State of Access: This Week’s Version

When I’m giving disability issues talks, I’m often asked “Because of the ADA and other laws, are things getting better?” My answer is some version of “yes and no”.  Here’s this week’s version:

  1. Unsafe situation on nearby corner of busy street
    The mile long reconstruction of an arterial road near my house just finished.  Drivers are breathing a sigh of relief about not having to drive a couple extra miles to get around the construction.  I walked part of the reconstructed sidewalks with a friend who used to teach blind kids and she pointed out that on one corner the truncated domes (bumps) were mis-applied. They’ll launch blind people kiddy-cornered from the northwest corner of the intersection to the southeast corner. I immediately notified a staff member in the city’s engineering department and she replied that she’d turned it over to the project manager and would get back to me with an update when available.  Being concerned that soon the snow will fly and it won’t be able to be fixed until next spring or summer, I notified the city manager. He has not gotten back to me yet.
  2. Unreadable obituaries:
    When you reach the age I have, you start checking the obituaries as regularly as you have that first morning cup of coffee.  Recently the local paper switched their provider of obituaries and they’re no longer accessible to my screen reader.  When I contacted the local paper’s representative, they gave me the email of the help desk of the new provider. I emailed them and offered to work with them to fix the problem. No word back yet.  My work around is to ask a sighted friend who reads the paper to let me know if anyone she knows is listed in the obits.  Not the same, but better than nothing.
  3. Inaccessible library app:
    The public library is touting an app, Libby where one can download audio and e-books on your iPhone. I downloaded it and opened it to a “secret” message to Voiceover users (meaning it wasn’t printed on the screen for sighted people to see, but just audio) that the app wasn’t accessible to us and we should use Overdrive app instead. After several emails and phone calls to the public library, they raised the complaint with the library system who will raise it with the vendor. On the company’s website I read that they’re “working hard” to make Libby accessible, no timeline given. I put a comment on the CEO’s blog since I couldn’t find his email, but have no way of knowing if it was read since I haven’t heard back. There’s plenty of responsibility to be spread around on this one: e.g. why did the company knowingly market an inaccessible app? Why did the library system buy an inaccessible product?
  4. Disability emoji’s launched in version 13.2 for iPhones and iPads:
    For over a year, we’ve been hearing that some disability emoji were coming soon to iPhones and iPads. They have arrived, including persons with “cochlear implants” “probing canes”, “guide dog” and “service dog”. I’ve never heard a long cane, also called a white cane, called a “probing cane”. Others in the disability community point out that many disabilities including cognitive disabilities don’t get an emoji. I also notice some of the other new emoji give the person a high status profession “nonbinary judge” or such, but we just get a disability. Am I happy? A little! (Insert emoji of slightly smiling face in your mind)

I was reading Kushner’s excellent Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned about Life. He has a theology of “not yet” that I really like. Are things all better on the accessibility front? Not yet, but that may happen someday if we all keep plugging away on it.

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D.
Senior Psychologist, Emerita
Counseling Service
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Author of Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities and a children’s book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold

“Disability Angle” Helps Reporters Discover Better Stories

Media coverage of people with disabilities is regularly criticized as being too shallow, too stereotypical and too rare.

The National Center on Disability and Journalism is trying to change that with a new series of posts for journalists that offer story ideas and story angles for a wide range of disability coverage.

The series was created by Susan LoTempio, a journalist with a long career writing about, lecturing on and living with disability. She was an editor at The Buffalo News, and wrote a popular “Diversity at Work” column for the Poynter Institute that focused on disability. She is now a member of the NCDJ Advisory Board.

Her new project consists of a series of short posts that will be offered regularly through social media and archived on the NCDJ website. The posts will cover topics from education and health to politics, housing and transportation, all designed to help reporters do a better job of covering this important and growing segment of the country.

Follow us on Twitter @ASUNCDJ or on Facebook.


Susan LoTempio
Susan LoTempio, NCDJ Advisory Board Member Covers Our Disability Language Style Guide columnist Karina Bland discusses Amy Silverman’s experience updating our 2018 Disability Language Style Guide. Read the article here. highlights Amy Silverman's work to update the NCDJ's Disability Language Style Guide.


You can check out the web version of our style guide here.

Click here to download the 2018 NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide as a PDF.





Amy Silverman on the Challenges of Updating Our Disability Language Style Guide

Journalist and NCDJ board member Amy Silverman discusses the complexities of disability terminology and opens up about her experience updating our Disability Language Style Guide, a task she calls “one of the toughest assignments of my career.”

Read Amy Silverman’s blog post “Beyond the R-Word.”

Click here to download the 2018 NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide as a PDF.

disability language

Disabled Man Crawls Onto Plane After Airline Tries to Prevent Boarding

NY Times reports Hideto Kijima, a disabled rights activist who is partly paralyzed, said he was told by staff of a Japanese airline that he could not board because the small plane was not wheel-chair accessible. The episode has drawn significant public attention and the airline, Vanilla Air, has since apologized. Read more.

“Love is Blind” Wins Festival Prize

Kayhan Life reports that the short film “Love is Blind”, starring music therapist and actor Arsalan Nami, won the jury prize at the Entr’2 Marches International Festival in Cannes. The film tells the story of a man who is losing his vision and his changing relationship. Read more.

Recently Published Non-Fiction On Disability

 My Heart Can’t Even Believe It,  by Amy Silverman 

Amy Silverman’s story of “science, love, and Down Syndrome” is out on Amazon. Silverman, an award-winning journalist, shares her evolution from someone who once used words like “retard” and switched lines at the Safeway to avoid a bagger with special needs to raising a child with Down syndrome. The book is both deeply personal and well researched, with information and insights about how people with Down syndrome are treated in medicine, science and culture. Her book is available on Amazon. 

Wisdom From a Chair: Thirty Years of Quadriplegia, by Andrew I. Batavia and Mitchell Batavia

Twelve years after his death, the family of Andrew Batavia discovered his unfinished memoir and completed the work. Batavia shares the wisdom he acquired while living with a high-level spinal cord injury and fighting for the civil rights of people with disabilities. Read more about the book here.

Film Review

When I Walk

#3 - Director Jason DaSilva at work. From WHEN I WALK, a Long Shot Factory Release 2013
Filmmaker Jason DaSilva at work in India. From WHEN I WALK.


In 2006, New York filmmaker Jason DaSilva fell down and needed help standing back up. Five years later, he could no longer walk and needed help accomplishing even the most basic tasks.

But multiple sclerosis didn’t stop DaSilva from turning the camera on himself in this deeply personal and honest film.

“When I Walk” opens with DaSilva falling down while on a family vacation to Saint Martin in December 2006, a few months after being diagnosed with MS. He continued filming over the course of the next several years, documenting his bodily decline while attempting to maintain a career, relationships and, presumably, his will to survive.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. DaSilva uses animation to explain his condition, depicting his immune system as deranged Pac-Man-like figures devouring nerve endings in his brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, balance and vision.

DaSilva circles back to these animated graphics often in the film, using them as markers of life (and disease) milestones. One such marker is a trip to Lourdes, France, at the urging of his grandmother. In the scene, an animation of DaSilva is carried into the sacred baths and he pleads with a statue of the Virgin Mary to be healed.

As his body deteriorates, DaSilva progresses from walking laboriously and slowly to using a cane and walker to eventually relying on a motorized scooter. The film punctuates this progress with time-lapse shots of DaSilva standing (or sitting) still as people, cars and bicyclists whiz by him in a frantic stream of motion. DaSilva employs the use of these small snapshots artfully. In one, the shot is centered on his hands as he attempts to button his shirt, one excruciating button at a time. In another, his wife, Alice, dresses him as he lays face down on the bed.

The theme of inaccessibility flows throughout the film, with DaSilva shown trying to catch a cab from his scooter in New York City and calling several restaurants to find one with accessible bathrooms. His frustration prompted him to create AXS Map (“access map”), a mobile app and website that list the closest accessible businesses in a given area.

DaSilva was an accomplished filmmaker before his diagnoses, with award-winning short- and feature-length titles to his name, and he was determined to continue making films even when he could no longer easily use his hands. In one scene, he asks his wife to help him with some film editing and snaps at her when she’s unable to perform the task quickly. He explains that editing the film has been his “only creative outlet” for several years, but it’s getting harder to do. In one of the last scenes, the pair is working more harmoniously. Alice says they are using her hands and his brain.

While DaSilva portrays himself as stuck in a body that’s becoming progressively less functional in a world that won’t bend to his disabilities, he also displays a fierce urge to hang on to what’s made his life purposeful for so long. “When I Walk” is a product of that determination. It testifies not only to the horrors of a degenerative disease but also to the surprising humanity, passion and art that can spring from it.

“When I Walk” was an official selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Screenings are currently being held around the country. It is coming to select theaters Oct. 25.