Disability Podcasts ... Updated

Simple iconic art depicting a black microphone, white ear buds, against a yellow background

It’s been awhile since I posted about disability podcasting. That’s partially because there is still surprisingly little of it out there. What I mean by “little of it out there” is that there are few podcasts by disabled people posting episodes regularly. My own podcast’s checkered, inconsistent history is a good example. I also get the feeling that the same creative impulse that prompts people to do audio podcasts is being channeled more into making YouTube videos. Still, there are a couple of newish disability-themed podcasts I listen to that are worth your time.

The Accessible Stall

Emily Ladau and Kyle Khachadurian are friends who have different disabilities, and subtly different ways of thinking about disability and disability issues. Actually, sometimes the difference isn’t subtle, though their disagreements never become unfriendly. Basically, this is the podcast to listen to if you want to explore the pros and cons of different schools of thought on disability. It sounds serious, and it is in intent, but the dialog itself is fun and surprisingly light. This is a great podcast for anyone in the disability community, but maybe especially for people just beginning to think about disability issues in a deeper way.

In Sickness + Health

I have only just started digging into this podcast’s back catalog, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to learn at lot from it. In Sickness + Health explores what you might call the chronic illness sector of the broader disability community, focusing on how we actually think about and relate to our bodies when they don’t work as designed … or when they actively rebel against us. I tend to gravitate more towards the social, political, and practical aspects of disability culture, yet my own disabilities very much fit into the more medically involved chronic illness zone. So this podcast is probably perfect for me. At the same time, it also seems to do a good job of connecting the very personal physical and emotional aspects of disability with the social and political dimension. Basically, I am very intrigued. I’ll be listening more in the near future.

Note: I am also adding this as an update to a post I did back in August, 2014: Disability Podcasts.

Quitting The Podcast ... For Now

Black sign with white informal lettering reading: Back To The DRAWING BOARD

I am putting an end to the Disability.TV Podcast in its current form, but something will take its place, and what’s already been done won’t go away.

I still believe there is a huge and mostly untapped potential for audio podcasts in Disability Culture. There are just enough really good disability podcasts out there to make me certain there could and should be more. However, in the three years since I started Disability.TV, I have concluded that I'm not very good at it, especially when I go solo, and right now I don't have the time and resources to line up sufficient guests. So I'm going to stop this cycle of excitement about a new disability on TV topic, procrastination about actually doing a show about it, and relief at finally doing it, followed by slight disappointment over the results. I gave it a decent shot. I like a lot of what I and my guests dis. But it's time to move on to something different.

What next then?

For awhile, nothing. I've got enough going on with the blog, the freelance work I'm doing this summer, and my daily #CripTheVote activities. Eventually though, I have in mind a more general-interest disability video show or "vlog" on YouTube. I say "general-interest," but I probably mean topics clustered around disability activism, politics, and culture ... much like the written Disability Thinking blog. It will probably once again be a combination of short solo entries and somewhat longer conversations with others. I might even do a few on-location vlogs when there's something interesting to look at.

In the meantime, I will keep the podcast alive so you can listen to it anytime you want. Occasionally, I'll even promote some of the through the Disability Thinking blog, Twitter, and Facebook. And whatever comes next will take its place exactly where the podcast resides on the Disability Thinking website. So stay tuned. If there are particular things you'd like to hear and see, format preferences, or other ideas, please do let me know!

By the way, don't forget that the Disability Thinking Links page includes links to my favorite disability-related podcasts and vlogs. Go visit, and check back now and then, to see what great stuff other people are doing in disability media and commentary.

Meet Mickey Abbott

Seinfeld characters Mickey Abbott on the left, Kramer on the right, talking in Jerry's apartment

I am preparing for the next episode of the Disability.TV Podcast, which will look at the recurring Seinfeld character, Mickey Abbott. I’d love to interview someone about the character, whether you like the portrayal of this Little Person character or not. He’s one of my personal favorites, but I’m open to other interpretations.

Here is a montage of Mickey Abbott scenes:

You can watch Seinfeld here, at Hulu.com.

I also recommend listening to this Seincast Podcast interview with the actor Danny Woodburn, who portrayed Mickey Abbott on Seinfeld.

If you have comments about Mickey Abbott, you can leave them below in the comments, and I’ll read them on my podcast. If you want to be my guest for the podcast, just shoot me an email, or hit me up on Twitter, @AndrewPulrang.

What “Girls” Does Better Than “Me Before You”

TV still image of a middle aged blonde woman sitting in a wheelchair, talking and gesturing

After weeks of reading and participating a bit in discussions about “Me Before You,” (the book and the movie), and its severely problematic view of disability in general and assisted suicide specifically … after engaging with this for so long, I only remembered yesterday that a recent TV show told a somewhat similar story, with a lot more depth and a much different outcome.

*Spoilers ahead!*

I did a Disability.TV Podcast episode last year about a storyline on HBO’s “Girls,” in which one of the main characters, Jessa, becomes a personal assistant for a woman named Beedie, an older, successful art photographer who uses a wheelchair. I’m not sure, but I think the Beedie has Multiple Sclerosis. After awhile working with and getting to know Jessa, Beedie says she wants to die and asks Jessa to obtain the necessary drugs. As in “Me Before You,” her reasons are a bit sketchy. She mentions pain, but has shown little evidence of it interfering with her life. By most objective measures, even factoring in her disability, Beedie has a good life. As does Will in “Me Before You.”

Anyway, Jessa objects to being asked to help Beedie kill herself. Jesse’s objections carry real conviction, but in the end she respects Beedie’s “choice.” She gets the drugs, and seems resolved to sit by Beedie’s bedside and hold her hand as she dies. At the last minute, though, Beedie cries out that she’s changed her mind, and Jessa basically leaps across the bed to the phone to call 911.

Some time later … days? weeks? … Beedie’s daughter shows up, pissed as all Hell about what happened, certainly very angry with Jessa, this random hippie chick her mother hired to take care of her. She’s determined to bring her mother Beedie home with her and take care of her herself. Again, Jessa objects, and is ready to fight for Beedie’s right to live where she wants and do what she wants. She also can tell, as we can, too, that while Beedie’s daughter is basically right about the suicide attempt and Jessa’s role in it, she is also a royal pain and a control freak who will take over Beedie’s life if she’s allowed, and make her miserable. Yet, Beedie lovingly but firmly calms Jessa down and says she’ll go with her daughter.

It’s far from a satisfying ending, but throughout the story, you really get a sense that Beedie is a strong person who goes through a crisis, and is willing to make difficult choices, but will never really lose control or self-respect.

This “Girls” story doesn’t have a clear anti-assisted suicide message, or a pro one either. It’s all ambiguity. Yet, Beedie decides to live, which makes it 100% less harmful than “Me Before You.” I also think the “Girls” story correctly links the appeal for some of assisted suicide, with the importance of choice in the lives of people with disabilities. The links are a bit tangled, but they are there. Plus, Beedie and Jessa are much more real, complex, relatable characters than Will and Lou seem to be, by far … and sketched out in a fraction of the time, in literally a handful of scenes over two half-hour TV episodes.

Assisted suicide doesn’t have to be a pop culture taboo. It can be discussed in a realistic and life-affirming way … or at least a non-death-affirming way. It can be done. It has been done.

Disability.TV Podcast Preview: Tyrion Lannister’s Prison Conversations

On left: Oberyn Martel, on right: Tyrion Lannister and Jamie Lannister

I am a little behind as usual, but my goal is to upload the next episode of the Disability.TV Podcast by Saturday the 30th, Sunday, May 1st at the latest. Episode 32 will explore two conversations in two successive episodes of Game Of Thrones, Season 4. Each of the two scenes features Tyrion Lannister, one of the most in-depth disabled characters in TV history. In each scene, Tyrion has a conversation that digs deep into the meaning of disability, while also illuminating some of the key themes of the whole TV and book series.

Watch the two scenes on YouTube. They stand alone pretty well. You don’t really have to have seen much Game of Thrones, or even understand what the story is about. And if you have any intimate understanding of disability, you’ll “get” these scenes on a level that most viewers may have missed entirely.

Game Of Thrones: S. 4, Ep. 7 - Mockingbird
Tyrion Lannister and Oberyn Martell

Game Of Thrones: S. 4, Ep. 8 - The Mountain and the Viper
Tyrion & Jaime talks about Orson the Beetleslayer

I’ll have more to say about these prison cell conversations, and what I think they all mean in relation to disability, in the podcast.

Disability.TV Podcast Recap

Disability.TV Podcast on the left an old style television with four disability symbols on a white screen, on the right, a black silouette icon of a microphone against a yellow background

In case you missed them, here are the first three Disability.TV podcasts of 2016:

Disability.TV Episode 29 - President Bartlett’s China Trip
The West Wing


Disability.TV Episode 30 - The Cage / Menagerie Conundrum
Star Trek: The Original Series


Disability.TV Episode 31 - Chief Ironside, Peer Counselor


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Email: apulrang@icloud.com
Twitter: @AndrewPulrang
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Website: www.disabilitythinking.com

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Podcast Preview: Ironside

Collage of Ironside TV show imagery, text: Raymond Burr in Ironside - music composed & conducted by Quincey Jones

Episode 31 of the Disability.TV Podcast will upload on Friday, March 25. I’m going to title the episode, “Chief Ironside: Peer Counselor.” It will focus on my favorite episode of Ironside, the remarkable late ‘60s, early ‘70s police drama featuring a main character who uses a wheelchair.

Join me as I revisit “Light At The End Of The Journey.” It’s one of the few Ironside episodes in which Chief Ironside’s disability is an important part of the story. It’s also an extremely rare example of a TV show in which two disabled people interact, and where a disabled person motivates another disabled person’s development.

In addition to exploring why I like this particular episode so much, I’ll try to talk through why I keep coming back to the Ironside series, which is so stylistically dated and in some ways insubstantial, at least compared with much of today’s “prestige TV.”

As always, the podcast will be full of spoilers, so if you have no idea what Ironside is, or if you don’t remember the episode, I suggest watching it free on Hulu.

For a preview of the things I’ll be talking about, you might want to read this blog post I wrote about a year ago:

“This chair is my white cane. Where’s yours?”
Andrew Pulrang, Disability Thinking - March 21, 2015

Ironside is also the first TV series I talked about on the Disability.TV Podcast. The episode is a bit long and the quality isn’t that great, but it explains a bit of my history with the show, and why I believe it still stands as one of the best depictions of disability on television.

Here’s the episode:
Disability.TV - Ep. 2, Ironside (Original)

Podcast Preview: “The Cage / Menagerie Conundrum”

3 Star Trek pictures in a row, Capt Pike, Injured Capt Pike in a wheelchair, 3 humanoid aliens with big heads

Episode 30 of the Disability.TV Podcast will upload on Friday, February 26. Titled “The Cage / Menagerie Conundrum,” the episode will focus on some surprising disability themes in two of the original Star Trek series’ most memorable stories … the original, unaired Pilot, “The Cage,” and “The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2.”

I get deep into spoilers, so I highly recommend watching before listening, on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Or, splurge a little and buy the DVDs.

Come explore the "final frontier" with me ... but pro tip: don't trust those Talosians! 

The Return of the Disability.TV Podcast

Disability.TV logo, old style tv set with four disability symbols on the screen

The first new Disability.TV Podcast episode in quite awhile is now available! Click the link to get there, or listen right where you are using the light brown widget:

Ep. 29 - President Bartlett’s China Trip

If you’re new to the podcast and want to check out previous episodes, follow the selected archived links below:

Ep. 2 - Ironside (Original)

Ep. 7 - Friday Night Lights
With guest Maddy Ruvolo

Ep 8 & 10 - Game Of Thrones Part 1, Game of Thrones Part 2
With guest Alice Wong

Ep. 12 - Glee
With guest Cheryl Green

Ep. 14 - Ironside (2013)
With guest Kamilah Proctor

Ep. 16 - Big Bang Theory
With guest Sarah Levis

Ep. 19 - American Horror Story: Freak Show
With guest Jane Hash

Ep. 21 - Reality TV
With guest Emily Ladau

Ep. 23 - Downton Abbey
With guests Kelly Anniken and Tom Schneider of the Up Yours, Downstairs Podcast

Ep. 24 - Red Band Society
With guest AmputeeOT

Ep. 25 - Girls: Jessa & Beedie

The easiest way to keep up with new podcast episodes is to subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or Podbean. Click the links to get that going. It's entirely free. If you like the podcast, I would really appreciate your positive star ratings and comments with whichever podcasting service you use.

Is there a TV episode or character related to disability you would like me to discuss? Let me know! Send me an email at: apulrang@icloud.com, or Tweet at me: @AndrewPulrang.

"Impact Winter"

DVD cover for The West Wing, Season Six

The long-delayed, procrastinated, and re-thought episode of the Disability.TV Podcast will be posted on Wednesday, January 27. The subject will be Season 6, Episode 9 of The West Wing, “Impact Winter.” The West Wing is available on DVD, and through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Apple iTunes.

Future episodes of the Disability,TV Podcast will post on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Two weeks before, I will announce the topic, so listeners can watch the show or episode in advance if they want. These podcasts will be spoiler-full! I will talk about whatever is necessary in order to fully explore the disabled characters and disability stories featured in each podcast episode. Listeners will probably get the most out of these episodes if they watch before listening. However, I hope to make sure that pre-watching isn’t necessary. I have been turned on to many great TV shows and movies by listening to commentaries about them, spoilers and all.

It’s up to you. Watch before, or after. Either way, join me in examining and appreciating interesting … if not always good … depictions of disability on television.