Weekly Reading List

Two rows of multicolored books

Another week of disability reading ...

Olivia Wilde’s Down Syndrome PSA Gets It So Wrong
Emily Ladau, The Daily Beast - March 21, 2016

The Problem With The New Down Syndrome PSA Starring Olivia Wilde
David Perry, The Establishment - March 21, 2016

Even the harshest critics acknowledge that the creators of this Down Syndrome awareness video meant well, but it gets awfully tiring seeing the same kinds of messaging missteps occur over and over again. It seems so obvious to us what's wrong, why can't these other people, who are our allies after all, just get it? This "How do you see me?" PSA is a particularly vexing example. I think part of the problem is that the whole concept of "erasure" comes so naturally to mind once you are attuned to it, but seems utterly foreign and obscure if you are not. Ultimately, I think the best explanation for it is to show a better alternative, like the one David Perry found. That video has it's own problems with questionable messaging, but at least it shows a happy, interesting person with Down Syndrome, who has a real and distinct personality, instead of one who's self-image seems entirely shaped by their perception of "normal" people, and translated for us through the perceptions of non-disabled people. The Olivia Wilde video is more than "problematic." It is a missed opportunity.

A Young Man With A Disability Goes Missing. How Do You Find Him?
Wendy Wolfson, National Public Radio - March 20, 2016

This seems like a much bigger dilemma than it needs to be. Let's say an adult son or daughter with intellectual disabilities, living on their own with some professional support, "goes missing" for a day or two. Why not allow the police to go into missing person's mode a bit more quickly than usual, but only so they can find the person and make sure they're okay? Then, they could ask the person if they need help or if they want to be in touch with their families. If they say "no", the police could go back to the family and report that their loved one is fine, but wants to be left alone. If the person turns out to be in serious, immediate trouble, the police would intervene, just as they would seeing any person in obvious danger. Otherwise, they can do a search and a check-in, but leave the rest up to the disabled person's discretion. That seems more sensible than either doing nothing, or automatically prioritizing families' anxieties over the right of disabled adults to make their own decisions, even foolish ones.

Doctors are more likely to misdiagnose patients who are jerks
Julia Belluz, Vox.com - March 19, 2016

This article doesn't mention patients with disabilities, and identifies the people who get poor medical treatment due to doctor dislike as "jerks." The thing is, having complex, unusual, and mostly un-fixable disabilities tends to make us jerks in medical situations. We can't do things the way doctors and hospitals are used to doing them. What's normal for others isn't normal for us. We throw everyone's routines and calculations off. We are hard to satisfy. We complain a lot because a lot of things go wrong with us. Without getting into value judgements on either side, disabled patients are, almost by definition, "jerks." This is one of the reasons why disabled people have such mixed relationships with the medical profession. The article suggests that patients should try not to be jerks, whether or not doctors and nurses make an effort to be more tolerant of jerks. That's probably good advice from a personal survival standpoint, but it can be a problem when you are disabled and may not be able to be less of a jerk, because in our lives, being a jerk is sometimes a survival tool in itself.

DC’s Next Superhero Spin-Off Should be Birds of Prey
Keith Chow, The Nerds of Color - March 18, 2016

I am no kind of comic book fan, but I did watch the short-lived "Birds Of Prey" TV show, and sort of liked it, at least partly because of the character Oracle ... Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. I'd like to see someone give the show another try. Casting an actress with disabilities would be a big help, but I'd also like to see a little more digging into the character's adjustment to disability, along with more evidence of her mobility and overall capability. If they can pull off some deep, soul-searching character development without being maudlin or sentimental, they'd really have something.