Archive for the 'Access/Accessibililty' Category

Waspish Wednesday: Don’t “Let It Snow.” How Autoplays Can Disable Visitors to Your Website

Recently a friend of mine visited a blog she often visits. What she didn’t know was that the blogger had added a fun, temporary new feature to her blog. When my friend visited the blog, it triggered a seizure.

There are many different kinds of seizures, and every person experiences them differently, but some common aspects of seizures include inability to think, exhaustion, loss of bodily control, memory loss (during or around the seizure), and severe headache. Regardless of the specifics, having an electrical storm in your brain is not fun.

The seizure trigger in my friend’s case was WordPress’s “Let It Snow” feature, which is a feature that causes little white dots to float continuously down the screen soon after someone opens the blog. I believe people enable this feature on their blog because they think it’s fun — probably for them, and they assume, for most of their blog visitors. [Update: Actually, I have just learned that if you have the paid version of WordPress, it does this automatically in December. Blog owners need to opt out if they don’t want it; I think this is a terrible system, and it should be an opt in. I plan to try to contact WordPress and ask them to change it.] They may do it to be festive, to enjoy the holiday season, to spread some cheer among their readers, or because they don’t know how to turn it off. I’m certain nobody uses this feature with the intention of causing distress to site visitors or with the intention of making their site inaccessible.

Autoplays Interfere with Access for Many People

The problem is larger than snow. And it doesn’t just affect people who are susceptible to seizures. Autoplays — any sound or movement that starts up automatically when someone opens an email or webpage — can interfere with internet usage for many, many people.

Examples of autoplays:

  • A music player that starts up automatically when someone visits your business site or .ning personal page
  • A video that starts playing when a visitor opens a news article
  • Animated GIFs (short clips of moving pictures or drawings) that you paste in the comments section of an online magazine
  • Graemlins or smileys in emails or on bulletin boards that bounce, flash, or change facial expressions

Examples of disabilities that are affected by autoplays:

  • Blindness, low vision, or other visual issues
  • Migraines and seizures (the first and fourth most common neurological disorders, respectively)
  • Sensory processing issues and various of other neurological issues
  • PTSD, panic attacks, and other conditions that cause a heightened startle responses

Recently, I tried to do some education on this topic in the comments section of a magazine where a video was on autoplay in an accompanying article. Some of the responses to my comment let me know that many people don’t understand how and why autoplays can be an issue for so many people. So, here are some details that I hope will answer lots of questions. (If I don’t address your question, please comment!)

Q: If someone has one of these problems, why don’t they just leave the page or turn off the video or music when it starts up?

A: Sometimes this is an option for people and sometimes it isn’t. In some cases, as soon as the computer screen flashes or the sounds start up, the computer user has a problem. My friend’s seizure was triggered before she could exit the page. The same can be true for migraines; I have had migraines triggered by music playing, by the WordPress snow, and by other moving or flashing things. Once the migraine or seizure starts, you’re stuck with it, regardless of what windows you close.

Some people (including me) may also experience sensory overload — causing disorientation, trouble thinking, or even panic — as soon as music comes on or a video plays or smileys bounce across the screen. This confusion and overwhelm can interfere with my ability to find the “off” button for the player or the tab to close the window or even the volume control for the computer. On more than one occasion — and I’ve heard this from others, too — I have had to hit my computer’s power button just to escape the sensory overload because I couldn’t figure out how else to make it stop. For people whose symptoms are severe when they unexpectedly encounter an autoplay, navigating the web can feel like a minefield.

Q: If the problems are so severe, couldn’t you prevent them by keeping your sound shut off or avoiding sites where videos play and things like that?

A: Some people keep their sound shut off, but this isn’t workable for everyone. I’ll go into more detail about that in my answer to the next question.

Avoidance of problematic pages isn’t always effective because you don’t always know where you will run into these issues. For example, I subscribe to several blogs that I enjoy, and most of the time they present no access issues for me. However, every year, suddenly, some of them are snowing. I like to be able to read these blogs — some of them are written by friends — so I don’t want to just stop subscribing to them. And it’s also not a workable solution for me to not read any blogs from Thanksgiving through New Year’s because I have a lousy sense of time and impaired memory. It is always a surprise to me when I open a blog that is normally fine and it suddenly starts snowing.

The other reason for not just avoiding sites that have these features (even if that was possible) is that, as is probably true for you (since you’re online), the internet is very important to me. In my case, the internet is my primary source of information, friendship, entertainment, communication, and work, and losing access to this is difficult. In particular, I’ve found that certain illness-specific communities (such as chronic illness forums on .ning and many illness boards) are very heavy on the bouncing smileys and autoplay music. When my neurological symptoms were particularly bad and I couldn’t tolerate unexpected sounds and movement, I stopped using them. Sadly, these were also my main sources of emotional support and medical tips for the very diseases that were causing these symptoms.

Relatedly, I like having my sound on for the same reason many people do: There are sounds my computer makes that I want to hear — sounds which I have enabled, in some cases. For example, when a new email arrives, or I get a private message or a relay call, my computer goes “Bing!” so I know to check messages or email. I also like to intentionally watch videos or listen to radio programs that interest me. I could theoretically turn my volume off and on all day long every time I opened a new page or tab on the internet, but that would be a real energy drain and pain in the butt, and also, I do sometimes try to do that, and there is one substantial drawback: because one of my neurologic issues is impaired memory, I often forget that I’ve turned my volume off. Then I miss message notifications, can’t understand why the volume isn’t working on a video, etc.

And then there are people for whom, if they turned off the sound, their computer would be unusable: screen reader (or text reader) users,* which includes many legally blind and virtually all totally blind computer users. Screen readers use audio output** (a computer “voice”) to tell the user what’s displayed on the screen, including the content (such as an article) and the navigation (such as links, headers, applications, descriptions, etc.). If you’re using a screen reader and suddenly music or a TV clip starts playing loudly at the same time, it interferes with your ability to read and can also make it difficult to navigate away from the page causing the interference! This is another example where “just turning off the music/video” is not a viable solution, because you might not be able to navigate to the “pause” button to turn it off.

While we’re on the subject of visual disabilities — just because someone is blind, it does not mean they won’t be affected by visual autoplays as well as sound autoplays. There are a lot of kinds of blindness, and not everyone who is blind is totally blind. For example, my friend whose seizure was triggered by the snow autoplay actually is functionally blind and uses a screen reader, but she has enough vision for her brain to undergo an electrical storm when it registers the flashes and movements on the screen.

Q: But a lot of people really LIKE music, videos, bouncing and flashing things, “Let It Snow,” etc.!

A: Yes, and I wouldn’t want to deprive people of that enjoyment, either! That’s why I think the best solution — one that can work for everyone, I believe — is to make such features contingent on the user activating them. In other words, if you have a visual art website and you think it will heighten visitors’ enjoyment to hear music that accentuates certain aspects of the art, set up your music player so that they can hit “play” IF they want to hear the music. If your article is about a funny video, use one of the many video players that allow people to hit “play” when they want to see the video. I see no reason why WordPress can’t add a widget that says, “Let it snow!” so that blog visitors who want “snow” while they read can activate the snow. Etcetera.

This is really, in my opinion, about consideration and consensuality. Just as websites with explicit sexual content have a warning screen or put “NSFW” (“not safe for work”) in post titles, and posts detailing violent or dehumanizing events include a trigger warning, it is only reasonable and kind to allow all users, whether disabled or not, to choose whether or not to have music blare, graphics bounce, or people shout from a video screen.

Three Simple Steps You Can Take to Make the Web More Accessible

1. When you set up your blog, website, magazine, or personal page on a forum, don’t use any autoplays. If you want videos or music to play, great — just make it optional. If you already have autoplays set up, remove or alter them so that visitors to your site have choice.

2. When you visit a website, blog, or forum that uses autoplays, ask the people who own or run the website to remove or alter them so that they can be used consensually. I think it’s most effective if you explain why they’re a problem for you or others and give examples. I also think such requests go over better if you make an effort to be courteous.

3. Share this post! Lots of people have no idea that autoplays can be problematic for others, often including friends and loved ones. I am certain that many people would opt not to use them if they knew there were alternatives that would provide greater access and well-being to many of their site visitors.

I welcome your comments!

– Sharon and Barnum, SD

P.S. If you want to learn more about creating accessible sites, here’s an article about five easy steps to increase access, and here’s a more comprehensive one I wrote that includes reference to colors, flashing, sound, etc.

*Screen readers may also be used by people with print disabilities such as learning disabilities.

**Some screen reader users, which includes some Deafblind people, might use a Braille output instead of or alternating with an audio output.

Update: Free Empathy Call, Online Chat & Webcam Chat Details – Oct. 1&2

This is an update to my previous post. If you want to read the details of my personal experience with the call last year, check it out.

A globe brightly covered with the colorful flags of all nations and people that look like paper dolls standing in a circle around the globe holding hands. The 12 people are each a different shade of the rainbow, from red to purple.

Global Connection

However, if you simply want to learn the nitty-gritty of how to attend the call or one of the online events for the United Nation’s International Day of Nonviolence in honor of Gandhi’s birthday, here it is:

In case this was clear before, this is a FREE call. Twenty-four hours of continuous empathy are available to give, receive, or witness. If you would enjoy making a small donation in appreciation of our organizing efforts, we will happily accept, but the point of the call is to make it available to everyone (as someone said to me recently) “as a love offering.” That’s what it is! Free love! It’s priceless. <wink, wink>

Every two hours a different facilitator, or team of facilitators, will be hosting — bringing their own perspectives and experiences to the call. Note: For technical reasons the 24-hour period has been broken up into six (6) four-hour “sessions,” but you can call in (or leave) any time during any “session.”

The call STARTS Monday, Oct. 1 at 6:00 PM EDT

and

ENDS Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6:00 PM EDT.

(If you’re not in the Eastern US, you can find out when the calls are in YOUR time zone using this time zone converter. If you are more visually oriented, here’s a map of the world’s time zones.)

You do need to register in order to get a call-in number and PIN. Find all the details and register here.

Secondly, the online chat is set up! It will go from noon – 2:00 PM US Eastern Daylight Time (9AM – 11AM PDT or 16:00-18:00 GMT). Click here to enter the chat room. Have questions about the chat? Contact me.

Thirdly, someone else has also now scheduled a face-to-face empathy by webcam for October 2, from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM US Eastern Time (October 1 from 10 PM – 12 AM US PDT or 05:00-07:00 GMT). To register for empathy by webcam, enter your name and email address at http://www.PANinA.org/Empathy.

If you know someone who doesn’t have web access who would like to register for the calls, please contact me and I’ll get in touch with them by phone.

P.S. It just so happens that Marlena, my wonderful teacher, will be offering a new series of her classes in October. “Healing Listening, Healing Talk” is the name of her classes in Nonviolent Communication for people with disabilities and chronic illness. If you’d like info about the classes, contact me, and I’ll email it to you.

Hope to “see” you on a call or chat room!

– Sharon and Barnum, SD/SDiT who is sooo eager to work because we have not been doing enough training for his taste!

P.S. Yes, I will return to dog blogging again after this!

UPDATE: A Call Changed My Life: Global Empathy Call Oct 1 & 2

This has been a busy and rather extraordinary week for me, and one which I hope will lead to something enjoyable — maybe even wondrous? — for you.

The Story Begins One Year Ago

Last year at this time I was consumed by grief over Gadget’s and Norm’s deaths as well as by the multiple other losses I’d experienced in close proximity: the loss of feeling safe in my home after a natural disaster; new functional limitations in every aspect of my life caused by Lyme disease; and the loss of several very important friendships. I was in a constant state of pained numbness. I was angry a LOT. Underscoring everything was my unrelenting self-loathing and self-judgments, which I didn’t even realize were there.

When I found out, via a friend who was also studying Nonviolent Communication (NVC), that there was a marathon global empathy call in honor of Gandhi’s birthday (October 2) and the UN International Day of Nonviolence, I was a little dubious. I didn’t get it — what would people DO? Would I have to interact with a bunch of strangers who would not “get” my life, with all its disability-related weirdness, loss, isolation, and complexity?

But the call was free, and I heard from some friends that it was really great, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I could call in and just see what it was like, and if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d just hang up. At first, I just listened. I was amazed at the courageous vulnerability of those seeking empathy and in awe of the skill — combined with a depth of compassion and empathy I’d never witnessed before — of the facilitators and participants who were so interested in supporting other participants, regardless of the topic or the person.

A globe brightly covered with the colorful flags of all nations and people that look like paper dolls standing in a circle around the globe holding hands. The 12 people are each a different shade of the rainbow, from red to purple.

Global Connection

I started calling in as often as I could, and each time I felt a stronger and stronger desire to request empathy, even though I felt very scared and nervous. I felt comfortable with my little knot of NVC students and teacher who also had chronic illnesses and disabilities, but this number of unknown, mysterious strangers on the line, what would they think of me? Maybe they would be as disgusted with me as I was with myself. After all, hadn’t the friends who left my life told me I was a selfish, horrible person, not worthy of attention? (That was what I believed back then; now I know that that is probably not at all what they thought.)

I Finally Spoke Up

Eventually, standing in the stream of empathy flowing around me, I wanted to drink of that water, too. I really felt like I would implode if I didn’t get some empathy. I made a request for time on the call. Having held in my grief for so long — years! — as soon as I started talking, overcome by anxiety and sadness, I just sobbed, all my grief just pouring out of me. It was hard even to talk.

Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of what I or others said. I remember a few words and phrases here and there, and certain names and voices. But mostly, what I was completely astonished to learn — and what I didn’t believe the first times people said it — was how much they were moved by my call, how much it had given to them, that my sharing my pain was a gift. I actually stopped someone to ask her “Why?” Because I couldn’t believe it. It happened to be Mair Alight (one of the organizers of last year’s call and now one of my NVC teachers) who answered me. I don’t remember what she said, but she was clearly speaking the truth. She was not being “nice” and lying or being pitying or patronizing. She was genuinely connecting with me, and that connection was nourishing to her. That shifted something large inside me. I always remembered her name and voice after that.

When I first started speaking (and crying), I was cringing, waiting for the silence of repulsion or the polite words of distance, letting me know that really, it was not appropriate to just sob on the phone to a bunch of people who don’t know you. But I got the opposite. I got love and tenderness. From strangers.

That was also the first time I had a chance for a communal grieving process for Gadget and Norm. I felt held and cared for like I never had been before. To experience such deep compassion from strangers around the world was transformative. I left the call raw and open and exhausted, but also with a sense of a heavy weight on my heart having been lifted just a bit. The wound of unattended grief that had been festering for two years was finally able to begin healing.

Hope

I don’t usually use language like this, but that call for me was a rebirth. It gave me all sorts of hope. Hope that I could have friendships and close connections with other people again. Hope that maybe there was good in me, that I had something to contribute to the world. Hope for things I can’t even define or name.

Several people expressed concern about my needing much more empathy than I was getting in daily life and suggested other free NVC phone classes and practice groups, which I scribbled down on bits of paper. With these leads, I threw myself into every NVC endeavor I was able to. For a while I had several embarrassing interactions where, when I met a new NVC person in a phone practice group, they would tell me they recognized me from the call. But they all seemed to view that as a positive thing, and more than one person told me that my call had been the one that had moved them the most or been one of the most meaningful.

The long-term effects of that call have been amazing — not just that one catharsis, but the connections to other people and groups have made me much more attuned to my and others’ feelings and much more aware of what my underlying needs are and how to fill them. One unexpected result is that I am a much happier person now, more compassionate toward myself and others, and much, much less angry. (Funny side note: I said to Betsy a couple of weeks ago that I realized I very rarely got angry anymore, and that now I was aware that I used to be angry constantly. I said, “Do I seem less angry to you?” And she widened her eyes and said, “Yes!” Nodding her head so emphatically that it was comical.)

I Have Come Full Circle

Ever since the call ended last year, I have been looking forward to this year’s. Last week I emailed Mair to ask her for details on this year’s event. She said it had not been planned; nobody had had the time and energy to take it on. However, she said, if I could help organize it, we could do it together.

I thought about it and decided I couldn’t NOT volunteer because otherwise the call wouldn’t happen, and I wanted it to happen so badly. I thought there would be a few of us organizing it, but nope! It’s just me and Mair, and people were referring to me as the “lead organizer”! How did that happen? I never dreamed I could or would be doing this, but the call is scheduled, facilitators are volunteering, and I very much hope you will join me!

You don’t have to know any NVC to attend and enjoy this event; all human beings are very welcome! (Of course, dogs are welcome to listen in, too.)

And because of my own disabilities and that of many of my friends, I have also added an online, all-text chat to the schedule, which I will be co-hosting. All are welcome to the online chat, just like the calls. You can do both!

Here are the details of the event: This is a free global empathy call that will span 24 hours, facilitated by teachers, practitioners, and enthusiasts of NVC. The intention of this call is to experience community through empathy. You can ask to receive empathy or offer to give empathy or just listen and witness the flow of empathy.

Every two hours a different facilitator, or team of facilitators, will be hosting — bringing their own perspectives and experiences to the call. Note: For technical reasons the 24-hour period has been broken up into six (6) four-hour “sessions,” but you can call in (or leave) any time during any “session.”

The call will START Monday, Oct. 1 at 6:00 PM EDT

and

END Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6:00 PM EDT.

The timeline chosen means that in every part of the world, some of the call will occur on October 2, the United Nations International Day of Nonviolence and Gandhi’s birthday.

(If you’re not in the Eastern US, you can find out when the calls are in YOUR time zone using this time zone converter. If you are more visually oriented, here’s a map of the world’s time zones.)

Click here to register for the call!

Plus the Online Chat!

Of course, given my own intermittent speech disability and the many Deaf and hard of hearing people I’ve had in my life, I am aware that conference calls are not always the most accessible forum for everyone (although I have used relay in NVC classes and practice groups). I know of people who prefer text to spoken communication due to seizure disorders and autism, as well. So, I really wanted to have one “call” be online. I’m excited and nervous because I will be co-hosting, and I don’t yet know who will be my co-host(s), but here is the info:

A two-hour live online empathy chat

on Oct. 2, from 12:00-2:00 PM EDT.

(Again you can find out when the chat is in YOUR time zone using this time zone converter.)

You do not have to have a communication disability to attend the chat! We welcome anyone who would enjoy giving, receiving, or witnessing empathy in an online environment or who is just curious what it’s about. To join the chat, click here or go to http://us7.chatzy.com/76139319355482

Please spread the word about the calls and the chat!

**NEW: Another online option has been added! There will be a face-to-face empathy by webcam on October 1 from 10:00 PM to midnight PDT. To register, enter your name and email address at http://www.PANinA.org/Empathy.

Will You Join Me?

You do need to register for these events — that is how you get the call in number and PIN code for the calls (or the URL for the online events) — but you can drop in whenever you want, or decide not to go at all!

Please note that this is a free call. When it asks you for the amount you’re paying, just put in “0.” If you would like to make a donation up to $24 in appreciation of our work organizing this event, we would certainly appreciate it, but our deepest wish is for the presence and participation of everyone who wants to come!

When I took this project on, it was only with a desire for the event to happen. I knew I’d be using a lot of “spoons” on this that would leave little or no time for other activities, including training Barnum and the bits and pieces of writing and editing I’m trying to do for pay again.

Click here to learn more or register!*

* 1. If using the computer is difficult for you or for a friend who is interested, please contact me, and I will be delighted to register you or them!

* 2. If, for some reason, you have trouble registering (if you don’t get your call-in number and PIN), please contact me.

Getting the Word Out

In all honesty, I am trying everything I can think of to get the word out, and I don’t know if it’s having any effect, so I would appreciate it very, very much if you would post the link to this event on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and share with friends, etc.! Or reblog or retweet this blog post. Or tell someone in your life.

I very much hope this year’s Global Empathy Call will be as rewarding for all involved — hopefully including you — as last year’s was for me.

Love, Sharon (and Barnum, who does not understand the fascination of the black box on the overbed, the clicky thing in the lap, or the wire thing on the head that the sounds come from)

Public Comments to the National Council on Disability

I was asked by Mary Lamielle of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies (NCEHS) to call in with testimony to the National Council on Disability (NCD) during their public comment period today, Thursday, July 26.

What is NCD?

NCD is a small, independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. NCD is comprised of a team of fifteen Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees, an Executive Director appointed by the Chairman, and eleven, full-time professional staff.

In its invitation for public comment, NCD noted:

NCD will accept statements on any topic but is particularly interested in discovering what the public believes should be included in NCD’s 2013 statutorily mandated Progress Report to the President and Congress. Individuals interested in submitting public comments may do so in-person or by phone and should provide their names, organizational affiliations, if any, and limit comments to three minutes. Individuals may also submit public comments in writing to PublicComment@ncd.gov using the subject “Public Comment.”

Mary had previously emailed me to ask me to sign on to the recommendations she was circulating in the disability and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) community for the NCD’s meeting. These recommendations, which I support, are as follows:

1. The NCD should play an active role in organizing and participating in an Interagency Committee on Chemical Sensitivities;
2. The NCD should examine the significant levels of harassment and discrimination experienced by those with chemical and electrical sensitivities in housing, employment, education, healthcare, medical services, and daily life;
3. The NCD should support federal research on chemical and electrical sensitivities;
4. The NCD should adopt the CDC Fragrance-Free Policy;
5. The NCD should adopt a fragrance-free and healthy, accessible meeting policy similar to that of the Access Board; the NCD should also adopt a policy to limit exposure to electrical devices and frequencies at NCD meetings; and
6. The NCD should support the addition of a Board member with expertise on chemical and electrical sensitivities.

Here is what I will be saying in my public comment by telephone later this afternoon:

My name is Sharon Wachsler. I have multiple disabilities, and I’ve found that not all my disabilities are treated equally even within the disability community. I’m generally able to use my service dog, my powerchair, and a sign language interpreter or the relay without any problems. But when it comes to my access needs stemming from multiple chemical sensitivity, there are always problems. Every year I had to fight my CIL to get a fragrance-free nurse for my annual PCA evaluation. There are no hospitals or doctor’s, speech-language pathologist’s, psychotherapist’s, or CIL offices accessible to me.

I have a close friend who is Deafblind and a lifelong wheelchair user. She has told me on many occasions that having MCS is the worst of her disabilities. She has given up trying to work with case managers, assistive tech providers, and other disability organizations because they do not listen or abide by her needs for products and services that won’t make her severely ill and cause her other disabilities to worsen.

When we had an ice storm in Massachusetts in December 2008, and I had no heat, power, water, or phone for a week, I couldn’t be evacuated; there were no MCS-accessible shelters. Two friends who have MCS were also stranded. One of them suffered hypothermia. The other ended up in the hospital which caused such damage to her health that she was in chronic respiratory arrest for two years afterwards.

Just last week a woman with MCS called me about trouble getting workplace accommodations. I referred her to the DOJ ADA hotline. She said she’d already called and been told, “That’s not an ADA issue. It’s a building maintenance issue.” How many other people with MCS have called the hotline and been told that their access needs aren’t real?

I have stories like this for every day of the year. It is for these reasons that I urge you to implement the six recommendations proposed by Mary Lamielle of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies.

We are not separate from you. We are a part of the disability community. Our needs must be heard, respected, and accommodated.

If you would like to support the efforts of the MCS community to have our issues included by NCD, please email your comments to PublicComment@ncd.gov and put “Public Comment” in the subject line. Please also send a copy of your comments to marylamielle@ncehs.org. They’re accepting public comments by phone on Thursday and Friday, but if you can’t get your comment email sent by Friday, just send it when you’re able.

If you’re not sure what to say, you can talk about your experience with MCS or electrical sensitivity or that of friends, family members, colleagues — or me! No matter what you say — even if you say nothing else — you can copy in the six recommendations of NCEHS above and indicate your support of them.

Thank you very much for your support!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (who had chemical sensitivities), and Barnum SD/SDiT (and blessedly healthy so far)

Disability & Occupy: Disability Blog Carnival #79

Disability Blog Carnival badge by Ryn, featuring a black-and-white photograph of a man and a boy. The man is in uniform and holding crutches; he is apparently an amputee; the boy is holding onto one of the crutches as a child might hold an adult's hand; the two are photographed from behind, and we see beyond them a seashore and a suspension.bridge

The Disability Blog Carnival Badge

I’m delighted to be hosting the seventy-ninth Disability Blog Carnival. I chose the theme of Occupy (as in Occupy Wall Street/#ows) for this edition. I have to say that I’m proud of this post. It makes it abundantly clear what we have to teach each other and ourselves, and what we have to learn.

I posed a lot of questions for people to respond to for this carnival. However, the majority of the posts in this edition were written before my call for entries, indicating that Occupy is on the minds of many who blog about disability already.

Black and white picture of a middle-aged white woman with short dirty-blond hair. She is wearing a white, sleeveless shirt and holding up a sign that says, "I have a Master's Degree, Systemic Lupus, Two Kids Entering College in Fall, and Less than $20 to my Name. I am the 99%.

One of the pictures from the Facebook photo album, "Faces of the 99%"

Occupy Activists with Disabilities

I enjoyed a great deal reading posts by people with disabilities who found joy, meaning, liberation, or other empowerment by participating in Occupy activism.

I thought it would be appropriate to start the carnival off with a post by Penny at the Temple University Disability Studies blog — the home of the disability blog carnival! — has a blog post up called Disabled and Proud at Occupy Oakland. It is mostly a short Youtube video of the General Strike called by Occupy Oakland, and it includes people with disabilities who are activists there. Penny has transcribed the portion of the video where the people with disabilities are being interviewed.

Rocking (and Flapping) at a 1000 Revolutions a Minute is definitely one of my favorite posts on disability and Occupy. It is a must read! This incredibly powerful, liberating post by Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone of Cracked Mirror in Shalott includes a captioned video Savannah took of herself at an Occupy DC event, off by herself, rocking, and how doing that contradicts the harmful messages she’s been subject to based on others’ responses to her being an Autistic:

The week before I sat in the park and rocked, feeling my defiance, I spent several nights wishing I didn’t exist. I knew all the things I talk about here intellectually, but that base part of me is still filled with the remembered abuse of my past. The most prevalent are those that were excused at the time as treatment while speaking words describing me as a burden and my being as a barrier.

Denise Romano spoke at the #OccupyWashingtonSquare Park General Assembly, addressing worker’s rights, in which she included the rights of people with disabilities. As someone with an intermittent speech disability, I was excited to read Denise’s opening sentence to the GA where she essentially tells them to ignore her speech disability and then goes on to deliver a comprehensive, kick-ass labor rights teach-in. The text of her speech is up at her blog, Workplace Credible Activist, in the post, Occupy Your Workplace (scroll down to where it says “My name is Denise Romano” to read the speech).

When we demand zero harassment
we must not engage in harassment

When we demand zero discrimination
we must not engage in discrimination

When we demand zero retaliation
we must not engage in retaliation….

Connections and Intersections

In her post, Decolonizing Our Voices, Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone of Cracked Mirror in Shalott describes the parallels she sees between the 99 percent movement and her activism against oppression of Autistics. In fact, she published this post on Autistics Speaking Day, an annual event to counteract the messages of pity and misinformation coming from certain autism organizations (which are run by non-Autistics).

After some thought, I’ve decided that there’s too much of a cross over for me in the work of Decolonizing Wall Street and of our voices as Autistics to not write this post today. While people in general are seeing their demands of their political representatives co-opted or diverted by corporations, Autistics routinely have our voices co-opted by our allies and diverted by large ‘non’-profits such as Autism Speaks.

In her post, Why I write… yes, fibromyalgia and Occupy in the same post, Kathy of The Fibrochondriac admits that blogging just didn’t feel fulfilling for her, didn’t give her a sense of purpose, when she was focused on fibromyalgia information and resources:

Then purpose found me… I started looking for things to talk about with John (domestic partner/husband). And I found a lot of things I didn’t like about how our government worked. Then I started meeting people who are just as concerned as I am. And it felt good to get out and listen to what they had to say. Yeah, Occupy. Again.

Lynette, who blogs at The World As I See It, My Life As It Happens, takes us on a journey of her initial lack of interest in Occupy Halifax to a ripening consciousness of what the movement could become and the role of disabled activists within it. In her post, Occupy your Heart, Occupy Your Mind, Occupy Your World, she begins her discussion of the role and burden of the disabled activist in this way:

But if I stepped back and did not get involved, i could not expect anyone in the occupy movement to represent my interests as a disabled woman. A homeless addict or a third-year college student who has never met a blind person isn’t likely to understand how society should change to include me and others like me. If I don’t make my voice heard, then I can’t expect the movement to recognize my needs.

Deciding Against Occupy

Like Lynette, Brooke at Ruled by Paws started out leaning in one direction and ended up in the other. Whereas Lynette started out skeptical and ended up being drawn in by the movement, Brooke initially thought the movement had appealing ideas, but upon reflecting on what a successful Occupy movement would mean, she has decided she is not in favor of it. In The Occupy Movement, she starts out her ponderings with questions:

I have found myself more and more skeptical of its effectiveness and continue to wonder if the ‘99%’ includes people like myself. If the Movement were successful, would I benefit? Would the world become more accepting and accommodating of people with disabilities? Or would we be pushed aside, and left to fend for ourselves in an even more undemocratic and economically unbalanced society.

Exclusion and Alienation

Even among pro-Occupy activists, the relationship between Occupy and disability rights is not all shiny-happy-people-holding-hands! Some who have participated — or tried to participate and been thwarted — in Occupy activities have met with ableism.

One of the most powerful posts I’ve read about Occupy and disability — and which has been much discussed and ranted about in the disability activist community — details the infuriating, heart-wrenching, and all-to-familiar experience of Big Noise in her post, Who Are My Brothers and Sisters in the Struggle for Justice? So many amazingly appalling things take place, I couldn’t decide what aspect to tease: That the organizers picked a meeting space up three flights of stairs? That they booed the blogger’s allies when they raised access concerns? That they used sexist comments to try to shut up her husband? That try tried to turn things back around on her and give her a sob story? If you are an Occupy activist who is not familiar with disability access issues, you seriously need to read this post!

Noah’s post, Dear Ableist Assholes in Occupy Seattle, gets right to the point in his first two sentences: “I am a wheelchair user who took part in the December 12th West coast Port shutdown. I want to say fuck you to all the people who belittled me and talk down to me while I was out there.” Along with his link for the carnival, Noah provided some interesting information about how the post was received and why it’s at Our American Generation:

This is an open letter I posted in the Occupy Seattle Facebook. It has since been removed from the group page because of the controversy it started. The comments it received were very harsh and offensive to many people. The letter was a response to the way I along with my friends were being treated. The harsh language was used on purpose to show that people with disabilities are not submissive and to question how people view myself.

Anonymous, posting at Occupy at Home (#OAH), urges members of the movement to become aware of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) access, as well as to make the connection between the 99 percent movement, MCS, and corporate interests. To the Other 99%: Dump the Corporate Toxins & Let Us Join You! Anonymous declares:

We see how corporations have been making, marketing, and selling everyday products with cheap, unnecessary, harmful, toxic ingredients derived from fossil fuels, while they claim these pollutants are safe. We see their efforts at blocking legislation to ban toxic ingredients and preventing warnings to consumers to keep their cell phones at least an inch away from their bodies at all times and to keep them off when not in use.

Educating Occupies about Disability and Access Issues

Some bloggers are addressing nondisabled members of the 99 percent in an attempt to raise disability rights consciousness and provide disability access education.

One of my favorite efforts in this area is by Occupy On Wheels: Awareness, Inclusion, Solidarity. OOW is actually a group with a Facebook page, not a blog, but they created an incredibly spiffy video that I’m considering a vlog and posting it here. It is a funny, easy-to-understand, and very engaging 17-minute video about wheelchair access: What makes a location wheelchair accessible or not, why camping out is not powerchair accessible, how to find accessible locations, etc. It is close captioned and narrated. A transcript of the video is here on Facebook or here at the Occupy at Home blog. I’ll edit this post to put in the link to the transcript when it’s ready.

OOW also has many excellent articles, including, “Tips: Is your GA meeting accessible?” “Protest Signs & Alternative Ways to Show Your Solidarity,” and “Mini Occupies: A Day-Time Alternative to Camping Out.”

The reason I’m happy that I’m a day late in publishing this carnival is that it allows me to include this just-posted link on a really crucial issue for the Occupy movement. At Pushing Limits, the blog of the KPFA radio show by the same name, Adrienne Lauby introduces the topic for her next show, Mental Disability Within Occupy. The show airs tomorrow, Friday, and will feature three guests:

Herbert Darren spent a month at the Occupy L.A. encampment. David Parks and Eve are heavily involved in Occupy Santa Rosa. All three live with mental disabilities. All are (or have been) homeless.
The stereotyping of people living with mental disabilities and homeless people during the Occupy encampments could have set our mutual liberation back for decades.  If it doesn’t, it will be due to a radically different story from those who came to the Occupy camps to protest and meet each other face to face.

My entry for this carnival is Corporate Control of People with Disabilities, which I posted at Occupy at Home (#OccupyatHome). I’ve been very pleased with the reception this post has gotten so far; the comments section is like reading a second post on the topic!

If you do not have a disability, it probably does not occur to you that you need permission from someone in authority to take a bus, to read a book, to go to the bathroom, to talk on the phone, to leave your house, to enter a public space. Corporate control over our lives in conjunction with government authority is not a shocking new concept; it is what we are used to. In fact, for some of us, it literally comes down to needing a doctor’s approval to take a shit.

An earlier post of mine, also at Occupy at Home (#OAH), is Occupiers: How Do/Will You Represent Me?

I frequently hear people say, “I, a person at an encampment, represent many people who aren’t here.” I appreciate the recognition that there are many of us who want to be there, but cannot. As someone whose disability causes me to be isolated and invisible to a great extent (partly due to the disabilities, themselves, and partly due to structural/societal ableism), it’s very important to me to be “counted.” For the same reason, I often feel uncomfortable when I hear that someone is representing me. I wonder how much these other occupiers really are representing my interests. Do they know what it’s like to live in a society where they are considered by many to be disposable — where, when someone with a disability is killed by their parent or caretaker, it’s considered justifiable, a mercy killing? Where their lives are viewed as a tragedy or a “human interest story” of inspiration?

Other Posts Pertaining to Disability and Occupy

I’m running out of time, space, and energy, so here are more links, all from Occupy at Home (#oah), which hopefully speak for themselves!

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed links for this blog carnival. Thank YOU for reading this. Please go to the posts, read, be enlightened, and give the bloggers some love in the comments section.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT (currently occupying his crate)

Disability Blog Carnival Call for Submissions: Disability & Occupy!

**UPDATE: Disability Blog Carnival #79 is now up! Lots of great links and blurbs on Occupy/#ows and disability. Please check it out!**

I’m very excited to be hosting the Disability Blog Carnival for December. This will be my first time hosting this carnival, though I have participated in it many times. It is one of my favorites!

Disability Blog Carnival logo by Ryn, featuring a black-and-white photograph of a man and a boy. The man is in uniform and holding crutches; he is apparently an amputee; the boy is holding onto one of the crutches as a child might hold an adult's hand; the two are photographed from behind, and we see beyond them a seashore and a suspension.bridge

Disability Blog Carnival Badge

Since there is so much going on in the world of Occupy and disability, the theme for this edition will be “Occupy.” You’re invited to write a new post based on this call for contributions or to send a link to a post you’ve already published that relates to this theme.

Here are some potential questions to get your mind whirring on this topic. These are just ideas; however, anything you want to write about Occupy that relates to disability is welcome!

  • Are you involved in any way in Occupy? What draws you to the movement or repels/alienates you (or both)?
  • Do your disabilities interfere with your ability to participate?
  • Have you been involved, or attempted to be involved, in Occupy but been thwarted by inaccessibility, ableism, or audism?
  • Do you think Occupy has a place for Deaf people and people with disabilities in general or you in particular?
  • What do you think of media representations of people with disabilities and/or Deaf people in the Occupy movement?
  • Do you think Deaf- or disability-related issues are being addressed by those in Occupy?
  • What disability-related issue or issues do you think (or hope) the Occupy movement could get behind?
  • How do you feel about the term “Occupy”? Do you use “Decolonize,” or another term?
  • How do you feel the movement is doing with issues of intersectionality, such as race, disability, gender, and other members of the marginalized 99 percent? Where do people with disabilities rank among the 99 percent?
  • Have you started or joined a disability-specific Occupy organization or group? Why? What are your goals?
  • Are you a nondisabled Occupy activist or ally dealing with disability or access in some way?

Or anything else relating to the Occupy movement and disability. I’m wide open!

I’m happy to accept vlogs, as well as text blogs, as long as a captioned version and a transcript are also provided. If you want information on how to caption or transcribe your video, please contact me.

It would be great to see some new bloggers join in. The Disability Blog Carnival has a long and groovy history with many thought-provoking, moving, and/or galvanizing editions. I hope those of you who have participated before will do so again, and I hope those who have not taken part will be moved to do so this time.

As always, I encourage — but do not require! — those who submit links to make their blogs as accessible as possible to people with a wide range of disabilities. I just posted yesterday about how to remove Captcha from your blog if you are using “new Blogger.” You can also find links and info on blog accessibility at the bottom of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival homepage.

The deadline for submissions is the night of Monday, December 26, midnight-ish of whatever time zone you’re in some time in the near future. It depends when I get the carnival up, but if you want to submit something and it’s not done yet, please do! You can also please contact me to let me know what you’re working on and when you think it might be done.

To submit your link, please comment on this post and include the following:

  • Your name (as you want it to appear)
  • Your blog’s name
  • The title of your post
  • The link (URL) for your post

I hope to post the carnival on Wednesday, December 28.

I look forward to reading your posts! Please spread the word!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

Waspish Wednesday: New Wrinkle on Captcha Problem

Howdy.

I have posted before about how Captcha interferes with internet access. It seems like almost daily I hear from a friend that she can’t access a website, a forum, or other resource because of Captcha, also known as word verification or image verification. It is a scourge on the landscape! It is an access-blocking nightmare! And it seems to be spreading everywhere you turn.

An example of some Captchas -- making the internet inaccessible to many people! Grr.

It has come to my attention that Blogger has made it harder (but not impossible!) to disengage this “feature” in the comments section of blogs. I discovered this when I went around to the various blogs that participated in the huge and amazing PFAM blog carnival I just hosted at my other blog, Bed, Body & Beyond to thank the bloggers in their comments. Almost everyone who used Blogger had Captcha. I was feeling quite frustrated.

Then I found out from a couple of them that there is a new Blogger and that with new Blogger, you cannot disengage word verification! They had tried but didn’t know what to do next. Augh! In particular, Kelly at Fly with Hope, was gracious and tenacious at informing me of the situation and running down and fixing this problem. Thank you, Kelly!

I tweeted my friends for information on any workarounds, and L-Squared of Dog’s Eye View informed me that there is a way for bloggers to deal with this:

They can report it using the Send Feedback option in the Nav bar & for now they can switch back to “old Blogger” to disable it.

No, it is not an ideal solution, but for those who are willing and able to jump through these hoops, we salute you for helping to make the internet a slightly more accessible place!

Please, website designers and software developers, do not be seduced by the popularity of Captcha. It hurts people. It really does. There is a better way, I promise you.

I am completely exhausted. I’m going to tick check the dog and myself, eat, and go back to sleep.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

P.S. Barnum is actually starting to be useful on random occasions. Today, one of my slippers was not nearby, and I asked him to retrieve it, and he did it perfectly! Woohoo!


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