Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kids and disability culture

[Image description: A three-story dollhouse, with an elevator running through the center of the design.]
Kids want and enjoy toys that reflect their own experiences--and for more and more kids today, their experiences include disability, whether first-hand or in their family, friends, neighborhoods, and classrooms. Bint Alshamsa recently blogged about the dearth of appropriate toys, riffing from the "Trache-ing Elmo" post at Kintropy in Action.

Which was all on my mind when I read this paragraph about the Green Dollhouse Project, a design competition held by the Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education in San Mateo County, earlier this year:
During all the negotiations, the children kept gravitating to what we call the Elevator House (but which is officially called Rosaceae Sustainus) to play. So, we had an inkling of which one should win the Kids' Choice Award. The children particularly loved the hand-cranked elevator in the middle of the house. This house was open, making the spaces easily accessible, and it also included a grey water system with shell sinks.
So an open, accessible dollhouse with an elevator was a clear winner with the kids--even while the adults preferred other models. (UPDATE: The Elevator House entry was designed by a Portland OR firm, WGS.)

Now, dollhouses and other toys have had elevators for a while; but the Barbie dollhouses I've seen online have elevators for a single standing doll only--her friend Becky couldn't use them (nor any of the doors in Barbie's dream house). The old Playskool parking garage had an external elevator for cars--so that was big enough for the little wooden dolls to use in multiples, and if they had a Playskool wheelchair it would probably work fine in that elevator too--but it'll only take you to the roof of the parking garage, hmmm...

If you shop for holiday gifts for children this season, notice what's available to promote a sense of inclusion; and what reflects the everyday diversity kids know and accept already. Why shouldn't we try to find toys that support and encourage that?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Embellished cast

Found this on the blog of artist Aileen Roberts, it's what she did for her sister's cast:We should all have such cool sisters! (Go see it at Aileen's blog to catch the other side of the design.) Reminds me of the bling kit Sara's true love gave her, to decorate her leg. Or my own son's Christmas stockings. Kinda gives holiday decorating a whole new dimension, eh?

Disability Blog Carnival #25 is up NOW!

Kara Sheridan starts us into the second year of the Disability Blog Carnival with a fine edition built around the simple prompt "If..." IF you go have a peek, you'll find plenty of wistfulness and wondering, counterfactuals and contingencies, dreams and visions... and an autumnal handcycle tour that's not at all imaginary, and gorgeous to join, if only in a virtual sense. Go, find poetry, art, video, dogs, young folks, old folks, and a lot of terrific writing too.

Next edition will be hosted by Greg at Pitt Rehab, who asks, "How do you relax, unwind?" The deadline for submissions is November 5, so start relaxing now; it's important to fully research your subject before writing, isn't it? Watch for the Carnival to post on November 8, unless the Boston Red Sox win the World Series the week before--in which case Greg might need a few extra days to accommodate his celebrations. You can submit links for consideration by leaving a comment here, or with Greg, or using the form. As always, huge thanks to the hosts and other participants for making this carnival a vibrant and active part of the disability blogging community.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where There's Smoke

Although the name of the blog is Disability Studies, Temple U., and Temple U. is in Philadelphia, you can learn from the sidebar that I'm not--I'm in Southern California. Redondo Beach is nowhere near any of the wildfires in the news, and we're not in any danger of evacuation or road closings here. But...

We're seeing ashfall. It's not Pompeii after the eruption of Vesuvius, but cars parked outside get a fine dusting. And if you look closely, there are ash particles floating around in the air everywhere. That means there must also be smaller-than-visible particles in every breath. Our Air Quality Index on the coast today is at U--U for "unhealthy." (There are actually two worse designations: V, for "very unhealthy," and H, for "hazardous.") Schools are advised to cancel outdoor physical activities. People are rubbing their eyes on every corner. Throats burn, and we're all coughing a lot. I'm keeping my little-used inhaler handy.

For most folks, it's a minor, temporary problem, and they're grateful that's all we're getting here. But for people with existing heart, lung, or other health conditions; for people whose jobs have them working outdoors all day; and for older people and little kids, this can be a serious, even life-threatening matter. So when you see the satellite images of the smoke plumes, or hear about how many square miles are burned, remember that a much wider area is affected by these events in less dramatic ways (no good television footage to gain from asthmatic gasping, or kids sitting indoors instead of having recess). And disabled people are often feeling it more than most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Swing

Visual description: A blue accessibility placard with the word "SWING" under the usual symbol; attached to a horizontal bar, to which a heavy-duty playground chain is attached; against a background of trees and blue sky.

For Wordless Wednesday. Taken at the Shane's Inspiration playground in Griffith Park, in Los Angeles, on Sunday.

And the theme of the next Disability Blog Carnival is....


So says Kara Sheridan at If the World Had Wheels, host of the next edition of the Carnival. She even made us a nice red-and-black graphic (at right) for the event! She tells me, "I’m more interested in motivating more people to participate than sticking too closely to the chosen theme," so don't be shy, submit your own posts or other bloggers' posts for consideration at the form, or leave a comment here, or with Kara, by the evening of Monday the 22nd.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 13: Art Tatum (1909-1956)

Piano genius and jazz legend Art Tatum was born on this date in 1909, in Toledo, Ohio. He had limited vision from congenital cataracts, and lost much of his remaining sight when he was assaulted at age 20. Tatum was a child prodigy, teaching himself to play by attending to his mother's player piano rolls. By six, he was playing duets alone--that is, he was playing with two small hands what was originally written for four adult hands. Into adulthood, he developed an original and influential style that was widely admired (and still is). But writing about music, you know... just listen:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Disability Blog Carnival #24: The 1st Anniversary Edition

Welcome to the first anniversary edition of the Disability Blog Carnival!
Got your sparkly frock ready for the gala? No? That's fine. Blogging, and this blog carnival in particular, are all about "come as you are." And "as you are" is spectacular. Don't doubt that for a minute: the diverse disability blogging community is strong, thoughtful, funny, eloquent, creative, committed and punctual. Punctual? Well, yeah. We've had 23 previous editions of the carnival--exactly as scheduled, nobody flaked, nobody even posted late without warning. Many, many blog carnivals fade away after a few editions, or publish irregularly, unable to gin up the enthusiasm or volunteers to sustain a regular frequency. Enthusiasm and volunteers we have never lacked.

Here are the links to the previous 23 editions of the carnival:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

It's become a Thursday morning treat (for me, and I know for others) to see what the latest host has concocted from the most recent submissions. Thanks the hosts Kay Olson, David Gayes, The Goldfish, Emma Crees, Stephen and Connie Kuusisto, Daniel Goldberg, Mark Siegel, Leila Monaghan, Amanda Baggs, Leonard Alexander, Tokah, Kathryn, Jana Remy, Andrea Chandler, Jennifer Justice, Hala, Zephyr, and Jodi Reimer for taking your turns at the helm. Each of you brought something wonderful and unique to the job. And additional thanks to the many, many others who wrote entries, submitted links, left comments, mentioned the carnival to others, or just read and enjoyed. Here's to continuing and building this community event into year two and beyond!

Why is the Disability Blog Carnival worthwhile? As Able Writer Says, it's sometimes hard to get disability culture and news from other online sources without a lot of misinformation and disablism. (The media situation is improving, says Connie Kuusisto, but there's much more work to be done.) Because, as Angry for a Reason explains, TV writers are still labeling an improbable proportion of the "bad guys" with words like "borderline," and somebody has to notice. Because it's not just a corrective, but a celebration, an unbounded, joyous, riotous, loud, disturbing, defiant space, like a carnival should be, Wheelchair Dancer reminds us.

The theme set for this edition was, perhaps appropriately, "Milestones." I knew I was choosing a fraught word when I went with that particular metaphor. Ettina begins an excellent post for this edition with an important Public Service Announcement:
Person 1: What's got him so upset?
Person 2: He's got a bad case of mile stones.
Person 1: Oh, yeah, I know how that hurts. You just feel so useless when your mile stones are acting up.
Voice Over: Mile stones can be good for you, but excess mile stones are harmful. They sap away the pride in your achievements and interfere with caring for yourself. A related condition is Shoulda Syndrome. Shoulda Syndrome is characterized by thinking 'shoulda done this' 'shoulda done that'. If you have Shoulda Syndrome, mile stones might be the underlying cause.
Wait till the pharmaceutical companies figure out the market on treating "excess mile stones," eh? Shiloh suggests one group that may be prone to mistreating their milestones. Andrea's experiencing the midlife milestones with a new round of medical complications. Greg at Pitt Rehab is also passing a midlife milestone: "At 40 I am much more capable of handling changes. I am much more thankful for the people in my life. I am better educated about the world around me. I would like to think more patient and empathetic with people in general." Bruce also takes the opportunity of the theme to look at where he's been, and where he's going: "In the 2000's you can just call us Nanny and PaPa, like our grandaughter."

Developmental milestone charts like the one at left are the bane of many parents--"what to expect," ha!--ask Emily Elizabeth, who calls them her Arch Nemesis. David describes the milestones game from the kid's perspective: "...when you are a child growing up with a disability, many people...focus solely on your milemarkers, as though the milemarkers and the journey are one and the same." David has some insightful reminders about the folly of watching the milemarkers instead of the road itself, and the beauty along the way. And Dream Mom has a wise, personal post about her son's prospects, concluding "I need to just love him for who he is, not what he didn't become. I guess in the end, none of that matters, or maybe it never did."

So maybe sometimes we mark the passage of time, events and achievements in our own ways--disability culture, anyone? Wheelyfast agrees: "Most people probably don’t get why this is such a big deal, but it is a big deal to me." Hannah has found a fun way to mark the outgrowing of one's AFOs--and I bet all the standard-issue Elmos are jealous. Kristina Chew offers a few pointers about transitions in 3, 5, 8, What Awaits. Jodi at Reimer Reason is thrilled by teen behavior (how often can a parent say that?): "He rolled his eyes at me. It was age appropriate. It was great. I'm celebrating." Catherine at Charming BB has composed a Seuss-inspired post about the many appointments with specialists she's attended with her son in the past year. Here's the last stanza:

We've made it a year, it went pretty fast,
I'm hoping our medlationships last last last last,

and that we always avoid the smelly spica cast.

Stephen Kuusisto took note of the anniversary of receiving his first guitar, which brought him to ponder how "music and poetry are daily milestones." (Speaking of poetry, Pedestrian Hostile has been musing on rocks and building and creativity too.) And the Resident Alien confessed to her first (and maybe last) time "cussing someone out."

Several disability-related blogs have marked milestones lately: the excellent Special Education Law Blog maintained by Charles P. Fox passed its second anniversary last month, by observing Lessons Learned. Dave Hingsburger celebrated one year of Chewing the Fat this week, and decided not to hit the 'erase blog' button (whew!). McNair marked his 300th post at Disabled Christianity, saying "I have grown to believe that people with disabilities are designed to be as they are because they are critical, they are an essential part of the body of Christ." On the downside, the literary journal Mindprints has recently ceased publication, prompting an elegy from DisPoet.

Some of the Down syndrome blogging community is observing Down Syndrome Awareness Month with "Get it Down: 31 for 21" in October, with members pledging to post every single day of the month to tell more stories and be more visible. Among them, Bits of Betsy explains how "you start to realize that it will be o.k. Its o.k. to take it a bit slower and to meander through the milestones instead of racing through them." From a very different context, a similar sentiment on action and achievement: "Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love at which we do them," wrote St. Therese of Lisieux, whose October 1 feast day was marked by Daisy. Need a vision of beauty, of youth, of promise? Check out "Our First Framed Portraits," photographs of and by the Teen Possibles of Nova Scotia.

And finally, literal milestones--like, the ones that actual mark off the miles (or kilometers)--we see those too. Elizabeth McClung and her partner recently rolled/ran in a 5K for breast cancer research in Victoria. And my own family will be walking/rolling/scootering in a 5K for accessible playgrounds this weekend. Fingers crossed for good weather, please! (Photo at right is my family with some USC student helpers in last year's 5K--I took it, so I'm not in the shot.)

Ruth at Wheelie Catholic says that the Carnival is a chance to leave markers and find each other's markers along the road--I've enjoyed finding your markers, and I hope you've found a few worth noting too. So keep posting, and we'll keep gathering twice a month to bring it all to the Carnival.

Next time, the Carnival goes to Kara Sheridan's blog, If the World Had Wheels, on October 25. (Kara recently organized the the first annual Anti-Telethon Blogswarm, so she's proven more than ready to organize a mass of links and viewpoints!) When I find out the theme, I'll edit this to include that too. But the drill hasn't changed: you can submit links at the form, or by leaving a comment here, or by emailing me or Kara, it'll get to us somehow for consideration.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Recognizing a lifetime of activism and passion

My boss Diane Nelson Bryen, Executive Director of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, has just been notified that she will be receiving the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities [AUCD], in recognition of her lifetime of accomplishments for and with the disability community, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania certainly, but also nationally and internationally. The awards cermony was held during the AUCD annual meeting, Wednesday, November 14, 2007 from 8:45 to 10:00 am at the Renaissance Washington Hotel, Washington, DC.

When you get a chance, why not send her a note of congratulations? Mike

October 9: Jody Williams (b. 1950)

I have a deaf schizophrenic brother that people were mean to when I was young. I couldn't understand why people would be mean to him because he was deaf. That translated into wanting to stop bullies being mean to...people, just because they are weak.

--Jody Williams
American teacher and 1997 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams, founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, on what started her into global justice work. In a 2001 speech, she elaborated:
I'll tell you why I care. My brother was born deaf, he cannot hear a sound. My brother cannot speak. In adolescence he developed severe violent schizophrenia. He is 54 years old. My family has lived with severe disability my entire life. I have no doubt about the impact of disability on a family and a community.

I live in the United States of America where there is some possibility to help the disabled. But let me tell you there's still a lot of gaps here, too. And when I think about that reality, and I think about the people here from the poorest countries in the world trying to live with disability, trying to provide for their families when they can barely manage on a daily basis, I care very deeply and very profoundly. I feel it in my bones because of my own experience.

Williams turns 57 today. "When we began, we were just three people sitting in a room. It was utopia. None of us thought we would ever ban land mines. I never thought it would happen in just six years," she told the Boston Globe.

Monday, October 08, 2007

We do know better

We may call on the surgeon for any act upon an individual which is to benefit him. We may not treat him as we do with our cattle, for the benefit of ourselves or the state.

--Alexander Johnson, "Report of the Committee on Colonies for and Segregation of Defectives," Proceedings of the National Conference on Charities and Correction, 1903.
Happened upon this quote in an article I've assigned for my online course in US disability history this week. We're reading about the history of eugenic sterilization laws, policies, and practices this week. The idea that all disabled people, all convicted criminals, all poor folks should be sterilized once made sense to a frightening lot of Americans. It's heartening to know that, even at the height of the eugenics movement, some folks realized it was wrong, and said so, like in the quote above. Johnson and his committee were all heads of state schools for "feebleminded" children, and they all objected to the idea that sterilization should be added to their duties. In the end, their position was vindicated, but not before many thousands of routine sterilizations were performed in the next several decades, often without consent or even truthful explanations.

I wish this quote wasn't quite so timely. I wish folks didn't talk about major surgery as a casual thing (even when it's medically necessary, it's a big deal, with plenty of pain and risk, no matter what it looks like on TV). I wish the child's rights and interests were taken seriously. I wish folks weren't so squeamish about ordinary bodily functions. I wish people wouldn't use the "unless you're a parent like me you can't understand" line of defense, because that presumes parents like me understand, and I don't.

I wish we knew better. Oh wait, we do.

More on the same subject (I'll be updating these links as necessary):
Biodiverse Resistance
Falling Off My Pedestal
Miss Crip Chick's Weblog
(and more from FRIDA, and more still from FRIDA)
Wheelchair Dancer
(and more from Wheelchair Dancer)
My Beautiful Wickedness
Tiny Cat Pants
The Life and Times of Emma
Brown Femipower
(and more from Brown Femipower)
The Strangest Alchemy
(and more from The Strangest Alchemy, and still more from The Strangest Alchemy)
Ryn Tales Book of Days
Jemma Brown (at Ouch!)
Kintropy in Action
Wheelie Catholic
Planet of the Blind
Growing Up with a Disability
Not Dead Yet News & Commentary
Terrible Palsy
Andrea's Buzzing About
The Gimp Parade
Arthritic Young Thing
Pipecleaner Dreams
A Tedious Delusion
A Renegade Evolution
Lisy Babe's Blog
Mind the Gap Cardiff
Diary of a Goldfish
Bad Cripple
Big Noise
Quench Zine
Modus Dopens
Sunny Dreamer
Walking is Overrated
Nickie's Nook
Benefit Scrounging Scum
Fetch Me My Axe
Text and the World
Bastante Already
R. Mildred
The Voyage
Maman Poulet
The Seated View

NOTE: After the last round on this topic, when we had lovely comments comparing people like my son to doorstops and turnips (thanks so much, CNN, for sending the anonymous hate this way), I'm just not going to respond to anonymous or ugly comments. In truth, I might not respond to any comments. I've got a carnival edition to assemble.

Look who turned up for the October Meetup!

Panorama taken at our DS Meetup, originally uploaded by Edu-Tourist.

We had a great turnout for our monthly Disability Studies Meetup at Temple University's TECH Center. It definitely had a literary and artistic flair. Carol asked each attendee to write down the name that they would like to give to their autobiography. I think we have the notes somewhere, but my favorite title was "I Learned Everything from Carol."

The more formal program consisted of a presentation by Sarah Drury on some of the basic computer circuitry that underlay eVokability, a project to expand the emotional expressive range of people with disabilities through new media. Photos from the public performance of the eVokability: The Walking Project can be seen elsewhere on this blog.

Shoutout to Lydia for the bringing the veggies! We are open to suggestions on artists and performers to bring in next month, in conjuction with the Philadelphia's own Independence Starts Here Festival of Disability Arts and Culture.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Next Week in London: Journeys into Madness, 1850-1930

From the H-Net Announcements digest:
Journeys Into Madness: The Representation of Mental Illness in the Arts and Sciences , 1850-1930

The conference Journeys into Madness: Representing Mental Illness in the Arts and Sciences, 1850-1930 will take place at the Wellcome Collection Conference Centre, London, on 11 and 12 October 2007. This conference has been supported by the University of Plymouth, the Wellcome Trust and the British Academy. To book your place, please contact Gemma Blackshaw. Payment can be sent electronically or by post.
The program includes papers on "male hysteria," the rest cure, asylum photography, German psychiatry, patients' writings, farm work, art brut, avant-garde film, asylum art, trauma... check it out. Even when I can't possibly attend, I love looking at conference programs, seeing who's doing what...

Monday, October 01, 2007

2008 CDSA-ACEI Conference Call for Proposals

Forwarded by Dawna Lee Rumball, University of British Columbia (Vancouver)

I just wanted to give a shout out to the academic community about the call for papers for the 2008 Canadian Disability Studies Association/Association Canadienne des Études sur l'Incapacité Conference. Note that the deadline for submissions is November 22, 2007.

From my past service as Communications Officer (English), plus attending the CDSA-ACEI conference last year, I know both undergraduate and graduate students are especially encouraged to submit proposals.

Please be advised there is no funding available from CDSA-ACEI for anyone attending the conference. Check with your university regarding funding for conferences, especially if you are accepted as a presenter at the CDSA-ACEI conference.

Individual requests for disability services and accommodations during the CDSA-ACEI conference such as ASL interpreting, CART/Real-time voice-to-text interpreting, alternate formats for printed and visual materials, etc., must be booked well in advance with the Conference Coordinator.

Disability History and Awareness Month

For readers living in North Carolina, today is the first day of Disability History and Awareness Month, as declared by your legislatures and signed by your governors. In West Virginia, October is Disability Awareness Month, and the third week of October is Disability History Week. Other states (Idaho, Iowa, Florida, Connecticut) are in the process of considering similar legislation. These designations came about through the work of young disability rights activists, who are learning how government works by meeting with officials, writing letters, and drafting such declarations. A designated week or month may not add any ramps to your neighborhood or stop any hate crimes, but it's evidence that a new generation of kids are getting trained to do the tedious stuff that will get a ramp built, a law changed, a law made, a law enforced...