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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not Dead Yet Asks For Donations

Anyone who has read my blog knows I deeply respect two disability rights groups--ADAPT and Not Dead Yet. There are other disability rights groups I like, Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund for instance but I reserve my greatest admiration for ADAPT and Not Dead Yet. I am by no means in favor of all that these two groups do but my differences are minor, a matter of style if you will. What draws me to ADAPT and Not Dead Yet is exactly what I do not have--a direct confrontational in your face approach. I am just too damn polite. Sure I am polemical when writing but in real life do my best to avoid confrontation. Yes, I have had confrontations but I do y best to avoid them.

Not Dead Yet is a national organization that is operating on a shoe string budget. Not Dead Yet is strongly opposed to any and all efforts that would lead to assisted suicide becoming legal. The proponents of assisted suicide in contrast have no financial constraints. They have much money at their disposal and are accustom to using its power to push assisted suicide legislation. Frankly the disparity between those for and opposed to assisted suicide is puzzling to me. Sadly I think part of the reason why assisted suicide groups are so well financed may have to do with the fact many people do not have a good death. This can be a traumatic experienced for loved ones who vow to change how we Americans die. Part of that process may include suicide. On the surface this seems like a reasonable belief. However, it ignores a significant social problem--namely not all people are valued in life nor as it is ending. I am among one population that is at great risk--people with a disability. Other populations include the elderly and terminally ill. All these lives have value. And it is these lives that Not Dead Yet seeks to protect. This is where I am in total agreement with Not Dead Yet.

I was shocked to learn just how little money Not Dead Yet has at their disposal. I am as a result amazed at what they can and have accomplished. They do much with very little. They deserve your support and mine. To this end, in a rare appeal for donations, Not Dead Yet is asking for help. I am sending a check today. Yes, me, a man so cheap my brother says my wheelchair squeaks everywhere I go, is sending a check to Not Dead Yet. It is the very least I can do. I urge everyone that comes to my blog to send a check too and if you cannot at least read the blog and book mark Not Dead Yet site on your computer. I suspect this is the only time I will ever make such a suggestion. We need Not Dead Yet. It is as simple as that.

Here is the donation information:

Tax deductible contributions would need to be made payable to:

“Center for Disability Rights” (CDR), designated for “Not Dead Yet” in the memo section of your check and mailed to 497 State Street, Rochester, NY 14608. Donations can also be made online by going to the Network for Good donation page, and following the prompts to donate to the Center for Disability Rights through the Network for Good (which allows credit card donations, adding a five percent charge), and designating the Not Dead Yet program. The default setting is for a one-time donation, but if you have the money and believe our work is important, please consider giving on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Glee and the Glorification of Walking

I read many blogs on a regular basis. One such blog is Wheelie Catholic. Two fascinating posts made me think and get mad. The first dealt with the question of walking. People who cannot walk ask people such as myself who are paralyzed if they wish they could walk again. I answer this question with a resounding no and try to appear pissed off (an easy thing to do). I find the question itself insulting. It assumes the answer will be yes. That I desperately wish I could walk when that has not nor has ever been the case. Sure shortly after paralysis I wanted to walk again but knew such hopes were futile. Such hopes or dreams about walking are akin to wishing one would not age. It is just not possible and not worthy of thought. It does not take most newly paralyzed people long to move on with life--all those I know who are paralyzed are quite content. Yet popular culture via the mainstream media glorifies the small number of people that want to walk again. These people are often desperate, willing to undergo questionable surgeries, hold fund raisers for these efforts and do not question the overall significance of their actions. I have written about this before and gotten a few extremely critical replies. I do not mean to intentionally upset people that want to walk--I just reject their efforts as dehumanizing to the vast majority that do not share such a goal. If they want to waste their time on an unrealistic, though noble goal, fine for them. I just ask them to do so with a modicum of thought as the the bigger picture.

The second post I read at Wheelie Catholic had to do with a show I do my best not to watch--Glee. I do not at any level understand the shows popularity. I am usually offended by the character Artie who is portrayed by an actor without a disability. Artie and the show's writers are obsessed with walking. This works out well since they made sure not to hire an actor without a disability. Anyone familiar with paralysis and wheelchairs knows Artie is a poser--a bad one at that. He is also a sad sack--the show always has him wishing he could be, dare I say the word, normal. As Wheelie Catholic perceptively pointed out

"Participants emphasized that myths and assumptions about disability continue to be perpetuated in the popular show. Instead of using the show as a vehicle to turn this negativity around another generation is being honed on plots that include ablest notions. For example the Christmas show portrayed walking and a cure as every disabled persons wish. The plots include Artie wanting to play football, wanting to dance and do other things but never deal with the fact that sports and dancing are done by people in wheelchairs. Rather Artie is portrayed as depressed because he can't do these things.
It's a real slap in the face to those of us who live with a disability to see this kind of thing week after week. It completely ignores our disability culture and reinforces old and backward notions about disability."

A slap in the face--perfect words for what Glee represents. The Christmas show was particularly offensive as they had Artie using an exoskeleton to walk. I find such an invention a preposterous waste of time, resources, and labor. I showed the exoskeleton to my son earlier this year when the contraption appeared in technology magazines and he burst out laughing. "Dad" he said "obviously they never talked to anyone with a disability to come up with such a stupid design and idea". My boy gets it. And this as Wheelie Catholic points out is the real tragedy with Glee. The message sent remains the same--walking is Artie's goal, his dream to do things "normal" people can do like dance, play sports, and dance. Let me clue the writers in to a basic fact: people with disabilities do all these things, and quite well. I am a decent skier. I am a good kayaker. I am and always have been a bad dancer. I know some superb skiers, some can walk some cannot. I have seen some amazing dancers that could not walk as well. Just try a google video search if you doubt me. Or better yet watch the X Games or the Paralympics. I do not see any of these people wishing they could walk sporting a silly exoskeleon. Too bad we cannot make Artie as cranky as me. Imagine the scenes possible? A scary though my son just chimed in! Imagine this: "Artie don't you wish you could walk again?" Artie replies "That is ableist propaganda. Walking I will have you know is highly over rated. My wheelchair rules. I can sing, I can dance, I can do anything I want and none of it involves the ability to walk. You are a bigot!" When that sort of dialogue appears on a mainstream television program I will be living in the utopia of nondiscrimination. I doubt I will ever live in such a world but will always work toward that goal