundra wearing nothing but a t-shirt emblazoned with the phone number of his charity donation hotline." (An Unreliable Witness)
" It still bothers me when everyone around me uses Healthy Person Logic and applies it to me and my life, because it works in their life and it’s just, to a healthy person, how the world works." (Jay Angel)
"So it is time to say it, and say it every day. There is no normal. There is no normal way to read, or to write, or to listen, or to see, or to get from here to there. There are simply ways of doing things, and the ways which work best for each human individual will vary - based in human capability and human desire and human preference." (SpeEdChange)
"When I applied for disability, the woman said to me, "I'm tired, too, but I still work eight hours a day." I am still furious over that remark." (The View from Room 7609)
"It was seriously, asskickingly empowering to create and post this piece. I love that it ended up so sexy. ...I offer it in celebration of BADD and badass mutant hot people everywhere." (Daisybones)