Sunday, January 30, 2005
New York Times Friday, January 28, 2005
[Note: This is a typical story of Hollywood's coverage of disability issues. Articles of this sort seem to appear every Oscar season, when we find films with disability themes nominated for major awards. The reporter did not interview any Disability Studies scholars who write on these topics, such as Paul Longmore or Martin Norden, and again adopts language for people with disabilities that many activists would find objectionable. MD]
To no one's surprise, Jamie Foxx received a best-actor Oscar nomination this week for his mesmerizing portrayal of the blind Ray Charles in "Ray." To the surprise of some, perhaps, this was good news for New Yorkers with disabilities and for the people who help them.
When Hollywood turns its klieg lights on an illness, a disorder, a dysfunction, a handicap - the acceptable word is up to you - the public has a way of paying attention. On good days, that makes life easier for those who treat theproblem. On really good days, it can pry money loose from donors.
"It's clear to me that people refer to movies all the time," said Dr. Harold Koplewicz, director of the New York University Child Study Center, which deals with psychiatric illnesses in children.
At Lighthouse International, which helps blind and visually impaired people, officials are not counting on the Foxx nomination to bring in cash. But there are other possible rewards, said Barbara Silverstone, the president and chief executive. "Disabilities are being treated in films with much more accuracy, and not just blindness," she said. "A lot can be done to help the cause, so to speak, of raising public awareness."
By now, awareness may have been raised high enough to reach the rafters.
Hollywood has long cast a teary eye on diseases and disorders. "We're still reaping the benefits of 'The Miracle Worker,' " said Matt Campo, director ofdevelopment at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults in Sands Point, on Long Island. That film, about the young Helen Keller's struggles, came out in 1962.
But over the last 15 years or so, disabilities have come to be cherished. For awhile, from the late 1980's on, it was all but impossible to win a best-actorOscar without playing a severely troubled character.
There was the autistic Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man," the cerebral-palsied Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot," the criminally insane Anthony Hopkinsin "The Silence of the Lambs," the blind Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman," the AIDS-afflicted Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia," the retarded Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump," the alcoholic Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas," the mentally shattered Geoffrey Rush in "Shine" and the obsessive-compulsive Jack Nicholsonin "As Good as It Gets."
Now we have the cinematically blind Mr. Foxx. For good measure, his competition includes Leonardo DiCaprio, who played the disturbed Howard Hughes in "The Aviator."
It's almost enough to make you wonder if it is wise to go to the movies without a medical dictionary. But for those who work with disorders, the benefits from these films and Oscars are unmistakable.
With "Philadelphia," Mr. Hanks made AIDS sufferers more acceptable to people unfamiliar with the disease, said Ana Oliveira, the executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis. "They could not only see what AIDS looked like," shesaid, "they could see what that life looked like."
Mr. Hanks then took on AIDS as a cause, said Robert Hagerty, who is in charge of H.I.V. research at the New York University Center for AIDS Research. "If nothing else," he said, "it makes the actor personally identify, and then usehis clout to go raise money."
For Dr. Koplewicz, "As Good as It Gets" was a breakthrough. "Jack Nicholson gave O.C.D. a face," he said, referring to obsessive-compulsive disorder. "That translates into two things: destigmatizing it, and eventually permitting peopleto give money for it."
THE usefulness of films in shaking the money tree is questioned by John Frank, director of development at the Association for the Advancement of Blind and Retarded, in College Point, Queens. Still, "the movies get an intellectual discussion going," Mr. Frank said. "It peels back one of the layers of the onion."
Realism helps. Ms. Silverstone liked "Scent of a Woman." Lighthouse International had trained Mr. Pacino for his role. "Why shouldn't a blind person be able to tango?" she said. Indeed.
At one point, though, the Pacino character zooms along New York streets behind the wheel of a Ferrari. "We cringed a little at that," Ms. Silverstone said. The concern was that some people would take that scene literally and say, "Lookat the crazy things blind people do."
There is no such problem with "Ray." A blind man at a piano? Big deal. Besides, a little perspective can't hurt. "The reason Ray Charles was so great was not because he was blind," Ms. Silverstone said, "it was because he was talented."
article from earlier this year on accessible pdf: adobe just announced acrobat 7.0 with "advanced accessibility features."
PrWeb (USA) - Jan 11, 2005: One of the oldest country music radio stations in the country, WXRL Radio 1300AM, airs the only live talk show focusing on disabilities every Sunday from 5-6 PM EST called DisAbility News and Views, with upbeat host Monica Moshenko, making a difference for 55 million people in America with a disability, families, professionals and the community.
"Wheel Power" columnist Anthony Thanasayan By rollingrains
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA--The following three paragraphs are excerpts from the latest by The Star's "Wheel Power" columnist Anthony Thanasayan (Source: Inclusion Daily Express)
THE tsunami tragedy of Dec. 26 last month continues to make a deep impact in
many of our lives. Some of you wrote to Wheel Power to ask if I had come across
accounts of how disabled people in the affected areas were surviving the trauma
and devastation caused by the killer tides. Inclusion Daily Express (IDE), an
international disability rights news service from Spokane, Washington, reported
last week that relief agencies in Galle in Sri Lanka are already at work and
doing their best to help people with disabilities struck by the tsunamis.
IDE's editor Dave Reynolds wrote that worldwide humanitarian groups have
started to pour aid into the Indian Ocean nations that were affected by the
disaster. News stories of people with disabilities, he continued, particularly
children caught without warning in the devastating tidal waves have been posted
from Australia to California and from Thailand to Sri Lanka.
I came across the good and remarkable work done by the British-based Handicap International (HI) organisation through the Internet (http://www.handicap-international.org.uk ). HI has set up a 24-hour emergency programme to help especially Sri Lankan victims of the tsunami focusing on displaced people, individuals with temporary or permanent disabilities as well as vulnerable populations, such as children, pregnant women and elderly people.
Abilityinfo.com (INTERNATIONAL) - Jan 20, 2004: Orphanages and homes for children and adults with disabilities are opening up for the first time since the tsunami took place on December 26th. Lives of people begin to be rebuilt as the world's aid starts to take effect. (New headlines have been posted on this site as of Jan. 20/05..)
UC Berkeley News Center (USA) - Jan 12, 2005: Physical barriers that may have hampered access to the University of California, Berkeley, campus for students with mobility or vision disabilities will be removed and improvements will made to campus grounds and buildings when a proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit is finalized later this spring. forwarded from the International Disability News Ticker
Seattle architect William Kreager uses this term to describe the tidal wave of baby boomers about to impact the housing market. The population of baby boomers will grow by 75 per cent by 2010.
Source: Your Guide to the Latest New Home Lingo by Tracey Hanes
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Bloglines - 'Helper Phone' for Visually Handicapped People
Question: Does this Korean product represent an advance in cellular AT for people with visual impairments? Or have folks soon other similar products? Mike
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Disability Activists Call Chicago Movie Critics: Million
January 19, 2005 @ 6:00 p.m., 65 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago
Chicago disability activists will be protesting the bigotry
and ignorance of the members of the Chicago Film Critics
Association (CFCA). Virtually every critic in the
association gave a rave review to Clint Eastwood's Million
Dollar Baby, a film that promotes the killing of disabled
people as the solution to the problem of disability.
On Wednesday, January 19th, activists will picket and
distribute protest leaflets outside of the Union League
Club of Chicago. Attendees at the CFCA event will be met by
activists from the Chicago disability rights community,
protesting the bigotry and ignorance of Chicago movie
critics. Ignorance and bigotry are the only explanations
for the universal adoration expressed for a movie that is
being called a corny, melodramatic assault on people with
disabilities by one reviewer in the disability community.
Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, has named it the
number one movie of 2004. In fact, he seems to find new
opportunities to promote the movie every couple of days.
His TV partner, Richard Roeper, also gave the film an
enthusiastic thumbs up.
But like we said, they're not alone. Michael Wilmington of
the Chicago Tribune gave it 4/4 stars.
The vast majority of critics talk about the surprise ending
without telling their readers and viewers what it is. It's
simple: the surprise is that a young woman boxing star
becomes disabled, and Eastwood's character (in a painful,
self-sacrificing gesture), kills her.
Its a pro-euthanasia movie. But they don't want you to go
in expecting that to be the main message. But it's the
romanticized killing at the end that makes the movie for
most of the critics.
We feel it's no coincidence that Eastwood is also a staunch
opponent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He's
been sued - and lost - under the act in regard to a resort
he owns. After his loss in the courts, he engaged in a
legislative campaign to weaken the ADA, even giving
testimony in Congress. His face is on the cover of a book
on ADA backlash called "Make Them Go Away." This film
appears to be his revenge on our community.
Suppose instead Eastwood had been an active opponent of the
civil rights of any minority other than people with
disabilities. Suppose he'd been sued for race or gender
discrimination at his resort instead of disability
discrimination. And then suppose he'd made a movie
manipulating the audience to sympathize with someone who
killed a member of that group. We suspect the reactions of
critics across the country would have been, pardon the
Not Dead Yet
7521 Madison St.
Forest Park, IL 60130
Contact: Diane Coleman or Stephen Drake
(708)209-1500; (708)420-0539 (cell)
For more detailed analysis of the movie and its reviews, go
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Friday, January 14, 2005
Angela Marfisi has suggested that we make plans to view the film "Rory O'Shea Was Here" when debuts at the Ritz Theaters next month. It has already received critical and audience acclaim in Great Britain, where it was released under the title "Inside I'm Dancing."
Friday, January 07, 2005
From: Society for Disability Studies Listserv
Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 1:24 PM
The email below is from a professor in Sri Lanka with whom I have been in contact recently, first related to the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, and then second, the tsunami. I asked about specific ways that people could assist disability related organizations. Others asked him the same. See his letter back to us below. You may distribute this as you wish.
"D.P.M.Weerakkody" email@example.com 1/4/2005 12:39:36 PM
D.P.M. Weerakkody B.A.(Cey).,Ph.D.(Hull)
Professor of Western Classics
Department of Classical Languages
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Tel: Office: 94 81-2388301-5, and 94 18-2388345, Residence: 94 81-2389163
Fax: 94 81-2388933, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
First of all I wish to thank you most sincerely for your generosity in offering to help persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka who were affected by the recent disaster. I give below the information as I have it at present.
1. Regarding the tragedy involving blind children from the School for the Deaf and Blind Tangalla, I finally managed to contact the school by phone and speak to the founder Mr. W. Rupasinghe Perera. There had been twenty persons in the vehicle which travelled from Tangalla to Colombo on the 26th to attend the Christmas party which had been organized for them. All the 16 children were blind, and were accompanied by one teacher, two assistants and the daughter of one of the assistants, all sighted. Twelve blind children, one teacher, and one assistant died. Four blind children escaped and helped the other assistant and her daughter to get out of the danger. The school plans to set up a fund to assist the surviving children and the families of those who died, these being mostly very poor. I would suggest, however, that, rather than sending contributions directly to the school, they should be sent to the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind, which is the principal service organization for the blind in the country, stating clearly that they be sent to the school for the fund. Please contact the Hon. Secretary, Mr. S.L. Hettiarachchy, Sri Lanka Council for the Blind, 74 Church Street, Union Place, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka; tel. 0094 112 329564, email:
2. There are isolated reports of various blind and other disabled persons being affected, and the Council plans to help them within the following financial terms, i.e. per individual.Rebuilding home: $500.00 each.Wheelchair: $125.00 each.crutches/elbow-crutches: $25.00 each. Once again, please contact Mr. Hettiarachchy from whom I got the information.
3. In Galle, in the south of the country, there is a private home for children with physical and mental handicaps. It is called Sambodhi. I hear that 50% of the building and the children were washed away. Unfortunately, I do not have any details or the contact information, but the Council for the Blind should be able to help.
(Editorial comment by Bill Gaventa...there was an article about his school in the Trenton, NJ Times sometime last weekend.)
4. Although initially there were requests for food, linen and medicine, I believe these are adequately covered by the existing government and other relief operations.
On behalf of the persons with disabilities I thank you once again.
With best wishes
Increasingly we find tensions being expressed between the political messages and motivations of adults with disabilities, and the parents of children with disabilities. These differences can be seen particularly starkly between Deaf adults and the parents of children with hearing impairment; and between adult advocates with autism and the parents of children with autistic symtoms and diagnoses. A particularly heated discussion has been generated by the recent New York Times article entitled "How About Not 'Curing' Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading" [December 20, 2004].
Bloglines - Inclusive Destination Development and Tsunami Relief
I found it very interesting reading Scott Rain's plea for promoting a philosophy of universal design in the context of Southeast Asia's post-tsunami development plans. These issues cannot be minimized when we consider the tremendous prevalence of disability in these regions. Mike
CALL FOR PANELS AND PAPERS
Nov 23rd –25th 2005, Jury’s Inn, Birmingham, UK
A major conference hosted by Sociology, Anthropology, Politics (C-SAP)
The restructuring of the world university system continues apace. Public sector reforms, commoditisation, and expanding student numbers are all redefining higher education. What impact are these changes having on learning, teaching and academic practice, and how are students and academics responding? Sociology, Anthropology, Politics (C-SAP) invites contributions from students and staff to an international conference on these new contexts for university education.
Globalisation: Is the notion of ‘globalisation’ a useful shorthand for understanding the economic and political forces reshaping higher education? How are the demands for financial and academic ‘accountability’ changing the pedagogic values and cultures of universities? In what ways are these mediated by national policy contexts?
Higher Education Policy: How are national policy agendas – such as those around vocationalism, widening participation and employability in the UK - reshaping teaching and the ‘student experience’ in the social sciences? At the European level, what is the impact of the Bologna process?
E-learning: What are the long-term implications of e-learning for ‘borderless’ education and the student experience? Will we see the rise of the mobile ‘global’ student? How is a reliance on commercial software affecting student learning?
Pedagogy and pedagogic research: As student expectations of and responsibilities for learning change, are faculty attitudes shifting too? Will disciplinary identities and pedagogies become less significant? Can pedagogic research document these changes?
Activism: What place is there for activism within universities? Can faculty and students work to challenge prevailing status hierarchies, whether within a global ‘knowledge economy’ or their own institutions? What role do scholarly and teaching linkages between universities have in mitigating the growing stratification of the social sciences in the global ‘North’ and ‘South’?
Keynote speakers include Michael Apple, Robert Burgess, Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha and Peter McLaren.
Proposals for papers, panels, posters and ‘hands-on’ workshops addressing these and related themes are warmly welcomed. Papers outside the above theme will be considered for inclusion in an Open Stream. Send 300-word abstracts to Frances.Thompson@c-sap.ham.ac.uk by Friday 25th February 2005.
Sociology, Anthropology, Politics (C-SAP)
The Higher Education Academy
University of Birmingham,
Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT
Phone 01865 793328
Fax 0121 414 7920
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Transported: ''This is all new,'' the writer says of her riding experience, ''and we are all making up the rules and social protocols as we go.'' (Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times). Read Simi Linton's essay here.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
"Wheelchair-Bound Kids Behind"
POSTED: 5:55 am EST January 5, 2005
UPDATED: 10:00 am EST January 5, 2005
WESTMINSTER, Md. -- When a Carroll County, Md., high school had an emergency evacuation, everyone got out except for two students who were confined to wheelchairs.
They were abandoned in the stairwell on the second floor.
WBAL-TV in Baltimore said there is a policy at Westminster High School for what to do with the two students in wheelchairs in case of a fire. The policy said because their classrooms are on the second floor, teachers are to lead them to the second-floor stairwell and leave them there and wait for the fire crews to come to their rescue while everyone else evacuates.
Jeremy Freeze, 16, has cerebral palsy. His parents, Cassie and Tom, said what happened to their son at Westminster High recently could have killed him.
"There was a fire at Westminster High School just prior to the Christmas break, and I was alerted to the fact that Jeremy was left in the stairwell as the other children were evacuated," Cassie said.
"If children are to be evacuated from that school, I want our children evacuated with them," Tom said.
Jeremy wasn't alone waiting in the school stairwell as it filled with smoke. Robin Miller's son Brian, the only other child in the school with a wheelchair, was with him.
"I got a call from a teacher the day there was a fire and they said (Brian) was hysterical because all the other children were evacuated, he was left in a stairwell with Jeremy," Robin said.
Robin, Cassie and Tom all said they think the common sense solution is move their kids' classes to the first floor. They said they were told the second floor is best because it's closer to the lunchroom and therefore more convenient.
"He won't be late for lunch, but he'll burn if there's a fire," Robin said.
"I met with Dr. Ecker, the superintendent," Tom said. "The principal brought him down at 4 p.m. to meet with me and he assured me we would hear something tomorrow."
"You can't just pick these kids and say lets leave them behind and come back and get them just because they're hard to get out," Robin said. "There has to be a better plan."
WBAL-TV contacted the superintendent of the Carroll County school system several times on Tuesday, but never got a clear answer as to how the policy could be like this or what's being done to change it.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
The impact of the Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunamia on residents and visitors with disabilities has been tremendous. As with the September 11 attacks, it has proved more difficult to follow the disability angle on this story. But now the folks at the International Disability News Ticker have created a page where we can follow the various repercussions. I, for one, hope that they will take the the time to continuously update this page. Please send them notes of support on behalf of their work on this portal.