Top 10 Reasons Why Focusing on White Students With Disabilities Is Not Acceptable Policy Strategy. In DC or Anywhere.

Lisa Simpson throwing up her hands in horror

I used this very same image for another post and darned if it isn’t perfect for this one, too! Courtesy Fox.

10. Because it’s racist. (In a rush? You can stop here!)
9. Because education policy is entwined with juvenile justice and incarceration policies for students of color with disabilities and, funny thing, disabled advocates of color think those issues are kind of urgent.
8. Because we lack the nanotechnology to measure the moral integrity of erasing students of color with disabilities from the very issue that derails and destroys their lives in vastly disproportionate numbers.
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D’Oh! HR 620 Will Hurt Ordinary Americans

Since there are a number of Democrats in Congress who are still not grokking that voting for H.R. 620, the ADA Notification Act, is a vote against civil rights and disabled Americans, I’m going to show this absurd bill in action against real Americans.
By showing it in action against those really-real Americans, The Simpsons.
Lisa Simpson throwing up her hands in horror

“WHAT??? Democrat Representative Jackie Speier co-sponsored H.R. 620, the ADA Notification Act, that undermines vital civil rights protections for millions of disabled Americans?! HOW DID WAL-MART GET TO YOU, JACKIE???”?

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Your 3-Point Take-Down of the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, or Why Your Representative Should Vote NO on HR 620

Here’s how to tell your Congressional Representative to OPPOSE H.R. 620, and any other bill that weakens the ADA! 

Here’s your 3-point take-down of the central flaw in HR 620:

Point #1: HR 620 claims the ADA is so easy that a random person should carry the responsibility for teaching corporations how to obey the ADA, aka civil rights law.

Color still from Saturday Night Live. A parody commercial for Shimmer Floor Wax. Chevy Chase is spraying Shimmer on Dan Ackroyd's pudding while Gilda Radner looks at the Shimmer on her mop.

“HR 620 is BOTH!” Courtesy NBC Universal.

Point #2: HR 620 claims the same ADA is too hard for corporations to learn how to obey.

Point #3: HR 620’s claim to be both a floor-wax AND a dessert topping isn’t reality-based.

Failing the reality test makes HR 620 a NO vote

Tell your Representative to vote NO on HR 620 because even when a corporation is suffering from the heartbreak of toohardism, sabotaging the civil rights of people with disabilities goes well beyond a corporation’s demand for reasonable accommodation.

BONUS POINT: Ignorance of the law is NOT an excuse, so why does HR 620 make it okay for corporations to NOT obey the law because they don’t understand the ADA after 27 years?

You want more on why HR 620 is a hot mess? Here you go.

This #Crip Stays in the Picture: A Past Plaintiff on Opposing H.R. 620, the #ADA Notification Act

Colorful cartoonized portrait of Ingrid Tischer's face

This crip is staying the picture of ADA litigation.

I’m Ingrid Tischer. You may remember me as “headless female torso using a walker” from Anderson Cooper’s “ADA Hit-Piece of Horror” on 60 Minutes. But I’m here today to tell you about a different type of horror: Being a plaintiff in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit, in which you’re presumed greedy and where whatever happened to you was no more than an inconvenience.

Four years ago, I began a multi-year metamorphosis into “non-vexatious litigant wanting to use a toilet.” That makes me the face of ADA lawsuits. But, in the 60 Minutes segment and the continuing slew of hand-wringing pieces about ADA scam-artists, you don’t see any faces like mine. A face like mine disrupts the narrative of the selfish — or gullible — cripple who financially kneecaps overwhelmed small business owners over access technicalities. You don’t hear much about how the proposed H.R. 620 would also apply to our considerably larger corporate citizens. So I’m putting my face right out there. This crip stays in the picture.

Despite the media’s fixation on “drive-by litigation,” — a completely non-accidental choice of phrase that associates fighting for my civil rights with gang violence – I was using the ADA as it was intended to be used, and should be used. As a civil rights law that, in 1990, made me a full US citizen at the age of 25. But in addition to the external changes in public spaces that have literally opened doors for me, the ADA is responsible for a profound internal shift in my thinking: I have expectations now that I didn’t grow up with: that I can enter a store, eat at a restaurant, cross a city street, open my office door.

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RespectAbility, Class and Race Privilege, and Leveling the Erring Field

 The post shows a picture of George H. W. Bush and links to a news story of him saying he will vote for Clinton. Mizrahi wrote: If Hillary wins it will because of white voters who care about people with disabilities. BTW, this is NOT a partisan thing. The same is true of Republican Sen. Richard Burr in NC who is running as the pro-PwDs candidate there.. THE POWER OF VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES WILL DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF THE 2016 ELECTION! Remember that George H.W. Bush signed the ADA!

Screenshot of Mizrahi’s September 2016 Facebook post.

I have now been witness to The Mistake by RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi; the unpleased reactions by disabled women of color; some thoughtful initial responses; a cringe-worthy apology-type product; the official statement; and now (I’m guessing), The Great Moving On from uncomfortable conversations about ableism,  racism and disabled people of color within the disability rights community.

Part of me — the part that’s still polite to boundary-busting missionaries — initially wanted to say, “I’ve done this kind of racist shit myself. Sadly.” Then I remembered that much of that shit was when I was near the start of my career 25 years ago. When I would have lost my job — and Bi-Pap-providing health insurance — if I kept that shit up in our very progressive free clinic for gyn care. And how I had no safety net if I lost that job.

Everyone makes mistakes but the erring field is far from equal.

Depending on your class, Repercussions, Consequences, & Accountability are either the Three Furies that dog you even when you haven’t screwed up, or they’re the crisis PR firm you consider for damage control.

When you’re poor, unemployed, a woman, a person of color, a disabled person, or all or most of the above, making mistakes is far more likely to lead to words like “unqualified.” You are threatened with unemployment, fired, and/or are cut off from public benefits. In the worst case scenario, you haven’t made a mistake at all but are questioned, blamed, violated, beaten, shot, killed for being the person you are in public, in school, on the road, and at home.

When you’re affluent or “comfortable,” employed, a man, white, not disabled, or all or most of the above, making mistakes is more likely to lead to words like “executive coaching,” and “Let’s bring our communications person in to help.” In the worst case scenario, you “transition out” to what is often a better-paid job, aka “failing up.” If you are in a position to be a volunteer who has significant authority, the usual checks and balances on your behavior can be even weaker.

That’s when I first realized how integral money, class privilege, and power are to this recent incident. I haven’t seen any real repercussions, consequences, or accountability for Mizrahi — except for a bump to her prestige — and that’s just one infuriating aspect of how race and class insulate those with power.


Then I reread the official statement and I hit a whole new level of disturbed. Continue reading

#WSPD2016: Suicide Is a Problem, Not a Solution for Living With a Disability. Yup, Even One That’s Neuromuscular, Progressive, and Degenerative

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. But for a disabled person like me,  it’s just not my day.

Increasingly:

What would be a “threat of self-harm” for you, is a “personal choice” for me.

What calls for an intervention for you, calls for a pre-suicide party for me.

Your movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. My movie is It’s a Wonderful Death.

When it comes to people like me, suicide is rapidly becoming normalized. Or more exactly, suicide is being erased through re-branding. “It’s not ‘suicide’! It’s ‘ending your life on your own terms’!”

But I want a great pre-end of life. I want to live on my own terms.Ingrid posing with her Respironics Bi-Pap S/T

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#CripTheVote: You Have Hillary Clinton to Blame for This Blog Post

For the first time in my 50 years on July 28, 2016, I heard my disabled childhood described through the civil rights lens by a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. She centered my childhood where I would have: on education and public schools.

It’s difficult to explain the magnitude of hearing my disability identity described in the language of equal rights and not special needs. As meaningful as it was to see a woman accepting the nomination, the tectonic shift I felt was in Clinton accepting me as I am: as a person who deserves respect and can serve the greater good. Not as a diagnosis who has nothing to give or a vote to cast. Certainly not as a target to mock whose vote is irrelevant. Because I have gained my right to an education, I gladly accept the responsibility that comes with answering these two questions:
What do I want to contribute to that is bigger than myself? What is it that I have to contribute?
In using the education that Hillary Clinton and other disability rights advocates fought for, I have a shot at becoming a role model who works together with others rather than being labeled an “inspiration” who is kept at a distance.
The story of childhood is the story of education. The access to and quality of education determines whether that story is one you want to retell over and over, or one that threatens to scare you into silence. The school-to-prison pipeline and the violence that students of color with disabilities experience in the name of “discipline” are the education issues that need urgent action today. I appreciate Clinton’s past work because I see potential in it for protecting the rights of more children and youth with disabilities.
B/w photo of a little boy and younger girl sitting. Both smile and the boy is giving the girl a mischievous sideways glance.

The author and her older brother. Hillary Clinton said, “Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school.” That was an idea – not the law – in 1967 when this photo was taken. Three years later, this little girl could not start first grade at the neighborhood school where her older brother went. The school had a pet rabbit named Pugsly. Inclusion: DENIED. An education: DENIED. A bunny to pet: DENIED.

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The Top 10 Reasons Why Medically Stunting the Growth of Children With Severe Disabilities Continues To Be an Ethical and Well-Thought-Out Solution To the Problem of Financially Stunting Public Funding for In-Home Social Services, Which Is…Huh, How ‘Bout That.

5. Because we need to support the decisions of overburdened parents/caregivers of severely disabled children right up until the time when their decisions require public funding for adequate and affordable in-home supports.

It’s feels like it’s 2007 all over again, what with “growth-attenuation therapy” for severely disabled children being back in the news.  And today, just like then, people with disabilities are trying to make this all about them. But there’s no unrecognized ableism framing this “ethical debate.” It’s not as though fearful parents who really do care about their children — who really are severely disabled — are being given an absurd and brutal choice:

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My Speech to the Graduates, or What I Wish I’d Known As a 5 Year-Old Crip

Ingrid Tischer on the day of her kindergarten graduation in Greece, New York, circa 1969. She is wearing a rainbow vest and skirt sown by her mom. Note the clutching of the diploma and school-bestowed book-bag, and anxious expression -- all indicate a future in literary fiction writing and nonprofit fundraising.

Ingrid Tischer on the day of her kindergarten graduation in Greece, New York, circa 1970. She is wearing a rainbow vest and skirt sewn by her mom. Note the clutching of the diploma and school-bestowed book-bag, and anxious expression — all indicate a future in literary fiction writing and nonprofit fundraising.

If the grand success of the 20th century was the rise of disability as an accepted political identity, we intend for the 21st century to be the time when disability is recognized as the constant but hidden variable in nearly all formulas for global human rights. Including disability as a given factor in most people’s lives is essential to successfully advancing the rights of people who are members of minority communities, survivors of violence and/conflict zones, and veterans; people who live with chronic ailments and have survived catastrophic illness, people who are young and old; male, female, and anywhere on the gender spectrum. While disability has been understood as “different and divided” I believe it can come to be seen as “unique and united.”

As you sit sweating under an increasingly sweltering sun this day, feeling the inevitable effects of a wasteful attitude toward natural resources, you may not be thinking of another type of catastrophic loss caused by another type of massive denial. I speak of almost no one’s favorite topic: Disability. How denying disability’s central role in just about every human life relegates significant chunks of our lives — and worse still, people-sized chunks — to the rubbish heap. It may be that “disabled” doesn’t feel like a word that fits who you are. Fine. Have you ever felt vulnerable? Think of “vulnerable” as a gateway word to a chronic case of disability-speak.

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From Recipes for Inclusive Education, Chapter 6, “Braises and Roasts”

Far from protesting, many an Infirm Child’s eyes shine with an Inner Light at mention of this most noble purpose their otherwise wasted bodies can serve. There are Disabled Children not as wholly selfish as their Disabled brethren who would demand survival, even education and employment, at the expense of their Normal brothers. But good it is to look upon the Infirm Child going cheerfully to the cook-pot to feed the strength of the Normal Child whose rude health is testament to his good character and his Creator’s Pleasure in him.
Color photo of Betsy DeVos, an older white woman, talking animatedly, her excitement presumably over the prospect of destroying the federal civil rights of students with disabilities without even understanding how laws work.

UPDATE: (Salem Village, Massachussetts Bay Colony, January 18, 1617,) Goody DeVos, beloved of GOD as evidenced by her billions, testifying before Congress about the importance of parents being able to choose their disabled children’s schools without mentioning either that: 1) some parents would choose such things as a ducking stool to see if their child’s disability is a “real” one; or 2) choosing that charter dame school the next colony over means they lose their due process rights if the charter school beats their kid for not being able to read his horn book or whatever. Photo courtefy of Salon.

Nature and her master THE LORD have blessed the Educator with ease in beginning any recipe for inclusion, ‘Step One of How to Cook a Disabled Child: Catch a disabled child.’ Truly, the Infirm Child’s emfeeblement makes him an ideal choice for the inexperienced Educator new to his twin masters Efficiency and Economy.

When you have your specimen, consider your various cooking options as well as how many Normal Children you have to feed. Is the Infirm Child plump and well-larded? If this be the case, wrap the lad’s loin with the finest bacon and roast in a hot oven, a dish fit to serve at term’s end to celebrate the holiday.

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Dignity Has Never Been So Disposable

San Francisco had recently become the first county in the country to officially give up on the idea of clean, accessible public bathrooms, available to all in need without regard to payment. The unpropertied in SF were just beginning to walk around with bulgy seats now that all General Assistance recipients were issued a box of generic diapers along with directions to the city shelters, a pamphlet explaining abstinence (UCSF had a grant pending to study the effect of Adult Diaper Dispensation (ADD) on homeless people’s adoption of condom use versus abstinence-only), and $6.95 to get them through the month. The Dignity concession was doing a brisk trade at Pier 39 for unprepared tourists on a budget; a one-day Fun-Pak went for 8.99 but did include two Maxi’s, a plastic Dungeness crab key-ring and a coupon for one Buena Vista Irish Coffee. Dignity Has Never Been So Disposable. A virgin diaper was going for five American Spirits on Sixth Street. The Sheriff’s Department had to fight for, but got, toilets in their renovated facility.

Bureaucrats who may or may not have been wearing a small pin on their lapels, a pin in the shape of a diaper, a stars-and-stripes-waving flag-type diaper almost wing-like from a distance, may or may not have attended a conference in the Caymans to sit in the louvered sunlight of a hotel’s banquet room, listening to presentations such as “Contained Defecation for the Economically Disenfranchised: A Cost-Benefit Analysis.” One of them may or may not have been on the board of a small clinic in San Francisco. None of the conference participants gave any thought to the number of cups of coffee s/he consumed. The conference center had plenty of restrooms. No extra charge. All fees underwritten by the Dignity Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to community development, medical research, and K-12 education. Please take an annual report. Dignity Has Never Been So Within Our Reach. Earnest modern alchemy, how to make the base substance into cold cash. Magicians, start your engines.

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And Now a Word From the FuckAbility™ Research Council on Top Chef, Season 15, Episodes 5 and 6

In Which the FuckAbility™ Research Council DisRespectfully Suggests Tom Colicchio Was High When He Allowed a Cooking Challenge to be Held at 7,500 Feet Above Sea Level Given That One Cheftestant Was Pregnant and Two Others Were Using C-PAPs

Please pack your ableism and go

(The Height of Ignorance, CO)  In a shocking twist, a pregnant woman and two men who don’t breathe great found this week’s battle to be a literally uphill one when they were dumped on a friggin’ mountaintop site where Lando Calrissian is planning to break ground for his Cloud City Diner. The guest judge, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, announced the week’s challenge: Make a truly memorable dish for your own memorial service.

And — as every *real* chef should be able to do — pitch a tent in deep snow, walk around in the snow, endure freezing temperatures for over 24 hours, and manipulate sharp implements with exposed hands.

it’s even money at this point whether top chef knows that the “chilling effect” of asinine workplace practices and attitudes on women and disabled workers won’t be corrected with a thermostat.

With all due dis-respect to restaurant kitchen tradition and gulags everywhere, fuck that noise. Just because Leann still won episode 5 doesn’t make it acceptable that she had to forfeit the rest of the competition in episode 6. Seriously, she’s a fucking powerhouse and you fucked with the career trajectory of a hard-working woman chef of color. Yeah, she knew what the challenge was and, yeah, it was her pregnancy. So? That’s quite a fucking choice for her, isn’t it?

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And Now a Word From the FuckAbility™ Research Council on the Film Breathe

FuckAbility™ Research Council’s The DisHon. Hilaria Mirth-Sitwell on Crippling Whilst Posh in Breathe 

Noblesse cripplege, not suicide, is the duty of the upper classes

(Never-on-Thames, England) Mr Serkus’s Breathe is, throughout much of its duration, stoutly British. The central lovers are married to one another and the story refrains from any Lawrencian tendency to evoke the natural world in a throbbing manner, with its gamekeepers and their delicate ways with the lady pigeons. Nor does the film make sickness or injury itself a manifestation of character. Which is not to say that Mr Cavendish’s external journey of affliction is disconnected from his internal moral development. No, it is clear that there can be no overcoming without the hurdle, and our hero finds his way forward by not only embracing Mrs Cavendish but also his sense of duty.  I do admire resolve in the face of adversity and in this respect I say to the film, Well done.

Now, about this business of inspiration: The film is inspirational because it is about the development of inspiring equipment, which is to say, a breathing apparatus. But then there is the ending. One has just seen Mr Cavendish not only triumph over his respiratory insufficiency but help his fellows in suffering. At this moment, he chooses to commit suicide because he wishes to die on his own terms. Ordinarily one must read the lesser ancients, or the wholly American, to find a more blatant have-it-your-way message than the phrase,  on one’s own terms. Is there a more more plaintive call for Nanny than this proud proclamation that one shall have one’s cake and eat it, too? 

One might understand a young man, in the throes of a new invalidism, chucking it all. But a mature husband and father, one who is living a useful life? Such a person should not be such a wet about the dying aspect of it. It’s only death, for God’s sake. It will happen when it happens, like a beating from a prefect, so best get over it and move on.

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I’m Not Finished: Corn on the Cob, Late July 1970

Part of a series called I’m Not Finished: A Personal Encyclopedia Gluttonica.

The question of whether early gluttony for, say, corn on the cob is an innate or acquired trait is just the sort of debate that misses the point entirely. To paraphrase the elegant  MFK Fisher: When I write about gluttony, I am writing about a gluttony for joy, a gluttony for excellence, and — frequently — a gluttony for any foodstuff bathed with melted butter.

A beautiful ear of fresh bi-color corn still half in the husk

 

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I’m Not Finished: Canned Mandarin Oranges, Wednesday Morning, 1969

Part of a series called I’m Not Finished: A Personal Encyclopedia Gluttonica.

Of course I had a deprived childhood. Childhood is, by definition, a time when you are deprived of what you most want and, to add insult to injury, the deprivation is presented as being for your own good. This all takes place at exactly the same time when your desires aren’t even desires, as adults know them, but are felt as pure, uncut needs.

A bright yellow can with red and green that reads "Del Monte Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup."

The can may or may not have appeared otherwise in 1969 but one truth endures: My mother would only have bought a name brand like this if she had a coupon for it.

Or so those darling cans of mandarin orange segments seemed to me, age four,  one grocery-shopping Wednesday morning after some sad holiday fruit salad had tipped me to their crisp succulence. I imagined, I yearned for, I needed a bowl of fruit salad composed of nothing but mandarin oranges. My mother, rather crisp herself and distracted by her shopping list, said it wasn’t possible.

All I wanted her to do was hold the fruit cocktail, canned fruit cocktail being the pallid concoction that she tarted up with chunked green apple, sliced banana, and (sigh) canned mandarin oranges. And then hold the apple and banana. That’s all I was asking her to do. Bring me a fruit salad, hold the fruit cocktail, hold the apple, hold the banana.

Screen shot from the film "Five Easy Pieces" in which Jack Nicholson's character tries in vain to order a breakfast combo but with wheat toast in place of the potatoes. The middle-aged waitress is pursing her lips as she is writing on her order pad. Jack is sitting in a booth next to Karen Black, who plays his girlfriend.

Five Easy Pieces, BBS Productions, 1970

Had it not been 1969, had it not been a Wednesday morning in the canned goods aisle of the Wegman’s closest to our house in Greece, New York — indeed, had I not been marooned in the seat of a shopping cart, her mini-me in our respective polyester stretch pants — this exchange with my mother could have exploded into a Five Easy Pieces type of situation. Instead, all that happened was I eyed the stacked cans of tantalizing citrus receding in the distance as my mother pushed us on toward condiments and instant soups while I pouted that my mother could have entire cans of mandarin oranges whenever she wanted and was choosing not to.

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