Category Archives: Disability Adventures

PhotoAbility.Net!

There is finally a stock photography site full of real, active, did I mention real? people with disabilitiesPhotoAbility.net has apparently been up and running for a couple of years; I just discovered it because its founder, Deborah Davis, was featured as New Mobility’s Person of the Year.

We first used stock photography in a monumentally misguided* attempt to settle a case by presenting the defendant with examples of how people with disabilities could be part of its advertising and outreach.  Seeking stock photographs, we ran searches like “wheelchair,” “disabled” and of course “handicapped” in the various mainstream stock photography sites.  What we found were (1) hospital and medical images; and (2) essentially fake images in which obviously non-disabled people had seated themselves in crappy gray-vinyl hospital wheelchairs to undertake random daily tasks.

When we finally found a couple of images that seemed genuine, we bought them, and then discovered such images were so rare, we saw the same folks all over the damn place.  I’m guessing, for example, if you read any sort of disability-oriented publication, you’ve encountered these photogenic folks:

{Image: Photo of boy and man. Both are African-American. The man is on the right, sitting in a manual wheelchair, spinning a basketball on his finger. The boy stands to his side, watching the basketball and holding up one finger as if to imitate the man.}

{Image: a woman and girl, both white, both blond. The girl is in a manual wheelchair. The woman hugs her from behind.}

We had such little luck finding real images that we solicited some from photogenic friends doing photogenic things with photogenic kids, and then took one or two ourselves.  This, for example, is our friend Julie, her two older daughters, and our dog in our backyard.  Think PhotoAbility would be interested?

{Image:  A blond woman (sitting in a manual wheelchair) and two blond girls playing with a golden retriever dog under a tree in a fenced yard.  One girl, perhaps two years old, sits in her mother's lap.  The other girl, perhaps 6 years old, holds a toy out to the dog.}

We continue to use stock images on our website and in educational materials, so I’m very excited to learn about stock photography with gen-u-ine pwds doing genuinely cool stuff.  Also that PhotoAbility is part of a network of great sites at PushLiving.com about inclusive travel, lifestyle, design, etc.  Check them out!

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* Part of a hilariously grandiose settlement attempt suggested by new and (as it turned out) temporary co-counsel.  We appeared at a meeting with the defendant’s general counsel and her posse with a bunch of spiral-bound glossy brochures featuring our purchased and home-made stock images and a bunch of powerpoint verbiage about how wonderful and inclusive access was and how it would enhance their image, etc. etc., and of course they could not possibly have cared less.  They wanted to know what it would cost, thanks for making the trip, goodbye.  Luckily, since it was early in our practice, our dear, wonderful copy people “forgot” to charge us for the glossy brochures and spiral binding.  The case finally settled — three general counsels and two outside counsels later.  So it goes.

Hey, Lego, where’s *my* family?

I thought this sounded like a cool idea:

{Lego ad showing sample family of four people standing on two feet, plus a baby carriage.  Text reads "Minifigure Family.  Sending holiday cards was never this much fun!  Minifigure Family lets you create a customized holiday card featuring Minifigure representations of your own family. It's easy!"

Then I got started creating a holiday card with Minifigure representations of my own family, and found that it was not only not easy, but downright impossible.  Even though Lego appears to sell a variety of Minifigures With Disabilities (“MWD”), including Determined Wheelchair Tennis Player,

{Image of lego minifigure woman in a wheelchair holding a tennis racquet.  On her face is a very determined look, with eyes wide and yebrows constricted.}

Pissed Off Wheelchair Soccer Player,

{Image of lego minifigure man in a wheelchair kicking a soccer ball.  On his face is a pissed off look, with his mouth ticked off to the side and his eyebrows constricted.}

Really Pissed Off Wheelchair Basketball Player,

{Image of lego minifigure man in a wheelchair holding a a basketball.  On his face is a very angry look, with his teeth gritted and his eyebrows constricted.}

and Reasonably Emotionally Well-Adjusted Khaki Shirt Guy,

{Image of lego minifigure man in a wheelchair wearing a khaki shirt with a benevolent expression on his face.}

their Minifigure Holiday Card Generator does not have any wheelchair-using options.

Hey, Lego, what’s up with that?

Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying my best within Lego’s narrow-minded constraints:

{Image of two people and a dog on the surface of a distant planet, surrounded by flying asteroids, with a volcano and meteorite in the background.  The first Lego Minifigure on the left is labeled "Amy."  She has a helmet with antennae, a green shirt hanging with knives and other implements, and -- hanging from her belt -- a skull, a tooth and a test tube containing a spider.  The middle figure, labeled "Tim" is a man with blond hair, glasses and a wooden leg.  His shirt contains dials and meters.  The third figure is a yellow dog.}

Yes, Tim’s entire disability experience is represented by… a wooden leg.

Because the biggest f*****g problem with the ADA is too many f*****g drive-by plaintiffs

This evening we went back to the completely gutted and remodeled Izakaya Den restaurant and found that they installed a raised sushi bar with no ramp.  Here’s a photo from Westword with my added mark-up.

Photo of the inside of a restauarant.  To the lower left of the photo, a raised area is visible with seats at a lowered sushi bar.  The raised area is circled in red, with an arrow pointing to it from text that reads "Step up to sushi bar."

Sigh.

Just that, by itself, is deeply frustrating.  As we’ve discussed in connection with our lawsuit against the El Diablo restaurant, you can’t take an empty space and make part of it inaccessible.  While this should be obvious, it’s also illegal.

But what made this depressing, frustrating, infuriating and really sad was that we have been patronizing Izakaya Den and its sister restaurant, Sushi Den, for years.  They know us in both restaurants, well enough at Sushi Den that we had a table where we always sat, and most of the waitstaff had served us so often they automatically brought me a phone book to sit on.*  We had participated in a private sushi tasting with a chef visiting from Japan, and at that point (and others) met the owners.

It’s bad enough that Izakaya Den got seriously bad architectural advice.  It’s really depressing that no one ever stopped to think, this isn’t just a theoretical legal question; we have a regular customer who will want access to the sushi bar.   And what’s funny:  they have an elevator.  They added a second floor and an elevator.  Very fucking cool.  But damn!  Why on earth add an unnecessary, new, inaccessible raised area?

We proceeded from Izakaya Den to Kaos** pizza, which was also inaccessible,  then*** on to the Black Pearl which had this gorgeous ramp

Photo showing front of restaurant with a ramp to the front entrance adjacent to a patio area with tables and seats.

as well as truffle fries, an excellent cheese plate, and a nice refreshing bottle of 90 Shilling.

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*  Yes, I’m that short and have that little pride.  But it’s nice to be able to look my fellow diners in the eye.

** Sounds like Maxwell Smart should be nearby, talking on his shoe phone.

*** I’m leaving out the part where I crossed the street from Kaos to where Tim was waiting, swearing my ass off, while he made “maybe you don’t want to use those words just now” eyebrow motions.  Turns out he was chatting with a nice woman — hidden to me by a parked car — and her cute Lab puppy.   I was embarrassed, she was understanding (“that’s OK; let it all hang out!”), and the puppy was really really cute.

The ramps of Route 1

[Cross-posted at CREECblog.]

Every summer or so, we visit my brother and his family at their place in Maine.  To do this, we generally fly into Boston and then drive the four hours from Logan to mid-coast Maine.  The first three hours are on I-95; the last hour or so on Route 1 from Brunswick to Thomaston.  It has long struck me, as we meander up the barely two-lane road — often at 30 mph behind a giant RV or tractor — the amazing number of very small businesses that have ramps.

This past weekend I made the trip with no deadline and no one else in the car, so I had the time* to take some photos of these examples of readily-achievableness. (Ready achievability?)**

Disclaimer, because every now and again some defense-side attorney (hi, guys!) may read this:  I did not evaluate these ramps for compliance with the Standards.  I don’t know their dimensions or slope.  If you try to introduce this as evidence in one of my cases, I will file a Motion for Judicial Notice of Completely Missing the Point.

The first couple were actually near Manchester, NH, where I had taken a detour to visit a college classmate.

Small free-standing store with parking lot.  Store has steps in front and a ramp up the side starting from the back of the store and rising to the middle of the right hand side.
These next two are churches, which aren’t even covered by the ADA (unless they have some sort of commercial business on the side):

Front view of white building with three steps at the front entrance (in the middle of the front of the building) and a ramp extending from the entrance along the front to the left side of the building.  Ramp has a sign that reads, "Christ Died for Our Sins."

 

Photo of beige church building with the words "Saint Peter" on the front and a ramp curving around to the right side of the building.

 

Onward to Rte 1:

One story building with front porch accessible by a short ramp in front of the building.

This actually might have been someone’s house.  Along Route 1, the distinction between house and business is often sort of vague.

Gabled grey house with wooden ramp extending from the front door and curling around to the right in the front yard.  The base of the ramp is white lattice work and flowers grow along the front of the base.

Just north of Wiscasset.

Small free-standing red building with a ramp extending from the middle of the front off to the right.

Jean Kigel Studio, Damariscotta.

One-story building viewed from the side where a ramp provides access up onto the porch.

Cheap cigarettes in Waldoboro.

One-store store with a sign in the front reading "Cheap Cigarettes."  The front door is served by a short apparently level ramp with a slighly sloped portion at the end.

Somewhere south of Thomaston.

House or business with approximately five steps to the front door and a ramp to a side door on the left.

The Hair Loft, Warren, Maine.

One-story building with a sign reading "Hair Loft."  The front entrance is on the left side of the photo, served by approximately six steps.  The door is also served by a ramp from the door leading to the right of the photo.

Unidentified business, Warren:

Front of a two-story house or business with a wide metal ramp leading to the front entrance.

The famous Moody’s Diner, Waldoboro:

White building with neon sign reading "Moody's Diner" on the roof.  A ramp is positioned along the left side of the building leading up to the entrance in the middle.

Ralph’s Homes, Waldoboro:

Freestanding white building with a long switch-back ramp serving the front entrance, which is up approximately six steps.

Random business south of Waldoboro:

Red building with approximately 3 steps to a porch serving the front entrance.  A ramp serves the porch as well.

The Nobleboro Antique Exchange:

Blue two-story building with a switch back ramp serving the porch and front entrance.  Sign in front of the building reads "Nobleboro Antique Exchange."

So next time you hear some fancy store or chain claim that it’s not readily achievable to ramp their business, here are some examples to, in legal terminology, call baloney.***

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* My leisurely pace turned out to have been a good plan for another reason:  when I got to my brother’s house, he and his family were out and their house was guarded by their snarling goldendoodle.  Seriously.  This dog

Benign-looking light brown dog, sized somewhere between a poodle and a golden retriever, with a multicolored color, sitting on a lawn looking to the right of the photo.

exiled me to the hammock until my hosts returned to chaperone my canine interaction.

I was not suffering:

Legs and feet of photographer on hammock, sunny Maine seascape in the background.

 

** Under the ADA, buildings built after January 26, 1993 were required to be accessible.  42 U.S.C. § 12183(a).  Those built before that date and not altered since must remove barriers — by, for example, ramping entrances that are only accessible by steps — where it is “readily achievable” to do so.  42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv).

*** I might have used a different word if not for the cross-posting, but I’m trying to keep it clean on CREECblog.

No, I’m not “with the wheelchair.”

I’m “with the passenger in a wheelchair” or perhaps “with the passenger who uses a wheelchair,” or most accurately, “with the hot guy using a wheelchair.”

But I guess this makes the distinction clear:

IMG_1004

 

If you are a “wheel chair” or a stroller, you are not a “passenger.”  You are your equipment.

And airline people, you don’t have “two wheelchairs on the plane.”  As a matter of empirical fact, you have zero wheelchairs on the plane.  You have two people who use wheelchairs who are waiting patiently on your plane for the doofuses (doofi?) in your ramp crew to figure out how to get their wheelchairs to the jetway.

I realize there are other circumstances in which an object associated with a person comes to stand for the person.  “Suits” comes to mind, to mean the dweebs in the organization who are imposing rules on the real people who want to create/get things done/think outside the box.  It’s not a compliment.  “Brass” for officers, perhaps.  “Uniforms” to distinguish beat cops from higher ranking detectives.  I would put “wheelchair” as a substitute for the person in a very different category, though, largely because I only hear it from people in a position to treat the people themselves as objects.

I don’t take a position on the people-first language discussion, that is, whether it is better to say “disabled person” or “person with a disability.”  Both seem better than “the disabled,” but as my disabled friend/friend with a disability Laura Hershey would say, English puts its adjectives before its nouns, so “disabled person” puts the focus on the person, it just does so grammatically.

But once you’ve taken the person out of the equation completely and substituted the thing, you’ve left the realm of grammar and made a decision to depersonalize.

The funny thing is, I always respond — when I hear this — “no I’m not with the wheelchair, I’m with the guy in the wheelchair”  or to the airline peeps, “actually, you don’t have two wheelchairs on board, you have two people who use wheelchairs.”  But no one even gets the difference.

Sigh.

The Killing’s New Mystery.

[Warning: Season One Spoiler Alert]

I love The Killing.  It doesn’t have the snappy dialog of Justified, but the characters seem incredibly well-drawn and real to me.  I strongly dissent from all the whining about the end of season 1 when we did not in fact learn who killed Rosie Larson.  Apparently the producer got major push-back for the simple act of treating her audience like grown-ups and showing us that the plot would not resolve itself as neatly as we all hoped.

Season 2 introduces a new, equally compelling, mystery, however:  How badly will the show fuck up the newly-spinal-cord-injured-mayoral-candidate story line?  As of now, he’s in the hospital starting to get his head around the fact that he’s paralyzed.  We’ve had a couple of scenes designed, I think, to underscore the reality of How Bad This Really Is, and we’ve watched his (it turns out) chickenshit campaign chief run away from him rather than talk about it.

But where does it go from here?  The way the entertainment industry generally treats disability suggests several likely scenarios.  WordPress lets you vote!

“Sh*t people say” jumps the shark.

Shit people say to spouses of people who use wheelchairs:

My favorite “I”m so sorry” experience was in my first trial as a young lawyer, when Tim — who was an associate at the same fancy-pants DC law firm that I was — came to watch.  On a break, our loathsome opposing counsel came up to me and said, out of the blue, “I’m so sorry.”  Given the quantity of serious litigation bullshit he had engaged in, I was glad he saw fit to apologize, but thought it was better directed to the senior partner.  I was starting to say something about that when he added, “about your husband…”  Honestly, I still didn’t understand:  Tim wasn’t assigned to the case; what could this dude possibly mean?  He had to stumble on to say something about “injury” and “wheelchair” before it finally dawned on me.  Needless to say, I was speechless.

Years later, I actually wrote and submitted a “Modern Love” column to the New York Times after some lady walked up to us at a baseball game and said something about me being a good caretaker.  How can you explain in a sentence how ordinary life is?  How care is given and taken in equal measure?  Unfortunately, my column couldn’t compete with other important dispatches from the front lines of human relationships, for example, looking for a date on Craigslist or overthinking your boyfriend’s slippers.

That’s the great thing about the blog:  the only thing standing between my thoughts and publication is my own good judgment.  Such as it is.