Archive for the ‘poltical correctness’ Category
An organization in my hometown, called Arc Southeastern Minnesota has recently held it’s first annual Wheelchair Accessibility Awareness event. Basically what they did was they got a large number of people in wheelchairs, and their loved ones, to converge upon the city in groups to test the public establishments for accessibility. While putting them to the test, Arc was also driving home a point by having so many people in wheelchairs dropping by these establishments at one time:
Things MUST change!
The usual list of problems were found: those door-opener buttons taking forever to open in the first place in a lot of places, if they even have them. And have you ever pressed the elevator button, and then when it comes and you try to get in, the door closes on you? Yeah, that was another one of the key findings. Other problems discovered where narrow aisles and doorways, accessibility to restaurants and other every day establishments, and of course wheelchair accessible parking at these establishments.
Now its just a wait to see if their experiment made a difference in how the owners of the places they visited choose to run their businesses.
Do they want our business?
If they do they will make the changes necessary. Unfortunately most business owners will do the bare minimum required of them by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and even then they grumble about the cost. Maybe there needs to be a government subsidy for these businesses to make these changes, but I guarantee you the dollars spent by business owners to make the changes will be paid back in full by our dollars spent as their customers. There are more of us than they may imagine. They just don’t see us around much because getting into their buildings may be more trouble than it’s worth.
If you live in a town that you feel needs a little upgrade in accessibility in general, and you have a local disabled advocacy organization, please suggest conducting a similar experiment.
I have not seen the new Ben Stiller/Jack Black comedy “Tropic Thunder” but friends have been urging me to comment on the whole hub-bub the movie is creating over the word “retard”. Though I haven’t seen it, and though I am not a “retard”, I am in fact a “cripple”, I feel that the same basic principle applies to my situation. I feel that the people behind most of the “protests” of this movie are “non-disabled” people who are just full of righteous indignation. It looks good to protest things like this.
Further, I think people take things like the use of the word “retard” in a movie way too seriously. It is not directed at a single person is it? Well it is, actually but a movie character, and from what I understand, what is being attacked in this movie is actors who try to play “mentally handicapped” characters as if they really understood what it is like to be “mentally handicapped.”
Sure, movies like this may affect the way people see “mentally disadvantaged” people, or whatever the “correct” term is these days. But if you are worried about it, then make it your goal to show people who you really are before they get the chance to make that judgment on you. That is everybody’s mission in life, so its not just disabled people or any other minority who have an extra burden. It is everybody’s goal, one way or another, to put their best face forward. Damn a movie. Let’s make sure we are remembering that we don’t live in “Movieland”. We are people with individual personalities that do not fit into the mold of a stereotype. So, unless you actually do fit these stereotypes they shouldn’t bother you.
And lastly, I’ve said it before, but if we can’t say “retard” and we can’t say “cripple” then we can’t say “four-eyes”. This is a slippery slope, this issue of words we can’t use. Near-sightedness and far-sightedness is, in fact a disability so if we can’t make jokes about the mentally and physically disabled then there are a whole long list of other people we can’t make fun of. Think about it so I don’t have to present the list.
Hey everybody, it’s me again, the backwards traveler, four-wheeled time-space rambler, back for another adventure. This time, the machine takes me to Australia, smack in the middle of the 19th century, smack in the middle of the colonization of “the land down under.”
It is a common misconception that the British colony of Australia was conceived as a prison farm for mentally unstable criminals. The fact is that when Australia was first colonized toward the end of 1836, the Crown asked for able bodied young people intended to build the colony. Though they got a fairly good crop of laborers, they also got the elderly, the ill and the mentally and physically disabled. And the government would not take responsibility of them.
By the time of this adventure, accommodation for all of these people was a disaster. The handicapped were crammed into huts all over the colony center. As soon as I got my chair out of the time machine, and began my stroll through the village, I was arrested and taken to the “ward” where I was greeted by about 200 other disabled people. No windows, hidden away from society proper. Living in squalor, in close quarters. Disease was rampant. Mentally ill people were intermixed with the elderly and the physically handicapped, and the deaf and the blind, adults and children.
I stayed there for several weeks, trying to devise a way to “escape”. During this time we were visited by clergymen, political figures and other people of good intentions. This was the only time I got a decent meal. It was then that I met a family that offered to take me in. As soon as they got me out of there, I told them I had family that should be taking care of me, as was the official colonial policy on disabled people. No public assistance here. I asked my saviors to provide me with transportation to where I knew I’d left the time machine with hand controls, and as soon as they left me there, I bolted back to good ol’ 2008.
A while back I mentioned a movie I’d heard of, “Music Within” and I promised to write more about it once I’d actually seen it. Well here ya go!
I know I am wrong but sometimes when I read a movie review by someone who was not paid to do it, I feel like they are just doing it to show off their taste in “film” whatever the hell that is. Is that worse than people doing it because they are paid to? I don’t know. But I can never seem to get into writing a standard review of a movie, with full-blown analysis of characters and their motives and historical accuracy, narrative flow, etc. I just can’t do it.
So this isn’t going to be a “review” of “Music Within”. Sure it was a great lesson on how disabled people broke the doors wide open into the workforce. But you can read about that in a lot of other places, and frankly I am tired of mentioning the ADA. (So what do I go and do right away?)
Anyway, I have just a few observations on “Music Within.”
What stood out for me, in “Music Within” is that if you really search, or even if you just open your mind, you will find that you have a lot more in common with the people around you than you may think upon first glance. People without a disability may look at this film and see a character with cerebral palsy, played by Michael Sheen, and be startled by a few things:
- He has a crude sense of humor. I think people don’t realize that people with cerebral palsy have the mental capacity to have what is the common conception of a sense of humor. And if they do, they certainly couldn’t be crude and R-rated could they? Yes, they could. And I think this misconception gets applied to many different types of disabilities (let’s say, oh I don’t know, spina bifida). But it’s wrong. Ask my wife. She has to listen to me, for example, when we are watching a movie that I “object” to for any given reason that I make up on the spot.
- He has the capability to be rude, and abrasive. Well of course he’s rude and abrasive and angry and standoffish, he’s afflicted!!!…No…that’s not why. It’s because he’s human. And if you are rude to someone in a wheelchair or not in a wheelchair, they just may choose to be rude back to you. They may choose not to say anything about it, and that may be perceived as letting it happen, or it may be perceived as being above responding. It’s all relative, I suppose.
- He has a sex drive. I know, “duh!”, right? But some people just don’t understand that people with disabilities are sexual beings. The fact is that many people with disabilities, especially paralysis, depending on their level of paralysis, may experience repression to an extent that others simply can not understand, because they do not have the same level of freedom of expression of love, passion, lust, what have you. For some, this repression is expressed through the way they talk to the people they are attracted to, or how they “hit on” people. There are some great examples of this in the movie, where in Sheen’s character openly invites several women to partake in…certain activities with him.
But above all, to all three of these things, I say…Duh, he’s a guy. We’re like that. Crude, bi-polar, sex junkies. Can I get a witness?
Okay that’s a cheap stereotype. I got much more out of this movie than this, but I don’t want to write a book. And I don’t want to pontificate (too much). Take a look for yourself.
Here’s a weird one.
I was flipping through http://www.songfacts.com and I came across “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. Songfacts is a site where fans can submit “facts” or, mostly opinions actually, and a lot of misinformation, about any song you can think of. Under “Wonderful Tonight” I found an entry from someone putting forth the theory that “Wonderful Tonight” (one of the greatest love songs of all time, next to “Layla” also by Clapton) was written about a man in a wheelchair and his able-bodied girlfriend/wife. Let’s analyze the lyrics to see if we can’t find a nugget of truth in this hypothesis:
“We go to a party/Everyone turns to see/this beautiful lady/walking around with me” – If the stress and focus is on the word “walking” it could suggest that the person she is with is not, himself, walking. But that is really suspending disbelief, so let’s move on.
“I give her the car keys/she puts me to bed” – This is about a man who is unable to drive. Not able to at all or just as a result of intoxication or fatigue? More and more disabled people are driving, but in the 1970s when this song was recorded, this may not have been so. And the second line may have something to do with a woman physically lifting the man from his wheelchair into bed.
That’s about all I see backing up the aforementioned claim. But the overall theme of the song is a man who is desperately in love with his woman, who “just doesn’t realize how much” he loves her. I am married to a woman who is not “disabled” in the usual sense of the word (She told me herself that she believes that everyone is disabled to some degree), so I can identify with that feeling, the desperation to tell that person how much their unconditional love means to you. However, I would hope that anyone in love has felt it that strongly.
And so, upon deep reflection on this matter, I think that “Wonderful Tonight” is just a regular, boring, good ol’ fashioned walkie love song. Case closed. I have spoken. Turn out the lights. Don’t let the door hit ya.
My wife and I went to the Beatles Bash 2008 in Mantorville, Minnesota this evening. The weather forecast called for cloud cover and probable rain, and it did sprinkle as we arrived, but as soon as the first of two Beatles “tribute” bands began playing, the clouds opened allowing the sun to shine through, or as I told my wife “So God could help pay tribute to His favorite band.” The sun shined the rest of the day uninterrupted.
I don’t “dance” too often but tonight I thought “to hell with it, this is the Beatles…sort of” so my wife and I rocked it out on the dance floor and during one of “George’s” guitar solos I pulled my leg up and played air guitar on it for a brief moment. Showing off really. I was really impressed with myself how unbridled I can get on the dance floor yet able to show everyone around me that they need not worry about getting their legs cut off by my chair.
The two bands were Liverpool Legends and The Cavern Beat. The Cavern Beat was probably more authentic to the sound of the Beatles, but only focused on the band’s early days. They only went as far as 1965, with one song from 1966, “Paperback Writer”. Cavern Beat’s “Paul” had an incredible vocal range, I thought, and emulated the real Paul’s style and mannerisms on stage, as did the band’s “John”. See, each actual Beatle had a very distinctive stance, Paul with his feet close together, legs straight, and John with his knees bent a bit, feet spread apart. Pulling that off, along with the band’s Beatlesque stage banter, the whole package helped the Cavern Beat make one feel like they were “there”. The only inconsistency I saw in this band was that their “Ringo” really did not sound or look like Ringo. But hey, who does?
Liverpool Legends rocked harder, and focused even more on the “banter” and the Liverpool humor, and they covered the span of the Beatles’ entire recording career from old cover tunes through Abbey Road, which was great, but I felt like they suffered from the same syndrome that I have seen in a few other Beatles tribute bands. It’s called the “That does not sound like George Harrison” syndrome. Funny since they were formed by George’s sister, Louise Harrison. Louise was actually at the event today. She signed autographs and gave a little talk, told some stories about George, and answered a few questions shouted up from the crowd. I wish I would have asked a question, or even went to speak with her directly. But while the chance to speak with her directly was presenting itself, I was just waiting for the next act to start, and it ended up taking a long time. So it turns out I had my chance and let it go. Which just goes to show, don’t hesitate. Take your chance when you have it. I could have shaken hands with a flesh and blood relative of one of the Beatles. I could have told her how much the Beatles have meant to me and how much respect I have for George’s honesty in his solo music.
Great show though. Go and see Liverpool Legends in Branson, Missouri if you are in that area. They play in Branson almost all year round. I would love to see them again. My wife’s feet are tired from dancing and my hands are tired from clapping and tapping on my knees and swinging my chair around out on the floor.
On a side note, halfway through the show, a Beatles Trivia game was played by audience members. It was done in two sections, and in each section, one of the contestants was a woman with a developmental disability. I was a bit upset when the first woman could not think of the answer to her question, and the “hostess” whispered the answer in her ear allowing her to continue. No such luck for anyone else of course. Then in the second round she got her question wrong and the hostess said “We hate to see you go” followed by “Who’s next, this guy, he looks smart”. I don’t think she realized how it sounded. Plus I don’t think that what any disabled person needs necessarily is to be catered to or “given the answer.”
Just a game though. By the way, when “John” said “Here’s a slow song…for you slower folks” it was part of the act, it was authentic John Lennon, and I laughed along with everyone else, so you figure that one out.
In the second round of the trivia game, the other woman with a developmental disability got her question wrong and the hostess was very condescending toward her. “You did really good. I think you should win a prize too”. Stuff like that. I just hate this kind of crap, and I don’t think it is what anyone with a disability needs. I wonder if she would have condescended to me had I been one of the contestants. I am really bummed that I didn’t put my name in. I could have won a poster.
I recently wrote a posting imploring disabled people in Canada to let me know they were there and that they were reading “Treadmarkz”. This led me to look at the rest of the map and realize that my readership in Russia is almost zippo. I was doing some research to see what topics I could tackle to try to reach out to my Russian disabled friends. That led me to a great blog that really sums up everything that I’d been attempting to do with the Canada posting and the planned Russia posting. It is all about what its like to be disabled…outside of America.
I added it to my blog roll and I’d like to direct your attention to it. It is called “Outside America.” Give it a look. For those of you who are in the States, it will be eye-opening I am sure. And I guess for anyone on the planet it may be eye-opening to see how the disabled live in any other country which “Outside America” covers. And it covers a lot of ground, I can see. Check it out, in my blogroll on the right.
A couple of weeks ago I took a roll down to my favorite rib joint (I like their fish), to get a take out order. I had almost made it home, I was in the parking lot actually, when a truck stopped behind me, and the guy inside stuck his head out the window and yelled “Hey man, you wanna race?”
I looked in the bed of the truck to see if he had a wheelchair. No wheelchair. This was a walkie I was dealing with here!
Now, ever since I started this blog and started reading what other people in wheelchairs have had to say about the weird, uncomfortable comments they get from people, I had been looking forward to a situation like this, so I could come up with something great to say back.
But I had nothing. I just said “Uh…no” and laughed and rolled away. I spent the night angry with myself. I brood over stuff like that.
I thought what I should have said is “No, I don’t have an engine.” You know. Point out the obvious advantage he had and how pointless it would be to race. Fake an absence of a sense of humor. Today I rolled down to that same rib joint to get myself another fish sandwich and in that same parking lot on the way home, another guy stopped his truck, stuck his head out his window and said “Wanna race?!”
Keeping in mind the obvious advantage he had over me in a race, I thought, let’s see if we can’t even the playing field here a bit. I stopped and turned and said “You wanna arm-wrestle?”
He rolled up his window and drove away.
Now, the important thing to remember, is, I think anyway, that nobody does this with the goal of being a jerk. They just don’t know that a lot of us in chairs think it’s a little embarrassing, and some feel it’s flat out offensive. But it’s important that we let them know.
Time for the long-awaited sixth installment of the Time Machine with Hand Controls, in which our hero finds himself in the perilous position between a Viking long bow infantry and the treasure the Vikings sought out on the British Isles.
Just outside of York, England, 866 A.D. – The Time Machine with Hand Controls came to rest in the middle of a field. I got my chair out and popped the wheels on, and as I approached the village center, the locals began to stop what they were doing, and the cry of “Ivar!” began to grow louder. I, being well-versed in ninth-century Anglo-Saxon speech quickly determined that the locals thought that I was a Viking raider known as “Ivar the Boneless.” I did not do anything to make them think I was Ivar, but I did not deny it at first either. It was a powerful feeling.
I learned that the dreaded Vikings had just attacked York and were beginning to lay waste to surrounding areas, and news had made its way around that the raiders were led by a “legless demon” who was carried on an armor plated pallet.
According to the stories, Ivar either had no legs, or he had what is now known as osteogenesis, or brittle bones leaving him unable to stand. Whatever his affliction, he did indeed lead his army into battle, carried on a shield, which I found out when, not long after I arrived, who should appear but Ivar himself on his shield, at the head of an infantry of Scandinavian pillagers on horseback barraging the village with arrows from longbows and torching everything in sight.
He shot a long bow from his “chariot” while screaming out instructions to his front line. In the Scandinavian military culture of the time, a Viking leader was expected to lead his troops into battle, and by God, Ivar was clearly driven to the point of inhumanity to do so. What I witnessed was an attack which was no less merciless than any other great siege in world history.
I had seen the movie “The Butterfly Effect” so I was not going to affect history one way or another by taking up arms for or against Ivar. Instead I headed for the woods, far out of range of the longbow, and watched with binoculars. I was unable to determine which story of Ivar was the true one, if either, but the Brits ran from Ivar and his band as though he were a minion of the devil himself. The Scandinavians quickly laid waste to everything in sight, so I sneaked through the brush back to the Time Machine with Hand Controls, and got the hell out of dodge, having satisfied my curiosity about one of the most mythical, yet very real, figures in disabled history.
As disabled sports enthusiasts everywhere anxiously await the outcome of Oscar Pistorius’ last chance to make the South African Olympic team on Wednesday, July 16, I gotta wonder, is Oscar being catered to?
I mean, they extended the deadline on their decision on who to put on their team, from July 11 to July 16, and seemingly just so Pistorius, the first amputee to make it this close to the Olympics, has one more race to make the cut. Why? Is this common practice? Or maybe they just really see something in Pistorius and they feel that to not have him on their national team would be a disservice to the country. Or maybe they think that being the first country to have a disabled person on the national Olympic team would make them really look forward-thinking and open minded.
We should have all stopped holding our collective breath on Pistorius a long time ago. As far as I am concerned, he didn’t make the cut. Because if he makes it as a result of an extended deadline, that, added onto the issue of his “performance-enhancing prostheses, he is going to be the Barry Bonds of the Olympics.
It’s almost a can’t-win situation, even though Pistorius winning a medal would be considered a huge victory. Because at the same time there’d be people expecting him to do well so they could say it was because of his prosthetics. And if he got there and did not do well, others would be waiting in the wings with their low expectations to drop that “he did great considering his disability” bomb.