Category Archives: Answer and No Answer

No Room at the Inn.

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two scooters loaded into our van.

well, i’m on vacation, the first vacation in years. it’s piggybacked onto a conference my partner, andy griggs has in oakland.  so we planned to drive up the coast, stay near san luis obispo, drive to emeryville, near oakland, stay for a few days, head back, stay in santa cruz, and come home.

tonight we get to our hotel on avila beach,  which we were able to get at a great rate, through a special program. it’s a very nice place.  i checked the web page and called in advance, before booking the room, where  a high degree of wheelchair access was indicated; even a lift to allow for pool and spa access (which neither of us needs, but it’s an indication that we would be welcome and accommodated, unlike those places where they go out of their way to keep us out. — more on this later.) when i spoke to hotel staff,  i very carefully explained that we didn’t need a wheelchair adapted room (lower cabinets, walk in shower, etc.) but that we needed to be able to get to the room without obstacles (stairs, for example) and be able to get our scooters in the room.  i even asked how many elevators there were and was told that there were two. (because i’ve had the experience of no access because the only elevator is broken and i just couldn’t get to my room.)

we get to the hotel and ALL the accessible parking spaces are taken. the other spaces are down a steep hill, and past rows of cars, which is really dangerous for wheelchair users because cars can’t see us and we can be backed into.  it’s 9:30 PM.  after considerable negotiations a very kind clerk and a very rude security guard “let” us park in the blue striped space which risks a hefty ticket and towing fee.  no other option was given to us and our offer to have the security guard park our car for us is rejected. initially we were told we would have to park down the hill. i explained that we couldn’t do that, that i wasn’t even sure the scooter could get up the hill.  i was exhausted and explained that i was now in a an impossible situation, that they were basically telling me to do something i cannot do.  AND I CALLED BEFORE BOOKING THE RESERVATION.  we we’re told that they have met their legally required number of spaces. like that makes the fact that i can’t leave and can’t stay, any better.  i check and see that neither of the cars on either side of the blue striped space, is a van, which would mean our car would be blocking side door van lift access to their car.

the clerk was embarrassed by the behavior of the security guard who showed absolutely no empathy, and had made sure to repeatedly tell me what he could not do and how the legal responsibility of the hotel had been met. (except that I HAD CALLED BEFORE MAKING THE RESERVATION, AND THEY SHOULD HAVE LET ME KNOW THAT PARKING MIGHT MIGHT MIGHT BE A PROBLEM.) “he’s usually a very nice guy, she said.

“well, dis-ability brings out sociopathy in normally empathic people.” i explain. we’ve seen this before, a lot. many of my fb buddies have seen this on online discussions, and my real world friends have seen this in situations like the one described here, when we go out in public, where absolute cruelty without consequence is demonstrated unabashedly.

we park the car, and head off to the pool and i relax in the hot tub, to the extent that one can relax while paying to be discriminated against. we get up to our room. it’s now 11:00 and we’ve had a long day and we have NO SPOONS* left, and i notice a message light on the phone and call the front desk to find out that while the hotel won’t be towing us for parking illegally in the blue striped space, if another guest calls the cops, we could end up away from home without a car and have to spend some serious time and money to get our car back.

so far no one has offered us anything other than NO-pologies, like “i’m sorry you’re upset”, we’ve not been offered any comps or real options.

what they do offer us, is to allow us to re-park our car at the base of the hill and access the hotel via the employee entrance. had they offered this when we were in the lobby, we would have been fine with this. but it’s 11 PM and we can barely move.  this means scooting down to the lobby, loading the scooter into the van, driving the van down the hill, parking, unloading the scooter  and scooting back up to the room, which is about 2 blocks of corridors from where they are now suggesting we park the car.

andy decides to take them up on this offer, because risking getting a huge ticket or having our car towed is just NOT an option.

earlier in the day we saw a restaurant in santa barbara, and i wish i had pictures, but my digital camera was in the car, and my iphone was out of electricity. it was a restaurant that could have been accessible, it was even ramped, but the management had carefully placed signs and plants and tables in such a way that access was impossible.

this is why so few pwds go on vacation.

now, before some bar hopping, “slunting” pedantic activists from yale, or USC,  privilege bait me (you know who you are!)  for having the nerve to complain that i can’t access a luxury vacation (it’s not like low end travel is even remotely an access option!), please tell me, are there any other demographics to whom hotels and restaurants would acceptably bar access; would refuse to provide equal service for the same payment?

the day was otherwise pleasant, beautiful coast, photography, talking in ways we haven’t before, or at least so long ago,  i can’t remember,  and much needed time together, but right now, i don’t really want to be here, and yet i also am just not able to leave, either. i do hope tomorrow is better.

and returned to the room, and tells me the charger to my scooter isn’t working. we have one charger between us, for two scooters. hoping we don’t lose that one too.

relax relax relax.  ohhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmm.

*http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

A is for Zebra– wheelchair accessible if you can pick a lock or use the stairs.

This is why I don’t go out much. This sort of thing happens pretty much every time I try to access my community. It isn’t so much the lack of access, but the absolute hostile indifference to my attempts.  I don’t take it personally, because it’s obviously common policy and has nothing to do with me. It has to do with dis-ability and common attitudes against inclusion. But it does upset me and it does wear me down.

I wanted to go to the LACMA exhibit, A is for Zebra, http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/zebra , because I’m working with art and text, and that’s what THIS exhibit is about. (Actually, it’s a great example of how NOT to use text with art, but I’m not writing THAT article. I’m writing how a structurally accessible venue locks out –as in, with a key– people with dis-abilities.)  I found out about the event on LACMA’s web page.  http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/zebra . This exhibit  is in at an off site LACMA gallery,  in an elementary school. The information on the web site clearly says: “The gallery is open to the public weekdays 2:30–6 pm. The gallery is closed December 19, 2011–January 9, 2012, January 16, and February 20.”

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Then I went to :  http://www.lacma.org/visit/plan-your-visit to check out dis-ability access, where it explicitly states:

“Visitors with Disabilities LACMA offers wheelchairs and assisted-listening devices for use during your visit. There is no additional charge; photo identification is required. Guests requiring assistance should plan to arrive curbside along Wilshire Boulevard in front of Urban Light, at the intersection of Ogden Drive and Wilshire, or at the intersection of Spaulding Avenue and Wilshire. Proceed to the Welcome Centers for assistance. For wheelchair access to the plaza and galleries at the eastern half of the museum’s campus, elevators are located to the right, immediately inside the entrance at Spaulding Avenue and Wilshire.”

Well, OBVIOUSLY, that’s about the actual museum, and not the off site exhibit, but nowhere on the LACMA page does it say the off site event  is NOT accessible. and it clearly says it’s open to the public.

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

BUT just in case, I called the school. I didn’t get the name of the person I spoke with, but she was very friendly and informative with an authoritative voice that gave me confidence in the information she relayed to me: yes, the gallery IS accessible, and there is parking off of Corondolet, around the corner from the actual address of the school. (that parking could be validated).  I asked again, if it was accessible and she assured me that it was. No other instructions.

GUESS WHAT!!!! (it’s not accessible.)

After walking past the unstaffed (but wide open) school office, and through a playground with both supervised and unsupervised students, through a maze of ramps and steps, having asked directions from a variety of children (there was no staff at all within our range of conversation), we arrived at a staircase and an elevator. The staircase descended onto a patio, around a corner to the gallery. The elevator would have provided access, except it was LOCKED. There was no signage, no instructions, no buttons, no bells,  no personnel within sight or voice range (even if I had yelled!)  –See photos below.  Luckily I wasn’t alone, and luckily I had  my walker and not my scooter, which is considerably heavier,  so my friend, another artist/photographer, and I managed to get me and my walker down the stairs to the gallery doorway, which was totally blocked to wheelchairs and walkers, by student book bags that were piled in front of the door way. (In case access isn’t an issue, a fire hazard maybe?)

At this point  I should mention that the gallery is located on the corner of Parkview and Wilshire, and there’s actually a ramped entrance RIGHT THERE, but it’s LOCKED. To access the gallery, the public HAS to go around the block, and go through the school and 2 playground areas. — so despite two means of structural access— the elevator and the gate, the gallery was NOT accessible because both structural means of access were LOCKED, preventing dis-ability access. (It should also be noted, that a direct entrance to the exhibit makes much more sense in regard to student security, than an entrance through the school and the playground, where any adult can simply walk in and have total access to the students, who,  after school have very minimal supervision.)

TO CLARIFY– THIS IS NOT AN EXAMPLE OF AN INACCESSIBLE VENUE ATTEMPTING TO, OR FAILING TO PROVIDE ACCESS. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF A STRUCTURALLY ACCESSIBLE VENUE THAT DENIES ACCESS BY NOT ALLOWING ACCESS VIA THOSE BUILT IN STRUCTURES.

A man came out and asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was taking pictures in accordance with LACMA’s photography policy (no flash or tripods. There were no children within the range of my camera, either, by the way!).  He insisted the exhibit was closed to the public, and informed me that he worked for the district and was evaluating the after school program. (At no point did he tell me to leave, not to take pictures nor did he ever call security!) I informed him that the exhibit was in fact open to the public, was on the LACMA web page,  and was supposed to be wheelchair accessible, and that I had also called the school office which had confirmed all of that information.  In his lack of information he continued to insist it was not open to the public. At that point he ran to get a LACMA employee, a young woman, wearing a LACMA apron, who approached me and told me she provided customer service. She went on to tell me that a person needing wheelchair access was supposed to go to the main office, and that the custodian had a key. (So a person in a wheelchair or a walker, is supposed to make their way around the school, know to ask for a key, know if they get to the locked elevator, to get a custodian, who could be anywhere on campus.)  This young woman explained that they rent the space from the school and access isn’t LACMA’S responsibility.  She also added that the street entrance was locked at the insistence of the school. She seemed very sure of herself that LACMA bore no responsibility for access to the exhibit, and especially empowered to make sure I knew that. At no point did she offer to help me nor did she show any concern for the issue in general, the lack of information or my particular experience. Then she told me she wasn’t the person I was supposed to speak with. I then asked her why she had approached me. A young man joined in with the same trope. He then told me to stop “bickering” with him in front of the children. (There was no concern about what would happen if a child in a wheelchair attempted to access the exhibit and had been subjected to the same obstacles and the same hostile indifference. This is, after all, a public school and an exhibit open to the public. A point I did make!)  I told him again, that HE had approached ME, and if he didn’t want to talk to me,  to stop talking to me. He continued to talk at me, explaining how it wasn’t LACMA’s responsibility to make the exhibit accessible. I told him if he didn’t want to talk to me, he should stop talking to me.

I attempted to call LACMA while the man who was upset with me for talking to him, continued to talk at me and about me, in front of the children.  No one answered at LACMA, and I attempted to enjoy the exhibit, but I was upset and distraught at the frustration and indignity, as well as the repeated abuse of my personal space by personnel who engaged me, while insisting that they weren’t the people I should be speaking with.

Finally, I asked the young man if he could contact his employer, that I had been unable to reach anyone at LACMA. He handed me a leaflet that had a phone number on it, but he wouldn’t actually help me contact anyone. I asked him repeatedly for help and he repeatedly refused to help me.

Everyone who spoke with me was more upset with me for raising the issue of lack of access than they were with the fact that I had attempted to attend a public event hosted by a public museum, at a public school, and couldn’t without difficulty and assistance, because both means of accessing the event, were locked.

I called the number the man gave me and got the voice message for a Sarah Jesse, which explained that she would be out of the office until March 5.  (Almost 10 days ago. All this happened on  March 14). I left a detailed message. I hope she gets back to me. I’ll follow up if she does. Don’t hold your breath. I’ll also call the school in the morning, since the one district personnel I encountered knew nothing about the school’s responsibility, and the LACMA personnel put all the responsibility on the school. I’ll also send them the link to this blog post. One would hope they would address the issues of access and school security. (Again, don’t hold your breath!)

Aside from simply not existing, I’m not sure what the people who approached ME expected of me. THEY asked ME what was wrong, I told them.  My observation didn’t seem to upset them as much as the fact that I was articulating it. Or perhaps, they just expected me to accept their excuses and stop scowling? Say something to make them feel better? Or maybe they simply wanted to convince me that my exclusion was an obvious and acceptable consequence of the conditions and excuses they were hurling at me.

If this story shocks you, you don’t know jack about dis-ability discrimination. Just another day. Just one more reason why I don’t go out much. Something like this happens pretty much everywhere I attempt to go.

To increase size of pictures for greater detail, double click the image.

keypad for elevator-- needs key, for entry

Elevator, with keyed entry, and a flight of stairs to a lobby.

Kudos: HLN Coverage of Murder and Abuse of Children With Dis-abilities

On this blog, i usually report on the myriad indignities people with dis-abilities encounter and the politics of access and agency. We also give Kudos, when someone gets it right– or ALMOST right. 

Lawrence Carter-Long rocks the interview. Nancy Grace could use some lessons in dis-ability lexicon and tone, but at least she’s covering it. Mark Klass continues perpetuating the idea of stranger danger, when in most cases the danger to women and children is in our own homes, especially true for PWDs.

Nancy Grace December 27, 2011

Missing 9-Year-Old Murdered Disabled Girl, Alie Marie Lemmon, Dismembered by Family Friend. December 27, 2011 (See below, my email to CNN/IHN)

My Letter to CNN

post your letter at: http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form5.html?81

Kudos for your coverage of dis-ability and how PWDs (people w dis-abilities) are especially targeted. Lawrence Carter Long’s contributions were excellent. He is a great spokesperson on dis-ability rights. With deep respect for what Mark Klass has been through, not sure what his contribution had to do w this report, since he was mostly talking about “stranger danger”, which was the case with his family. In general, though, and in the case of PWDs, the greatest danger to women and children is in our own homes. Did you feel you needed a nonPWD to speak on this issue to balance Carter-Long? Also, you REALLY need to familiarize yourself with both lexicon and tone when discussing dis-ability rights. This is a human rights issue as any other. Please focus on us in ways that are dignified, not separate, and not with pity. You also need to update your lexicon– the word handicapped is considered insulting and antiquated. Here are some resources for you:  Disability Etiquette: What NOT to say to a person with a Disability http://diversityinc.com/content/1757/article/3382/

http://www.uni.edu/equity/DisabilityEtiquette.shtml#HearingDisabilityEtiquette http://www.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ntl_etiquette __________________________________________________ Respectful Dis-ability Language Respectful Disability Language— Mobility International USA – MIUSA www.miusa.org http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/image s/PDF/pfl09.pdf People first, language, to describe people with disabilities.– a very helpful essay. and my own developing lexicon:  https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/dis-ability-word-matters/

__________________________________________________

Arriving at OccupyLA–cops and dogs, have more of a place than people with dis-abilities!

Dogs occupy the lawn during OccupyLA

Dogs occupy the lawn during OccupyLA ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

NO SINGLE KEY ASPECT OF THIS EVENT IS INCLUSIVE OF PEOPLE WITH DIS-ABILITIES!!!!! (photos below!)

This article was solicited for publication and is included in the Dreaming In Public, anthology https://www.amazon.com/Dreaming-Public-Building-Occupy-Movement/dp/1780260849

I made it down to OccupyLA yesterday, after a week of attempting on line to assure that such an effort  would not be a major  misuse of my time and energy and wouldn’t be dangerous or humiliating. (it’s not easy for many people with dis-abilities (PWDs) to get ourselves out of the house. it takes real planning.) I had been tweeting, facebooking and blogging and getting first hand reports from friends and family who had made the trek to the event.

I had spent hours on the phone and in person with some of the organizers.  I was brutally harassed and insulted on both FB and Twitter for even suggesting that outreach to this significant 20% of the 99% be a consideration, and that our participation be more than passive, that our inclusion must have agency and that we must be able to inform this movement.

After a series of attempts at contributing to this event hit a cruel brick wall, I used harsh words, strong words and militant words. That’s what activists DO! That’s what marginalized people must DO, to be heard. We are not asking for handouts (food, medicine, tent space is all free and EASILY AVAILABLE at OccupyLA, for everyone BUT people with dis-abilities.) We are demanding that our skills, voices, opinions, ideas, power be present as equal contributors in the movement.

In previous blog posts, I documented my efforts to offer resources for dis-ability inclusion, and attempts to help the committee that was working on this, (if there is one). I was finally contacted by Cassie from “finance” who had informed me that she had bought 6 accessible porta potties and they would be there the next day (IT –1-  porta potty, didn’t arrive for several days, forcing PWDs to leave the event in search of a bathroom more than a block away. ) We talked for hours on the phone.  Cassie told me she also worked in the welcome tent and to come see her when I finally made it to OccupyLA.  She gave me the contact information for Cheryl,  the person who was “in charge of dis-ability access”, who a google search revealed was a medical marijuana access activist, but whose twitter account ended after the last election cycle.  I sent her a tweet, decided to call her later when I was feeling less burnt out, or figured I would attempt to find her when I got to the event, I was just so disappointed in my efforts so far, and the incredible energy it took just to get porta potties. At no time did she ever attempt to reach me.

From the beginning of my attempts to work with OccupyLA, the excuses I got were rote, almost like talking to cult members. “We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. We are a nascent movement.” So, over the course of the week, and at the event itself, I offered. I offered to work on logistics, on dis-ability access, on social media and on finance.  I suggested they needed a page on their web page with a list of committees, contact persons, and meeting times.  I also told them they needed a page on their web page on logistics, with special outreach to PWDs– information that included parking, bathrooms, what to bring,  perhaps a map of the occupation village, etc. I told them they needed sign language interpreters and outreach, outreach, outreach.  I told them that when people asked questions to social media that that information needed prompt connection to the appropriate person who responds in a timely manner and that people offering suggestions not be subjected to a barrage of hate and abuse. Again, the mantra: . “We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. ”  One thing Cassie and others had told me, was to come down and see for myself. That what was on the twitter feed bore little resemblance to what was happening on the ground.

So, I headed out on Saturday, which was the first day I could get assistance and would be prepared for whatever obstacles I might encounter.  I hoped, that perhaps I was being too hard on this effort, that it was probably not as bad as I imagined.

Boy was I wrong!!!! NOTHING was accessible.  NO SINGLE KEY ASPECT OF THIS EVENT IS INCLUSIVE OF PEOPLE WITH DIS-ABILITIES!!!!! 
The entire park  around city hall, with one narrow exception, has a curb that prevents wheelchairs and scooters from entering any portion of the park except the walkways!!!!  The welcome tent, the food tent, the media tent, workshops, committee meetings,  the library (we had brought books to contribute, but not being able to get to the library, I declined contributing), the first aid tent– so the people who might be most in need of medical attention, can’t get it!, the stage, and even the wheelchair accessible porta potty, were situated so PWDs in wheelchairs would not have access. PWDs  are limited in our participation to sitting in the walkway, watching everyone else interact, We are to need nothing, or hope for charitable assistance, and hope we’re not in the way. (We get accused of that, a lot!)

I was told on line, more than once, “I have seen people in wheel chairs out here”.
One twitterer, who set up a sock puppet account just to harass me,  accused me of not standing (sic) by other PWDs who attended the event, as if my lack of presence, so unwelcome as it was, was a betrayal to those who were happy and brave and were part of this FARCE!!!! (I MEAN CAMPOUT!)

So, then I had to ask myself– is my passive presence simply bearing false “witness” of inclusion??? Would people say, “See, Emma Rosenthal was there, they even” (maybe if I was lucky) “allowed her to speak from the foot of the stairs. sad– so sad– pity–pity–pity– she couldn’t make it up the stairs to the stage.”  

And would I want to address a crowd where no sign language was available to sisters and brothers in the struggle, who are deaf?

I finally did meet up with Cheryl the person “in charge” of access, she was giving a tour of the (inaccessible) campout,  because a map, wouldn’t have sufficed?  I found out where most things were, and I couldn’t even access most of the territory of the park. She had a slew of excuses for the TOTAL lack of access,  I offered to go on the tour. She told me to wait some undesignated amount of time. She would give me my tour later.  She wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise, controlling me and the conversation the way a cop controls a crime scene or an interrogation. She was very, very good at THAT.  (and perhaps that’s why she was there, really– to keep anything significant from happening.) She also gave me the mantra “”We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. We are a nascent movement.”  Of course they’re not leaderless, there’s plenty of leadership, it’s just not accountable.

After my bad cop experience with Cheryl, Someone who identified herself as Jeannie, ran up to me, handed me her card, and gave me the good cop approach. She acted like she knew of me, but said she didn’t. She let me know she was in charge of social media, but hadn’t seen any of my tweets and facebook posts.  (How is that even remotely possible?)  And she was eager to get my help on any of the committees I wanted to work on.  She was very concerned, explained to me again “”We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. We are a nascent movement.” It was eerie, like they had all worked together to get their story straight, whenever anyone suggested any improvements. Jeannie was very encouraging, but full of excuses. “Cheryl was working very hard, and of course the mantra “We are a leaderless….”  She also told me that they were having things STOLEN BY HOMELESS PEOPLE, and that THE EVENT HAD BEEN INFILTRATED. well this is where the conversation went totally downhill. At first I thought she was talking about how the cops had infiltrated the event, but it turned out that she was referring to activists who had been pushing for a statement opposing police brutality. These were her infiltrators. She told me the police were an important part of the 99% (apparently more important that PWDs) and that the cops working on this event were our friends, and really good guys, she knew them personally.  (I bet she does!!) When I told her the cops weren’t part of the 99%, she yelled at me not to call her, and she ran away. (So much for democracy, justice, and leaderless action.)

All of the “leaderless leaders” I spoke to  at OccupyLA, were white 30-50 year olds. Neither my partner, activist, Andy Griggs nor I had ever seen any of them in any leadership capacity in any organization or event in Los Angeles.

While I was there, I did see and spoke with three other people with ambulatory dis-abilites: one person with a walker, aside from Andy, and two other people in wheelchairs. None of them was happy with our lack/level of inclusion.

AT one point I just fell apart, and was consoled by a stranger named Ryan, as well as by my partner, Andy and my friends Kathleen, Cindy, and  Tamara, who was serving at the First Aid station.  (She put a call out for plywood for ramps.)  I want to thank them for helping me metabolize my rage. I was approached by other strangers, who were also willing to help. But all were powerless to really address issues of equitable and empowered access.

The class struggle is vast, and I would rather find a small stream and flow firmly with the currents, then get caught up in a stagnant eddy in some huge river that has no place for me, nor appreciation of even the most simplest aspects of my humanity. The amount of abuse and isolation is infuriating, and I don’t need environments that negate my existence while I’m fed platitudes to “think positive”. the level of rage I reached just isn’t good for anyone. So, unless there are huge changes in the entire movement, I won’t be back.

 Images from an Exclusive Movement:

Media tent-- off limits (see curb) to reporters and volunteers who use wheelchairs.

Media tent– off limits (see curb) to reporters and volunteers who use wheelchairs. ©2011emma rosenthal photography

Inaccessible Stage at OccupyLA, up a flight of steps.

Inaccessible Stage at OccupyLA, up a flight of steps. ©2011 emma rosenthal photography

A wheelchair accessible porta potty, up a step, inaccessible via wheelchair.

A wheelchair accessible porta potty, up a step, inaccessible via wheelchair.                    ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Curbless sectment of the Park, just a few yards from where event organizers placed the inaccessible porta potty.

Curbless segment of the Park, just a few yards from where event organizers placed the inaccessible porta potty. They should have placed it here.  ©2011emmarosenthal photography

Inaccessible first aid tent at OccupyLA, up a step.

Inaccessible first aid tent at OccupyLA, up a step. ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Close up of step to first aid tent at Occupy LA, with signage that says "step up step down"

Close up of step to first aid tent at Occupy LA, with signage that says “step up step down” on green tarp with red tape. (no, really,it is really red tape!) ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Medic, Tamara, who is working really hard to fix issues of access at the first aid tent.

Medic, Tamara, who is working really hard to fix issues of access at the first aid tent. ©2011emmarosenthal photography

Tables for organizations at OccupyLA, up a curb, making staffing at such a table, difficult for a person in a wheelchair.

Tables for organizations at OccupyLA, up a curb, making staffing at such a table, difficult for a person in a wheelchair. ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Food tent and welcome tent

Food tent and welcome tent and other tents all inaccessible at OccupyLA 2011 emmarosenthal photography

Next blog posts: Tweets on dis-ability access OccupyLA and an article on the clientization of dis-ability– the charity model, or “Be happy we got you a porta potty you can fit your chair into, how dare you be upset that it’s up a flight of stairs!”

Update to “Decolonize L.A., That’s the Movement We Need”

Yesterday I published my own commentary on OccupyLA, “Decolonize L.A. That’s the Movement We Need” which focused on issues of inclusion, including dis-ability inclusion, without which my participation is either distant or passive. I also provided links to resources and other commentary. since then a lot has happened. (scroll down for more links to more commentary by other activists).

The blog post has received a lot of attention (more hits than any other post on my blog), most of it very positive. I have had my share of detractors, including one commentary on a FB thread telling people , to stop reading and  circulating my link, and accused me of trying to keep people from participating in OccupyLA. (not a stellar example on his part,  of how to  build a democratic movement!)

So let me clarify!!! PLEASE PARTICIPATE IN OCCUPYLA, TO THE EXTENT THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN. DEMAND FULL INCLUSION! DEMAND A STATEMENT ABOUT POLICE BRUTALITY (WHICH THE PWOD WHITE BOYS DON’T WANT TO ISSUE), DEMAND SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETATION, DEMAND GENDER RIGHTS, DEMAND ANTI-RACIST DIALOGUE. DEMAND TRANSPARENCY!!!! DEMAND DEMAND DEMAND. (I UNDERSTAND THE EVENT ORGANIZERS PREFER THE WORD “OBJECTIVE” TO “DEMAND”.  DEMAND THE RIGHT TO USE THE WORD DEMAND!!!!!!!!!)

Aside from the example already provided, I’ve received other nasty emails, tweets etc.  and disparaging comments, some in the form of patronizing pleas that I temper my message to be more pleasant and effective, to outright abuse (usually from the same belligerent pwod white male, who couldn’t control me with sweet talk.)

But they are wrong. social justice isn’t realized by acting all “nice” and “pretty”. and I don’t try to be a lady (a term that seems most prolific when insults are being hurled such as “go fuck yourself, lady” — one lovely tweet (squawk) i got). I sent 3 days of tweets before I got ANY response from OccupyLA.  That’s what it took.  And to my knowledge, the abusive language i received went totally unchallenged.  But I have been  informed that due to my persistence, 6 accessible porta potties have been purchased, and I’ve been contacted by some of the event coordinators in search of more input from me, on the issue of access.

Dis-ability rights seems to be finding itself into the lexicon of social justice, and there seems to be a greater understanding of the need to include us in the pantheon of marginalized and oppressed. I’ve also received a lot of support on this issue, and a lot more people had my back, which is a relatively new experience. I feel like my years of struggle screaming into the wilderness on this issue are finally proving to have impact.

I’m looking forward to seeing how I can help assist with access to this event, including working with either the logistics committee and/or the social media committee. I’m hopeful, but  I’m not holding my breath.

Positive thinking can be a real kick in the ass, in the form of devastating disappointment! But we’ll see. I’m not going to be tokenized, nor am I willing to address access outside of the other issues of social justice, because they’re too linked and none is more important than the next. It’s all class struggle.

As for those who disparage netivism, for those of us who can’t always get out, or who, when we do, are up against terrible obstacles, netivisim is what we have. If it isn’t effective why are so many pwod white boys so damn upset with me??? After all, it’s just the internet, it’s not really real life! (Or is it?)

More Links to Other Dissenting Activists re OccupyLA

http://unpermittedla.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/the-general-assembly-and-grassroots-democracy/

unpermittedla.wordpress.com

While the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA movements have a great potential to bring about social change, some of us who participated in the encampment of City Hall and the Saturday and Sunday Gene…
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AN OPEN LETTER FROM TWO WHITE MEN TO #OCCUPYWALLSTREET     We—two white men—write this letter conscious of the fact that the color of our skin means we will likely be taken more seriously.  We write this knowing that because people of color are thought to be too biased to speak objectively on iss…

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My thoughts on #PoliceBrutality discussion at #OccupyLA General Assembly last night: 

“…This is Occupy LA, right? Police brutality is a real issue for Los Angeles. (you know, the home the Rodney King beating, the most famous case of police brutality in the world). Those who have grown up here in poor and immigrant communities (aka, the majority of LA) will all tell you stories of being harassed, abused, and sometimes brutalized by the police. Just last year hundreds of people from the MacArthur park area marched to the LAPD headquarters right across the street after a day laborer was shot in the head by the LAPD for no reason. Whether or not you’ve experienced police brutality yourself, it doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for the people of Los Angeles, which has one of the highest rates of police brutality in the country. If Occupy LA is the people of LA, it should raise the issues that most affect the people of LA.”

Decolonize L.A. –That’s the Movement We Need!!!

Commentary on Occupy L.A. by radical crrpl gurl, Emma Rosenthal

Well, OccupyLA is in full swing, complete with police collaboration, and the predictable exclusion and marginalization of those sectors of our community most impacted by the already existing several hundred year, occupation of L.A.. causing many to quip, “You can’t occupy stolen land.”  I’ve not even attempted to attend OccupyLA. I have first hand experience provided to me by my partner, Andy, and other friends, who’ve attempted to participate in ways that are honored and empowered.  For example, I understand that there are porta-potties, but they aren’t the wheelchair accessible type. (Exclusive bathrooms??? how 1964!)

From all reports there has been no planning to assure dis-ability inclusion (big surprise) and any attempt to raise issues of social justice, racism, sexism, police brutality or dis-ability inclusion, have  been shot down by what apparently is a movement lead by people who found their way beyond  La Brea Blvd into the jungle of the unknown to the East, only to demand that the event disregard the input of those not from the exclusive enclaves of West Los Angeles.  This movement that claims to be about the other 99% seems dominated by the top 5% of that majority. In Los Angeles, remove issues of gender, race and dis-ability, and you have a very small, pwod (people without dis-abilities) white male minority indeed.

I did make several attempts to reach OccupyLA, posting both my inquiry, and my link to resources for accessible event planning, to their fb page, and to their twitter account, asking what had been done to include PWDs, (people with dis-abilities) in the program, providing resources (though the link) and offering my own labor and support.  But i’ve received no official response,  though those who support Occupy LA , considered my efforts at increasing outreach and participation unwelcome, even accusing me of being a troll. I have to say, I met a few amazing people through the online exchange, and got more support on the issue than I’ve been used to. (I don’t know why I just don’t shut up on the issue, but I don’t. I’m strangely tenacious that way!)

On Facebook, I was told by one person that there was actually a committee to deal with Dis-ability inclusion, and to go to the web page (I did, there isn’t, she lied). Another person told me the park is totally accessible (even with crowds and no facilitation of access?) and that accessible bathrooms are available in City Hall (when it is open, and thru a metal detector, requiring PWDs in wheelchairs to be subjected to a pat down). She also told me to come down and talk to the organizers (at the inaccessible event!)  Others told me the same,  and to form a contingent, as if I could participate without advanced planning to assure I and other dis-folk could even get our bodies into the park.

Even if I had formed a PWD inclusive anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, human rights affirming,  contingent, and we were ready to descend on the park (a dis-abilty affirmative contingent would have to be formed off site first because of logistics), who would we need to talk to to get access, with (and this would be basic) our ACCESSIBLE porta-potties, and other equipment?  Remember, repeated attempts on my part to dialogue with the organizers went unanswered.  right?

Those weren’t the only responses I got, Someone else tweeted me to let me know Ron Kovic had spoken “from his chair”, as if one celebrity crrpl (who is NOT a dis-ability rights activist or advocate) means there’s access. Others said they saw other people with canes and wheelchairs, so I should just shut up. (Did anyone ask them what it took to attend, and if they needed anything?, so is attending, by extension, a form of complicity, simply because by being seen, we’re allowing PWODs to deny access issues persist?) And what of Ron Kovic? Do the crowds respond to his celebrity, the same way they respond to ordinary crrpl folk?  Does he bring his own attendants and assistants? Shoot, Ron can afford a driver, and even his own personal RV, complete with bathroom if he needs one.  This ISN’T a personal issue. IT MUST BE TREATED AS A COLLECTIVE ISSUE!!!

SO WHAT TO DO!!????
-If you’re at OccupyLA, demand full inclusion, addressing issues of dis-abilty, race, gender, etc. And if anyone wants to discuss organizing Decolonize L.A. or even a human rights village within OccupyLA, including full dis-inclusion, hit me up.  (comment here, or contact me on FB or twitter)

-You can follow me on twitter, and RETWEET my tweets on the issue:   http://twitter.com/emma_rosenthal
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-You can go to the OccupyLA Facebook page and demand full accountability and access, and of course include other issues of marginalization into your demands (race, gender, etc)
https://www.facebook.com/occupyLA 

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-You can also follow the threads I started on the issue, on the OccupyLA list, and please, add your own position on the issue.  Let them know, dis-ing dis-ability is uncool.   The first link has many comments, and if you read thru them all, they get sidesplittingly funny!

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=241435485908810&id=180549985355693

And

https://www.facebook.com/occupyLA/posts/256416857727150

And my most recent:

https://www.facebook.com/occupyLA/posts/272900166064196

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Other commentaries on the problems at OccupyLA, include:

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https://www.facebook.com/notes/v%C3%ADctor-entrepuertas/some-thoughts-on-last-nights-occupy-la-general-assembly/10150315264168424?notif_t=like

Some Thoughts on Last Night’s Occupy L.A. General Assembly

The General Assembly was rather messy an undemocratic:   1) The “mic check” method that the organizers are copying from the NY Occupiers is a Pavlovian conditioning tool. Tha…

Personally, and I’ve told him, I wish Victor had included dis-ability access issues in his piece.  I hope he does so in future efforts.

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https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150304190487864
Dear Occupy LA:   I am a white-anti-racist, queer, working class, cis-gendered womyn (among other inexplicable identities/existences) living in Los Angeles….

By: Kristy Lovich
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Finally, please feel free to share with OccupyLA, these resources, and to use them in planning your own events.
https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/guide-to-accessible-event-planning/

inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com

THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ACCESS LIES WITH THE EVENT PLANNERS. IT IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL ATTENDING THE EVENT. The issue of disability rights is often either ignored within the …

The Wheelchair Nuisance (or; Why Can’t Those People Just Go Away?)

By Emma Rosenthal
(Rosenthal submitted the following statement as an oped to The L.A. Times, in response to the article: Suits continue despite law to curb litigation” Friday September18, 2010. Let’s see if they print her commentary! Meanwhile, you read it here, first!)

The characterization of disability access litigation as nuisance lawsuits is profoundly dismissive, cruel and hurtful and belies a general resentment and reluctance of full inclusion for people with disabilities. This essential civil action is the only legal remedy provided to secure minimal civil rights for this significant sector of the population. L. A. Times reporter, Louis Sahagun‘s open hostility to disability access; ridiculing the extreme physical, social and emotional stress caused by constant barriers to society’s resources, makes his article read more like a tabloid editorial than a news report. The account didn’t cover the extreme ongoing lack of accessible public services for people with disabilities, but rather asserted that despite legislation intended to prevent litigation, people with disabilities continue to misuse the courts to assert our rights through “nuisance” lawsuits.

Sadly, for many people, basic human rights ARE a nuisance.  Those people are called bigots.

Anyone who either uses a wheelchair, scooter or walker,  or those who spend time with people with disabilities, know that there no need to invent abuses of civil rights legislation for disability access. Many shops including those in major tourist sections of this city: Olvera Street, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Sunset Junction, Fairfax, Melrose, Venice Beach, are not accessible.  Many stores clog up narrow aisles with displays and merchandise. Several local farmers markets use space in ways that are not only inaccessible to many shoppers, but, in setting up stalls, block accessible parking spaces and wheelchair ramps. Much of the L.A. housing stock, many local dog parks, playgrounds, paved walking trails, theaters, nightclubs, hotels and motels, places of worship, medical facilities, public transportation, sightseeing tour buses and trolleys, taxis, airport shuttles, human rights/peace organizations, labor organizations, public libraries, post offices, schools and universities, domestic violence shelters, are likewise frequently inaccessible.  While many facilities may have been built to comply with ADA regulations, the use of a venue quickly renders the space inaccessible:  lowered service counters that are not staffed (or are used to display ads to local theme parks), line cordons that aren’t wide enough for wheelchairs or scooters,  bath rooms  or hallways blocked by lockers and boxes, carts that  are left in the middle of aisles by store personnel, store scooters that are not charged between uses, leaving patrons stranded, accessible parking space usage that is  unenforced  or is used to display merchandise

Disability is a significant predictor of unemployment, homelessness, institutionalization, violent crime victimization, bullying, and poverty due to lack of access to social services, jobs, housing, education and medical care.  While the Chambers of Commerce and Merchants’ Associations cry foul, they repeatedly allot their ample resources, not to finding solutions or providing information to their members and supporting new businesses in assuring compliance, but rather to extensive lobbying campaigns to prevent new legislation from getting passed, and existing legislation from being enforced.  Use of the term “nuisance” to label the lawsuits that attempt to right these abuses, is a manipulative twist of words intended to increasingly turn the public against this vulnerable, marginalized population.  As for the merchant who exclaimed “Why would we want to limit access to anyone with cash in their pockets?”  Why indeed?   It’s not like there isn’t historic precedent. What excuse did Southern lunch counter owners and White Business Associations give for their disinterest in increasing their customer base?

Truth is, people with disabilities are to be unseen and unheard. Our mere presence is, for many, an offense and decreases the cachet of an establishment.

I have never filed a lawsuit for lack of access, though the opportunity presents itself every time I venture out into the world.  I may get litigious one day, but right now it’s just not what I want, nor how I should have to use my time. I do point out barriers to access and explain that such accommodations would result in more patrons, participation and greater sales (and would provide employees greater job security should they become disabled too).  Usually the response is either hostile or feigned indifference, offense, ridicule and humiliation.  Only in a few exceptions, were even the smallest (and often insufficient) changes made. So I am grateful for lawyers and individuals such as Eric Moran who have the courage, the patience and the tenacity to demand full human and civil rights for everyone.

In the face of grave injustice, someone has to be a nuisance!