Disability Carnival #16: Borders

A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulatto, the half-breed, the half-dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the “confines” of the “normal.
~Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands LaFrontreras: The New Mestiza

A few months ago I was engaging in an online debate with some TAB friends who argued that the routinized abortion of fetuses with disabilities or genetic abnormalities should be encouraged. As I expressed opposition to their ideas, my well-reasoned arguments were soon abandoned.
"Are you saying that I should have been aborted?" I asked. "That society would be better off without me?"
One of them responded: "Well, not you of course. I never think of you as disabled. You are just Jana."

This response bothered me just as much as the original assertion about aborting babies with disabilities. I found myself simultaneously pleased to know that my friends didn't think of me as disabled even as I was disgusted that they refused to recognize that identity as important to me. Through this I realized just how flexible the borders of disability are--the categories of 'normal' and 'disabled' bending and flexing to both include and exclude.

As people with disabilities many of us find ourselves navigating borders. We may encounter physical barriers that prevent us from fully participating in social activities. Many of us experience awkward interactions as we move through public spaces--often simultaneously drawing attention and disfavor. Those of us who inhabit the Borderland of disability may 'pass' for TAB in various spheres (such as on the 'Net where our bodies aren't on display), or we may have times where we assert our disabled identity in order to qualify for benefits or accommodations. At different times we may feel a kind of fractured identity as we realize that our life is 'normal' for us, so why are we marginalized or pitied when we attempt to live our everyday lives?

Let me suggest that you begin your 'Borders' Carnival reading with Wheelchair Dancer's post about Borderlands. She also invokes ideas from Anzaldua as she explores the boundaries of disability culture.

I grouped the blogposts for this Carnival into three categories to reflect the different types of stories told by our participants: Borders in Public Spaces, Defining the Borders of Disability, and Physical Borders. These categories are somewhat arbitrary given the complexity of the expressions of these blog authors. It is my hope that the variety of experiences in each section will underscore the diversity of those who navigate the Borders of disability.

Borders in Public Spaces

-Marcy of Dirty Laundry highlights several performers with disabilities who are crossing the borders in the entertainment industry,

--From the BBC newswire: An interesting idea to use CAPTCHA technology to decipher text for book-scanning projects

--Speaking about disabled war veterans at Echidne of the Snakes: "The dying goes on a long time after the treaty is signed."

--A great explanation of why the cliched "triumph over adversity" narrative in stories about disability is harmful.

--Rev. C.S.Louis discusses the challenges of access and accommodation within the Pagan community, particularly for those with service animals.

--Lady Bracknell, explaining about "those people" who always know exactly how you're feeling when you have a disability. The comments on this post are particularly amusing.

--Sharon writes of a visit to Camphill, a live-in rural-style community for children with special needs. She expresses deep discomfort with this very "nice" place in Ireland.

--Andrea explains that hurtful lies and insults mark the borders between ourselves and others, between self-worth and self-doubt, and between childhood and maturity. Crossing such a border means not entering the territory of lies and insults, but leaving the place of self-doubts and by-passing that land of lies altogether.

--From a new blog called "Bums and Bellybuttons": Although people with disabilities make up the largest "minority" in the world, the non-disabled community still does not seem to quite "get it." That community does not get that having a physical disability does not equal incompetency. A physical disability is not catching. It is not a sign of demonic possession. It simply is what it is: Different.

--Annoying comments from busybodies to a quad who dares to date. Brought to you by Wheelie Catholic.

--Retired Waif on "Slutty Shoes, Milestones, and the New Normal."

--The value of some vocational programs is explored, and ultimately questioned, in this thoughtful entry by eeka

Defining the Borders of Disability

--From Ballastexistenz: "People need to wake up and realize that these classifications aren’t a parlor game, aren’t a neutral classification system, aren’t enforced by people with any more insight into human nature than the average layperson, and aren’t a mildly interesting way to pass the time while watching people at a distance and neatly sorting them into categories the way I used to enjoy sorting buttons as a young child."

--Joel challenges all comers to provide serious evidence for any of the common beliefs about the border between Asperger's and autism

--Suzanne muses about how long it takes for the "shock" of spinal cord injury to last.

--A good roundup of recent blogging on autism science and policy

--A mother declares, "If he walks, I will be thrilled. If he wheels, I'll be thrilled." She encounters resistance to this openness.

--Newt in a Tea Cup gives a chilling reminder of how recently, and how easily, girls and women could be put into asylums on the flimsiest grounds: "There has to be a moral...about labeling us as defective, diseased, wrong and needing treatment if we are people and not cut out of cardboard to an ideal; a warning about the black ink of tick boxes and diagnoses seeping over the skin of our humanity; that our own good cannot be found in our effacement; that our complaints are not resolved because of this excuse out of societal responsibility; it happened so, so easily, silently and completely in so many ways; that if women have been or are fainting flowers it’s because we’ve been living in the shade of a giant foot trampling us down; that we are complete as we are; don’t listen to those words; don’t, don’t don’t…"

Physical Borders

--Wheelchair Dancer is applying for US citizenship, and takes us through the disability-related questions in the application.

--An example of poorly-planned access: an elevator call-button positioned at the top of a small flight of steps.

--Sometimes the "border" is just the threshhold of an apartment--any apartment

You can find information about past and future carnivals here.


Penny L. Richards said...

Thanks Jana, great stuff, and I like how the theme worked out in your presentation!

One thing: the first linked post is at Wheelchair Dancer, not Wheelchair Catholic.

Next carnival edition is scheduled for June 28, and it's a return engagement at Planet of the Blind. The Kuusistos have set "Laughter, the Best Medicine" as the invited theme.

jana said...

My apologies about the incorrect reference on WCD's post. I fixed it ASAP. :)

David said...

This is great! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, Jana. I look forward to reading these.

Kay Olson said...

Jana, this is a truly exciting carnival! I didn't get my ducks together to contribute, but it's beautifully organized and I can't wait to read through what's here.

Connie said...

Hi Jana,

What a great way to start the day - cup of coffee in hand while reading through a great carnival. I've only just begun. See you tomorrow. Same time, same place!

Steve and I are hosting the next carnival as Penny mentioned and we hope to see you there as well.