Microsoft wants to help put disabled people on equal footing

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(Photo credit: Microsoft)

(From CNET) — My first brush with accessibility tech was with closed captioning.
Like most people, I took it for granted and mostly ignored it as a setting on my TV. But one day, when I was fed up pausing my movie for the billionth time because an ambulance was blaring down our street, I decided to turn it on. Over time, it changed the way I watch TV — to the point where I miss it when it’s not there.

This is the ideal for people like Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s head of accessibility. She doesn’t just want the world to accommodate people with disabilities, she wants technology just to get better, and as a result benefit disabled people. (read more)

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The sentiment of this essay is earnest in its intent. Members of the disabled community are benefiting greatly from an accessibility technology. However, it also is somewhat problematic. The point of contention relates to messaging of the last sentence above. It tends to minimize the real time need for nondisabled folks to focus on persons who are disabled. Albeit aspirational in tone, the statement suggests accessibility game controller technology should be a mere byproduct of overall design enhancement for everyone rather than a specific human rights issue for persons with disabilities. A minor point? Not when it comes to anti-oppression work. The Beyond Diversity Resource Center believes specific emphasis must be directed at mechanisms and conditions that contribute to both the achievements and disappointments that cause and affect disparities in our society.

(Click here to learn more)

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Men Are Responsible for Mass Shootings

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AR15(From harpersbazaar.com) — Shootings, whether they’re in Parkland, Orlando, Las Vegas or Sutherland Springs, all tend have one thing in common. It’s not that they’re done by mentally ill people (there is no true connection between people with a mental health diagnosis and mass shootings, according to experts), or that they’re…

Click here to read more.

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Discrimination against persons with a disability is an age old problem. The latest cascade of scapegoating them involve the mass shootings happening across our country. In fact, persons with a mental disability are no more likely to be violent than nondisabled people. Yet society engages regularly in knee-jerk blaming of violent actions as a mental health issue – particularly when the perpetrator is a white male. This false narrative fuels oppressive ways of thinking about mental health and those with disabilities.

Click here to learn more about systemic oppression, how to recognize it, how it affects us, and how to interrupt it.

Disabled athletes make full-court press at SDSU

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(From the San Diego Union-Tribune) — Akheel Whitehead is proud to have earned 12th place in the long jump at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But to train for the games, the 22-year-old San Diego State University alumnus had to look off campus for coaching and support. Now, he’s hoping to change the game for other disabled athletes who…

To read more click here

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This article reports on efforts to promote the equitable inclusion of everyone in college athletics, including those who may be disabled. And rightly so. Equity is about more than skin color. Its fabric extends to nearly all dimensions related to human identity. It is especially relevant at a systems level, particularly when there exists a dominant identity (i.e., male, white, straight, etc.) that inevitably expresses its “norms” in injurious ways. Whether this happens consciously or unconsciously to a non-dominant group, the outcome is similar: oppression. Identities involving physical and mental ability are no exception. In fact, ableism is one of the most invisible forms of oppression that exist. This makes it a center point for examination. Because of a general lack of awareness (or worse, denial) of even the most common issues associated with persons who have different abilities, it’s critical to acknowledge that ableism is real. Painting persons with a disability in just one dimension is common among even the most well-meaning nondisabled person. It reinforces discrimination and speaks to a dreadful bias that limits the incredible potential of tens of millions of people – approximately one in five, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Learn more at Beyond Diversity

 

New York City Subways A Hurdle For Disabled Riders

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(From National Public Radio) — A round of renovations on New York City subway stations should make the system more wheelchair accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Critics say officials seem to be ignoring the law.

Click here for the full report.

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This story illustrates the endless struggles people who are disabled must face. They live in a world that is essentially oblivious to the lack of access nondisabled people take for granted. This, despite laws and policies in place. Two of the culprits: a lack of genuine empathy and absence of awareness – both enable oppression of the disabled to fester throughout our culture. Learn more at Beyond Diversity.

 

Disabled Characters In Fiction

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Susan Nussbaum in the Huffington Post states:  “On the whole, I do my best to avoid books and movies with disabled characters in them. Of Mice and Men, Forrest Gump, and A Christmas Carol all make me cringe….All sorts of interesting stories can be written about a disabled character, without the disability ever being mentioned. You know, just like real people.” She adds: “The vast majority of writers who have used disabled characters in their work are not people with disabilities themselves.” As a writer who is herself disabled she believes “there’s an authenticity to characters that are written by someone who embodies the experience of oppression….” To read more, click here.

Stand-Up Comedy And Mental Illness

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David Haglund, a senior editor at Slate who runs Brow BeatSlate‘s culture blog, interviewed Maria Bamford and spoke about her ability as a stand-up comedienne to “engage with questions of mental health in a way that’s serious and thoughtful as well as really funny.” To read more, click here.

Disability And Inspiration Porn

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In the Australian ABC News site, The Drum, Sheila Young talks about disability being viewed as what she calls, “inspiration porn.”  She points out that inspiration porn is an image of a person with a disability, often a child, doing something completely ordinary, such as playing, or talking, or running, or drawing a picture, or hitting a tennis ball. The image will contain a caption like, “Your excuse is invalid,” or “Before you quit, try.” The underlying message is that if people with a disabilities fail to be happy, to smile, or to live lives that makes those around them feel good, it’s because they are not trying hard enough or their attitude is not positive enough. To read more, click here.

Author Cautions Against Equating Physical Disability With Low IQ

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Anne McDonald, guest columnist for seattlepi, an internet news site, has had severe physical disabilities since birth.  At the age of 19, she attended school for the first time, and eventually graduated from a university with majors in science and fine arts. Annie’s Coming Out, a book about her experiences written with her teacher, was made into a movie (Best Film, Australian Film Institute Awards, 1984). McDonald offers cautions about the use of assessments of IQ that rely on speech and motor skills. To read more, click here.

Ask a Woman Who Uses a Wheelchair

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Ask A Woman Who Uses A Wheelchair

Ableism is prejudice against people with disabilities, and like every other -ism, can take on many gnarly forms. Whether it’s negative societal attitudes, the dearth of accessible housing, job discrimination, or targeting an individual for a crime, in her post on The Harirpin blog Caitlin Wood speaks frankly about aspects of ableism. To read more, click here.

Forced Sterilization Still Happens to People With Disabilities

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From the This Ain’t Livin Livin’ blog:

Forced sterilisation of people with disabilities is rarely covered in the mainstream or progressive media because it’s not considered a topic of much interest. This is largely because many people accept the idea that it is something that should happen; even if they may feel slightly uncomfortable about it, they still support the idea overall because they think it is ‘for the person’s own good’ or makes life easier for caregivers. Or, though few will admit this, they believe forced sterilisation of people with disabilities benefits society as a whole.

To read more, click here.

Devaluing People With Disabilities

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From the This Ain’t Livin’ blog:

Society collectively makes our (people with disabilities’) lives valueless by isolating us and placing us in positions where we are reminded that our lives are lesser. The problem with, for example, someone with paraplegia being unable to leave the house except for very specific occasions does not lie with the paraplegia. It lies with the community the person lives in, making it hard for the person to use a wheelchair for mobility and engage in activities; disability doesn’t stop you from going to the beach, say, or driving carriage horses, or flying a kite. The infrastructure is what stops you.

To read more, including suggestions on community-based solutions that are inclusive of people with disabilities, click here.

Disability Right Now

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Have a look at the blog, Disability Right Now. It puts into sharp relief how the larger society overlooks people with disabilities and fails to understand how people with disabilities should be treated. Here’s an excerpt from a post entitled, “The Image of God: A Few Thoughts on Disability & Faith”:

(Religious Narratives) also form the basis of how we understand disability in American society. They have created a culture of top-down charity, denying disabled people our agency. Most financial resources are put into researching a cure rather than improving our daily lives. The public discourse about us revolves solely around suffering; we are not seen as multi-dimensional people who experience pain, pleasure, joy, and sadness along with everyone else. And we are a source of terror; it is easier to pretend we are invisible because the reality of our experience (or what people think is our experience) is seen as worse than death by many non-disabled people. Non-disabled people often live in fear of turning out like us, or having children who might be like us, or even having to interact with us in all of our stimming, spazzing weirdness.

To read more, here.

“I don’t mind if you’re crazy, as long as you act sane in public.”

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From the blog, “This Ain’t Livin’,” the author, s.e. smith, raises an important issue: How should we treat people who display outward signs of mental illness?  According to the author, the right response is straightforward:

Acknowledge it. Admit that it is happening and you see it. Let the person know that you are there and willing to help.

To read more, including the author’s discussion of how people responded to her own mental illness, click here.

Hipster Ableism

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From the FWD Blog:

Hipster -ism works like this: Someone uses an -ism among a group of friends, and the friends laugh, because the idea is that they know it’s an -ism, they know it’s not acceptable, and it’s funny because of this. It’s ironic, geddit?

To read about the “ableism” form of hipsterism on the FWD Blog, click here.

D.C. Eateries Begin Using American Sign Language

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Fritz Wood, owner and general manager of the Rock N Roll Hotel on H Street Northeast, signs out the drink order for a Red Bull and vodka. In this photo, he is signing "bull."

To better serve students at the nearby Gallaudet University, local bars and restaurant employees are learning American Sign Language. Read the full article by clicking here.

Joshua Walters: On Being Just Crazy Enough

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People With Mental Illness Are More Often Crime Victims

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Comparing national criminal-justice figures with those for an urban sample of mentally ill persons shows that they are more likely to be victims of violent crime than is the general population. More than one-fourth of persons with severe mental illness are victims of violent crime in the course of a year, a rate 11 times higher than that of the general population, according to a study by researchers at Northwestern University. When most people associate crime and mental illness, they usually think of people with mental illness as perpetrators, not victims. Yet previous research shows that only discharged psychiatric patients who also abuse substances commit violent acts at rates greater than their neighbors. To read more, click here.

“I Don’t Care If You’re Offended”

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In an article from his blog, Fineness & Accuracy, Scott Madin talks about the difference between saying something that is “offensive,” and saying something that harms others because of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like. The article adds clarity to the “you’re-being-offensive-too” argument often made when people are rebuked for remarks that reinforce oppression. To read the article, click here.

Push(back) at the Intersections: How About Some -isms with Your Feminism?

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What do Mary Daly, Margaret Sanger, Nellie McClung, Martha Griffiths, Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferraro, Julie Bindel, Robin Morgan, Germaine Greer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Janice Raymond, Sheila Jeffreys, and Beth Elliott have in common? According to s. e. smith, “All of these ‘leading lights’ of the feminist movement are contributors to a long and not very proud history of dragging -isms into the feminist movement.” To read smith’s article, click here.

NH Legislator Says People With Disabilities Are “Defective” And Should Be Shipped To Siberia

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New Hampshire legislator Martin Harty told a constituent that “society would be better off without” people who are “mentally ill,” or “retarded,” or have “physical disabilities” and that he “wish(ed) we had Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population.” After his comments caused a fury, he resigned. Read the full story by clicking here.


The Miniature Earth

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If the Earth had only 100 people, this is what it would be like. The haunting video is an important reminder about world poverty and interconnection. To read more about the Miniature Earth Project, click here.

Microaggressions Blog

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Microaggressions are brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities—whether intentional or unintentional—that communicate hostile attitudes, slights, or insults toward members of marginalized groups, including people of color, women, and members of the LGBTI community. The Microagressions blog collects and publishes reader-submitted descriptions of microaggressions and the impact the microaggressions had on the people who endured them.  Here are two examples:

Look at her. That’s no fair. Why do I have to walk? She’s taking advantage.

I’m a wheelchair user in a large museum. I felt like my struggles with accessibility were nothing and the young, able-bodied man who said this expected pity.

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Excuse me, do you speak English?

—Man at the bus stop. I am an Asian American woman. I was reading Jane Austen. In English.

To read the many posts on the blog and perhaps to submit your own, click here.

A List of Able-Bodied Privileges

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The author gives a list of privileges that able bodied people have, but about which they are usually unaware. To read the list click here.

Ableist Word Profile

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The Ableist Word Profile is an ongoing series in which the authors explore the way ableism shows itself in language and by extension the way that ableism is unconsciously reinforced through the power of language. The series is offered not with the purpose to tell people which words they can use, but to inspire thoughtful discussion and reflection. To read more, click here.

Delta Fined a Record $2 Million for Violating Rules on Passengers With Disabilities

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In the largest fine ever assessed against an airline for “non-safety-related” reasons, the U.S. Department of Transformation assessed a $2 million civil penalty against Delta Airlines for violations of rules protecting air travelers with disabilities. To read the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal article with a link to the DOT consent order, click here.

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