Monday, May 8, 2017

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry Goes to Washington, DC

Image description: photo of Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, a white woman with long auburn hair wearing a
khaki blazer and a print dress. Elsa is using a white cane and in the Rayburn House Office Building
in Washington, DC. On right side of the image are two individuals in the hallway talking to each other.


I went to Washington DC knowing that it would be a mixed bag. I’m a disability activist living and working in New Jersey’s 11th district, as an accessibility coordinator for a constituent led group called NJ 11th for Change. We had secured, after 3 months of asking for a town hall, a meeting with our House Representative, Rodney Freilinghuysen (R-NJ 11). 30 of the 175 constituents whom I traveled with had the chance to meet with him, behind closed doors, for ten minutes in groups of ten to fifteen.
It’s unsurprising just how disappointed I was in parts of the experience.
I found myself standing outside of Senator Tammy Duckworth’s(D-IL) office in a fog. When I stepped through the door, I was met by some very pleasant staffers who asked about my business, and I sort of stammered through what I had come there to say – I was grateful for Senator Duckworth’s work towards better equality for disabled Americans like myself, and I am working as an activist to get better access to reps for disabled people. But I had mostly just come there to say thank you to her. Personally, if I could, but I knew that wasn’t really possible without an appointment and a real agenda.
I didn’t have a chance to meet with her (or any of her staff) but I got a business card, and given that I went there purely on instinct, that’s probably for the best.

I went to Senator Tammy Duckworth’s office in a fog, because my House Representative couldn’t look me in the eye and tell me he cared about disabled people now.
Image description: photo of a group of adults that range in age and gender, most who appear to be white, including Elsa Sjunneson-Henry,the woman on the very right of the group holding a white cane. Some individuals are holding protest signs. This is part of "Fridays with Frelinghuysen," a series of weekly protests organized by NJ 11th for Change that take place in front of U.S. Representative Frelinghuysen's Morristown, NJ office.

He couldn’t give me a straight answer on the one thing I really wanted to know, the thing I asked him flat out. I asked: would he commit to a town hall in person, that was accessible to all disabled people regardless of their disability. Representative Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11) did not give me an answer. Certainly, not a satisfactory one.

If asked to translate what he said to me from “political dodge speak” to English, I’d tell you that what he said was maybe. It wasn’t a yes, it wasn’t a no. He could tell me he had a long history of working with disabled organizations for disabled people of all kinds. He could choke out the word “disabled” in place of handicapped just barely.
Quoting your record at someone asking to be an equal constituent, to your face, is pretty disheartening. I found myself wondering if he even understood what he was saying by not answering the question. Because in not answering, he basically made it an open question of whether or not he believes in my right to access.
Being a disabled woman wandering the halls of the House and the Senate was an interesting experience. It might be the first time that I didn’t feel manhandled. I don’t know if that’s a virtue of everyone being super busy, and therefore not noticing the cane, not bothering to grab my arm because I looked confident and determined, or because they knew better, but I felt strangely at home in those cavernous hallways where people didn’t stare at me.
I thought it would be scarier.
The staff in every single office I entered were polite, I barely interacted with Freilinghuysen’s staff myself because we arrived swiftly and were greeted at the door by our Representative. I think he had hoped that we would be easier to sway to his favor. Unfortunately, we left with unsatisfactory answers to a number of our questions, many of which are questions of safety, security, and happiness.

The buildings were mostly accessible, the people I walked past didn’t jump over my cane, or ask me if I needed help, or stare.

Every single Congressional Aide I met was polite and treated me like an equal constituent.

The only person who didn’t was my actual representative.
So I went to the one office where I could ask some questions of how to enact change. An office where a disabled woman holds the power, and where her staff know the ins and outs of disability, accessibility and governance.
I’m determined to continue the fight, to continue the quest for equal access. I’ve found myself in a position where I’m asking for something I’m not being given. I’m asking for real accommodations, not just for myself, but others like me. I’m asking for accessibility and equality, and I’m not going to stop until I get it.

Disabled Americans are still Americans no matter what.


ABOUT


Image description: Photo of Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, a white woman with long auburn hair wearing
a gray-blue sweater. One hand is tucked under her chin, she is wearing eye glasses and has one
glass eye. Photo credit: Photo by Angela Gaul of Milestone Images 

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry is a half-blind, half-deaf writer of disabled feminist words. She’s written games like Dead Scare, short stories like “A Place Out of Time” and “Seeking Truth,” and nonfiction essays including her guest post on Terribleminds “So You Wanna Write a Blind Character?” She teaches writing disabled characters in fiction with Writing the Other, and speaks frequently on the topic at gaming and science fiction conferences. She is also the assistant editor at Fireside Fiction, where she eats KitKats the correct way. In her “spare” time, she’s actually Daredevil. You can find her on twitter @snarkbat, and at her website feministsonar.com

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crip The Vote launches​ UK voting campaign

#CripTheVoteUK in bold white letters on a pink rectangular background. The V in Vote is superimposed on an upside down black triangle

Disabled campaigners are launching a UK branch of international group @CripTheVote (@CripTheVoteUK) to put urgent disability issues on the UK General Election 2017 agenda.

Our launch video, hosted by Eleanor Lisney, is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Kh-6djoTTE&feature=youtu.be

CripTheVoteUK is asking supporters to join in online today and be part of the campaign by sharing the hashtag #CripTheVoteUK, and sharing photos with their poll cards and a commitment to “spend 10 minutes to save 10,000 lives” by using their vote this 8 June.

You can see some here:
https://www.instagram.com/cripthevoteuk/

“At this point in time, disabled people are quite literally voting for our lives,” said Dennis Queen, a campaigner in CTVUK’s network . “We need ALL voters to know this is an emergency for thousands of disabled people and help us fight back,” she added.

CripTheVoteUK aims to ask voters to think about how their vote affects us, to encourage disabled people, our friends and families to register if needed, go postal if it's more accessible, and USE their vote in the General Election.

Disabled voters, our families, the families of disabled children and close allies make up around half of the voting population - enough people to create a big effect on what happens in the General Election.

Eleanor Lisney, disability activist #CriptheVoteUK, said “ disabled people should make sure they tell the politicians that, for 13 million in the voting age, they make a substantial number. They need to vote in order to get a chance to survive the future onslaught on their human rights.”

CripTheVoteUK would hope to find disability issues on the agenda of ALL political parties, so we will share their relevant material and generate discussion about the issues affecting disabled people, including children.

CripTheVoteUK does not promote any party or group, but we are not non-critical. We also cannot ignore or condone that disabled people of all ages, and our families, have been grossly harmed by the existing government, which has come under investigation by the United Nations and our own Equality and Human Rights Commission, both of whom condemned them for many abuses, including thousands of deaths which could have been stopped.

For example at least 10,000 disabled people have died in the last 7 years (since 2010) within 6 weeks of being declared Fit For Work​, and the government ignored warnings about this in its early stages.

Alex Haagaard, a founding member of @CripTheVoteUK said “The prospect that this government might receive a renewed mandate to continue their harassment, neglect and - in the end - extermination of disabled people frankly terrifies me.”

===============

#CripTheVoteUK is shaping up fast, in keeping with the United Kingdom's typically fast-track approach to elections.

Whether you are in the UK and have a direct interest in disability policy there, or are simply interested from afar, be sure to read the tweets, contribute your own, join the chats, and visit the #CripTheVoteUK social media sites. And of course, when you have something to say, make sure it's included by adding the hashtag: #CripTheVoteUK. If you want to share it with #CripTheVote too, you can always add that as a second hashtag.
black iconic ballot box logo

#CripTheVoteUK - Blog

@CripTheVoteUK - Twitter

#CripTheVoteUK - Facebook

#CripTheVoteUK - Thunderclap

Online campaign ‘could enable disabled people to affect election outcome’
John Pring, Disability News Service - April 27, 2017

What is #CripTheVote – and why do we need it?
Errol Kerr, Verbal Remedy - April 30, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

4/29 #CripTheVote chat: First 100 Days

Graphic with a light green background. In black text: #CripTheVote Twitter Chat 100 Days in Office, April 29, 2017, 7 pm Eastern, Guest hosts @serenevannoy @AditiJuneja3 @RebelWheelsNYC, cripthevote.blogspot.com
Graphic with a light green background. In black text: #CripTheVote Twitter Chat 100 Days in Office, April 29, 2017, 7 pm Eastern, Guest hosts @serenevannoy @AditiJuneja3 @RebelWheelsNYC, cripthevote.blogspot.com
The co-partners of #CripTheVote, Gregg Beratan, Andrew Pulrang, and Alice Wong, invite you to reflect on the first hundred days of the current Presidential Administration. Joining us as guest hosts are Aditi Juneja, Co-Creator of the Resistance Manual and Co-Host of Self Care Sundays podcast, Serene Vannoy, Disability Rights Team Lead of the Resistance Manual, and Michele Kaplan, activist and creator of the What Is Ableism outreach project.


Please note this chat will be 75 minutes long instead of 1 hour.


How to Participate

Follow @GreggBeratan @AndrewPulrang @DisVisibility @AditiJuneja3 @serenevannoy @resistmanual @RebelWheelsNYC on Twitter
When it’s time, search #CripTheVote on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Latest’ tab for the full conversation.
If you don’t use Twitter, you can follow along in real time here: http://twubs.com/CripTheVote
If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DisVisibility’s account. Each question will tweeted 5-6 minutes apart.
Check out this explanation of how to participate in a Twitter chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat
Check out this captioned ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc
https://www.facebook.com/HEARDDC/videos/1181213075257528/
Introductory Tweets and Questions for 4/29 Chat

Welcome to the #CripTheVote chat looking back at the first 100 days of the current Presidential Administration.
We are pleased to have guest hosts @AditiJuneja3 @serenevannoy and @RebelWheelsNYC with us today!
Please remember to use the #CripTheVote hashtag when you tweet. FYI: today’s chat will be 75 min long.
If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripTheVote”
Q1 Check in: How are you feeling right now as we reach the 100-day mark in the current Administration? #CripTheVote
Q2 What have you learned in the last 100 days that changed or surprised you? #CripTheVote
Q3 What are your thoughts about the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act?  #CripTheVote
Q4 With the newest addition to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, how will this impact disability-related cases? #CripTheVote
Q5 On education & students w/ disabilities, what changes if any have you seen from @usedgov and Secretary Betsy Devos?  #CripTheVote
Q6 What concerns do you have w/ @TheJusticeDept in protecting & serving marginalized communities? #policing #CivilRights #CripTheVote
There have been a number of Executive Orders signed by the President in the last 100 days: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/executive-orders #CripTheVote
Q7 How have these Executive Orders impacted you & the communities you are a part of? #CripTheVote
Q8 What are some other actions by the current Administration that adversely impacted the disability community & other groups? #CripTheVote
.@resistmanual is an open-source platform w/ info on a number of issues w/ tools on how to resist https://www.resistancemanual.org #CripTheVote
Q9 What are some ways you've taken action or got involved with your community? What's your advice for other disabled ppl? #CripTheVote

Q10 How do you balance being up to date w/ all that’s happening and self care? #CripTheVote
Q11 What do you want to see in the disability community when it comes to organizing, resisting & being in solidarity w/ others? #CripTheVote
This concludes the #CripTheVote chat on the 1st 100 days. Thank you to our guest hosts @serenevannoy @AditiJuneja3 & @RebelWheelsNYC!
Please keep the convo going & join us 5/28 for our #CripTheVote chat on media coverage of disabled people
A Storify of this #CripTheVote chat will be up shortly. Thanks again!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

4/2 Twitter Chat: Disabled People in Public Service


Image description: graphic with a bright yellow background with black text that reads "#CripTheVote Twitter Chat Disabled People and Public Service, April 02, 2017, 9 pm Eastern, Guest hosts: @sblahov @RebeccaCokley, cripthevote.blogspot.com"
Image description: graphic with a bright yellow background with black text that reads "#CripTheVote Twitter Chat Disabled People and Public Service, April 02, 2017, 9 pm Eastern, Guest hosts: @sblahov @RebeccaCokley, cripthevote.blogspot.com"
Since #CripTheVote began more than a year ago our discussions have repeatedly come back to the need for disabled people in public service. The co-partners of #CripTheVote, Andrew Pulrang, Gregg Beratan, and Alice Wong, and guest hosts Rebecca Cokley and Sarah Blahovec will discuss the many of the issues surrounding disabled people and public service.

How to Participate

Follow @GreggBeratan @AndrewPulrang @DisVisibility @RebeccaCokley @sblahov on Twitter
When it’s time, search #CripTheVote on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Latest’ tab for the full conversation.
If you don’t use Twitter, you can follow along in real time here: http://twubs.com/CripTheVote
If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions so you can respond to them, check @DisVisibility’s account. Each question will tweeted 6-8 minutes apart.
Check out this explanation of how to participate in a Twitter chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat
Check out this captioned ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc
https://www.facebook.com/HEARDDC/videos/1181213075257528/

Articles that may be of interest

Blahovec, Sarah. (February 1, 2017). Someone Should Help Disabled People Run for Office. NOS Magazine.

LaCorte, Rachel. (January 7, 2017). Washington Set to Swear in 1st Blind Lieutenant Governor. Associated Press.

Wade, Carrie. (January 23, 2017). 10 More Disabled Women Who Are Making Political Noise. Auto straddle.

Wong, Alice. (October 17, 2016). #CripTheVote Interview: Thida Cornes for Mountain View City Council.

Introductory Tweets and Questions for 4/2 Chat
Welcome to the #CripTheVote chat on disabled people in public service! Let’s do this!

This is the 5th #CripTheVote chat of 2017. We also have a new blog with updates and events: http://cripthevote.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-cripthevote-events_12.html   
Please remember to use the #CripTheVote hashtag when you tweet.
If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripTheVote”
Q1 Why is it important to have disabled people involved in public service? #CripTheVote
The top policy rec in our survey last year was more disabled people to govt & policy-making positions http://svy.mk/1UbDWju #CripTheVote
Q2 What forms of public service are out there for people to be a part of? #CripTheVote
Q3 How can we as a community support & encourage more disabled people to get involved in public service? #CripTheVote
Q4 What are the barriers preventing people from various forms of service? Are there ways of circumventing/bypassing them? #CripTheVote
Q5 Is it important that disabled people run for office? Why? #CripTheVote
Q6 What perspectives/knowledges/skills do disabled people bring to public service that nondisabled people don’t? #CripTheVote
For our next 2 questions, we’ll switch formats so you ask our guest hosts some questions about public service #CripTheVote
Q7 What Qs do you have @RebeccaCokley who is a lifelong disability activist has worked in fed govt in various capacities? #CripTheVote
Q8 What Qs do you have for @Sblahov, a disabled activist trying to encourage disabled people to run for office?  #CripTheVote
This concludes the #CripTheVote chat on disabled people in public service. Many thanks to our guest hosts @RebeccaCokley & @Sblahov!!
Please keep the convo going & join us 4/29 for our #CripTheVote chat about the 1st 100 days of the current administration w/ @serenevannoy