Podcast Co-Hosts Wanted!

Crude cartoon of person sitting in easy chair watching TV
So far, I have worked with four fantastic guest hosts who talked with me about disabled characters on TV for the Disability.TV podcast.

Maddy Ruvolo and I compared notes on the paraplegic ex-quarterback Jason Street on Friday Night Lights.

It took two episodes for me and Alice Wong to do justice to the many disabled characters on Game Of Thrones.

Cheryl Green and I cofessed our love-hate relationship with Glee to the podcast listening public.

And next Friday’s show will feature a detailed postmortem on the 2013 remake of Ironside, with co-host Kamilah Proctor.

The podcast is off to a great start, but there are lots more shows I want to talk about, and I’m looking for people to discuss them with me. It’s a pretty simple process. We have a roughly hour-long Skype discussion about the TV show in question and how disabled characters and disability themes play out. Are they stereotypical, groundbreaking, realistic, inaccurate, three-dimensional, flat, cliché, original, uplifting, or revolting ... helpful to the cause, or horrific?

Or, more simply, do you like the show and its disability depictions or not?

Here’s a list of shows with disabled characters I plan to cover in upcoming podcast episodes:

Star Trek ... selected episodes of any or all of the series

Let me know if you are interested in any of these shows, and if you might be willing to co-host the podcast with me. My email address is: apulrang@icloud.com.

Disability.TV Podcast - Friday Night Lights

Disability.TV logo next to Friday Night Lights tv show poster
On this episode of Disability.TV, Maddy Ruvolo and I discuss the critically acclaimed series about the high school football town of Dillon Texas, and one of the longest running and nuanced disabled characters on TV, Jason Street. You can find Maddy on Twitter @maddyruvolo, and at the Disabled Girls Talk Podcast, which she hosts along with Emily Ladau.

Upcoming Podcasts

September 19
Game Of Thrones - Part 1
Guest Co-Host Alice Wong

September 26

October 3
Game Of Thrones - Part 2
Guest Co-Host Alice Wong

October 10

October 17
Guest Co-Host Cheryl Green

October 31
Guest Co-Host Kamilah Proctor

Click one of the links to subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or Stitcher.

Disability.TV Update

This Friday I will post the first full episode of the Disability.TV podcast, with a review of the original Ironside television series, starring Raymond Burr.

I am also exited to announce that I have some great guest hosts for several of the upcoming podcast episodes:

August 15 - Ironside - the original series with Raymond Burr

August 29 - Ironside - the new series with Blair Underwood

September 5 - Friday Night Lights
With guest host Maddy Ruvolo of the Disabled Girls Talk Podcast.

September 19 - Game Of Thrones: Tyrion Lannister
With guest host Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project.

October 3 - Game Of Thrones: Jaimie Lannister, Bran Stark, and others.
With guest host Alice Wong.

October 17 - Glee
With guest host Cheryl Green of Who Am I To Stop It?

October 31 - My Gimpy Life

November 14 - The Big Bang Theory
With guest host Sarah Levis of Girl With The Cane.

On Fridays in between, look for Mini-Casts with podcast news, quiz answers, feedback, and related short topics.

Each episode will be posted here on the blog, and also on the podcast’s own website. You can also subscribe in iTunes, so you will automatically get each new episode downloaded to your computer or mobile device. Click here to get to the Disability.TV listing in iTunes.

Guest Post at the Disability Visibility Project: The ADA - Three Disappointments, Three Victories

Disability Visibility Project, A community Partnership with StoryCorps @DisVisibility
I am very excited to have a guest blog post on the Americans with Disabilities Act, at the Disability Visibility Project website.

by Andrew Pulrang

Big thanks to Alice Wong, of the Disability Visibility Project for inviting me! I highly recommend following her on Twitter: @SFdirewolf.

A Little Moxie Summer Blog Hop - "Talking Raw, Talking Real: Challenges Related to Disability"

Summer blog hop series: challenge!
Most of the time, the challenges related to disability aren’t about disability alone. In my experience, and observing the experience of others, 75% of the time, it's actually about disability and something else:

Social stigma … Everything from mild awkwardness and ignorant comments, to open ridicule and bullying. They invade our space when we least expect it, an it hurts in a very personal way. In some ways, it’s the least significant problem we face, but in other ways, it’s the most painful.

Discrimination … Prejudice put into action, where it concretely affects our mobility, inclusion, and opportunities. People can think what they like about disabled people, but prejudice causes real, lasting harm when we lose a job opportunity because of it.

Poverty … Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy off a lot of the hardships of many kinds of disabilities. Money can buy ramps, lift vans, decent wheelchairs, tutors and therapists, and pay other people to help us do the things we can’t do for ourselves. The flip side is that when we don’t have money, everything about our disabilities becomes exponentially harder.

Segregation … Being cordoned off into “special” programs of any kind may seem to have superficial advantages, but the harm is deeper and longer term. Separate is not only unequal, it is artificial, inauthentic, and it provides cover for neglect and abuse. Plus, segregated programs are almost always maintained for the convenience and comfort of people other than the actual disabled people they’re supposed to serve.

Lack of agency … In little ways and big, we are often treated as something less than complete human beings. Most people don’t realize they are doing it, and very few believe we are literally inferior. Yet, we are treated like a bundle of symptoms and behaviors. Adults are treated like children or tweens. People speak to the person with us instead of directly to us. Even our families sometimes seem to forget that we are people ... not symbols or tests of their moral character.  In many ways, the biggest challenge of disability is simply to assert and maintain our basic personhood.

Disabilities impose themselves every day, and occasionally they can be very sharp and punishing. But disabilities are different and distinct from the hardships associated with them that are imposed from the outside. The good news is that most of them are easier to fix, both personally and systemically, than most disabilities. It doesn’t always seem that way, and lots of disabled people would disagree, I think, but I believe it is true.

Disabilities are largely beyond our control. Human behavior is not. The real challenges of disability are the “… and other things” that go along with it.

A Little Moxie Summer Blog Hop - "The Early Years: A Letter to Myself"

summer blog hop series: challenge!
Dear 13 Year Old Me:

You’re doing fine, and if you don’t listen to any of the little tips I’m about to give you, you’ll still be fine. Just keep them in mind, especially over the next ten or 15 years or so:

- Don’t blow off the idea of exploring relationships and sexuality, just because you’re convinced nobody would “want you”, and because right now you don’t actually really mind. You will think differently later on, and lack of earlier experiences can be a far greater hinderance than your physical appearance ... which, incidentally, isn't as weird as you think it is. Your default setting is to be a loner, and that’s fine, but it means you need to practice sharing your life with others, and letting them share their lives with you.

- Get away from Mom and Dad as much as possible. They are great, and I don’t mean you should literally leave them or push them away. But they have their own issues, and you could waste a lot of time tangled up in them when you should be exploring your own community apart from them.

- Learn how to work hard and work smart as soon as possible. Get a job, or at least a complex, demanding volunteer position. Look for ways to challenge yourself academically beyond what’s immediately available at school. You may have disabilities, but a lot of things come fairly easy to you, and you need to learn what it's like to do the harder things well.

- Try to meet other disabled kids and adults. Don’t try to act like you’re not one of them, because no matter what anyone says and regardless of what you’ve convinced yourself, you are. Plus, contrary to what you think now, lots of other disabled people are fun, amazing, and great to be around.

- Your disability aside, you have a lot of advantages. Don’t feel bad about using them, but don’t coast on them.

Like I said, you are doing fine. But “fine” doesn’t have to be the highest achievement you aim for. Just because you are disabled, doesn’t mean you can’t do better. Be happy, but don’t feel you have to settle for “fine” forever.

A Little Moxie Summer Blog Hop - "Coming to Terms with Disability in My Life"

Summer blog hop series: challenge!
This will be an uncharacteristically short blog post for me, because I kind of deal with this issue of “coming to terms” all the time at my blog, Disability Thinking. Just visit there and browse, and you should be able to figure out how I have and have not come to terms with disability in my life.

I will only add this …

I am 47 years old. I have had disabilities all of my life. I have been exposed to a wide range of different ideas about disability, approaches, disability cultures, and philosophies. Yet, although I mostly relate to a generally “positive” view of disability, I can’t entirely buy into the idea that disability is “great” or “awesome” or “special”. Nor does it feel right to say it’s a “tragedy” or “handicap” or “illness”.

To me, disability isn’t a good thing, or a bad thing. It is just a thing. I used to think that was a cop-out, but more than ever, I really think that’s my answer … the terms I have come to with disability. Any other answer seems off-target and reductive.

A Little Moxie Summer Blog Hop - "My Connection with Disability: An Introduction"

Summer Blog Hop Series: Challenge!
This is my first contribution to the "A Little Moxie" Summer Blog Hop.

My connection with disability is that I have disabilities. Actually, I have one underlying genetic condition called Arthrogryposis, which produces a variety of impairments.

That doesn't mean that I have always connected with my disabilities in the same way. Looking back, it seems like I have gone through four phases in my understanding of disability:

Aware and Ignore

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was physically different from most other kids, and it feels like I always associated this with words like “handicapped” and later “disabled”. When I had to have surgery, intensive physical therapy, new braces or orthopedic shoes, I would focus on my disabilities for a brief window of time. Mostly, I ignored them while adapting to them. That is, I never tried to act like I could do everything non-disabled kids did … I didn’t ignore my disabilities that way. But I didn’t think about my disabilities or excessively worry about them during times when nothing in particular was happening with them. Until my Senior year in college, for the most part, the topic of disability in general bored me.


I was a Senior in college in 1989, the year that students at Gallaudet University made national headlines with an extremely effective protest that resulted in the appointment of Gallaudet’s first Deaf President. Gallaudet is the nation’s premier university for the Deaf, nearly all of its students are Deaf, and their protest was the first time I became aware of people with disabilities focused on disability but in a militant and empowering way, not pleading or pitying. This was the era when Jerry Lewis was still broadcasting a popular and admired telethon fueled on tears, sad photos of bereft children, and the catchy by in retrospect creepy concept that kids and adults with Muscular Dystrophy were “Jerry’s Kids”. This was disability activism in my eyes, until I saw the Gallaudet uprising. It’s important to note that it was not at all the first mass protest by disabled people in history, just the first one I knew anything about. My attitude towards my own disability started to change then. I began to realize that there might be a connection between a part of myself I sort of despised … my disabilities, and something I had come to love, political thinking and activism. I still didn’t do anything about it right away, but for the first time I could envision another way to think about disability that was both personal and political.


A few years later, after writing a Master’s thesis on depictions of disability on television, I learned that a Center for Independent Living had opened in my home town. I didn’t know what a CIL was, but I soon found out, and got a job there after doing a summer internship. Over the next 23 years I went from a staff position to being Executive Director. No matter what position I held, however, the important thing is that I got to know literally thousands of people with all kinds of physical and mental disabilities, from every conceivable background, with a variety of strengths and human frailties, and facing social, physical, and sometimes most significantly … financial barriers to independence and fulfillment. This experience broadened my horizons, and gave shape to my understanding of things like ableism and discrimination, body shame and acceptance, trauma and empowerment, and how disability crosses with race, gender, education, and economic status. I also developed strong convictions about long term care, education of disabled kids, and the importance of policy in affecting the lives of people with disabilities. And, I got very tired, and very burned out. Worst of all, from my point of view, I started to feel cynical about the people we were trying to “help”. It seemed like “we” in the Independent Living Movement were more interested in independence and empowerment than the people with disabilities we met in our communities. For that and other reasons, I stepped down from my position, and started “disability blogging”. Physically, I needed to rest. Mentally, I needed to refocus and recharge … or else cut my connections for good and do something else entirely.

Listening and Learning

Blogging turns out to have been the perfect choice. I went in thinking that there were few good disability-related websites and blogs, and instead found not one, but several vibrant disability blogging communities that restored my faith in the disability community, and my humility about having all the answers. I found parents of kids with disabilities, whose blogs provoked me, challenged me, and gave me new insight into my childhood and family. I found younger people with disabilities … teens and young adults … who seemed to perceive no great contradiction between complaining when disabilities got hard, calling out ableism in everyday life and culture, and being awesome in their disabled bodies and minds. There are lots of 25 year olds who are more comfortable with their disabilities than disabled people twice and three times their age. I also found that my ideas of disability weren’t necessarily state-of-the-art anymore. Some aspects of newer thinking about disability I have a hard time with, but for the most part, new formulations and ideas have energized me, and given me a renewed respect for disabled people of all sorts who do what they must to survive and thrive.

Finally, this journey has brought me to the point where I feel both more comfortable with my own disabilities, and more unsettled and curious … in a good way.

Views from an Adult With Disabilities

Disability Thinking / Brielle & Me -- Views form an Adult With Disabilities Guest Post with Andrew Pulrang from Disability Thinking and Kerith Stull from Brielle & Me
The Road Ahead ...

(Cross-posted at Brielle and Me)

Kerith Stull is the mother of a teenage daughter with cerebral palsy. I started reading her blog, “Brielle & Me”, after she commented a few times on some of my blog posts. A couple of weeks ago, we started exchanging emails about doing a collaborative blog post with Kerith posing questions parents of children with disabilities might ask, and my replies as an adult who grew up with disabilities. This post is the final result. We are both posting the same article … with own own introductions … on the same day at the same time on our blogs.

Questions from Kerith, and my replies ...

When did you first realize you were different?

I don’t remember a moment when I realized I was different. When I reached puberty, I assumed dating and relationships were like athletics for me, something I could observe and know about, but not participate in. I was wrong, of course. At the time, though it seemed like the ironclad truth and it was the first time I felt bad about being disabled. Eventually, when I was a young adult and discovered the disability rights movement and disability culture, I started to realize that having disabilities isn’t just about being “limited” by my body. It was also part of my social identity, something interesting and energizing. I am still learning what it means to be disabled.

What good things did your parents do for you? (regarding your disability)

My parents drew a very firm distinction between “me” and “my disabilities". They emphasized my mind and downplayed physical things. That helped me avoid feelings of regret about not being a big, strong, athletic guy in my youth. My parents never got involved in any disability organizations. Although I am now an active participant in the disability community, when I was younger, not being connected to that community actually encouraged me to develop more diverse interests. Above all, my parents always made it clear that I would graduate from high school and then go to a four-year college away from home. This boosted my confidence and gave me a concrete goal for the first part of my life. After that, they let me find my own way.

What do you wish more parents would do for their disabled children?

Parents need to discuss the usual topics with their teenagers with disabilities so they understand the biology of sex, consent, and personal values. They also need to know that they are beautiful, handsome, charismatic, and desirable. Some disabled youth (and maybe you) will have hard time believing it, but they need to hear that this isn’t just wishful thinking. Romantic relationships can be part of their lives. (I highly recommend reading, “Dear 16-year-old Stella” by Australian comedian / broadcaster, Stella Young.)

Introduce your disabled child to adults who have disabilities. It doesn’t matter much if they have the same disability. The important thing is for your child to have the opportunity to look up to an adult who experiences disability in ways your child will recognize, and to see that happy, successful adulthood with disabilities is possible and common. (A great place to find appropriate adult mentors who have disabilities is at your local Center for Independent Living.)

A really good friend can be a life-saver for parents of disabled kids. On at least two occasions, close friends furnished my mother with a very loving kick in the backside when she was seriously stuck over some aspect of my disabilities. On both occasions, these friends told her unvarnished truths she needed to hear, and that helped her, and by extension me.

What can the general public do / say to help people with disabilities?

- Don’t dismiss us, but don’t put us on a pedestal, either. Remember that we are human beings with our own will and agency. We are not symbols, metaphors, tests, or object lessons to make you a better person.

- Trust that we know what we are talking about. Like anyone, we sometimes misunderstand things, deceive ourselves, or just get things wrong. But, in general, we are usually more on top of things than you might think and we certainly know about our own experiences better than anyone else.

- Don’t support disability groups that:

 are not led, at least in part, by disabled people.
 use fear or pity to gain support.
 provide their services in segregated environments, removed and sheltered from the community.

- Support public policies and practices that increase physical accessibility, community integration, and meaningful self-direction for people with all types and degrees of disability.

From Kerith…

So, parents. What do you think? Anything surprising here?

Notice what’s not here. He didn’t mention therapy, IEPs, or equipment – things we parents focus so much of energy on in those early years. I’m sure he would say they were and are important. But, as the child ages, the focus really shifts – or at least from what he’s shared here, it should.

What can we learn?

Your child’s disability is part of their identity. However…

Focus on your child, not your child’s disabilities.
Encourage diverse and individual interests.
Have high expectations.
Encourage independence and independent choices.
Provide interactions and role models who have disabilities.
Make sure you have a good friend.
Respect people with disabilities.
Give your support to disability groups and public policies that truly include people with disabilities.


Although we parents of special needs children have so much to think about and do for our little ones, be sure you’re looking ahead and preparing your child for the disabled adult they will eventually become.

More about Kerith Stull:

portrait photo of Kerith Stull
In 1995, Kerith was the married mother of a toddler working in marketing. Her life changed dramatically when her second daughter, Brielle, was born affected by CMV (cytomegalovirus). She quit her career and became a stay-at-home mother when Brielle was six months old to focus her time and attention to Brielle's needs. Brielle is now a highschooler and doing well despite CMV. She has CP (cerebral palsy), walks with a limp, and has an impaired right arm and hand. She needs assistance with basic care needs including dressing, bathing, and toileting. Brielle does not have any hearing loss (usually very common for CMV), but she cannot speak due to the CP. Instead, she uses sign language and occasionally uses a communication app on her iPod to communicate when I am not with her to interpret. She functions academically at about a fourth grade level for everything except math, which lags behind. Brielle participates in a work study program at school and loves her “jobs” at CVS and Walgreens. She  bowls in the winter with Special Olympics, plays baseball in the fall and spring on a Miracle League team, and plays soccer on a special needs team with TOPSoccer. She spends her free time dancing with teen idol bands on her iPod, doodling in a notebook, or watching teen shows or Scooby Doo. She has an infectious squeal and a smile that can light up a room.

“Brielle and Me" is a peek into their lives with their special needs daughter – the good, the bad, and the sometimes surprising. The stories Kerith shares here are motivated by a deeper passion — the pursuit of meaning from something that could be seen as so meaningless. Kerith's book about her journey of hope, determination, faith, and love was published in February of 2014.

What questions do YOU have for Kerith?