October Reading List

Monthly Reading List – October Reading List

What’s your October Reading List? Here’s ours.

Every first week of the month, Disabled Spectator publishes a reading list of our favorite disability and accessibility related articles. We look for insightful, interesting, controversial, heartbreaking, well-written, or enjoyable articles that provoke thought, conversation, and emotion. This post looks at articles we read in October. Accordingly, here is our October Reading List.


For the disabled, a doctor’s visit can be literally an obstacle course — and the laws can’t help, by Rachel Bluth, The Washington Post

People with disabilities face obstacles when visiting doctor’s offices. The ADA does not apply to doctor’s offices because the act only applies to fixated items, like buildings. That means equipment, like scales and X-Ray machines are not required to be accessible. As a result, many people with disabilities avoid the doctor’s office and prefer in-home care. People with disabilities report their weight and height being guessed, which affects their prescriptions, or causes doctors to misdiagnose. Guess work is poor medical practice. The Affordable Care Act was set make changes to accessibility at medical practices, changing the way ADA is applied to them. However, the Trump Administration stopped that action and the Justice Department is not pursuing it any further.

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Despite laws that require ramps and wider doors for access, many medical offices don’t have scales that can accommodate wheelchairs, or adjustable exam tables for patients who cannot get up on one.

Denise Hok, 54, who lives in Colorado Springs and uses a wheelchair, opts for home health care when possible and avoids doctors’ offices where “it feels like it doesn’t really matter if something is wrong.” When offices don’t have accessible equipment, she said, it “sends a message.”

Patients with disabilities report feeling “icky” — as if doctors and nurses don’t want to touch them to examine them, said Morris, based on her research, adding that there’s a psychological toll to being treated as an “other” by the medical system.


When Alexa Can’t Understand You, by Moira Corcoran, Slate

Voice-enabled technology has provided a lot of benefits to people, disabled or not. Voice command control allows for hands free calls, turning lights on, playing music, etc. This technology has benefited many people with disabilities, especially those with visual disabilities. However, those with speech disabilities have trouble using voice-enabled technology. Developers ares till trying to catch up and meet their needs. But for now, Alexa isn’t helpful to everyone.

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Yet voice-enabled tech developers struggle to meet their needs. People with speech disabilities use the same language and grammar that others do. But their speech musculature—things like their tongue and jaw—is affected, resulting in consonants becoming slurred and vowels blending together, says Frank Rudzicz, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Toronto who studies speech and machine learning. These differences present a challenge in developing voice-enabled technologies.

Sean Lewis, a motivational speaker with cerebral palsy, agrees. “Unless [tech developers] personally know someone with a disability,” Lewis says, they “have no idea how a lack of technology affects people’s lives.”

Rudzicz predicts that we’ll see better technologies as the population ages and companies try to cater to people with degenerative conditions. And as these technologies are developed with aging populations in mind, people with congenital disorders like cerebral palsy will benefit, too—pushing us one step closer to truly inclusive voice-enabled tech.


The No. 1 thing you’re getting wrong about inclusive design, by Kat Holmes, Fast Company

This article studies the differences between inclusive design, accessible design, and universal design. We learn about how all three are connected and how their success depends on each other. In essence, all three are designed to create environments where all people can be successful without significant adaption. That requires consideration of how various actions can be done in different ways. This is a very interesting read.

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Inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging.

An important distinction is that accessibility is an attribute, while inclusive design is a method. While practicing inclusive design should make a product more accessible, it’s not a process for meeting all accessibility standards. Ideally, accessibility and inclusive design work together to make experiences that are not only compliant with standards, but truly usable and open to all.

Universal Design is defined as the design of an environment so that it might be accessed and used in the widest possible range of situations without the need for adaptation.


Products mocked as “lazy” or “useless” are often important tools for people with disabilities, by S.E. Smith, Vox

“Useless” products are often mocked on the internet and their users are described as “lazy.” However, many users of so called “useless” items are people with disables. Items like banana slicers, jar openers, sock sliders, and more are used by people with disabilities on a daily basis. These items are incredibly important in their day-to-day routine and can actually save money. The alternative to using many of these items is personal care assistance. Wouldn’t you much rather put on your own socks? Think twice before describing a product as useless.

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You’ve probably seen examples of these kinds of “useless products for lazy people” before. Things like banana slicers, egg separators, jar openers, buttoners, tilting jugs for dispensing liquids, and much more are the subject of constant amusement on the internet: “Who uses these kinds of things?” “You don’t need an avocado slicer.” These products are typically positioned as “useless” in scathing roundups of products no one could possibly need, representing little more than wastes of plastic and resources.

These issues may be congenital or acquired or even temporary. Some people, for example, just need support while they recover from surgery or injuries. And so those products Oliver and the internet at large enjoy mocking? Not so useless after all.

In many cases, wasting these services on tasks that people could perform with the assistance of a gadget is not very efficient. Nor do people with disabilities necessarily want to use such services this way.


Don’t tell your child not to stare at disabled people – we are already invisible enough, by Tanya Marlow, The Guardian

This opinion piece tells us to allow our children to stare and ask questions about disabilities. Often, adults will avoid eye contact or conversation with a person with disabilities. This makes people with disabilities seem invisible. However, children do the opposite as they are curious. They stare and they ask questions, loudly. This is good because it teaches children at a young age to see people with disabilities, acknowledge, and possibly understand them.

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Alice Broadway, author of the young adult Ink trilogy, recently tweeted her advice for exactly this situation, arguing that children’s curiosity about disability is to be embraced, not silenced. After all, it is strange to see an adult who seems to be in the position of a child. Her eldest boy is autistic and has Down’s syndrome, so she speaks from experience.

Social niceties are less important than social justice: disabled people must be acknowledged. Broadway implores, “Please don’t even hint to your children that it is OK to ignore a disabled person in order to make your own life a little easier and more comfortable. It’s insidious, this stuff, and learning NOT to say ‘don’t stare’ helps disabled people be fully visible in society.”

With this in mind, I urge you to follow Broadway’s example, teaching and modelling to children that disabled people are people, not lesser people, nor objects of fear. It’s possible to go overboard and smile artificially brightly at a disabled person. But I’d much rather have eye contact, cheesy grins and awkward conversation than another generation who pretends disabled people don’t exist.


Thanks for reading our October Reading List. Keep an eye out for our list next month. You can read last month’s reading list here.

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Josh Appel
jappel@disabledspectator.com
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