Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge #2.2: PTSD

Redefining Disability2Last week, I wrote about some problems I was having with a fiction project.  I was looking at the problem of knowing I need to cut down on planning but also knowing I need a plan and just feeling more and more overwhelmed, until I started to get edgy, which is my main precursor to “panic.”   I took a step back, got away from it for a while and had to ask myself why exactly it was making me so upset.

To be clear about this, my trauma triggers have nothing to do with writing, but PTSD can manifest in other ways.  It doesn’t work like the way it’s portrayed on TV. It’s not all about flashbacks, hiding from fireworks, or intense rage, though those things can be part of it. I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused.  I have a high level of anxiety.  I experience nightmares and overwhelming memories (mostly disconnected imagery and sensation).  I have never had a flashback, but have had panic attacks.  I’m hyper vigilant, have insomnia, and am edgy a lot.  I hate loud noises and have specific noise triggers.

But mostly I just get anxious about weird things for strange reasons. It’s an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is different for everyone, but for me it, has a lot to do with memories of chaos and confusion leading to danger, and I haven’t been able to completely erase that from my stress response to “normal” confusion.

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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 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.)

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.


  • 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?


Redefining Disability Story–Adanna’s Beginning: Homecoming (Alvarez)


This is a short story I wrote in connection with the Redefining Disability Project. You can find more information about the “Homecoming” series and other Redefining Disability Stories in this post.

Note: I’m thinking of changing the series title to “War’s End,” since the signing of the treaty that ends the war the characters have been fighting actually becomes a holiday called War’s End and I think the phrase has a more scifi feel to it.

This is sort of a scifi-romance meets space opera prequel.I’m bad at genre labeling.

Cover image credits:
Design–Rose B. Fischer

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Sunday Update: What’s Next for Redefining Disability

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This is sort of a follow-up to last week’s update. I decided that I am going to call it quits for the year and pick up with the project again in 2015. I’m going to close this round of posts with one of the stories I’ve written for the project (So, yeah, ditching the schedule. Surprise, surprise.)
Like I said last time, I will still be re-blogging everyone’s challenge posts and anything else that you want to write up, so feel free to keep going at your own pace!

The story will go live on Friday, October 31. No, it has nothing to do with Halloween.

Feel free to post comments/questions etc, or to email me with them. I’ll be saving everything up for a new round next year.

It’s called Homecoming: Alvarez, and it functions as kind of a prequel to a new series I’m developing about a space-exploring starship captain and her journalist girlfriend who are going to be traveling together into an unexplored region of space. (There’s also a side project, with a bunch of different “home-comings” for related characters in the same universe.)

So far, the stories I’ve worked up deal more with the character’s personal lives than with the main “roles” I’ve envisioned for them.

  • Alvarez is a starship captain, but the story focuses mainly on her relationship with her girlfriend.
  • Gisela organizes an underground rescue movement, but her story focuses mainly on her family life.
  • Solata is an independent frieght ship captain (think Han Solo) but her story takes place before she wants to fly.


I went that route because it was easier for me to come up with shorter, standalone works that could function as examples. So, there’s a lot of stuff they these examples may not cover, and I’ll have to come up with some other ones over time.

(Fair warning, most of my stories are set in societies that are culturally bisexual and most of the characters are gray romantic, so if you’re homophobic or otherwise uncomfortable with “non-traditional” relationships, you’re not going to deal well with my example-stories.)

For next year, I have a handful of posts that haven’t gone live yet. I also have 8 posts for the Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, and I’ll be wanting to do an analysis on the Alvarez story.

My plan right now is to pick up in January with my challenge posts. It seems like January is a time when a lot of people are looking for new stuff to do, and new bloggers get started, so I think the project will benefit from a bit of focus on the challenge.

Then I’ll do a round of responses and followups to the September-October posts. (Including the story.)

Once that’s done, I’ll see where we are.

Some things you should check out if you haven’t already.

Shan Jeniah made an awesome post about People First language, and it’s probably going to feature heavily when we get to the discussion about language. (That’s why I haven’t re-blogged yet.)

Kerry posted about her daily routine here, which was very informative and will probably be useful to anyone who is looking to write about a character who is blind or has low vision.