My Photo


  • a happy, ordinary, middle-aged, suburban woman who paints odd pictures, gardens in a straw hat, lives with the love of her life, is owned by one cat and the ghosts of several others, and walks a little funny 'cause she has a fake leg. She started this website because there's more to life than what we lose, and we need to let each other know what's possible, even if it's only a happy, ordinary life.

November 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      


  • E-mail me at:

    sara at saraarts dot com

    Make sure the subject line of your correspondence is clear and specific. I do not open e-mails from strangers unless I can tell in advance that I want to read them.

Shameless Self- Promotion

  • I Took The Handmade Pledge!

Good reads, grownups only

« Why I cannot practice Buddhism | Main | The "G" Word »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hi Sara! Thanks for the yays. I think your posts--and especially your 7/26 walk--exemplify the Neil Marcus line, "Disability is not a brave struggle or 'courage in the face of adversity.' Disability is an art. It's an ingenious way to live." We like to celebrate that art and ingenuity at DS,TU.

In this post, you're also getting at the definition Rosemarie Garland Thomson uses in _Extraordinary Bodies_: "Disability is the attribution of corporeal deviance--not so much a property of bodies as a product of cultural rules about what bodies should be or do." When you took the walk, photographed it, and blogged it, you challenged those cultural rules--and that's always of interest to us at DS,TU.

Not all the posts we collect for the blog roundups (and soon, the disability blogs carnival) are by people who self-identify as disabled -- inclusion shouldn't imply that. Your posts, and the rest, were included because they work on the levels described above: they question cultural attributions of deviance, and they explore the art of living creatively in all the bodies and minds we've got.


HA HA HA -- I like "deviance" a lot better than "disability." But that's just because it's more familiar territory. (Some of us just never really fit in, even while we still had the advantage of "normal" body privilege.)

I don't like the word "disability" or "disabled" because no matter where each is used, those three little letters at the beginning imprison everyone to whom these words are applied to a perception of loss and limitation. It's true; some of us have lost stuff, some quite a bit. It's also true that there are limits to what each of us can achieve right now, right at this moment. But that's true of everyone. Everyone on the planet is always theoretically just one tiny technological or intellectual development away from being able to achieve more.

I know that constant calls to redefine and reshape official language can be tiresome. I would just like people to consider how things could be different if we framed the entire discussion from the perspective of a more positive nuance. How would your department be different if it were named "Tech-Enabled Living Studies"? How much easier might it be to enforce if the ADA were instead called something like the "Americans Requiring Technological Assistance Act (ARTAA)", allowing art to enter even the acronym?

People being people, including the venal, the ungenerous, and the lazy, it probably would not make much practical difference. But can you see how much more positive and integrative this kind of language is? Think how much less of an automatic lodestone we become in the subconscious minds of our fellow citizens when we are understood and recognized not by what we can't do and don't have, but by the possibilities of what we can all achieve together, "normals" and "deviants" alike.

Everything happens in increments. A word change here and there will not change the set-in-stone mindset of the selfish and shortsighted. But just as I wonder and think I might notice how, via passage of the ADA and similar movements, the injection into American consciousness and subconsciousness of the simple awareness that "disabled" people even have basic inalienable rights to begin with, that we are equal citizens under the law, let alone that we have value, I wonder how much more readily these concepts would spread if the words which form the delivery system were just a little less burdensome in nuance. I don't know the answer. I just wonder.

While I was writing all this, I kept thinking of my mother who lived with arthritis and eventually succumbed to bipolar disorder, but who never, ever thought of herself as "handicapped" or "disabled," and would have raised her cane against anyone else who would have tried to characterize her this way. You would have liked her, I think. She was awarded a prize by the Arthrities Foundation back in the '70s as a result of an article she wrote -- for some national women's magazine, I think; I can't remember -- in which she gave simple advice to other arthritis sufferers on how to make their own lives easier in tiny, everyday ways. She talked about simple things like choosing slip-on shoes over shoes with laces. These were Big Ideas back then. Deviant, almost. Or so I remember.

This woman walked with a cane and couldn't open a pickle jar, though her needlework and artwork, which physically hurt her to create, were something amazing, and she made herself walk every day, even on bad days. She endowed me with a "use it or lose it" consciousness which I still find useful. She also left me a perspective which might explain my own inability to think of myself as "disabled," per se. "Good heavens," she used to say upon observing someone she perceived as worse off than herself. "Some people have real problems."

Anyway, cheers, Penny. I think your blog is awesome, and I hope you take this discussion (or my long-winded rambling, depending on your viewpoint) only as proof that it really does make people think. Keep up the great work.


Nah, can't go for the "Americans Requiring Technological Assistance Act". While some people with some disabilities benefit a great deal from technological fixes, others don't, and some actively reject tech "fixes" (think Deaf Culture and cochlear implants, for one example; or the various intrusive medical interventions inflicted on disabled people in institutions and elsewhere). The big-picture goal is to make a society where the policies and programs and places are accessible to a more people. Technology can be part of reaching that goal, but it wouldn't address some kinds of marginalization and exclusion. The movement will always need a word that embraces folks across the various ways bodies and minds can function outside the narrow socially-defined norms--otherwise, we'd have fragmentation, and some important common interests would be ill-served.


I understand what you're saying. Of course, I consider "technology" to include even very simple things like canes, handrails, and inclines. But I can see how other people would not take that meaning and would feel excluded or jump to exclusionary conclusions. And yes, where none of even this very simple stuff is available or useful to them, people still must be understood to have value and rights, and public policy needs which are worthy of being addressed.

I guess what it boils down to is that wish that we could think of an inclusive word that expressed needs which must be met but which was not so very all about what's missing or broken or, to the eyes of non-deviants, wrong.

Stumped again! (Sorry. Punnitis.)


Ow! Ow! I'm having a minor epiphany! Dang, that smarts!

So I'm sitting in front of the washing machine searching my laundry for stains that need treating and thinking about deaf people (your fault, Penny), and suddenly I understand something I didn't understand two months ago or even yesterday.

I have never known a deaf person who considered him/herself disabled. Of course not! What a ridiculous notion -- ridiculous, at least, if we use the deafness alone to drop someone into this category. The person who is deaf has not been disabled, shut off like those GM cars to which I alluded above, but a body part or system which would otherwise serve the function of facilitating hearing has. And this made me realize the distinction between "being disabled" and "having a disability." And suddenly I appreciated something I hadn't earlier.

It's not called the "Disabled Americans Act." It's called the "Americans with Disabilities Act." And now that makes sense to me. I can say I have a "disability." A body part of mine has been switched off, and though this fact hasn't stopped me, and though I've chosen to replace the dead part functionally with other means, the fact is, yeah, it's gone, disabled permanently. I just won't ever feel right calling myself -- or anyone else, frankly -- "disabled," not before the final switching off of the entire system.

So, by George, I think I get it. Or part of it. Such a tiny thing it is, too, but it really does make a difference.

The comments to this entry are closed.


A Good Idea This Year, Too


I Don't Know What Came Over Me

Then There Was The Time I Lost My Mind for a Month

Blog powered by Typepad