I Access Life

Three young guys at a restaurant table

There’s a new app on my technological radar, and it’s called IAccess. Before anyone gets mad, it’s not just for iphone, but for android devices too. This app is new, but has loads of potential. In a nut shell, it’s like Yelp, but with a focus on accessibility.

I am completely blind, and I have dwarfism, which for me means I have difficulty with long walks, high seats, and loads of stairs. Not that I can’t deal with such things, but that I try to avoid them.

Using IAccess, I and others can rate the accessibility of all types of venues. Yes, accessibility looks different for everyone, but these ratings and comments make for a great start when deciding to access a venue or not. As of now, its focus is mainly on wheelchair accessibility and allows a location to be rated on accessibility of the entrance, bathrooms, interior, and parking, after which additional comments can be added.

Since this app is crowd sourced, it means that there are no ratings unless we rate places ourselves,. This makes it ideal for posting opinions on accessibility, but also means that if we want to see such information we must get more involvement on the app. It also means that, in my opinion, the developers should add more rating options to the mix in order to accommodate a wider range of disabilities. Is the menu or inventory accessible online to the blind? Is the atmosphere loud or quiet, well-lit or not so? What kinds of seating do they offer? Unfortunately, there is only a small amount of writing allowed in the text box so some of this extra information couldn’t fit if entered in manually.

We all want to know what type of situation we’re getting into before we get there, and that’s especially true when it comes to accessing any kind of public setting. IAccess is a fantastic solution the question of venue access, as long as people of all types put their input into the mix. No matter your abilities or challenges, definitely toss your thoughts into ratings of places you’ve visited. I, personally, look forward to more ratings in my area and the changes that the developers put in place. So if you’re looking for a cool new app to try and want to contribute to a neat project, I suggest taking a look at this. Together, we can build a more accessible world.

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Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

A group of young people with disabilities

Yes, I went there. Why? Because sex and disability is another one of those topics kept hushed up unnecessarily. Despite its prominence in modern music and culture, it’s often avoided around those with disabilities. We go to doctors offices where they look at our family when asking those questions, or avoid eye contact at all. In schools, some of us don’t even get taught these things. At home, they’re not brought up at all.

Can we have sex? are we even sexual? Do we know what sex is? Yes, we do, and if we don’t, we should.

Everyone deserves an education as to the ways of the world. Not that we need to use it, or like it, but in this crazy world, at the very least be aware of it. Open up a safe dialogue for questions. For some of us with physical limitations, well, we have to get creative, and sometimes that means needing assistance coming up with ways to make it possible. Let me tell you, there are some creative methods out there.

Stop avoiding the conversation. Ask the question. Our answers might surprise you, so have the discussion like you would with anyone else.

We’ve come a long ways in equality, inclusion and acceptance, but there are some places where the general community lacks. This is one of those places, and its one that shouldn’t be excluded from the disability discussion no matter our own individual take on the subject. Some lines of dialogue just need to remain open, and this is one, so let’s open it wider and stop shutting it tight.

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Ladies’ Choice

A group of girls
When I was in high school, I wrote a research paper about abortion. More specifically, it discussed the possibility of eradicating disability by using genetic tests to identify and abort babies who would be born different. As a young girl with disabilities, the idea that a mother would kill their unborn child because they found out the baby could have challenges bothered me. I still don’t love that idea. If someone aborts their child after finding out it might be blind, or a little person, or have intellectual challenges, well, I don’t want to know about it. I do however want them to at the very least have the choice to do so, and that’s the bottom line.
Every lady has the choice to do what they want with their own body, whether the rest of us like their choice or not. Every woman has their own unique situation that the rest of us know nothing about and have no place to judge. Is she too young to be a mother? Was she sexually assaulted? Are her living conditions suitable to bring a child into the world? Is having a child safe for her? There are a million reasons why a girl might decide not to have their baby, and each one is nobody’s business.
Moreover, none of those reasons are the business of law-makers, most of whom are men who, for obvious reasons don’t bare children. While they spend time blaming the women and emphasizing that abortion is murder, they don’t touch upon the realization that preventative measures like birth control and condoms don’t always work, that sexual assaults by men are a huge problem, and that so many other factors can be going on unseen in the girl’s world. In a country where fetal and maternal mortality rates are so high, you would think at least that would be considered, as would the fact that more babies would be born into foster care or harmful living situations.
Unfortunately, none of this seems to hold much weight in certain parts of this country today, which makes it more important than ever to stand your ground and speak out for what you believe in. I believe in women like me and my mom and our friends being able to have the choice to do what we believe necessary with our lives and our bodies. I believe in safe and clean medical conditions for the care we need. I believe in children being born to capable, loving women who are ready for them. I believe in choice, and I would like to believe in fixing our sadly disappointing country rulings.
As always, discussions welcome, but let’s keep it civil and somewhat clean. Like, follow, and check out Patreon to get access to upcoming exclusive content and perks.
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Accessibility Is Easy

Creating accessible and inclusive environments may seem daunting in this increasingly digital world. While one might think that the fast evolution of technology would leave people with disabilities behind, the opposite is true, making it easier for us to be included in most any new development. today marks 2019’s Global Accessibility Awareness day, and it’s a perfect time to look at a few fantastic examples of accessibility which build a more inclusive world. Imagine the doors that can open for you or your company by understanding how much accessibility exists and how easy including our community can be.
Image of me wearing Aira smart glassesFirst, meet the technological advancement I love most. It’s called Aira, and it’s a visual interpreter for the blind. Basically, it uses smart glasses, or a phone’s camera, to connect to a live agent who can see my surroundings and describe what they see. With Aira, I can do anything from navigating an unfamiliar building, reading mail, picking an outfit for work, and an endless array of other tasks. It takes away the stress of inaccessibility due to not being able to see what others can, and it’s available to me at the touch of a button. While it’s usable based on a paid subscription, it can also be free to access at certain designated locations.
You might be thinking yes but, how do you even use a phone? The fact is that most modern mobile devices and computers have built-in software to make them usable to people of all abilities. Enlarged text and contrast options help people with limited vision, while screen reading software reads anything on screen to people who are blind, and text to speech dictation assists those who have difficulty typing. More and more companies add accessibility into their electronics and software, so we can manage awesome scenarios like this.
My friend and I sitting infront of a large audio board facing microphonesMeanwhile, services such as rideshare and grocery delivery transform the lives of people with and without disabilities as do virtual assistance like Siri and Alexa. Though they might make life easier for the average person, they level the playing field for the disability community without being an obvious nod for inclusive and accessible.
Accessibility, digital or otherwise, is not just about modifying and adapting for people with disabilities anymore. It’s about including and integrating everyone into the swiftly moving day to day world. There’s some great resources surrounding hiring and adapting for people with disabilities in the workplace, as well as info on accessible websites. Of course, questions are always welcome via my communication channels as well. Comment below, or keep the discussion going via twitter or facebook. Also check out Patreon to get a jump on exciting new content on the way.
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What Everyone Should Know About Mental Health

Image of me sitting at a table. I'm wearing a fancy blouse and my hair is done up with a little curl.

“I’m losing my mind.” “You’re crazy!” “This is mental!” “Are you insane?” These are everyday lines that we think little of, but it’s about as far as conversations surrounding mental health ever go.

Thanks to, of all things, a TV comertial, I recently learned that May is mental health month. So, I decided now was as good a time as ever to talk about something that few people do and more people should; mental illness, or mental health. Personally, I find the term Mental illness to be slightly extreme for all cases, but to each their own.

The last few years have taught me, if nothing else, to become more aware of my own mental health. Along the way, I began to learn why these topics are kept so quiet and what kinds of things people with or without a mental health condition should know. To start off the month, let’s break a few barriers and discuss some important pieces of mental health awareness.

  • Mental health conditions take many different forms. It can range in severity and will effect every person in their own way.
  • Not everyone who encounters mental health challenges has a diagnosis, takes medication, or goes to therapy.
  • Mental health fluctuates, just like physical health can. Some times are fine, others not so hot.
  • Anyone can experience difficulties with their mental health at any time, for any number of reasons.
  • It’s important to be aware of your own emotional needs, as well as develop strategies for those moments when everything is going wild.
  • To the same point, it’s equally important for everyone with or without mental health disorders to maintain open dialogue in this regard.
  • People who struggle with their mental health may seem perfectly normal, functioning just like anyone else. More often than not, we are well-versed in handling our internal messes.
  • If you believe someone you’re close to is having a rough go of things, just check in with them. Supportive networks go a long way.
  • Remember that even if someone doesn’t take you up on the offer, doesn’t seem receptive, isn’t wanting to talk, etc, it doesn’t mean they aren’t appreciative or uncaring. Sometimes those reactions come with the territory.
  • If you feel like your challenges are to difficult to overcome, There are loads of resources that can help. There’s no shame in calling a hotline, finding a therapist, needing medication, or going to a support group. No one’s in this alone.

Let’s keep the conversation going to continue breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health. Any tips you think I missed? I’ve got other plans for related topics but would be glad to hear others’ thoughts. Comment below or shoot me a reply on social media. Also, there’s an exciting new way to support the blog with some sweet perks.

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Shockingly Curative

Photo of a younger, maybe seven year old me holding a microphone.

Last week I was taking a look through twitter on my lunch break, and came across something that got me talking.

Well, he shouldn’t have to explain how wrong this idea is in 2019, but it turns out that’s exactly what we we did. We’re all entitled to our opinions, I suppose, and I probably have a particularly strict stance on this seeing as how I live so close to JRC with all its controversy.
The discussion got me thinking though, and not just about how wrong this “cure” would be, but about “cures” in general. See to me, the word’s a bit strong; a bit… final. I’ve heard about “curing” blindness, “cures” for types of dwarfism and of course, “cures for Autism.” I’ve also heard about “curing” cancer, or diabetes.
Google defines the word “cure” as, “Relieving a person or animal of symptoms of a disease or condition.” So, to “cure” ADHD, autism, blindness, or dwarfism would be to erase characteristics of ourselves that are brought about by our subsequent diagnoses. For many, like myself, these “conditions”, more commonly in our case called “disabilities”, are part of who we are. Personally, I don’t want to be “cured” of these things that have played such a key part in my life. Should there be treatments to help us live better, see better, learn better, live better? Absolutely, but does that mean we need to be “cured?” I think not.
Rather, I think those who develop “cures” need to be focusing on the diseases that kill people. Cancer, Diabetes, diseases which greatly limit a persons’ lifespan, or endanger their lives. These are what I want “cured.” Not my blindness, or dwarfism, Autism or ADHD. Let people choose what they want treated. Let’s not start running around “curing” children before they can decide weather or not they want treatment. To “cure” one disability is the segue into “curing” them all, and that will only lead to a world which has taken ten steps back in acceptance and diversity. That is not where the world should be focusing its energy, nor is shocking behavior disorders out of young kids.

Just Who’s In the Dark?

My mother and I with a dog

Nope, this is not my guide dog; I don’t have one of those, for reasons that are a whole different post. That is a therapy dog though, also not mine, and that is my mom. Anyway, this is not a post about dogs but a post about a new TV show hitting the scene featuring a blind girl with a guide dog. The show, “In the Dark” aired its first pilot episode on the CW Thursday night, and it’s making some people mad.

In the Dark trailer

Check out this trailer. Love it? Hate it? The main character Murphy (who has the first name Murphy?) is not played by a blind person, which is the the main reason for all the uproar. The preview shows her feeling someone’s face, using her cane badly, getting trashed and having multiple sexual encounters. Basically, it shows the kind of blind person no blind person aspires to be. However, it also shows that blind people, like anyone else, have their own set of issues and for god sake are not, contrary to popular belief, nonsexual beings.

In the actual episode we see more of these facts to be true. In fact, she does explain that feeling faces is not what we do, and talks a lot about how sighted people talk to and pity those of us who are blind. Maybe the CW didn’t consult ACB or NFB, but clearly someone somewhere knows a blind person, because they’re getting more than a few things right. Now, let’s leave her be and watch as she kicks ass sleuthing to solve her dead friend’s murder.

Let’s be honest, people would be divided no matter how the CW decided to swing this show. If they cast a blind person for the lead, people would still be mad over the way the character is written. If they wrote the perfect blind character with the best behavior and no blindisms, well, who would really watch that? How dull. At least this will get people talking and create conversation around what is and isn’t reality in a blind person’s life.

The bottom line: go make some popcorn, tune your dvr to Thursdays at 9:00 on the cw, sit your booty down and watch this show. You know you want a killer plot line with interesting characters and forty-two minutes of intrigue. There’s no sense in boycotting it when your boycotting is giving it the traction you didn’t want it to have in the first place.

Have a thought, a comment, an opinion? I always welcome respectful discussion and would love readers’ takes.

World Awesome, Er Autism Day

My friend and I standing outside

No, I’m not wearing blue, or lighting things blue, or giving a damn about the color blue with autism speaks. Number one, they don’t truly support the people they claim to serve and number two, I wouldn’t be able to identify the color blue if I tripped over it. I will however fully support this autism acceptance, or awareness month, whichever you choose. Actually, I’ll just make this simple, take the second syllable out of autism and call it awesome month, because you’re all awesome.
Some people associate autism with inappropriate behaviors, difficulty in social situations, learning challenges, and limited vocabulary. They see someone stimming or enjoying their special interest and think the person lesser for it. Me, I think “cool. Let’s go hang out with them.”
Some of my best and closest friends have been you guys on the spectrum. Some of my greatest moments have consisted of enjoying your interest, learning your made up words or jumping around with you just so I can take a step into your world and see why that stim in particular is so satisfying. Personally, I really do like to spin.
Your honesty is unparalleled, although sometimes it gets you in trouble, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had deeper, more philosophical conversations with you than a person without autism. Seriously, I love the creativity and unique insight you all bring to the table. More people should think so deeply.
Yeah, sometimes I get a little sensory overloaded too, or focus on something for too long, end up repeating one phrase in my head, or don’t know how to handle a social situation. However, I’m just someone on the outside looking in, taking a stroll through the autism multiverse and appreciating the many facets of it. I don’t know life with autism any more than a person on the spectrum knows life as a little person, but I do know awareness and acceptance and fully believe this world needs a lot more of both.
To my awesome readers, I mean readers with autism, keep being your fantastic quirky selves and show the world you rock it. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this month, whatever you choose to call it. For everyone else out here reading, I strongly encourage you to find other blogs by writers with autism so you might acquaint yourselves with the real truths and misconceptions of the autism spectrum and meet some great writers along the way. Let’s raise awareness, build acceptance, ask questions and learn from others throughout this month. Remember that comments are moderated and therefore won’t be posted if not respectful.

Ableds Are Weird?

A younger me with a middle-aged guy

Social media is generally your best friend or your worst nightmare. It brings people together but also thickens those dividing lines that set one another apart. For me, it’s a way to network and keep up to date with current events. Sometimes, it’s the place where I get my hands dirty by digging in deep and the sight of a new controversy, the way I did yesterday.

Trending hashtags on twitter don’t usually grab my attention, but the fact that it was being used by a friend who doesn’t normally get himself caught up in these things did. Hashtag AbledsAreWeird appears to be taking off in the twitterverse, going so far as to be picked up by high profile news outlets such as NPR. It’s advertised as an avenue for people with disabilities to detail their strange, awkward, insulting or terrifying encounters with able-bodied, non-disabled individuals. Jumping out of our screens with a provocative, attention-getting line, the hashtag has done its job of chronicling these moments for the world to see, but is this really how we want the world to see them?

A phone screenshot of the most recent additions to #AbledsAreWeird.

Let’s dissect this for a second. First of all, the writer in me is screaming in revulsion at the term “ableds.” Really guys, this isn’t a word, doesn’t sound like a word, and shouldn’t be a word. Moving away from my overstimulated grammar brain, ableds are weird? Okay, but are they all bad? Your parents, your co-workers, PCAs and volunteers, they’re “ableds.” and you’re lumping them into the general population indiscriminately. While we’re on that wavelength, it’s going to be hard to get a new volunteer or PCA if the “abled” population is sitting on their phones reading about how they have each wronged some disabled person or another some way somehow.

If we’re going to talk openly about the all too common odd experiences with random strangers, we should at least use this moment to positively influence and educate the wider world. This way, people will learn, understand and empathize rather than sympathize. “ableds” would probably take kinder to such a discussion if they weren’t being called out, trash-talked and labeled as weirdos for doing what they think was good.

The first thing that drew me to this hashtag was my typically quiet friend trying to reinvent the wheel with a more positive, less aggressive spin on the original idea. The second find was this article, written by another person objecting not to the sharing of our stories but to the negative impact this hashtag can have on the bigger picture of inclusion and equality. He would rather use his experiences to #HelpFixTheView than spread slander and animosity by shouting #AbledsAreWeird from the roof tops. Now that I can agree with.

People with disabilities face discrimination and ignorance on a constant basis, but that can only change if we help fix the view. The current hashtag may be helping us take one step forward but also forces us to take two steps back. How about we take three steps forward by not being stereotypically ungrateful jerks and using those moments to #helpFixTheView.

Stars Align

It’s another Thursday at work, coming straight home to a quiet house afterwords, but it’s also valentines day, and I’m celebrating. I’m not getting chocolate, or flowers, or a fancy dinner, and that’s okay; it’s all material and money spent. Besides, I’ve got something better.

I’ve got someone to love, and be loved by. Someone to share thoughts and interests and moments with. These are the things I value above anything that can be bought, after all, everyone knows money can’t buy us love.

We’re hundreds of miles apart, 2090 from one house to another in fact. We’ve never truly met, and neither of us can see the other, but love knows no limits. Tonight we celebrate by taking the evening as ours, with music, conversation, and maybe a bit more, ending in staying together as we sleep until we wake up in the morning. It’s my perfect kind of night.

People often look skeptically at long distance relationships, especially those ignited online without in person experience together,. The doubt is understandable, but the successes do exist. There are ways to make things special, ways to spend time together, ways to keep up communication and of course, ways to spice things up. Ultimately, there are ways to make anything work if both of you want to give it a try.

I decided to give us a try about a year ago, but it’s this year I’m really feeling the drive to celebrate a day that I usually regard as silly and over marketed. One year can make or break a relationship, but it has only made us stronger. So, I celebrate to reflect on what I have and look forward to what’s to come. The future might be filled with challenges, but we can face them head on.

To all the singles reading, well, you probably aren’t because this bugs. I get it, and I’m not going to feed you BS about how love will find you blah blah blah. You’re awesome for sticking with my romance post, and you should celebrate your awesomeness if nothing else. I promise I’m almost done being sappy, but not quite done.

Happy valentines day to my amazing boyfriend Michael, who gave me the inspiration for this post and a reason to feel the impact of the day. Here’s to many more moments, and nights, and years.