Posted in disability civil rights, Disability etiquette, Politically correct, Public Perceptions of Disability

Sometimes “political correctness” just means seeing people for who they are.

The term, “politically correct” has taken quite a beating in recent years.

The phrase can mean a lot of things, but these days it seems to be used in an insulting manner  – poking fun at people who are trying to be attentive to diversity in our society.

Granted, there are situations where “political correctness” is overdone. (Examples might be describing a janitor as a “sanitation engineer” or  a bald person as “folically challenged.”) But for every situation where the wording seems a bit overstrained, there are several where in fact, an individual is consistently defined not by who they are, but by what they have. (Examples here would be calling someone in a wheelchair “a cripple” or labeling someone with mental illness “a psycho.”}

Words matter, and the attached article does an excellent job of providing alternatives to some of the labels traditionaly used to describe people with disabilities. If there is a common theme, it is the recommendation to use “people first” language, where the fact that someone has a disability is not the first thing you learn about her. Because quite often, it ends up being the only thing that is remembered.



Posted in Accesibility for People with disabilities, Americans with disabilities reform act, disability civil rights

A Potentially Huge Setback for the Americans with Disabilities Act


Let’s say that you keep some valuable jewelry  in a public storage facility, and you need to retrieve it for your niece’s upcoming wedding. The facility has only one entrance and you need to use stairs to get inside. But when you get there, you see that some of the stairs have rotted through and it’s not safe to use them. You’ve called the manager and left voice-mail messages, but she has not returned your calls.

An obvious option is to file a lawsuit against the owner. After all, the wedding is fast approaching and the owner is not fulfilling her obligations to you.

But let’s say you then discover that a new law has just been passed, requiring that before you file a lawsuit, you first have to notify the owner (in writing) that there is a defect in her stairway.  You must also identify how the owner has violated the law, and then give her six months to work on the problem.

I deliberately said, “work on” instead of “fix” because this imaginary new law also says that you can only demand that the owner make “substantial progress” in fixing the stairs – not that she has to have actually fixed them.

What kind of an insane law would that be? You would be up in arms and so would everyone else who stores property in that facility. How dare Congress put these kinds of restrictions on your right to sue when you believe you have been wronged?

Yet there is a bill, currently making its way through Congress, that would require substantially the same thing for people with disabilities.  It is House Bill, 620, the “Americans with Disabilities Reform Act of 2017.”

This proposed law would require that if people with disabilities are unable to access public facilities because they have not installed the accommodations required by law, they can no longer immediately file a lawsuit. Rather, they have to take the steps outlined in the example above.

So for them, there is nothing hypothetical about it. Please contact your representatives and ask them to oppose this nightmarish law.

See the link below:


Posted in disability civil rights, Disability etiquette, Franklin d. Roosevelt, Public Perceptions of Disability

“Fear Itself”

The First Ball

Because Franklin D. Roosevelt had contracted polio, he was unable to use his legs. But he was counseled to hide this fact as much as possible, to keep him from appearing “weak.”

In the book, “Roosevelt’s Splendid Deception,” Hugh Gallagher chronicles the extraordinary lengths that Roosevelt took to hide his disability from the world. He believed that this would cause him to be perceived as “weak” in his ability to lead the country through very troubling times. Therefore, he asked the press not to photograph him in a wheelchair. And for the most part, the press complied.

Mr. Roosevelt also did other things to hide the fact that he was a wheelchair user. Although he had virtually no strength from the waist down, he built up his upper body and arm muscles so that he could literally hold himself up from whatever podium he was speaking from, disguising the fact that his legs were effectively useless. And in getting to the podium, he would enlist the help of someone (often his son) to walk with him. Grasping his escort’s arm, he would use that leverage and his upper body strength to propel his legs forward – one at a time – until he could reach the podium.

Was this the best way to handle his disability? It is hard to say – those were different times in a different world. But there are some myths and stereotypes that seem to have stubbornly persisted through the years – chief among them that people with disabilities are not quite “complete” and should not be treated as if they are. Perhaps that is why a doctor who is a wheelchair user recently wrote in the New York Times that her competence has often come into question – both from patients and colleagues. She also suggests that much of this anxiety might be mitigated if there were more physicians with disabilities on the scene.

As those with disabilities know, a common reaction to us is discomfort and anxiety. That can turn into fear, because people are reminded that at any time, they could join the ranks of the disabled population. And although Roosevelt did not mention his disability during his inauguration, surely he spoke from experience when he said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Note: The photographs below reflect a change in attitude that Roosevelt would have been very happy to see: The first one represents a perpetuation of the “splendid deception,” portraying him as standing tall and proud. Largely because of  pressure brought by disability advocates, a new statue was added in the late 90’s. This one shows him as he really was – every bit as proud and presidential.



For more information about these statue changes, see the article below: