Store doors.

When Doors Are Closed to Me as a Person With a Physical Disability

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I’ve recently had my first experience being on crutches, after knee surgery. Other surgeries were wrists; past lower body injuries always got me a glamorous Velcro boot.

I’ve only had rheumatoid arthritis for four (extremely long) years, and I know that the possibility of another surgery, injury, and/or disability is pretty good. Sure, that sucks. But you know what sucks more?

The world is not accommodating for people with disabilities at all. I know, I know. Newsflash, right? No.

The week after my surgery, I got sick and decided to run up to Patient First — translation: hobble to my mom’s car and have her drive me. When we arrived, I got up on my crutches and got to the doors. They were regular, pull handle doors. Two sets of them. No automatic door button, no option for me to open them on my own and not risk injuring my recovering knee.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, Patient First is an urgent care clinic where people go when they are sick. When they have injured their leg playing soccer, or hurt themselves on the job. And the doors aren’t accessible to people without two working legs and arms. Totally makes sense.

After that experience, I started noticing the doors at every single place I went to. 7-11? No Slurpee for you, young man using a cane. Old Navy? Nope. You didn’t think people with a disability should be able to shop for their own clothes, did you? Physical therapy? Nope — so angry about that one.

If I’m understanding things correctly, those of us with a disability, whether permanent or temporary, should only be able to visit the pharmacy and the hospital. That’s all we need, right?

Wrong.

If you’re a business owner, listen up. I don’t claim to know the first thing about the expense of disability-accessible doors. I’m sure there are building code and security issues as well. But what I do know is that everyone has a right to go to any business they like and be able to get in the door.

So what can you do?

  • Install a doorbell. A simple button that someone at wheelchair height can utilize to alert someone inside that he/she needs assistance. Go visit a gas station pump; you’ll see one there.
  • Utilize your greeter. So many businesses have someone standing or sitting at the front door to greet customers. Train them! Empower them to look for those in need and be ready to assist.

As a fiercely independent person, dealing with crutches and inaccessibility was very upsetting. For me, there was an end in sight, but plenty of others are going to be using crutches, canes, or wheelchairs forever. Please don’t lock us out.

Follow this journey on And Then You’re At Jax.

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How Online Movements Like 'Cripple Punk' Empower People With Disabilities

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I am a huge fan of the Internet, and have written about all it has done for people with disabilities. It’s helped us find each other and not feel so alone. By bridging the gaps in education, communication, and more, it has moved our society forward towards equality for people with disabilities.

The Internet is always ready to rally in the face of inequality. Some people are quick to say that tweets or Facebook posts using a hashtag don’t really do anything — they say nothing changes in the world because you tweet a hashtag 12 times. But I disagree; I think using a hashtag shows support to a community, to the families of those affected by what’s happening in the world. And that is not nothing.

I’ve been blogging and writing online for about six years now. I admit, I’ve only begun taking it seriously within the last year or two. I’ve used a few different platforms, trying to find the best place for me and my content. I’ve recently moved my blog back to Tumblr and found endless tags related to having a disability, including:

While these are all important, I found something really cool when I started seeing the tags “CPunk” and “Cripple Punk.” I didn’t know what the tags meant at first, but under them I found a wealth of blogs and content I wished I had found sooner. Tumblr doesn’t have a definition for their tags, so I did a Google search. Cripple Punk as explained on Urban Dictionary is:

Cripple Punk: also known as cpunk. A movement that is exclusively by the physically disabled for the physically disabled, started on tumblr. It’s about rejecting pity, inspiration porn, & all other forms of ableism. It rejects the “good cripple” mythos. Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t “tried everything.” Cripple Punk fights internalized ableism and fully supports those struggling with it. It respects intersections of race, culture, gender, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness/neurotypical status, survivor status, etc. Cripple Punk does not pander to the able-bodied. Rules:

  • Cripple punk is not conditional on things like mobility aids and “functioning levels.”
  • Always listen to those with different physical disabilities and different intersections than yourself. Do not speak over them.
  • Disabled people do not need to personally identify with the words “cripple” or “punk” individually to be a part of cripple punk.
  • Able-bodied people wishing to spread the message may only ever amplify the voices of the disabled.
  • Able-bodied people may never use uncensored slurs themselves and never censor our language.
  • Able-bodied people must always tag things like reblogs with “I’m able-bodied.”
  • Physically disabled people wanting to be a part of the movement who are uncomfortable using the slur may refer to it as “cpunk.”

I know not everyone will agree with this movement. But I think it is amazing. You don’t have to agree with everything a hashtag or an Internet movement brings forth, but as a means of finding something or someone you can relate to, I think it is wonderful.

What hashtags or Internet movements do you support?

This story was originally published on Cerebral Palsy News Today.

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Dubai's Sanad Card Offers Support Services to People With Disabilities

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Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, is giving out support cards to those living with a disability. The Sanad Card (Arabic for “to support”) is similar to the U.S.’s disability parking placards, but comes with other services meant to benefit people with disabilities.

According to Gulf News, cardholders are entitled to free parking permits; free public transportation; free entry to the city’s parks and sports clubs; free entry to conferences, clubs, and sporting events; discounts on medical, legal and dental services, as well as discounts on government-issued fees and services.

The city hopes to be disability-friendly by 2020. Currently over 1,000 people, out of an estimated 12,000 disabled people in Dubai, have registered for the card since its release in 2015.

“People should apply for the Sanad Card so the Community Development Authority (CDA) can build a database for people with disability. The database provides decision-makers in the CDA with detailed information about the people with disabilities and their needs, which will allow the authority to develop programs and services that match their needs in the emirate of Dubai,” Huraiz Al Mur Bin Huraiz, CEO of the social care and development sector of Dubai’s Community Development Authority, told Gulf News.

People can apply for the card online, in person or through the mail. Both the card and the application process are free to disabled residents of Dubai.

We want to know, what do you think? Would you want to see a service like this in a city near you?

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Olga Starr Highlights Accomplishments of Kids With Disabilities in New Photo Series

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We’ve all seen the bumper stickers, “Proud parent of an honor roll student.” But your child doesn’t have to be a straight-A student for their achievements to be deemed exceptional. That is the point photographer Olga Starr wants to make with her new photo series – “Small Steps, Giant Leaps” – which highlights the accomplishments of young people with disabilities.

“As a mom of both ‘special-needs’ and ‘typical’ children, I have struggled with definitions of success,” Starr told The Mighty. “I have been learning, instead of defining it in relation to arbitrary milestones or in comparison to others, to redefine success as something that is relative to where you start, what you persevere through and what you overcome.”

Photograph of young boy, Lucas

This way of thinking is easier said than done, Starr said, noting the achievement-oriented culture many parents raise their children in. To help parents highlight the strides their children have made, Starr is capturing each moment on film. So far, she’s photographed over 10 children, some with rare conditions like Rett syndrome, others who are on the autism spectrum, as well as children facing cancer. Accomplishments range from walking up the porch steps to completing puzzles to participating in gymnastics.

Photograph of Kayleigh doing a handstand

Starr’s first portraits were of Abby, the 14-year-old daughter of a close friend. Starr was inspired by Abby, who has Rett syndrome, after seeing a video on social media of Abby walking to her school bus and up the bus steps on her own. “This was such a source of joy and pride for Abby’s family, and it was up there on social media among the honor roll letters, college acceptances, and travel soccer trophies,” Starr said. “I wanted to spread the message that kids and young adults with disabilities and special challenges deserve to be recognized and honored for achieving their goals – goals that seem like small steps for those without special needs, but for these children are actually giant leaps.”

Photograph of Abby

Now, Starr, who works in the New York City and New Jersey areas, wants to expand the project to include more families and milestones. She is also looking to feature more children with invisible illnesses. “When a child’s special needs are invisible, it is all the more difficult for others to see how that child’s small steps might actually be giant leaps in the face of his or her challenges,” she said.

Photograph of a boy, Jack, holding up a drawing

“I would love for everyone to know that people with disabilities have goals and are driven to achieve, just like everyone else,” Starr told The Mighty. “Their goals may be different, but the achievement of those goals is worthy of acknowledging and celebrating. We can all support parents of children with special needs by recognizing that their children are working hard in the face of many obstacles to achieve their own particular goals.”

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Matilda Jane Clothing Features Disabled Models for Its Back-to-School Clothing Line

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Back-to-school has never looked more fashionable thanks to Matilda Jane Clothing’s fall fashion photoshoot. Since 2014, Matilda Jane Clothing, a retailer for young girls, has been committed to featuring its clothes on models with disabilities.

“We have worked with a variety of beautiful models, and we include at least one model with a disability in each of our monthly photo shoots,” Kate Virag, senior marketing manager, said. “Working with models with disabilities has been a wonderful experience for our team and for the other models at each photo shoot”

Young girl sitting at table, modeling for Matilda Jane Clothing

Matilda Jane Clothing works differently than other clothing companies, offering products exclusively through trunk shows. The company releases a fall and spring fashion line each year. Since its 2014 partnership with Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting inclusion in advertising, the company has featured disabled models in every photoshoot.

Matilda Jane models, group of three girls, one is differently abled

According to Virag, the response to their inclusive advertising has been overwhelmingly positive. “We have heard from new customers who found Matilda Jane through our partnership with Changing the Face of Beauty and who prefer to shop with inclusive companies,” she said.

Young girl modeling a Matilda Jane dress

Matilda Jane Clothing’s commitment to inclusion proves hiring diverse models of all abilities is a sound business decision. “People want to be seen and feel represented by brands that they support,” Kathryn Driscoll, founder of Changing the Face of Beauty, told The Mighty. “Inclusion matters and is a good business decision for all the brands we work and partner with. People with disabilities can sell products and they sell products very well.”

Older girl modeling Matilda Jane outfit

“The support, love and positivity around this campaign is amazing,” Virag said. “We truly want all girls to feel beautiful and confident. That is the concept Matilda Jane was founded on, and it covers all girls of all abilities.”

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Why I Tell People What's 'Wrong' With Me

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I wrote a piece a few days about how I was going to put a “If you have any questions about why I’m using my disability parking permit, call my doctor,” card next to my permit, after being confronted by a woman who thought I wasn’t “disabled enough” to use it. While the response has been overwhelmingly positive, one comment stands out.

While I won’t type it out word for word, the crux of it was, “You shouldn’t use disabled parking, you should save it for those in wheelchairs.”

I politely pointed out that as I have family members who use wheelchairs, I understand the hassles they face, and I also pointed out that my family members in wheelchairs, once out of the car, are more capable of traveling distances than I am.

It was met with, “I don’t understand why some need to find the need to say, “Look, this is what’s wrong with me.”

I was thinking about it while I was driving to work. Specifically, when I went the long way rather than have to go over a speed hump that sets of my pelvic and back pain no matter how slowly I go over it.

I thought of it again as I smiled and told everyone I was “Great, thank you!” when they asked how I was, even though the truth was, “I’m not really sure I’m going to last another hour here, and I currently have a 7-centimeter tumor in my remaining ovary five months after I finished chemo for ovarian cancer!” (Whoops, there I go again, feeling the need to tell people what’s wrong with me!)

I thought of it again while I was planning out my day to ensure I can leave 45 minutes early for my afternoon shift so I can get non-disabled street parking close to my workplace, rather than have to take up the one and only disabled parking space.

And I have my answer.

I tell people what’s wrong with me because many simply refuse to accept that I have health issues unless I spell it out for them. I tell people because I’m passionate about raising awareness for invisible illnesses, because I hope one day we can speak openly about our illnesses without someone asking us why we feel the need to draw attention to ourselves like we’re some kind of attention seeker.

I tell people because hopefully it will give them an “Oh poop” moment, and make them realize that they have judged me before they have all the information. I tell people because I am now old enough and strong enough to talk about my illnesses without accepting the attached stigma, shame or feelings of inadequacy because I know for a fact there are people out there who have not yet found their voice.

I tell people about my illnesses because even in a community for disabled and chronically ill people and those that support them, someone questioned the legitimacy and severity of my disability.

Now. If you’ll excuse me, my myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia, chronic asthma, chronic migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, severe endometriosis, ovarian cancer and I are going to go have a nap so I have the luxury of choosing not to use the disabled parking spot this afternoon.

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