PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices

Accessibility Devices are, for all intents and purposes, a part of our bodies and should be treated as such.

DO NOT touch an accessibility device WITHOUT CONSENT. In case this is not clear, I mean the consent of the disabled person.

Do not touch a wheelchair without the consent of the person in it.

Do not touch a walker or a cane without the consent of the person using it.

Do not move a walker or cane out of the way, even if the person isn’t using it right now.

Do not push a wheelchair without consent, even if you are just trying to help. Even if you just want to make it easier for them to get up a hill.

Do not put a cane where the person who needs it can’t reach it. It is not funny.

Do not take a person’s prosthetic. It is not funny.

Do not push a person’s wheelchair out of your way, or to make them go faster. If you wouldn’t shove someone out of the way, then consider pushing someone in a chair as the equivalent.

Do not take a person’s hearing aid. It is not funny.

Do not try to make a person’s hearing aid produce feedback.

Do not push someone wearing a hearing aid into a pool, or spray them with water.

Do not touch a service dog. Doesn’t matter how cute it is. Doesn’t matter how small it is. If the dog is wearing his vest or currently working, DO NOT TOUCH THE DOG. (Or Any Other Service Animal)

Do not talk or stare at a service dog – dogs are social and if they are paying attention to you they are not paying attention to their job. They’re trained, but they’re still animals who CAN get distracted.

 Do not put a walker or a cane somewhere else, even if it is not currently being used.

DO NOT try to help by lifting their walker or the person themselves unless asked. If you offer, respect their no.

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PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices
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Disability 101: Understanding the Social Model of Disability

Often times, the most difficult part of solving a problem, a social problem or others, is about framing it in the right way. If you are dealing with a situation, but you misidentify the source of the conflict or barrier, then any solution becomes impossible, or at least incomplete. The same is true of discussion of disability justice and issues of equality.

Many of the conflicts that arise between abled communities and mindsets, and disabled ones step from different framings of the problem. While many different constructs and models exist, the two mainly accepted ones are the Medical Model and the Social Model.

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Disability 101: Understanding the Social Model of Disability

Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post request from a mother who wants to play Pokemon Go with her child, but can’t because of some of the many ways it is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Her identity will be kept anonymous for reasons of safety and consideration. The following is an open letter to Nintendo. 

Hey Nintendo, some people have disabled children who would like to play Pokemon Go.

Even though the premise of your game is awesome, it could be improved upon with more accessibility.

As the parent of an autistic child (who is intentionally keeping things vague for the sake of this post because I’d rather my son disclose information about himself publicly whenever he personally feels it is appropriate to do so and can consent to it) who enjoys playing Pokemon with his mother, and as a mother who grew up playing Pokemon games of her own, the Pokemon franchise has always been one that has allowed us to bond and spend quality time together. I man the controls, and when my son indicates a preference in one or more Pokemon, I try to incorporate those into our team. (Once we attempted to bring the three legendary birds to the Elite Four in LeafGreen because he liked them a lot. That might have been when type disadvantage was best illustrated, bringing three Flying when the first Trainer specializes in Ice. Moving along…) Based on what I’d read about Go, I thought it would be one of the most awesome games ever to play with him when it came out.

And then it came out.

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Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)

It’s All in Your Head:

The false dichotomy between physical and mental illness

It used to be thought that different illnesses were the result of demons and evil spirits. In the bible for example there are instances of epilepsy that are treated as demonic possession. As physical explanations were found for different disorders, the supernatural explanations were abandoned in favor of scientific ones.When it comes to mental health disorders however, physical explanations are harder to grasp and find. Not because they don’t exist, but rather because a lot of brain related research is either not possible with our current technology, or must be undertaken with great care for ethical reasons.  As a result, our society has created a separation between physical illnesses and mental ones.

On some levels, this separation make sense. When we think of physical illness or disability, we think of some physically embodiment. Take Crohn’s for example: with the right equipment one can point to the inflammation and ulcers in my intestines as an explanation of why I am feeling the way I am feeling. With mental illness, however, a lot of times we are dealing with something a bit more intangible: emotions and thoughts.

This separation is a false one however, that actually creates a lot of misunderstanding and harm. Because we see mental illness as dealing with something intangible like emotion, there is a social perception that mental illness isn’t real. That it is “all in your head”.

The truth is that mental illness is as much a physical thing as any other illness or disability. The brain is as much a part of the body as a leg or intestines. Depression, anxiety, and other such conditions may manifest themselves in part as emotions and thoughts, but those are expressed symptoms of underlying conditions in the same way that pain is an expression of inflammation or injury.

Moreover, it ignores the fact that all perceptions are “in our head”. If you consider pain, for example, while our bodies processes the injury causing the pain at the point of injury, the actual experience that we call pain is processed in our brains. This doesn’t mean pain doesn’t exist. In fact, we know that pain not only exists, but it is necessary for our survival. We know this because of individuals with CIP (congenital insensitivity to pain), a condition where people cannot feel physical pain. People with CIP need to consistently measure their body temperature and be very careful because it is possible for them to injure themselves, like break a bone, without realizing it.

Every tactile experience, every visual one, every auditory one is processed “in our heads”. If you say that mental illness isn’t real because it is “in your head” you are essentially saying that every experience we have isn’t real. Our whole lives are lived in our heads.

There are physical symptoms of mental illness as well. Many people who have depression experience joint pain, as well as fatigue. Anxiety can cause your blood pressure to spike, can cause chest pains, nausea, acid reflux, and a whole host of other symptoms. There is absolutely a physical component, so treating it as if it is something separate ignores important aspects of mental illness.

Moreover, treating mental illness as separate from physical illness or disability, ignores the fact that physical disabilities and illnesses often occur in conjunction with certain mental illnesses. Specifically, many people with disabilities have more risk factors for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. This can be the result of the imposed social isolation that many people with disabilities experience, or in some cases may be a result of their illness. For example, Crohn’s Disease, in addition to the pain and physical symptoms that can increase the risk of depression, the inflammation of the intestines can also lead to a lower absorption of Vitamin D which can result in depression.

Because physical and mental illness are treated as separate, those of us with disabilities are not given adequate access to mental health care. In an ideal world, every person with a chronic illness or disability would be given access to a mental health professional who would manage their mental health in conjunction with their physical health. The connection between the two would also make it easier to argue for social contact as an accessibility need.

The way the world is set up now, people with different types of disabilities experience social isolation as a matter of course. This can be as a result of symptoms, or often as a result of insufficient accessibility. Because mental health and physical health are seen as separate, the idea that disabled people are prevented from being able to socialize effectively due to barriers such as transportation or even just on-site accessibility, is not seen as a big deal. Government officials see closing down programs and businesses that encourage and enable disabled people to socialize as risk free. People feel the need to vandalize playparks that are set up to be accessible to disabled children.

The false dichotomy is actively harmful to all disabled people. It enables people to ignore the needs of the mentally and the physically ill. It is meant to divide and shame. It is meant to pit us in false competition with one another, in the hopes that it will distract us from the systemic ableism that is so ingrained in our society.

It’s All in Your Head:

Do You Have What It Takes to Party With Disabled Folk?

It’s a common experience among folks with disabilities. At some point, some well-meaning person will leave us out of events because “I figured you wouldn’t be able to go”. It’s presumably meant as a nice act, by taking away the need for us to say no, but in actuality all it does is make us feel even more left out than we already do. More than that, it ends up being condescending because it suggests that you know better than we do what we can and can’t do.

Living with a disability often results in social isolation, but the truth is that it doesn’t have to. What is ultimately the biggest barrier towards people with disabilities being able to socialize well is a lack of social imagination. When people consider parties or get-togethers, the thought is rarely as to how to make the event more inclusive to people with disabilities. Moreover, friends never seem to consider the possibility of suggesting low effort hangouts as well.

Instead of adding to the social isolation by excluding us and making us feel othered, instead here is a list of ideas to have disability friendly events as well as a list for fun disability friendly get-together ideas.

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Do You Have What It Takes to Party With Disabled Folk?