A selection of disability-related articles and blog posts I read last week, but didn’t have a chance to link to or discuss. It’s an opportunity to catch up with some of the good stuff that’s out there, but doesn’t fit neatly into the week's “big stories.”
Emily Ladau, The Disability Dialog - July 16, 2015
Activists are admired in the abstract, but the truth is that very few manage to be consistently liked. It’s one of the few real downsides to being an activist … on any topic, but maybe especially on disability issues. By definition, activists find fault with others. In the disability sphere, they typically find fault with people and institutions that mean well, or at least think they mean well. Plus, we have to find rather obscure, nit-picky faults that few others even see, but which are in fact hugely important. This is one of the reasons why I’m a much better thinker than I am an activist, and I definitely get where Emily is coming from here.
This is a stunningly good, in-depth, intelligent investigation into how the ADA’s local government and accessibility provisions get ignored in some communities. It digs into multiple failures … governments that never did a decent Self-Evaluation or Transition Plan, local code officials who claim they can’t enforce accessibility standards because of legal technicalities, and businesses that fall back on the assumption that if there aren’t any complaints, it must be OK. The only thing missing from where is sit is to ask what, if anything, people with disabilities and disability rights organizations in this area of Colorado tried to do over the last 25 years to deal with these issues, most of which could have been easily solved long ago. I think it’s one of the least discussed weaknesses in ADA implementation … the lack of a coherent, agreed upon and effective strategy by the disability rights movement.
It kind puts the Alice Wong and Emily Ladau’s discussions of disability activism into perspective. The mix of anger and ambivalence may be both a cause, and eventually another effect of situations like this one in Colorado. More about this later, maybe ...
I have been trying to follow and understand what has been happening to disability benefits in the United Kingdom. It’s confusing. On the one hand, the UK seems to have a somewhat simpler system of support benefits than we have in the U.S. However, it’s hard to tell from the names of programs just what they do and what each of them is for. This article finally explains the Independent Living Fund in a way that I understand. It seems like it was an experiment in giving people direct cash payments instead of regulated, designed programs, something I would like to see more of here in the U.S. Cash allows disabled people to buy whatever they need, instead of having to conform themselves to whatever some program directors want them to do. The problem is that cash benefits are also simpler and maybe easier to cut. It’s just a number, that’s all. And if “everyone” is tightening their belts, why should disabled people be exempt? I suspect that one problem is that most UK voters have no real idea what those benefits mean to disabled people, in practical, day to day terms. Anyway, I feel like watching what happens in the UK might serve as some valuable warnings for us here in the U.S.
I’m not sure why I am including this article on my Weekly Reading List. I like Tig Notaro as a comedian, and the story of her multiple life crises, culminating with breast cancer, and the incredible standup routine she did about, is compelling. But it’s not really about disability. I watched the Netflix documentary, though, and came away with two thoughts that are related to disability. First, I wasn’t as emotionally engaged or impressed as I think I was supposed to be. Second, I still don’t know how Notaro actually feels about being considered not just entertaining and funny … which is what comedians want to be … but “inspiring.” The film seems to take for granted that her story is especially inspiring, and in some way unprecedented. Maybe that’s the problem. As a disabled person, I know that it isn’t. Not to take anything away from her, but what Tig Notaro went through is rare, but not unheard of. I recommend you listen to the pivotal standup show, and watch the film. They are both fun and interesting, but I bet that if you are disabled, you will also find yourself feeling a little ambivalent at times.