Saturday, May 02, 2009

Blogging Against (Dis)Ableism Day 2009

Frida and Jay lobbying in DC Hmmm, it seems I haven’t blogged on this blog since last BADD. I have actually been writing/arting about anti-ableism in other venues:
Welcome Ministry blog

Facebook profile

Flickr photostream

Now, even on Twitter (although I’m challenged by limiting anything to 140 characters!)

As I'm really short on time this week, since I've been in DC and am preparing to preach on Sunday, here's a hasty photo commentary on ableism in this year of my life.

Photo of two coupled pigeons, one with amputated toes
ons can look past ableism in sexuality—why can’t humans? Sins Invalid sounds like absolution, and it is in a way for the ways in which we limit our own and others’ sexuality by ableism, and what it means to claim it back.
Jay presenting to Wartburg College Sexual Ethics Class
I am learning more and more that when I present about any oppression, that without a broad anti-oppression framework I wouldn’t be doing justice. Bishop Emeritus Stan addresses assembly
One of my mentors, above shown continuing to work through retirement with Alzheimer's reminds me that ageism and ableism are equally damaging in limiting many people’s older lives.
Drawing of a disabled feminist as a mural suggestion at a conference at herchurch
We can all get so caught up in single-issue organizing that anti-ableism gets lost, especially without actual bodies reminding us of access needs.
Volunteers at the Welcome Ministry, some with various disabilities
I work at the Welcome Ministry, where we are blessed with volunteers and community members with a variety of disabled experiences. I’ve learned to use a lot of self-disclosure, because so many people have no idea how it’s possible to create policies and climates that minimize disablement and accommodate for individual disabilities.

Pastor Megan eats and chats with guests at the Welcome Ministry Community Dinner
In working with this community, I am reminded that one of the most disabling aspects of ableism is the all-encompassing vice grip of the kind of ableism that says “you’re not disabled, you should be able to do things like everyone else,” in the face of real differences that could be easily accommodated, and “you’re too disabled to do anything,” stopping people from trying. Add layers of ageism, classism, poverty, racism, multiple layers of trauma, and other oppressions, and people get blamed for the disabling impacts of society on an oppressed body.

Signing Trans Marcher
I find myself missing my disability rights and anti-ableism communities in other cities. I’m not sure how much of this is a lack of community (I suspect a lot) and my autistic introversion that leaves little energy to seek community while doing people-heavy work. I find it exciting to run into people in other communities who seem to be participating in Deaf/disabled worlds.

Market Street public bathroom- accessible, free, and scary
Bathroom access is a huge issue in San Francisco. The homeless/poverty community is often without access to bathrooms, and finding an accessible bathroom (if you can find an accessible building) in the city is daunting. I’d been warned about how bad access is across the bay from the start of the Disability Rights movement seems like another world.

Introducing rescue dog Frida!
I had been looking for a program to get a service dog for a great long while. My disability access needs don’t fit into the established categories, one of my disabilities is being really allergic to most dogs used in service dog breeding, and I’m an adult who has very different needs than children in autism dog programs. I looked for a training program locally, and again found lots but none that were willing to work with a dog for a combination of crowd-avoiding and doorjam-sparing mobility, sensory integration, fetching, and medical alerting. Eventually, we decided to find a rescue dog so that we could fill the animal void, reduce stress, and give someone a home. I was hoping but not expecting that a dog we might find could be self/professional trained for service work.
So we adopted Frida, a scraggly muttish dog who had been found wandering in the Central Valley and was not wanted by her previous family who’d adopted her from a humane society. She turned out to be an exceptionally well-mannered beautiful adult Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier with some training experience. Frida ready for work, practicing a down-stay under my desk
I started training Frida, and found she was a fast learner and motivated. I looked for a trainer, and kept running into a combination of weird needs with ableist (or at least specific in unhelpful ways) responses to inquiries about professional training assistance.
We found our way to Darn Far Ranch Professionally-Guided Owner Trained program. Their philosophy about most dogs and most people being able to handle service work with the right tools has been empowering, Frida has been working hard as a Service-Dog in Training.
Bus Stop Sit-Stay
Pastor Jay prepares for church Pharmacy Frida working at church

Working with a service dog, as a person with often-overlooked disabilities (apparent if people pay attention, but usually misattributed), I’m reminded of a lot of subtle internalized and external ableism patterns:
+ apparent fitness=*not disabled*, despite other evidence (I see this as tied to youth oppression and ageism)
-If it isn’t p
hysically apparent, it must not be *real* (even if it is actually physically based) -Psych impairments are so oppressed in our world where “crazy” is a casual descriptor. While autism is not really a psych disability but a neuro-developmental disorder or different sensory processing, I feel responsibility not to refute people’s perceptions of me as having a psych impairment. It’s a challenging (and probably mostly misunderstood) line to question people’s prejudices about psych impairment without claiming an experience I do not have. -A really cute dog of an unusual breed with a trainer that looks like me *must* be training the dog for someone else. When people don’t know how to respond appropriately to service dogs in general and then think that the dog is being trained for someone else, really weird interactions ensue that my aspie brain has difficulty following, especially because my language processing gets most affected when I’m in crowded social situations.
-I am reminded daily of the enormous amounts of privilege that I draw on to use a service dog: -Having a job (in the city where I live one cannot afford ¾ the rent for a studio apartment on SSI)
-Having a job that pays sufficient to afford a dog and training

-Being able to choose to live in a building that allows dogs, or that understands Fair Housing law

-Working with an employer that chooses to accommodate my disabilities despite not being under the ADA or other laws of non-discrimination
-Passing privilege, even though it doesn't match with my identity as disabled and genderqueer
-Having a stable enough work and housing situation to maintain this

-Working in a job which prioritizes working for legislative and anti-oppression changes

And that leads us to the lead photo. Frida, Pastor Megan, and I were in Washington DC this week with the Transgender Religious Leader’s Summit and National Center for Transgender Equality Lobby Day. We lobbied for passage of the Senate version of the Hate Crimes Bill, which if passed by the House will be the first federal law to specifically protect any rights of transgender people. Granted, the rights of being protected if we’re attacked or killed is not even much of a starting place, but a law that names ableism with trans and sexual orientation discrimination in hate crimes is still a chance to educate systems about some of the ugly realities of oppression.

We ran into other Lutheran & ecumenical pastors, deaconesses, and church members, as well as lots of people of all (and no) faith traditions lobbying to end poverty, ADAPT protesting and lobbying for the Community Choice Act, and the opening of the Sojourner Truth memorial bust. It feels like a new day is coming. I'm encouraged that some of the Welcome Ministry community is learning about their rights, figuring out how they've been disabled and how to access accommodations, and unlearning the lies they've been told about themselves and our charity-model based disability & poverty service systems.
Legislative and cultural changes aren’t the end of oppression, but they feel like a beginning. Frida agrees. But she says next time we’re in DC, she wants to protest with ADAPT

Friday, May 02, 2008

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2008

Ableism, Homelessness, Jail, the Church, & Privilege
I feel like I could say a lot about my observations of ableism in the last month of working with long-term homeless and hungry people who all experience ableism, corresponding with a friend who is serving a federal sentence in an IL jail for her actions protesting the SOA (interesting link in even the sentencing and ableism), sharing our work and space with organizations that haven't thought much about disability beyond the elevator that you need a key to enter, and even more having recently been to a large conference and church assembly with a lot of glaring ableism. Currently I'm working on some resources to share with a senior center about the connections between ableism and ageism, much of which I've gleaned from conversations observing the center and church, which I hope to post when finished. Hmm, maybe I can try to make this a BAD Year with all of this ableism material.

Expanding on last year's post, here are a few new signs of hope...
Mia Mingus accepting Creating Change award video, and the text of her whole speech including the parts where she calls out the ableism we were experiencing

Eli Clare's new website

Ballasexistenz returned after restoring the blog from back-up, and posted for BADD.

At the Autistic Spectrum Flickr group, we've been collecting Autism Pride photos...slowly, but there are some fun ones.

On the disability culture front, Ouch! podcast continues to entertain us while washing dishes or driving from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Yet to unpack
Sorry to all that this post is really just a few links, and that I haven't posted since last Blogging Against Disablism Day. I'm excited about my new job and move to San Francisco, and am just trying to tame the chaos to not-so-overwhelming levels for our aspie-addy household.
Hopefully that means I'll post again before Blogging Against Disablism Day 2009!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blogging Against Disablism: Hope

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

The thought of blogging about Disablism (Ableism, in my usual language) today seems a bit overwhelming. Instead, here are some signs of hope.

Hope, originally uploaded by Transguyjay

I have hope against Disablism when I see:

-Parents and kids working against Disablism, like Norma Desmond & Knight Lloyd (My favorite of their collaborations is Gifted with Asperger Syndrome)

-A person pulling me aside saying, "I've been thinking about what you shared, and I think that I might identify with neurodiversity***." Second moment of hope when the person identifies publicly. I've seen it happen twice this month alone.
***variations include Autistic Spectrum, Disablism/Ableism, or Scent-Free Spaces

-A person comes to my office for advocacy, and self-advocates to make a change in their own life.

-My partner says that he loves how Aspie I am when I am talking non-stop about Star Trek, making laser noises, rocking about something unjust that I just saw happen, standing on my head, or singing along with completely different notes to a different rhythm.

-At the churches I attend where I see persons with developmental disabilities participating in music leadership, invocation, hospitality, reading sacred texts, and greeting without being limited, or patronized. On Easter at one of the communities, we saw an exceedingly joyful liturgical dance to a gospel song by a young person with Down's Syndrome, which the congregation clapped along to.

-Intentional efforts towards community building of disabled people, such as
Breaking Isolation, Building Community at FORGE Forward Conference

-In a meeting or a social gathering and someone corrects their own Ableist statement. This week, it was a friend/colleague who questioned using the word lame.

-A young person from my former internship site is sharing her excitement about getting a new arm with people who were feeling sorry for her.

-The following blogs/sites:
Pitbull Poet
Chewing the Fat
Ragged Edge Online

-Progress in searching for Anti-Ableism resources for work and finding more and more new good resources every day.

-The person I've corrected when repeatedly saying handicapped with a look of concern finally spontaneously says disabled without grimacing.

-My friends gather for Wednesday breakfast, and we vent about the Disablism we've experienced and seen, challenge our own internalized Disablism, and support each other in living with Disabled Pride and hope.

Feel free to add more examples in the comments.
I'm going to bed so that I can get to breakfast in the morning.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Photo of Jay's Grandma's plaid chair

Life has been chaotic lately, explaining the lack of posting in the last few months.
Moving across the river has been exciting. Where we're living is great, although we're just now finally getting completely unpacked.

Grandma had a stroke and has aphasia. Grandma also has post-polio syndrome, and has arthritis and a blood disorder, so she's taught me a lot about living with disabilities.
The process of walking through this with my family has been illuminating. Lack of information on part of medical staff, lack of technological familiarity, ageism, ableism, and other people's unmanaged/unacknowledged disabilities converge in a very different situation for people over retirement age who experience disability. It's the same disfunctional societal systems, but amplified and hidden.

I've been working as an Individual Advocate at a CIL for the last few months. Work is very challenging. I love being able to work with people's disability advocacy requests, especially when I'm teaching skills, facilitating communication, assisting to resolve conflicts, or showing people how to get through the system. Yet, it would be so much more effective if I didn't spend hours on the phone just waiting to talk to the hostile case worker or SSA. We're understaffed too, along with the dilemma of getting more referrals when you do a good job. But it's amazing to see things get resolved that seemed overwhelming and impossible. Yet, some of them don't, and I'm frustrated and angered by the lack of services/support that some people get left with. I can hope that they learned some self-advocacy skills in the process, and maybe one of the referrals I gave might have some better ideas, but ultimately there are still millions of people that are living without control over basic life decisions.

My new favorite blog:
Chewing the Fat

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What I'm absorbed in at the moment...

Absorbed in reading these books:

Absorbed in watching:

Absorbed in listening to: