Aug 072014
 

Governor Dayton is pushing state agencies to hire more people with disabilities through a recently signed executive order. It establishes a goal of having people with disabilities represent 7% of the state workforce by 2018 (up from the current figure of 3.2%). The Strib article notes that Minnesota has fallen behind neighboring states and the federal government in the hiring of people with disabilities.

This executive order signals good intentions from the Dayton administration, although I’m hesitant to predict what its real impact will be. People with disabilities continue to face myriad obstacles to employment including difficulties accessing transportation, job training, and health care. Any initiative to increase employment of people with disabilities must at least recognize these challenges and offer strategies for shaping appropriate accommodations.

The state has been a good employer to me. It has provided me the flexibility I need while giving me the opportunity to have a career and enjoy financial independence. I’m hopeful that this executive order will give other people with disabilities similar opportunities to realize their potential.

Aug 012014
 

Fellow gimp Ben Mattlin wrote a thoughtful Times op-ed piece about Justin Bieber, perceptions of disability, and playing the disability card. He notes that Bieber was recently photographed using a wheelchair at Disney World and suggests that this may be a sign that visible disabilities are losing some of their stigma. He then reminisces about the special treatment he received as a child because of his disability, like getting into movies for free. It’s a common life experience for those of us who grew up with a disability and like Mattlin, I now look back on those experiences with a degree of ambivalence. I definitely exploited my disability for my own ends as I was growing up, but I probably reinforced stereotypes about disability in the process.

I like to think that I’m a more enlightened person now; one who demands equal treatment and steadfastly refuses any preferential treatment rooted in pity or condescension. But if I’m honest with myself, I know that I might slip on occasion. I might accept a seat upgrade at a concert or the opportunity to avoid a line at an amusement park. Because sometimes a crip just wants a better sightline that isn’t full of legs and asses. Or because I just won’t feel like being SuperCrip, Defender of Virtuous Principles, at that particular moment.

Jul 172014
 

The news today is particularly awful, so let’s focus on something less miserable. I’ve blogged previously about Jillian Mercado, the fashion blogger with a disability who was featured in a Diesel ad campaign. Mercado may have to start referring to herself as a model/blogger because she’s now mugging for the Nordstrom catalog. It’s thrilling to see someone with a disability enjoy this kind of professional success, particularly in an industry that has is typically obsessed with traditional notions of beauty. I look forward to seeing her on a billboard in the near future.

And I love the boots, Jillian.

Jillian Mercado Nordstorm.jpg

Jul 162014
 

After much waiting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, I drove home in my new Honda Odyssey earlier this week. Automotive technology has advanced considerably since 1999. My Caravan’s engine always made its presence known with a steady rumble, but I can barely hear the Odyssey’s engine. Everything is very sleek and digital and unobtrusive. It’s like commuting via the starship Enterprise. Even the modifications have a futuristic feel. With a single button on the key fob, the sliding door opens and the ramp deploys. The ramp is stowed within the van’s floor, so I no longer have to listen to it rattle beside me.

I’m on vacation next week. I believe I will spend it driving around the lakes and inviting random attractive women to join me.

Pictures will be forthcoming. Of the van, not the women. Unless they’re into that sort of thing.

Jun 252014
 

This short Times documentary about a couple–both of whom have muscular dystrophy–who fell in love and married is sweet and matter-of-fact. There’s just one problem: they are living in a Connecticut acute care hospital. Does Connecticut not have the resources to enable them to live together in the community? I understand that they both use ventilators, but this is 2014: people with ventilators living at home are not a rare species anymore. Of course, I don’t know what their specific circumstances are. They may choose to live at the hospital because they feel safer or because the quality of care is high. But I imagine it’s no simple matter for them to get out to a movie or restaurant. I hope somebody has at least discussed community living with them.

May 282014
 

I’m in the final stages of purchasing a new van (a 2014 Honda Odyssey EX, if you’re curious) and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to ride around in something that was manufactured in this century. Of course, I’d love a self-driving vehicle like the prototype Google has unveiled in the video below:

It’s a cute little thing and the clearest indication yet of what the future of transportation might look like. In another decade, I might be able to give up my van in exchange for a driverless taxi that is wheelchair accessible. Google certainly understands the powerful implications of this idea; two people with visual impairments are included in the video. Imagine how something like this could revolutionize paratransit systems that are currently understaffed and unable to operate around the clock, particularly in rural areas. For many people with disabilities, this technology could mean the difference between isolation and independence.

May 082014
 

Vox, Ezra Klein’s wonky news venture, always provides me with interesting lunchtime reading. For example, here’s a post highlighting a clever British ad campaign designed to help avoid awkward social interactions with people with disabilities. I can particularly identity with the kind of interaction depicted in this ad:

So remember, folks, don’t bend over when you’re speaking to me or I’ll think you’re a condescending ass.

Kudos to Vox for covering disability issues and I hope we see more posts like this in the future.

May 022014
 

I’m late linking to this, but Harold Pollack has a great post in Wonkblog about how Medicaid forces poverty on people with disabilities. This is common knowledge in disability policy circles, but most people don’t grasp how difficult it can be to maintain Medicaid eligibility and have any semblance of financial independence. It’s common for people with disabilities to hide assets with a family member or keep income off the books to ensure that they don’t lose access to vital services. Those of us who buy into Medicaid are allowed a bit more leeway with our finances, but we still must be careful.

Congress really should revisit the strict Medicaid income and asset limits for people with disabilities. But as long as Medicaid is regarded as a program for only the poor, policymakers won’t be eager to change the status quo.

Apr 032014
 

I’m currently debating whether to purchase a new van. My 1999 Dodge Caravan still runs well, but 15 years is a long time to hold onto a vehicle. I worry that it could suddenly fail without warning, forcing me to scramble to find a replacement. A new van would be a significant expense ($45,000-$60,000), but I might qualify for some assistance via a Medical Assistance waiver. I’m also fairly certain that my next van will be a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey. The Dodge has been generally reliable, but its hunger for new parts began rather early in its lifespan.

Of course, I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can reasonably afford a new vehicle. For most people with disabilities, an accessible vehicle is a luxury item that is too expensive to even contemplate.

Mar 282014
 

Switzerland is planning to host the first “Cybathlon”, an athletic competition for people using prosthetics or other augmentive aids. It will include a wheelchair race, an exoskeleton race, and a (gasp!) brain-computer interface race. A better name for this event might be “Meet Your Future Gimp Overlords”. I’m curious to see what kind competition this attracts and whether it will be broadcast on-line. The organizers don’t seem interested in placing any restrictions on the kinds of technology that can be used, so the Cybathlon could be a showcase for the truly cutting-edge.

Attention corporate sponsors: I will gladly wear a sensor cap emblazoned with your product logo as I compete in the BCI races. All I require is a well-appointed training facility and a personal masseuse (whom I interview and hire, of course).