I Remember This: What Getting My First Milwaukee Backbrace Was Like

I don’t ordinarily post memoir pieces but I have written a lot of first-person material as writing exercises. I’m posting one such piece now to share a little bit about being a very young disabled child.

Because my memories go back to the age of three and no farther, it seems as if I came into existence as I was (just barely) walking with my mother, and occasionally my father, through the long hallways of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital around 1969.
In the confusion about what was wrong with me — cerebral palsy atypical was their best guess and a misdiagnosis until I was 11 — it must have been a strange relief to the neurologists and orthopedists to come upon scoliosis, a particular problem, discrete and treatable.
Color photo of a Milwaukee back-brace.

Milwaukee back-brace used to treat scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian, National Museum of American History.

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And Now a Word from the FuckAbility™ Research Council: RJ Mitte In as Presenter at the Palme d’Visage Awards

RJ Mitte Will Present at the 2019 Palme d’Visage Awards, Signaling That The Upside Will Win Most Condescending

Matt Damon, Master of Diversity, Hails RJ Mitte’s Commitment to Avoiding Discussion About The Upside‘s Discriminatory Casting Practices and His Unstinting Support for the Status Quo That Blocks Disabled Actors From Competing for Roles

(Battlecreek, MI) NoVariety announced today that RJ Mitte will present the inaugural “RJ Mitte Award for Most Half-Assed Casting in a Film Depicting a Disabled Character.” Emma Stone will portray RJ Mitte at the March awards ceremony in beautiful downtown Switzerland now that Jennifer Lawrence, who had been a lock, became uncastable after a recent injury left her with difficulty walking.


“I can’t imagine a situation where I’d tell Bryan — who’s been like a father to me — that, while I know he cares about me and wants to help me, I can’t let him use that as an excuse for a business decision that hurts others.”

Mitte has been vocal on social media about his support of Bryan Cranston’s casting in The Upside. “Disability stories need to be told and films like this wouldn’t be made without a star like Bryan Cranston. Conflicting messages about inclusion that reach as many people as we can are how we change mindsets and remove the stigmas around disabilities.  As a disabled actor, I am proud of his performance in The Upside and I can’t wait to see Emma Stone’s portrayal of me presenting him with the award.” Continue reading

TryHarder™ Magazine: The So You Wanna Use the R-Word for Comedic Effect Issue

TryHarder™ Magazine: The Magazine for People Who Need to Try Harder, 2 centsIssue No. 4: The It’s Not Just That You Used a Slur, It’s That You Doubled-Down on Your Offensive Language Edition

In which The Crip responds to a Daily Kos writer’s post and subsequent comments America’s Next Top Jackhole, Louis CK, who ordinarily one would have thought came from was Republican author, given the writer’s intransigence to making a change that was so easy, obvious, and respectful. would shut the fuck up, in general, and definitely about disabled people, in particular.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Everyone (Me) Knows You Never Use the R-Word in a Careless and Lazy Fashion and Also Just Don’t Use It

1. Presumably, you want people to respond to the actual topic of your article, which you’ll notice I’m not doing.

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And Now a Word from the FuckAbility™ Research Council on “The Upside”: For Your Condescension

A photo of a janky wheelchair overlaid with: FOR YOUR CONDESCENION, When it comes to the 2019 Palme d'Visage Award for "Most Half-Assed Casting in a Film Depicting a Disabled Character," the Choice is Clear....THE WHEELCHAIR in The Upside © 2019 talesfromthecrip.org

Going to see The Upside?

Don’t miss an opportunity to share your feelings about the film’s bold casting decisions. #CastBoldly

Print the graphic above and hand it out at the theater!

Sample messages for sharing your excitement:

Access icon in blue and white“I haven’t seen such bold half-assed casting like this since last year’s Palme d’Visage winner gave us A Pair of Raybans as the lead in Blind: Based on a Mall Store Called The Sun-Glass Hut by The Food Court.”

Access icon in blue and white“Do you think Streep could do what The Wheelchair did: Cradle Cranston’s ass while wordlessly conveying every stereotypical cliche about living with a disability? I scoff at that!”

Access icon in blue and whiteMatt Damon said it was okay!”

See you in beautiful downtown Switzerland in March for the Palme d’Visage Awards!


FuckAbility™ Research Council (FARC) is a piece of letterhead housed on the Tales From the Crip website. FARC’s mission is to raise awareness of hollywood’s lack of awareness that many disabled adults fuck in groups of one or more. All views expressed are subject to change and denial.

HEY! YOU! MEDIA! An Inconvenient Truth About Why Casting is a Problem in “The Upside”

The inconvenient truth about The Upside is that its misguided casting is based in a biased business decision, not creative expression.

As in Me Before YouBreathe,  and He Won’t Get Far on FootThe Upside failed to cast a wheelchair-using actor and instead chose Bryan Cranston, who does not have a visible disability.  Admittedly, I hadn’t expected Cranston to have actually been “the one who knocks” in his own life when he played the role of a drug dealer. But I am critical of him deciding to take the role of a recently disabled man — and, more importantly, I’m critical of how systems protected him from having to face serious competition from wheelchair-using actors. He recently defended his choice, saying it was a “business decision.”

Many disabled people disagree. Cranston, and many others, scoff at the criticism, saying that movies are a commercial venture and that, moreover, disability is just another fictional experience to portray. Actors act, after all…unless the actor has a visible disability, in which case their talent could never sway an audience — or a producer.

Muddling these arguments together is a mistake. The first is about business practices and the second is about creative expression. For actors, creative expression requires industry access — and that’s why casting norms need to change before debates about representation and creative expression can be anything but theoretical.


If the industry is going to limit nearly all physically disabled actors to roles defined by physical disability, non disabled actors shouldn’t be surprised when there’s anger at seeing those roles lost to actors who are not physically disabled. If only 2% of roles are disabled characters, to begin with, and 95% are played by actors without disabilities, that’s a systemic employment barrier.


Creative expression has different bases. Some of us experience disability as an event that affects our lives and some experience it as a component of our identity. Many of us experience both.

In creating disability narratives, this difference positions disability either as an event that drives the plot forward or as a component of identity that contributes to a character.  Both are valid and both can lead to high- or low-quality work.

That difference is not going to be resolved. It’s not even a problem to be solved. In terms of acting, I would say it’s even a mistake right now to be drawn into too much arguing about the specifics of who’s “allowed” to play what roles.


The problem is that actors with visible disabilities are shut out of casting and that prevents careers — and clout.


One reason is that it too easily reduces us to diagnoses. Another it that it risks inhibiting imagination and empathy. I have muscular dystrophy and use a wheelchair now. I spent my childhood misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy. I’ve had agitated depression. And I swear to god I don’t know if I’m sweating right now from frustration or menopause. I have also had colds, pneumonia, and tummy-aches. What types of disabilities are “appropriate” for me to play? Should only people like me, who grew up with a disability, play roles of characters who had disabilities in childhood? And where does this leave the vast numbers of actors with invisible disabilities who have succeeded in passing as non disabled? 

It’s an interesting discussion — what constitutes “enough” experience — but it’s currently entangled with the real issue to be confronted: biased business practices.

Trying to avoid thThe argument that a non disabled actor — in this case, Bryan Cranston — is simply the superior artist doesn’t hold up. What are all of these roles that visibly disabled actors have performed in such an inferior fashion? Spoiler alert: They don’t exist so you have no actual comparison. Just an assumption that visibly disabled actors wouldn’t be as good or better.

And, in terms of artistry, here’s a question: To what degree does the non disabled actor depend upon a prop to get the acting job done? Because when it comes to physical disability, I’m not sure audiences would buy him as a wheelchair-user if he weren’t sitting in a wheelchair. Props are important, yes, but they’re not a substitute for an actor.

The problem is that actors with visible disabilities are shut out of casting and that prevents careers — and clout. That’s the problem in the business of show. That’s why Cranston’s casting is being called out. 


This is why losing one more exceedingly rare lead role — a wheelchair-using character — is so infuriating. Using the tired “Because BUSINESS” is a sloppy excuse for systemic bias that produces abysmal hiring rates. Casting is currently a business that effectively places its every office on the second floor of an elevator-less building and then says no wheelchair-using actors showed up so they just don’t want it enough, etc., etc..


Visibly disabled actors are not considered “appropriate” for casting in roles where there’s no mention of disability. The truth is that, had he been a visibly disabled actor, casting statistics show how unlikely it is that Cranston would have been cast in the many, many roles that, together, have built his career and now provide his clout.  

If the industry is going to limit nearly all physically disabled actors to roles defined by physical disability, non disabled actors shouldn’t be surprised when there’s anger at seeing those roles lost to actors who are not physically disabled. If only 2% of roles are disabled characters, to begin with, and 95% are played by actors without disabilities, that’s a systemic employment barrier. Starvation seldom breeds generosity. 

This is why losing one more exceedingly rare lead role — a wheelchair-using character — is so infuriating. Using the tired “Because BUSINESS” is a sloppy excuse for systemic bias that produces abysmal hiring rates.

Casting is currently a business that effectively places its every office on the second floor of an elevator-less building and then says no wheelchair-using actors showed up so they just don’t want it enough, etc., etc..

When an actor like Bryan Cranston finally has to actually compete with physically disabled actors who are in his casting echelon, then we can have that thoughtful discussion about balancing representation and artistic expression. Until then, it’s just  another business getting away with unfair practices. And not even very creatively. 

A janky wheelchair named Janky Wheelchair

This is not a substitute for physically disabled actors. Courtesy of https://hiveminer.com/User/klickertrigger

Subvert the Dominant Paradigm of Disability/Charity By Letting Me Match Your Monthly Gift for Those Meddling Advocates at DREDF!

 

Image description: An old-timey drawing from a scene in A Christmas Carol where Bob Cratchit is holding Tiny Tim on his shoulder, who is cheerfully waving his crutch.
My, uh, non-Dickens text is Bob saying, “DREDF’s advocacy means you just might get a frakking wheelchair–maybe even an education!” Tiny Tim says, “I told Scrooge to become a DREDF monthly donor or I’d haunt his ass!”
At the bottom: Dog bless DREDF’s donors – everyone!
Image Credit: Illustration by Fred Barnard

How I love crafting heartwarming holiday cards. Like Tiny Tim subverting the dominant paradigm of disability/charity.

You may not know this, but fundraising is a hotbed of subversion if you’re disabled (like me) and raising money to fight ableism instead of being used as an ableist prop by someone else.

You know what goes great with a paradigm shift? A new narrative.

One where disabled people lead the philanthropic work that affects them. As in:

You let me, a disabled donor, match your monthly gift that will support cross-disability civil and human rights defense led by disabled advocates at DREDF. If you take this action, you’ll be making a gift and helping make philanthropy more inclusive. So it is with real glee that I throw down this match offer to help support DREDF’s 40th year as our country’s leading cross-disability legal and policy defense fund:

If you become a DREDF monthly donor by 1/31/19, I will match your first $40. Ex.: If you give $20 per month, I will match the total of your first 2 months, or $40. 

I’ll know it’s a match gift because you’ll include “Nothing about Tiny Tim, without Tiny Tim” in the note field of your online gift.

You may know me as the Queen of Sardonica or as A Crip in Philanthropy but my days are spent fundraising at DREDF where I’m often serious for up to entire minutes at a time.

Our education rights work alone tells you why: “Dickensian” describes schools that lock disabled students in closets, hold them face-down in  4-point restraints, and fail to teach them how to read

Individual contributions are critical because both impact litigation and policy require a big investment of time and resources, and foundation funding for disability advocacy is scarce

I’m a DREDF major donor now because I have complete trust in the integrity, independence, and brilliance that the staff (who are not me) bring to disability civil and human rights advocacy.

If you know, like I do, that DREDF has made the world better than it was 40 years ago, please join me in giving a year-end gift. Share DREDF with someone you know. 

If a monthly thing isn’t for you right now, no problem. We appreciate every single gift that will fuel our 2019 work to defend those gains and – let’s hope – advance them over the next decades. Together!

THANK YOU AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!