Monday, March 31, 2014

A Note to Parents

I read something today, and I just feel like crying. I can’t explain all the ways it hurts my heart. I feel for overwhelmed parents. I do. I have no idea what it’s like to be them. But as a person with a disability myself, I always find myself identifying with the kids. And I’m shocked, hurt and scared.
I am a firm believer in there always being hope and a way out. Start with what you can change. As the parent, you are likely also the adult in your child’s life. If you cannot cope with the situation you are in, or with your child’s needs, get help.
I understand that not everyone is in the position to get professional help. Maybe you don’t have adequate insurance or childcare, or a whole host of things. But reach out to SOMEONE. A friend, your parents, your significant other, someone who you can talk to about difficult days.
If you cannot safely parent your child, have alternatives in place. Even simple things, like stepping outside for a moment to breathe and collect yourself. There is no shame in asking for help.
Take care, parents. Of yourselves and of your children. If you can’t take care of yourself or your children, reach out. You are in control. Use that control to make positive changes for yourself and your child.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: Day 30

I used to love going to PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy) when I was a toddler. All the stuff I worked on felt like playing games. All the props to those therapists I had as such a little kid, who helped me and kept me happy at the same time :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: Day 29

When my sister and I were little, we wore leg braces. Because of that, we also wore the raddest knee socks ever. Mostly white. But we had this onepair of red knee socks that we loved so much we fought over who got to wear them. Our dad solved the problem, by sending us to preschool each wearing one white sock and one red sock.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Crutches or Wheelchair?

Everywhere I go, I ask myself “crutches or wheelchair?”
Mostly because of one moment.

About eight years back, I went with some friends to the local state fair. Knowing I’d need my chair, and knowing my friends were totally open to making space for it.
I still found myself wanting to make things easier on them. So I didn’t take my crutches. I also didn’t foresee us stopping to pick up other people (and taking an opportunity to use a familiar restroom, instead of an unknown, possibly inaccessible one at the fair.)
There were steps leading to the building where we stopped. I couldn’t get in.
Luckily, one of my friends offered to hold my arm and walk with me inside and back out.
It definitely drove home the fact that I needed to act in my own best interest, but it’s still something I struggle with. My crutches take up less room but mean I’ll be slower, and more tired. My chair means more speed, less exhaustion, but it takes up more space in a car. It won’t fit into some trunks.
It’s part of the reason I don’t go many places. Because it’s honestly so much of a hassle. Maybe someday there will be an easier way. But until then, I have to ask myself what to take with me. Crutches? Wheelchair? Or both?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Internalized Ableism

When I was twelve - after a super intense surgery at ten and a follow up and final surgery at eleven - I genuinely believed that with practice I could walk without my crutches.

Maybe, for some, this is possible. Maybe for me it would have been. I don’t know. But I can’t help feeling sometimes - when I look back - that the pressure regarding this was about looking more “normal.”
I don’t talk about this much, but I grew up around a lot of ableist attitudes and beliefs. I remember each hurtful name, each time I heard that I had to work “twice as hard” to be considered for a job. Once, a friend even told me that I should, “take your wheelchair to pick up job applications, because it makes you look more competent than when you use your crutches.” And I’ve written before about how the ableism was so bad in the church I attended as an adult that I stopped going.
Though I learned about ableism in a college class, it didn’t really click in that this is what I’d experienced from nine years old on…it wasn’t until I joined Tumblr that it finally made sense, and that I started accepting that I didn’t have to accept the way some discriminate against me. I can stand up and speak out.
Even if just through my blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Finding Ways to Help Around the House

Finding ways to help with household chores was never really difficult for me. As one of four (eventually five) siblings, we all needed to chip in to make sure the house was running smoothly.

Some jobs I had around the house growing up:
- Washing dishes
- Cleaning my room
- Cleaning the bathroom
- Loading the dishwasher
- Doing laundry
Now that I live on my own, I find that I can do most everything to keep up my apartment. Notable exceptions include sweeping and vacuuming.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: Day 25

When I was out to eat with my family last week, I encountered more than a few positive moments:
1) Upon discovering there was no ramp leading to the sidewalk, my aunt and uncle never hesitated, just picked up my entire chair and got me over the curb. Same story at the end of the meal (except it was my aunt and my cousin helping me down.)
2) When I left the table to use the restroom and discovered the door was obscenely heavy, I was pleasantly surprised when a little girl - no older than seven and unprompted by an adult - came and held the door open for me.
3) When we left, there was a giant snow-covered drop-off, and my cousin encouraged me to start going really fast so I could take a flying leap over the edge. When I digressed, he changed tactics and said, “You should be like Artie.” I said, “Like Artie, how?” He said, “You should just start dancing, doing cool choreography. I’ll give you a beat if it helps.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dealing with Ableism as a Child

My classroom teacher in fourth grade (the same year the ADA was passed) was a likely well-meaning woman, near retirement age. The minute I joined the class, I was known as “the smiley new student with Cerebral Palsy.”

Fifth grade, which proved to be a much better year.

I was rewarded with undue praise when I did things like opening the classroom door independently. Worse, my teacher took to calling me “princess.” Saying, “make way for the princess,” to be sure the other kids knew to clear a path for me. Honestly, my first reaction was to laugh. I was sure she was joking. But this only made her think that I was okay with her referring to me that way. She was constantly telling other kids to do things for me. She assigned a particular student to walk with me down to the bathroom (in case I were to fall or something?) She pushed my entire desk (with me in it) to the front of the room when it was my turn for Show and Tell.
I had to go to my own IEP meetings which did nothing but make me feel terrible about myself. All I wanted was to be “the same” as my classmates. I felt the same, but no one treated me the same. And then I had to sit in this room, with my parents, school administrators and my teachers, hearing about all the areas I struggled in and the new goals that were being set for me. In short, no matter how hard I tried, I knew it was never enough.
All this, and I was the new kid, who was trying to fit in. But at every turn, in the classroom, I was set apart. I started to feel resentful and depressed. To challenge my teacher in subtle, manipulative ways, waiting for her to call me out. I refused to move from my desk to the floor when the rest of the class did. I stopped saying thank you when classmates helped me.
When my mom found out about my teacher moving my desk to the front of the class, she made me practice saying, “I can do it myself” over and over. As a sensitive kid, it didn’t take much for me to start crying, feeling like my mom was mad at me for what my teacher was doing. My feelings were hurt. When we’re kids, we’re taught to honor the adults in our lives. This was my teacher. I was raised not to “talk back” to my teachers. In my mind, I was just doing what I’d been raised to do, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t right and I was in trouble.
By the end of the school year, nothing had really changed. But track and field day was coming. Which was something really exciting. Kids do all sorts of outdoor events like shot put and tug o’ war, and running races, and getting real red, white or blue ribbons depending on how well we finished. All day basically playing outside instead of being in the classroom where I was singled out? Awesome. I was ready for it.
Then, one day leading up to track and field day, my adaptive gym teacher kept me after class. She looked at me and very seriously told me, “I just have to let you know that on track and field day, you’re not going to be able to win a red, white or blue ribbon.”
I was shocked and hurt, but managed to ask why.
"Because we have to modify some of the events."
She must have seen how close to tears I was. Don’t forget, I was only 9 years old. I had so few opportunities to DO physical things with my classmates, much less to get rewarded for it, that this was crushing for me.
Then, came the worst part. Trying to mollify me, she said, “But you can still earn a red, yellow or blue sticker!”
I felt humiliated. I went home, and battled tears for hours until my sister asked me what was wrong. I made her promise not to tell our parents. Then, I told her that I couldn’t get ribbons on track and field day, only stickers.
She told our parents.
And when they came to talk to me, I was angry. It didn’t matter what they said, my adaptive gym teacher already made the decision.
To my parents’ credit, they went in and had a meeting the next morning with that teacher, after which, I was miraculously told I could earn ribbons.
I half-heartedly competed in track and field day and was rewarded with a variety of colored ribbons, which I accepted, but resented. I knew what they meant. I knew my parents had to go meet with my teacher and MAKE her give them to me. I hadn’t earned them. The thing that no one seemed to grasp is that I would have happily taken home a collection of red (lowest place) ribbons because I would have earned them honestly.
Though painful, there are lessons here. FIrst, if you are a young person with a disability and feel that you are being discriminated against, tell someone. Even if that person (or those people) discriminating against you are people in positions of authority. You deserve to be treated with the same respect every other person is treated with.
Also, to parents of kids with disabilities: pay attention and advocate for your child. Teach your child that it’s okay to say no to people in authority if they do something your child is not comfortable with. My parents are amazing. I’m so grateful to have them, and I’ll always remember my mom’s lesson in advocating for myself, and how both my parents refused to accept my being treated unequally.

Kids Say (courtesy of my neighbor’s 5-year-old grandson)

"Why do you have those [crutches]?" ("Just to walk with," I say.) "Oh! Okay!"
"Can I see inside of your apartment? Wow! It’s so cool!"
"Guess what? I have my own cell phone. I’m five and a half and I can already text!"
"Do you know what the best game is? Minecraft. Do you HAVE Minecraft? Do you have a computer? Do you know how to spell Minecraft and creative? That’s how you find it."
"Are those [crutches] glued on to you?" (I set them down and assure him that I am just hanging onto them.) "Oh," he says, sounding relieved.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Adapting Hairstyles

I’ve only had my hair long twice in my life because my coordination issues made it nearly impossible for me to manage a ponytail.
My most recent experience with long hair had my younger cousin giving me a very specific tutorial on how to put a ponytail in. (He sat on my lap and reached back, giving me a hand-over-hand type experience.) It was difficult, but I got it.
(Since then, I’ve learned that hair clips are easier for me to use than ponytail holders.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: Day 22

My nursery school teacher still asks my grandma how my sister and I are doing. When I asked my grandma how the heck my nursery school teacher could remember students from 30 years ago, she said it was because my sister and I were the first students with disabilities that were ever integrated into that teacher’s class, so we stand out in her mind. Kind of cool to be a part of representing positive progress, even if just to one teacher.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Does certain type of physical activity help when your muscles tighten up? Or help prevent that feeling?

For general tenseness, stretching helps.  For about a month in January, I started stretching for the first time in way too long.  My muscles were super tight, and I did notice a difference.  But after a month I started having other pain as a result of the stretching.  Which was kind of frustrating.
If you’re referring to the reactive tension that happens when I get anxious or intent on something, physical activity doesn’t really help.  It’s more a very deliberate, conscious effort, sometimes even saying out loud to myself, “relax” because relaxing those muscles is not a natural act.  It takes concentration and intention.
Thanks for asking!
(If this question is alright:) Did you feel that having you run for fitness tests was a fair assessment? You mentioned that you were active in other activities at the same time, but do you feel that the fitness test would have better measured your capabilities if they had allowed you to use a wheelchair, or would that not have been possible or even unnecessary? Also, if you are able to answer this, were there other students who couldn't run at all and who were not offered any alternatives?

I’m of the mind that you can ALWAYS ask, and if I’m not comfortable answering something, I’ll be sure and let you know.
I’ve never really been asked this question, so it’s hard to know how to respond to it.  So, I guess I’ll start with what I know?  This was one specific year at one specific elementary school that was not known for making things accessible or having very evolved views of students with disabilities (at least in my experience.)  I honestly don’t remember running the mile in other years, though I’m sure I did it.  I definitely feel like cutting the objective in half may have been a bit more feasible for me (and it would have meant 20 minutes or so running, which is not so far outside of the time it takes the least athletic able kids.  
I don’t think a wheelchair would have been feasible, just because that was the year I was just starting to learn to push myself in one.  It was new and difficult.  So that wouldn’t have been a fair measurement either.  
I don’t remember many other kids who were in my circumstances at that school.  I think most of the kids with disabilities that I was familiar with were more severely impacted and in a more contained and separate environment.  I feel like I could have been a bit of an anomaly for the staff at this school for sure.  There were so many other instances that made it clear the staff just didn’t know how to handle a student like me.
Thanks for the question.  If you have any others, don’t hesitate to ask.
ETA: Also I meant to add that I COULD run. It wasn’t that I couldn’t, it was just that it took more physical energy and more time for me to accomplish 

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

1) THE BASIC INFO: Cerebral Palsy is a disability that impacts body movement. It isn’t progressive. It isn’t contagious. But it is permanent. It doesn’t always affect cognition but it can. Mine primarily affects my legs, and my ability to balance and do certain tasks that require coordination.
2) I have the type of CP that is called spastic diplegia. Basically that’s a fancy way of saying that the muscles in my legs are very tight, and they tighten when I’m doing things that involve other muscle groups.
3) Cerebral Palsy is a result of brain damage (a lack of oxygen) that impacts the part of the brain responsible for certain movement. That’s why my leg muscles contract when I’m really intent on something, or anxious about something, even sometimes when I laugh.
4) I set the for the freshman girls static arm hang in gym class. I outlasted even the girl on the school gymnastics team: one minute and seventeen seconds.
5) I’ve had so many surgeries, it’s difficult for me to remember all of them in instances where my medical history is needed.
6) I use Canadian crutches to walk short distances, and a manual wheelchair around my apartment and for longer distances.
7) I live in accessible housing, which means that all the surfaces are lower, and the doorways are wide enough that my chair can fit through.
8) My family is great at adapting things for me. My great-grandpa adapted a Big Wheel for me to ride when I was 5 or 6 years old, building pedals with straps to secure my feet so I could ride. My dad made something that attached to my chair so I could carry my crutches, and my mom is constantly thinking outside the box with regard to accommodations.
9) I ran the mile in 4th grade, as was required by all the students. For some reason, though, I didn’t run on the track. I ran instead in an empty gym. Just me and the adaptive PE teacher. It was cumulative, and I had to complete a certain number of laps. It took me 45 minutes, and by the time I was done, I was so exhausted I just wanted to go home.
10) I had major surgery on both legs in 5th grade, and was out of school for two months recovering. I was even home-schooled for a bit so I didn’t fall too far behind.
11) I wore leg braces until seventh grade. Buying shoes was always a chore, because they needed to be a size or so bigger to fit over my braces.
12) My difficulties with fine motor coordination meant that I couldn’t successfully tie my shoes until I was ten years old. I also struggled in 10th grade geometry because I found it physically impossible to use a protractor.
13) Whenever my friends did something active, and told me about it later, like “I would have invited you over, but we were jumping on the trampoline,” it always hurt. I would always rather be asked. I enjoy watching, and even more if someone is able to think outside the box with me and come up with a way I can participate.
14) During a spelling test in the fourth grade, my teacher once used me in a sentence for the word different. The sentence went something like: “Tonia is DIFFERENT from everyone else because she has a disability.” Hint: if you’re an educator? Don’t do this.
15) As a kid, I loved playing outside and doing physical things with my sister and brothers. Playing on our play fort, kicking a soccer ball. I loved climbing little trees or hills.
16) It’s always strange to hear acquaintances or complete strangers tell me “good job” while I’m walking. Do they tell anyone else good job? Just me?
17) As a teenager, I went to camp for kids with disabilities. It really helped my self-esteem to be accepted for who I was, and also to be in the position to help others, instead of always being helped.
18) Taking swimming in middle school gym class was the most awesome experience because I realized I could walk unassisted the entire length of the pool, The water helped me keep my balance. Coolest experience ever.
19) I once was the goalie in an elementary school soccer game (a big step up from being relegated to keep score) and I was devastated when the other team scored against me. I thought I’d done a horrible job and ended up in a bathroom stall, crying, because I thought I’d let my team down.
20) It’s never NOT awkward when someone in authority (teacher or boss) instructs everyone to stand and then looks to me, and laughs nervously and says, “Tonia, you don’t have to.”
21) I ended up working at a summer camp briefly in my 20s and the number of children who came up to me and said that “they know it’s not nice to make fun of people who are different,” really surprised and impressed me.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I know you've seen Wicked, do you have any meta on how Nessarose is portrayed in the show?

My first time seeing Wicked, in 2007, I had only basic knowledge about what it was about.  Upon seeing Nessarose, I was thrilled.  A character in a wheelchair is SO rare in a stage show.  I watched and enjoyed (even the parts where Elphaba is told to take care of her sister, because while somewhat irritating, it’s also true to life.)
I will say I had a visceral reaction when Nessarose stood up.  It was a hugely disappointing moment for me - much like when I see Artie magically standing in Glee, or wanting to be fixed or healed.  I’d been so thrilled to see a part that seemed tailor made for an actress in a chair, and then it suddenly just…wasn’t.
That was my honest first reaction.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I went out with my friend's toddler niece and nephew, and they were FASCINATED with my chair (or my "car," as they called it). It helped that their mother just told them I would have "a chair with big wheels"--she didn't make it scary or depressing, and the kids picked up on that. Just goes to show, these attitudes are learned from adults. Small children are just like, "WOW COOL BIG WHEELS!!" :)

Yes!  So true!
I have so many examples of kids in my life who have never been around crutches or a wheelchair before and when I introduce them (positively and naturally) all of their reactions have been positive.
When my second youngest brother was in second grade, his class read a story about a child who used a wheelchair.  Afterward, he raised his hand and told his teacher and classmates that “my sister uses a wheelchair, and she’s just the same as everybody else.”
The first time I looked after a particular 7 year old, he asked me, “Can you play catch?” when we went outside.  I said, “I can, if I kneel.”  And I was so pleasantly surprised when he said, “Then I’ll kneel, too.”  And we played catch.  He was never comfortable checking out my chair, and didn’t want to sit on my lap because he was afraid he would “crush me.”  In that case, I didn’t push him.  Not every kid is going to be comfortable being hands on with a wheelchair.  That’s fine, too.
 I looked after a 4 year old a few times, who was fascinated by my wheelchair and my crutches.  I emphasized that neither were toys, but allowed her to walk with my crutches when I wasn’t using them, and sit on my lap in my chair.  She really wanted to push the chair by herself.  When she caught sight of a neighbor of mine with a limb difference she asked about it.  I answered honestly and straight-forwardly.  ”Some people have two legs, and some people have one leg.”  She easily accepted this, and apparently went home and proceeded to “play wheelchair” with all of her dolls, pushing them in strollers like it was the most natural thing ever.
When my youngest brother was three years old, he surprised me by being the first of my siblings who ever asked me why I used crutches.  My other two brothers never asked, and I honestly never expected to BE asked by a sibling, especially one so young.  But I told him “Because my legs aren’t as strong as yours, but that’s okay.”  From then on, he adorably repeated, “Your legs not as strong as mine, but it’s okay!” with a big smile, and lots of encouraging nodding.
A friend’s almost 3 year old is a bit hesitant around my wheelchair but is fascinated by my seatbelt and loves to buckle and unbuckle it.  She doesn’t want to sit on my lap, or push the chair, but is comfortable exploring the brakes and the seatbelt.
A friend’s 2-year-old, who I’ve babysat since she was 7 months old has always been naturally curious.  She loves my seatbelt, and figured out quickly how to buckle and unbuckle it.  She likes to push the chair from behind.  She’s also been known to come to me, and stand in front of me, staring with an unflinching gaze.  I’ll ask if she wants to sit on my lap and she’ll nod “yes.”  She not only is comfortable sitting with me but understands that we need to wear the seatbelt to be safe when we’re moving.  She loves pretending that we are going to “work” and then coming back “home.”  (A game where I push us from the living room to the kitchen and back.)  She’s also been known to get in my chair when I’m not in it.  I love how comfortable she is around it, and me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Advice: Shopping While Using a Wheelchair

Hi!  I went out today and could use some advice. Do you have any tips for shopping while using a wheelchair? I need my hands free to push myself and the basket doesn't always stay on my lap. I'm thinking of getting a mesh or clear vinyl bag so it doesn't look like I'm shoplifting. Any ideas?

If you want to get a clear/vinyl bag, go for it, but honestly, I usually just shop with a backpack on the back of my chair.  (I know it’s not something recommended when you’re walking - to just randomly put things in a bag - but it’s how I’ve always shopped.)  I keep it empty and open when I go in, and open while I shop, so it doesn’t look like anything is being concealed.  Afterward, I put the bags in the backpack and zip it closed.  Also, I don’t know if this is true where you are, but where I’m from, the are store employees who are willing to help customers shop. If no one offers, you can always ask if anyone’s available to help a customer shop (if you need to buy more than what fits in a backpack.)  There’s also the option of shopping with a friend.
Hope this helps!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Movies with Lead (and Supporting) Disabled Characters

First and foremost, I’m fairly sure you can look up a movie’s troubling content via: Kids In Mind for a comprehensive list of triggers. I would do this for every movie, solely because I don’t know anyone’s individual triggers and it’s always better to be safe. I did warn for the more obvious ones I could remember.
NOTE: I’m not an expert by any means but did consider whether all conditions listed would be disabling and did preliminary searches to check regarding certain illnesses and disorders that may fall under the category.
50/50 (Adam Lerner, cancer)
127 Hours (Aron Ralston, traumatic amputation) - This one’s quite intense and gory.
Avatar (Jake Sully has a spinal cord injury.)
Awake (Clay Beresford, heart transplant) TW: super graphic and intense. Not recommended if you’re squeamish or sensitive.
*Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (Lucy - schizophrenia, Grace - bipolar disorder, Eddie - depression, and Maggie - PTSD) - not a feature film, and has a LOT of triggers, but also very effective at beginning to destigmatize mental illness. Highly recommended if you can watch safely.
Catching Fire (Katniss Everdeen, PTSD) TW: intensity
Finding Nemo (Nemo, fin injury, impacts him throughout the movie)
Good Will Hunting (Will Hunting, Reactive Attachment Disorder) TW: lots of triggers here. I’d search this one for sure.
Home of the Brave (Vanessa, traumatic amputation, PTSD & Will, Tommy & Jamal all have PTSD as well.) This one follows the re-entry of four soldiers back home. Very trigger-heavy. If you do watch, watch with care.
How To Train Your Dragon (Hiccup, Toothless amputation)
Hide and Seek (Emily Calloway, depression) TW: intense situations. Gore.
I Am Sam (Sam Dawson has a developmental disability)
Least Among Saints (Anthony Hayward, PTSD) TW: intense situations
Martian Child (Dennis, Reactive Attachment Disorder)
My Sister’s Keeper (Kate Fitzgerald, cancer) Trigger warning: character death.
Philadelphia (Andrew Beckett, HIV/AIDS, which - stated in the movie - is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act) Trigger warning: character death.
Phoebe in Wonderland (Phoebe, obsessive compulsive disorder) TW: OCD-related self-harm
Rain Man (Raymond Babbit, on the autism spectrum)
Raise Your Voice (Teresa Fletcher, PTSD, brief head injury) TW: car accident, character death
Reign Over Me (Charlie Fineman, PTSD) Trigger warning for…intense content, I guess. Not sure how to warn for this, but I think it merits one.
Remember The Titans (Gerry Bertier, spinal cord injury)
Seven Pounds (Emily Posa, pre and post heart transplant) TW: character death, car accident, traumatic scenes, suicide.
Soul Surfer (Bethany Hamilton, traumatic amputation)
*The Brooke Ellison Story (Brooke Ellison, spinal cord injury) - This is not a feature film but very well done, and worth a look IMO, if you ever have free time.
The Guardian (Ben Randall, limb injury & PTSD) TW: intense scenes
The Lucky One (Logan Thibault, PTSD) TW: grief
The Secret Life of Bees (May Boatwright, depression) Trigger warning for suicide.
The Cure (Dexter has AIDS) Trigger warning: Character death.
The Mighty (Kevin has Morquio Syndrome, which causes him to have a physical disability)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Quasimodo, kyphosis)
The Village (Ivy Walker is blind and Noah Percy has a developmental disability.) Trigger warning for intense content
Uptown Girls (Lorraine Schline, OCD)
White Frog (Nick Young, is on the autism spectrum) This one is an independent film. Not sure if it counts.
Blood Diamond (Dia Vandy, PTSD)
Finding Nemo (Dory, short-term memory loss)
Fragments (Jimmy, PTSD, trauma based mutism) TW: seriously intense scenes. Violence.)
Mulan (Fa Zhou, war injury)
Parenthood (Kevin Buckman, anxiety)
The Princess Bride (Fezzik, gigantism)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Bailey Graffman, cancer) TW: character death.
War of the Worlds (Rachel Ferrier, panic attacks)
What Dreams May Come (Annie, depression) TW: self-harm, suicide.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Arnie Grape has a developmental disability)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Hunger Games

I don't know if you ever talked about this, but what do you think of Peeta's injury at the end of The Hunger Games? And it's absence in the movies?

To be honest, I don’t take as much of an issue with it as I do with disability portrayal in other media, and I’ll explain why:
I’ve known since I read the books that Suzanne Collins’ motivation, in part, was to provide a kind of commentary on war.  I know, from reading and listening to interviews that her father served when she was six years old.  She knows secondhand how war affects a person.  
As such, we see in the books, injuries like acute acoustic trauma, amputation and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Since hearing the film commentary, I know that Collins also worked closely with the director on the film - and was adamant that PTSD - as an affect of this war on these children - be shown.  Katniss’s hearing loss was also briefly touched on in the first film, but it’s difficult to portray something like that for too long in a movie, where in a book, the author can describe what it’s like.  While Peeta’s amputation is presumably left out of the movie, I can assume that it’s with Collins’s blessing, which is so important.
I understand that it’s a difficult injury to portray on film, because you’d need an actor without limb differences to play the early part and then, would have to do a lot of green screen work to portray the amputation on actor, Josh Hutcherson.  It’s my own personal opinion of course, but I’d prefer that it be subtlely alluded to (as with the slip on the ice and Peeta’s tendency to trip) than be overt and wrongly portrayed.  I feel like it would be easy to see Peeta with a prosthetic and (for some who don’t understand) view him only through the lens that he’s helpless, and that he’s meant to be pitied.  This way, with the subtleties, we, the audience, are encouraged to continue viewing him as Peeta the whole person.  As someone with a disability myself, I understand how easy it is to become one-dimensional.
I appreciate the subtleties in the portrayal.  And I appreciate the fact that the author is knowledgeable about her subject matter, and was very involved in exactly how the books translated on screen.

Friday, March 7, 2014

So I happened to catch the end of the Opening Ceremonies for the Paralympics in Sochi on TV today…

…and I was not impressed.
From all the commentators and announcers talking about how “inspirational” the athletes were to the final, closing words spoken (I kid you not):
"Play fair, and most importantly, have fun."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Little Couple

I have a lot to say about what is done wrong with regard to the portrayal of people with disabilities, but The Little Couple is a great example of accurate and empowering portrayal of people with disabilities. They live their everyday lives and adapt things as they go. Great, great people. I love watching their show because it’s accurate and they’re not portrayed as overly inspirational for living their lives. Definitely recommend watching their show if you’d like insight into people with skeletal dysplasia, or just general knowledge about how people are able to adapt in various circumstances. This is an early episode, and since then, they have adopted two children who have skeletal dysplasia as well.

[Image is: a line drawing of a house]

Monday, March 3, 2014

How do you deal with accessibility in the kitchen? Cause I'm really low to the ground and I'm kinda tilted back and I only have use of one arm which is proportional but small like the rest of me so I can only reach one shelf in our cupboard and it's pretty difficult and I can't open the fridge or reach the stove at all so my parents have to make sure they put my chips and cookies on that one shelf and it's really annoying cause I can't sneak food or get snacks for myself I feel so helpless
[Image is: a typical, and inaccessible kitchen]

Is it possible to keep some non-perishable food in your room? Usually (at least I’ve found) bedrooms are most accessible. So if there was a way to designate a certain surface or location for snacks then getting them could be totally up to you. Just a suggestion. I don’t know if it’s feasible or not.