Thursday, February 28, 2008

Disability Blog Carnival #32 is up now!

[Image description: The first Disability Blog Carnival logo, designed by Kay Olson of the Gimp Parade in 2006, which shows a parking sign reading "Somewhat Disabled," and the caption "Disability Blog Carnival (come share the uncertainty)"]

Shiloh has rounded up a selection of recent posts that comment about the everyday frustrations, decisions, and strategies of living with a disability, in the snow, among clueless mattress salesmen, with wicked dreams of guerrilla bathroom modification... yeah, you're going to have to read to learn more about all that.

The next edition of the Disability Blog Carnival will run on March 13, at Wheelie Catholic. Ruth has chosen the theme "Appreciating Allies." Deadline for entries is March 10--you can submit links at the form, or in comments here, or by emailing me--Ruth's blog doesn't allow comments, so that's not an option this round.

Want to host an edition of the Carnival? Contact me! We have openings in April, June, and July to book now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

February 26: Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913)

[Image description: an oval framed, black-and-white portrait of a young woman in an embroidered blouse and jacket]
Who told you that I'm weak,
That I succumb to fate?
My voice is strong when I speak,
My thoughts and songs vibrate.
Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka was born Larysa Kosach on this date (more or less--depends on which calendar you follow) in 1871. From age 10, she had chronic joint and bone pain caused by tuberculous arthritis. In search of relief, she traveled a lot to warmer places, seaside towns on the Crimea, in Italy, in Egypt, and elsewhere. Her parents taught their children Ukrainian language and culture, when such things were banned in the Russian-run schools. As a result, she took the pen name "Ukrainka" (Ukrainian woman), and published poetry, drama, essays, and literary criticism, all informed by her study of Ukrainian folktales, history, and culture. Her controversial works had to be published in another part of Ukraine, outside Russian jurisdiction. (She also published translations, including a 1902 translation of the Communist Manifesto, which got her arrested.) The ferocity of her cultural nationalism was often contrasted with her physical "frailty," a false contrast that provoked her to write the lines above.

Today, there are monuments to Ukrainka throughout Kiev--and a boulevard named for her. There's also a monument to her at the University of Saskatchewan, and another in downtown Cleveland. Her image has been featured on Ukrainian postage, coins, and banknotes.

Lynn Manning to perform 'Weights' in DC, March 5, 2008

The George Washington University
Dorothy Betts Marvin Center Theater
801 21st Street NW, Washington, DC
Accessible entrance on I (“Eye”) Street NW, directly west of 21st

(This performance will include ASL interpretation)

At 23, Lynn Manning lost his sight completely as the result of a gunshot wound he received during a senseless bar fight. In WEIGHTS, his autobiographical one-man show, Manning brings the audience into a world of sound through storytelling, poetry, music and the rhythms of life around him.

Manning illustrates the story of his upbringing in 1960s South Central Los Angeles, and the fateful incident which led to the loss of his sight. As he sets off down the road to independence, he must confront not only his fears and the new challenges of his everyday life, but the assumptions of others and his perceived weakness as a blind man in a sighted world.

Since its debut in 2001, WEIGHTS has been performed across the United States as well as overseas, in such locations as Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Canada, and Croatia. In Los Angeles, Center Theater Group’s original 2001 production of WEIGHTS was not only critically acclaimed, but also won three NAACP Theater Awards, including Best Actor. As a television actor, Manning has appeared on 8 Simple Rules, Seinfeld and The Sinbad Show. Recognizing a need for theater and theater arts education in African American neighborhoods such as L.A.’s Watts community, Manning co-founded the Watts Village Theater Company and serves as both President of The Board and Literary Manager.

This event is the third in the lecture and performance series Disability, Social Justice, and the Body, sponsored by Disability Support Services, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Student and Academic Support Services, Multicultural Student Services Center, English, Sociology, University Writing, American Studies, and Women’s Studies.

Monday, February 18, 2008

February 19: Amy Tan (b. 1952)

Amy Tan[Image description: Amy Tan, wearing a purple and black blouse and a chunky pendant]
I have neuropathy, which makes it difficult to walk. At one point I thought I would be in a wheelchair. That's the reason for the funny shoes; they are orthopedic shoes, and they do enable me to walk – and I'm determined now to walk many miles in Bhutan. I have set my goals differently these days; I can struggle through pain and limitations if I find the right motivation. I also have seizures. I can't drive. I have to be careful if I do certain things and I'm by myself, but I'm not going to let that limit me in certain ways. I just have to adapt my life in other ways. One of my adaptations has been to have a constant companion, my dog. And I have trained my dog to do certain things to help me, to not walk into streets when I'm not paying attention, or to get help from my husband or to let me know that what I see in front of me is in fact not real. (Quote from a 2004 interview, found here.)
Popular novelist Amy Tan was born on this date in 1952, in Oakland, California. Readers who enjoy her fiction may not be aware that Tan has experienced significant neurological impairment from undiagnosed Lyme disease in 1999, as described in the quote above. She has a page at her website detailing her medical odyssey toward a diagnosis and appropriate treatment, and the everyday lasting effects of late-stage neuroborreliosis. It's also one theme in Tan's 2003 book of essays, The Opposite of Fate.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Disability Blog Carnival #31 is up NOW!

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it's..... the Wheelchair Princess, with the latest edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, built around a "Superman" theme. What topics did folks write about for that prompt? Just the usual stuff.... pedestals, heroes, toast, acupuncture, teenagers, arbitrary school rules, history, philosophy, shape-shifting, secret identities, dogs, and yoga. (But not "dogs and yoga"--that comma is important.) Slip into your leotard and cape and hold on tight.

Next edition will be hosted by Shiloh at Sunny Dreamer, where the theme "Standing Outside the Fire" has been set. No, I don't have any further information on that--UPDATE from Comments: Emma says it's a Garth Brooks song title--ask Shiloh or just write whatever that phrase stirs you to post. Deadline for submissions (in email at or at the form) is February 25, for a February 28 posting. As usual, thanks to all the writers and readers and hosts for bringing such excellent and diverse content to the Disability Blog Carnival.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wheelchair tipping?!?!

In not one, but two, countries, intentionally tipping someone's wheelchair has come up in the news lately. What's the deal? In the London Times in January, Rod Liddle suggested in an opinion piece that
"Next time you see a young person in a wheelchair, tip it over and drag the occupant to the nearest job centre, lecturing him or her all the while on the dignity of labour."
Because the only reason a young person would use a wheelchair is to avoid employment, right? (Liddle has a long record of horrid statements about disability, but this one explicitly incites violence against disabled people, an escalation on his part.)

Moving across the Atlantic, the idea is already being put into practice--by one deputy sheriff in Hillsborough Co., Florida. Brian Sterner, a quad, was stopped on a traffic violation on 29 January and taken to the station for booking. Deputy Charlotte Marshall Jones didn't believe he was really paralyzed, so she dumped his wheelchair forwards, and he (surprise!) fell to the ground. The incident was caught on the office surveillance camera (video here, but be warned--it's distressing to see), and she has been suspended without pay. Brian Sterner, it turns out, is the former director of the Florida Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center, based in Tampa. He plays wheelchair rugby with the Tampa Generals, and he's working on a PhD.

So, to recap, some young people use wheelchairs AND work AND drive. And throwing someone to the ground is a dangerously stupid way to prove anything.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tervetuloa, race fans!

The graphic at left is a pie chart of this blog's traffic today, by country, thanks to sitemeter. Yes, today, almost a third of our visitors are coming from Finland. It was the same yesterday.

Finland? Does Steve Kuusisto have something to do with this?

No. Apparently there are a lot of drag racing fans in Finland, and one of them linked to one of my entries about Reggie Showers on a Finnish-language message board. So, Tervetuloa!

UPDATE 12 FEBRUARY: Well, shoot, the pie chart updates itself--so it no longer shows the 31% Finland wedge. I promise, it was there yesterday. Ah well, just now you can see how we also have visitors from Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Poland, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Spain, Italy, Canada, India, the UK, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Thailand. Which is also pretty cool, but I'm not looking up how to say "welcome" in all the languages thus indicated...

February 11: Florynce Kennedy (1916-2000)

Florynce Kennedy[Image description: older woman in a wheelchair, wearing a bright-orange head wrap, in front of a blue house and green bower, with her middle finger raised; found here.]

"I'm just a loud-mouthed middle-aged colored lady with a fused spine and three feet of intestines missing and a lot of people think I'm crazy. Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I'm not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren't like me."

Florynce Kennedy was born on this date in 1916, in Kansas City, Missouri. One of the first African-American women to graduate from Columbia Law School, Kennedy went on to help found the National Organization of Women, the Feminist Party, the Women's Political Caucus, and the National Black Feminist Organization.

She used a wheelchair for many years, after several strokes and two heart attacks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Glenn Votes (or, access to the polls, 1940-style)

[Image description--a black-and-white news photo shows a man carrying another man across wooden planks leaving a building, with signs indicating that it's a polling location.]
This image is from Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920-1990, an online exhibit of Los Angeles Times photos, hosted by UCLA Libraries. I've drawn from this archive before, but this photo in contrast (or comparison) to so many photos from the polls this last week caught my attention anew. Glenn Switzer, the man being carried above, was a veteran disabled in World War I. To vote in Duarte, California, in 1940, he had to be carried by another man, Walter Howard. The ground looks muddy; those wooden planks are a makeshift sidewalk for pedestrian voters, but they're insufficient for Switzer's independent access, and they probably kept a lot of other folks from even trying to vote that November.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Entering the theater world, thanks to VSA arts

[Image description: Silhouetted young men and women against a bright red square backdrop.]
We don't want our younger readers to miss out on this opportunity to be introduced to the world of theater. The VSA arts Apprenticeship at the 2008 Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts provides a unique insight into the world of a professional theater for students with disabilities, ages 19 – 24, interested in expanding their theater education and knowledge. Follow the link to learn more and apply by February 25th.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Amy Votes

woman with walker at polling place
[Image description: woman with grey hair, long skirt, and walker, smiling over her shoulder, on a ramp near a sign that says "Vote Here"]

From the New York Times Polling Place Photo Project--this is Amy Pitt, voting (with a broken ankle) today in Rochester NY. Amy Pitt is (or was, in 2004) active with Metro Justice of Rochester, "an independent, grassroots, progressive membership organization, seeking a peaceful and just society....[working] for human rights, total equality, and economic and environmental justice by raising community awareness and engaging in non-violent direct action."

More accessibility-related images in the project (so far, I'll keep adding links as I find more): "Stairway to Democracy" by Brian Scott (San Francisco CA); "Handicap Access" by Kirk Bravender (Chicago IL); "QH Sign" by Anonymous (Jacksonville FL); "Privacy" by Daniel Goscha (Urbana IL); "Vote Here!" by Anonymous (Minneapolis MN); "Other Arrangements" by Eric Talerico (Sierra Vista AZ); "Primary Distortion" by Marcus C. Emerson (San Diego CA); "A Chance for All" by Anonymous (Knoxville TN); "South Philadelphia" by Anonymous (2006 Midterms, Philadelphia PA); "Birmingham, Alabama" by Louise McPhillips; "Easy Access" by Nancy Wynn (Glastonbury CT); "Access to the Hawaiian Democratic Caucus" by Bruce Behnke (Pearl City HI).

[last updated 20 February 2008]

February 5: Daisy and Violet Hilton (1908-1969)

portrait of Hilton sisters as girls[Image description: sepia-toned portrait of twin sisters, about 12 years old, seated side-by-side, with long curls and flounced dresses. Captioned: "Violet and Daisy Hilton, San Antonio Siamese Twins"]
Joined together as we are, there could be no such thing for either of us as a private life.... We are believed to share identical thrills, pains, and even diseases. The truth is that we are as different in our reactions as day and night. I, Violet, often weep over something which makes my sister chuckle. I had whooping cough a year and a half before Daisy. We did not even catch measles from each other.
Conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton were born one hundred years ago today, in Brighton, England. Their childhood was marked by exploitation and abuse, when they were displayed worldwide, and their earnings were kept by the family that, essentially, bought and owned them. At 23, they won a lawsuit for damages against their handlers, and won their legal independence too. They remained on the vaudeville circuit through the 1940s, then settled in Miami, where they ran a snack shack. They died in 1969, from the flu, at their home in Charlotte, NC.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Tuesday

polling place sign[Image description: Polling place sign, with arrow, outdoors on a brick walkway.]

In twenty states, tomorrow is a presidential primary (and it's also Mardi Gras--so vote first, then party). How accessible is your polling place? The New York Times Polling Place Photo Project isn't primarily intended to document accessibility, but by collecting images of polling places this election year, they may inadvertently create such documentation. So take a picture tomorrow, or whenever you vote; and if you can, show any access features or barriers for disabled voters.

UPDATE 2/5: My polling place is a senior center, so the wheelchair access is fine.