"Roy's Perspective Central in 'Eleven Seconds'"
Talking with Travis Roy is a weird experience, not that he is a a strange guy or anything, but the reality that he's a college student, not a media monolith sunk in as I conversed with him about a multitude of topics, from remembering when he used to play against my high school's team to accessibility problems in Boston. The conversation came on a late Sunday night after playing phone tag with him, and to some extent, various members of his family though the Ice Storm.
Over the past two and a half years, the scope of interest in his injury has brought in the media, especially in Maine, has been overwhelming, and as a person with a disability, I'd wanted to meet him, but probably not at one . Roy adds a whole new perspective, his own, with the publication of his book "Eleven Seconds", released January 14th by Warner Books.
"The College Admissions Scandal: When 'Disability' is an 'Elite' status"
Recently, society was shocked by a scandal involving its richest and most elite. It was exposed that the tools meant to aid victims of systemic oppression were being abused to benefit children of affluent families in their admittance to prestigious colleges. People went as far as photoshopping photos and faking athletic ability to get onto university teams to bolster their applications.
Sadly, much of the media’s fixation on the scandal surrounds the involvement of famous individuals such as actresses and designers. Little of the media’s discourse attempts to explain the issues of legally-mandated accommodations for disabled students.
"Developments in the Assisted Suicide Referendum"
On December 3, The Seacoast Online ran a story where advocates for assisted suicide were celebrating claiming to have received over 45,000 total signatures, up from 6,000 published in article from late October. The article incorrectly stated that Sen. Roger Katz would be sponsoring a bill in the 2019 legislature. Katz was termed out as a Senator earlier in 2018, and Bruce Poilhot was elected to Katz’s former district. The article additionally stated that the advocates would be focusing on the upcoming legislative session, and if that was unsuccessful, that they would continue gathering signatures for a 2020 referendum.
"Remembering Carrie Lucas"
In late February, the Disability Community lost a pioneering advocate, outspoken activist, and beloved leader when Carrie Lucas passed away at the age of 47. Lucas, who had a neuromuscular disease that robbed her of most of her movement, was an unstoppable pioneer for the rights of parents with disabilities as well as for the creation of accessible environments. She was also an avid photographer and mother to four adopted children.
After being told she would not be able to parent “due to her disability,” it became her quest to raise her own family. She generated enough money to attend law school, became an attorney, and would eventually join a nonprofit that advocated for the rights of parents with disabilities.
"Weintraub and the Disability Resistance to Brett Kavanaugh"
Content Warnings: Ableism in Politics, Mention of Sexual Assault
When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retired earlier this year many people feared that the Court, upon the appointment of a judge by President Trump, would be positioned to be more conservative than it has been in generations. Those fears were largely confirmed when Donald Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee for Supreme Court. Kavanaugh previously worked in the DC Federal Circuit court with former Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland serving as his boss. Kavanaugh graduated from Yale and was known as a staunch conservative and member of the Federalist Society, a group which promotes conservative thinking in legal settings.
"Don’t Sign Petition To Put Flawed Assisted Suicide Law On State Ballot"
Maine residents are being asked to sign a petition calling for a referendum on legalizing assisted suicide to be placed on the 2019 ballot. The practice was legalized in Oregon in 1997. Since then, there have been far more problematic issues and unanswered questions than any assisted-suicide proponent claims.
"Navigating the Common Ground Fair with a Physical Disability"
For several decades, The Common Ground Fair has been a quirky part of the autumn fair season in Maine. Billed as the largest organic fair in North America, the Common Ground Fair is a top-tier event that has a literal plethora of events, keynotes, political and historical talks as well as a number of organic farming specific lectures. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the trade group that produces the fair yearly, states that about 60,000 people attend the fair in Unity. The fair happens yearly on the third weekend after Labor Day. While the Common Ground Fair is about the same size physically as other agricultural fairs in Maine, most notably (in my own mind) as the Fryeburg Fair, which is the final fair of the fall Season and has a similar number of crowds during the weekend days of the fair.
"Hundreds Celebrate Disability Pride Day in Augusta, Paintings of Maine Disability Rights Activists Unveiled"
Several Hundred people braved very sunny skies and high temperatures to attend the annual “Disability Pride Day” at Capitol Park in Augusta on the afternoon of Friday, July 20th. The event was sponsored by Disability Rights Maine, a protection and advocacy center for individuals with disabilities. Disability Rights Maine is a member of the National Disability Rights Network, a national collection of protection and advocacy centers.
Disability Pride Days have been happening for a few years, but this is the first time I was able to make it in person. Historically, there have been celebrations of the signing of The Americans with Disabilities Act (2005) that were also held at Capitol Park. Disability Pride Days differed in the scope of their event. It was a day of “positive thoughts.”
"How The Media Negates The Bipolar Experience"
Content Warning: Suicidality, Self-Harm
When one thinks of bipolar depression, they think of someone with very low energy, who can’t get out of bed. However, my depressive states often include mixed features, meaning I have symptoms of depression and hypomania. These states are very dangerous for me. One minute I can be desperately pacing back and forth muttering to myself about the agony I’m in, and the next minute I can have a pair of scissors pressed against my wrist. I try to be alone as little as possible during these states because not only am I suicidal, but I have the restless, impulsive energy to actually follow through with such acts. Mood states with mixed features (especially mixed depressive states) are not well known to the general public, but they are some of the most dangerous. The impulsivity of hypomanic/manic symptoms along with the suicidality of depressive symptoms increases the risk of attempting suicide by at least 50%.
"Senator Blocks Vote to Weaken the ADA and Makes History at Same Time"
Shortly after the Trump Administration took office, Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican in the state’s second congressional district, introduced the ADA Education and Reform Act, HR 620, into the House Judiciary Committee. This law mandates a “notice and cure” period of 180 days before any lawsuit related to accessibility could go forward. No other current civil rights legislation is subject to these types of delays. The idea and intent of this law is not new; in 2000, Clint Eastwood famously championed then Representative Mark Foley’s version of what was called the “ADA Notification Act”, which, beyond Eastwood’s testimony, did not move forward in Congress, possibly because it was the same year the American with Disabilities Act was celebrating its tenth anniversary. Representative Foley left Congress amid a sex scandal in late 2006.
"Medical and Recreational Bills, Programs, Still in Limbo"
Since Maine voters passed the referendum to allow adults over the age of 21 to consume Cannabis in 2016, the fate of the nearly twenty year old medical marijuana program has been uncertain. This is mostly due to theuncertainty around the process for regulation and taxation of recreational Cannabis, as well as the rules around recreational Cannabis businesses and growing, processing and retail requirements. While much of this was outlined in the referendum, voted on in 2016, there was no mandate that the outline needed to be followed.
"Unearthed: Allen Ginsberg at One of the Earliest Maine Medical Cannabis Rallies"
With Maine set to become the first state on the east coast to implement legislation that will allow the adult-use, recreational cannabis market to flourish, and with nearly two decades of a decriminalized medical program hailed as one of the best in the nation, we thought it would be interesting to go back in history to one of the earliest medical cannabis rallies in the State of Maine.
"Not Maine Values: Oppose Assisted Suicide in Maine"
This Wednesday, the Maine Legislature will have public hearings on two nearly identical pieces of legislation dealing with physician assisted suicide. LD 347 and LD 1066 are versions of the same bill that Maine voters have consistently said no to as far back as 1995 in the legislature and by a sizable margin when it went to referendum in 2000. Maine voters have been very consistent in their opposition to
any “death with dignity” bill, and no bill has made it out of the subcommittee with an “ought to pass” vote. Out of state interests, and their money, as well as Maine legislators focused on their own political agendas or fundraising keep this pathetic excuse for a bill continuously reintroduced, sometimes with different catch phrases, but with the same deadly intent.
"Why My Mayor is Completely Wrong About Special Education"
I have to admit I was never a big fan of Lewiston Mayor Robert MacDonald. Most people I know really find him to be extremely offensive. MacDonald told the BBC in 2012 that new immigrants, “should leave their culture at the door” when immigrating to America.MacDonald also chose a notoriously homophobic couple when he was once asked to choose model Lewiston residents.
"Incontinence is the New Black"
I was quite surprised last year when I read that Depend had finally hired a spokesperson who has a physical disability. Michael McGee, an internationally known spoken word poet, who was born with Spina Bifida, began as a spokesperson for Depend late last summer. It was the first time a mainstream incontinence brand used someone who has a disability he was born with. It also signaled a sea change in the way American society discusses medical issues like incontinence. Now instead of being considered the shameful disability that affects an older relative or is spoken about in hushed tones or with your doctor in almost a whisper. Now, Stephen King, who grew up in the same hometown as myself, now has taken to tweeting that he uses adult diapers for nighttime on Twitter (in between all his tweets bitching about Maine Governor Paul Lepage).
"Maine Activists Defeat Assisted Suicide Proposal for Fifth Time"
For the fifth time in nearly twenty years, the Maine Legislature beat back calls to legalize assisted suicide. The bill, LD 1270, which was modeled after a similar law in Oregon, had renewed support after the highly publicized death of Brittany Maynard; a twenty nine year old woman who was diagnosed with brain cancer and moved to Oregon to carry out her death. Maine was one of 26 states this year to deal with assisted suicide legislation. Other states such as Connecticutdefeated similar legislation this year. California passed a version of assisted suicide this fall, despite an epic fight by activists with disabilities using every tool imaginable to convince Governor Jerry Brown to veto the bill. Additionally, legislative battles are ongoing in several states, including Massachusetts. Activists with disabilities are against assisted suicide because, they contend, everyone should receive Suicide prevention treatment, regardless of diagnosis.
"The Month in Disability History: February"
February 9: "Breathing Lessons" Nominated for Oscar
"Breathing Lessons," a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) on this date in 1997. The film later won the Oscar in this category.
In "Breathing Lessons," Yu explored "the unique world of Mark O'Brien, the poet journalist who ... lived for four decades paralyzed in an iron lung." O'Brien had polio since childhood, and Yu received much praise for her honest, candid portrayal of his life. In the film, she incorporated "the vivid imagery of O'Brien's poetry and his candid, wry, and often profound reflections on work, sex, death, and God."
"This Month in Disability History: June"
June 1, 1953 – Roland Sykes is Born – Roland Sykes was a pioneer in the birth of disability activism on the Internet, with his development of the DIMENET service used to create a central hub for critical online information for disability rights activists. DIMENET was chosen by Fred Fay, Justin Dart, Becky Ogle, and Evan Kemp. Mr. Sykes was an extremely active member of ADAPT, and several leading members of the Independent Living Community have shared there collective experiences at http://www.dimenet.com/memorial-roland.sykes.php . Sykes was remembered for a tour of the United States in 2002. The tour was started after the death of Justin Dart. A multitude of friends have discussed how Mr. Sykes loved being on “The White Cloud”, a nickname for his bus he toured with. Roland's Mentor was Fred Fay and Sykes produced an online video interview which is currently being hosted via DIMENET. Roland passed away on March 10, 2008. He was 54.
"Letter Never Sent: Governor LePage and Zohydro"
On Friday, August 29th, 2014 The Associated Press reported that Maine Governor Paul LePage signed on to a letter with five other governors from New England addressed to the commissioner of the FDA to withdraw approval of the controversial new drug Zohydro. Zohydro is a new stronger formulation of Hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin. There are a number of concerns, chief among them the fact that the medication contained in one Zohydro will be equal to five Vicodin pills. Unlike Vicodin, Zohydro does not contain Acedomediphen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The manufacturer of Zohydro, Zogenix, states that this formulation is a benefit, as long term use of Tylenol can cause liver issues.
"Sick of your computer? Try Linux!"
Late last winter, I was given an older desktop computer. I had planned to install Microsoft's Windows 7, but the audio card I had was not supported; the audio drivers (software that allows the computer to work with the audio card) were not compatible with Windows 7. Eager to use my new machine, I quickly grabbed a DVD of Ubuntu Studio, a Linux operating system built primarily for audio and video multimedia production. The operating system worked with my hardware, and the installation was relatively painless. Within an hour, my computer was up and running. I had access to programs such as the OpenOffice suite (similar to Microsoft Office); GIMP, a graphics manipulation program on par with Adobe Photoshop (the industry standard for photo editing and graphics); and a host of audio and video editing programs. In the Windows operating system, a setup like this would have cost thousands, yet I paid nothing.
"This Month in Disability History: November"
11/13/1956 - James Troesh born - Jim Troesh was born on this date in 1956. As a teenager he suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a swimming accident, which left him a quadriplegic. His entertainment career took off when he landed the recurring role of the quadriplegic attorney on Highway to Heaven starring Michael Landon. The lead role catapulted him into appearances on several other series, TV movies, and films. But, when Highway to Heaven ended, work slowed down, andJim quickly learned that earning a living as a quadriplegic actor was a difficult road. Mr Troesh became an highly skilled graphic designer and won the prestigious ABC Disney writing Scholarship. His first script, "Color of the Cross"was made into a film in 2006. He died in October 2011 of a stroke.
"New Law Attempts to Clarify Schools' Restraint Guidelines"
On February 20th, educators from around the state convened in
Augusta for a legislative hearing about LD 243 - a bill seeking to change new regulations about whether teachers can physically restrain disruptive students.
Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Franklin, filed the bill as an emergency measure at the request of the Maine Education Association (MEA), an organization that represents teachers.
The problem, according to the MEA, is the definition of the word "restraint." Under the new rules, any time a teacher touches a student without the student's permission it is considered restraint (even picking up a child who is having a tantrum falls under this interpretation). The law firm of Drummond Woodsum gave a briefing to a group of school administrators that led many teachers to believe they could be sued by parents if restraint was used on children - unless the children were in imminent danger of hurting themselves or others.
"State's Largest Medical Marijuana Dispensary Violated Major Rules, Endangering Patients, Angering Staff"
In mid-March, a tip from an employee of the Wellness Connection of Maine (WCM) prompted an investigation that uncovered 20 violations of state rules governing the production, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana. The WCM, which runs four of Maine's eight medical marijuana dispensaries, was allowed to continue operations under a consent decree, a court-ordered settlement between the WCM and the state that requires weekly inspections and status updates. State-sanctioned dispensaries were created with the passage of a 2009 voter referendum that expanded Maine's existing medical marijuana law, passed in 1999.
Many of the violations result from of the use of pesticides to combat mold on plants grown indoors at a facility in Auburn. The WCM also has growing facilities in Thorndike.
"Patients Protest State's Handling of Medical Marijuana Investigation"
On Friday, April 5, between three and four dozen medical marijuana patients converged upon the Wellness Connection of Maine's Hallowell dispensary to protest the state's failure to notify patients about its investigation of the WCM. Because of this failure, many patients unknowingly purchased and used medical marijuana contaminated with mold and pesticide residues.
The state's month-long investigation of the WCM, which has four dispensaries in Maine, revealed more than 20 violations of regulations regarding the cultivation of medical marijuana. Most of the violations involved the use of pesticides and fungicides to kill mold on the plants. During the course of the investigation, the state allowed patients to continue to purchase the tainted product.
"Waking People up and Connecting with All Living Things, an interview with Jennifer Lunden, Maine Healthcare Activist and Award-Winning Writer and Social Worker"
Interviewing Jennifer Lunden (known to her friends as “Lunden”) has been on my list of things to do for a year. I first got the idea when her essay, which touched on her life with MCS, was published in the literary journal Creative Nonfiction. But before I managed to approach her, the piece had won the Pushcart Prize and Lunden had been named Maine Social Worker of the Year!
There was always more to ask: during the weeks that we’ve corresponded, conducting this interview, Lunden has been leading the charge in crucial statewide health care activism. In fact, we both wanted to get this piece published this weekend because a year’s worth of her healthcare activism in Maine is coming down to the wire right now. And while Lunden certainly values words and writing, they seem to be most meaningful to her when they empower people to act!
"Riverview Psychiatric Hospital Retains Federal Funding, Despite Serious Issues"
After a highly critical report released last week by the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS)cited major concerns in the level of patient care and safety, the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, Maine could lose twenty million dollars in federal money, after allegations that law enforcement personnel were restraining patients using handcuffs and stun guns. The federal money could be lost if federal officials do not approve a plan to address the concerns by September 2nd. Kennebec County law enforcement officials were brought in after an assault on a mental health care worker by a patient in mid-March.
Among the issues cited in the report, which was a result of two unannounced visits in March and in early May, were issues such as failure to prevent abuse of patients, allowing law enforcement to use stun guns or tasers on any patient in the hospital who was perceived of demonstrating threatening behavior. The report stated that there was a failure to comply with laws meant to assure that patients are treated in a safe setting and free from physical and psychological abuse and harassment. The report also discussed numerous issues with hospital staff being trained in the Non Abusive Psychological and Physical Intervention protocals, known as NAPPI, and county law enforcement being trained in the use of restraint and control.
"Does Mitt Romney Have a Disability Policy?"
When I was checking the news on a Sunday morning in early August, an item on the BBC News mobile site piqued my interest. Clint Eastwood had attended an event that raised $2 million for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Several news sources remarked that the two were close friends. I thought it odd that Romney would embrace a person who is seen by many in the disability rights movement as the embodiment of opposition to disability rights, his face gracing the cover of Ragged Edge editor Mary Johnson's book, Make Them Go Away: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Reeve, and the Case Against Disability Rights. Why would Romney stand with someone who stands against that most bipartisan of laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), especially given that Romney's wife, Ann, has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for years?
"Languaging Disability: Where do 'Ability' and 'Dis/Ability' Fit In?"
As a writer with a disability, I read a lot of writing about disability, discussions of language about disability, and the like. There are noticeable differences in language usage around disability depending on geography, disability status and type, and community. This has led me to some conclusions about who uses which language and why.
Before I discuss these differences, I want to stress that I am aware that these conclusions are generalizations. I know there is wide variation within the groups I'm referring to which goes beyond a few exceptions. Nonetheless, I've been active in the disability rights community and have been writing (fiction, poetry, and most often, nonfiction) professionally about disability since 1992, so I think I have a pretty good grasp of the broader implications.
"How to Survive a Plague: A Film Review"
On March 24, 1987, the radical AIDS advocacy group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) held its first action, organized largely by activists’ handing out photocopied flyers, on Wall Street and Broadway in New York City. The documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” which recently screened at the prestigious Maine International Film Festival in Waterville, Maine, chronicles the birth and growth of ACT UP and its splinter group, the Treatment Action Group. “How to Survive a Plague” focuses primarily on the work of ACT UP's New York-based activists, though the film also features actions from Toronto to DC to Kennebunkport, Maine. The film, which includes archival footage of ACT UP’s first action, is a comprehensive look at the issues confronting a group of activists facing a virus killing at rates unseen in modern history — a group of activists whom elected officials ignored, shunned or blamed for causing their own problems in the mid-to-late-1980s.
"MaineCare's Prior Authorization Policies: Sometimes Government Cuts Are Not the Reason Your Medical Supplies Were Denied"
With the rash of budget cuts and other rumblings heard around Augusta, I wasn’t completely surprised to find I had to go through a prior authorization review regarding the products I use to manage my incontinence. I had surgery this past year and now have a colostomy, an opening in the abdomen through which the intestine empties waste into a bag attached to the skin. In addition to the colostomy, I use disposable adult briefs. Since incontinence is a fairly common issue for adults with cerebral palsy, I figured the only problem I’d have during the review would be justifying the rather specific brands of products I use. Given my well-documented history of skin reactions to other products, I figured I'd be all set.
"Remembering Alice Conway"
Alice Conway passed away on Saturday May 12, 2012 after five days in the hospital. She was a national treasure in the field of disability rights, and never uttered the word can’t. Conway was born in Lewiston, ME in 1960 the daughter of Fred and Marianne Dyer. Alice was born with spina bifida and was one of the first children with a disability in the US to be included in a regular educational setting when, at age 4, she participated in a pilot program that would later become Head Start. In the mid-nineties, she would begin serving on the Head Start Board of Directors until her death.
"UCP of Maine Closes Dangerous Facility"
When a person with disability takes on the non-profit that bears the name of their diagnosis, it certainly isn’t an easy decision. When I wrote the story "Of Landfills and Cerebral Palsy", I published it because I was enraged that children with severe emotional disorders were being placed in a state accredited Mainecare facility and being exposed to many harmful chemicals, namely Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S).
My article pointed out that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection had placed sensors at the facility, the Fort James House, that found that, during several months in 2011, H2S levels were five to six times higher than state guidelines for exposure to the chemical. Additionally, Don Meagher, a senior manager at Casella Waste Systems, the company that runs the state owned Juniper Ridge Landfill, served as vice president on the Board of Directors for UCP of Maine. The President of UCP of Maine's Board was Jim Heald, who worked for Sappi Paper. Sappi Paper is one of the primary consumers of the energy made by KTI Biofuels, a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems.
“How Do They Sleep at Night? An Interview with Author and Investigative Reporter, Arnold Mann, on Corporate Malice and Government Coverups"
Arnold Mann has been an investigative health and science reporter for 30 years, writing cover stories for Time and USA Weekend. His most recent book is They're Poisoning Us! From the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico -- An Investigative Report.
Question: You were the reporter who brought public attention to Stachybotrys ("toxic mold") ten years ago. How did you get from mold to chemicals?
Arnold Mann: Actually, when I started writing about “Toxic Mold,” I had no idea what I was getting into. That first Time Magazine story was supposed to be a short piece about sick building syndrome (SBS) for the magazine’s business readers. I went out looking for things like respiratory problems and fatigue, and what I found at Southwest Airlines’ mold-infested Reservations Center at San Antonio was memory loss, seizures, strokes and death. One woman died from a second stroke after being hauled away by ambulance.
"Of Landfills and Cerebral Palsy: An Investigative Report"
This winter I’ve spent a great deal of time wandering the halls of the Statehouse and adjacent Cross Office building going to a number of hearings and work sessions, some directly dealing with disability related legislation as well as a number of non disability related issues. While attending a hearing on landfill expansion and being stumped on trying to tie this directly relation to disability, a good friend simply asked “Do you know about the house in Old Town that is run by United Cerebral Palsy.”
It turns out that the United Cerebral Palsy house borders the landfill, and children with significant emotional disabilities are being exposed to toxic chemicals and poor air quality that are endangering their health and lives. Unfortunately, the people who are paid to oversee the public safety may have other priorities, and children with disabilities are left exposed to chemicals that are as toxic as cyanide, often at levels five to six times accepted state and federal guidelines.
"Corporate Control of People with Disabilities"
I hope that those who are nondisabled and active in the Occupy movement will read and take this information to heart. We, people with disabilities (PWDs), are essential to the Occupy movement. We have been at the bottom of the barrel of the 99 throughout history, and this perspective gives us a keen understanding of the stakes. We also, for better and for worse, know a great deal about interdependence, and you would do well to learn from us on this topic, which I hear bandied about by occupiers, but which I have yet to hear “click” in its understanding of a disability rights perspective.
A quick overview is that PWDs in America have historically had, and continue to have, the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment, barriers to education, and poverty, of any other group in America. These statistics cut across all other demographics, including race and gender (with people of color with disabilities and women with disabilities having the highest rates of poverty, lack of education, unemployment, and other aspects of low quality of life and lack of social inclusion). In most other countries, PWDs have fewer rights and are even worse off than they are in the U.S., so this is a global problem. However, since I live in the U.S. and am not intimately familiar with the effects of corporate control over the daily lives of PWDs in other countries, my post will focus on what it’s like to be disabled in the US of A.
"Nine Arrested at Blaine House Protest"
As part of the national Occupy movement, an Occupy Augusta camp was set up in Maine’s capital of Augusta on October 15, 2011. The day after Thanksgiving, after over a month of working with Capitol Police and even working on a food drive with the Governor, the Occupy Augusta Encampment was told by Capitol Police that it would be removed from Capitol Park. A rally was scheduled for that Sunday, November 26th and a restraining order was filed in Federal Court to stop the removal of the encampment.
The protesters of Occupy Augusta were keen to provide an inclusive atmosphere to people with disabilities. Several of the activists directly involved with the day-to-day operations of the encampment were people with disabilities. Ryan Begin (who is profiled in a separate article on this site) was featured in a blog on wired.com for his efforts to get testing on PTSD and for the use of Cannabis as a safe treatment for veterans and others with disabilities in Maine and across the nation. Furthermore, the Occupy Augusta encampment tried to be as physically accessible as possible, including having an accessible portable toilet at the encampment until the last week of November.
"Do People With Disabilities Sometimes Wear Orange?"
On Sunday, November 27 2011, Mike Reynolds, the web master for Ability Maine, ROSC and Breath and Shadow, was arrested at Governor Lepage's mansion in Augusta, Maine. Reynolds was participating in the Occupy Maine protest, as a part of the now nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. After his brief incarceration, Reynolds agreed to talk with us.
Bns: What made you decide to be a part of the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement in Maine?
MR: Well, it was actually a pretty easy decision, since most of my friends were directly involved in the prep of the Occupy Maine movement. I had some real issues with some aspects of the OWS movement (namely how they were seriously bigoted towards homeless folks and how they started to use Guy Fawkes masks.) Occupy Augusta was different, It was much more a mixture of folks that were doing targeted events and getting some great media coverage and even worked with the Governor on a food drive exactly three weeks prior. Then, after Thanksgiving there was an order to vacate in spite of the fact that there were really good communications with Capitol Police. There were a number of people with disabilities involved with various parts of Augusta’s Occupy Movement.
"Ryan Begin: A Profile"
In the part year or so of knowing Ryan Begin, I’ve been consisently impressed with his advocacy and activism. Begin, a disabled veteran, served two tours in Iraq before suffering a career ending injury when an IED maimed his right arm. He had quite a difficult road, also dealing with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other emotional issues as a result of his injuries. Begin, who was talking “well over 100 pills a day” had some serious psychiatric issues including attempts at suicide upon returning to the states, and would wean himself off all of those meds and replace them with one: medical cannabis.
Now after getting to know Ryan (and being on some of the same meds he came off of), it simply would have been laudable that he reduced his psych med intake. Begin not only was able to do that but was able to be more functional.. Ryan is one of the most articulate advocates for medical marijuana. Currently he is working on two separate but related issues. He is working on trying to expand the list of covered conditions in Maine to include PTSD, a process that is currently on hold. Ryan is also pressuring the federal government to allow an Arizona based researcher access to government supplied marijuana to test the effects of cannabis on PTSD.
"Disabled Mainer Speaks about Working at Walmart: Low wages, Lack of Health Insurance and Care for Elderly, and Injured Coworkers"
With Walmart the biggest employer in the US (a staggering one percent of the US population works for Walmart) and with Black Friday as the biggest shopping day of the year, the upcoming Black Friday strike by Walmart employees around the country is a very big deal. [Update: Walmart has retaliated against strikers and is opening the store even earlier than usual – 8 PM Thanksgiving day.]
The issues at the heart of the strike – a living wage, safe working conditions, fair and respectful treatment, lack of affordable healthcare, consistent scheduling – are relevant to all. However, as I learned during this interview, disabled and elderly workers are particularly vulnerable to ill-treatment by the retail giant.
"'The Sessions' Provides an Enlightening View of Disability: A Film Review"
The Sessions is based on an article O'Brien published in 1990, "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate." O'Brien was a journalist who lived with the severe effects of the polio he contracted at age six. He spent the majority of his life in an iron lung, and he was only able to move three muscles below his waist. O'Brien lived in Berkeley, CA, where because of his severe back curvature he traveled the streets on an electric gurney.
The movie opens when O'Brien is 38 years old. Because he has never experienced sex, he decides to seek the help of a sexual surrogate. As he tells his priest, Father Brendan (played by William H. Macy), he is "approaching his use-by date." Father Brendan is sympathetic, and O'Brien, (played by John Hawkes) hires a professional sex surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene (played by Helen Hunt).
"Disability Rights Activists Take Action to Preserve Medicaid & Attendant Care Pennsylvania Cuts Reflect National Issues- Police Brutality, 83 Arrests in Struggle to Save Medicaid in the Keystone State"
As we posted Monday on our blog, disability rights activists from around the country have converged on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to convince lawmakers to change course on the devastating cuts to Medicaid that are harming people with disabilities.
The protests and efforts to affect change started on Sunday and continue through Thursday (October 18). Today's activism saw 83 arrests and \police brutality that was captured on video (see below).
Yesterday, Governor Corbett refused to meet with ADAPT, though activists attempted to make headway with other key lawmakers, including Senator Jack Corman and Representative William Adolph, but nothing that led to concrete action or meaningful meetings.