Disability and Language: a NY Times Article Review

This comment was left on a post by William Peace on his blog, Bad Cripple.   Therextras wrote " Thank you for an excellent expose of a typical media dissemination of
language and attitudes we would like not only to reform but squelch. I
hope you sent some response directly to the newspaper." 

Team [with]tv would like to second that remark.

Here is an excerpt from William’s post. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Disability and Language

Yesterday a long article appeared in the New York Times entitled
"Taking a Chance on a Second Child". The article was written by Michael
Winerip, a Pulitzer Prize wining writer. Mr. Winerip is a seasoned
reporter, graduate of Harvard University and a gifted writer. Yet a day
later I remain stunned and outraged by the language Winerip used. The
article in question is about Jordana Holovach, her son Jacob who is
severely disabled, and her decision to have a second "healthy" child.

The
tone of Winerip’s article is shocking. Each and every mention of
disability is overwhelmingly negative. The language is antiquated,
insulting, and devalues the life of a child and by extension all
disabled children and adults. Among the snippets I found particularly
appalling include the following:

In referring to Ms. Holovach’s son: "And as much as she loves that boy
and as hard as she’s worked to make him whole…she felt snake bit"

Ms. Holovach’s son is "confined to a wheelchair".

Ms.
Holovach’s son was responsible for her divorce: "Her first marriage
ended in divorce under the strain" and "Jacob was a big reason".

Before Ms. Holovach’s son was born "they were successful people" (note tense).

Oh don’t stop here.  Keep reading, there is more….

Then stop by Patricia E Bauer’s blog for this additional link.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

"Welcome to the 38th Disability Blog Carnival!" says Kathryn

The theme of this carnival, organized by Kathryn on her blog: Ryn Tales Book of Days, is "Spirituality and Disability"

"Many philosophers have thought
along with Descartes that "the unexamined life is not worth living".
And Shakespeare said, "Know thyself!" To that end the topic for this
carnival is about the spiritual meaning of experiencing disability
either first or secondhand in this life. I think you will find some
very thoughtful and in many cases poetic examinations of lives being
lived by the carnival’s contributors."

A great deal of thought and work is put into these Disability Blog Carnivals.  Take a few minutes, will you, to stop by, read some great posts, and say hello.   

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv
 

New Radio Show: A Different Perspective

Howard Renensland, CEO & Founder of [with]tv, has officially launched A Different Perspective, a radio program of, by and for people with disabilities…and everyone else on WebTalkRadio

Howard’s first interview is with Stephen Kuusisto, author of Planet of the Blind and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the blog Planet of the Blind.
A minor bug during the recording process via this telephone interview
resulted in a less than ideal sound quality at times, but ninor
technical difficulties aside, the content of the interview is certainly
worth a listen!

In his second interview, Howard enjoys a conversation with Dr. Scott Rains, a recognized authority and
writer on accessible travel, Universal Design, disability advocacy and
education and access to worship for people with disabilities. Dr. Rains
is also the Executive Producer of Taking the 9:05
a unique television travel program in development on what is current in
accessible travels destinations, fine dining and entertaining at home
in an accessible kitchen!

Congratulations to Howard who has been working tirelessly behind the
scenes to learn the art of being a radio show host and "engineer" – as
if he didn’t already have enough on his plate developing [with]tv!

For readers of this blog who may be deaf or hearing impaired, these
interview is being professionally transcribed and will be available
soon.  Stay tuned!

Nice T Shirt!

My friend, the physician Edwin Stone is very tall. He is closer to 7 than six feet. Another one of my friends, the poet Kenny Fries is 5 feet and a few centimeters. Last evening I had dinner with these two fine men and several loved ones.

Ed mentioned the invasive conversations he sometimes has with strangers who see him in public and who ask him things like: "Hey, do you play basketball? How did you get to be so tall?"

Both Kenny and I know a good deal about this kind of invasive questioning and of course that’s why Ed brought the matter to the table. It isn’t just the disabled body that attracts befuddled questions "out there".

We wondered about the potential of humankind to overcome its outmoded neo-classical ardor for a select human body type. We want to live free lives; lives of imagination and curiosity; lives without self-contempt or endless hand wringing about our legs or faces.

The most dreadful thing of all of course is the relentless business of metaphorizing the disabled body as a type of aesthetic sensibility. I read an interview recently with a nonfiction writer who says that he writes formless essays that are, in his mind, akin to the idea of "armlessness"—in his imagination a man without arms represents a sort of "gross deviance" which of course in this guy’s view is avant garde when rendered as a symbol for literary activity.

This is a puerile idea and its older than Ahab’s peg leg. There’s a lot of boring ableism in contemporary American literary writing. Or to put this another way: weak writers always turn the broken body into a representation of stylized abjection, a process that is both decadent and uninteresting.

I have started thinking about wearing a T shirt that says: "I’m Always Your Metaphor".

We were pleased to have hosted Kenny Fries at the University of Iowa and you can hear his marvelous radio interview and reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore by visiting their website.

S.K.

LINKS:

A Short History of Disability Poetry

The History of My Shoes: Field Work with Body and Soul

Why We Can’t Say Certain Words Anymore. Like "civil rights".

William Peace has written a compelling post about “wheelchair dumping” over at Counterpunch.

He wonders why Americans don’t see abuses against people with
disabilities or crimes against the poor or the elderly as civil rights
issues.

The answer is essentially economic: Ronald Reagan taught Americans
that anything having to do with “minorities” costs money. If a thing
costs money, why by God it must be coming out of the pockets of the
middle class.

(The analogy with Fascist Germany’s public insistence that people
with disabilities were “useless eaters” who cost the ordinary German
pocket money isn’t terribly far fetched.)

In turn, after three decades of this commonplace Reganite
sensibility, Americans can no longer afford to use the term “civil
rights” because the very utterance is a disavowal of the comfortable
assumption that social equity costs too much and will rob the suburbs.

This is why Americans only use the term “civil rights” in a
historical context. We only required civil rights in the “old days”
before the GOP fixed everything.

That’s my “take” but have a look at William Peace’s excellent essay.

S.K.

“Who’s Who”?

The next Disability Blog Carnival is scheduled for January 24th at Ryn Tale’s Book of Days.  There, Kathryn has indicated her theme will be "what professionals should know about disability".  Below is Steve’s response to that thought.

Who decides that one group is “professional” while another is “disabled”? The very question: “What professionals should know about disability” is discouraging since it replicates the cultural dissociation between the working class and the physically modified class. This disparity began with the first wave of the Industrial Revolution when factory work demanded a singular kind of human body and it’s of some interest that the term “disability” enters common English usage at that same time period. The economist Karl Marx used the word disability to denote people who were rendered unemployable by means of industrial accidents.

What’s in a word? Plenty. The term “disability” carries the early 19th century notion that a physically challenged person has no utility or worth. That the idea continues to linger well into the information age is of considerable interest.

Disability is a cultural construction. If architecture or technology is built for everyone to use “disability” disappears. IN this way disability differs from other historically marginalized social conditions.You will always be a Finn or an Apache, but you need not be disabled if you have the proper tools to get around with.
People who employ other people should be aware that there’s no such thing as disability. They should be aware that accommodations to make the work place accessible are inexpensive.

Employers who have figured this out have reliable and enthusiastic employees.

In any case, people who have disabilities are already “the professional class” and in my view the only “unprofessional” class would be any potential employer who would bar the door to a person with a physical or learning difference.

S.K.

New Article: Women's Access to Health Care

Congratulations to Kara B. Sheridan, of If the World had Wheels, for the recent publication of her article titled Women’s Access to Health Care in New Mobility, The magazine for active wheelchair users.

"Considering the mountain of barriers blocking access to health care
services for women with disabilities, it’s easy to become overwhelmed…"

And Kara, a big CONGRATS for earning that Masters Degree as well!