Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Speechless: A Season to Remember

A week ago today, the season finale of ABC's Speechless aired.

Speechless, a relatively new sitcom, is about JJ DeMao and his family. JJ DeMao, played by Micah Fowler, is a teenage boy who has Cerebral Palsy. Speechless is a light-hearted show, that not only portrays life with a disability, but life as a part of a quirky family.

Speechless is a revolutionary show for multiple reasons.

Micah Fowler, the actor who plays JJ, actually has Cerebral Palsy. It is extremely uncommon for Hollywood to cast a role of a disabled character let alone let a person with a disability fill that role.

JJ DeMao is not a prop in the background, he is not that token disabled supporting character; JJ is the main character. More often than not, Hollywood does not cast a disabled character as a main role. However, Speechless is different; this show is built around JJ's life.

That is another thing, in Speechless, JJ is just living his life. He is not planning his death, he is not being portrayed as just surviving or as dying; HE IS LIVING! When Hollywood does write a part of a main character who is disabled, that character is often too sick or disabled to enjoy life, and the show typically ends with the death of that character.

JJ is not a burden, nor is he one to be pitied. He is a person who is loved dearly by his crazy family. He is a DeMao, and that is just as important -- or possibly even more important -- to his character, than him having Cerebral Palsy.

Speechless portrays JJ's life well; this show reveals what life is like with a disability, but at the same time does not obsessively focus on the disability. It is refreshing to see disability portrayed as just one aspect of a person's life, not as their sole definition of life. JJ is a person, not his disability, and Speechless expresses this well.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Comfort v. Ease: The Wheel of Two Chairs

I have two wheelchairs: one manual, one power. A manual wheelchair is operated via one's own power or the power of another, while a power wheelchair can be electronically operated via a pair of batteries and a joystick.

My manual chair -- which I paid for out of pocket -- is exactly what I wanted. It fits me well; it is comfortable and fashionable. I feel good in my manual chair, not just physically, but psychologically as well. However, there is one catch, I am not physically able to independently propel my chair in order to get from point A to point B.

On the other hand, my power chair solves this; when using my power chair, I have the ability to freely move from point A to point B with the flick of  joystick. Unfortunately, my power chair -- which was purchased through my insurance -- is too big for me; the seat swallows me; there is not enough support and I slide all around. This is uncomfortable, and within a half an hour of sitting in my power chair, I am in pain. I need to use my chair ALL day; it is my access to mobility, but it is not enjoyable to be in pain all day.

This dilemma has forced me to choose comfort over ease.  Either way, I have mobility, but it would be more beneficial to me if my power chair fit me comfortably, on top of giving me my independence and freedom.

I have had this power chair for a little less than a year, and with the insurance under which I am covered, I can get a new power chair every five years. So, here's to figuring out how to be comfortable and independently mobil. I am pretty sure four years will give us enough time to figure that out... However, getting a new power chair does not guarantee that it will be a comfortable fit. And, by that point, who knows what insurance will be like, and if I will even be able to get another power chair (but that is a topic for another time).  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Innovative Designs: Bodypoint Calf Strap

Thank you Bodypoint for this innovated calf strap. 

If you want to learn more about Bodypoint
call: 800-547-5716 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Inspiration Me Not: The Oppressive Cycle

Last Thursday, I was delivering documents to the Social Security office. This random guy struck up a conversation with me. During the conversation, he informed me that he was proud of me and that I must be strong as he would not be able to handle having a disability.

There is no reason for this guy to be proud of me as he does not know me; this guy does not know any of my accomplishments (or if I even have any), nor what my day to day life is really like. I simply was an inspiration to him due to my disability.

The ironic factor of this conversation was our location. There are no inspirational terms connected with going to Social Security. In my mind, I am at the place that represents the lowest part of my being; there is no pride in collecting Social Security at age 24. The simple fact that he finds me inspiring because I have a physical disability is demeaning.

This situation paints the perfect picture of how society views people with disabilities. All this guy knows about me is that I use a wheelchair and I collect Social Security - how is this inspirational?

There should be a reason to be proud of someone. And even though it is well-intentioned, it is still demeaning when an "inspirational term" is cast upon a person for no reason at all. I want people to talk to me as a human being, not an inspiration and then give credit when credit is due. Empowerment does not come from false success.

The high standard of success is lost when a person with a disability is considered inspirational for just having a disability. This treatment of people with disabilities perpetuates the view that a person with a disability cannot be a viable member of society as there is no expectation.

Disabled people are stuck in an oppressive cycle. If there are low expectations, then there is no need for access. If there is no need for access, then there is no way for a disabled person to be successful and if there is no way to be successful, there is no success to raise the bar of expectation; thus society's standards are kept low.

This situation exposes the social stigma that those of us with disabilities are not capable of accomplishing anything more than just being alive. Because of this low expectation, society does not see a need to provide access for any higher accomplishment.

Until society stops viewing the disabled as "inspirations" (for simply being disabled) rather than their accomplishments, people with disabilities will continue to be stuck in an oppressive cycle.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Pageant for Advocates: Ms. Wheelchair Washington 2017

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity of running for Ms. Wheelchair Washington 2017! I truly enjoyed the ability to share my platform on an equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Ms. Wheelchair is an organization that promotes disability advocacy.  Women have the opportunity to run for the state title, and if they win, they can go on to compete for Ms. Wheelchair America, all while advocating for disability rights through their platform. 

At the pageant, I also saw and met so many amazing people! Ms. Wheelchair is an awesome way to make contacts and just meet some pretty sweet people! Thank you to everyone that made this opportunity possible, and thank you to everyone who was cheering me on! I so, so appreciate it!
Here is my speech and my answers to the two random questions I was asked! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Education is the Key to Success: Employment -- Part I

People with disabilities make up the largest minority in the United States as well as in the entire world. Anyone, at anytime, can become a part of the disability minority. However, people with disabilities are underrepresented and often unheard. Even though the way people with disabilities are perceived and treated has greatly improved throughout the past forty years, ableism still has a strong presence here in the United States; the best way to eliminate this poor treatment of people with disabilities is to eliminate ignorance through education.
One major area that still is a barrier to people with disabilities is acquiring a job. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, only 17.1 percent of people with disabilities were employed, while 64.6 percent of people without a disability had a job. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 12.5 percent; this contrasts with the unemployment rate for people without a disability which was only 5.9 percent. These statistics are drastically unacceptable and have not changed much over the years.

One of the things continuing to hold back the disabled community is the employer. An employer is not going to hire someone if they, the employer, believe the potential employee is going to be a liability or an extra expense. Many buildings are still not fully accessible or equipped with necessary adaptive equipment, making it potentially more expensive to hire someone with a disability than a person who is not disabled. If a person needs an accommodation to be successful at their job (i.e. a ramp to enter the building, an adaptive phone or computer), an employer is likely to look at this as an extra expense; businesses do not like extra expenses (who does?).
This is where education comes into play. Having the knowledge of what equipment and resources exist is important; having the connections to acquire accommodations without having to pay for them out of pocket is pertinent to the success of the disabled community. If a person with a disability is qualified, they should not be penalized for needing an accommodation to fulfill a job; no one should be denied employment that they can do simply due to ignorance or a lack of modifications. A person with a disability who is qualified for a job should have just as much of a chance of getting hired as anyone else applying for that same job. Accommodations should not subtract from a resume. 
Ableism and ignorance still have an unnerving amount of influence in the treatment of people with disabilities. With education in the workforce, we can begin to erase the misconceptions and poor treatment of people with disabilities. Society needs to know that people with disabilities are people, and should be treated as so. Hopefully one day the statistics will reflect the abilities of the "disabled" community.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Functional and Flattering: Jeans by Endless Ability

I ordered my first piece of adaptive clothing, and I am so glad that I did! I bought a pair of jeans from Endless Ability, and boy am I obsessed!

Endless Ability, an adaptive clothing company, was created by Chelsie Hill; she embraced her biggest insecurity -- her legs -- and started Endless Ability to supply people who use wheelchairs with an alternative to conventional jeans. And let me tell you, these jeans are amazing!

I have never found a pair of jeans that have fit me so well. First off, the legs are not loose around my stick-like legs; they are tight as skinny jeans should be. And unlike any other pair of skinny jeans I have owned, they are also super easy to pull up. The best part about these jeans is once they are pulled up, they stay up! I have always had an issue with pants slipping down when I slide back in my chair or transfer. I also love how the jeans were made with elastic-like material, which eases the putting on process without loosing the stylish, sleek look of the pant. The pockets are also situated higher than on a typical pair of jeans so that the wearer no longer has to sit on them (which can be uncomfortable/cause skin issues) and can actually use them. These jeans are so functional and comfortable, but yet still flattering and super cute.

I love my new jeans; they are my favorite pair of pants. Thank you, Chelsie Hill, for embracing your insecurity for the better by starting Endless Ability and inventing these fabulous jeans! I will for sure be investing in another pair in the future!

Kyann sitting in her manual chair wearing her jeans from Endless Ability