Yes, Amy Wallace; I enjoyed your Bus 52 video.

Amy Wallace forwarded this note to me and I’m glad she did.  Take a look at what the folks on Bus 52 are up to.  (Thanks for sharing, Amy.)

Bus 52's Bus

Photo: front of a converted 1984 International School Bus.  It looks to be painted green with a cream colored hood.

Hello,

My name’s Amy Wallace, I’m part of a nonprofit project called Bus 52. We travel around the country making videos about people who are doing inspiring things for their community.

We made a video about Our Thrift Store in Franklin, Tennessee, which is a nonprofit thrift store that employs people with disabilities and puts back all the profits of the store into employing community members.

I thought you and your readers might enjoy the video we make about it, which can be seen here: http://youtu.be/neF-hekUpKM

Please let me know if you have any questions,

Thanks! Amy

Amy Wallace
www.bus52.com

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Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of “Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir “Planet of the Blind”, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges, is scheduled for release in November 2012.  In addition to giving literary readings, Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com

The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film

 Kudos to all involved in making this happen.  It is so long overdue:

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will dedicate the month of October to exploring the ways people with disabilities have been portrayed in film. On behalf of Inclusion in the Arts, Lawrence Carter-Long will join TCM host Robert Osborne for The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film. The special month-long exploration will air Tuesdays in October, beginning Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. (ET).

TCM makes today’s announcement to coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) on July 26. And in a first for TCM, all films will be presented with both closed captioning and audio description (via secondary audio) for audience members with auditory and visual disabilities.

Read on…

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Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges, is scheduled for release in October 2012.  As director of the Renee Crown University Honors Program and a University Professor at Syracuse University, Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. www.stephenkuusisto.com, www.planet-of-the-blind.com

When Bob Marley Saved My Life

Photo description: black and white photo of a smiling Bob Marley.  He’s standing outside and almost appears to be leaning on a guitar, the neck of which he’s holding in his right hand.

First let me say that anyone who has known discrimination also knows that going forward is steep. You have, after all, been told you don’t belong and worse, you’ve been instructed to get the hell out of town. As a blind person I’ve been in that spot throughout my life. Grade school teachers, high school principals, college professors, graduate school instructors–even a college president–have told me that because of my visual impairment I should go away. Perhaps the worst moment was in 1985 when I was enrolled in the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Iowa and two senior faculty along with the department chair told me I didn’t fit, that my need for extra time to complete assignments was ridiculous, and that I was a whiner.

This is a familiar story among people with disabilities. Even today (over 20 years after the passage if the ADA) only one in four college students with a disability will graduate. The unemployment rate for pwds is still estimated at 70%.

If you’re blind you can’t wait tables, drive a cab, or do most of the available jobs that are perfectly honorable. In 1985 all I could imagine was reading and writing vs. nothing. Nothing would mean living on Social Security Disability checks and moving in with my parents. If i embraced Nothing it would be an admission of failure so great that I would have to retire from my life, live as a kind of back room invalid, a prospect that terrified me since my mother was an alcoholic and slept all day with the shades drawn– would that be my life?

As it happened, I did move home and lived for quite some time in my parents’ basement. I had a beat up typewriter, an exercise bike, and a tape machine and that’s when I began listening to Bob Marley in earnest. I’d been gently listening to Bob ever since his first US album “Catch a Fire” appeared in 1973 but now I was soaking in his rare and utterly astonishing combination of rage and redemption, a combination you will not customarily find in the arts–a combo like milk and iodine. In poetry very few possess this–Yeats comes to mind and Nazim Hikmet, and Neruda. In popular music almost no one has Marley’s quality of the sword in the cloud–the rage is just rage or the milk is just syrup.

In my basement with the volume up I began working. Bob Marley’s voice and lyrics moved through me and I felt a half weightless sense of a pending disembodiment and then the authentic tears of deep deep discrimination salted with hope came to me. I could go on and on about the songs, the lyrics stitched from sublime wing shadows of the soul that fans the body, but it’s enough to say that Bob Marley remains for me the most authentic voice of “becoming” that I have ever heard.

Previously published on Steve’s other blog, Planet of the Blind

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Professor Stephen Kuusisto, blind since birth, is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. He has also published “Only Bread, Only Light“, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press. As director of the Renee Crown University Honors Program and a University Professor at Syracuse University, Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy.

 

ADA Restoration Act Clears Hurdles

While you won’t hear much about it from the national press the “ADA Restoration Act of 2007” cleared two House committees yesterday with only one opposing vote. (I’ll have more to say on that in a minute…) 

You can read all about yesterday’s proceedings and learn a good deal about the history  of the “ADARA” at the website of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD):    

It is heartening that in a time of divisive squabbling in Washington the cause of Americans with disabilities has once again “shown the way” for true bi-partisan legislation and negotiation.

Disability is universal—it transcends race, class, gender, point of origin, sexual orientation, social status, age, fortune, and happenstance. Just so: the lives and concerns of people with disabilities are in fact the most logical point of “ethos” for a largely divided country to reassert its American values of fairness and decency.

While you wouldn’t always know it from the strident qualities of my prose I am at heart an optimist about the United States. I have lived to see kids with disabilities get a real chance in public education—when, not so long ago I was one of those “mainstreamed” kids who struggled without civil rights or appropriate educational supports. Yes, we’re a decent nation. We’ve come a long way in many areas. There’s reason for  a positive outlook. And yes, there’s also reason to stay strident. Rights and liberty are inconvenient for the ruling classes and we forget this at our peril.

“Aw, c’mon, Kuusisto, you don’t really think we have a ‘ruling class” in the United States, do you? I mean, don’t you agree that we’re a ‘classless society” etc. etc.?”

Continue reading

Take This and Weep

Dizziness or fainting may occur upon standing. That’s if you take a certain widely prescribed anti-depressant.

As of today we can apply this medicinal warning to the act of voting in the United States.

According to the Supreme Court the state of Indiana is perfectly within its rights to require voters to own a photo I.D. and to present it at polling stations. I wonder how many "mainstream" citizens know that voting in these United States is already nearly impossible for people with disabilities and that this latest requirement will likely make it even harder for pwds to participate in the democratic process?

How do you acquire a photo I.D. if you don’t drive? Can you get one at the local post office? Of course not…

You must go to the division of motor vehicles. Try getting there if you’re mobility impaired and without a car and driver. I’d personally like to see Antonin Scalia navigate his way to the division of motor vehicles using a wheelchair in an average American city where you will find nothing like a sidewalk.

During the 2004 presidential election in Ohio people with disabilities were prevented from voting owing to insufficient accessible facilities and unendurable four hour waiting lines. Such conditions are of course unacceptable for any citizen, but if you have a disabling issue these circumstances will effectively prevent you from casting a vote.

The situation is worse if you’re blind and you want to cast a ballot without the assistance of a polling station volunteer. While promises are made that new electronic voting machines will be "blind friendly" they are often unworkable and the volunteers in poling places don’t know how to make them function.

So here’s the bottom line: citizenship is now officially provisional in the United States. You need to have a valid driver’s license to vote. You better be able to get to the division of motor vehicles despite the fact that these places are not easy to find if you have a disability. And stop whining. If you’re unable to drive there’s obviously something wrong with your character.

Stock up on those anti-depressants. Now that citizenship for people with disabilities has been marginalized by making voting largely inaccessible you should not be surprised to find that additional forms of inaccessibility will be perfectly fine with this court.

Yes. I’m feeling dizzy. Will they make an affordable drug that disguises feelings of genuine persecution?

S.K.

Get Involved: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities "Blog Swarm"

RatifyNow.org is "a
website to support the global grassroots efforts to ratify the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."  There you will
find this announcement:

Blog Swarm!

Calling all bloggers and writers! On March 30,
2008, the RatifyNow.org site will be host to the RatifyNow CRPD Blog
Swarm 2008! If you’re reading this page, chances are, you care
passionately about disability rights. This is your chance to get on a
soap box and tell the world what the international disability rights
treaty (CRPD) means to you! Learn how to get involved.

If you are not a blogger, you too can be involved.  Simply forward your essay/comments to a blogger, here for instance, to have your thoughts be heard.

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv and Crimes Against People with Disabilities

Listen to Steve's Interview on Iowa Public Radio's "The Exchange" with Ben Kieffer

Thank you, Ben Kieffer, for this opportunity!

                  


                      Fri 02/22/08
Real
Audio

                     
(stream)
                     
Podcast
                     
(download
                      MP3)

                    An interview with University of Iowa Professor Steve Kuusisto. He’s an author, educator and advocate for people with disabilities. Blind since birth he says sometimes even those working to help people with disabilities consign the disabled person to a second-class, defective status. That thinking is something Kuusisto is working to change.