Weekly Reading List

Two rows of multicolored books

Five more good things about disability I read last week …

Escaping The Disability Trap
Alia Wong, The Atlantic - June 15, 2016

The Atlantic has been publishing some good disability articles lately. This one gives a little too much credence for my taste to the idea of returning to some degree of Special Ed segregation. However, it does credit to all sides of the perpetual debates over the goals and methods of Special Education. It seems to me that a key problem is that “education” and “preparation for paid jobs” aren’t the same thing, but are typically dumped together into the same activity, location, and personnel. At a certain limited stage of secondary school or young adulthood, specific work-related training in partially self-contained environments might be a good idea. But social and physical segregation of disabled students away from non-disabled peers is terrible for their more broadly defined education. Also, it’s a real problem when mainstream programs of any kind do inclusion badly, and the response is to basically relieve them of the responsibility to include, by re-creating these segregated, “specialized” programs. I understand that parents have to put their children’s needs first, but at some point we have to stop rewarding bad institutional behavior. And the racial disparity is disgusting. In my area, the same sort of thing goes on class-wise, too. It’s kids from poor, “low-class” families who seemed to be more quickly shunted off to Special Ed and purely vocational programs. There’s a lot wrong in education of disabled kids, despite there also being a lot of reasonably good ideas and plenty of reasonably smart, decent people involved.

Pope Francis needs to do more than kiss the disabled
David Perry, Crux - June 14, 2016

I am neither a Catholic nor a Christian, but I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, and I continue to be interested in religion, theology, and religious culture. I agree completely with David’s analysis here. Churches’ traditional response to disability is mostly “medical model.” Yet, I wonder if it’s different enough to warrant formulating a third major model of disability, alongside the Medical Model and Social Model. Maybe call it the Religious Model or Spiritual Model. It’s not very medical, really, and it’s not oriented towards equal access and social justice, either. It’s about a sort of metaphysical, mystical, metaphorical understanding of disability. It’s a habit of thinking about disability and disabled people in abstract, symbolic ways that are foreign both to activists and to doctors and therapists. This is something to think about …

Dear(ly Departed) Julianna
Emily Munson, Emilymunson.com - June 15, 2016

It is heartbreaking that Julianna died. One thing that makes it particularly wretched for the rest of us is that it is so difficult to explain to most people why it’s so terrible that her parents allowed her to refuse treatment for what was probably, in the end, an entirely survivable acute illness. But here Emily Munson provides some fascinating legal background I wasn’t aware of … specifically the “Rule of Sevens,” which either dictates or, I guess, guides when children, teens, and young adults should and shouldn’t be making their own medical care decisions. Using our own lives with disabilities to persuade another disabled person or her family that their lives can be as great as ours, is both a noble endeavor and presumptuous. Yet, to me, the age issue ought to have trumped everything else. A 5 year old should simply not be allowed to refuse medical treatment. I’m not saying nobody under 5 should ever have medical treatment withheld … just that a 5 year old is not mature enough to weigh the pros and cons, especially when most adults can’t seem to grasp that even “severe” disabilities are livable.

‘Finding Dory,’ Disability, and Me
Elizabeth Pucciuto, The Daily Beast, June 19, 2016

Damn. I just basically recommended “Finding Dory” to a friend with disabilities, because of the good disability themes I had heard about. It sounds as if it might be another case of the gulf between author’s (possible) intent and audiences’ (actual) reaction. As long as the proper signals are given and others obscured or muted just right, people still assume it’s fine to make fun of intellectually disabled people. So even in a film apparently intended on at least one level to deliver a progressive portrayal of some disabilities, it’s fine to play others for laughs. I guess that’s still the way it is now. Ableism is real, ‘y’all, and it is literally everywhere.

Growing Up Disabled
Jessica and Lianna, The Disabled Life - May 23, 2016

I really only included this cartoon in order to introduce the Tumblr site it’s on. It’s also got a Twitter feed as well. Jessica and Lianna are sisters who both have physical disabilities, and create these fantastic cartoons about what it’s like to be young, disabled women. They remind me just a bit of the work of John Callahan, one of my earliest Disability Culture influences.