Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fair housing and disability benefits

The disability law blogs (see Sam Bagenstos, Charles Fox) and others do a great job of covering court cases (like this new Ninth Circuit opinion, also from California). But here's a less-famous settlement in LA. The attorney wrote to us here at DS,TU, looking to publicize the outcome. She hopes the settlement can help other disabled tenants in the same bind as her client. Connie Y. Chung of the Housing Rights Center writes:
I'm a fair housing attorney at a non-profit organization in Los Angeles and I recently settled a disability discrimination case that I thought might interest you. My client is a tenant in Whittier who has multiple, serious disabilities and now subsists primarily on his Social Security disability benefits. Because his Social Security check arrives on the second Wednesday of the month while his rent is due on the first of the month, he requested a reasonable accommodation from his housing provider to change his rent due date to correspond with the date on which he receives his disability check. His manager refused, stating that changing his rent due date would require an extra trip to the bank and the accounting office wouldn't be able to complete its rent reconciliation under the normal timeframe. The tenant contacted our organization and when the manager rejected our request as well, we filed a lawsuit in federal court. Soon after the lawsuit was filed, the housing provider offered to settle with us by accepting a partial rent for March, which the tenant could cover without the Social Security check, and then the tenant would go back in April to paying the full rent at the beginning of the month.

Our organization is trying to publicize this case because it's very common for tenants subsisting on disability checks to request a change in their rent due date as a reasonable accommodation, but we believe this is the only lawsuit ever filed in the US that has addressed this issue. We're hoping that the more people know of these types of reasonable accommodation requests, the more they'll be granted.
Important point: "reasonable accommodation" doesn't mean "as long as it doesn't cause the slightest inconvenience or change in our procedures." And note that the accommodation here isn't about the tenant's impairment, but around the realities of mismatched external supports--it was a calendar thing. Congratulations to attorney Chung and the Housing Rights Center for a settlement that makes a lot of sense.

The Housing Rights Center also deals with the rights of tenants with companion animals, and other kinds of code enforcement. They present workshops and materials in various languages (their staff page lists folks who can assist clients in Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Armenian, and Russian), and at various venues (including "walk-in clinics" at public libraries, schools, and farmers markets), to serve the widest possible range of Angelenos.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rebecca Horn and Flannery O'Connor

There were a couple birthdays I might have marked here this weekend if I wasn't otherwise occupied-- but I want to post a quick note anyway, with images:

Rebecca Horn (b. 24 March 1944) is a contemporary German performance artist, and filmmaker. In the mid-1960s, she was living in Barcelona and working on fiberglass sculptures; working with fiberglass without a mask landed her with a serious lung disease, and she was hospitalized for a year for treatment and recovery. During her time in the sanatorium, she drew, and sewed, and tried to create objects that would extend her body from the hospital bed. The image at left shows her "Finger Gloves," a 1972 performance piece in which she wore long balsa extensions on her fingers, an example of her body-extension creations, which play with ideas of touch, sensation, protection, and imperfection.

American writer Flannery O'Connor (25 March 1925-3 August 1964) inherited systemic lupus from her father. In her two novels and 31 short stories, there are running themes of disability, pain, violence, monstrosity, religion, and an unsentimental, often gothic dark humor that is charactistic both of Southern literature and of the era, but may also reflect her personal experience of chronic pain and illness. O'Connor began using crutches in the 1950s (as shown in the image at right), because the powerful medications she took to manage her pain weakened her bones. She said, of writing through chronic illness, "I have enough energy to write with and as that is all I have any business doing anyhow, I can with one eye squinted take it all as a blessing. What you have to measure out, you come to observe more closely, or so I tell myself."

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Blue at Gimp Parade has a really good post up this morning about the complicated murder trial of Daphne Wright, a "deaf, black lesbian" whose access to a fair trial in South Dakota has been questioned. For a broader historical discussion of the idea that a "whirlwind of lesbian drama" can drive someone to murder, check out Christine Coffman's new book, Insane Passions: Lesbianism and Psychosis in Literature and Film (Wesleyan University Press 2006--the book's cover is shown at right, a black-and-white image of two young white women embracing). Coffman traces the cultural roots and expressions of the stereotype of the "insane lesbian" across the 20th century, from a murder trial in 1930s France, through film and literature.

And while I'm on the subject of intersections between criminology, GLBTQ history and disability history in the 20th century, I read an old friend's new book recently, Jackie Blount's Fit to Teach: Same-Sex Desire, Gender, and School Work in the Twentieth Century (SUNY Press 2005), in which she follows the struggle of gay and lesbian teachers against widespread employment discrimination in the US. One story (p. 113) is from the world of Deaf education in 1970:
Only a year after the Stonewall riot, a counselor at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford lost his job immediately after he discussed gay rights on television. The young man, who had served as an officer of the Kalos Society: Gay Liberation, Hartford, had agreed to participate in a televised panel discussion on gay liberation and society. He would attempt to fight his dismissal. However, around this time, the Journal of the American Bar Association released poll results indicated that respondents 'considered homosexuality a crime second only to murder or to murder or to murder and armed robberty.' Despide this considerable public hostility, other educators besides the West Hartford counselor would begin standing up as well, even if termination were inevitable.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Disability Blog Carnival #11 is up NOW!

Go check it out--Alexander at has organized a fine digest of recent disability blogging. The Carnival's next stop is Tokah's blog, From Where I'm Sitting--you can submit links to recent posts of interest through the form, or by emailing or commenting (here or there, the link will get where it needs to be). Deadline is April 9, for an April 12 carnival edition.

Fresh new logo (at left) is by Blue from the Gimp Parade--featuring the white marble Alison Lapper Pregnant statue by Marc Quinn, against a blue sky, behind "disability blog carnival" in red. Thanks, Blue!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Good news

Michael Bérubé is returning to blogging.

(There's a lot of other good news in the world, I'm sure, but that's the bit I'm celebrating right this minute.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Disability History Image: Newspaper vendor, 1896

Alice Austen (1866-1952) was a prolific amateur photographer of New York's Gilded Age. She made thousands of photographs, images of ships and automobiles, bootblacks and policemen, beachgoers and organ grinders, cyclists and postmen. The image above (click it to enlarge) is an Alice Austen photograph found in the New York Public Library's online galleries. It shows a woman selling newspapers on the streets of New York. She's bundled up, in a hat and coat and a long blanket covering her legs and feet; and she's in a wheelchair with very thin rear wheels, much like an old-style bicycle. Notice that the legs of the table in front of her have been raised up on bricks to fit her chair under it. In the background, there's a horse-drawn trolley, and behind that a bank building. Is she reading, or sleeping, with her cheek resting in her hand? According to the website, this photo was taken in 1896.

Much later in her life, photographer Alice Austen herself used a wheelchair, after arthritis affected her mobility. The image at right is Austen at the Staten Island Farm Colony, a public poorhouse where she lived, 1950-1951; the man in the photograph, Oliver Jensen (1914-2005), was a Life magazine staffer and small-press editor who helped rediscover Austen's glass-plate negatives in the Staten Island Historical Society. He published some of her photos and sold others to major magazines to raise money to get her out of the poorhouse and into a private nursing home for the last months of her life.

Monday, March 12, 2007

March 12: Dorrit Hoffleit (b. 1907)

I am sorry to say I am slowing down, and have only five publications this year.
--Dorrit Hoffleit, at age 98

She's got cataracts now, and she uses a "walking stick." She retired from Yale thirty-five years ago. Most weekdays, she goes in to her department office, checks her email, and works on journal articles, because the research is her life-long love.

Happy birthday to the oldest living woman astronomer in the US, Dorrit Hoffleit, turning 100 today.

[Image: Black-and-white photo of Dorrit Hoffleit, smiling, in a light-colored cardigan and a dark top]

Disabilities Blog Carnival is now up

The latest Disability Blog carnival on HIV/AIDS and disabilities is now up at HIV/AIDS, Deafness & Disabilities.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

AAG 2007 Geographies of Disability Symposium

Consider this your invitation to join Penny Richards, Mike Dorn and other subscribers of the GEOGABLE (Geography and Disabilities) listserv at this year’s Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting. Follow this link to learn more about the activities being organized by the AAG Disability Specialty Group for San Francisco, April 17 – 21, 2007.

Thanks to the hard work of the DSG officers, members and friends over the summer and fall of 2006, the AAG 2007 Geographies of Disability Symposium now stretches across two days - Thursday, April 19, and Friday, April 20. Do also check out the other interesting sessions we are sponsoring on Tuesday, April 17 and Wednesday, April 18. Social events for San Francisco during the conference are still in the planning stages. Why not volunteer to help us organize and publicize fun Bay Area events during the conference?

Information on registration, hotel information and how to arrange for necessary accommodations at the AAG 2007 conference information can be found on the 2007 AAG Conference Pages. Phone 202-234-1450 or email the disability coordinator Juana Ibanez with accommodation requests as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Next Blogging"

The "next blog" button at the top of Blogger is a temptation I don't need, most of the time...but I took a "next blogging" detour today, and found some disability-related blogs and content that I might not have caught otherwise...

Daniella Zalcman at The One Train is a student in New York City, who enjoys photographing people. Stranger 067 is a wheelchair user who looks to be enjoying a recent Mardi Gras celebration.

Ottoette at On Line On Life On Insulin is diabetic, and writing about pregnancy, midlife motherhood, exercise, getting older, losing weight, all that.

Lois Grebowski at the Lowdown from Lois writes about the Happy Man--"odd...harmless...just happy"--a "ministry of one"--who frequents a bus-stop bench near a Nashville hospital, singing, dancing, and shouting for joy. Is he someone with a disability? The "neighborhood character" niche has often been occupied by disabled people, so, could be... anyway, Lois salutes him.

One Word is a writer's blog by Zhoen in Boston MA. The one-word prompt for the latest entry is "Bath." The writer recalls a visit to a women's bathhouse in San Francisco:
I have long remembered those women, comfortable with their various bodies, stretch marks, bulges, scars and tattoos. I have seen many bodies in my work, all shapes and sizes, desperately ill, or generally healthy, painfully thin or floppy obese, a 100 lb. pannis that had to be suspended over the OR table to keep it from pulling her body off the table. Boob jobs denied, and tummy tucks exposed, or begged for by the normal sized, the lies congregate. I have had lifelong opportunities to reorient my assumptions, that only the thin and pretty find love, that beauty is immutable and measurable. That bath drew it all together for me, brought me to the same level, included me. Not just reassurance for others, I could take my own advice, and be fine.

Monday, March 05, 2007

HIV/AIDS and Disabilities Blog Carnival is now March 10th

The HIV/AIDS, Deafness and Disabilities Blog,, was scheduled to host the Disabilities Blog Carnival starting on March 8th on the topic of HIV/AIDS and people with disabilities but the posting of the Carnival has been postponed until Saturday March 10. In the meantime, additional suggestions for websites that should be included are welcome--just post links and a short description of why you think a website is important in the comments below.

In the meantime, March 8th is the big Blogging Against Sexism Day, so look forward to all your blogs against sexism!

Only the tip of the iceberg

In scanning the Sunday morning menu of news programs, the non-hygienic and deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Medical Facility was the topic du jour. As one would expect, there was rhetoric both trying to explain actions taken to remedy the problem, as well as, aggressive statements minimizing the issue.

The journalist Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who conducted a thorough four month investigation of the facility, explained that she had spoken with the various parties involved. Initially she had been contacted by a person who knew someone who was very frustrated with the poor living conditions at this renowned military health facility. She soon discovered that it was not one or even ten people who were appalled by these conditions but a significant number of patients' families and others who had access to the interior of this outpatient infirmary.

Now this story has opened a Pandora's Box from which different voices are resounding and into which the public is peering.

I have utmost respect for those women and men who are returning from Iraq, with and without medical impairments. What disturbs me is that the same deplorable conditions and substandard care and services are every day occurrences in the lives of many people with disabilities, as well as the elderly, who are living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The United States government is quick to covet credit as the world's most developed and advanced country yet under its very eyes, we see physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in these facilities.

There have been sporadic investigative reports through the years of the conditions in nursing homes but there is never a resonating unified public outcry for surveillance and for humane corrective action to be enforced.

We all respect and honor those who have been injured by a historical misadventure, the Iraq war, of which they had no part in creating. We the public should not express any less shock or demand any less purposeful and immediate action against the living conditions that demoralize people with disabilities and the elderly who live in facilities in situations that would never be tolerated by these in power if they were themselves to residence of the same facilities.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

March 3: Doc Watson (b. 1923)

Bluegrass and folk music legend Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson (shown at left, embracing a guitar) was born on this date 84 years ago, in Stoney Fork, Watauga County, North Carolina. He was blind from infancy. Watson's environment from early childhood was rich in traditional music, from his mother's singing lullabyes to the family's evening shape-note singing to the church where his father led the congregation in Southern hymns. He started playing a harmonica around the age of 6, and took up stringed instruments beginning with the fretless banjo his father built for him when he was 11. Watson attended the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, beginning in 1933. It was in Raleigh that he first heard jazz guitar, including a chance to hear Django Reinhardt. Watson began to develop his own style on guitar, and in about 1940 he began playing guitar for tips in Lenoir, NC. From there he was encouraged to enter amateur shows and folk-music festivals. He married in 1947 and with two children to support, he became a piano tuner until 1953, when he was hired to play guitar in a western swing band, Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen.

Watson gained a national reputation after appearing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 and 1964. He was paired with Bill Monroe for some shows, and recordings of those shows were immediate bootleg treasures (they were later released by Smithsonian Folkways). At many other shows over the years, Watson's son Merle (1949-1985) accompanied him--as driver between shows, and on guitar on stage. Since 1988, Doc Watson has hosted "Merlefest," a huge traditional music festival held every April at Wilkes Community College. Watson and his wife live in Deep Gap, NC.

Mark Watson's birthday 2007-style--checkout some good YouTube videos of his performances: Tennessee Stud (played with Ricky Skaggs, Earl Scruggs, and others), Down in the Valley (with Skaggs and Alison Krauss), or Make me a Pallet on the Floor (apparently from Japanese TV, given the captions). (There are loads of others, but these have the best audio.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Indiana Eugenics: History and Legacy, 1907-2007

From the press release posted on H-Eugenics; also found at the centennial project's website; links added.
On April 9, 1907 the Governor of Indiana signed into law a bill passed by the state legislature that is widely regarded as the world’s first eugenic sterilization legislation. To mark the centennial anniversary of this legislation, the following events will provide a forum to reflect on the legacy and relevance of this history to current discussions on reproductive rights, applications of genetic science, and our best intentions to improve the lives of people in our communities.

April 12, 2007

PUBLIC EXHIBIT OPENING: “Human Farming: Sowing the Perfect Seed --1907-2007”
Indiana State Library

SYMPOSIUM: “History and Legacy of Indiana Eugenics”
Free and open to the Public; Registration recommended

8:30AM - NOON:

Featured speakers: Daniel J. Kevles, Yale University
and Joe Palca, NPR science correspondent

12:30PM - 1:00PM:
Dedication of the Historical Marker recognizing Eugenic Legislation and repeal

2:00PM - 5:00PM: “Understanding State & Local Eugenics -- Its Relevance to Contemporary Issues”
Featuring: Scholars of the history of eugenics in other states, Current practitioners in mental health, obstetrics/gynecology, and medical & molecular genetics

Judi-Ann Izuka-Campbell
[Image: the "Human Farming" exhibit poster, showing three ears of corn in ascending size, next to a black-and-white vintage image of two men standing in a field, one shorter than the other, holding a shorter plant than the other.]