June 10, 2010

Disability Bingo

I'm deeply ambivalent on the subject of social-interaction bingo cards. On the one hand, I see them warp discussions, as people who are arguing with each other shoehorn nuanced statements into dogwhistle boxes in the name of...oh, I don't even pretend to understand why someone would have that kind of discussion in the first place. On the other hand, they really can be quick, accessible, visual introductions to the kinds of things people say over and over again that are far less than helpful, or even thoughtful.

My friend Lynne knows how to use a bingo card, which is only one of the reasons she's awesome.

Caitlin is not "confined" to a wheelchair (a term I saw used recently in another LJ community that drives me absolutely nuts). She uses a wheelchair. It is a tool, that helps her to be mobile. Like a car, but smaller. In a world that, frankly, isn't as well designed for alternative modes of mobility as it should be, given how many of us over time will need to use similar tools.

We are not trying to "overcome" or fix Caitlin's disabilities. We are adapting our life and hers to her current abilities so that she can have the fullest life possible, in a society that is not particularly structured for her to, you know, leave the house on a regular basis, interact with other people, etc.

Don't worry, Lynne doesn't leave people with just a list of don'ts, which tend to make people self-conscious and lead to the kind of avoidance that isolates people with disabilities. She gives things you can do when someone else's disability leaves you feeling helpless. You should read them all, so I'm only going to share one:

Be the person who helps to drive demand from libraries and publishers alike for more stories about people with disabilities. Buy them. Read them. Read them to your kids.

Lynne also links indirectly to a fiction contest at the new Redstone Science Fiction (the first issue of which includes an interview with a payload rack officer on the ISS). The contest is asking for short fiction that doesn't use disability as a shorthand for character traits or group identity or treat it as something to be cured and which is set in a future that sees and accommodates disabilities. If you're a writer, I strongly encourage you to play. Even if you don't win, you'll come away with a story that will do someone some good.

Off to go plot.

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