MSNBC article about ‘One-person, one-fare’ ruling for Canadian airline travel

Canadian doctors decry airline ‘tush test’

Carriers comply with disability ruling; critics claim they’re passing the buck

Air Canada diagram

The picture above is the diagram which appears in the AIR CANADA medical form instructing doctors how to calculate the width of someon’s behind. The diagram, which is a line drawing, depicts the naked back and partial buttocks of someone who is seated. An arrow pointing to the outside of the left buttock indicates “Point A” and an arrow pointing to the outside of the right buttock indicates “Point B”.

By Harriet Baskas – Travel Writer

After fighting it for nearly a year, Canada’s major airlines finally unveiled procedures they claim will comply with the Canadian Transportation’s Agency’s “one-person, one-fare” ruling. On all domestic flights within Canada, the carriers are required to provide additional seating to disabled travelers who must be accompanied by a personal attendant or to travelers determined by medical professionals to be functionally disabled by obesity.

How airlines determine who needs or gets an extra seat has been a thorny issue. On Jan. 10, Air Canada and WestJet announced they will require disabled or obese passengers seeking a second seat to get a note from a doctor and send it in for review well before their flight date. But doctors, disability rights groups and travelers of all sizes are calling that requirement everything from “too burdensome” to “ludicrous,” and they give the plan’s chances of working a big fat zero.

Disability rights groups claim the medical forms require passengers to give too much personal information to the airlines. They suggest a third party — one more experienced with these issues — would be better suited for the job. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), meanwhile, is complaining that the form asking doctors to measure a patient’s behind “shows a disregard for the use of scarce medical resources.”

Read the entire article here:

Acknowledgements to Beth Haller at media dis&dat.

Criminally ugly

This is an excerpt from Michael Pollack’s FYI column in today’s New York Times:

Q. I’ve been told that it used to be a crime in New York to be ugly in public. Sometimes it feels that way, but was it literally true?

A. Practically. In many cities in the 1880s and 1890s, groups dedicated to separating the “worthy” from the “unworthy” poor tried to suppress begging by passing “ugly laws.” Their special targets were disabled mendicants who attracted public sympathy.

About 1895, one Charles Kellogg drafted an extreme version of the law for New York, working with the Charity Organization Society in New York.

The draft read: “It shall be unlawful for any person, whose body is deformed, mutilated, imperfect or has been reduced by amputations, or who is idiotic or imbecile, to exhibit him or herself” in a public place for money, or to seek charity door to door.

Susan Schweik, professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, describes the state of affairs in “The Ugly Laws,” to be published this spring by New York University Press. “The disability movement is really the sole place where it’s been remembered in American culture,” Professor Schweik said in an interview.

Read the full answer here:

Eugenic strategies under patriarchal (neo)liberalism

[Today the F.D.A. in the US approved the test of a “therapy” for spinal cord injuries developed with embryonic stem cells, which the *NY Times article below reports. Not surprisingly, the article mentions the controversy that surrounds embryonic stem cell research with respect to the moral status of the embryo, but makes no mention of the potential for the technology to lead to increased commodification of women’s bodies and exploitation of women in the global South, nor its deleterious consequences for the lives of disabled people, issues I have discussed in my comments to previous posts made on the blog. — ST]

F.D.A. Approves a Stem Cell Trial

Published: January 23, 2009

In a research milestone, the federal government will allow the world’s first test in people of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells. Geron’s trial with embryonic stem cells will involve people with severe spinal injuries, and will mostly test the therapy’s safety. Federal drug regulators said that political considerations had no role in the decision. Nevertheless, the move coincided with the inauguration of President Obama, who has pledged to remove some of the financing restrictions placed on the field by President George W. Bush.

The clearance of the clinical trial — of a treatment for spinal cord injury — is to be announced Friday by Geron, the biotechnology company that first applied to the Food and Drug Administration to conduct the trial last March. The F.D.A. had first said no, asking for more data.

Thomas B. Okarma, Geron’s chief executive, said Thursday that he did not think that the Bush administration’s objections to embryonic stem cell research played a role in the F.D.A.’s delaying approval. “We really have no evidence,” Dr. Okarma said, “that there was any political overhang.” But others said they suspected it was more than a coincidence that approval was granted right after the new administration took office. “I think this approval is directly tied to the change in administration,” said Robert N. Klein, the chairman of California’s $3 billion stem cell research program. He said he thought the Bush administration had pressured the F.D.A. to delay the trial. Mr. Klein called the approval of the first human trial of this sort “an extraordinary benchmark.”

Stem cells derived from adults and fetuses are already being used in some clinical trials, but they generally have less versatility than embryonic stem cells in terms of what tissue types they can form.

Read the entire article here:

*(Notice that this article appears in the Business section of the NY Times, rather than its Technology section.)

CFP: ‘Life going on and on: time, embodiment, ageing’

RGS/IBG annual conference 2009, Manchester (
2nd Call For Papers: ‘Life going on and on: time, embodiment, ageing’

Co-Sponsored by: Social and Cultural Geographies Research Group and Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Working Group.

Organisers: Bethan Evans, Manchester Metropolitan University; John Horton, The University of Northampton; Peter Kraftl, University of Leicester.  Please send abstracts to by 29th January 2009

A range of recent geographical work has questioned the multiple spatio-temporalities and conceptions of embodiment which drive particular ways of knowing, being and acting on and in the world. Geographers have, for instance, continually questioned the spatialities of time, and vice-versa (Massey, 2005; Dodgshon, 2008). Recent work on pre-emption and hope has highlighted the affective registers at play in the potential futures open to intending subjects/societies (Anderson, 2006; 2007). Geographers of age have insisted upon more relational understandings of age, inter-generational relations, agency, responsibility and the lifecourse (Hopkins and Pain, 2007). Children’s geographers have deployed nonrepresentational theories to query the linearity of ‘growing up’, stressing that “embodiment-and this being-in-the-world-is always becoming: bodies are always in flux; always ongoing; never still”(Horton and Kraftl, 2006a, 2006b). This session seeks to bring together critical debate about the diverse, multiple conceptions of spatio-temporality such as those above (and more besides).

Continue reading

CFP: Disorderly Conduct (July 24-26, 2009)

Interdisciplinary Conference
July 24-26, 2009
Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Keynote speaker: Dr. Steven Angelides, Department of Women’s Studies, Monash University

Other featured speakers will be confirmed for the release of the official conference announcement to follow.

The conference, “Disorderly Conduct” will bring together scholars from around the world and from such disciplines as sociology, philosophy, health studies, history, women’s studies, and medicine to explore and problematize the notion of a “disorder”. The conference seeks to bring front-line medical and mental health personnel who treat various “disorders” together with humanities, social science and health and disability studies scholars who work (in one way or another) on theoretical questions related both to specific “disorders” and to the notion of a disorder simpliciter. In workshops and symposia, conference participants will engage questions like the following: Continue reading

Petition to cancel humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis

Every year, disability activists in the US protest the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon because of the stereotypes and prejudice that Lewis and his annual escapade promote about people with muscular dystrophy and other disabled people. The Academy of Motion Pictures Art and Sciences has announced that it will award Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at next month’s Oscar awards ceremony. American disability activist and author Laura Hershey has written a petition which will be delivered to the Academy. An excerpt follows: Continue reading

Haller’s review of representations of disabled people on U.S. TV in 2008*

Disability Visibility in U.S. Entertainment TV in 2008
By BA Haller
Media dis&dat blog
The visibility of people with disabilities in entertainment media helps subtly educate diverse audiences about the disability experience in America. Many non-disabled Americans have little contact with people with disabilities in their daily lives unless they have friends or family with a disability. Therefore, they get much of their information about disability from the media and these images have the potential to change attitudes. (A 1991 Louis Harris poll showed that Americans surveyed were less likely to feel awkward around people with disabilities after viewing fictional TV or film presentations about people with disabilities.)
* The photo on the right above is of deaf actress Marlee Maitlin with her dancing partner on a segment of “Dancing with the Stars”. In the photo, Maitlin, who won an Academy award for best actress for her role in the film “Children of a Lesser God,” has both arms extended above her head and is wearing an unusual red dress with matching wrist bands. The photo on the left above is of Robert David Hall, a double leg amputee, who plays forensic scientist Albert Robbins on the crime-drama “CSI”. He is standing with a Canadian crutch and wearing a white lab coat.

Does your idea of reproductive rights include disabled people’s right to have children?

Disabled pair defied naysayers to create own kind of family: from the Sacramento Bee


Published: Thursday, Jan. 01, 2009

At 8 a.m. on a recent Wednesday you might have spotted Rebeka Willett on the Modesto Junior College campus. She was the 18-year-old in a Raiders T-shirt and jeans, giggling along with her classmates as she practiced arabesques in a dance class. You would have seen a student like any other: sleepy, but learning and enjoying herself.

This isn’t the way some people thought Rebeka Willett’s life would turn out. She is the child of two parents with disabilities. Her mother, Tammy Willett, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She needs help to eat and to do other basic tasks. Rebeka’s father, Clarence, 43, is developmentally disabled.

Some questioned whether the couple could raise a child. A public health nurse once told the Willetts to give Rebeka up for adoption. She said Rebeka would never learn to talk because Tammy can’t talk.

This year Rebeka more than proved the critics wrong. She graduated – on time – from Grace Davis High School in Modesto. Now she’s studying to be a preschool teacher. If Tammy Willett could track down that public health nurse today, she would say, “You didn’t think I could do it? Look at us now!”

Read the entire article here:

Acknowledgements to Beth Haller at media dis and dat.

Universal Design, Technology, and Blind Users

T. V. Raman of Google, who is a pioneer in customizing technology for blind users, is sittting at a computer desk wearing wireless headphones and typing on a keyboard. His guide dog lies attentively on the carpetted floor behind him. Raman’s PC reads text aloud at triple normal speed. Photo by Peter DaSilva for the New York Times.

Published: January 3, 2009

T. V. RAMAN was a bookish child who developed a love of math and puzzles at an early age. That passion didn’t change after glaucoma took his eyesight at the age of 14. What changed is the role that technology — and his own innovations — played in helping him pursue his interests.

A native of India, Mr. Raman went from relying on volunteers to read him textbooks at a top technical university there to leading a largely autonomous life in Silicon Valley, where he is a highly respected computer scientist and an engineer at Google.

Along the way, Mr. Raman built a series of tools to help him take advantage of objects or technologies that were not designed with blind users in mind. They ranged from a Rubik’s Cube covered in Braille to a software program that can take complex mathematical formulas and read them aloud, which became the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell. He also built a version of Google’s search service tailored for blind users.

Read the full article here:

CNN article: Children forced into cell-like school seclusion rooms

By Ashley Fantz

MURRAYVILLE, Georgia (CNN) — A few weeks before 13-year-old Jonathan King killed himself, he told his parents that his teachers had put him in “time-out.”

The room where Jonathan King hanged himself is shown after his death. It is no longer used, a school official said.

[Two photos taken after Jonathan King’s death show the interior and exterior of the steel door to the cell where he hanged himself . In the photo on the right, which shows the inside of the cell, we can see the cord Jonathan used to hang himself tied to the metal cage-like window of the door. A school official has said that the room is no longer used.]

“We thought that meant go sit in the corner and be quiet for a few minutes,” Tina King said, tears washing her face as she remembered the child she called “our baby … a good kid.”

But time-out in the boy’s north Georgia special education school was spent in something akin to a prison cell — a concrete room latched from the outside, its tiny window obscured by a piece of paper. Called a seclusion room, it’s where in November 2004, Jonathan hanged himself with a cord a teacher gave him to hold up his pants. An attorney representing the school has denied any wrongdoing.

Seclusion rooms, sometimes called time-out rooms, are used across the nation, generally for special needs children. Critics say that along with the death of Jonathan, many mentally disabled and autistic children have been injured or traumatized. Few states have laws on using seclusion rooms, though 24 states have written guidelines, according to a 2007 study conducted by a Clemson University researcher.

Read the entire CNN article here:

Thanks to Doug Baynton for alerting members of the Disability Studies in the Humanities listserv to this article.

Project Possibility: expanding universal design

J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Students at the University of Southern California are shown preparing to present their program at a competition aimed at helping disabled people expand their access to computers.

Published: December 17, 2008

ONE computer program would allow vision-impaired shoppers to point their cellphones at supermarket shelves and hear descriptions of products and prices. Another would allow a physically disabled person to guide a computer mouse using brain waves and eye movements.

The two programs were among those created by eight groups of volunteers at a two-day software-writing competition this fall. The goal of the competition, sponsored by a nonprofit corporation, is to encourage new computer programs that help disabled people expand their capabilities.

The corporation, set up by computer science students and graduates at the University of Southern California, is named Project:Possibility. It grew out of an idea two years ago by Christopher Leung, then a master’s degree candidate in computer science and engineering at the university, who was working on a project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Read the entire NY Times article here:

About Face(s): here’s an article from the L.A. Times about a face transplant

Woman undergoes face transplant in Cleveland

Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic replace about 80% of her face with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver. It’s the most extensive such operation ever performed and the first in the U.S.
By Karen Kaplan and Shari Roan
December 17, 2008
A woman being treated at the Cleveland Clinic has an almost entirely new face following the most extensive facial transplant ever performed, the medical center said Tuesday. The surgery was the first face transplant in the U.S. and the fourth in the world.

Few details about the patient have been released in advance of a news conference scheduled for today. About 80% of the patient’s face was replaced with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver.

The family of the patient has asked that her name and age not be released so she can remain anonymous, the clinic said. It was not clear when the surgery took place.

Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Cleveland Clinic plastic surgeon who performed the marathon procedure, is well known among microsurgery specialists, and colleagues were quick to praise the achievement. They said face transplants would become routine in the coming years.

“We’re on the threshold of a whole new way of correcting defects,” said Dr. Warren C. Breidenbach of the University of Louisville, who performed the first hand transplant in the United States.

Read the entire article at the link below:,0,6148948.story?track=ntothtml

Pacific Rim Honolulu Conference (deadline Dec. 12)

Deadline for Proposals for Pac Rim 2008 is December 12th

Note strands on disability studies (general), independent living, and international forum on rights of persons with disabilities.

Call for Proposals
25th Annual Pacific Rim International Conference on Disabilities
May 4-5, 2009 • Honolulu, Hawai‘i • Hawai‘i Convention Center

Working toward a brighter future

The Center on Disability Studies ( at the
University of Hawai‘i cordially invites you to the 25th Annual Pacific
Rim International Conference on Disabilities on May 4-5, 2009 in
Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Celebrate the collective achievements of the past
and look forward to create an inclusive vision for the 21st century. As
we face economic uncertainty and global challenges, it is even more
important to honor tradition, and use this foundation to navigate our
futures. Continue reading

What Sorts of Actors Can There Be?

(Image description: Actor Jason Maza sits in a grassy area on the set of “Special People” in a black manual wheelchair.   He is wearing a navy hoodie with white collar and blue jeans and is holding a film camera on his lap. )

Director’s Anger over Comedy Film’s “Disability” Warning (from The Independent)

By Paul Bignell
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Disabled actors last night condemned a move by British film censors to label a new film featuring a disabled cast with a warning stating that the film contains “disability themes”.  Special People, a British, feature-length film with a cast  of mainly disabled actors playing disabled characters, was given the label by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) along with a 12A rating.  The director, Justin Edgar, is angry about the “unnecessary” labelling. “I was really surprised to get this certificate,” he said. “I couldn’t understand why a film censor thought it was necessary to make people aware that the film had disabled people in it.”

The movie – a comedy which follows a film-maker on the verge of a nervous breakdown who is enlisted to teach a class of wheelchair-users about film-making – has garnered awards and been selected for festivals around the world.  Read the entire article at the link below:

Acknowledgment to Beth Haller @ media dis and dat

CFP: Canadian Disability Studies Association, 6th Annual Conference

Capital D: Disability as Nation, Ground, Territory

May 25-26, 2009

Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Deadline: December 1, 2008

Papers, panels, workshops, roundtables, performances, posters and other presentations, addressing the grounds—academic disciplines, reasoning, frontiers, cultures, sites—of understanding and advancing of disability studies in Canada and internationally:

• What has been and is now the status of the Canadian citizen with Disability?

• How may Canada provide ground for a unique concept of disability, both individual and cultural?

• How may Disability provide ground for a unique concept of Canada as nation?

• Do academic territories, including methods of discipline, capitalise ideas of Disability, for better or worse?

• What are the grounds for the establishment of disability studies programs and departments across Canada?

• Does Canada’s multiculturalism permit space for Disability culture, individually, socially, or politically?

• How do physical sites—bodies, buildings, environments—create grounds and territories of Disability?

The Proposal Submission Form can be downloaded at 


Chris Bell on living with AIDS and teaching about HIV/AIDS in Disability Studies

 Close-up photo of Chris Bell from the shoulders up.  He is wearing a midnight blue t-shirt, rectangular glasses, silver hoop earrings, and has a thin moustache/goatee.  There are books on the shelves of bookcases in the background.

“This is not a death sentence”

by Rebekah Jones

When Chris Bell found out he was HIV-positive, he went home, sat down and watched “Law and Order.”  He didn’t cry or lash out at his partner who infected him, he said. He watched television and started his homework.  “I had papers to grade,” said Bell, a post-doctorate research fellow and soon-to-be professor at Syracuse University.  Eleven years after his diagnosis, at 6-foot-2 and 135 pounds, Bell’s emaciated figure proves how the infection plagues his body. His medicine makes him tired and sick, and he keeps losing weight.

Bell isn’t doing well health wise, but he’s pushing forward. He’s learned too much in his 34 years of living to just quit – giving up isn’t in him, he said.  “This is not a death sentence; we’re all dying,” Bell said. “Nothing has changed but my level of awareness.”  While the virus overwhelms his body, Bell continues to focus on what’s important to him: being an activist and an educator.

Bell’s first class as a professor at SU, CFE 600 (Disability, AIDS & U.S. Culture) starting Spring 2009, will be the only class at SU focused specifically on HIV and disability studies in American culture. His class will examine, critique and aim to redefine the way people think about disabled persons and HIV/AIDS patients.  Read the entire story here:

Acknowledgement to Beth Haller at Media dis and dat

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: The Body as a Site of Discrimination

The Body as a Site of Discrimination: A Multidisciplinary, Multimedia Online Journal

The Body as a Site of Discrimination will be an interactive, educational, multi-disciplinary, high quality, critical, and cutting edge online journal. This creative project will fulfill the degree requirements for two Master’s of Social Work students at SFSU.  This is a call for submissions to explore the following themes, but other interpretations are also encouraged.

— Disability and Ableism
— Fatphobia or Size Discrimination
— Ageism
— Racism
— Gender Discrimination, transphobia, non-conforming gender identities, sexual assault, sexism, and reproductive rights Continue reading

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University presents Nirmala Erevelles and others

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University Presents
“Unspeakable Offenses: Untangling Race and Disability in
Discourses of Intersectionality”
Nirmala Erevelles
Associate Professor of Education & Instructional Leadership in
Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies
University of Alabama

Wednesday, November 19
Noon – 1:30 p.m.
President’s Conference Suite, 1810 Liacouras Walk
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA

Continue reading

Call for Contributions: Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics

NOTE FROM ST: Readers of the blog may notice that I have posted this cfp to the blog several times.  Please excuse the repetition, but I am keen to get many submissions for the issue which should be pathbreaking.







Vol. 3, no. 2, Fall, 2010        


From the Margins to the Center:

Feminist Disability Studies and/in Feminist Bioethics


Guest Editor,  Shelley Tremain


In recent years, work done in mainstream bioethics has been challenged by the emerging field of disability studies.  A growing number of disability theorists and activists point out that the views about disability and disabled people that mainstream bioethicists have articulated on matters such as prenatal testing, stem cell research, and physician-assisted suicide incorporate significant misunderstandings about them and amount to an institutionalized form of their oppression. 


While some feminist bioethicists have paid greater attention to the perspectives and arguments of disabled people than other bioethicists, these perspectives and arguments are rarely made central.  Feminist disability theory remains marginalized even within feminist bioethics.  This issue of IJFAB will go some distance to move feminist disability studies from the margins to the center of feminist bioethics by highlighting the contributions to and interventions in bioethics that feminist disability studies is uniquely situated to make.


The guest editor seeks contributions to the issue on any topic related to feminist disability studies and bioethics, including (but not limited to): 

Continue reading

Article in St Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri): Down syndrome advocates praise new law

CHESTERFIELD, Mo.— When Missouri Sen. John Loudon and his wife, Gina, decided to adopt their third child, they knew three things: They wanted a little boy, they would name him Samuel and he would have Down syndrome.

“This was always part of the plan,” said Gina Loudon as their now 3-year-old Sammy darted in and out of the living room in his slippers, giggling loudly.”We didn’t know much about how it was going to happen, but we just knew.”

The politically active couple with deep roots in the anti-abortion movement said their passion for Sammy spurred them to take legislative action on behalf of children with Down syndrome. It also put them in the center of an ongoing national discussion about genetic testing, the acceptance of people with disabilities and the type of information about Down syndrome that new or expecting parents were getting from their doctors.

Various studies estimate that 80 to 90 percent of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome through genetic testing choose to abort the fetus. Researchers believe this is the cause behind an 8 percent decline in people with Down syndrome in the United States in the past two decades.
Continue reading