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In his recent book Disability Rhetoric (Critical Perspectives on Disability), Jay Timothy Dolmage makes the following distinction between disablism and ableism:

Disablism, broadly conceived, negatively constructs both the values and the material circumstances around people with disabilities. Ableism, on the other hand, positively values and makes able-bodiedness compulsory.*


Disablism, in other words, is what leads to sympathetic treatment in the media of parents who murder their own disabled children, because of course, they were too heavy a burden to care for. And ableism is what leads to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) – which forces autistic children mimic neorotypical people (often through electric shock and withholding food) – to be considered “therapy” rather than torture. Like the filling and bread of a sandwich, the two ideas are not exactly the same, but neither can they exist in isolation.

From here on, I’ll be focusing that second aspect of ableism as Dolmage defines it: the idea that [full ability] is, in our societies, “compulsory.” At first glance, it may seem absurd – the hyperbole of a bleeding-heart radical. After all, for many, “a sound mind in a sound body” is impossible, and can’t be enforced. But what can be (and has been) enforced is full access to the rights, privileges, and protections of human society. Come up with an arbitrary standard of abilities that “everybody” has, and you have a means to measure the quality of any person’s humanity. Once you have that, you can claim a rational, (supposedly) justifiable, reason to write laws against them.

Bigotry is the bedrock of nearly all social injustice. And ableism is the toxic sludge poisoning the ground in which human societies are rooted, allowing a wide range of oppression to flourish. And, as long as ableism remains unacknowledged and unchallenged, it also weakens our fight against it.

There are two main misconceptions about bigotry that get in the way of people recognizing both the reality of ableism and the harm it causes.

The first is that bigotry is nothing more than a prejudiced, mistaken idea about someone, based on their perceived identity (“All white people love mayonnaise”). But in actuality, bigotry is the systematic combination of belief and policy used in order to enforce the status quo for the privileged classes and deny others their rights. No white person has ever been denied a job because of their preferred condiments. On the other hand, the belief that women are both more irrational, and less able to control their impulses than men, led to policies allowing banks to deny women the right to open their own checking account without their fathers’ or husbands’ permission (source).

The second misconception is that, in order to be “bigoted,” an idea must be false (“All black people are less intelligent than whites”). This forces marginalized people to spend their time debunking lies, focusing all our energies on trying to prove we’re smarter, stronger, and more capable than our oppressors say we are (“Do twice as much, twice as well, for none of the credit”), instead of focusing our attention on changing the actual laws and policies that are used against us.

And it’s this second misconception that makes ableism – the idea that a measure of a person’s ability is a valid reason to deny the value of a person’s humanity – that makes it such an insidious force against our fight for universal justice. Because disability exists in every community. Some women are frail. Some blacks are intellectually disabled. And so these are the people shunned by their own communities (and it’s often our elders who bear the worst of this). Ableism allows our oppressors to “Divide and conquer.” And because every person who’s alive is at risk of becoming disabled, it plants the seed of doubt in the back of the mind: “What if ‘they’ are right – what if I am too weak, or not smart enough?” undermining the strength of our convictions.

But if we can, collectively, recognize ableism for the false and arbitrary standard that it is, then bigotry will no longer have the power to distract and divide us:

Whether or not I measure up to your standards is irrelevant. I do not need to be as strong, or as smart, as you claim I must be I am still a human being. And my life matters. My humanity is valid. And I – we – deserve justice.

The "*-Ism" Tree

[Image description: A black and white tabloid sized poster in the style of an educational diagram, showing a tree and its root system, combined with text.

At the bedrock level: "BIGOTRY: Beliefs and policies which work to exclude people from full membership in human society."

In the root system: "ABLEISM: Judging the value of a person's humanity on the basis of ability."

The trunk has two forks; the left-hand fork is labeled "RACISM:" and leads to an example racist belief in its cluster of leaves: "Blacks are Less Intelligent than Whites, but they are More Athletic"

The right-hand fork is labeled "SEXISM:" and leads to two clusters of leaves. The main cluster reads: "Women are Weaker, & Less Rational than Men;" the secondary cluster reads: "Gays are effeminate. Lesbians are emasculating."

The top cluster of leaves centered between these two branches, with a freely curving arrow pointing down to each half, reads: "Claims about Ability used to Pass Judgment on People's Humanity (This is ABLEISM)"

Description ends.]



*(Kindle Locations 504-506). Syracuse University Press. Kindle Edition (copyright 2014)
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It's a Big image, so I'm going to give you the image description up top (which is long enough, but easy to scroll past), and put the image itself below the cut:

Image description: A black and white tabloid sized poster in the style of an educational diagram, showing a tree and its root system, combined with text to explain the relationship between Bigotry, Ableism, Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia.

At the bedrock level: "BIGOTRY: Beliefs and policies which work to exclude people from full membership in human society."

Above, in the root system: "ABLEISM: Judging the value of a person's humanity on the basis of ability."

Above ground, the tree's trunk has two main forks; the left-hand fork is labeled "RACISM:" and leads to an example racist belief in its cluster of leaves: "Blacks are Less Intelligent than Whites, but they are More Athletic"

The tree's right-hand fork is labeled "SEXISM:" and leads to two clusters of leaves. The main cluster reads: "Women are Weaker, & Less Rational than Men;" the secondary cluster, branching off from the first, reads: "Gays are effeminate. Lesbians are emasculating."

At the very top of the tree, in a cluster of leaves centered between these two branches, with a freely curving arrow pointing down to each half, is the explanation: "Claims about Ability used to Pass Judgment on People's Humanity (This is ABLEISM)"

Description ends.

See the Thing (Edited: now signed with my name & creative commons license logo) )

It's all black and white, now. ...I'm debating whether to add color here and there (like outlining the tree's leaves, and maybe coloring the words). It would be easier to color the entire thing if I had the option of saving a scanned image as a .gif or .png file instead of only .jpg or .pdf.

Ya know?
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Inspired by the election results: A text tee-shirt that reads: "Optimistic out of SPITE"

This one is in color, gray, and transparent on a black field (transparent matches whatever color your shirt is -- it's available on a wide range of light colors).

I also plan on making a version that's all transparent on black, and all black on transparent.

You can find it here.
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http://www.nytimes.com/1990/03/14/us/disabled-protest-and-are-arrested.html

(Quote)
WASHINGTON, March 13— More than 100 protesters in wheelchairs were arrested today in the Capitol Rotunda after they boisterously demonstrated for swift passage of a civil rights bill for the millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities.
(Unquote)

"Boisterous!" -- It's one of my favorite words, but... in this context? Seems a little disablist to me. What about you?
capriuni: Text: "Everyone! Grab a spoon. We need to Move the Ocean!" (Ocean)
(I'd ordinarily post this behind my "Disability Discussions" access filter, but I'm in a "Shameless Agitator" mood, and want this to be publicly available to search engines)

I first posted this video almost three months ago (July 31), with no other comment than:

"This man is saying all the things I've been [saying] about why "C.P. = 'Retardation'" (unfortunate term still common in medical contexts) is Bullsh--

But because he's the "normal" parent, people believe him. Whenever I've said this, it must be that my C.P. "warps" my perceptions...





I left it there, because it was the end of a long, hot, day. I had neither time nor energy to unpack my reactions, and type them up. But summer's passed, and today is still young. So I'm finishing what I started.

The video is roughly 18 minutes long, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing. But if you can't, I want to focus on these two points that Dan Habib made in this speech:

First, at around the ten minute mark:

(Quote)
56% of kids in this country with intellectual and developmental disabilities spend their entire day in self-contained, seprate settings just for kids with disabilities ... whether it's classes or separate schools. Even though we know ... and all the research says ... that that is not going to yield better outcomes for them. Advocate for inclusion. Advocate of inclusive education.

(Unquote)

I can't help but wonder how much of a link there is behind this national statistic and another that I've seen cited around the Web (often verbatim, so I suspect writers of Websites are "copy-and-pasting" each other) that 'between 30% and 50% of children have some level of mental retardation or seizure disorder.' (also note that the presence of intellectual disability and of seizures are often independent of each other, so I find it troubling that the two conditions are lumped together in this way).

Second, at around the eleven minute mark:

(Quote)
I've come to -- to believe that maybe it's really not about [my son and students like him] . . . Maybe it's actually about the other kids. Maybe we need to show that inclusion benefits typical kids without disabilities as much -- or more -- than they benefit [disabled kids].

The truth is that there are all these research studies that are being done at universities that show academic benefits for typical kids who are learning in inclusive settings. And there's one particular study that was done at Vanderbilt where they did two groups of kids they studied. One group were in an inclusive environment alongside their peers with disabilities. The group that worked alongside their peers with disabilites had an average of a 15 point increase in their academic achievement. that happened and it was because when you're working collaboratively with a peer ... with a friend ... with somebody who might need a little extra assistance ... or some coaching ... you're much more engaged in the curriculum. You want to understand it. you want to study it.

(Unquote)

On the one hand, this makes me want to pump my fist in the air and say: "[Durn] Right!" Inclusive societies do better by everyone.

On the other hand, this passage also makes me angry. There's the obvious question of: "Why should the lives of "typical" children be worth more effort and care than the atypical -- especially since it's out of the control of the children and their families?"

But also: The way Mr. Habib explains these demonstrably better outcomes has bothered me since I woke up the morning after I posted this. It's an explanation that sounds to my ear very like the medieval Church's endorsement of alms and of begging: Because being able to offer charity is good for the soul. His son is good for his "typical" classmates, because he is in need of their help -- which frames his role in the class as more of a passive, rather than active participant.

So, here, I would like to offer a few alternate explanations for the improved academic outcomes in inclusive classrooms:

1) Disabled students are role models for their more "typical" peers -- they demonstrate the fact that there is more than one way to solve a problem, and overcome a barrier. Disabled students are in a position to teach as well as receive help in learning -- so that their presence helps other students learn whether or not those other students ever become their "buddies," or take a personal interest in helping them out.

2) Schools that strictly segregate students by some arbitrary metric or piece of paperwork in a student's file,* are also likely sending the subliminal message that difference is taboo, and demonstration of weakness will lead to ostracization within a stigmatized social group. Is it any wonder, then, that kids don't do as well in such a learning environment?

3) And finally, a school that embraces a culture of inclusiveness -- from the teachers to the parents to the administrators, and which encourages peer collaboration in a way that Mr. Habib describes -- is more likely to be creative in its teaching methods, and more likely to look for -- and find -- solutions to unanticipated problems.

There! Now I've got that off my chest. I feel (a little bit) better.



*The Chesapeake Public School System, for example, mandates that every student who has an Individual Education Plan (an I.E.P) on file, must ride to school on the dedicated "special" bus -- even if the child is perfectly capable of riding a "regular" bus -- so the special ed students are being segregated even outside the school building.
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This is a follow-up to this post about the privilege-awareness exercise called "Walking the privilege line," where a group of workshop participants step forward or back depending on how they identify with statements about their lives.

The first version is heavily U.S. focused, and gives only token acknowledgement of disability as a target of bigotry; it has 35 questions.

Imagine a number line from -35 to +35, and starting at 0. I'll answer every question as honestly as I can, at face value, without any "Well, actually..." or "Yeah, but..." hedging (which, I think, will highlight faulty assumptions on the part of statement writer(s?); I'll mark those answers with a caret (^), and follow up with clarification, but the numbers will be unaltered.

The 'original' list, from the BuzzFeed video )

Final tally: 9/35. Well ... I got into the double-digits for a moment, there...

Now, here's my version. Because the main point of the exercise is to get people to think about what they take for granted, I tried to avoid using the word "Disability," and instead, focused on specific, common, consequences of being diagnosed with a disability -- which can differ quite a lot, based on what the disability is, and which most people without a disability never even see. I also tried to write statements that give people from marginalized groups an opportunity to step forward (including those privileges for PoC that Christina Torres suggested in this article). Statements based on my personal experiences with the Disability Community are emphasized. There are 39 questions in this one:

My version: )

Final tally: 10/39 -- actually a tiny smidge ahead of where I ended up before.

What I'm wondering about now is how rephrasing statements to shift the balance between the steps forward and back would change the outcome (Taking a step back when you do worry about a dinner invitation, for example, rather than taking a step forward when you don't).
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On the Fourth of July, BuzzFeedYellow posted this video: "What is Privilege?". It shows a video of ten people participating in a privilege awareness exercise, where everyone starts out in a single line, and then each steps forward or back one step at a time, based on how each person identified with 35 conditions of privilege.

As expected, the white straight males ended up near the front. And that sheer predictability is one of the biggest flaws in this exercise, as pointed out by Christina Torres in this article: Why the Privilege Line is a frustratingly unfinished exercise

Quote:
PoC often end up as props to help White people see how privileged they are.

Which… I get. I get often needs to be done. WP need to see, somehow, the privilege they live in, and if this does it, then that might be a start.

[snip]

When I do this exercise from now on, I want to start doing the line again, but with a different version of the questions. Something that centers on and calls out the unique ways PoC have their own forms of power, questions that uplift communities and also pushes PoC to question their own experiences with each other.


Over on [personal profile] jesse_the_k's journal, there's a discussion about how this exercise barely even acknowledges Disability as a culturally oppressed class -- of the 35 statements on privilege, there's only one that even acknowledges that physical or mental disability exists (#4), so if you have such a disability, you get "docked" one privilege point -- the same is true for both of the other versions Christina Torres linked to in her article. This, in itself, is a sign of how little awareness of ableist privilege there is in our society. Because if that box does get a check in your life, then a whole cascade of privileges slip out out of your reach, and there is zero acknowledgement of that.

So I'm including the "original" 35 questions behind a cut, below. And then, I'm going to try and come up with my own list, that a) has more specific acknowledgement of able-bodied/sound-mind privilege, b) includes some empowerment statements such as Torres suggested, and c) is roughly the same length of the original list. That means some questions will end up being dropped, which I acknowledge is problematic.

The original 35 *Privilege Walk* questions )

My Version )

So -- how'd I do?
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Last year, RH completed their Master's degree in Information Studies, with a focus on human-centric design, identity, and privacy (And thus, I think it might be of special interest to [personal profile] dialecticdreamer). This last week, they adapted it to the style of their on their online comic, broken down into five "chapters."

I was applauding inside, by the end, which was posted yesterday.

Robot Hugs is genderqueer, and so that's the primary lens through which they view the phenomenon of "Otherness." But what they say also applies to all marginalized people, probably.

Anyway, links:

Other -- One: Surveillance
Other -- Two: Categorizing
Other -- Three: Uses of "Other"
Other -- Four: Consequences of Self-Identifying
Other -- Five: Methods of Resistance

Enjoy!
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On Friday, this story aired on NPR's Morning Edition: Does reading Harry Potter have an effect on your behavior? (link to audio and written transcript).

...I may have also let out a vocal "Whoo-Hoo! Score one for the storytellers!" because it's one thing to know for yourself that something good is also true, but it's a whole 'nother reason to celebrate when that truth is publicly acknowledged.

So of course, I had to spread the Happy.
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On my Solstice 5 Things post, I ended with a bonus of Craig Ferguson's video cover of this song. That video clip, which is apparently on one of his personal channels, has since gone private. So here is the original band's own video. I hope it will bring you pleasure, and be a happy earworm:



And on a related note, here's a post from Dave Hingsburger about the power of making noise to keep evil at bay (which is a tradition even my atheist mother embraced): Pandemonium: my New Year's Resolution.

Keep banging on!
capriuni: multicolored text on black: "Quips and sentences and paper bullets of the brain" (paper bullets)
To celebrate, I will publicize one of your saddest sonnets.

Ironic? Perhaps, but I love your wordplay, here. And I also love your closing thought: that despite the cruelty of abused privilege, power and corruption, there is one thing that makes life worth trudging through -- and that's love shared between two people.

Sonnet 66:
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
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Context: Yesterday, in reporting on the story of Jenny Hatch, Dave Hingsburger pointed out that people with disabilities are the only ones who have scientists with clipboards collecting data on them to prove, scientifically, that freedom is better than captivity.

...There was a lot of push-back against that. Generally along the lines of: "But lots of people still have to fight for freedom, and human rights!"

In today's post, he defended his statement, and the point that talking about what is unique about the discrimination different minorities face is valid, and does not mean that we're trying to outdo each other.

This is the reply I was prompted to make, and I thought folks here would be interested in reading it:

[Begin quote]

From my experience (as someone with a congenital disabling condition), I've come to the conclusion that the discrimination disabled folk face is psychologically and socially difficult in two unique ways:

1) More often then not, we're minorities within our own families, so we often experience oppression from those who should be protecting us from it (the stories of Eve and Jenny both illustrate this).

2) And, unlike gay and transgender people, who are also often isolated within their families (and therefore, are subject to cruelty and injustice, as well), very few people with disabilities are able to "pass" as either able-bodied or neurotypical for the sake of their own safety.

Even if a disabled kid is lucky, like I was, and wins the "supportive parents" lottery, being alone in your family means sometimes going without the emotional and practical support you need. My mother was fantastic with helping me deal with sexism, because she'd had experience with that herself, and had figured out ways to get through it. But if I came home from school complaining about how the newly-waxed hallways made it hard to get to class on my crutches (for example), she was at a loss.

And, while this wasn't always the case (and was, itself, the result of hard-won battles for social justice), it's now recognized that children in racial, ethnic, and religious minorities need some contact with adult role models from their own minority to help them grow and learn. I've yet to see that same recognition for children with disabilities.

[end quote]
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Today's post is a follow-up to this one, that I posted back in November of last year: Yup... They see us as monsters [. . .]

That news came via a link in Rolling Around in My Head. So does this:

ACLU Blog: Disability no excuse to deprive one of civil liberties

Just thought I'd share some good news.
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When I first heard the headline that the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, I was all ready to cheer. ...Then I heard the deeper detail that although it said that it was illegal for the Federal Govt. to discriminate against people who were legally married in their home states, it said it was still legal for states to outlaw same-sex marriages (As I understand it).

So, now, I am a little less cheer-full.

Friends whom this decision effects: my thoughts are with you.
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I came to the realization, the other day, that YouTube is kind of taking up the "Ecological Niche" that Usenet, used to, years ago, in that it allows people to wander in and find discussions of ideas, or artistic pieces, or random silliness (i.e. cats!) and then join in the discussions via the comment threads or video responses.*

So I think that's one reason why I want to make a video of some sort on the power of storytelling, and the importance of Bechdel-like tests for under-and-misrepresented populations (specifically, the Disabled, but also P.O.C., trans*-folk and the like): There's more of a chance for the message to reach beyond the choir, so to speak.

Really, I want to answer this question (which I posed/posted the other day):

"What's the link between A) proverbial "rose colored glasses," B) the tendency for tragic literature to be taken more seriously than happy literature, C) the use and misuse of 'creative visualization,' and D) Storytelling?"

I have a sense the answer, but I want to tighten it up so that it can fit into a video that's no more than 6 minutes.

So, here goes (a bullet-pointed list to help start sorting out my thoughts) -- feedback welcome: )

...I did not expect this post to take all day... But it did (three hours). Why (well there were breaks for food and bathroom, but still)?


*...The only problem is that there's still a technological gate and lock there, because many people still do not have broadband, or are accessing the Internet through their phones, which makes broadband prohibitively expensive (Was discussing this with [livejournal.com profile] pendanther in regards to a venue for a 50th anniversary special of the Pro-Fun Hoedown, maybe, and why the hoedowns/round robins flourished like kudzu on Usenet, but fizzled as an LJ community).

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