Media and Disability

National Disability Day of Mourning – Remembering Lives Taken

National Disability Day of Mourning

Today, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Not Dead Yet, and the National Council on Independent Living held the second annual National Disability Day of Mourning to remember people with disabilities who had lost their lives at the hands of their family members or caregivers.  The event was inspired in part by the story of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old autistic man from California.  He loved hiking, walking through shopping malls, and stopping at the Disney Store.  And in 2012, he was shot to death by the person who should have loved him the most – his own mother.

As a part of the event, they read out the names of individuals who had been killed and asked attendees and others to put forward names.  I wrote about this in more detail at Day in Washington and the Lead On Update, but I wanted to take a few minutes on my blog to consider Jennifer Lee Daugherty (November 8, 1979 – February 11, 2010). Jennifer was a woman with an intellectual disability who was murdered in Greensburg, Pennsylvania by six people she thought were her friends. They tortured and murdered her, and then wrapped her body in Christmas decorations and dumped it in the parking lot of Greensburg Salem Middle School.

Are you angry? You should be.

#Disability Panel at @GeekGirlCon Seeking Your Input (Please RT and Share)

A Fate Worse than Death:  The Last “Outsider” in Popular Culture – Disability

This a panel at the upcoming GeekGirlCon (August 11 and 12, 2012) and we hope to make it a fantastic panel with a lot of discussion.  More than 1 in 10 Americans live with an apparent disability. But this isn’t reflected in books, comics, films or television (e.g. Less than 2 percent of TV show characters display a disability and only 0.5 percent have speaking roles).  When seeking to include characters with disabilities, creators are asked, “Why?”  There is greater acceptance when beloved characters are killed as opposed to maimed or permanently disabled; and celebrations when they are cured. It’s assumed that disability isn’t like diversity – it’s weird and different and uncomfortable and sad.  Discussion will examine the reluctance to include characters with disabilities, common myths and stereotypes, and some of the common controversies using examples from popular and geek culture, personal experiences in industry and discourse with audience members.  But we need you!

We want to hear REAL questions, hard questions!  The panel is made up of folks with experience in film, comics, web-series, and more; and all of them have either included disability, have a disability, or been part of the battle for inclusion.  What do you want to hear about?  I’m posting this prior to the event to urge people to send me (the moderator) questions.  There’s no guarantee we can get to all of them, but here is an opportunity to learn what really goes on behind the scenes, and as a community crowd-source ideas and solutions.  So lets hear from you!  Post in the comments or send me an email at .  If you prefer, I’ll even get on the phone with you, just call 206-333-1791.

Our amazing panelists:

TEAL SHERER – Teal Sherer is an L.A. based actor, producer, and activist for performers with disabilities. Her new show (which posts every Tuesday), is  “My Gimpy Life,” a comedic web series produced by Rolling Person Productions, directed by The Guild’s Sean Becker, and written by Gabe Uhr. She was a founding member of Blue Zone Productions – a theatre company that promoted actors with disabilities, and played the role of “Honey” in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the NoHo Arts Center. Last year, she produced and starred in the Pulitzer Prize winning play PROOF, the first person with a disability to play the lead role of Catherine. However, most people may be familiar with Teal from her appearances in the third and fourth season of the award winning web series, “The Guild” as the recurring character “Venom” – a total bitch on wheels. Teal is a member of the SAG Performers with Disabilities Committee and teaches dance and drama classes to children with disabilities through the UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Play Project.

LAWRENCE CARTER-LONG – Recognized for his expertise in the arts, access and media, Lawrence is a sought after media spokesperson on a wide variety of subjects ranging from medical ethics to media representation of disability. Appearances have included the New York Times, NPR, the BBC and several appearances on CNN, among others. Lawrence was founder and curator of the groundbreaking “disTHIS! Film Series.” Along similar lines, he has been a member of the steering committee of the ‘ReelAbilities: Disabilities Film Festival’ since 2010 and an advisor to NYC’s Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts as part of their Disability in Entertainment and Arts Link (DEAL) project since 2006. In May 2011, Lawrence began working with the National Council on Disability – an independent federal agency that recommends federal disability policy to the President, Congress and other federal agencies – as their Public Affairs Specialist.  Lawrence curated and will be presenting a selection of films showcasing the history of disability in cinema on cable systems for Turner Classic Movies in October 2012.

LIZ HENRY – Liz Henry is a poet, translator, blogger, and editor as well as a computer geek and web developer. She has been publishing zines and small books since 1986.  For Aqueduct Press, she edited WisCon Chronicles Volume 3: Carnival of Feminist SF. Her latest book is Unruly Islands, a collection of anarchafeminist technoutopian poems.






GAIL SIMONEGail Simone has written Simpsons comics for Bongo, Killer Princesses for Oni Press (with co-creator and artist Lea Hernandez), and a Rose and Thorn limited series for DC Comics. Simone is the creator of the Women in Refrigerators List, which raised awareness of the treatment of women in comic books. In 2003, she took over DC’s Birds of Prey title, turning it into one of DC’s steadiest selling and most critically acclaimed books. In 2007, she took over writing duties on Wonder Woman. Additionally, Simone’s commitment to creating diverse casts of characters led her to win a Glyph Comics Award for Best Female Character in Thomasina Lindo—one of the lead characters in Welcome to Tranquility—a creator-owned comic published by WildStorm. She returned to writing the Birds of Prey series for DC Comics and can be followed on Twitter (@GailSimone) or her Tumblr, “Ape in a Cape.”

DAY AL-MOHAMED – Okay, they’re the REAL panelists, I’m just moderating.  :)  But for those of you interested - Day Al-Mohamed is editor for the upcoming anthology, “Trust & Treachery” and hosts the multi-author blog Unleaded: Fuel for Writers. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, and DC Women in Film and Video. When not working on fiction, Day is Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor, heading up the Add Us In initiative, and as a part of the agency’s Youth Team she is designing a skills-based video game to better teach the Department’s “Skills to Pay the Bills” employment training curriculum. Day is proud to serve as Public Affairs staff officer with Flotilla 24-01 in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and lives in Washington DC with her wife, in a house with too many swords, comic books, and political treatises.

Cripple Porn, #Wheelchair #Fishing, and #Disability as Inspiration

One of the amazing things about the internet and social media is the ability to share information and ideas and our work.  It’s also a great way to promote and share the work of others that we love.  It is also a way to share things that make you a little bit crazy and a little bit mad.  Although it doesn’t usually bother me to the point I’m frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog just looking for some poor unfortunate soul to go “Here doggie, doggie.  Nice doggie,” I’m starting to get a little irritated at the prevalence of “inspiration porn.”  What is that, you ask?

“Inspiration Porn” (as applied to disability)  also known as “cripple porn” :   A story or image of an individual or group with a disability that emotionally moves or inspires others (usually non-disabled individuals) due to the perceived achievement or perseverence of the disabled individual over the obstacle of continuing to live each day.

Yes, there’s more than a little sarcasm in that definition.  I ought to know since I just wrote it.  :)  I know far too many people with disabilities who truly are exceptional and inspirational, but they’d be just as fantastic and amazing without their disability.  Living your life, like everyone else, doesn’t make you inspirational so why should it make someone with a disability the best thing since sliced bread? (And by the way, because I cannot resist the lure of history, sliced bread first hit the shelves in 1928 in Chillicothe, Missouri.)

Yes, I recognize that having a disability can make life a little more complicated and little more creative due to lack of access, societal barriers, and just plain asshattery, but there are also complications to being a person of color, a woman, GLBT, and poor.  There are even people with disabilities who can claim those statuses as well.  Their inspiration factor must be incredible!  (Okay, I’ll stop the sarcasm, really).  But in some ways, it is offensive that someone believes that life with a disability is so utterly miserable, so without happiness, or joy, or value, that just getting out of bed in the morning is a remarkable achievement.  If one more person mentions how “brave” I am because I hold down a job, own a home, and can dress with some modicum of style, I think I may spit.  Preferably on them.

Last week, I was sent an image of a person in a wheelchair fishing; it was part in silhoutte at sunset – very pretty.  From what I could tell, it looked like a great image and as I have a friend who happens to be a wheelchair fisherman I thought I’d send it to him.  And then I saw the accompanying text:

“Just because your legs don’t work anymore, doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t.”

I rolled my eyes.  I rolled them so hard, they rolled out of my head, across the floor, up the wall and across the ceiling!  I won’t entertain you with the expletives that accompanied the eye-rolling on their jaunt around the room.  Finally fed up, I decided that I would single-handedly endeavour to battle this behemoth that is “inspiration porn.”

And voila, below is my first effort, as a person with a disability, to take back our images, and take back what it means to be inspirational, and to do battle this subversive trend of seeing people with disabilities as the beaten-down and broken down, as the sad warriors against an evil world, as objects of people’s pity, and recipients of insipid, disingenuous, unearned and unwanted pronouncements of  how “inspirational” we are.

Sorry, but I’m a jerk, just like everyone else.

Wheelchair Fishing Image - Just because your legs don't work anymore, doesn't mean your heart doesn't crossed out and replaced with What the hell does that have to do with fishing?!"

Image: Re-edited image of a man in a wheelchair in silhoutte. Above him are the words, “Just because your legs don’t work doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t” crossed out and in script below it says, “What the hell does THAT have to do with fishing?!” – If anyone knows the copyright owner of the original image, please let me know, as I’d like to appropriately credit the photographer.

And for those of you who came here looking for actual porn….um, no.

More Video Work (a.k.a. I get to call myself an executive producer now!)

I had a great time working on the political video and now it looks like I will have an opportunity to do something similar, only this time I’ll be paid!  Yay!  I am now a PAID executive producer.  Actually, it is more of an honorarium but regardless, I’m very excited about this new project.  Don’t expect it until about November and I can’t really say anything, but I’m excited about all the possibilities.