Weekly Reading List

Picture of a stack of multicolored booksI’ve got to cut down on the blogging breaks. It’s hard to get back into the daily habit. A rundown of articles I’ve read recently is a good way to get back in shape, though.

Lydia Brown, Autistic Hoya - December 12, 2015

As far as I know, I am not autistic, but I am fascinated with the way autism is understood, misunderstood, and often grossly misinterpreted. One of the biggest hangups people have about autism seems to be the idea that autistic people are, by definition, impenetrable and unknowable. In that light, personal testimonies from autistic people about what it’s like to be autistic should be absolute gold, especially to parents of autistic kids and other people who want to help autistic people. Sadly, few people who say they are deeply invested in the “problem” or “epidemic” of autism seem to read or take seriously the actual words of autistic people. I can even understand that a bit when it comes to some of the more defiant, challenging, or poetic things I’ve read by autistic writers, even though they’re great, too. But this is such a matter-of-fact description, largely free of judgment, that I can’t believe it isn’t required reading for everyone connected in any way to an autistic person. With, clear, accessible things like this available for anyone to read, the biggest mystery to me about autism is why it’s considered a mystery at all.

Shelia Cosgrove Baylis, People Magazine - December 11, 2015

In many ways this is a pretty standard story of bonehead disability discrimination. I call it “bonehead” discrimination because it is both unintended and completely, easily avoidable. I am including this article on the list because it’s so unusual to see a disability story that is entirely about accessibility … and not at all teary or heartwarming … and in a popular magazine read by people who mostly aren’t tuned in to disability issues. It’s even better that readers probably won’t feel sorry for Ms. Jay, but will instead be angry right along with her. That’s absolutely central to the difference between the Medical Model and Social Model approaches to disability … the difference between “misfortune” and “injustice.”

By the way, at some point I’m going to have to do a post about what “unintended” actually means in the context of disability discrimination. I think this incident might be a good starting point for that conversation.

Alfred Ng, The New York Daily News - December 14, 2015

I hesitate to post this item, because there is so much fear and hysteria around ISIS, and with some justification. One the one hand, I'm a bit suspicious about the sources of this story ... mostly virulently anti-Muslim groups and tabloids like The Daily News. On the other hand, I have no trouble imagining that a group like ISIS might, in fact, institute a horrible policy like this. Totalitarian regimes based on hatred, that are focused on human nationality or affiliation as if the group is an organism that can be pure or poisoned seem to lead to a particularly extreme form of disability rejection. If the "nation" matters more than the individuals who make it up, then ordinary ableism can easily become a mandate for elimination. The parallels to Nazi Germany are pretty obvious.

I also think it's interesting that ISIS may be connecting disabled children in their territories with "foreign" fighters ... people from other countries who join ISIS. Is that the only way they can rhetorically explain the presence of disability in the "perfect" little world they are creating?

Still, we should be at least a little cautious. By all accounts, the Imperial German Army behaved truly horribly in the opening months of the FIrst World War. That doesn't alter the fact that the Allied countries didn't whip up a bunch of preposterous anti-German propaganda anyway.

Rachel Stockman, WSB TV 2 Atlanta - December 7, 2015

Stories like this make it harder and harder to maintain the sober, sophisticated take on disability rights, wherein everyone acknowledges that most disability discrimination is accidental and everybody accepts disabled people now. If that’s true, then why do segregated programs and facilities for disabled people still exist … not just in isolated pockets, but endorsed and supported by entire states? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that a critical mass of people in any given area or state still, basically, don’t want disabled people around, getting in the way, and sucking up resources from normal, proper people. I have no call to be regionally snobbish about Georgia, either. My state, the vaunted Empire State, still sends at least some students to separate schools. They even have a catchy acronym like Georgia’s GNETS … in New York it’s the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, BOCES.

Samuel Bagenstos, Democracy, A Journal Of Ideas - December 16, 2014

I have had a weird sort of attitude problem for many years about parents of disabled kids who get really scared and angry when they realize that seamless, comprehensively planned services for their disabled sons and daughters won’t automatically extend into adulthood. First of all, I tend to think that the problems themselves are not as terrible as they are often portrayed. Adult disability services are fragmented and you have to do a lot of planning and advocacy to make them work, but they are there and they do work for lots of people. Second, the outrage parents express about this has a tinge of privilege and entitlement … “How dare you all walk away as soon as my child turns 21!” Like I said, I have an attitude problem about this. That’s why I found this article so valuable. It finally really convinced me that the “Disability Cliff” is real, and that it’s a lot worse than it needs to be. Support services for adults with disabilities should be a lot simpler, easier to access, and secure. And Sam Bagenstos’ article explains precisely how. It’s a long read, but well worth the effort.