Redefining Disability: How to Make Halloween Accessible to Wheelchair Users

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Last week I posted some images of costumes for kids (of all ages) using wheelchairs. Response to that post was pretty high both on and off WordPress. I got several comments about how people see the costumes as positive because they’re “more inclusive” and that “Halloween should be for everyone.”

I agree that Halloween should be for everyone. Any cultural holiday or activity should be accessible to all. With that said, I think there’s a lot more to being inclusive about Halloween activities than just making some costumes that include the wheelchair as prop.

Like I said in a comment on last week’s post, I never felt excluded from dressing up. If I wanted to dress as a superhero or whatever, my mom could have just gotten me the same costume as any other kid, which is what I preferred anyway.  Some people do want to have a costume that includes the wheelchair, and that’s about personal preference. I don’t see it as an inclusion/exclusion issue.

 

There’s no reason a wheelchair would prevent someone from dressing up if they wanted to. The wheelchair just happens to provide an opportunity for more creative/cooler costumes.

There is an inclusion issue related to Halloween though, and it has to do with accessibility of activities like trick-or-treating or haunted houses (or party games in general.)

When I was growing up, we lived in neighborhoods where most homes were apartment buildings. There were no elevators, so the best I could do was knock at the doors on the first floor and then wait downstairs while my siblings and other kids hit the upper floors. I think I only did that for one or two years before I decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle because I didn’t have any fun sitting downstairs by myself all night.

Denise has a post about visitible homes here. Most folks are not going to be able to redesign their homes to make them more accessible, so here are my suggestions.

  • Set up a candy stand or booth in your yard where kids can stop rather than having to climb the stairs or go up on your porch. Have adults in costume take turns handing out candy this way.
  • Set up your yard as an outdoor haunted house or maze. Use a tarp and offer warm drinks in case of bad weather.
  • Hold a party where everyone brings a bag of candy rather than a trick-or-treating event. Let the kids pick which candies they want or let them make up their own favor bags as a party activity.

Next week is an off week. After that, I’ll be posting about wheelchair accessible games and activities.

The Redefining Disability Project: An Elevator Is…

Today we have a guest post by Jen.  I’ve had similar experiences with my management company and the elevator, so don’t assume this is an unusual situation.  At my place we get periodic notices that say “the elevator will be out of service today between the hours of 8-4 for routine maintenance.” My building has no less than 8 tenants who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments!

Jen and I are perfectly well aware that sometimes things break. The management company can’t predict when an elevator is going to break down, but when you are managing an apartment complex that claims to have WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE housing, then every effort should be made to assure that your tenants who use wheelchairs can access the building. Wheelchair access is more than just throwing some grab bars in a bathroom.

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The Redefining Disability Project: The Extended Info Post

What is Redefining Disability?

Redefining Disability is an interactive blogging project I developed in order to promote better representation for people with disabilities in the media.  See this post for more about the project’s goals and ways you can help.

What Is “Disability” and Why Are We Seeking to Redefine It?

The concept of disability is a social construct. That makes it hard to answer the question of “what is disability?” Because the definition changes based on cultural models and preconceptions.  Basically, the answer will depend on who you are asking.

In our culture, I think people tend to define it as “a biological limitation” or “bodily imperfection.”  That definition is harmful and based on the assumption that some human bodies are “normal” or “function within normal parameters” while others are sub-par and/or broken.

Historically, people with disabilities have been feared, mistrusted, treated as objects of shame and derision, and viewed as less capable or incapable of leading independent, self-sufficient lives. That is changing, but the overwhelming view is still that disability is a “problem” or tragedy that an individual has to overcome.

The Redefining Disability Project exists to challenge these cultural perceptions. This project takes the view that “disability” itself is not a problem but a natural part of human experience.

All so-called disabilities are natural, even if their origins relate to physical or mental trauma. I don’t equate “disabilities” with problems or limitations on an individual level.

The problem is with the society that limits people, not with the individuals whose bodies function differently than the perceived norm.

For a more detailed explanation, please check out this post the September 2014 round of Redefining Disability entries.

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How to Participate in the Redefining Disability Project.

The Redefining Disability Project has three independent features. (It’s been expanded from two when we started in 2014.)

  • The first feature of the project is a series of topical/information related articles posted on rosebfischer.com. These are general social commentary, informational, and media related posts. Anyone is welcome to contribute.  See Guest Posting below.  You can also participate by answering the questions posed at the end of each of these posts.
  • The second feature of the project is The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge. The Awareness Challenge is a series of more detailed questions that I’ve put together for bloggers to answer at their own pace on their own blogs.
  • The third feature of the project is a collection of posts that are specific to writing and storytelling with characters who have disabilities. For 2015, these posts focus on Adanna’s Beginning, a story I began as an example piece for Redefining Disability.  You can participate by taking part in story analysis discussions and reading/commenting on the finished stories as they are posted.

Guest Posting/Author Perspectives

I want the Redefining Disability Project to be about more than my personal opinions and perspectives, so I’ve opened the series up to any blogger who wants to write about disability issues, especially related to media perceptions and social constructionism. If you have a post or an idea for one, please read the Guest Posting Guidelines and use my contact form.

For a little more on my background:

I’m a woman in my late thirties.  I was born with cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair.  I’ve acquired several chronic health challenges through my 20s and 30s.  I have a background in disability education and advocacy on a volunteer basis, but they are not my career focus.  My views related to disability are mostly (but not entirely) consistent with the Independent Living Movement’s core philosophy.  There are some aspects of disability I can speak to quite well, but others with which I have no direct experience.

Who can contribute?

Anyone is welcome to contribute, but I’m specifically looking for authors whose experiences with disability are different from mine.

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

The challenge runs independently from the topical series and Adanna’s Beginning. That means, if you’re taking part in the challenge, you can make your posts weekly or monthly however you choose even when I’m not posting topical content.

Beginning in June 2015, you must sign up to participate.

  1.  Create an index post or page on your own blog.  The easiest way is to simply copy the challenge questions and paste them into your post or page. Then, as you answer questions add your own link.  (Please don’t simply link to a category or tag on your blog.  I have RSI and can’t scroll through these very well.)

Add a comment to the Masterlist 

Please include the following:

Your name:

Your blog URL:

The days you will be posting:

Link to your challenge index page:

If you’re currently making challenge posts, you can continue as you are.  If you don’t have a challenge index page, please create one by July 30 2015.

2. Please include the words Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge Question # in your post titles! The question # is important for me to build the anthologies!

3. Please tag your posts “Redefining Disability.”

If you’re sharing posts on Twitter, please use the hashtag #RedefiningDisability and please only use ONE additional hashtag.  (Share the post again the next day if you want to use different hashtags.)

Join the Summer of the Foxes!

Generations ago, the world of Synn was ruled by foxes. Now only the Malimore family remains to protect the Kheldor Mountains in the North. This summer, join the Malimores in a new science fantasy serial by Rose B. Fischer.

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Part 1, Fox. Hunting is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

This summer, the Malimores will be appearing throughout the blogosphere for interviews, meet and greets, and general mischief. Each appearance will coincide with a the release of a Synn story. We’re inviting you to join our fun, meet the foxes, and discover new worlds to read and fall in love with.

June 1st 2015 is release day for Fox. Hunting! In celebration, I will be hosting the foxes for some big summer announcements, including a writing contest and giveaway!

June 17th 2015, Diana Malimore, the thief and the heroine of Fox. Hunting appears on eclecticalli

July 1st 2015 is release day for Giving Best!

July 8th 2015, Hannah Givens will be hosting Thad Malimore Reynard the Fox, and Micah Malimore for hijinx and a Very Serious Discussion about the celebrity status of their daughters.

July 15th 2015, Cleo Malimore, the Ranger and the heroine of Giving Best appears on Nerd in the Brain

August 1st 2015 is release date for Doubling Back!

August 19 2015 Melissa Barker Simpson interviews Aldra, the scholar, businesswoman and heroine of Doubling Back.

Friday, August 29 through Sunday, August 31 we’ll be hosting a Foxy Blog Party here on rosebfischer.com and announcing the winner of our contest!

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge #2 — Why I See Myself As Having a Disability

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This is my response to question #2 of the Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge.

 

If you have a medical diagnosis, do you see yourself as having a disability? Why or why not? If you don’t have one, how do you view the concept of disability or the people in your life who have them?

Last time, I gave my laundry list of disabilities and chronic health problems. So, it will probably not be a surprise to anyone that I do, in fact, identify as having a disability. The reason I included this question is that until my 20s, I would have said that I had a disability by the standards of my society and culture, but I didn’t see myself as a person with a disability or as “disabled” because of cerebral palsy.

I began to change my mind when I entered college, and I realized that the workload of my classes was so heavy that I was having to choose between keeping up with that and doing my basic housekeeping tasks. That may sound like something easy to dismiss.  “Yeah, college is hard.  We all let laundry pile up; college students are slobs.” That’s what I did for a while, but it got to a point where I literally couldn’t manage to take care of my home and my personal care was slipping because I was too tired from my work in school.

The crux of “disability” for me is not necessarily things I can’t do, but having to choose between things that most people wouldn’t consider or worry about because it takes me a lot longer and I don’t have the time/energy to take care of everything, even if I could do it. Things like:

“Mopping the kitchen floor will take 3 hours.  Doing the laundry will take 4 hours. Both of those things require a lot of physical effort and concentration. I’m going to have to choose one, and I’ll be too tired to do much else when I’m finished.”

That has gotten more prevalent since my arms have been injured, and it’s complicated by my other chronic conditions. So, if I put all of that together, I do feel that I have a disability by the definition this project is using.

Of course, there are some things that I just can’t do, and some of them are things I used to be able to do but can’t anymore. That’s hard to adjust to, but the biggest challenge for me is always having to prioritize based on how much time and energy something is going to take in ways that most people really don’t seem to grasp.

Writer’s Blog Hop Post #2: Writing Sample

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Since January 6, I’ve been blogging about a new project that I’m working on called Adanna’s Beginning. I’ll be blogging my way through this project connection with Redefining Disability. You can read more about the Redefining Disability Project here, and there is a list of all posts related to a Adanna’s Beginning here.

Some of my Adanna’s Beginning posts were written in connection with Ruth L Snyder’s Writer’s Blog Hop.

Adanna’s Beginning itself is part of a collaborative blogging project called Redefining Disability.

This is  a post for the blog hop.  This week’s theme is “writing samples,” and I have a little confession.

I hate story excerpts. I hate reading random snippets of unfamiliar stories out of context, and I have a terrible time trying to pick an excerpt from my own work, especially from a rough draft because my first drafts consist mainly of dialogue with some stage direction instead of description. My second and third drafts are where I go back in and add the contextual narrative and details that a reader would probably need to understand what’s going on in any given scene.
In the spirit of being a good sport, I decided to play along.

Here’s a bit of an excerpt from the story I mentioned in my last couple of posts. It’s mostly dialogue, from a pivotal scene with Caine and his daughter, Nariya. I’m not sure how it works out of context, but I hope you enjoy. The issue here is that the characters have no idea how to relate or talk to one another and keep misunderstanding one another’s intentions. This is the first time they’re able to start breaking through the problem and communicating, but it’s still obviously pretty difficult.

Disclaimer: this is a rough draft. I have no idea what will stay and will be cut.

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Awesome new Nariya Banner courtesy of Natacha Guyot

 

“Dad, I screwed up. Does it have to be the end of the world? I’m already kicked out of school. Can’t you just give me another chance?” Nariya said.

“I’m trying to. You need to give me something to work with.”

“I don’t understand.”

“This has happened too many times,” Caine sighed. “I can’t keep letting it slide. I need some assurance it won’t happen again. Last time, your word was enough. This time it isn’t. It can’t be, because that only works once. Suspending you from school for the rest of the year was headmaster Pruett’s decision, but there needs to be administrative action on my part as well. If anyone comes back to me, I have to have a reason to say that you aren’t a public threat.”

“This is what I mean! One minute you’re saying you want me to talk to you because you’re my dad and you want to help. Next minute you’re saying I have to talk to you because Commander Caine is in charge of station and I’m in trouble.”

“You’re right. I can see where that’s confusing. It’s both. I want you to be able to talk to me without being afraid, because I’m your dad. You don’t have to. But I can’t do anything to give you another chance unless you tell me what’s going on. Whether you do or not, we need to make sure there aren’t anymore fights, and it has to go on record. Because that’s my job.”

“Okay.”

“Okay what?”

“Okay, I understand.”

“Do you have any idea what we should do now?” Caine asked.

“Are you going to send me back to Mom?”

“No! Well — I don’t want to, but if you want to go, I won’t keep you here. Do you want to go?”

There was a long pause…”

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The Redefining Disability Project #7– Author Perspectives: Less and More Revisited

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Note: Author Perspectives are open to anyone who wants to post about their experiences. They can be a response to a previous post in the series, a new topic focusing on the author’s experience as a writer/creator who has characters with disabilities, or a story from your own life.  They can also be responses to the Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge if you want to post and don’t have your own blog.

Check out the posting guidelines for details.

At the beginning of September 2014, I posted about disability as a social construct.

Jen Decker replied to my post with one of her own on the same subject.

I followed up with a post about a real-life conversation that I had about disability, prejudice and assumptions.

Natacha Guyot joined the conversation with her own posts about social constructs as they’ve affected her life.

Today, I’m going to be responding to the question Jen’s post poses.  Eventually, I swear, I will reply to Natacha as well.

Society believes that my wheelchair, my inability to use one of my hands makes me less than. For me, “more than” is a work in progress. What is your “less than”, and how will you be “more”?

 

I’ve written a lot on this blog about ways that society sees me as “less than.” From a disability perspective, it’s my gait, my use of adaptive equipment, and the fact that I can’t drive.  I wrote about that extensively in this post.

I believe that society also sees me as “less” because I’m a woman, and still less because I’m a woman who can’t have children, and even less than THAT because I’m a woman who choses to be single.

In another sense, society sees me as less because I’m poor. I have been homeless, and have been on food stamps, and I currently recieve SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance.)

Many groups, on both sides of the “LGBTQ+” battle in my country, see me as less because I don’t fit in anyone’s happy little box.

As to how I will be more, I have a hard time answering, because I never think about it. I never think about making myself more than society wants me to be, because I already AM more.  I don’t have to prove it, though I’m willing to stand up for my right to be treated as a human being with the same rights and responsibilities as any other.  I’m fortunate, because unlike many of my peers in the disability community, I’ve never struggled with my self-perception.  I KNOW that I am more.  One of the biggest reasons I’m doing this project is because I want the next generation of people with disabilities to know that they are more.

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  • In what ways do you depend on others in your daily life? In what ways do others regularly depend on you?
  • How would your life be different if these interdependencies weren’t there?
  • How do you regularly rely on technology and invention to help you in your life? Do you feel that reliance on these devices defines you as a person? Why or why not?