Archives for posts with tag: Americans with Disabilities Act

With the health care situation in flux and Medicaid cuts looming, it seemed like a good year to do something public to celebrate the ADA while we still have it.  I approached some disability advocates in the community, the Center for Independent Living and a local health care advocacy group and they agreed.  My vision was for a public event where we handed out lemonade and chips, had booths with info about the Center for Independent living and the Aging and Disability Resource Center and displayed signs about “Don’t Cap or Cut Medicaid” and “ADA Matters”.

To make this happen in ten days, each of us took on several tasks.  I sought permissions from the police and the health department, made media contacts, recruited folks from the blind and Deaf communities and wrote a pep talk. One big learning from all of this was that things are more complex than you’d ever think. For example, I didn’t ask the Parks and Recreation Department if we could use the grassy plot near the farmers’ market. I blithely assumed it was public land and the police said that was okay if you don’t block motorists’ vision or sidewalks.  Or when it came to deciding to have the event or cancel because of likelihood of thunderstorms, I hadn’t even thought about power wheelchairs not liking to be out in thunderstorms.

Another learning for me is that compromising is good and leads to a better event in the long run. One gal wanted to bring a bubble machine. Bubbles don’t do much for blind people, so I scoffed a bit and figured out I could bring bells for blind folks to balance the bubbles. It turned out the bubbles attracted kids, which attracted their parents and great fun was had with both bubbles and bells.

Even though we weren’t allowed to hand out anything because we ended up escaping from the rain under the roof of the farmers’ market, the event was great. Lots of people with and without disabilities helped and many in-depth conversations about disability issues were held. Even the local newspaper story was respectful and got the facts right. Here’s my speech that somehow seemed to fit the tone of the event:

 

Happy Americans with Disabilities Act Day! Thanks for showing up to help our community celebrate the ADA and the Medicaid program.  Medicaid helps low income Americans of all ages get the services they need to live out the promise of the ADA for access.  My hopes for this event are that people learn about each other’s worlds. But that will take the bravery of asking other people how the ADA or Medicaid made their lives better and the bravery to tell pieces of your story to strangers not just throw out political sound bites.

The disability community has been the last group to achieve our civil rights with laws like the ADA in 1990 and the Help America Vote Act in 2002.

The disability community has some values I’d like to highlight today: resilience and a balance of independence and interdependence.  We feel the fear but do it anyway as we encounter attitudinal, architectural and communication barriers. We are problem-solvers and hard workers, just to get ready to get out the door sometimes. We’ve learned the truth of the Hopi Katchina Tehabi story “You see for me, I’ll walk for you”.  We’ve learned to ask for what we need and to give what we can. For example today I’ve asked Jeff to walk around with me being my eyes about who’s out there so I can greet them. I hope to learn some things about organizing from him too.  But I’ll also be educating him about the world of people with disabilities. So it’s a two-way street with the helping today. Both “please help” and “may I help?” are useful phrases for everybody.

As able, find a partner you don’t know and do the work of holding signs, conversing with people, handing out information or passing out snacks. Mix and mingle. Learn and grow and by all means have fun! Happy ADA Day!

After last year’s major push to get the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated locally by exhibits at libraries and a film showing, I decided this year to celebrate more privately by doing extra advocacy work and being mindful of all the access issues raised for me in a day of being an integral part of my community.

I started the day checking Facebook. Mainly inaccessible posts of pictures or pictures of words which Voiceover can’t read. But there were a few verbal updates and one quiz that was fun and accessible about what flower you’d be.  In case you’re wondering, I’m lavender. “Lavender: you have a soothing presence, people love your company and you always know how to make them feel better. You are thoughtful and considerate, often putting others first. You can make strangers feel at home. No matter how sad someone is feeling, you can always provide comfort and solace.” It was on Facebook, so it must be right, right?

Then I played a few rounds of trivia crack (mostly accessible these days), grabbed my first cup of coffee and settled in to check e-mail on my desktop computer. Windows 10 is working well for me, although I did have to pay $140 to upgrade my scanner to work with it.  “Free” Windows 10 wasn’t free in my book and I’m not sure it’s wonderful, but thanks to many people pushing Microsoft it is mostly accessible.

Next I talked to an intern from a law firm that is considering a class action kind of suit against a large company which has routinely ignored pleas for accessibility. If I told you who it was, I’d probably have to kill you, so don’t ask.  They became more interested in my stories when I was able to send them emails dating back five years pleading for access and offering to help with it.

I worked on arranging captioning and interpreting for the Schneider Disability Issues Forum in October at the university. I get to do 90% of the work for this event, but the university does provide clerical support and a couple of friends help pay for the speaker, captioner and interpreter.  I fear if I ever quit arranging it, it would cease to exist. In these lean times for universities in Wisconsin, nobody has time or energy to take on another worthwhile project.

I worked by email revising an article urging blind people to vote and describing accessible voting technology. The editor wanted me to clarify the sentence he’d highlighted. I’m not sophisticated enough to find highlighting using my screen reader (although I think it is possible). So he made a reasonable accommodation and pasted the offending sentence into an email for me to rewrite.

For lunch I microwaved a burrito (guessing at the time because instructions were not accessible). I punched in the time on my microwave which I’ve put bump dots on the 5, the 0, the start and stop keys. Flat screen technology has to be modified or equipped with voiceover to be accessible.  Bump dots (available at most hardware stores) are a cheap modification.

After lunch and a little nap I worked with a friend on a talk we’ll give in January about self-publishing. The accessibility pieces of it were my adding a sentence to the advertising about “If you have disability access needs, contact …” and my suggestion that we hold the talk in the community room of an assisted living facility.  I like breaking down barriers and retired folks may have the time and energy to write, so why not have the program there?

Then it was off to a book club for a great discussion of Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd.  We were also deciding on reads for the rest of the year.  One gal really wanted us to read a book by a friend of hers which was not available in accessible format. I will contact the author and ask if they’ll give me an electronic copy (like their last draft of the manuscript). Some authors will do this and some won’t.

The 26th anniversary of the ADA closed for me with another round of Facebook, Twitter, Trivia Crack and starting a thriller from the public library on CDs.  On the news I noticed that several references were made to disability issues by various speakers at the Democratic National Convention.  After 25 years, disability issues are out of the closet; maybe after another 25 years they’ll be mainstream issues. It was an ordinary day, doing projects and having fun but little of it would be possible without disability accommodations. Happy birthday ADA; live long and prosper!

Here’s a week’s worth of little ADA encounters. Some are home runs and others show implementation of the law is still a work in progress, even after 25 years.

  1. I approached two priests I know and got both to agree to say a prayer of petition at Mass: “For individuals and families living with disabilities that they be strengthened for their challenges and for those who work for inclusion and justice for people with disabilities”. Then I emailed a couple listservs of blind Catholics to encourage others to do likewise. Even if I couldn’t seem to get anything going nationally or at the state level about the Catholic church celebrating ADA 25, a couple local parishes will talk about the needs of the 19% for strength and allies.
  2. After 25 years my stove gave up the ghost so I’m the proud owner of a new one. I did get burners instead of a flat top so I know where to put the pans without burning myself. But the only style available has a flat screen for oven controls and no overlay panel with dots for strategic points like bake, start and stop. So I put bump dots (available at hardware stores) on. One of the marker dots on the oven controls already fell off after three days, probably because of the heat. I now have to guess where stop/clear is. Shouldn’t manufacturers be required to provide overlays?
  3. A friend reported on bus and other ADA accommodations at a big outdoor concert here. She said that her needs, including bringing in a chair when others had to stand, were cheerfully met.
  4. I got good customer service from the university’s computer help desk about Outlook not working. They coached effectively when I explained that I used a screen reader instead of freaking out like happened ten years ago. It’s wonderful to be able to use mainstream support instead of having to wait for the ADA person (if there is one) to call you back.
  5. Nike is producing a new shoe you can put on with one hand I read in the news.
  6. At the ADA Anniversary Proclamation at City Council (my short remarks about access improvements in Eau Claire were brilliant. However, the show was stolen by a Leader Dog in training who made a couple very short cogent remarks). An Ally who went to City Council with me had pics Facebooked before the sun set.
  7. The new book by Harper Lee appeared on Bookshare the same day it came out in print.
  8. There was a Dear Abby letter about what wheelchair users should say to rudely curious strangers: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/07/13/6320418/abby-wheelchair-user-has-no-need.html

On the actual anniversary day I plan pizza with friends and a tour of some of the sculptures on our city’s sculpture tour: http://www.sculpturetour.org/tour/. You can’t beat good food, good friends and good fun! Happy ADA 25!

Sen. Tom Harkin Ret. sums it up well: “Twenty-five years ago the passage of the ADA affirmed the foundation of civil rights for people with disabilities. We have been building an accessible society on that foundation for the past two and a half decades. Like any other foundation, it is what is built on top of it that is important in our daily lives. The civil rights ensured by the ADA can only be guaranteed if we are vigilant about protecting them. As we move forward into the next quarter century of the ADA, let’s all pledge to protect those rights in all parts of our lives. Onward!”

So what’s happening in the lives of people with disabilities twenty-five years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed? If one judges by memoirs, people with disabilities and their families are moving along in society, facing and sometimes prevailing against the architectural, communication and attitudinal barriers the ADA was passed to help ameliorate.

Life is Short; No Pun Intended by J. Arnold and B. Klein chronicles the life experiences of the stars of the “Little Couple”. They adopt children, deal with cancer, and strive to make the world a better place. In Tripping into the Light, Charlie Collins works to overcome the low self-esteem he’s had since childhood because of his blindness. His narrative talks freely about his drug and alcohol issues as well as his blindness. In Every Day You Fight, Stuart Scott and L. Platt chronicle Scott’s fight with cancer. This ESPN anchor believed you beat cancer by “how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live”.

Life in the balance: a physician’s memoir of life love, and loss with Parkinson’s disease and dementia by Thomas Graboys, with Peter Zheutliwas published in 2008 but speaks honestly of disabilities acquired later in life.

My favorite of the recent memoirs is Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back by Harilyn Rousso. For psychotherapist, painter, feminist, filmmaker, writer, and disability activist Harilyn Rousso, hearing well-intentioned people tell her, “You’re so inspirational” is patronizing, not complimentary. In her empowering and at times confrontational memoir, Don’t Call Me Inspirational, Rousso, who has cerebral palsy, describes overcoming the prejudice against disability– not overcoming disability.This book will probably go on my list of all-time favorites for disability memoirs along with works by Nancy Mairs.

Those of you who parent a child or adult with disabilities may like The Broken and the Whole by C. Sherman. The author is a rabbi and the father of a quadriplegic son who grapples honestly with the theological and practical issues caused by a disability in the family. Also be sure to read the beautiful poem “Stargazing” Johnson Cheu just posted about thoughts and feelings parents and adult children have: http://atticusreview.org/stargazing/.

Pick up a memoir and get some wonderful insights into the lives of the 19% of us living with disabilities. It’s a great way to celebrate the ADA’s 25th anniversary.

Spoiler alert: There’s a lot of crabbing in this post; skip to the end for a recipe for crab salad!

The last several months I’ve been working up to July, the 25th anniversary month for the Americans with Disabilities Act. I’ve arranged a library exhibit, civic declarations, a couple programs and written articles on what the ADA has done for the 19% of us who have disabilities. Now it’s time to sit back and celebrate, I naively thought. It turns out we’re not in the Promised Land yet!

1. Lots of lobbying nets limited results: my county declared July “Disability Awareness month.” New York City declared it “Disability Pride month.” Which would you rather have?

2. I announced local celebrations and handed out a card at a book club I’m a founding member of. I left the meeting ten minutes early and they pick an inaccessible book for the next read.

3. Accessibility is a problem in the celebrating: disability.gov has a photo project to celebrate; WI Libraries for All has an inaccessible link in the email to the blog about celebrating. It turns out the photo project also has stories and I could get to the blog using a different link, but even the celebrating involves work-arounds and reframes.

4. I am not alone in noticing limited success but still trying. Read Sarah Blahovec’s excellent piece in the July 6 Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-blahovec/we-need-your-help-signed-a-disability-activist_b_7512748.html. They’re even starting a disability news page, she says!

As my new favorite quote says: “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts

Now here’s that recipe for crab salad. I only had to skip one inaccessible recipe from Kraft in the Google search to get to this one from allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces imitation crab meat
1 cup mayonnaise

Directions: In a medium skillet, saute the green pepper and onion in the butter for 3 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in imitation crab meat, and saute for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and put mixture into a medium bowl. Stir in mayonnaise. May be served warm or cold.

So far sixty-six is starting out to be a wonderful age to be. I’ve got it all:

Health:

Both my guide dog and I are in reasonably good health. She has to have her teeth cleaned which means a day out of service. But I have the friends lined up to take us to and from the vet and my retired guide dog will be here the night Luna comes home to nurse her through the post-anesthesia jitters. Last time she had anesthetic she cried for six hours straight coming out of it, so they’re trying a different kind.

Work/volunteering:

This week I gave a guest lecture and hosted a breakfast for a guest speaker. I’m working on a couple upcoming speeches including researching the Daredevil comic with its blind male superhero. I baked cookies for the Friends of the Library book sale volunteers. I’m plugging away getting pictures and objects lined up for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act display at the university library. I helped lead a book discussion on All the Light We Cannot See. The members of the book club were receptive to my rant on how blindness really is as compared to how it’s pictured in Doerr’s novel.

Friendship:

I’m lucky to have many friends who celebrated my getting older with meals and gifts. The best gifts were their presences to catch up on what we’d been up to and laugh a lot. To spend time with friends is one of the best parts of retirement to me.

Spirituality:

I’m blessed to have a good church within walking distance, Christian and non-Christian friends tolerant of my views and an app to read me the daily Scripture readings. The time to read uplifting books like Ann LaMott’s Small Victories is also wonderful. This year I’m again going to try to read the Bible cover to cover. Last time I tried I got through five books and stalled out. Being 66 and trying to read the 66 books of the Bible seems auspicious, but time will tell.

Play:

Playing bridge and trivia crack keeps my mind sharp. Isn’t that a righteous excuse for having fun! Trying to encourage votes for Fran (my retired guide dog who is losing her vision) to be one of Wisconsin Lottery’s top dogs by using Facebook tested my social media skills. And then there are my spy thrillers and police procedurals. This week I started attending a four-session poetry class at the public library. I’m so glad to live where we have a good public library and in an era when many more books are available electronically so I can read them than when I was growing up.

Of course the world goes on with wars and crises and elections don’t always turn out as I’d like. But so far I recommend being over sixty-five highly! I may even aspire to hitting a hundred and seeing if I can be as astounding as ‘The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’.

Tip to blog readers: If you’d like a funny blog on interactions between sighted and blind worlds, try “You’ve Got to Laugh Sometimes: ABAPITA Moments”: https://theoutlookfromhere.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/youve-got-to-laugh-sometimes-abapita-moments/>