Meet the Robots for Humanity

I’ve always been a fan of TED talks, and this one I feel operates as a tangent to what we’ve discussed in class. In this video, the witty Henry Evans details his full-body paralysis and how he has used modern technology to “overcome” his disability and perform feats that he says even able-bodied people can’t. He can walk, drive, and even fly.

I wonder whether the advanced technology discussed in the video is an aide or a hinderance to the disabled rights movement. I feel as though some would argue that too much reliance on technology is not natural and acceptable, and others would welcome the possibilities and advances that come with it. What’s your opinion? Should an able-bodied person be allowed/encouraged to have these robots?

MS Skydiver

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/27/241218946/man-with-ms-jumps-over-mount-everest-i-feel-very-happy?utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprfacebook&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=facebook

Skydiving is a huge feat for anyone. Skydiving onto Mt. Everest is even more impressive. I can see how a person with multiple sclerosis accomplishing such an incredible feat can be news-worthy, since happy and inspiring stories are usually hits with the readers. The audience is supposed to think hey, if this MS guy can do it, so can I! An unfortunate wording does appear in this story when the writer refers to the skydiver, Marc Kopp, in the caption of his picture as a “multiple sclerosis sufferer” and later in the story as “[one] who suffers from primary progressive multiple sclerosis”. Now, I don’t want to be too condescending of the story. It is a great one, and I love when Kopp is quoted saying, “I hope my action will inspire others living with this illness. I hope many more will follow in my footsteps.” I think how Kopp describes himself, as one “living with” MS, has such a more positive connotation than how the writer describes him. Kopp is a man who seems to be embracing all aspects of his life and following his dreams, as every human being should. Positive portrayals of people with disabilities have been mentioned numerous times throughout this class. I was happy to see this celebratory event among other NPR stories.

Dating and Mental Illness

During this past Thursday’s class, we discussed the current stigma surrounding mental disability. From severe anxiety to schizophrenia, so many conditions exist without visible proof. Paul Heroux, a Massachusetts State Representative, wrote a blog entry on the Huffington Post about a friend of his who was diagnosed with chronic dysthymia last year. The Mayo Clinic states that chronic dysthymia is “a mild but long-term form of depression. Symptoms usually last for at least two years, and often for much longer than that. Dysthymia interferes with your ability to function and enjoy life.”

Prior to receiving his diagnosis, Heroux’s friend was overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. These things and his paranoia severely impacted his dating life. He was hesitant to seek medical attention because he felt as though being given a diagnosis would bring about unwanted shame. (This certainly speaks to the perceptions that many individuals have of mental illness.) Fortunately, he sought help, was diagnosed with chronic dysthymia, and began to take Celexa. His behavior in relationships and overall temperament drastically improved.

Sadly, the issue of whether or not to treat one’s mental illness with medication continues to prevail. Heroux’s friend was in much higher spirits while taking Celexa, but, as a side-effect, he gained a bit of weight. This led him to stop taking his medication. The detriments of his chronic dysthymia returned, and he embarked on a lengthy cycle of highs and extreme lows with a woman who he has been dating for several months. Heroux, upon discovering this, decided to have a conversation with his friend. He discovered that, like with the shame mentioned at the start of the post, his friend was ashamed of his needing medication. He believed that his girlfriend, as well as other women, would reject him because he has a condition.

To an outsider, mental disability is quite confusing. But I think that even those who are on the inside can be perplexed by their conditions. This blog post is a great example of the benefits and consequences of medication, as well as the damaging effects of stigma.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-heroux/dating-mental-illness_b_4203302.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111

Heroic Waterboy Makes Everyone Feels Good

http://www.godvine.com/A-Waterboy-with-Down-Syndrome-Became-a-Football-Team-s-Hero-4152.html

This class on disability culture and disability rights has caused me to think so much more about things that I used to simply accept. I encountered this story through Facebook. It had received multiple likes and comments such as “awww” and “so sweet.” Before this class I would have thought the same and kept scrolling down my news feed. But, since taking this class with Prof. Lukin, I saw this video and paused. I didn’t know what to think of it anymore. One thing that I’m pretty sure of is that this town and this football team had good intentions. They obviously wanted to make this teammate happy, and it seems as though they did! I do however, think that it is a shame this is his first and last time ever being on the football field during a game. And during the last quarter. Of a game that was already won. If the score were tied up or not in their favor, would they have risked a win to let their teammate play? In the story the news anchor states”his teammates said they wanted to repay him.” Sounds like a team meeting was held to discuss this boy’s participation. A team meeting that did not include one of the teammates. As the football game plays out we see the players delicately hand the ball to the former water boy and them walk paternally and defensively alongside him as he makes his touchdown. The opposing team doesn’t dare intervene. This is all out of the best intentions. And the autistic player looks happy he really does. But there were news cameras staring at the team the whole time. Would such camaraderie be shown if the cameras weren’t rolling? Who knows. I just wish that equal opportunity had been genuinely offered throughout this water boy’s whole career.

Nemesis

I just read the excerpt from Nemesis in which the boys from Camp Indian Hill participate in “Indian Night,” and I feel as though it’s ripe for discussion about stereotyping, gender, genocide or what have you. The boys all dress up in inauthentic Native American attire from the craft store, rub their faces with cocoa and participate in an “Indian” ceremony. One of the things that struck me as particularly sick and symbolic was this:

“In years gone by he had saluted the braves Indian fashion–using an upraised right arm with the palm forward–and they would collectively return the salute, simultaneously grunting ‘Ugh!’ But this greeting had to be abandoned with the arrival on the world scene of the Nazis, who employed that salute to signify ‘Heil Hitler!'” (208-209)

The camp director goes on to state that for millions of years “our race has seen in this blessed fire the means and emblem of light, warmth, protection, friendly gathering, council.” This whole section is packed with irony, as the boys take from a culture the mythic strengths and forget, even in the face of another genocide, America’s implication in the eradication of the culture they’re celebrating. At the end of the ceremony the camp leader tells the boys about the war news, and what’s going on “outside of Indian Hill.” Indian Hill seems to me to function as an escape; literally for Bucky from polio and his duties in Newark, and also as metaphor for escaping the reality of war, death and genocide. I’m interested to see what other people felt about this particular section (pages 204-216), because I’m sure I’m just scraping the tip of the iceberg.

‘Celebutard’

Last night, my roommate and I were watching the news. Following the local stories and weather forecast was a story about Sephora’s ‘Celebutard’ lipstick. I had never heard of it. However, this beige-colored lipstick from Kat Von D’s Painted Love Lipstick line was yanked from Sephora’s shelves after the makeup store was bombarded with backlash. Organizations that openly disagreed with the lipstick included Down Syndrome Uprising and All About Developmental Disabilities. Sephora was hesitant to respond to the public, but eventually had this to say:

“It has come to our attention that the name of one shade of a lipstick we carry has caused offense to some of our clients and others. We are deeply sorry for that, and we have ceased sale of that shade both in our stores and online.”

Meanwhile, Kat Von D had this to say via Twitter before deleting the message:

“At the end of the day, it’s just a f**king lipstick”

I also found a comment by ‘crimson petal’ at the bottom of the article. I’m posting the entirety of this individual’s opinion (with my ‘favorite’ lines in bold) because it is soooooo relevant to class:

“I’m disappointed with Sephora for caving in to this. Firstly, this lipstick has been out for well over a year…probably more. Why now? I’ve wanted it a long time but just never remembered to throw it in my basket. I understand that it may be offensive to some however this is just silly. The name had nothing to do with disabled or “challenged” individuals or whatever they want to be called. It was meant as a commentary on celebrities we see in the news everyday. As Kat said – it’s just a lipstick. What frightens me is that when a group of people launch a concentrated effort to remove something or change something that they feel is objectionable. Then nothing is safe. Freedom of speech is compromised. I’m familiar with the “campaign” these people launched…and it wasn’t pretty. They took to every makeup website, blog…anywhere where they could sign up and left sometimes inappropriate comments, and disrupted business. What would have been wrong with expressing their unhappiness like sane adults? I’m all for equal rights for everyone, but bullying companies and individuals because your are offended over something is as bad as the “offense” itself.”

Did the name really have ‘nothing’ to do with challenged individuals? Crimson petal seems to think so, which is funny because he/she immediately goes on to write that the purpose of the product’s name was to infer that celebrities are mentally challenged. And was the response of the party against ‘Celebutard’ immature? After all, Kat Von D is the one who took to Twitter and dropped the F-bomb…..

The article indicated that, despite the tremendously negative criticism surrounding the product, Amazon.com was continuing to sell ‘Celebutard’. However, I cannot find it on the website. This article was written just two days ago. Something tells me that Amazon must have quickly caught up to speed with Sephora and pulled the product, as well.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/celebutard-lipstick-sephora_n_4233966.html?ir=Style

Museum Access

Article

This article describes how museums are making art exhibits more accessible to disabled people. While all public spaces are required to be wheelchair accessible by law, this doesn’t necessarily mean that disabled visitors will get the same full experience. Several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are implementing programs that will allow people who are blind, deaf, or autistic experience museums to their fullest. It’s interesting to see how the arts can be experienced other than by sight because we usually think of museums as static things to be observed and not touched. For years, audio materials have been available to museum goers that will describe certain pieces to the viewer. These are useful for everyone, but now there are more specialized things that are taken into consideration such as the height of display cases so that those in a wheelchair can see the artwork. There are also tours available given in ASL and extended hours to give people with cognitive disabilities the time to become familiar with the museum.

Eva’s Disability

Given that I have read Sula already in a previous course, it still interests me that Eva holds a sense of superiority given that she has a disability. Her demeanor makes those who come in contact with her, respect her. Nobody acknowledges her disability and it is interesting that some men fancy her. But what does Morrison mean when she writes:

“The men wanted to see her lovely calf, that neat shoe, and watch the focusing that sometimes swept down out of the distances in her eyes. They wanted to see the joy in her face as they settled down to play checkers, knowing that even when she beat them, as she almost did, somehow, in her presence, it was they who had won something” (41).

What did these men win?

What is it about her disability that makes these men want to be in Eva’s presence?

We’ve talked about how views on disability tend to be of disgust and/or fear, but what does this mean the way Morrison represents disability?

Welcoming Art Lovers With Disabilities

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/arts/artsspecial/welcoming-art-lovers-with-disabilities.html?_r=0

A couple of days ago, the Met displayed its first exhibition of art made by blind/partly sighted people. These artists were part of a class called “Seeing Through Drawing” and their artwork was inspired by the Met’s collection of paintings, sculptures, etc.

The Met has always been a big supporter of accessibility rights for disabled people. They are very flexible in terms of providing accommodations for people with all sorts of disability.  A visitor is able to experience exhibits through sound, scent, touch, imagery, etc.  This article also talked about how the Met is very creative with the accommodations that they made and continue to make in the museum. They go above and beyond the rules required by law, and really go out of their way to make sure disabled people have an amazing and thorough experience.

The Met can be considered a pioneer in accessibility. About 15% of the people in the US are disabled and this number is going to keep increasing. Disabled people cannot continue to be deprived of their rights. For those people, places, and institutions that claim it cannot be done, it really can. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Poetry for Cripples

Poet of Cripples

Let me be a poet of cripples,
of hollow men and boys groping
to be whole, of girls limping toward
womanhood and women reaching back,
all slipping and falling toward the cavern
we carry within, our hidden void,
a place for each to become full, whole,
room of our own, space to grow in ways
unimaginable to the straight
and the narrow, the small and similar,
the poor, normal ones who do not know
their poverty. Look with care, look deep.
Know that you are a cripple too.
I sing for cripples; I sing for you.

We talked a little about this poem by Jim Ferris in class but I wanted to bring it up because it has a power and presence that I find fascinating. This sonnet creates a unified identity for the disabled. Ferris is not attempting to recognize individuals, but create a community for which this poem is the spokesperson. However, Ferris does not stop with including the disabled, he also wants “the normal ones who do not know their poverty.” to “look with care” and “know that you are a cripple too.” The speaker sings for every person. The narration in Poetry for Cripples almost alludes to Langston Hughes’ famous I, too, Sing America and so brings our minds to a noble cause for justice and civil rights. The allusion allows the reader to compare the disability and civil rights movements and relate them within their own minds. I believe this allusion is powerful and may be why this sonnet resonates so strongly with me. It almost presents the need for equality and recognition as a matter of fact almost duh moment where the reader is forced to recognize the similarity between the two movements and realize disabled Americans deserve the same rights Black Americans were denied for so long.