Monthly Disability Reading List - September 2019

DISABILITY THINKING - Monthly Reading List

Three things about disability I read last month …

No, Bringing Back Mental Institutions Won’t Stop Mass Shootings
Maggie Koerth-Baker, FiveThirtyEight - August 27, 2019

It’s always helpful to review the hard data disproving the connection between violence and mental illness. So many people think it’s just common sense, but it just isn’t.

Do All Disabled People Think The Same?
Jubilee, YouTube - September 1, 2019

The answer is “Of course not!” but it’s fun to see it dramatized by real disabled people in fun exercise.

Marca Bristo, Influential Advocate for the Disabled, Dies at 66
Glenn Rifkin, The New York Times - September 8, 2019

When I was starting out working at a Center for Independent Living, just starting to learn about the Disability Rights Movement, Marca Bristo was one of the first names I learned, and the first personal story I heard about.

Banana slicers and pre-peeled oranges: “useless” products can help people with disabilities
s. e. smith, - September 20, 2019

One of the most useless stages almost every disabled person goes through is judging ourselves lazy for using even the simplest conveniences, helpers, and shortcuts to make our lives easier. It’s so wrongheaded, so wasteful, and so, so common. But it doesn’t come naturally. We learn it from the blithely judgmental attitudes of the society around us.

Will You Still Love Pete, tomorrow …
Rebecca Cokley, Medium - September 23, 2019

I have watched a lot of reaction videos where YouTubers watch and react to “Game Of Thrones.” They all love Tyrion. Most reactors’ admiration for the character, and for Peter Dinklage, seems deep and nuanced, and neither condescending nor sentimental. So I am cautiously optimistic that Dinklage and his character Tyrion really have broken some ground that won’t be covered up again.

Monthly Reading List - May 2019

Disability Thinking - Monthly Reading List

The best things about disability I read last month …

Are You Inspired by That Disabled Person or Shocked They Were Included?
Imani Barbarin, Crutches & Spice - May 30, 2019

Inspiration Porn, in all its many varieties, never seems to die. This “America’s Got Talent” performance promoted the latest version, and Imani Barbarin is on it with a crystal clear explanation of one of the reasons why it’s a problem, and an impassioned “Stop it!” for both popular culture and everyday participants in social media.

Tyrion Lannister, Dwarf Identity, and the Struggle for Agency
Dr. Joseph Stramondo, Rooted In Rights - May 21, 2019

The end of the long running TV epic “Game Of Thrones” renewed and complicated debates over the meaning and impact of the show’s iconic disabled characters. This is a particularly interesting look at probably the show’s most loved and admired character.

Disabled people need more ramps, not more fancy new gadgets
s. e. smith, - April 30, 2019

Innovative technology has always been viewed as one of the keys to independence for people with disabilities, and for good reason. But there definitely is at least a sub-genre of disability gadgets that miss the mark, mainly because what disabled people need most often doesn’t match up with what looks awesome to non-disabled people.

“It’s a Spectrum” Doesn’t Mean What You Think
C. L. Lynch, The Aspergian | A Neurodivergent Collective - May 6, 2019

This is one of the most helpful explanations I have seen so far of the “neurodiversity” view of autism. Given how contentious the competing views are, explainers like this are incredibly valuable.

Taking Up Space - New Mobility
Reveca Torres, New Mobility - May 1, 2019

A lot of internalized ableism boils down to disabled people feeling ashamed for “taking up space.”

Monthly Reading List - March 2019

Disability Thinking - Monthly Reading List

Each month I select and share five disability-related articles I read the previous month. Here are the five from January 2019:

The College Admissions Scandal Could Have Lasting Impacts for Disabled People
Brittney McNamara, Teen Vogue - March 13, 2019

It's especially good to see this angle covered so well by Teen Vogue. Much of its audience is either in or approaching college, and just beginning to shape how they think about disability accommodations in academics.

‘Medicare for All’ Must Truly Be for All—Including People With Disabilities
Robyn Powell, Rewire News - March 13, 2019

Whether or not "Medicare For All" is a politically realistic possibility at the moment, it's incredibly important to map out what disabled people need from any health insurance system.

I have a disability everyone can see. My bipolar friend who died by suicide did not.
Ben Mattlin, USA Today - March 20, 2019

This is a very good head-on exploration of the sometimes difficult relationship between the community of physically disabled people and people with mental illness.

Here’s What Dr. Phil Got Wrong in His Episode on Interabled Relationships
Melissa Blake, Rooted In Rights - March 26, 2019

Frankly, you don't have to look very hard to find Dr. Phil being sloppy and unnecessarily insulting on his show. And a couple of his quotes alone speak for themselves. But this piece nicely underscores the core problem with his recent show on "interabled" couples.

Betsy DeVos’s threats to the Special Olympics are cruel. But disabled people have bigger problems.
s.e. smith, Vox - March 28, 2019

Problems with disabled people's health care, critical benefits, and basic civil rights never seem to "catch fire" with the public, while certain high-profile disability causes garner a disproportionate amounts of sympathy and outrage. This kind of thing is completely understandable and at the same time legitimately frustrating.

Monthly Reading List - January 2019

Disability Thinking - Monthly Reading List

Each month I select and share five disability-related articles I read the previous month. Here are the five from January 2019:

4 Ways To Respect The Needs Of Employees With Disabilities
Amanda Reaume, Forbes - December 14, 2018

I’m not sure why, but Forbes has been publishing a lot of articles on accommodating employees with disabilities. It is a business magazine, so it fits with its profile, but the number of articles on this topic is surprising. I wonder if there is a specific reason for this. In any case, the articles are usually pretty good, though not very ground-breaking or audacious. It’s mostly standard “disability is diversity” and “being decent to disabled people is good business” fare.

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Navigating the Wheelchair Accessible Path to Adoption
Katrina Kelly, Center for Disability Rights Blog - January 2, 2019

A great and very personal take on a disability topic not often discussed, but probably more common and relevant than most people would think.

Hiring People with Disabilities is Good Business
Ted Kennedy, Jr., New York Times - December 27, 2018

Again, the disability employment arguments are pretty standard and unchanged for decades. It’s essentially the same pro-business argument that took shape right after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s not a bad argument, but it might be a little stale. It also might be more valid in “white collar” workplaces than it is in lower wage occupations.

Why cast Bryan Cranston as a quadriplegic man when disabled actors are queuing up for roles
Rachel Charlton-Dailey, Metro.UK - January 9, 2019

This to me is the best argument for why it’s morally objectionable for non-disabled actors to platy disabled characters … not just representation for the audience, but employment opportunities for disabled actors who need to make a living.

I Prefer That You Say I’m “Disabled”
Robyn Powell, Dame - January 15, 2019

A nice articulation of a classic disability question … how we want people to refer to us, and how we think of ourselves.

Monthly Reading List - December 2018

Disability Thinking - Monthly Reading List

Each month I select and share five disability-related articles I read the previous month. Here are the five from December 2018:

American Nightmare: How workers with disabilities are denied economic prosperity
Mark Riccobono, The Hill - November 30, 2018

This is an unusually good explanation of subminimum wage, the original rationale for it, and why it’s long past time for it to end.

Stop Asking Disabled People, “What Happened To You?”
Jessica Gimeno, Fashionably Ill - December 6, 2018

Intrusive personal questions from strangers is one of the most common everyday annoyances of having disabilities. It’s far from the worst kind of ableism, but it really does get you down. This article explains why, and offers helpful suggestions on how to engage with disabled people more appropriately.

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Speech at ASAN Gala 2018
Julia Bascom, Executive Director, Autistic Self Advocacy Network - December 10, 2018

Julia Bascom offers an exceptionally clear and comprehensive overview of the current state of disability rights in the United States. She also gives a powerful defense of the importance of inclusion and disability rights principles for people with developmental disabilities.

Disability insurance: A crisis ends, but problems persist
Henry J. Aaron, Brookings - December 12, 2018

This article offers some encouraging news about the Social Security Disability “crisis,” while noting that reform is still needed. What’s missing, however, is any ideas from the people who actually use SSDI, the disability community itself.

DVP Interview: Judith Heumann and Alice Wong
Alice Wong, Disability Visibility Project - December 13, 2018

One of the pioneers of disability rights and independent living in the U.S. shares a little of her background and perspective on her life and what’s important for people with disabilities in general.

Monthly Reading List: September, 2018

Monthly Reading List in large print on a background photo of stacks of books

Five selected disability-themed articles from August, 2018. It turns out my choices this month are about fundamentals of understanding the disability experience. Taken together, they form a pretty good introduction for anyone who might be exploring disability thinking for the first time.

It isn’t a wheelchair that makes my life disabled, it’s buildings without ramps
Frances Ryan, The Guardian - August 23, 2018

Accessibility is the purest, simplest example of how in real life, disability is about your surroundings, living conditions, and the restrictions they impose as much ... if not more ... as it is about any medical conditions or impairments you have. This is the point where the Social Model and Medical Model of disability diverge.

My Disabilities Make Me Both Broken and Whole
Kate Ryan, Rooted In Rights - August 24, 2018

There is a lot of debate inside the disability community about whether accepting the Social Model of disability, and having a positive view of disability in general, means you have to gloss over the frequent pain and medical complications of actual disabilities. This article deftly threads the needle between the two main ways we experience disability. The bonus is that it is beautifully expressed.

Cripple Perks: The Unreasonable Luxury of Living While Disabled
s.e. smith, Catapult - August 15, 2018

One of the most common types of discrimination disabled people face is the dirty looks, eye rolls, and other forms of passive and sometimes not so passive disapproval we get when we use "special" accommodations and shortcuts to make our lives a little more bearable. It's important for both non-disabled and disabled people to understand the difference between unearned privilege and necessary, equalizing accommodations. As long as we aspire to a "no help" standard of independence, and tacitly agree to the judgements of onlookers, we hold ourselves back from achieving real independence and equality.

Report shows LGBTI people with disability experience higher rates of discrimination
Nicole Pope, Disability Support Guide - August 10, 2018

The fact that many disabled people experience multiple overlapping layers of discrimination is often expressed so abstractly that people who don't experience it firsthand have trouble understanding it. Real data like this is valuable in demonstrating how being disabled and also LGBTQ mix to produce additional and distinct forms of discrimination. This is intersectionality ... a somewhat intimidating word for a pretty basic reality that still isn't recognized enough, even within the disability community.

Q&A With The Money Diarist Living On Disability
Anabel Pasarow, Refinery - August 9, 2018

You can't get more concrete than asking an actual disabled person on Social Security Disability how they manage their day to day finances. There is a lot of moral posturing about "Disability" benefits, but ultimately it comes down to real people doing real math.

Monthly Reading List

Monthly Reading List title over a background photo of open books on a table

The best things I found about disability on the internet in June, 2018:

Ban Inaccessibility, Not Plastic Straws
Karin Hitselberger, Rooted In Rights - June 7, 2018

I admit that I am still ambivalent about the straw ban controversy within the disability community. Obviously, disabled people who need plastic straws and can’t use other kinds have an important concern that needs to be taken into account, and is instead either ignored or outright disparaged by straw ban supporters. Yet, I do think that reducing plastic straw usage overall is probably a good idea. That’s why I appreciate this article, which offers a reasonable compromise that I think could end up doing most of what straw bands are intended to do.

On Arrested Development, Disability Is a Joke
Inkoo Kang, - June 8, 2018

When I started the Disability.TV podcast, this is the kind of discussion I wanted to have. I discovered that I’m not that good at podcasting … more specifically, not good at speaking off the cuff. It also felt like discussions about TV and movies in disability culture were pretty binary. Or more accurately, singularly focused on identifying ableist offenses and giving out demerits for them. I certainly think TV continues to earn demerits for ableism, and certainly did when Arrested Development came out, but I like how this piece engages the idea that at different times, imperfect representations may be better than none at all, while probably not deserving a permanent pass.

Jesse Thorn Pays Tribute to Ed Roberts, A Pioneering Leader in the Disability Rights Movement
Bullseye With Jesse Thorn - June 4, 2018

I’m a regular listener to Maximum Fun podcasts, which are overseen by Jesse Thorn. And I like Jesse a lot in his role as “Bailiff” for the Judge John Hodgman podcast. I’ve listened to his NPR show Bullseye a few times too, though I’m not a regular. But when Jesse mentioned having talked about Ed Roberts in a recent Bullseye episode, it took me by surprise and I went right to it. What a lovely tribute. Jesse is personal and admiring, but doesn’t forget to explain why Ed Roberts means something to so many people who never met him. This is an essential component of any introduction to the Disability Rights and Independent Living movements.

Please Don't Call My Autistic Son "Buddy."
Susan Senator, Psychology Today - June 14, 2018

One of these days I’m going to make a definitive list of things disabled people think and feel that are really hard to explain to non-disabled people. Condescension is one of them, despite the fact that once it is directed to you, the problem with it is dead obvious. This article explains it pretty well.

Iron Man
Mike Ervin, Smart Ass Cripple - June 19, 2018

I turned 51 this June. I don’t know if I’m qualified for any senior discounts yet, but this piece sure resonated with me regardless.

Monthly Reading List - Read Positive Edition


Since I tend to gravitate naturally towards the pessimistic / fighting injustice side of disability culture, I’m trying to make an effort to balance my this out with stuff that makes me feel good and optimistic in a substantive way. So this month I am highlighting five articles on disability from May that can be roughly categorized as “positive.” That is, they don’t focus mainly on either personal or systemic ableism, while also avoiding excessive or superficial sentimentality.

Hear Me Out: Being Inspired By Disabled People Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
Hannah Soyer, Rooted In Rights - May 1, 2018

This is a good place to start ... a reexamination of our common discomfort and disapproval of portraying disabled people as “inspirational.” Maybe we need to reclaim the word. It doesn’t always have to mean cheap sentimentalism, especially when we as disabled people are inspired by one another.

Reframed: Quad Hands
Reveca Torres, New Mobility - May 1, 2018

There is still a place for light, self-deprecating humor in disability culture. It might actually be more important right now than ever before.

Getty is trying to bring disability inclusion to stock photos
Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company - May 17, 2018

Adding more disability images to commercial stock photo collections is a low effort / high impact cultural change that needs to be capitalized on and recognized.

Microsoft to introduce new, disability-friendly Xbox controller
Matt Gerardi, The AV Club - May 17, 2018

This is progress ... even if it is for a rather niche audience. I’m also extra glad to see it covered in a mainstream pop culture publication like “The AV Club.”

Sexuality, Disability and the Journey to Inner Freedom
Gaelynn Lea Tressler, The Mighty - May 19, 2018

About half a weekend was taken up discussing on Twitter the pros and cons of publishing disability pieces in The Mighty, which has a “problematic” reputation in certain segments of disability culture. It was a good conversation, and Gaelynn was really gracious about it. But I also feel a little bad, because her actual article is outstanding. So here it is. Go read it.

Monthly Reading List - Autism Acceptance Month Edition

Monthly Reading List

April was “Autism Awareness Month.” Or, as a great many autistic people prefer to call it, “Autism Acceptance Month.”

I’m not sure why I’m so interested in the intense debates about autism. As far as I know, I’m not autistic. Maybe I’m fascinated because the conflict over what autism is, how much of a problem it is, what kind of problem it is, for whom, and indeed whether it even IS a problem … reflects similar but less sharply defined issues in the disability community as a whole.

In any case, my reading list for April is all about autism …

The CDC just announced one in 59 children are autistic. Here’s why that’s not evidence of an epidemic
Ari Ne'eman, - April 30, 2018

Ari Ne'eman clarifies the question of whether autism is an "epidemic." For one thing, it isn't because it isn't a disease ... although whether it is a disability still seems somewhat debatable, even among autistic people. What Ari focuses on here though is that it's not an epidemic because it isn't actually increasing. What's increasing is the number of people diagnosed and recognized as being autistic. One of the central arguments of the "neurodiversity" view of autism is that people have always been autistic at something like these rates. It's just that they weren't identified as such.

Welcome To The Autistic Community
Autistic Self Advocacy Network - February 14, 2018

An implicit reply to neurodiversity is, "Then what are we supposed to do about / for autistic people?" This handbook, by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network goes a long way towards answering that question, addressing autistic people directly.

Real Autism
Sarah Kurchack, Hazlitt - April 9, 2018

Sarah unpacks her personal experience with what seems to be another of the key conflicts over autism ... how differing definitions of autism include and exclude people who have been diagnosed as autistic, and experience definite characteristics of autism. It's hard to even discuss this without alluding to high and low "functioning" labels, because that seems to be what it's all about ... the perception that if an autistic person doesn't presently display a list of stereotypical "behaviors," then they aren't "really" autistic. It's a variation on the "No true Scotsman" fallacy, and it's enough to make anyone's head spin if they try to unwind it.

Meltdowns Over Meltdowns
Kerima Cevik, The Autism Wars

This is a very real and realistic examination of what "meltdowns" are, how they are regarded, how parents of autistic kids respond to them, and ... maybe most importantly ... how overlapping stereotypes and prejudices of autism, gender, age, and race can compound the impact and danger for autistic people.

15 Autistic Activists You Should Follow This Autism Acceptance Month
Alaina Leary, Rooted In Rights - April 26, 2018

The best way to get a variety of perspectives on autism ... other than usual "mysterious affliction," "parental nightmare," and "public health epidemic" versions ... is to see what autistic people have to say about autism. This piece is a good place to start.

Monthly Reading List - March, 2018

Monthly Reading List

Monthly Reading List

Five disability-related items I read in March, 2018:

The Stories We Don’t Tell: My Mom On Raising An Autistic Child And Why She’ll Never Write About Me
Sarah Kurchak, Medium - March 6, 2018

This is a must-read for anyone who doesn't understand why so many disabled people don't like "special needs parent" memoirs. Obviously, parents of disabled children should be able to write about their experiences if they want to. But they absolutely must at least consider how their kids would take what they plan to say, and assuming they'll never read it or understand it just isn't good enough, regardless of their disability. That goes maybe double for people who think about reading such memoirs.

Disabled People Can Have Eating Disorders, Too
Micaela Evans, Teen Vogue - March 2, 2018

The essential point of this piece applies to many health conditions beyond eating disorders. Doctors often don't function at their highest capability with disabled patients because they have a hard time distinguishing between our underlying disabilities and more immediate medical conditions. This confusion is probably the number one barrier disabled people face in getting good, regular medical care.

Record snow creates 'nightmare' for people with accessibility issues, says advocate urging better clearing
David Bell, CBC News - March 5, 2018

There's nothing special about how the article is written. I am including it because winter weather isn't mentioned often enough in discussions of physical accessibility. Obviously, it only directly concerns disabled people who happen to live in places that have snow and ice. But where they do appear, the barriers are profound and chronic. And unlike stairs and curbs, removing snow once doesn't do the job. You have to do it constantly. On the other hand, snow removal isn't actually that difficult in any given spot, compared to building a ramp. So there's a lot to discuss!

Stephen Hawking, Wheelchairs, Death. and Freedom
Karen Hitzelburger, Claiming Crip - March 15, 2018

On balance, I found most of what I read about Stephen Hawking in the wake of his death pretty decent. The only real exception was the recurrent tendency ... for some writers seemingly a compulsion ... to make basically the same faux-insightful remark about Hawking being "free" of his wheelchair now that he's dead. Karen does a good job here not just of calling out the practice, but explaining why so many disabled people really loathe it. As strongly as we feel about it, it's not something that's immediately obvious to everyone ... maybe to most people ... so it deserves a good explanation like this one.

The Overlooked History of Black Disabled People
Vilissa Thompson, Rewire News - March 16, 2018

There's an obvious reason to pay attention to the history of black disabled people. It's a matter of fairness and representation. But that almost implies that it's not an interesting topic on its own, which it is! Come to the subject for the justice of it. You'll stay because it's interesting.