Friday, May 28, 2010

Should Hidden Disabilities Be On Your ID?

(Photo Credit:

- by Barbara Davis -

While searching through the Fox News website yesterday, I found an article about attempts by Georgia legislators to make it possible for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to voluntarily have this diagnosis placed on their driver’s license. The reasoning behind it is to ensure the safety of officers who pull people over: supposedly the PTSD designation on the license will prepare the officer in the event of violent or unexpected behavior.

My first reaction to the article was, “Who would voluntarily have this diagnosis on their license, and why would they?” My second reaction was that if the purpose of the PTSD diagnosis on the license is to prepare officers for the unexpected, wouldn’t it be a little late by the time they got close enough to the person to look at the license? Thirdly, I tried to think of an upside to voluntarily having this diagnosis on a license, and couldn’t think of a single one. I could, however, think of quite a few downsides.

I once had a driver’s license in the state of Florida. It was a restricted license. The two restrictions were that I must wear hearing aids at all times, and that I must wear eye glasses at all times. These seem like innocent enough statements on a license, but the reactions the first one evoked made me glad to move to a state that left those restrictions off.

I can still remember how the scenario usually went when asked to show ID in those Florida days. I would walk into a bar/restaurant and be greeted in a tone of voice adults reserve for other adults. Once the host/hostess saw my license, I was suddenly talked to like I was in kindergarten and couldn’t find my way home. He/she would also address me in a very loud voice. This distorted the person’s lip movements and made it impossible for me to understand what was being said. I always ended up feeling frustrated, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Needless to say, it put quite a damper on any fun I was planning to have.

If I got this kind of reaction with a hearing loss reveal on the license, I can only imagine what a PTSD reveal could do. I can picture being asked to leave, or being constantly scrutinized in case my behavior became erratic. I can also imagine that a bartender would be reluctant to serve me alcohol due to misconceptions about this disability.

In a world where we have to show ID for nearly everything, life could get really complicated if a PTSD diagnosis was listed on my license. I don’t want to think about the kind of reaction I would get if I tried to board an airplane, apply for admission to a college or university, or attend a meeting in a school, hospital or elsewhere. Plus, in my job search, I would automatically reveal my disability on the job, since I would have to show ID once hired.

I can understand first responders wanting to protect themselves from potentially dangerous situations. But it seems to me it would be much more effective to become educated about PTSD, and to always be prepared to deal with the unexpected, no matter what the circumstances. Asking people to voluntarily disclose a disability on their driver’s license is not only ineffective, it can potentially cause all kinds of problems for the person with a disability.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Social Justice is Everybody’s Issue - Part 2

- by Keith Hosey -

When I posted Social Justice is Everybody’s Issue (please read it if you haven't) the point I wanted to make was that Rosetta Thurman is right-on about allies being essential in social justice. I’m not the greatest writer and I realize I got sidetracked a bit and said “we all get complacent sometimes.” I was shortsighted here in using the word complacent. I don’t use any mobility devices, I’m not limited in my communication or my sight. I have some physical limitations, but they are not near as severe as many people I know. I have been an active civil rights advocate for seven years only – because before I worked at the Center, I never really knew of, or thought about, the inequities in our society that are presented every day to people with severe disabilities, even though I myself have a mild physical impairment.

My point here is this. I am relatively new to disability rights and while I choose, or not choose, to shop somewhere because of access, it’s a choice. When I get tired, when it’s ultimately more convenient to walk over that inaccessible threshold, I can. Sometimes I forget this. Then I read about Glenda Watson Hyatt not making her Duet with Chris Brogan at SOBCon (a conference for Successful and Outstanding Bloggers) because the bar wasn’t accessible. She wrote a great post about it and said, “The group left for the Blue Frog. I went back to the hotel to go bed, disappointed. In that moment, inaccessibility wasn’t about the law, my rights, or me being part of an under tapped market. In that moment, it was about missing the opportunity to do something crazy and unexpected with someone I admire, respect and trust.”

I thought why not fight? I thought about the situation for a whole day. I have been an active civil rights advocate for seven years only – Glenda has been an active civil rights advocate for decades. When she gets tired of fighting, when it’s ultimately more convenient to walk over that inaccessible threshold, she can’t. So if Glenda wants to pick her fights, I'm all for it. And this is why Rosetta’s “allies” are so important. Yes, we people with disabilities need to stand up for our rights, but we need to find those who will help us in that fight. Fortunately Glenda has many allies (she calls disciples) to contact the Blue Frog’s Facebook page and complain. J

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Social Justice is Everybody’s Issue

- By Keith Hosey -

I recently read a blog by Rosetta Thurman entitled “Racial Justice is Everybody’s Issue”.

I love the title because my favorite Dr King quote is, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Rosetta had some great comments from speakers at a conference and mentioned the idea of embracing “white allies” in racial justice.

For my purposes, I would like to generalize “white allies” as “those social groups who share the majority of the power” – as in the disability rights movement non-disabled allies. I think the “white allies” in all civil rights and equality struggles are important; those allies have contributed a great deal to the struggles they believe in and add a certain legitimization to the struggle(s). In the Independent Living (IL) movement, we need people without disabilities to embrace our cause as much as we need those with disabilities to embrace it.

Differently than the African-American community or any other minority civil rights movement, the disability rights movement has always had many non-disabled advocates. Our cause grew out of clinically based non-disabled people speaking up for us… and sometimes that’s our problem.

The non-disabled will carry our torch, but sometimes we rely on them for too much. I had a friend tell me once (forgetting that I was born with a disability) that those who are born with a disability are more complacent than those who develop disabilities, but I have seen complacency on both sides of that fence. No mistake about it. We are still fighting a stereotype: “Shut up and be complacent” - and sometimes it's a self-imposed stereotype. If you don’t want that, then sometimes you need to “speak up and be heard”.

We need to remember to step side by side with the non-disabled advocates in our fight for social justice. But only people with disabilities truly know what’s best for people with disabilities. The Independent Living (IL) movement was founded on the expression “nothing about us without us”. Non-disabled are of great importance to the IL movement to help us in our struggle for equal access but people with disabilities are the most essential in the IL movement. So find your allies and either “Shut up and be complacent” or “speak up and be heard”.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Can

- Guest post by Cass Irvin -

I can't sing and I can't dance but I can vote. (I can sing, actually -- but I shouldn't -- at least, not in public.)

People who know me well know I am big on voting. I'm not sure why voting has always been important to me. Maybe it's because it is something I
can do.

Helen Keller once said: I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I
can do.

So I've been voting since high school -- many, many years ago. (Did you know teenagers did not always have the right to vote?) Life was not very accessible then. I registered to vote at the same time as my classmates. I just didn't arrive with them. All my classmates went downtown in big, yellow buses. School buses were not accessible then so my mom drove me downtown.

Maybe voting is important to me because it shows I'm equal to nondisabled people. My vote carries as much weight as anyone. My opinion matters.

And even though it is sometimes harder than it should be, I like the idea of going to the polls. I like the idea of people seeing me out there voting.

So vote -- because you can.

NOTE : Many of us can vote absentee from home; that makes voting very accessible. For information, to find out if you're eligible and for a form -- ASAP
go to:
deadline is May 11th.

Bye for now,
Cass Irvin

About Cass:
Author, Home Bound, Temple University Press ISBN 1-59213-220-0
Instructor, Disability History & Culture, Jefferson County Public Schools
Inductee, the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame 2005

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Mothers Day Tribute

- By Barbara Davis -

In honor of the upcoming Mothers Day, I wanted to include a tribute to mothers with spinal cord injuries. Instead, I spent 2 hours searching the internet only to find voluminous scientific articles on pregnancy and SCI, and pages of articles devoted to quadriplegic parents –mothers and fathers—who are fighting for custody of their children just because they have a disability; not because they have done anything neglectful or abusive.

For many years I have worked with people with disabilities. Some of these were parents. Many of them displayed amazing adaptability and incredible love. There were also some who didn’t know how to be a parent. As a result, there were issues that had nothing to do with the disability.

The non-disabled parent population also comes in those who know how to parent effectively and those who don’t.

I would love to see the day come when I can search for tributes to mothers with disabilities and find some immediately. After all, the internet is loaded with Mothers Day tributes to non-disabled mothers.

It would also be wonderful if people would stop automatically assuming that a person with a disability cannot be a good parent because of the disability.

Being a good parent isn’t about whether you have hands to change a diaper with. There are all kinds of adaptations for that and any other parenting task. Being a good parent takes love, maturity, responsibility and flexibility, among other qualities. People with disabilities are totally capable of learning how to adapt the parenting tasks. They are equally capable of loving their children and keeping them safe, healthy and happy.

Children of parents with disabilities can and do grow up to be healthy, happy and well-adjusted. What better tribute is there that that?