Tag Archives: wheelchair

Why is it OK to be a trans man or trans woman but not . . .

So just the other day, I was lecturing radical feminists never to question anyone’s identity as a woman, even if she was born with guy parts.  In that post, I posed what I thought was a rhetorical question.

Could a white person declare himself black in the same way a person born with female parts can declare himself to be male? Can I decide to be disabled without actually having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

If I should have learned anything in 53 years, it’s that there are no questions rhetorical enough that someone somewhere won’t answer, “yeah — that’s me.”

Meet Chris. He is not a person with disabilities, but nonetheless identifies as one and sits in a wheelchair whenever he can without giving his secret away to the people that know him. On last night’s episode of Showtime’s documentary series 7 Deadly Sins (this week’s sin: envy), Chris shared his story.

“I identify as a guy in a wheelchair,” he said. “I feel like I have the wrong body. I feel like I’m supposed to be disabled. What I want my life to be like is what is the detriment of a lot of people’s lives, the worst thing that’s ever happened to them, and I think it would be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

image

I feel fairly strongly that this is wrong, just as a white person declaring himself to be black or have a black identity is wrong. I’m just having a hard time articulating a principled reason why.

I support the rights of trans men and trans women to be the ones to tell us what gender they are, rather than having that be dictated by the body parts they were born with or what society thinks they should be.  And I have no problem if a person of one religion converts to another, and adopts a new identity wholesale.

Then there are those (Obama; me) born into two identities (black/white; Jewish/Protestant) who essentially get to choose — one; the other; or both — which choice is generally respected.

Yet we clearly have a set of negative judgments for people of a privileged status (white; nondisabled) adopting and asserting an identity as a less-privileged status (black; disabled) and a different set of negative judgments for the reverse (a black person deciding to identify as white; a disabled person identifying as nondisabled).  In the first situation, we use words like “wannabes” or “appropriation” or — in an article in New Mobility — “pretenders;” in the latter, “oreos,” “bananas,” or “passing.”

So, uncharacteristically, I don’t have an answer, or even a working hypothesis.  Why is it OK for a person born with male parts to identify as a woman, for a Christian to convert to Judaism, or for a person born in a mixed marriage to choose either identity or both, but not for Chris to identify as a person with a disability?

 

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.

Christmas Display

I saw the most wonderful display in front of a church as I drove down University Blvd today.  Not a creche, no lights, no crosses, no Santas or reindeer.  Just:

{Image:  photo of a church buliding with -- in front of the church -- a long concrete and brick ramp under construction.}

a ramp under construction.   St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is building a beautiful ramp in front of their church building.  No back entrances here; nothing ad hoc or flimsy.  They’ve given over the front lawn of the church to a cut-back concrete ramp, lined with brick to match the building.

{Image:  more distant photo in which the entire church building is visible within the frame, as is the ramp extending the width of the building.  Construction equipment is visible in the lower right of the photo.}

I was very moved by the message of inclusion that this collection of concrete and bricks and construction equipment sent especially at the time of year when there is generally so much hand-wringing about Christmas displays.*  Sometimes the simplest things speak the most eloquently.   It’s is even more moving, I think, because the ADA does not require churches to be accessible, so this likely reflects a simple decision that everyone should feel and be invited to worship.

Because ramps are fun to do in panorama:

{Image: a panoramic view in which the entire ramp is visible close up, with construction equipment to the right.}

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* You know, the creche; the creche + menorah to show that we’re ecumenical; the creche + menorah-even-when-Chanukah-was-over-two-weeks-ago to show that we’re ecumenical but sort of clueless; the creche + menorah + Santa Claus to show that we’re not really religious, just seasonal; and of course the creche + menorah + flying spaghetti monster just because we can.

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.

This is why I never read comments on news stories

On Friday, the judge in our case against Hollister stores and their inaccessible front entrances ordered that the violations be remedied within three years.

Red Alert Politics — “an online publication written by and for young conservatives” — gave the case a straightforward, factual write-up.  There are two comments.  The first is I guess a typical conservative response:  it’s their store; they can do what they want.  Not respectful; not even legal; but plain vanilla conservative.

The second comment was this, by someone designated with a little star as a “Top Commenter”:

yeah well obama is all about controlling and lying…he’ll cost anyone money he can, direct the DOJ to infringe on multiple constitutional rights and keep doing it…

think about this, any speech charge, using what you say in court against you – is against the first amendment, that is saying that you’re freedom is speech can be used against you – that’s a law to the contrary, or the second ammendment – you have the right to keep and bear arms….

article 6 is the supremacy clause and the oath that judicial branches, judges, senators, congressmen, even the president takes….

any charge for a speech or a gun is unconstitutional — ever wonder why when they charge people with murder charges, the gun NEVER EVER comes up? lawyers of that caliber would shit on it….just like america needs to shit on obama, and carry guns, and exercise their god given rights, that their ancestors fought to ensure were protected.

So in response to the fact that Hollister stores will be required to fix their raised front entrances to make them accessible to customers in wheelchairs, we are supposed to “shit on obama and carry guns.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present:  Conservative Logic and Spelling 101.

 

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.