Thursday, July 5, 2007

Not for Sunday night television

[visual description: A photo of a broken front wheel on a wheelchair is shown. Some wheelchair users lack money or coverage to get repairs made to broken wheelchairs or do not have a way to transport their equipment to a durable medical equipment provider.]

Based on the media coverage of people with disabilities, all the inspirational stories and successful overcoming, I guess it's not surprising that people ask me why I even have to advocate for disabled people.

I'd like to spell out some of the issues we still face - and please remember there is overlap - these are general issues that result in day to day problems.

*Abuse and neglect -refusal of society to provide adequate care resulting in neglect of disabled; abuse and/or neglect by carers, family

* Isolation - lack of transportation , medical equipment, social exclusion, ostracism

*Inadequate social services/programs- gaps in system, pushing disabled into elderly programs

*Bullying-education, work, social setting (includes gossip, physical assault, harassment)

*Oppression against disabled in different cultures - institutionalization against their will or when less restrictive alternatives can be created; euthanasia of diasbled; lack of housing, jobs

*Image oppression - treating those with disabilities as less than for not looking the same as others; making jokes about their appearance; refusing to be in close proximity with them; refusing to interact with them because they look "different"; asking people to hide their disability (cover up a prosthetic, e.g.)

*Ridiculing that results from the status of being disabled - also seen in bullying behaviors but exists as separate phenomenon such as when a person with a disabilty is ridiculed for enforcing his/her rights in litigation,applying for a job, social inclusion (e.g. ridiculing or demeaning the person and/or her disability ). It is often a backlash when the disabled person is seen as "not knowing his/her place" or being uppity

*Social exclusion - (both overt and covert), engaging in behaviors such as bullying/ridiculing to exclude; excluding a disabled person who is a member from a group event by not inviting him/her(department business lunch; women's church group/activity); failure to plan group activities to accommodate a member with a disability

and other actions and words which take away someone's dignity or right to participate.

This list isn't intended as a summary of all the advocacy work I do. I'm way too tired doing the advocacy work to compose an A List. There are many areas, what I refer to as "power areas", where progress made by people with disabilities has been very slow. These usually relate to economics in some way, such as job opportunities, housing or access to equipment.

Our media enjoys doing stories on the people who have succeeded, but avoids covering the ugly realities that exist behind closed doors. The suffering in a day to day life that results, for example, from inadequate care or unnecessary institutionalization doesn't make good media. The isolation that results from being unable to leave one's home due to a lack of transportation and equipment just doesn't get coverage.

Yet these stories are just as valid - and more important- than those we see in which people with disabilities are called "inspirational" . Don't get me wrong - I don't want to take away from anyone's accomplishments.

But unbalanced media coverage that focuses on the "feel good" stories results in a pervasive denial of the extent of the issues still facing people with disabilities and their families.

It's time for us to learn to be mindful of how the media portrays pwd. This includes being aware of opportunities to participate in realistic portrayals of living with a disability, like the new project [with]tv . It also includes speaking up when we see inaccurate and skewed portrayals in the media. Whether it includes a Sunday night TV movie that shows a sappy overcoming theme or a local article that covers a disabled person's graduation from college but fails to follow through when he/she can't get a job or transportation to a job six months later, this kind of media coverage needs to start being called on for what it is - skewed.


Kitty said...

You've certainly covered a lot of ground here. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one facing some of these problems due to a visible disability.

Life is made more difficult by the fact that people refuse to recognize some of the problems created by attitudes toward our disabilities. I've been shocked since I became disabled at the treatment I receive by former "friends" socially and how limited my job opportunities have become. My world shrank considerably not because I physically can't do things but because of attitudes.

I wish I could get in the trenches like you and work toward making it better but I have all I can do just to keep my spirits up. I've lost my husband, my job, most of my savings and now I face a future that is uncertain in terms of my health. I would give a million bucks if one friend would call me and ask me out. But it won't happen.

Even though that may seem like a small thing in a world full of troubles, to me it's huge. I know I need new friends but how if the ones I've known all these years turn their backs on me?

I'm glad I found your blog which tells it like it is. I'll be back.

Ruth said...

Welcome to WC, Kitty! Nice to meet you :)

I hope you come back often and leave comments. There's a very big blogging community of pwd - check out our disability carnivals and my disability links to find some more.

See you soon!

seahorse said...

Kitty, if you've come back, I'd just like to say I'm with you 100 per cent and recognise so much of what you say. In fact, your life experiences mirror mine in many ways. Keep coming back here, this is such a good site. And as Ruth said, there's plenty of online support. I've found it invaluable.

seahorse said...

Oh, and Ruth, great post :-) which is what I forgot to say. It is through recognition of this shared experience that we gain strength.

Anonymous said...

Well, I've been sympathetic for a long time, but today I'm EMPATHETIC. I was asked to drive a sister in for her Physical Therapy appointment. She is using a walker because she had knee replacement surgery recently. She's temporarily disabled.

We arrive at the PT service, in a free-standing building. There is a ramp up to the door, but there are no curb cuts anywhere near the 4 parking places marked "patient." When we get to the door, I find that it opens outward, is heavy, and uses a handle that requires a good grip to open. There are no automatic door openers in sight.

While I am waiting for the sister, a young man on crutches comes for his appointment. I don't know how he got here, but it was quite amazing to watch him reach over, fling the door open, catch it with the edge of one crutch and enter. He had to do it again on the way out. Another woman arrived for work following carpal tunnel surgery, with shoulder problems, and struggled to get the door open.

I was absolutely boggled. This business depends on people with physical impairments being able to get inside their doors. But even they can't seem to think it through.

This was a new building: it didn't have to be this way.

Keep advocating, Ruth, at least until folks start to use their brains (let alone their hearts).

Ruth said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Sr. Edith. How disappointing to see accessibility issues in a building like that.

It's particularly frustrating when you encounter accessibility issues in places supposedly for people with disabilities - and in new places.There are stories online about hospitals still lacking accessibility in their various departments too.

I hope patients start holding them accountable under the ADA for their obvious violations. It's easy to file a complaint with the DOJ for these things - doors that are too heavy, no curb cuts, etc. It's the only way sometimes it gets fixed for the next person.

Karen Marie said...

My doctor's new office has problems, that weren't thought about, that are becoming notorious.

For drivers of vehicles under 8'5", it's beautiful; enter structure, park on same level as your doctor's office.

But, for those of us who don't drive, especially those using paratransit (10'2"), it is nearly impossible.

It's built on a block where the streets are one way, the "wrong" way. The only place the van can unload on the curb side is on the entire other side of the block. There is no place the paratransit can unload out of the road, and even the not-quite-safe "unload across the street, then cross your passenger" can't be done because the other side is a closed hard-hat zone where the new hospital is being built _and_ there's no handy curb cut on the office side besides.

At least the doors have buttons......