Saturday, May 24, 2008

Connect the Dots

After years of trying to figure out what exactly is it about my disability that other people (especially my classmates) don't get, I think I've stumbled onto an epiphany. They don't connect the dots!

Let me explain further. Yesterday I was meeting with my group for my English project (which was hell in and of itself, I had to traipse around a very hilly park while we shot ten minutes of footage for a project I've started to hate). There was an incident in which we all went to the bathroom to wash war paint made of lipstick off our faces (don't ask), and the other, oh, five or six members of my group were about a mile ahead of me. After finally realizing that one of the group (namely, ME) was struggling to keep up, they slowed down a little bit. I said: "It's ok, I'm kind of used to being left in the dust." Which is true. It's something I barely notice anymore. They got all apologetic and were like "Oh, we're sorry, we didn't mean to." This is what irks me about people. They think it's something THEY did. It's not. I was just stating a fact.

Another example: Later in the group project get-together I was trying to get up from a sitting position. This is not exceedingly hard for me, although I do prefer it if there's some stable piece of furniture near that I can hang onto to get myself up. I can get myself up without holding onto anything fairly well though. But in this particular instance, it was on a hill, and I was having a little bit of trouble. I got about halfway up before I fell on my butt. My whole group was like "Are you OK?" I was like "Yeah, this happens to me all the time, you can ask my friends." Then came the very uncomfortable "Oh" from my group members. You know. The type when you explain something about your disability and they really have absolutely no idea what to say.

Now, I had my crutch with me this whole time, and since they're in my classes, they know that I'm disabled and use a crutch, that I type on an Alpha-Smart and that I leave five minutes early from class. The thing is, I don't think they connect the dots. They know I use a crutch, but they don't connect that with walking slow, or balance problems or any of that stuff. You know, I would expect people not to pick up on the upper body problems I have, because those aren't ask obvious, but I never thought that people don't pick up on the lower body stuff. At the very least, I thought they'd realize I walk slow. Guess not. Connect the dots, people, it's not that hard.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

If You Want Something Done Right, Do It Yourself

I have recently concluded that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

I have come to this conclusion after nearly four years of struggling in the public high school system and having to rely on other people to do things for me. A recent example comes to mind: I hold a pen very awkwardly (which might be just the way my spastic fingers move) and experience a lot of pain in my hand when I write, especially when I write a lot. This may be related to the awkward pen grip or the CP. Or both. I suspect they're all interconnected. Anyway, this is why I use an Alpha-Smart (technically a Neo, made by Alpha-Smart) to type notes at school, and it has been my savior ever since I started using one around third grade. However, the Alpha-Smart's one pitfall is it can't write anything remotely mathy, such as complicated algebra problems, square roots, and all that other fun stuff that you learn in advanced high school math classes. Nor can it do subscripts or superscripts, which I have found to be a huge problem in chemistry this year. So I am supposed to have a note-taker for both classes. Fine. Except my note-taker in math has kind of messy handwriting and she often forgets to date her notes, which leads to me failing the notebook checks. And my note-taker in chem seems to have forgotten she's my note-taker at all. I keep trying to remind her, but it's difficult when I don't need all chem notes, just the parts that I can't type on my Alpha-Smart. I tried relying on memory for awhile and that didn't work out so well. So I've recently taking to handwriting all my chem notes, because it's just too difficult to handwrite the parts I can't type and type the rest and try to piece them all together later. This has led to tremendous pain in my hand, but hey, at least I have notes now! Of course, it doesn't seem to have improved my grades any, but that's a different story...

So. If I want something done right, I have to do it myself. Rather difficult when you have a physical disability. But, hey, I'm not complaining! It's just one of the many pitfalls of the special education system which really does nothing at all. Actually, I shouldn't say that, because I have friends who've had it worse off with the Special Ed Dept. than I have. But they do very little to correct the problems I actually have, which are few. But hey, that's the school system for you! (Note: I will probably be ranting on this frequently. Be prepared.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

A World Apart...

First off let me apologize for not posting in awhile, I am a 10th grader whose teachers have decided to inundate with homework, not to mention my upcoming AP Global History Exam...yikes!

Speaking of school....a classmate noticed the scars on my ankles the other day and asked me if I had had surgery. I told her yes. Then she asked me if it had hurt. I told her that since I was 5 years old at the time, I really didn't remember much. Thankfully, she didn't ask me for details, as what they did to my legs is really too complicated to explain unless you have a good knowledge of the leg muscles/tendons and know what exactly can go screwy with said muscles/tendons when you have CP. So I started thinking about what would have happened if a fellow crip (ideally a fellow CPer) asked me the same question. Actually, scratch then. A fellow CPer most likely wouldn't need to ask me if I had surgery. They would probably know exactly the type of surgery I had, what the recovery was like, and then they would proudly show off their own scars (I've got nothing on some of my friends, my best friend had a dorzal rhizotomy, which means the doctors basically cut through some of the nerves in her back to make her less spastic. She's got a huge scar running down her back). Then I started thinking about all the differences between the able-bodied world, which I go to school in and am basically thrust into every single school day, and the disabled world, where I do most of my activities like camp, dance, etc. So I've decided to make up a list and post it here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!


1) When you say you're getting a vehicle, it is understood in the able-bodied world that you are getting a car. In the disabled world, it is assumed you are getting a new wheelchair or mobility scooter.

2) In the disabled world, arts and crafts is a synonym for danger (at least among us motor skill challenged crips).

3) Every new surgery earns you a metaphorical badge of honor in the disabled world. In the able-bodied world, all it gains you is flowers and a whole lot of fake sympathy.

4) The word spastic is actually used to describe someone with spastic muscles, rather than someone clumsy or stupid.

5) Songs like Five's "Keep On Moving" send you and your friends into gales of hysterical laughter. Your able-bodied friends fail to see the humor.

6) In the disabled world, a simple trip to the bathroom can be described as a "twisted hokey pokey".

7) Crips can say "That's just the way I roll" and actually mean it literally.

I'll think of more later...any suggestions?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

BADD Highlights

Well, since a lot of other people seem to be posting about their favorite posts from Blogging Against Disablism Day, I thought I'd do the same. I'll have the title of the post first, then the blog it came from, and then my analysis/description of it and why it's one of my favs. And so, without further ado, I present you to my top picks for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008!

Inclusion and the Myth of the Magical Mainstream, from Parenting Special Needs Children-this one I thought was absolutely brilliant. Hit the nail on the head as to what I've been trying to tell people all these years. INCLUSION IS NOT ALL IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE, PEOPLE!! I won't go into a full fledged rant about it right now, but check out the post and also an essay I wrote about the subject at Audacity Magazine.

The Gorilla In Your House from This Is My Blog (batsgirl)-All I can say is it's perfect. I read about the Gorilla Theory on Ouch before batsgirl posted it on her blog, so I knew all about it already. I loved it then, and I love it even more now. It's the best metaphor for disability that I've read since the Spoon Theory. In fact, I might start using the Gorilla Theory in my posts soon. As in, my gorilla draped itself across my knees today. Confused? Go read the post!

Don't Enable An Ableist from Wheelie Catholic-Brought up a really good point about how when we hem and haw and make excuses for an disablist (or ableist) person, we're just as bad as they are. I must admit to being an enablist a few times, but no more!

On Being Disabled and Feline from Betty's Catster Diary-this is the blog of Lisy Babe's cat. Absolutely hysterical, and does point out some issues that disabled animals (or more specifically, cats) might have. Being a cat lover myself, I just had to point it out.

This Is A Person from DotComMom-It amazes me how casually people remark on this subject, as DotComMom mentions in her post. Apparently, terminating (*cough* *cough* killing) a baby with disabilities has become so routine it's almost boring. Ho hum. We're not a broken toy that you just throw out. We're people, same as every person on this planet. How would you like it if someone had killed you before you were even born, just because you had a certain color hair or eyes? It's bordering on genocide, if it isn't already. I wonder how many babies are killed before they ever get the chance to live, just because they're disabled?

That's all for now, back to the homework. I'll post more later if I find some more good ones.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Blogging Against Disablism-a day late!

Well, Blogging Against Disablism Day was yesterday, and I'm very excited because this year I actually have a blog to post on! However, yesterday I was unable to post due to massive amounts of homework. So I'm posting today.

OK, first off, if you have no idea what Blogging Against Disablism Day is all about, click on
this link to go to the mastermind behind all this, Diary of A Goldfish. I think she's a genius for coming up and organizing this whole thing. *bows down to Diary of A Goldfish*

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2008

OK, now for the actual post. I feel like I talk about disablism in some form in all of my posts, so I think I'm just going to analyze what disablism means to me, for something a little different.

Disablism is discrimination against disabled people. It's also called ableism and a bunch of different names. There are countless obvious examples of disablism that I could point out to you right now, for instance, lack of access at a store or other public place. But I also feel there are infinitely many subtle examples of disablism. Disablism, to me, is anything-and I do mean everything-that makes a disabled person feel inferior to able-bodied people. This includes disablist language like "retard", patronizing smiles or comments, or an accessible entrance to a public place that is in the back or some other out-of-the-way place. It's the stares we get when we're out on the street. It's feeling like you're invisible, or that you have to fight to make yourself and your needs known. I could spend a whole post talking about examples of disablism I've encountered in my school, but for now I'll just point out a few.

The front entrance to my school is a set of steps. If you are a wheelchair user or someone who has mobility problems and cannot go up or down the stairs, you HAVE to go around to the back, where there is a big sign that says "ACCESSIBLE ENTRANCE". (The sign is a relatively new addition. I couldn't decide whether I liked it or not.) That is the only accessible entrance into my school. I feel this is a subtle form of disablism because it makes disabled people feel like second class citizens. Why couldn't they take out part of the steps and put in a ramp in the front? That way, we'd all feel equal. We didn't stand for separate entrances for blacks, did we? So why are we standing for separate entrances for disabled people? And many times I have gone to an evening event with a friend at my school only to find that the accessible entrance is LOCKED. I can do steps fine, but my friend-who is a wheelchair user-cannot. So if I get there before her, I have to beg and cajole and plead with the custodians to open the accessible entrance so she can actually GET INSIDE her own school! And if she gets there before me (which, thank God, has never happened), she's screwed until I get there! And that's not good if it's pouring out like it was the last time. It's ridiculous!

Other examples of disablism in my school: If you need to use the elevator, you need to get a key from the nurse, who makes you pay ten bucks for the key. I find this a little strange: surely able-bodied students don't have to pay to go up the stairs? (And I don't have to tell you how much money I've spent on replacement keys after I've lost mine. I think this is about my fifth key in nearly four years. Let's hope I don't lose this one.) And I won't go into the special education system, because once I get going on that, there's absolutely no stopping me.

I also hate it when people use disablist language. A particular pet peeve of mine is when people use the word "retarded", as in "You're such a retard!" or "That's so retarded!" I started a campaign years ago about not using that word, and I have quite a few participants. The one time I dared to criticize a couple of girls at my lunch table (this was back when I actually had a lunch period) for using that word, they all looked at me like I was some sort of cockroach. I'm used to that look by now. I get it a lot at school.

Oh yeah, and another thing. I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE TRY AND HELP ME! I don't know if that particularly qualifies as disablism, but it's certainly annoying. I am a VERY independent person, and if I need help, I will ASK for it! When people try and help me, it just makes it longer and harder, because I have a specific way I do things in order to make it the most efficient process possible. If people screw up my routine, it takes ten times as long. I feel awkward telling them not to help, because I know it's nice of them to offer, but I can do it myself, people. And if people try and help me up when I fall, forget about it! I'll be going right back down on the floor then. And don't you even think about asking me stupid questions about my crutch. I can stick it right up your butt if you're not careful.

OK, I'll stop rambling now and get on with the homework. I'll let you know if I ever emerge from the piles of work. I'm going to post either later or over the weekend with an analysis of my favorite BADD posts, because I see a lot of other people are doing it. Happy Blogging Against Disablism Day! (even though it's not BADD anymore)