Letters to a Young Fundraiser: The Philanthropeon Wars and the Fall of Telethonika

My Dear Friend:

You wrote of a growing strain on your spirit that seems to have no reasonable source, as your position is unobjectionable, your master provides you accommodations enough, and your annual fundraising goal numbers not unduly burdensome. What then?
You ask if you are perhaps “a loser.” I think not.
During my youth, my father — a fundraising titan who fought for funding alongside Major Donor — became disgusted with my inadequate Girl Scout cookie sales and sent me away to a notorious fundraising academy, one of the very strictest of the Transactional schools.
I was miserable and branded a failure — a loser — at “working the room,” and “friend-raising,” and so on, until I was confined to the barracks for insubordination after I refused to ply my trade at a memorial service, trading donations for signatures in the guest book.
But then I took a History of Fundraising in Western Civilization class. I learned about the Philanthropeon Wars.
I learned about the lost city-state of Telethonika, where disability democracy had been born around the year 504 BC. It is a loss that echoes down through millennia through some fundraisers who have the disability consciousness and who feel the shadow each year as Labor Day approaches. You may be feeling the echo of the fall of Telethonika, that flattish plain located one mountain over from Sparta.

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TryHarder™ Magazine: Ableism Speaks

TryHarder™ Magazine: The Magazine for People Who Need to Try Harder, 2 cents

Issue No. 1: Ableism Speaks 

In which The Crip gives very special ableist remarks the 2¢ they deserve


“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” 

2 cents symbolSure, health is important but if you’ve always lived with a chronic condition and/or a progressively degenerative one like I have, hearing this most common of platitudes leads to a waxy bummer build-up in the psyche. It is no pleasure to ponder the possibility that you regard me as having…nothing.  Nor do I want to reprise my role on Emotional Labor: Special Cripple Unit where I tell myself you don’t actually mean anything bad by that. I would prefer instead that people express gratitude for what health they have (I know health is a nice thing!) without making such a sweeping generalization about what a good quality of life requires.

Did You Know?

A disability does not necessarily mean “sick.” Unless you mean, “sick of discrimination.” Then — oh yeah#CripTips


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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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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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The Crip Sense: “I See Women and Girls With Disabilities. In Your Organizations.”

In my particular line of work — fundraising — I have the “challenge” of making the case for funding cross-disability civil rights work from institutional funders who are still predominately stuck in the disability = tragedy trope.
I need allies from outside the cross-disability communities because that’s how philanthropy — and everything else — works: it’s who you have relationships with, who you can ask for help, give help to.

I was really excited about closing out Women’s History Month this year by developing  and delivering an interactive workshop, “Building Your Organization’s Capacity to Ally With Girls Who Have Disabilities: Principles to Practices” for fellow (sister?) Alliance for Girls members, as part of my work at DREDF.  (To the members who attended — you were GREAT participants!) Based on issues I’d recently written about, I wanted to call it “The Crip Sense or ‘I See Women and Girls With Disabilities. In Your Organizations.’” (Scroll down for 3 “posters” of workshop content.)

I said that part of having The Crip Sense is seeing things that are painful:
  • Disability human and civil rights violations. Way too many of them.
  • Violence against disabled children and adults – especially people of color (PoC) with invisible disabilities — even by caregivers, school personnel, and law enforcement officers, and that such violence at home, in school, and on the street is excused or rationalized.
  • Girls who have internalized stigma that makes it feel “normal” to disown, downplay, or deny having a disability.
  • Girls who hear – even from some disabled people – that “initiative” and “personal responsibility” can defeat systemic barriers born of — and well-maintained by — prejudice, and that they’ve failed if they’re defeated by rigged systems.

Color photo of a fortune cookie that reads,

Why This Workshop, Why Now

In 2017, an inclusive movement includes cross-disability civil rights organizations, as a given.

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