#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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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 human rights of people in minority communities; survivors of violence in the home, the school, and the street, and/or conflict zones, and as veterans; immigrant and refugees held in detention, incarcerated people, people coerced into institutionalization; people who live with chronic and catastrophic illness; neuro-diverse people; people who are young and old; male, female, and everywhere 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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Better the Rights I Know: Part 1 of Why I Oppose Assisted Suicide Legislation

All of us know that our healthcare options are limited by the boundaries set by a for-profit healthcare industry. I’m justifiably skeptical of proposed assisted suicide legislation that was written and supported by the healthcare industry. Particularly when they are marketing it as a civil right that just happens to be the $300 alternative to more costly options.

Assisted suicide legislation, modeled on Oregon’s law, is once again up for a vote in the state where I live. I look at assisted suicide legislation as a public health issue that will affect thousands of people in the state of California alone. Consider just three factors in combination:

1) California’s fastest growing demographic is people age 60 and up.

2) Elder abuse is on the rise while investigating agencies such as Adult Protective Services (APS) caseworkers are already dealing with unmanageable caseloads.

3) A physician is not required to be present when assisted suicide drugs are taken but an heir may be present and help administer them. (“Self-administer” is a term that does, in fact, allow for assistance in taking the drugs.)

This is the real-world context where proposed assisted suicide legislation would be implemented. All of us know that our healthcare options are limited by the boundaries set by a for-profit healthcare  Continue reading

Working While Disabled: All About M.O.I. Versus the T.E.A.M. Access Approach


Dear Respironics Bi-Pap S/T,

I’m feeling like such a loser because I can’t get hired for even one job and all I’m suddenly hearing about is this big push for disabled people to get employed. And then there are disabled people like this guy who act like it’s just my attitude that’s the problem.


Feeling like an Uninspired, Unmotivated Kid with a Disability


First, take a deep (assisted) breath. Now let’s get your head right: Go watch the late (god, I hate writing that) Stella Young’s epic take-down of inspiration porn.

Sure, you’re going to hear that all landing a job, or whatever, really takes for a disabled person is to adopt the All About M.O.I. approach. That narrative certainly has the charm of simplicity, plus it comforts you by giving you all the control. Meaning:  If you’re not yet working, for example, it’s just that you’re not trying hard enough to:

Motivate yourself

Overcomerate your disability

Inspirate all who meet you with your “What, me disabled?” attitude

But there’s a more accurate name for this narrative: Magical thinking.

“As a Respironics Bi-Pap S/T, I support you venting because you have to manage your pressures and everyone’s settings are different. Venting, moreover, leads to bitching and bitching can lead to some very interesting shifts in what you think personal responsibility can accomplish versus what takes political action.”

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And MEL saideth to the Catholic school teachers, “What did you expect?”

There’s a parable in the Old Testament’s Book of Mel called, “The Parable of the Sheriff and the Town of Rockridge,” that roughly translates into the modern idiom as an infinitely rueful, “What did you expect?”

Sadly, this parable sprang to mind instantly when I heard about the protests against San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (pronounced “COR-LEE-OWN”) regarding his proposed morality clause for teacher and other school employees’  contracts.

“What did you expect?…

‘Welcome, Fornicators?’

‘Marry whomever you want?’

‘Mazel on the IVF?’

“You work for a scary church, a church that’s long been out of hand, that despises women in the West… you know…Catholics.”

I don’t fault them for stubbornly continuing to hope that they’ll be treated with respect. Nobody EXPECTED the Inquisition.

The Archbishop, though, is doing just what it seems I should expect, given his ilk’s track record. So to him, I’d say: I’m just spit-ballin’ here but if I were really trying to get a firm grip on the whole morality thing, I’d put my energy into controlling something other than employees’ masturbation, reproductive, and marital choices. Like, oh, let’s see…child abuse? Feeding students who are hungry? Maybe continuing to clean up that giant immoral mess that your fellow priests inflicted on children?