On The ADA Anniversary

This week is the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

I’ve often wondered if the ADA creates more problems than it solves for some, if not all, people with disabilities. It helps A LOT, but it also causes a lot of headaches.

I’ve come to realize however, that the ADA isn’t really for people with disabilities. It’s for the people who can’t even imagine what life is like to live with a disability.

Kind of like how birthday parties really aren’t for the people they’re throne for but for the people that go to them.

Kinda.

Without knowing it I managed to grow up just as the ADA was finding its “sea legs,” which probably explains why so many aspects of my life have become, in a sense, easier even though my mobility had had an endless ebb and flow.

I once heard it said that, “those who don’t need the law are truly freed from the law,” or at least that’s the best my brain remembers it as.

The idea being (I think) that we wouldn’t need as many laws (or any) if everyone operated with the same level of moral decency.

As great of an idea as this is I doubt it will ever happen, ever. Sorry all of you who dream of world peace.

It would be nearly impossible for someone to be able to imagine what it’s like to live with a disability, unless they do in fact live with a disability themselves; besides the fact that imagining it and living it are two different things.

That’s why the ADA is so important.

It gives people a clue into what’s needed in order for people with disabilities. Although it should be pointed out that what’s deemed ADA compliant doesn’t mean it’s accessible for those who need it to be, but it’s better than nothing.

(So if you don’t know anything about the ADA or just want to test yourself feel free to read up)

As much as I (and countless others) benefit from the ADA there always seems to be something new to learn.

Such as how many loopholes there are.

Like the loopholes for already existing buildings and/or religious institutions.

As a Catholic who works in a building that’s been “grandfathered in” (multiple flights of stairs and no elevator) I curse such loopholes often.

It would be nice if there were less (or no) loopholes in the ADA but that’s only a short-term dream. Someday I’d like it if the ADA was an afterthought, making it in a sense unnecessary because access for all is a natural thing.

It seems so wildly unrealistic, but I can hope right?

*A similar version of this post was written on July 22, 2014

On Dignity & Disability

I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to set up internet alerts to keep up with the news that may interest me. While I think it’s a good idea and I have come close to doing so on more than one occasion, I’m glad I don’t have any of it. There are plenty of days when I want to pull the plug and throw my computer out without additional influence. Can you image what would happen if articles ended up in my inbox the second they were published? No thanks.

Over the last few weeks there have been a few articles that have grasped my attention and just won’t let go (and raised my blood pressure exponentially).

Please note (and respect) that I will not be linking directly to or mentioning any specific details of these articles. I’m choosing to use my “linking power” wisely.

I’m not expert on dignity but it’s been a recurring topic in my continuous inner dialogue lately. What is it? How does one achieve it? How should you go about protecting it? I think you get the idea.

The issues surrounding dignity or lack thereof and disability are really starting to get to me. I’m not the most diplomatic person (read: at all) & I have a temper, so my first reaction is usually anger and it takes me a little time to get my thoughts out so someone else can know what I’m trying to say and want to listen.

Dignity in regard to disability is not a new frontier. However, it is one that needs exploration by the able-bodied (and those related in any way to someone with a disability). It can be a tricky subject to approach in mixed (ability) company; it probably has something to do with sympathy vs empathy, or other similar topic.

I remember the first article I read that made me question how people saw dignity for people with disabilities. It made me so angry I just sat on my feelings for a while, because I wasn’t “into” being a disability advocate then so throwing my feelings out there would’ve been shocking to everyone. I kept my feeling to myself, mostly, but it’s never left my mind.

I’m pro a lot of things but I draw the line somewhere before preforming medical procedures to stop individuals from growing up, literally, because someone going through puberty and adulthood are more difficult to care for.

It’s a fact of life, disability or no disability. There shouldn’t be a separate set of rules for those with disabilities. That’s the exact opposite of what so many people fight for.

If the same thing were to happen to an able-bodied person masses of people would be up in arms and it wouldn’t even make it in front of an ethics board, never mind be approved by an ethics board.

Let’s not even discuss what would happen if a child were to ask to stay child-sized forever, because I think we can all guess what would happen.

One area I tend to struggle with my thoughts the most is in an educational setting. I’d like inclusion for all, of course, but there are situations when I wonder if it’s really possible. I’m against self-contained classrooms mostly but I’m not completely against them. If you want to reinvent the mold for your child to fit into the mold that’s fine, but not at the expense of other children, that’s not OK. A child needs to be given the best environment to flourish in the long term.

Creating a short-term solution and hoping that it “just might” evolve into a long term plan is not only irresponsible but further proving the long held myth that people with disabilities are handed opportunities because they can’t afford them for themselves.

Let’s not forget about a certain photo controversy that’s become a virtual powder keg of opinions.

To be clear the differences of opinion are with the photo. I haven’t read a single comment from someone with a disability who has a favorable opinion of the photo. At the same time the majority of positive opinions have come from parents (or caregivers etc.) of a child with a disability. While both groups (PwD & parents, etc. of PwD) are part of the disability community each comes to the community with a different point of view.

I will not be talking about the point of view of parents, etc. because I am not a parent and I am not close enough to “the etc.” to be able to speak on it effectively.

Speaking as a person with a disability I can tell you that the photo was an immediate turn off. I’ll often read articles even if the photos turn me off the subject. I’m a visual person so I understand the value of a well-placed visual, whether positive or negative. Sometimes I have to “override” first instinct and give something a chance. However using this particular photo was foul play on the part of journalists and parents.

Just because you’re OK with complete access (and/or are given it) doesn’t mean it’s OK to take advantage of it.

How many pictures have sparked controversy because a parent posted it online? Pictures of able-bodied minors in a diaper or even a questionable outfit are posted every day and someone somewhere always had an unfavorable opinion of it. And if the backlash is big enough social media accounts are suspended.

Why isn’t the same courtesy extended to an older individual who cannot speak for themselves just because a relative or caregiver gives the OK?

And what would happen if someone who could speak for themselves is perfectly fine giving a journalist full access and a similar photo was used? I doubt people would have a similar reaction. In fact I doubt a photographer would even take such a picture.

I’m going to take it one step further (maybe a step too far even). Child predators toll the internet 24/7 looking for images of people, most of them are seemingly innocent images.

People get upset and “cry porn” if a mom posts a picture of a three-year-old proudly wearing her “big girl underwear.” Yet it’s a “beautiful image” to see a disabled 16-year-old wearing nothing but a diaper.

Isn’t this a double standard?

I could probably go on and on with more examples, in fact I know I could, but I’ve said enough, for now.

A friend said things better than I ever could, “because disability is involved, we accept the notion that disability means less-than-human. We must remember that a person is a person, no matter their abilities. Everyone deserves to be presented to the world around us in a manner of dignity and respect.”(source)

*A similar version of this post was written on July 29, 2014

The Return Of The Envelope

I was standing at the admissions desk as NRH filling out paperwork before my first ever PT session as an adult. I wasn’t freaked out about the PT. I’ve done that enough to have an odd comfort level. The paperwork was annoying, but typical, until I got to the “emergency contact” portion. That’s when I freaked out.

Who should be my emergency contact?

Typically it’s my mom, but I had second thoughts. She was 6 hours away if the traffic cooperated. If there was going to be a real emergency that required the informing of someone they should be closer than 6 hours away. I thought a pizza delivery “30 minutes of less” window would be ideal. So I put down my roommate. We barely knew each other at that point & couldn’t think of a single person who I knew would be O.K. with it, without asking first.

“When I was at NRH today I had to give an emergency contact. I listed you. If you’re not O.K. with it I can change it.”

“I’m fine with it. Just let me know where you keep your stuff. I keep an envelope of all my information right here.”

Well that was easy.

Now I just had to put together an envelope:
* Medical history
* Surgical History
* Important Phone Numbers
* Copy Of Insurance Card

I left it in my desk until I graduated. When I moved across the country I told my housemates where they could find my info, if needed, because I put down the house number as my contact (meaning there were at least 3 potential contacts).

Almost 2 months ago I went to urgent care in the worst pain of my life; because I needed another reason to put off having children, if at all. I sat in the waiting room while my mom filled out my forms trying not to gag & praying I’d blackout, since that seemed to be the only potential relief.

I was sent to the ER where I sat for the equivalent of forever, before I had to answer all their dumb questions AGAIN. I wish I had my envelope back, more than one actually.

“Can we hurry this up please?!?!?! I’m in a lot of pain here & I’m gonna barf.”

(Painfully unhelpful response I won’t repeat)

Twelve hours later I was being admitted to a medical unit because my test results were “inconclusive.” Guess what happens when you get admitted on a unit? You have to answer the same questions all over again, and this is after 24+ hours of no food, no sleep, a full day of tests, and lots of M0rphine & Z0fran. I was literally falling asleep when the attending came to do her new admission rounds, because at that point you really care what a hospitalist is/does.

The conclusion of all the “in-conclusion” was that I probably passed a kidney stone & it wasn’t my appendix. The evidence being one swollen kidney since no one was able to find the kidney stone or appendix.

My conclusion? Time to bring back the envelope.

I had a follow up with an urologist in order to attempt to put this whole thing to rest since my goal is to never repeat this experience. The first was to tell me that it does in fact look like I passed the stone & to give them more details about my time in the Big House. The second was to go through everything again with the urologist after an ultrasound.

I’m “back to normal.” No restrictions, since no one seems to be able to even guess how this all happened. It could happen again, or not. My appendix is still missing however.

*A similar version of this post was written on August 21, 2012