This blog is about reconciling the two worlds of disability understanding. On one side are the strong voices of activists in the disability community. On the other is the well meaning but naïve/ ignorant able bodied population who see disability as something pitiable. As an able bodied person who has realized the very compelling and interesting arguments about society and life coming from the disability community, I am compelled to referee the exchanges between the two sides. Often times it seems that everyone is speaking so loudly and with such great conviction that the other doesn't even listen. Since I am not personally motivated by either side, I can weigh both sides of the arguments and hopefully facilitate an open and accepting space for both sides to express themselves and learn about each other. Please join the discussion!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Trying to Fix a Disability

There has been a bunch in the news recently about Autism. I learned here that researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago will be focusing their efforts on finding the cause. This made me curious though. With many physical disabilities, I've learned that people don't think of them as things to be fixed but just the way they are. I would even venture to say that part of the definition of "Disability" is a condition that persists over time, not something temporary. Is Autism different? What is the general belief about Autism, that it should be fixed or that it's something to live with? I would definitely agree that regardless, it is a good thing to research a cause so that Autism can be prevented in the future perhaps.

I would imagine however that it causes mixed feelings for someone with autism to support preventing a condition which is a very big part of their own life. How does a person with Autism or with any disability for that matter, feel at peace with their abilities while at the same time working to make sure that their condition does not befall others? Can any readers provide some insight?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Myo Electric Arm?

Check out this post over on Bums & Bellybuttons:
"Why is a wheelchair scarier than fat or black skin? Why is it worse? WHY HAS NO ONE WRITTEN A MUSICAL ABOUT IT???? " Great question... What do you all think?
Like it or not, it does seem to be true. Off the top of my head, I'd say that a person in a wheelchair is scarier than fat people, black people etc because far fewer people have any experience with someone in a wheelchair. Even if you don't know people of other races, you see them on TV, on the street... People with disabilities on the other hand are more hidden from view. We are afraid of what we don't know, and that is why there won't be a musical about people with disabilities until the world gets some good solid exposure to them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Context for Disability Videos

A few years ago I spent some time working on a program to teach kids about disabilities. One of the things that has stayed with me the most was a lesson we learned from educators: be wary of teaching about disabilities through experiential tactics. When you blind-fold a kid and tell them to walk around, they learn that it is really hard to be blind. But those short lessons mostly reinforce the negative thoughts we have about the disabled, how life is much harder, more difficult, maybe even pitiful. While it is good to learn that disabilities make life harder in many respects, that is an incomplete lesson. People with disabilities learn new ways to interact with the world, and I doubt that those lessons can be taught without necessity.

I say all these things to give some context to video posts about people with disabilities such as the one I recently posted here about Frozen Pizza and this one about going grocery shopping. I believe that these films were made to illustrate that having a disability makes simple things in life very laborious. That is true, and it's hard not to get that impression from these films.

But an initial able bodied perspective of these videos may be incomplete. For the people in these films, this is their way of life. They have adjusted to use the abilities thy have. I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say that their lives are not all pain and difficulty. While that may not be the lesson the videos are trying to teach, it is an important thing to keep in mind.

Pizza Poll

Also referenced on Wheelie Catholic is a video of a man in a wheelchair making a frozen pizza. I think this is a really interesting video just because of all the ways we could react to it. As a quick poll, watch the video and post a comment of how you reacted to it.

A) Felt bad for the man because it was so hard for him to make the pizza.
B) Thought it was cool to see the tricks and devices he used to accomplish his goal.
C) Was interested to watch a disabled person for such a long time.
D) Was frustrated with his difficulties.
E) Thought he should have made a simpler meal.
F) Other, write you own thoughts!

Reflection on the blog

I guess, after writing a couple posts on this blog, I'm finally figuring out what it's about: talking about disabilities in a way that the able bodied don't often hear. This talk is of course very common within the disability community, but from my experience, it doesn't often get out.

Here is a great post by Ruth over at Wheelie Catholic that delivers on the kind of stuff I'm interested in. Thanks for your thoughtful post Ruth. Here's a snippit for you lazy clickers:

"Seeing disability as a disadvantage does a disservice to all of us. It denigrates the creative, resourceful solutions that people find while living in a world that is not universally designed. Such a view , unfortunately, grows things like shame, fear and despair in its garden rather than nurturing the human spirit and embracing the individuality of each of us."

You go girl! Tell 'em. These are the kind of thoughts that this blog is about. Are these the kind of things that readers are interested in? What would you like to see more of on this blog?
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