Blogging Against Disablism 2017: Sight, Light, and Language

There have been many articles written on the subject of the “language of awareness,” one or two of such articles may even have been written by yours truly. there has also been some controversy in the disability community about the appropriate or accurate use of that language, as some have insisted that “people first” language is the only way to respectfully, effectively, interact with an individual who has a disability, because it places the emphasis on the human being, rather than the disability. In other words, the person being referred to is not defined by their disability, they are a person, first. There have been others, though, who have vehemently disagreed with this notion, feeling that they are, in fact, defined by their disability, and further, are proud of it.

Over the years, I’ve read so many thoughtful articles written about disability awareness and etiquette, advising any number of “do’s and don’ts” on everything from best practices for communicating with the neuro atypical to humorous missives on the importance of speaking directly to a guide dog user, rather than to the guide dog. These articles, for the most part, have done a great job tearing down stereotypes and facilitating interactions between disabled and non-disabled persons. Much of that which appears here on the Accessible Insights Blog has emphasized blindness, since I am blind as the result of a congenital, degenerative disease of the retina, called Retinitis Pigmentosa.

One of the topics I’ve always wanted to write about is the intriguing connection in the English language between eyesight and understanding. Some of my own work has explored the concepts of the soft bigotry of low expectations, the treatment of people who are blind as intellectually inferior, when, for example, a blind individual is spoken to loudly or slowly, or where there is a presumption of incompetence. Of course, it is not factually accurate to say that a person who cannot see also cannot understand, yet this myth is perpetuated, thanks in part, it seems, to the idiosyncratic nature of English. It also occurred to me that there are words related to “light,” that are associated with knowledge, cognition, and discernment.

The first such instance is the direct link between two simple words that explicitly convey comprehension: “I see.” Another example is “I saw the light.” When we ask for an explanation, we might say, “enlighten me.” When we express appreciation for gaining that knowledge, we might say, “that was quite illuminating.” When we want to impart knowledge, we might say, “let me shed some light on that subject.” If we want to expose a falsehood, we offer to “shine the bright light of truth” on something. Finally, even the rising sun can take credit for the sudden remembrance, acknowledgement, or grasp of an idea…as when we say, “it dawned on me.” Word nerd that I am, I consulted my favorite reference books pertaining to the use of language, and I discovered some interesting linguistic connections between having eyesight, and possessing understanding.

Here are more specific examples, where the word being defined can be explained by phrases analogous to eyesight:

The word perceive, as a verb, means to become aware of, or to comprehend via our senses. Often it is inferred that the perception is by sight or to have the power to perceive by sight. In another example, perceive is used with an inference to an idea, such as, “Oh, now I see.” Or, “I don’t see your point.”

To be contemporaneous with, as in, “you’ll soon see the value here.”

To imagine, or conceive of, as in, “I can see it in my mind’s eye,” or, “I don’t see him doing such a thing.”

To think about something in a particular way, to regard or consider, as in, “sorry, I just don’t see things as you do.” Or, “I don’t see the situation as being all that bad.” Or, “we just don’t see eye-to-eye.”

To make a determination, to find out something, for example, “I want to see if this works.” Or, “I think we should see if she knows how to change a tire.”

To make certain of something, such as, “see to it the door is closed,” or “see that the lights are off when you go.”

To consult with a professional, “I need to see a dentist.”

To take charge, such as, “I saw to it that the project was completed on time.”

To understand detail, as in, “he has a good eye.”

To deliberate or decide, for example, “See whether you can come tomorrow”;

To experience, as in, “he saw action in Iraq.”

To make sense of, or interpret, as in, “what’s the messaging you’re seeing here?”

Here are even more examples:

When you’re really mad, you’re “seeing red.” when you are accompanying someone to the airport, you are “seeing him off.” And, when you are sure someone is being untruthful, you might say, “I saw right through her.” Some of these examples are simply colloquial, but in the context of blindness, greater accuracy in communication can get a bit tricky, not to mention awkward.

Based on these examples, it isn’t hard to see (yikes!) how it may be possible that so much of the passive prejudice or soft bigotry we face may be unintentional, in part due to an inherent language bias that can make disablism that much easier, simply because of the words we use every day.

So, now that you’ve read to the end of my submission for BADD 2017 on the many ways in which the concept of understanding can be transmogrified by language, you can now say you’ve seen the light!

LL

Previous Blogging Against Disablism Day submissions:
2010:

You Don’t Look Blind

2011:

It’s On Aisle 5

2012:

Your Ingenious Life

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2017

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2017

If you love to write, or read, about the experience of disability, then you will love this day. For over ten years, this global event has attracted activists, advocates, parents, and people from all walks of life, disabled or non-disabled, who blog about life from their point of view. You will read about overcoming adversity, triumph over tragedy, practical coping strategies, and learn more effective ways to interact with people who have disabilities of all sorts. It can be a little emotional, reading about the day-to-day experiences of individuals who live in places that do not have the equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or, who do, yet suffer discrimination,, disrespect, or indignity anyway. Some of what you read may be discouraging,, depressing, or even infuriating. But you will also read stories that are heartwarming, uplifting, and even funny,, as bloggers around the world share their lives. You can read all about Blogging Against Disablism Day here, along with archives of past year’s posts:

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Use hash tag #BADD2017 when tweeting about the event. Don’t forget to go to the site to link to your own post, if you plan to participate.

LL

Is it time to transform the tone of advocacy?

The first entry posted on The Accessible Insights Blog, in its current iteration, is dated September, 2009. Previously, I had launched a blog effort on the WordPress.com hosted site, and prior to that, I had been writing about various aspects of disability and accessibility for other magazines, in both print and online publications. The re-launch of the blog coincided with my first foray into social media, as my @Accessible_Info Twitter account became active shortly thereafter.

When I first began writing, my purpose was to reach out to the non-disabled community, to whom I presented material on disability etiquette and best practices for effective communication. I never intended for the blog, or my social media efforts, to attract the notice of the disability community, nor had I ever intended to speak to the community directly. Since then, my readership seems to have consisted almost entirely of blind and visually impaired members of an online “tribe” that has seen its share of evolution over the years. From my early days of using Easy Chirp on Windows, to later firing off my tweets,, posting blog entries, recording podcast episodes and managing a business all from my iPhone, the tech landscape, along with my following, has grown.

As attitudes about disability and other marginalized groups have changed, so have the many ways in which to advocate for those groups. In-person protest, civil unrest, and petitioning has given way to online platforms that serve as a megaphone for anyone with a cause to conscript a willing constituency. It occurs to me, as I’ve struggled to come to terms with a lack of progress, and the speed of that progress, to achieve equality if it might be time to change the way we deliver our message.

Social media has certainly been convenient. In one sense, perhaps too convenient. It has become the lazy person’s way to communicate, in that it takes almost no effort, and less sacrifice, to blast out our thoughts about whomever holds political office, the latest celebrity gossip, a customer service snafu, or our complaints about how we are being discriminated against, tagging our tweets with clever subtext that serve as micro-aggressions. unfortunately, though, in the case of the blind community, we have enjoyed little improvement, as compared with other minority groups, on a variety of fronts, especially employment, despite the fact that technology has enabled us to accomplish more than ever. We may have reached a point at which our carefully crafted messages of inclusion have failed to manifest past the community echo chamber.

This has led me to wonder whether it might be time to undergo another evolution in the way we advocate. We have fallen into the trap that ensnares many in inward-facing, homogenous, and hide-bound coalition, which is that we fail to reach the escape velocity necessary to break the bonds of the gravity well of agreement.

This is not to say, certainly, that we all always agree. Anyone who has been witness to one of our Twitter based, flame-throwing, epic wars in 140 characters knows that. The blind community seems to be neatly divided on a few key issues, and one of those issues is what I am writing about now: How to teach the non-disabled community the most effective and respectful way to interact with a person who is blind. In general disability circles, the term ‘ablism” is used to characterize that state of ignorance achieved by the non-disabled who never spend a single second considering the day-to-day plight of people with disabilities. Whether that ablism is innocent or openly hostile, one of the frustrations I hear retold, and echoed throughout the land, pertains to the ongoing complaints as to how we are treated. Typically, that treatment is lacking in cognizance or consideration, and the result is a strongly worded blog post, and subsequent tweets and retweets, either in fervent agreement with, or else indignant opposition to, the person doing the complaining.

If our collective destination is equal opportunity and acceptance in the non-disabled world, then I wonder if it is time to consider taking a different route.

In marketing terms, the most successful campaigns utilize, among other things, two key components: Message consistency, and repetition. One of the most challenging aspects of marketing, is crafting a message, and then communicating that message in a particular voice that defines the company brand. No matter the means used…a tag line, musical jingle, famous face or clever campaign, if done right, a company or product can be easily identified without ever seeing the relevant name. Untold millions of dollars are spent in the communication of that message, which is why so many great corporations can seem omniscient. They’re everywhere…and we respond in the expected manner, in accordance with the ask. We buy, we consume, we try, we use, and we spread the word.

The message would fall back to Earth, though, if the only people who drank Coca-cola were on the corporate payroll, or if the only users of the iPhone were Apple employees. Presumably, they are all in agreement that their products are the best, of course, but the point of marketing is to launch the messaging beyond the company parking lot.

On the other hand, is it possible that the general public has had enough of awareness messages, and that ours has become lost in the white noise of political correctness? There has certainly been some backlash, thanks to the prevailing perception that “political correctness” has run amuck, and that it has ultimately failed to serve its purpose — that of fostering an environment of tolerance and respect, where all ideas are heard, and all people are accepted.

Is it time, then, for our message to be more than one of words? Is it time for our message to be one of achievement?

Years ago, I was privileged to hear an advocate give a presentation on disability awareness, and, at the end, he said a few words that have stayed with me, and have formulated the basis upon which I experience the non-disabled world. He said, “People with disabilities are my heroes. Not because they are disabled, but because they fly in the face of a society that holds them in contempt, simply by living their lives.”

Whether or not you agree with the contention that society holds people with disabilities in contempt is not the point. What these powerful words meant to me was that I can hardly expect a non-disabled society to believe a person who has a disability could live a full life, if I were not actually living one. thereafter, I resolved to live my life as an example to others, to take responsibility for my own happiness, to achieve to the best of my ability, and to never allow my disability to be used as an excuse for anything. As it turned out, I discovered that my attitude was the exception, not the rule, and as the age of social media gave rise to the plethora of bloggers and tweeters and online chatters, it soon became obvious that it was far easier for some to complain rather than to achieve.

It is by no means my intention to trivialize those who find themselves in a precarious situation, where achieving anything beyond surviving the day is unthinkable. Also, I have done my share of complaining, so I make no pretense there. Further, one of the many wonderful things to be said about belonging to a community is just that…belonging. It can be affirming and comforting to know that when we need a place to go to commiserate with like-minded others, there is such a place, where we are heard and acknowledged. Of course, one downside of membership in a larger group is feeling excluded, or when you do not subscribe to the ideas of the thought leaders. Additionally, there are apologists and naysayers in every group, which, in our community, can be found in abundance. This can dilute our message and reduce our ability to be effective as advocates, if our interest is only one of self-interest. What I am suggesting is that we explore a new way to advocate for what we need from those outside the community…in a manner that is better understood by those who are not disabled…a message consisting not only of the language of awareness, but one of bridge-building and commonality.

One of the best examples of this type of advocacy is that which was used by the LGBTQ community that resulted in the sweeping legislation to legalize gay marriage. Watching the unabashed joy experienced by the beneficiaries of legal gay marriage, as the barriers toppled like dominoes around the country, made me realize just how much we are all alike. Theirs was a message that transcended the bitter and strident complaint of the victim, and instead built upon our commonalities. We all want the same things out of life, and the LGBTQ community did the best job I’ve seen of getting the “love is love” message across in a way that made me cheer for their success.

I am reminded of a quote by Simon Sinek: Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love. While the content of our appeals need not change, perhaps the tone should. I cannot think of a single problem that has ever been fixed only by complaining about it. Too many blog writers have adopted a tone of entitlement, where post after post seems to consist of little more than the gripe of the day. There are many examples of bitter diatribes on a number of blog’s where I am left to conclude that there is one…common…denominator. Perhaps the repetitive volume of angry, derisive or demanding lectures is, in and of itself, indicative of the real problem…for some, there is scant satisfaction to be had. They seem to be saying that until the world gives them their due, there can truly be no equality. You know what they say about the definition of insanity…right? Is it fair to expect a different result if the only tools wielded are those of complaint, entitlement, and expectation?

What if we expanded the scope of our message to include achievement? What if we took responsibility for our own state of affairs and let our lives be the example about which we speak? What if we quit complaining about how we are being treated, and earn the right to a place at the table? Respect is commanded, not demanded. What if we invent a new kind of advocacy, where achievement speaks for itself? Where our messaging is that of the empowered, where we invite the non-disabled world to raise their game? A message that changes from, “don’t do this, and give me that,” to, “been there, done that, and you’re invited along for the ride?” In other words, instead of asking everyone else to be a hero, be the hero…simply by living your life…more than just a life of resigned malaise, or stubborn maladaption, but a life of self-determination and achievement. Instead of resenting those in the community who have achieved success, become one.

It is a gross mischaracterization to claim that successful people are somehow extraordinary. Maybe a few of them are, but there have been plenty of geniuses who have died penniless and unrecognized.

This quote makes my point better. It is generally credited to U. S. President Calvin Coolidge, although this is a matter of some dispute:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

What I am suggesting is that we persist in our message, but also transform the words into demonstrable acts of consequence that serve as an example to the non-disabled community as to why they have it all wrong about people who are blind. We are resourceful. We are problem-solvers, we think differently because we have to. We have everything it takes to be the achievers, the leaders, and the agents of change who earn the place at the table, and have everything we want out of life. Let’s transform the advocacy of words into the advocacy of achievement.

LL

I’m sorry and other judgements

“I’m sorry,” is one of those phrases that can mean many things, and is often used as a catch-all for everything from, “what did you say?” when you misheard something, to “excuse me,” when you bump into someone, to “drop dead,” when you have been accused of something for which you should be apologetic, and are anything but. Seldom do the words “I’m sorry” express genuine contrition. Sometimes, the words “I’m sorry” are used as a way to pass a subtle judgement about the quality of our lives.

How many times have you needed to disclose your blindness in the context of facilitating assistance, only to hear: “Oh…I’m sorry.” For me, it’s been countless times. If, when explaining to a customer service representative over the phone that I cannot read them the product serial number because I am blind, they will respond with an embarrassed, “Oh, I’m sorry.” If I explain to the technical support person that I’m unable to click the green button at the bottom of the page because I cannot see the green button, I’m answered by, “Oh, I’m sorry.” When the counter clerk in a retail establishment, who hasn’t bothered to look at me when I ask for help finding something, waves a hand and says, “it’s over there,” and I must explain I need additional details because I’m blind, they will look up, and awkwardly mutter, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Of course, some of these apologies may be a sincere mea culpa for inconsideration, but often I find it’s an automatic response from people who otherwise do not know what to say. When speaking to someone over the phone, for example, and getting the “I’m sorry” response after disclosing my blindness, I often say, “why are you sorry? How were you supposed to know I’m blind.” After all, it’s not as though they can see me, either. Why is an apology necessary? They are not clairvoyant. Apologizing in this context makes about as much sense as saying to a caller, “Oh, I’m sorry you’re six foot two.”

Then there are those who take it one step further, even when in person. When I ask, “why are you sorry?” some have actually responded by saying they were sorry I am blind. Or, they’ll say something like, “it’s just such a shame. You’re so pretty.” or, “it’s just such a shame. It must be awful. I feel sorry for you.” Or, they’ll resort to the inevitable stories of known others with my “affliction,” or they ply me with flattery for what amounts to misplaced inspiration and undeserved admiration.

In an effort to give most people the benefit of the doubt, I recognize that often there is no intent of harm, and in my experience, I think most people really want to do the right thing, they just don’t know how. On the days I feel like crowning myself the poster child for blindness, I gently and patiently educate. On the days when I’m feeling no such patience, I’ll pop off with something like, “I suggest you save your energy.”

As I have lived my entire life with vision loss, to a greater or lesser degree, thanks to the degenerative nature of Retinitis Pigmentosa, the words, “I’m sorry” in the context of blindness has, at times, felt more like a judgement than anything else. It is possible to be well-meaning, but demeaning. It’s another way of saying, “How can you live like that? I sure couldn’t. I’d rather be dead than disabled.” Whether it’s said in a flip and dismissive way, such as, “Whatever…it’s your drama, your trauma,” or it is said as a way to express true sorrow for my so-called plight, I am presumed to be living a substandard quality of life.

We assess judgements on others in many ways, and in many contexts. The disability community certainly doesn’t have the market cornered on prejudgement, the soft bigotry of low expectations, or edicts as to what we should or should not find acceptable.

Years ago, before mandatory vehicle shoulder harnesses and passenger air bags, Susan was in a devastating car wreck. She and some girlfriends were to go out for a celebratory evening, and the designated driver, who apparently decided earlier that night to abdicate her responsibility, was already impaired when she picked up Sue and her friends. Sue got into the car, unaware that the driver had already been bar-hopping. Under the influence of alcohol, and at speed, the driver lost control of the vehicle, left the road, and plowed into a building. Buckled up, and in the back seat, Susan, who was wearing a seat belt which was still considered optional back then, was partly ejected, but still held in by the lap belt that nearly tore her abdomen in half. Along with a broken back and neck, many other internal injuries that necessitated the removal of part of her intestine, Susan found herself in full body traction and a skull halo for many long months. “My God,” her hospital bedside visitors would marvel, “You’re lucky to be alive.”

“Lucky?” Susan recalled to me. “there were many days I didn’t feel so lucky. But it was drilled into me by almost everyone who saw me that I should feel grateful. There were days when I was in such excruciating pain that I did not feel grateful about much of anything.” Sue went on to tell me how much she resented the way many well-intentioned, but thoughtless people would attempt to dictate to her how she was supposed to feel. She should be grateful her husband didn’t leave her. She should be grateful her children had not been taken from her while she was incapacitated. She should be grateful it wasn’t worse.

Schooling someone as to how they should feel about something is tantamount to saying, you’ll eat it, and like it. Can you imagine going out to dinner, and the server judging you for not liking a menu item? The conversation might go something like this:

You: “Would it be possible to have green beans instead of broccoli?”

Server: “What? You don’t like broccoli? What’s the matter with you? This is the best broccoli on the planet.”

You: “No, really, I don’t care much for broccoli. I’d really appreciate it if I could have something else instead.”

Server: “Do you know how long it took to grow that broccoli? How hard we worked to make it for you? It’s good enough for everyone else. No one else has claimed they dislike it. What’s wrong with you that you don’t? Are you crazy? You’d rather have green beans? Isn’t that asking a bit much? I don’t have green beans to give you. Broccoli should be good enough, and if it isn’t, that’s just too bad. Do you think you’re something special, that you think you should have green beans? You have no right to want green beans. What do you think this is, the Ritz Carlton? People like you are never satisfied. let me list the innumerable things we’ve done to serve you this broccoli. You’ll eat the broccoli, and like it.”

Well,. I doubt that scene would ever play itself out for real, but it is not all that uncommmon in relationships. How many times have you been told that you can’t have what you want, because you ask for too much, want more than the other person can give, and should feel grateful for the way you are being treated, and if not, then there is either something wrong with you, or that you shouldn’t want what you want? Look at all the other person has done for you. You should be satisfied with how things are, good enough should be good enough. After all, are yu sure you are really qualified to decide what constitutes a satisfying quality of life?

Who are you to decide? You are the only one who CAN decide. No one else has the right to judge what should be good enough for you. No one else has the right to dictate to you what you should be willing to accept, whether that’s the choice to use “ghetto” assistive technology, being treated as a priority, or a serving of green beans instead of broccoli.

Recently, I saw a news story about a lifelong relationship between two friends who met as young boys, a friendship that had lasted through trials and tribulations, including the accidental paralysis of one of the young men, who then spent his days using a wheelchair. The story lauded the non-disabled man as a hero for not only continuing the friendship, but for later becoming his disabled buddy’s caregiver. Why was it that the non-disabled friend was held up as the hero? Because he was making some sort of sacrifice? Because he wanted to remain friends, even though the guy’s wheelchair…what? Cramped his style? Why wasn’t there any mention of what the non-disabled friend was getting from the relationship? How do we know that the non-disabled friend wasn’t some kind of supreme ass hat who had no other friends, and it was the guy in the wheelchair who was the hero for being the only person in his life willing to put up with his crap? For that matter, why would the guy in the wheelchair be a hero, either? Why would one or the other, and not both, be a hero? Why not consider both men as heroes for being stellar humans?

Because there is an implied judgement that someone in a wheelchair lives a reduced quality of life, and anyone who is non-disabled, who extends a friendship, or provides care, is doing them a favor. After all, who would willingly compromise the awesomeness that is able–bodied life, complete with better quality, able-bodied friends, unless they were magnanimous and self-sacrificing? Ridiculous. For all we know, it was a paid gig. But the audience is left ignorant, manipulated by the producers who were really working that hero angle hard.

There are certain responses that I can always count on when interacting with most non-disabled people. Some are borne out of curiosity: “So, have you always been this way?” Others stem from a desire to find commmon ground: “My sister-in-law has a co-worker who has a cousin who knows a blind guy.” Still others are offensive, in an effort to be ingratiating: “Hey, would it be okay if I told you a joke? A blind guy and a dog walked into a bar…” Hint: If you have to ask if it’s okay, it probably isn’t. Of all of these not so endearing, tried-andtrue conversations starters, one of my least favorites is, “I’m sorry,” because I’m sorry, and other judgements, place me in an imaginary hierarchy on which I do not belong.

Once, when interacting with someone who uttered the inevitable “I’m sorry,” after learning I am blind, I responded with, “that’s all right. I’m sorry you’re a brunette.” There was a few long seconds of silence, then she said, “I’m not a brunette.” “Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

I don’t think she got it.

LL

The Value of Gratuitous Controversy

Based upon the barrage of upsetting, demoralizing, or downright horrifying news to which we are subjected these days, it is no wonder why some people avoid daily news. With the ubiquity of social media, and the insistence that we pay attention, by way of tech device alerts and notifications, a purposeful, thorough ignorance of all current events may be hard to achieve. Sometimes, it seems as though there is simply no good news anymore. Sometimes, it seems as though the entire world has collectively gone mad.

With the many ways in which we are confronted by calamitous events and other generally bad news, it is understandable that we might want to take refuge in a world of our own creation, where we are surrounded, even virtually, by friends and like-minded others, and that it would be disadvantageous to invite sources of negativity into that world. Yet, it seems like a losing battle to bar the virtual door of any and all aggravating things. So, I wonder, why is it that some people seem to revel in controversy, to deliberately agitate, irritate, or inflame?

While I cannot pretend to know the answer, I can only opine based upon my observations. There seems to be two types of people who incite controversy for controversy’s sake: Those who genuinely enjoy the sport of it, and those who pretend they don’t.

Shock jocks,, radio personalities, and editorial writers are paid to create controversy so as to attract an audience. Some of these media dwellers have openly claimed that, if they have not made everyone on every side of an issue angry, then they simply have not done their job. There are others, however, not bound by lucrative contracts with multinational media corporations, who engage in this practice for a far less enriching payoff. Some of these people are part of our own community.

Before I continue, I will digress long enough to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it goes without saying that we are governed by our first amendment rights as to free speech. Say what you will, and let the chips fall where they may, as I am exercising my right to free speech here. What I question, sometimes, is the mind-set of those who seek to create controversy under the guise of “opening up a dialogue,” or, “inviting discussion,” or “information gathering.” I question the value of controversy for controversy’s sake.

I am acquainted with a small handful of people who genuinely enjoy putting a spin on the ball and then walking away. They love to sit back and watch the reaction they get, they welcome the opportunity to engage in heated exchanges where they relish any excuse to let fly savage retorts, vicious name-calling, or poisonous epithets. They hold most others in low regard, believing that others are mentally or philosophically inferior. Creating controversy flexes their rhetorical muscles. It maintains their intellectual superiority. It sharpens their edge. They are validation-addicted adrenaline junkies who find satisfaction in knowing they have the power to elicit reactions in others. It’s a twisted version of a Pavlovian type conditioned response to stimulus, where the antagonistic “scientist” rings a bell, the audience “rats” repeatedly depress the lever, but it is the scientist who gets the reward pellet.

The question I find myself asking, when I become aware of such an instance, which seems almost constantly, is, “is this really necessary?”

Again, let me reiterate, because some of you may be thinking that I am veering dangerously close to advocating for forfeiture of our right to express an opinion, that there is a difference between the soliciting of alternate views with the desire for rational social discourse, and stirring up trouble for one’s own amusement.

Some of the weightiest issues debated upon by our founding fathers were done so with infinite regard for opposing views, butt with no less passion. In reading some of the writings of our nation’s builders, I have found myself in awe of the inner turmoil, moral conflict, and penetrating consideration paid to the most profound of human experiences, that of freedom and self-determination. Yet I couldn’t help but be moved by the eloquence and artfulness with which the founders painted their perspectives on a canvas of conviction.

Here I go again, about to express my own opinion: We are either contributing to the well-being, education, or advancement of others, or we are poisoning the well. While I agree that there is a certain amount of interpretation as to when, if, or to what degree this occurs, I think it is generally recognizable when one is being gratuitously controversial, with no greater purpose other than to fan the embers of dissatisfaction. In my opinion, it is a conceit. It is self-important. In most cases, I find it unnecessary.

My name is Laura Legendary, and I approve this message.

LL

The Fashionability Channel waves goodbye to the old home, and invites you to the new!

Happy New Year! A long break has resulted in a big announcement about Fashionability…we’ve moved! In addition to setting up shop on our own web site, we have now established our own podcast feed. This means we will be discontinuing Fashionability on the AudioBoom platform, as well as the old iTunes feed. After you listen to our farewell episode, linked below, follow the instructions to unsubscribe from the channel on AudioBoom, and resubscribe to the new feed, either via our new web site, or through our new iTunes link.

Listen to our final podcast on AudioBoom here:

http://tinyurl.com/zf8mb56

Unfamiliar with Fashionability? The Fashionability Channel is your guide to accessible style. Finally, style within reach…of everyone!

Join Emily, Laura, and channel contributors…the innovators, influencers, and inspirational people who love to talk all things fashion. Topics include style and trends, beauty, skin care, hair care, health and fitness, jewelry and accessories, and much more, in an audio podcast that is inclusive of everyone. Fashion can be fun, a creative outlet, a shared experience, and a form of self-expression. No matter your gender, body type, age or ability, you’ll learn ways to make a spectacular style statement all your own. You’ll hear interviews with industry professionals, tips, tutorials, and discussion topics on everything from attitudes about disability, barriers to shopping, inaccessible product packaging, and how the needs of people who have disabilities are addressed in the fashion industry. We will also be covering different organizations an charities who specifically develop services, resources and products for people with disabilities to access fashion, style and cosmetics. We want to create a forum where we can encourage listeners to develop their own sense of style, and to break away from the misconceptions surrounding disability.

Founded by UK fashion blogger Emily Davison [@DavisonEm] writer of fashioneyesta.com and US Entrepreneur Laura Legendary, owner and designer of Elegant Insights Braille Creations [@ElegantInsights[, our mission is to empower consumers with relevant fashion information, and to provide creative tools and useful advice for listeners from all walks of life. We want to bridge the gap between the fashion industry and people with disabilities, and to affect change so that people with disabilities are better represented in print and digital media. Welcome to The Fashionability Channel!

New web site: http://www.fashionabilitychannel.com
New podcast feed URL: http://www.fashionabilitychannel.com/feed/podcast/
New iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-fashionability-channel/id1076782532
Write to us! fashionabilitychannel@gmail.com

There is already a post awaiting you at the new location, so please resubscribe soon! We can’t wait to welcome you!

LL

The Fashionability Channel will soon be on the move!

Humbly, I come to you, hat in hand, to ask your forgiveness for my abysmal level of contribution to the Accessible Insights Blog. My dedication to my readers has not diminished one bit, rather, it is that very dedication that has me working hard to bring you content in a variety of formats. Since I know many of you are wondering where on Earth I’ve been, I’ll just say that there really isn’t a single platform on which you cannot find me, it’s simply a matter of where I am at any given point.

Lately, I’ve put in a great deal of focused effort on my latest project, the Fashionability Channel, of which I am a co-founder. If you need to catch up, the Fashionability Channel is an audio podcast pertaining to all things fashion and style, for both men and women, people of all abilities, and all walks of life. It’s your guide to accessible style information, delivered to you via the AudioBoom platform by myself and my partner, Emily Davison, a UK-based blogger.

The Fashionability Channel has been a spectacular success. Thanks to all of you, we have some impressive stats, based upon just 30 or so posted shows. We have plenty more planned, with no signs of slowing our creative energy. We have, however, come to realize that it is time to make a change, to accommodate our rapid growth. In just a couple of months, we will be moving the channel from AudioBoom to a self-hosted platform.

The domains have already been purchased, the blog content is being relocated, and the audio media will soon be transferred over to our own RSS feed. While we have enjoyed using the AudioBoom platform, and appreciate all they have done to provide us with a simple way to reach our audience, they have also made some changes to their platform and terms of service that are in conflict with our goals. Please watch this space for more announcements as to our timetable, where you can find the new home of the podcast, and how you can listen without missing an episode. At some point, we will be requesting that you unsubscribe from the AudioBoom channel feed, and resubscribe to our new feed. We may still post to AudioBoom, if we can do this without too much complication, but we will be doing so through a chain of technical custody that may be tricky. We’ll let you know, as the move gets closer, the easiest way to transition to our new content feed.

In the meantime, we thank you for making the Fashionability Channel a smash, and we promise to continue to bring you much more stylish content!

You can listen here:

http://www.audioboom.com/channel/fashionability

Or via iBlink Radio:

http://www.serotek.com/iblink

Or, you can subscribe to our podcast via iTunes, or by way of our blog at:

http://www.fashionabilitychannel.wordpress.com

Finally, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @InclusiveStyle

LL

New audio channel makes fashion accessible for people with disabilities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Laura Legendary
Co-founder, Fashionability
USA: (509) 264-2588
l.legendary@elegantinsightsjewelry.com
Emily Davison
Co-founder, Fashionability
UK: (+44) 7541858610
UK: (020) 85164981
fashioneyesta@gmail.com

New audio channel makes fashion accessible for people with disabilities

September 19, 2014 – In a partnership dedicated to making information about fashion accessible to people who have disabilities, Emily Davison and Laura Legendary have created Fashionability, a social media franchise consisting of an audio channel on the Audioboo platform, a Facebook group and page, a Twitter account, and a blog and RSS feed. Davison, blogger on the Fashioneyesta.com blog based in the UK, and Legendary, designer and owner of Elegant Insights Braille Creations, based in the US, joined forces in a very stylish collaboration to create an audio guide to accessible style.

The Fashionability channel aims to cover many aspects of fashion and beauty, jewelry and accessories, health and fitness, to provide tips and education, as well as to raise awareness about representation of people with disabilities in the media. “I have been campaigning with a team of dedicated individuals with the organization Models of Diversity to target fashion brands to add models with disabilities to their advertising campaigns.” Says Davison. “there is the fundamental fact that people with disabilities are not equally represented in the fashion advertising industry. This immediately creates problems for people with disabilities as it shows society that disability is not considered to be relevant to fashion and thus all these unfair stereotypes occur.”

Content on the Fashionability channel will also be provided by guest contributors, people with disabilities who are subject matter experts in a variety of fashion-related topics. One such contributor is the organization Living Paintings, www.livingpaintings.org, based in the UK.

The Fashionability channel is set to launch on September 19, 2014, and will be available via RSS feed and in the Lifestyles category on Audioboo, www.audioboo.fm. Plans are also in the works for text transcripts of the audio programming, which will be made available on the Fashionability blog. “The Fashionability brand will focus on accessibility and inclusion,” says Legendary. “When most people think of fashion, or more broadly, style, they may think of it only in terms of a visual medium. The lack of accessible information suggests that people with disabilities are somehow less interested in looking and feeling their best. I hope that, with the help of Emily and our contributors, we can create a resource inclusive of all walks of life, all ages, all socio-economic strata, all body types and all abilities. I want to provide sensible, approachable, fashion and style information that is within reach…of everyone.” For more information, send email to fashionabilitychannel@gmail.com. Visit the Fashionability Channel at http://www.audioboo.fm/channel/fashionability

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About Emily Davison: Emily Davison is a UK based writer, disability campaigner, and journalist who currently writes about fashion on her blog fashioneyesta.com which she founded in July 2012-a blog created to enable people with sight loss to access fashion and cosmetics.

About Laura Legendary: Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, and educator, specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology. She is also the owner and designer of Elegant Insights Braille Creations, a distinctive collection of jewelry and accessories, made in the USA, and embossed in Braille. Visit www.elegantinsightsjewelry.com. To read Laura’s blog, go to Accessible Insights Blog at www.accessibleinsights.info/blog.

A collaboration spanning two continents: An interview with the fashionable Emily Davison

After posting the news about my newest venture, the Fashionability Channel, on which I am collaborating with Emily Davison of Fashioneyesta.com, I thought I would tell you a bit more about her. I asked Emily to answer some questions about her current work and her background in the fashion industry. Emily, in turn, will post an interview with me on her own blog, the link to which I will add at the end of this post. If you think you, or someone you know, might be interested in the content offered on the Fashionability Channel, please read on so as to get to know my partner a bit better. She is smart, funny, full of life and a strong advocate for people with disabilities.

LL: Please share a bit about your current projects, and what you spend the most time working on.

Emily: I have been involved in many different projects, many of which are related to fashion and cosmetics for people with sight loss.

Some are still currently in preparation and therefore I cannot say too much about them. But, I am doing a lot of work around campaigning for braille on cosmetics products and have worked closely with one particular company who will be launching braille on their products in the future.

I have been working very closely alongside the charity Living Paintings, a charity that produces tactile, audio guides on different aspects of the visual world. From fashion, science, nature, art to cookery they are all included. The fashion guide is what I have predominantly been working on and have been advising the charity on how to best explain fashion concepts to visually impaired people.

I have also been campaigning with a team of dedicated individuals with the organization Models of Diversity to target fashion brands to add models with disabilities to their advertising campaigns.

I am an avid writer and spend a lot of time writing blogs and articles around fashion, identity and disability. I cross network with other websites and blogs and am passionate about changing stereotypes surrounding disability.

LL: How was Fashioneyesta born? What was your inspiration, and what are you most proud of?

Emily: Fashioneyesta was born from a concept to make fashion and beauty more accessible for people with sight loss. One day when going about my business I encountered my first ever comment of someone remarking that I ‘didn’t look blind.” So, this got me thinking about creating a space that I could spread ideas, positivity and hopefully break down this stereotype that surrounds not just sight loss but disability in general. I didn’t want people with sight loss to be considered as being unfashionable, nor did I want people with visual impairments to not have access to information and ideas about how they can develop their own sense of style.

Fashioneyesta has grown in the last two years and I am extremely proud of how far it has come. It has enabled me to meet so many wonderful inspirational people, charities and fashion professionals. On a regular basis I get people emailing me to tell me how it has helped them to develop their own sense of style and in turn their confidence. But, I suppose my biggest achievement that it has helped me accomplish is that this year I am due to be featured in Pick Me Up Magazine here in the UK and I have also been shortlisted for the Young Persons Achievers Award by Guide Dogs UK.

LL Tell me a bit about your background and interest in fashion. How did you get into the business?

Emily: Fashion was always something that I had a deep passion for, I grew up in a very fashion orientated household. My mother worked for a cosmetics company, my aunt worked on the stage in her younger years and my nan is an avid buyer of clothes, cosmetics and jewelry. My early memories are of my mum when I would see her curling her hair and adorning makeup for work. Fashion was something I grew up with. By the time I was 15 I was writing fashion articles for my school magazine. When I was 18 I had obtained a scholarship to study English Literature and my passion for writing intertwined with my flare for fashion and so I started my blog and the rest is history.

LL: How would you describe your personal sense of style?

Emily: I would describe it as both classic and adventurous, my style is essentially feminine but with different twists depending on my mood. One day I may choose to go down the 1950s route with a full circle skirt, but updated with a statement necklace and brightly colored sweater. On another day I may choose to opt for something a little more oriental, wearing a kimono and jeans. My style embraces classic cuts and styles like the 60s dress, but incorporates aspects of modernity into them.

LL What do you hope to achieve with the new project, Fashionability?

Emily: So much, I really want to use Fashionability as a place to spread positivity and ideas throughout the disability community in engaging fashion. I want to create a space that opens up a whole new world to people and is a place of inclusion. I want this space to be something that causes change in the fashion industry and convinces brands that disability is not something to be considered as external to fashion.

I want to use all of my knowledge, contacts and resources to make this a project that gives all people with varying disabilities the confidence to use fashion to create their own sense of style and with it there own identity. That is the crux of it I suppose, style gives people their own unique identity and that is what I want people to have and not to be characterized by what society believes them to be.

LL: What do you see as problematic for men and women who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled in fashion? What do you think are the most significant barriers, if any?

Emily: I think there are barriers that people with sight loss and other disabilities have to overcome. To begin with there is the fundamental fact that people with disabilities are not equally represented in the fashion advertising industry. This immediately creates problems for people with disabilities as it shows society that disability is not considered to be relevant to fashion and thus all these unfair stereotypes occur.

There are others surrounding accessibility and whether a shop or online store are made accessible to their visually impaired and disabled clientele. Many companies in the cosmetics industry do not incorporate braille onto their products which causes further inconvenience to visually impaired people when trying to access products. What’s more I also thing that in general companies need to provide better disability awareness training and need to provide further resources such as braille, audio and large print catalogues to their visually impaired customers to make it easier for visually impaired people to access fashion.

LL: What are the ongoing plans for Fashionability? How do you hope to reach an audience?

Emily: Fashionability is currently being planned and organized by Laura Legendary and myself. We are currently working on content, schedules, ideas and ways of interacting with our audience. We hope to engage with our target audience by promoting what we do via social media sights such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. What’s more, I hope to use all of my media contacts and charity contacts to spread the word about what we are doing. I want to cross link with disability charities such as Scope, as well as working with organization’s such as Models of Diversity to promote what we are doing.

What’s more, I hope to feature Fashionability on media publications and websites that I have or am currently partnered with. In particular I aim to showcase the channel on the Royal National institute for the Blinds Insight Radio. Which is a UK based radio station created by the Royal National Institute for the Blind for people with sight loss. It is the first channel in Europe to be dedicated to people with sight loss and covers a range of topics from lifestyle, technology, music and health.

LL: What else would you like my readers to know about you?

Emily: Aside from fashion and literature, what many people don’t know is that I am an avid astronomer and was the first visually impaired person to qualify with a GCSE (General Certification of Education) in Astronomy from the Greenwich Royal Observatory in the UK. I also do a lot of volunteer work for Guide Dogs UK and am very keen to help charities. I am also a journalist having written for the Guardian and Huffington Post and I am also an avid disability campaigner.

I am a real animal lover and an advocate of animal rights, I am against Animal Testing for cosmetics and regularly advocate this on my blog. I am a huge fan of companies such as Lush who promote the welfare of small charities and make wonderful fair trade, cruelty free beauty products. I am a self acclaimed spend thrift and I enjoy treating myself after lots of hard work.

My thesis on life as a Classical Liberalist is to allow people to experiment with their life and unless they are hurting anyone else, to allow them to make their own choices free from control. I am a strong believer in the power of autonomy and free will and one of my pet peeves is when people try to convince others to their way of thinking. One thing I will never do on my blog is to try and persuade people to my way of thinking about style. I give them advice on different looks and how to recreate their own. But, I love creativity and that is something that fashioneyesta.com thrives on.

I hope to finish my degree in English Literature and move on to study for a Master’s degree in children’s literature. After that my goal is to write children’s books and to continue writing about fashion, style and cosmetics for people with disabilities. The one thing I want to do in life is to make others happy and to give people the chance to feel the same way I do. Many people forget that happiness is something they have to right to feel and I want to remind people of that.

Here are Emily’s social links:
Blog: fashioneyesta.com
Email: fashioneyesta@gmail.com
Twitter: @DavisonEm
Skype: fashioneyesta
Instagram: fashioneyesta2012
Audioboo: ?http://audioboo.fm/fashioneyestaInstagram: ?http://instagram.com/fashioneyesta2012
Facebook Page: ?https://www.facebook.com/Fashioneyesta
Facebook group: ?https://m.facebook.com/groups/5494521…eBayStore: ?http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/emilykd94?_…
Pinterest: ?https://pinterest.com/emilykd94/Tumblr: ?http://davisonem.tumblr.com
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/fashioneyesta
Second YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX-t0TXzskGxFvNlzPT1DaA
Tumblur: http://davisonem.tumblr.com
Emily appears on RNIB’s Insight radio at 2.15 pm every Friday.

Please join us for the launch of our new project, the Fashionability channel! I’ll post the official press release in a few days.

If you would like to read Emily’s interview of me, you can find it here:

http://is.gd/nb5Su7

LL

A very stylish partnership to launch a guide to accessible style

At the end of last year, I began working on my marketing plan for 2014, intent on growing my small business, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, (@ElegantInsights). I had a long list of ideas I hoped to execute, and one of them was a plan to offer some sort of adjunct to the current web site, providing greater access to information about fashion and style for consumers who have a disability. My original thought was to expand the Elegant Insights Audioboo account by creating a channel on the Audioboo platform, not unlike that of the Blind Abilities channel. My hope was to invite contributors to add their expertise in other areas of fashion, such as hair care, cosmetics, career wear, skin care, and tips on fitness and nutrition, shopping, grooming, and how-to-wear new styles and trends. Of course, I am not a subject matter expert here, but I know others who are, and I thought about a list of possible content contributors I wanted to invite to join the channel.

Unfortunately, I lacked the cooperation of an important player, Audioboo. They wanted what I considered to be a prohibitive fee per month to establish the channel, and unless I was able to find a sponsor, I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off. Further, I wanted to do some additional market research, to learn what potential listeners of my channel might feel was missing from the accessible fashion landscape.

To that end, I created a survey, which I just called the “accessibility of style,” and began to send it around to people on my various Twitter lists. Then, I expanded the survey to include other followers on Facebook, then sent it around to a variety of mail list servs and newsletters.

The response was amazing. The number of respondents quickly overwhelmed the limits imposed by my no-cost plan with Survey Monkey, so a half-dozen different surveys were circulated at once, until one hit the respondent limit and another link had to be generated.

No statistician or marketing guru I, the survey was a simple, unscientific, ten-question affair for the purpose of helping me to determine how I might better serve the blind and otherwise disabled communities. The survey consisted of a few demographics questions, a few general questions about personal style, and a few questions about some of the barriers that may prevent access to current style and fashion information. The final question was an essay-style question, and I was very surprised by the length, depth, and scope of the responses. Almost to a person, an outpouring of relevant data was generously supplied as to what a respondent wanted to see to improve access to fashion and style, for both men and women. I was floored.

It has taken some months, but I am delighted to announce the launch of my latest project, a very stylish collaboration with Emily Davison, (@DavisonEm). Davison is the founder of a blog entitled Fashioneyesta, at www.fashioneyesta.com. For my screen reader users, that is spelled with an e y e s t a, instead of the typical spelling, fashionista. I had been following Emily on Audioboo for some time, and was impressed by her approachability, her passion for her topic, her experience in the fashion industry, her connections to fashion and style-related charities, and her work ethic. I approached Emily with the idea, and she was extremely enthusiastic.

Our first order of business was to decide what sort of audio offering to create. We both wanted to explore setting up an Audioboo channel, as a large blind community was already using the platform. However, we did not relish paying the $50 per month premium. We believed so strongly in the idea of serving the disability community, and creating a community channel, that we decided to campaign Audioboo for assistance. Audioboo permitted us a free regular account, providing some extra recording time, as a way to establish our brand and to build an audience. Reluctantly, we agreed to this compromise, although we really wanted a full-blown channel. Persistence paid off. Just a few days ago, we were notified that we had been granted a full channel.

Our new venture is called Fashionability. Think of it as a guide to accessible style. We plan to cover a great deal of ground as we explore many aspects of the fashion world, all with an eye on inclusion. We have some fabulous contributors lined up for interviews and special information segments, topics suitable for people of all shapes and sizes, the trendsetters and the clueless, from all walks of life, inclusive of all disabilities, and for both men and women. We hope you join Emily and I in this exciting new venture. We plan to launch next week, as London Fashion Week begins. Coming in the next few days, I will post an interview with Emily, as well as a post that will include the official press release.

Here are all the requisite social links:

The Fashionability Channel: Your guide to accessible style.

https://audioboo.fm/channel/fashionability

Follow us on Twitter @InclusiveStyle

Find us on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/fashionabilitychannel

Check out Emily’s Fashioneyesta posts on Audioboo:

http://audioboo.fm/fashioneyesta

Don’t forget about the Elegant Insights “audioboo-tique” at:

http://www.audioboo.fm/ElegantInsights

Finally, thank you so much for your response to my survey on accessible style, if you submitted one. Your thoughts were such an inspiration, and I hope that we can provide some much needed access to information for a better quality of life for everyone. Please tell your friends about Fashionability, and stay tuned for more news and launch updates.

As ever, your servant, LL