The art of disability culture: Dispelling myths, dissolving barriers, and disrupting prejudice

BY TERRY BAUM: For Complete Post, click here…

The title of the current exhibit at the Palo Alto Art Center speaks of “disrupting prejudices,” and I’ll tell you my prejudices were not just disrupted but blown to pieces right away when I saw the portraits above painted by Bill Bruckner. I mean, I expected to be moved, to feel good that I had gone out of my way to support people less fortunate than me. I did not expect to see ART with a capital “A.” I mean just plain old interesting beautiful art. I did not expect the quality of the work.

And then this statement from Bruckner’s website really fried my brain circuits:

  • “As a person with a lifelong visible disability, I have been acutely aware of the patronizing, objectifying ways in which we are often depicted in the arts. Over the past 25 years, I have been creating a series of portraits of my friends who have disabilities. Because I believe that our lives are neither pitiable nor inspiring, my intent has been to convey images of our ordinary dignity, humanity, and self-respect. I hope you will feel that the people in these portraits are gazing at you with as much curiosity and interest as you may have about them.”

“Neither pitiable nor inspiring….” Damn! Bruckner’s making me face that even being inspired by people with disabilities is a way of seeing them as “other.” He refuses to be used as an inspiration! I don’t know if I can handle that, even though I can see that it is a kind of use.

When we entered the gallery, the first thing we encountered was not Bruckner’s work but this:

Treatments for Focal Seizures

By Nyaka Mwanza: For Complete Post, click here…

Key Take Aways:

  • Focal seizures begin in one hemisphere (side) of the brain.
  • Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are the first line of treatment for focal seizures.
  • Second-line treatments for focal seizures include surgery, devices, and dietary therapy.
  • Many options for treating focal seizures exist, but no single treatment is effective at controlling focal seizures in every person.

Google’s ‘Look to Speak’ accessibility app now works in 17 more languages

To help even more people take advantage of their Android phones, Google has added a further 17 languages to the “Look to Speak” accessibility app.

Google has really expanded and improved the volume of services offering enhanced control schemes and accessibility for those with disabilities and motor impairments. Look to Speak is an app that allows you to control your smartphone with just your eyes – by looking at predetermined and prewritten phrases, which your smartphone will then read aloud.

As spotted by Android Police, the Look to Speak app has recently gained an update to add a further 17 languages to its database after launching in just English. The app is part of the Google Experiments development wing, which often sees wild and wonderful applications and services crop up. Look to Speak offers yet another impressive control scheme for those not able to access their phone in a “traditional” manner.

Supreme Court seems divided over Puerto Rico’s exclusion from federal benefits

By Nicole Acevedo: For Complete Post, click here…

The Supreme Court heard arguments on a potential landmark case Tuesday looking into whether it’s constitutional to deny federal benefits to aging and disabled U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico, even though they can access them if they live on the mainland.

The justices seemed divided on the issue as they questioned Deputy Solicitor General Curtis Gannon as he argued on behalf of the Department of Justice in favor of excluding Puerto Rican residents from Supplemental Security Income benefits.

These benefits, also known as SSI, are meant to help disabled, older and blind people who struggle financially. They are available to U.S. citizens living in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands but not for those who live in the other U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.

CVS’s abrupt dismissal of SCOTUS case was surprise to opposing counsel

By Alison Frankel: For Complete Post, click here…

Public interest lawyer Gerald Flanagan of Consumer Watchdog was deep in preparations for his first-ever U.S. Supreme Court argument when he saw what he called a “strangely worded” press release issued Wednesday by CVS Pharmacy Inc, Flanagan’s opponent in a case scheduled to be argued on Dec. 7.

The press release touted CVS’s partnership with disability rights groups to assure equal access to healthcare. That’s the issue in Flanagan’s case, in which several John Doe plaintiffs with HIV challenged a CVS policy that required them to receive their medication only by mail, not in person at store pharmacies. CVS’s argument at the Supreme Court has been that the ACA and a 1973 predecessor bar only intentionally discriminatory policies, not those that have a disparate impact on disabled people.

The press release didn’t exactly renounce that argument, but it dropped a bomb in its second paragraph: CVS said it was dropping the Supreme Court case.

That was news to Flanagan and his co-counsel from Whatley Kallas and Public Citizen. “We got no heads up before the press release,” Flanagan said. In fact, he said, the first official word he received about the demise of the case was an email early Thursday morning from CVS counsel Lisa Blatt of Williams & Connolly.

“There is a selfish disappointment,” Flanagan told me Friday. “But that’s irrational. We won unanimously at the 9th [U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals]. I’m relieved that our clients are not at risk of losing at the Supreme Court.”

So why did CVS ditch the case just weeks before oral argument? CVS counsel Blatt declined to comment. CVS spokespeople provided an email statement that’s short on specifics: “We’ve agreed to pursue policy solutions in collaboration with the disability community to help protect access to affordable health plan programs that apply equally to all members,” the statement said.

Parent/Child Programs Need to Be Accessible to Parents With Disabilities

By Kris McElroy: For Complete Post, click here…

I was excited as a new dad to enroll my daughter in the early toddler parent/child classes for the fall. I had experience with her newfound toddler activity level; had my anxiety, communication, and sensory overload strategies; and my plan to manage my fatigue, energy, and physical adaptations. In my head, it worked. My daughter is social, a climber, jumper, and at that time was starting to run. So, my partner and I thought the class would be a great fit especially since the description had running, balls, parachute, and music in it. My excitement was through the roof. Then in the middle of the first class, my heart sank.

As much as I thought I was prepared, I found there were activities in the class that my daughter could do but I physically could not engage in due to my physical disability and the way the activity was designed. During those moments in the class, my partner tapped in, and I watched from the sidelines. I felt defeated, excluded, and incapable as a new dad. Yet, at the same time, I felt ecstatic, proud, and joyous as I watched my daughter fully engage and have fun during the program.

After the first class, the experiences brought up the question of how we advocate for accommodations as a parent in a parent/child class for children without disabilities. Even though we had many conversations about many different topics, especially parenting and raising a child in a family with multiple dynamics of difference and disability before and after our daughter was born and we brought her home, it didn’t necessarily translate to real-time experiences such as this one. The program has a section offered to children with disabilities that provides more adaptations, but our daughter isn’t eligible for that. The paperwork required before the class all pertained to my daughter, so all the accessibility/accommodation questions regarding physical, emotional, psychological disability did not pertain to her for this class. However, they pertained to me as her parent. But there was no guidance for that. So, we naively went into the class with the assumption that I would just adapt on the spot as I do with a lot of things in our lives. But this was my first time in a parent/child class as a parent with a disability of a child without a disability and my strategies didn’t transfer as they do in other settings.

How the Pandemic Helped Spread Fentanyl Across the US and Drive Opioid Overdose Deaths to a Grim New High

By Andrew Kolodny: For Complete Post, click here…

The number of fatal drug overdoses in the US over a 12-month period has surpassed 100,000 for the first time. Fentanyl is the main driver of the spike in deaths.

For the past 20 years, I have been engaged in efforts to end the opioid epidemic, as a public health official, researcher and clinician. And for every one of those years I have looked on as the number of deaths from drug overdoses has set a new record high.

Yet even knowing that trend I was surprised by the latest tally from the CDC showing that for the first time ever, the number of Americans who fatally overdosed over the course of a year surpassed 100,000. In a 12-month period ending at the end of April 2021, some 100,306 died in the U.S., up 28.5% over the same period a year earlier.

The soaring death toll has been fueled by a much more dangerous black market opioid supply. Illicitly synthesized fentanyl – a potent and inexpensive opioid that has driven the rise in overdoses since it emerged in 2014 – is increasingly replacing heroin. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs were responsible for almost two-thirds of the overdose deaths recorded in the 12 months period ending in April 2021.

It is especially tragic that these deaths are mainly occurring in people with a disease – opioid addiction – that is both preventable and treatable. Most heroin users want to avoid fentanyl. But increasingly, the heroin they seek is mixed with fentanyl or what they purchase is just fentanyl without any heroin in the mix.

While the spread of fentanyl is the primary cause of the spike in overdose deaths, the coronavirus pandemic also made the crisis worse.

The geographical distribution of opioid deaths makes it clear that there has been a change during the pandemic months.

Before the COVID-19 health crisis, the skyrocketing increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in America was mainly affecting the eastern half of the U.S., and hit especially hard in urban areas like Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. A possible reason behind this was that in the eastern half of the U.S., heroin has mainly been available in powder form rather than the black tar heroin more common in the West. It is easier to mix fentanyl with powdered heroin.

COVID-19 resulted in less cross-national traffic, which made it harder to smuggle illegal drugs across borders. Border restrictions make it harder to move bulkier drugs, resulting in smugglers’ increased reliance on fentanyl – which is more potent and easier to transport in small quantities and as pills, making it easier to traffic by mail. This may have helped fentanyl spread to areas that escaped the earlier surge in fentanyl deaths.

Assisted dying laws could expand to include children, prisoners or those who are lonely or depressed

By Ben Borland: For Complete Post, click here…

Opponents of assisted suicide are stepping up their campaign to defeat proposed legislation which is set to go before the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs have been invited to “webinar” this week featuring medical experts from Holland and Canada, where assisted suicide is legal, as well as a disabled academic who will speak against the planned Bill.

The event has been organised by Care Not Killing (CNK) Scotland and Not Dead Yet UK, the two groups spearheading opposition to Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur‘s Bill.

Theo Boer, Professor of Health Care Ethics at Groningen University, will tell MSPs that 4.5 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands are now preceded by assisted dying, rising to 15 per cent in some regions.

He is expected to say: “Once assisted dying is legal, the Dutch and other experiences show that new groups of patients will request justice – and equal treatment:

“Why only terminally ill patients, and not people with a longer life expectancy?

“Why only physically ill patients, whereas people with psychiatric illnesses may suffer much harder?

“Why only competent adults and not people with advance directives (dementia patients)?

“Why only people whose suffering is caused by a medical illness, rather than anyone who suffers hopelessly?

“All five expansions have indeed occurred in the Netherlands. The Dutch example testifies that once assisted dying is legal, this changes our views of dying, suffering, vulnerability, and care dependence, similar to the way flying has changed tourism, friendships, politics, and the economy.”

A peer-run center in North Carolina offers alternative for psychiatric care

By Maura Barrett and PJ Tobia: For Complete Post, click here…

After Becky Bagley made plans to take her own life, involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility meant she submitted to a strip search before she spent days staring down white walls, isolated, feeling like a liability. 

She’s now on the peer support staff at the Retreat @ the Plaza, a peer-run respite in North Carolina designed to be an alternative to hospitalization for those experiencing mental health distress.  

The house-like setting is starkly different from the hospital. Water features and greenery adorn the outdoor patios, while guests can gather in the open kitchen or the sitting area filled with plush couches and chairs and inspirational prints hanging on the walls. The doors stay unlocked, and guests may come and go as they please.

In this space, Bagley is treated as an expert because of her experience of struggle, rather than a liability.  

“Here, you immediately come in and everything feels so intentional: the light, the sounds, the love,” Bagley said recently in an interview at the respite. “When they listen, they listen to understand. We’re not trying to diagnose or label you — it’s up to you. It’s empowering. I just know this place is exactly what I needed at that time.”  

Public Meeting Regarding Onboard Wheelchair on Single-Aisle Aircraft

Online Event from Phil Bratta: For Complete Post, click here…

Dec 16, 2021 09:30 AM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Webinar Registration

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Access Board will hold a virtual public meeting on December 16 to collect information on wheelchairs that are specifically designed for use on aircraft during flights. The agencies will use this information to finalize performance standards and advisory guidelines for aircraft onboard wheelchairs.Attendance to the meeting requires registration by December 9, 2021. Requests to submit written materials to be reviewed at the meeting or to provide oral testimony at the meeting must also be sent via email to OBWpublicmeeting@dot.gov by December 9, 2021. Communication access real-time translation and sign language interpretation will be provided, but requests for additional accommodations because of a disability must be submitted to OBWpublicmeeting@dot.gov by December 9, 2021.