Category Archives: Answer and No Answer

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!


job opportunity helping youth with self esteem

People With Disabilities NEED NOT APPLY!

What follows is my inquiry to a post to the L.A. Culture Net list serve for a job opportunity, along with the actual announcement.  I encourage my readers to consider a quick email letting the agency know what YOU think of their reasonable accommodations and the requisites of the ADA re dis-ability accommodations.  There’s no reason why a person with a dis-ability shouldn’t be able to handle an administrative position or that minor accommodation might provide this agency with a greater, perhaps more desirable candidate pool, especially considering the salary range for this ADMINISTRATIVE POSITION!!!



“Physical and Mental Demands
• Able to work in chaotic and high noise level environment typical of a youth center
• Sit and walk throughout the day /Stand and walk for several consecutive hours during class time
• Lift up to 20 pounds occasionally
• Speech and hearing within normal ranges; speech clarity sufficient for standard face to face and telephone communications
• Must be willing to work flexible schedule (including some evenings and weekends)”

—–Original Message—–
>From: Angela <>
>Sent: Aug 4, 2010 2:16 PM
>Subject: [LACN] A Place Called Home is seeking an Educational Services Manager
>A Place Called Home is seeking an Educational Services Manager
>Reports to: Director of Programs FLSA Status: Exempt
>Hours:  Full-Time Benefits: Competitive health insurance package, paid vacation, and 401K matching plan
>A Place Called Home is a dynamic, non-profit youth center in South Central Los Angeles.  APCH provides educational programs, counseling, mentoring, music, dance and art classes, and fitness opportunities.  As youth participate in our programs, they discover interests and talents and develop a better sense of themselves and their place in the world around them.  Our goal is to increase the likelihood that youth will stay in school, pursue higher education, attain viable jobs, and become active citizens capable of making positive change in the world in which they live.  (
>The Educational Services Manager is responsible for successful implementation of academic programs for A Place Called Home including tutoring, assessment, collaboration with local district schools, intervention plans, etc. The Educational Services Manager is also responsible for supervising department staff, volunteers, and interns.
>Responsibilities  (Please request to view job description to view a complete list of responsibilities)
>• Oversee academic programs and classes (Literacy, CPU, Math, Writing, Poetry, etc.) and tutoring programs
>• Collaborate with local schools to coordinate services for members secure all relevant educational materials and agendas
>• Collaborate with departments to provide academic support to required programs (i.e. dance, sports, counseling, BTF, etc.)
>• Work in partnership with counseling and case management to develop personalized academic plans for individuals in academic crisis and or identify and refer members requiring counseling
>• Train, supervise, and evaluate Ed Services staff, interns, and volunteers
>• Develop educational criteria to assess readiness of all volunteers
>• Develop and Evaluate overall curriculum for Educational Services
>• Develop assessment tools and facilitate academic assessments for members appropriate grade level placement in tutoring or intersession programs
>• Plan and coordinate various educational ceremonies and enrichment activities (i.e. Academic Achievement Awards, Graduations, Field Trips)
>• Conduct parent/teacher meetings
>• Prepare and submit reports and paperwork (Bi-monthly, class reports, etc.)
>• Attend all meetings (Supervisor’s, Department, Staff, etc.)
>• Responsible for creating a visually exciting, fun, and clean learning environment (posters, bulletin boards, etc.)
>Technical and Performance Skills
>Bi-lingual (English and Spanish) (Written and Oral) Required
>Excellent Oral and Written Communication Skills Classroom management skills
>Proofreading Skills Professionalism
>Computer Skills Time Management and Organizational Skills
>Collaborative Skills (ability to work with collaborative partners, staff, students, volunteers)
>Excel and Database Management Multi-tasking
>Detail oriented Dedicated to excellence
>Degree: B.A. degree in Education or related field
>Minimum of 3 years in teaching capacity
>Minimum of 2 years in management capacity (minimum of 2 full-time equivalent staff members)
>Physical and Mental Demands
>• Able to work in chaotic and high noise level environment typical of a youth center
>• Sit and walk throughout the day /Stand and walk for several consecutive hours during class time
>• Lift up to 20 pounds occasionally
>• Speech and hearing within normal ranges; speech clarity sufficient for standard face to face and telephone communications
>• Must be willing to work flexible schedule (including some evenings and weekends)
>Background screening required
>To apply, please send your cover letter and resume, to Angela Maldonado; HR Director at   (E-mail submission only/No phone inquiries)
>42,000, – 44,000

A tale of two inquiries (this is how we do it!)

As if there really were a god, the following invitation ran on my fb feed, just as i was addressing the issue of access at another event.  (see the previous post!)  I asked Yesi if I could publish our dialogue and use her name.  She agreed.  Please note, how, in comparison to the previous post’s example, i made the same inquiry,  in  much the same way, with incredibly different results. Unfortunately the previous post’s example is more often the norm.

When approached by anyone from a marginalized group, who asserts that your actions might be discriminatory,  especially if you have little experience with that area of  marginalization, Yesi demonstrates how to assertively and humbly respond to  such an accusation.

This is textbook, and in my opinion and experience, applies to race, gender issues, colonization, etc.  etc.  etc.

In exile,


Yesi King save the date!

Fundraiser and Website Launch Party!

Location:Self Help Graphics

Time:7:00PM Saturday, July 3rd

Emma Rosenthal it is my understanding that this is not a wheelchair accessible event.

Yesi King oh no emma, it definitely is! self-help graphics is wheelchair accessible! please come, i’d love to meet you in person 🙂

Yesi King i’ve actually updated the event page with that info. my apologies :/

Emma Rosenthal as i recall, the bathroom is not, and unless they installed an elevator, the entire upper floor is not, either. when i brought this up to a board member, i was addressed with hostile indifference, called necia and taken off of her fb list. so if it is physically accessible, it still isn’t dis-ability affirmative. — a very important consideration for pwds because hostility, ridicule and humiliation are more the norm in social environments than not.

Yesi King hmm, i actually haven’t checked out the place in a while, but i will ask. if it isn’t i will be very, very disappointed actually :/ …and i agree with you.

Emma Rosenthal better not say it’s accessible until you confirm. the humiliation and incredible inconvenience of attending an event that isn’t is devastating.

Yesi King good point :/

Emma Rosenthal yesi,  i very much appreciate the openness you have expressed on this issue. usually i am attacked brutally for the mere suggestion. i need a few days to sort things through, but call me and let me know how i can help you make this a fully inclusive event. 818 404 5784

Yesi King hi emma, i definitely will 🙂

Yesi King

Hi Emma.

You said to give you a couple of days to sort this through so I didn’t want to intrude by calling you too soon. So, I opted to send you a message instead. I hope I’m not bothering you.

I’ve read your blog posts (cool blog name btw 🙂 and I’ve really been thinking about the points you have made…and I feel HORRIBLE. You have every right to be upset, you make excellent points, and unfortunately, in order to create change, people have to be put on the spot and be made uncomfortable. I’m very honored to have crossed paths with you.

I’ve asked the people on the team in charge of securing the location about SHG. I haven’t been there in a long time and apparently some things have changed. So, unlike their website and other internet sites about them post, they are NOT wheelchair accessible. The place isn’t two stories; it’s only one story, the upstairs. The bottom spaces apparently don’t belong to SHG. The main part of our event will take place outside but the art gallery will be upstairs :/ According to my friend, SHG just simply has never had enough funds to take on that sort of project and they apparently don’t own the building anymore. They had to sell it a while back. It really SUCKS that the place isn’t accessible for dis-abilities.

Now, this is the context in which the event is being organized: we are not an official org (we are not a non-profit), we do not have an abundance of options for spaces for what we’re trying to pull off, and we do not have funds. We were actually lucky to get the space for free. We just want to raise funds for this website project…because we’re all broke and can’t afford it on our own.

Like I said, I feel horrible…and stupid…and ignorant. The items above are not an excuse. If it was any other situation, this would not be acceptable. What can we do? Please help…we want to make this as inclusive as possible. Forgive my ignorant question, but what exactly do we need to make this inclusive and accessible? I would like to begin making a list asap.

I can’t claim to understand where you are coming from, but I can surely empathize. I really admire you for standing up for this. I think about my son, whom I love more than anything. I wonder how I would feel if he was in a wheel chair, and let me tell you, I’d be PISSED AS HELL if places weren’t accessible to him.

I’m sorry for this. I know what I have to do. I have to ask my friends with whom I am planning this event, to either change the location or find a damn way to raise the funds to accommodate. If they refuse, then I will refuse to be a part of this event. Discrimination is discrimination period.

Thank you Emma,


PS. Not sure which book signing event I will be able to make it to, but I will definitely make it to at least one 🙂

Emma Rosenthal

first of all, be easy on yourself. You’re addressing an issue that is new to you, in a very responsible way. (don’t muck it up with guilt- which is always destructive and rarely serves justice.) for me, your timing is perfect. your interest in very affirming. The reaction you observed in my most recent post, is more typical than we would like. (though this is the first time I’ve actually been accused of being racist and exercising privilege in the context of dis-ability access.) we need to address this, not individually, but as a community.

I tried to think of comparable situations—venues that might be inaccessible to other marginalized groups:

Homes in neighborhoods hostile to certain ethnic groups, or sexual orientations,

a strip club–i can hear the rationale now–“oh lighten up, it’s just fun and for a good cause (baby!)” ,

a venue near a police station or ins station,

certain religious venues.

But disability inclusion presents very unique (physical as well as social) obstacles. it’s why andy and i put out a call to the left to begin the dialogue to set up a protocol and find collective ways to address these issues, with short and long range planning.

Even well funded organizations can’t resolve these questions overnight. Right now we’re struggling with what to do if someone requests sign language interpretation. We haven’t found an affordable answer yet. Hopefully we will before the situation presents itself.

The last time I was at SHG they did have use of the first floor. Some possible “solutions” are to see if that space can be made available for the event. Since your event is outside, see if (this is a long shot) there is a way to make the artwork accessible, there. One (not so optimal solution, could be a video feed of the gallery. –-not okay as a long term solution, but certainly an improvement. If the bathroom is not accessible, an accessible porta potty costs a little more than $100 to rent. And our newest strategy is to see if a neighboring business has an accessible restroom that can be used. That’s what we’re doing at Imix in Eagle Rock. Their restroom is not accessible, but a coffeehouse nearby is. In establishing this, we instigated a dialogue that may change Imix’ approach to this issue in the future, and may have also fostered relationships between the two businesses.

I want to draw up a list of accessible venues, look into ways groups can collaborate, pool resources, share equipment. (We have a portable ramp, btw.) Imagine, again the community and working relationships this would foster – the benefit beyond addressing the initial issue.

if you can’t make the event accessible, and you can’t find an alternative venue, you can weigh the decision to have or not have the event, or to put it off until you can find a space that can meet your needs.

If you do decide to have the event, while it is never acceptable to discriminate, a statement that clearly delineates the access, the options for pwds, is essential in not wasting the time of pwds, who know that if it is not stated, not only is the event probably inaccessible physically, but it is probably not socially accessible either.—in other words, even if the space is structurally accessible, once it is full of people and materials, the likelihood that it will be a positive and safe space for pwds, is less likely. On the other hand, if the access is spelled out, it gives pwds a choice, and it also indicates that the issue is one of which the host is aware. (though I am starting to observe that this is being used more as a copout than a real solution. The two events this weekend that included such statements were not events where i would have felt welcomed and they involved organizations that had promised such misunderstandings and oversights would not happen in the future. Instead, what seems to be their position, is that it is okay to discriminate some of the time, as long as an advisory is stated.) it reminds me of the signs from the 1950s- “no dogs, no jews no coloreds.” –Good to know, but not exactly a revolutionary politic.

I hope this helps. It’s not a complete solution. But it’s a start.

Yesi, with your permission, I would like to publish our dialogue on the blog, with or without (preferably with) your real name. I think it is an excellent example of how to begin to address this issue and the appropriate way to address any dialogue on privilege, inclusion and bigotry.

in solidarity and struggle, for a world with no borders or barriers,


Yesi King

thanks emma…but i tend to live on extremes, it’s something i’m working on 😉

also, i’m sorry but i can’t ignore something when it’s wrong. especially when it’s so blatantly wrong and unjust. i can’t ignore it…and you’re right we do need to address this as a community 🙂

my friend neil actually suggested that we rent a portal potty. so that, we can definitely do…thank you for offering the ramp. i will ask them if it is needed. also, regarding the art gallery, i’m workin on that and waiting for a response. oooh and i have a student who knows sign language so i hope she can help out 🙂

also, of course you can publish this dialogue. it IS an excellent example of how to address this issue, creating change, connections, and showing that it can be done 🙂


Emma Rosenthal

i appreciate what you are saying. i’m the same way when it comes to oppression and marginalization, though i try to temper my expectations in a less rigid praxis, understanding the contradictions and constraints we live with under capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy. i do know, with dis-ability, the social barriers are more significant than the physical ones. neither of the two events this last week, had obstacles to my participation. i can climb a few steps. but i know better to go into such a situation when it is full of people who have no understanding, experience, and awareness of dis-ability rights and solidarity. the hostility, indifference, resentment, the use of space, the way people move around, would have been very difficult and perhaps dangerous for a pwd. the problem with accommodationism, is it just doesn’t work. it never serves the one who is accommodating the marginalization– not in race, gender, colonization nor with dis-ability. it always ends up serving the marginalizer. it always obscures the marginalization. it always demands more of the person who faces exclusion when the real onus is on the entity that is the perpetrator of the marginalization.


keywords: anatomy of a blacklisting


Today I reached my final straw with the L.A. Left.  After a bitter fb page exchange, and a nasty set of emails from a woman I never met before, I posted the following statement on my fb wall.  The offending fb exchange that precipitated this, follows, but, because at this point it doesn’t matter, i’ve obscured the identity of the offenders with fictitious initials and obscured the actual event.  It is important to know that the person identified as J.H (not his real initials) has been part of an ongoing dialogue on the issue of dis-ability inclusion, within the L.A. BDS movement. J.H.  just this week scheduled a meeting in an inaccessible venue, and apologized only to post this event a few days later.  Also affiliated with the BDS movement in L.A. was another event scheduled for this weekend, both failed to address this issue. This other event’s organizers, having had a difficult, but what I thought and what I acknowledged at the time, productive exchange, decided not only to have an inaccessible event, but to invite both other members of my household and not me.    To fight against separation while maintaining the privilege to separate, is an outrage. No wonder these offended egos go on the attack.


Emma Rosenthal: I CAN’T BE PART OF A MOVEMENT IF I CAN’T GET MY WHEEL IN THE DOOR, When almost every inquiry and assertion is brutally attacked. when “security” at a (yesterday’s) demonstration knocks over pwds in “revolutionary” zeal to chase out a racist. when pithy promises of future access are broken and replaced with hollow excuses and bitter resentment, there’s no way i can be available to the struggle. i’m gonna do the next few scheduled readings, then i’m gonna disappear forever. if that’s good news, well then we know which side you’re on. if that’s bad news, please don’t patronize me with platitudes or admonitions. instead, step up on this issue and demand that there be at least a few safe spaces for activists with dis-abilities within the movement. refuse to participate in events that don’t include. work with andy, if he decides to continue with this, to develop a community protocol and to create community resources. do the same deep reading on this issue of community inclusion as a dedicated activist must do on all issues. there is no excuse. this isn’t a separate issue or a another cause, while you focus on what is “really” important. we are everyone– we are lgbti, we are women in hijab, we are people of color, we are (usually unemployed or wageless) workers, we are students, we are women, we are indigenous. there is no community you can build and still exclude us! i’ve asked other radical pwds what they’ve done. they tell me they just gave up on the left, too. it can’t just be my issue. how can we build a community of social justice based on a foundation (and up a flight of stairs) of exclusion?

the outrageous attacks, bitter stares, sabotage, character assassination, sexism, blacklisting, hate speech, ridicule, the bizarre nexus of dis-ability and gender expectations that demand passive placating, the lies, the jokes, the double standards, the false promises that the next event will address this crucial issue…

i’m done! i’m really really done!

please don’t respond to this post. i will be closing down this fb page in a few days, or paring it down to a few close friends, and pursuing a much more private life. i will continue my blogs, so people i am not so close to, you can find me there. this has been overwhelming painful. if you haven’t read it already, please check out the anatomy of a blacklist, and i also recommend the rest of the “in bed with frida kahlo” blog for greater dis-ability awareness.

i will be posting the most recent series of events to the blog, obscuring the names of the offenders. they can post their pithy justifications on my blog if they want to stand publicly by their words. special thanks to michael novick and my andy, for one more time, coming to my rescue.

andy posted:

With the exception of a handful of people, what Emma says above is true–we have faced attacks, rejection, blacklisting, ignoring offers to assist and work together, loss of jobs…

each time it occurs the harder it is to keep up the struggle! WE need a cadre of people to join in this dialogue, to participate in planning and cooperative work to educate and support all of us – because a space or event accessible to PWDs is better for all of the community!


The Final Straw (the event announced on fb and the ensuing thread of comments):

J.H. Hey folks, 

J.H. and the ____________ are inviting you to the next fabulous party by the ______________ on June 5th. It’s a fundraiser supporting folks traveling to Detroit in June to do movement work at the Allied Media Conference, the U.S. Social Forum, and the Jewish anti-apartheid gathering. The majority …


J.H. Hey all, really hope folks can make it out to this fundraiser.


J.H. oh yeah, its this Saturday night. We’ll have a keg.


Emma Rosenthal is this event dis-ability accessible and affirmative?

i recommend the following advisory (pending the necessary actions and planning to back it up), for all events. In the invitation you mention that the event  is queer affirmative. dis-ability affirmative, takes more planning because the discrimination is ubiquitous in building structures and attitudes, even among human rights activists.

“this event is wheelchair accessible and dis-ability affirmative. if you need additional accommodations please contact us 72 hours prior to the event.”

(and then be ready to provide sign language interpretation and other accommodations as needed.)

if it is not accessible, it would also be appropriate to say so, saving pwds (people with disabilities) the necessity of having to call to ask if we are welcome or wanted at an event. (can you imagine any other marginalized group having to call to say, for example,”i’m (insert your prime identity here). is it possible for me to attend your event?)


J.H. No, unfortunately. The main area for the party, the backyard, is but the bathroom is in the house which has 3 stairs up to it. And to be clear, I’m the organizer of the event, no ill will should be directed at INCITE! because of this, I’m raising money for them, its not an INCITE! organized event, I just got the go ahead to do it from them.

Don’t know what to do. There is no staff for this event as described in the link. Since its just me, I don’t think that I could be making sure everything is good with the party and play the role of accessibility coordinator legitimately. I certainly could not afford to pay a ASL interpreter to be there, having no idea how much we’re going to make.

The link seems to be talking about events supported by an organization with money and staff. Is there a suggestion for how to handle something like this that’s very small scale and done with very little money if you don’t have a hookup with an accessible space? Originally I was going to have folks over to my house  which is much less accessible (60 stairs from the street). In the future, do you think that if there is no ability to have an event like this be accessible, that it would be better not to do it at all or to do it and apologize in the announcement that do to financial constraints the event is not going to be accessible?


Emma Rosenthal well, take out disability, and ask yourself, would it be okay to have an event that (especially if most events) excluded women, people of color, immigrants lgbti? what makes this exclusion or the difficulties it entails to build bridges, acceptable? in planning events, we (andy and i)  have decided not to have inaccessible events, and we find ways to make them accessible. it’s just something that has to be done.

do you feel so immune to injury that you cannot see yourself part of this group someday? do you think that your contributions would have such limited value after becoming a fallen activist, that you would passively and silently accept a diminished role and the constant exclusion of the movement you spent a lifetime building? do you think we can build a movement when an entire sector of our society is treated as disposable and unessential? do you expect people of a marginalized group, when presented with the obstacles to our participation to simply say, to questions that you raise “yes i understand. i won’t participate in the struggle. i’ll stay home. i won’t make noise?”

would you ask this of any other marginalized group?

you note that the event is queer affirmative. if the only location of an event were a church that, aside from homophobia had a “good” politic, provided free space, and there was no other space, would it be acceptable to assert that the event, this event, given the shortage of funds, just this one time, not to be repeated until the next time, be not so gay friendly– “please dress accordingly and in the gender you were originally assigned by god as determined by our host.”

it is one thing to be unaware– but once there is awareness, excuses are simply that!

andy and i have put a call out to the left to find collective ways to contend with the “unique” issues presented in breaking down the (literal) barriers of exclusion, and with a few exceptions, have been met with the same (white) liberal guilt ridden excuses as any other emerging movement, followed by hostile resentment that we continue to assert the right of people with dis-abilities to be fully included in ANY AND ALL movements for social justice.

we have also offered our home, which we have gone to great effort and expense to make accessible beyond our own needs, in the interest of visitability (that my friend, comrades, fallen activists with dis-abilities could visit!) and as a means of community organizing. no one to date has, while providing excuses and excuses, taken us up on this offer either.

our repeated demands and sincere offers are greeted with rolled eyes, hollow excuses, future promises, hostile indifference, ridicule, blacklisting.(and the occasional feel good story about some hero gimp who never complains, provides freak show entertainment and either pity or inspiration for pwods-people without dis-abilities.– that seems to be our only role in society.)

i have asked other radical gimps what they have done. they tell me they just gave up. they limit their activism to writing, board meetings if they can get asked to serve. it’s just too painful, and the l.a. left just doesn’t care. (in fact we are more often targets of ridicule!)

i suppose one of these days i too will learn my place and fade into the background. though i doubt it. i’ve spent too much of my life fighting for human rights.

Emma Rosenthal we have also offered to provide consultations on access, and to be a resource to the community free of charge (which is the expectation of cripples, that we work for free!) we do accept tax deductible donations, but don’t require it. we are more interested in developing systems of mutual aid and sustainability.

with few exceptions, we have not been taken up on this offer either, but instead get the same excuses, if it is a garden party for one person, or organizations with the resources like cair or answer — our participation has no value and our inclusion costs too much!

the nazis called us useless mouths

Emma Rosenthal btw, you start the invitation “hey all” ? ALL? do you get how marginalizing that is when ALL isn’t YOU? when you know, day in day out, it isn’t you? when you have to plan every outing, pre-call every event and humbly ask, opening oneself up for more rejection “am i included in a way that is not dehumanizing and insulting?”

or as fallen comrade S Brian Willson, put it, on another thread i posted where i asked “Could the newly dis-abled 70+ wounded activists of the Freedom Flotilla, attend your next event?”

” Excellent reminder. I face this challenge all the time when I attend events or activities that advertise themselves as “open to the public” or “all welcome.” Where is the ramp, where are railings on steps for those who can walk but need extra boost, where are the accessible bathrooms? I remind event organizers that “open to the public” is not honest if there is no handicapped access unless they describe a warning that the venue is not handicapped accessible.”

J.Q. wow, no offense… since i dont know you… but don’t you think a personal email would be better suited for your criticisms? Sincerely ,J.Q. “poor queer woman of color who isnt dehumanized or insulted by this event!””


Emma Rosenthal: yes you’re right. issues of social justice should always be handled with discretion and decorum.


J.H. Do not call me or my ideas white Emma. It’s unacceptable. I’m Chicano, light-skinned, of mixed European and Western Hemisphere indigenous blood and you need to step back and recognize your own white privilege before you attack me in that way. And regardless no excuses were given. I clarified that the event was organized by myself and so whatever problems there were with the event were my responsibility, I explained the realities of the situation and asked questions about how to better operate in the future. Your vicious personal attacks do not help anyone to hear the important issues you raise.


Michael Novick I didn’t hear Emma calling you “white” (a word she used once, parenthetically talking about a general response by the LA left and liberals to the issue of accessibility), and certainly not making a “vicious personal attack.”

I grappled with issues of accessibility for many years because my mother-in-law was paralyzed and needed a wheel chair as a result of a stroke, and I can tell you that it makes you excruciatingly aware of the generalized lack of accessibility throughout this society. I work in a 10-story high rise school downtown and it took five+ years of hassling to get a chair lift installed at the front entrance; but in a blackout, people have to be carried down flights and flights.

Emma is (thankfully) relentless in calling these issues to people’s attention. In the SF Bay Area there used to be a lot more collective awareness and action about these issues, and blind, limbless, paralyzed and other disabled people were a lot more visible and provided a lot more leadership around the left as a result. We all need to be asking ourselves why signing for the deaf, childcare, disabled access, and a lot of other “new world is possible” collective self-realization type of behavior and inclusiveness is not more common at ‘movement’ activities in L.A.

I say this in a spirit of self-criticism. If my mother-in-law were still alive, we would not be living where we are (in an apartment up a flight and half of narrow stairs from front or back). We did get some sidewalk cuts and handicapped parking spots added in the vicinity recently. We all should know that in this regard, as in every other, it will take conscious struggle, demands, and also self-determined action on our own parts, to make the necessary changes.


Andy Griggs J.H.–there is no place in Emma’s reply where she calls you or your ideas “white!” To assert that is unfair.

And she did not attack you! You asked a question, and she responded. She responded to each of your questions in detail. She explained what happens whenever we assert the need for access. She gave examples of how to proceed in the future, including calling out for assistance in planning. Until it becomes part of the dialogue in event planning on the left, Pwds will continue to be excluded.

The bottom line is that it is not ok to hold an event that is inaccessible to any group or individual!

And it is not ok to ask when it is “acceptable” to discriminate by holding an inaccessible event – ask yourself how you would respond to that question, if you felt excluded.

We will continue to vehemently assert these rights and demands with the same commitment and determination that we bring to support of Palestinians, indigenous peoples, women, people of color, LGBT!

Simultaneously I received the following email and had the following exchange:

(a quick google search reveals that “P.Q.” is one of the feminists behind a publication i’ve been published in, called “LoudMouth”– a title chosen to counter the assertion that women are supposed to be tempered, well mannered and soft spoken.– something, if you read to the end, apparently does not apply to women with dis-abilities.  –i have found a strange nexus between gender expectations and dis-ability.  this demand that i act like a demure child and not the militant activist i have been my whole life! revised 6/9/2010)

P.Q I think you are missing the point.

Should the event be accessible? Yes! Of course/Claro…

Should he have listed that it was when it wasn’t? NO! Pero…you shaming him online for the event doesn’t sit comfortably with me either!

For example, you could have asked him if it was accessible…if he said no, why not ask if he could make it accessible or help make him make it accessible?

It certainly is a problem with grassroots/diy fundraising….no doubt.

We had fundraising for AMC in a house last year as well….

But it is totally different to compare the struggles of these two movements….for you to bring up immigrant women?!

Sorry, but I do not agree!

They are two struggles that certainly walk (sic) side by side especially when they are intertwined either by spaces/geography/bodies themselves but there is also such a thing as having respect for the differences that these two struggles engage. I may be documented but I take offense to you likening these two together.

That you should honor if you feel that you are really interested in having respectful dialogue. My struggles as poor qwoc are not the same at all. So if you wanna talk about decorum and the very privilege to speak online in the middle of the day….we can start there!


Emma Rosenthal

how patronizing to say i am missing the point. i have studied the point, lived the point, fought for the point. what are the struggles of the qwoc with dis-abilities? why should this issue be sidelines and not subjected to open discussion? why replace a hierarchy of exclusion with a hierarchy of exclusion?


if you had read what i wrote, instead of responding with the same outrageous excuses i have heard used for the exclusions of q. w. o, and c, for years (and as an outspoken ally, been summarily upbraided for having done so) you would see that we have offered

1. venue

2. resource

3. consulting and support.

all my protestation is so that more people can be included in building a movement. we have spoke to J.H. more discreetly a number of times, offering all of the above. this is hardly a new issue to those who know me and include me as their (fb) “friends.”

there is no struggle without all of us.



P.Q. but are you really wanting to say that you were not being patronizing as well?

i too, have studied the point….i too have lived the point….and i certainly do not underestimate that you also have….

i am NOT saying that one isn’t a struggle. i am saying though that they are two different struggles indeed.

again there are many complex struggles in which people find themselves in various positions. i think that mia mingus for example has written really amazing things about this. and it is not a sideline when she addresses this topic…at all…

if you want an open discussion, why not suggest it for this event? why not another event? l.a could certainly use it as im sure many places can.

my point is that if you are going to point the finger at J.H. alone…that just seems ludicrous.

and i actually did read what you wrote. which is why i found it to be offensive as well. again, likening struggles as though they are exactly the same. they are not.

be an outspoken ally all you want….its not living in our shoes….we dont live in yours either…. and yes, it requires more convo and more communication, certainly.


was your consulting free?

my apologies….but it is not that simple….

i wish for it to be….but it is not….

this struggle is clearly in the ways that ideas around issues of race/class/ableism or all considered….



Emma Rosenthal

as for the privilege of being on line in the middle of the day, i gained this privilege like so many people with disabilities as a result of acquiring this non-conforming body, finding that despite extensive skill and education, like most pwds, i am apparently unemployable unless i make work for myself and find meager ways to market it.

other people who have internet access during the day are 1. people on break, dedicated to social struggle, 2. the unemployed our wageless workers, like myself. 3. people who work at night, on weekends, and at inconvenient hours.

hardly privilege.

i remember when gender, race lgb (no one was even talking about t or i) was considered bourgeois distractions from the movement, the movement being the class struggle, and being told that these issues would be addressed after the revolution.

we were also told to be discreet and less selfish and self indulgent.

if you don’t experience these exclusions in the movement like i experience the daily exclusion of dis-ability access and affirmation, then thank your elders. we fought that fight with the same vigor. When you do experience these exclusions, give me a holler, if i can get my wheel in the door, you’ll have one more ally.


P.Q. well….i have the privilege of being online during the day because i have been unemployed/underemployed for what seems like ever….

despite an education that has only seemed to amount to cultural assimilation so cheers to us both for being in these bodies!

thanks for the list emma! as you see above, im no stranger to this….talk about checking your patronizing….wow.

wrong again….

i experience exclusion all the time….

and im not certain if you think im a lil girl….but that seems to be typical behavior from my so called “allies”

thanks again!


Emma Rosenthal we seem to have posted at the same time, in response to your most recent post, how outrageous, again read what i wrote to J.H.  we are hardly singling him out. what a waste that would be (and an abuse!)

to repeat!!!!! we have called for dialogue, we have attempted to meet with people, we have offered free consultation, resources, meetings, venue.

you claim you read what i wrote, given this question “was your consulting free? ” indicates you did not!!!!

because i clearly addressed that.

we would be willing to meet with anyone on this issue and we have told J.H.  we also raise this issue EVERYWHERE!!!!

an invitation went out “to all” and i asked if that included a sector of society that it apparently did not. (given recent convos with J.H. it would have been an unfortunate error to have easily assumed that it did). that’s an outrage, especially since we have had this discussion.

J.H. chose to answer that question on his wall, and i answered in the same venue.

we’re all grownups here!

your outrage is really out of line and misplaced.



sounds like you need to redirect your strategy then….or engage it in a different way…if you are raising this issue everywhere, where comes the time when you are not just on defense? its a common issue in every movement i understand…

but lastly you have stated again that its an outrage to you that this has happened and then state again that my outrage is out of line…huh?

misplaced? because you would prefer that someone doesn’t check you or the way you addressed this?

right….we are grownups….sigh


Emma Rosenthal

You state: “sounds like you need to redirect your strategy then….or engage it in a different way…if you are raising this issue everywhere, where comes the time when you are not just on defense? its a common issue in every movement i understand.”

ho hum where have we heard that before!?!?

Answer: No Answer– Dis-ability access LEFT out!


Subject: Important Letter re Disability Access at the ANSWER Office

Date: April 19, 2007 12:20:18 PM PDT

To:,,,,,, LAFSPRW6@aol.comand 44 more…



This is a letter to Ian of the ANSWER Coalition.  This is not an open letter, but we are sending it to a few groups and leaders within the human rights community because, as Ian points out in his email (scroll down) this issue is not simply a problem for ANSWER, but for the much of the left. Please join this discussion by replying to all.  If your organization is also in violation of these issues, then please, open yourselves to the possibility of dialogue, change and full access. If you have found creative ways to address these obstacles to full inclusion please share your solutions in what we hope will be a productive and healing dialogue that will serve to strengthen our collective efforts in building a more just and humane society.   The U.S. left is too small to exclude anyone, and in that exclusion we discredit all our work, for if we cannot be examples of upholders of the rights of all, then how can we begin to demand justice for anyone?

Emma Rosenthal and Andy Griggs

Dear Ian,
Andy forwarded me your email (see below.)  I did in fact send you two emails: one in response to a post on the Changelinks list and one to you personally, with “Attn Ian” in the subject line.  First of all, I appreciate your concern for me, personally, but the issue is not  about me and my accessibility, but the larger issue of discrimination, access and justice.

You point out that other human rights groups are also in violation of these basic human rights, and that’s true, but most of those organizations don’t hold their events in their inaccessible halls, they rent halls for large events. (Of course that still means that they don’t hire disabled employees and volunteers and it means that the employees  and volunteers they do have  would not be able to continue working there, were they to become disabled– and this is still unacceptable.)  Your announcement of your new venue specifically says that this  move will allow you to accommodate more people. but the truth is, that an entire sector, for whom accommodations are (at least theoretically) guaranteed by hard won civil rights law, cannot safely and freely access your establishment.

Furthermore, with so many human rights groups in direct violation of these basic human rights, how can any of you then speak to the greater issues of access and justice when providing no model, set of demands or leadership in this very area.  In this sense you are all either unwilling, uninterested or unable to be allies in the fight for full inclusion as you are also is in violation of these statutes.

For this reason I have decided to send this correspondence to the other community leaders, because as you point out, this is part of a larger social problem and an issue the entire LA left must address.   Having spoken with other disability rights activists.  this issue is not new, that many groups have simply refused to hold meetings that are open to all, in direct violation of the American Disabilities Act, which requires events open to the public to be in full compliance with accessibility.

Additionally,  the lexicon of disability rights needs to be fully infused into the human rights dialogue which cannot be done if we cannot even get our feet in the door.  The awareness of what disability rights are, comes with the same diligent study as other forms of oppression and marginalization and must be informed by people with those disabilities.

But beyond that, ANSWER is special.  It is the largest anti-war mobilizing organization in the area, perhaps in the country, attempting (and to its credit, for the most part, succeeding)  to build broad based coalitions, but by having an inaccessible venue,  you are explicitly  not working (on equal footing) with disability rights groups. furthermore, as a coalition, you force other groups working with you, to take into account your lack of access when determining which of their members to send to your meetings.

When I called your office I was NOT told that there were efforts being made to make the hall accessible, only that people would carry disabled people up the stairs.   This sincere though unacceptable offer of assistance should never have been made. It is degrading, humiliating and dangerous, and while individual disabled people may be willing to undergo such humiliation, as a policy it is unacceptable. It is even more degrading for women, as most, if not all of the people doing the carrying are men.  Trusting untrained people with one’s safety, not to mention the safety of expensive medical equipment (much of which is not covered by insurance or medicare policies!)  is not acceptable.  The suggestion is rude and patronizing.  (If you can’t afford an accessible space, how can you afford the liability of injury to someone lifted up a flight of stairs by untrained strangers –or the cost of lawsuits for not providing access to public events?)

The person I spoke to in your office also justified this policy based on cost.  But cost is never an excuse for violation of rights, discrimination or unsafe conditions.  You would not have, for cost effectiveness, (one would hope) rented a space that required activists to walk through a strip club, and when women complained that it was unsafe and humiliating, that they could be carried or escorted by men, or provided blindfolds to avoid observing the offending events.  You would not have accepted bargain prices at the cost of renting space next to an INS office or a Minuteman hangout, or, rented space in a sunset town, where people of color were expected to be off the streets by nightfall, offering some minimal guarantees of protection while requiring that the activist attempting to attend take the greater risk and suffer humiliation at your hands even before the meeting began.

Helping me into the hall is not sufficient. Truth be told, I could probably manage the steps,  but the last time I allowed “comrades” to help me upstairs was at the UTLA Human Rights Committee retreat where  I found myself in a humiliation and dangerous situation when one of the “comrades” (who was hosting the event in his house)  repeatedly ridiculed my disability while much of the rest of the group refused or was unable to contradict the host and defend my rights.  (Later the entire debate revolved around how I had offended him and couldn’t take a joke!!!)  When I wanted to leave,  I could not without waiting for assistance from the very people who were finding my entire predicament either amusing, bewildering or were offended at my assertion of my rights.  (For a more detailed description, go to my blog!  — It is also why the Human Rights Committee was so unable to fend off Zionist pressure to cancel a BDS meeting.  The UTLA leadership in order to ensure their popularity in upcoming elections,  when letter after letter came  in attacking  the Human Rights Committee’s affiliation with (my organization) Cafe Intifada, used the divisions within the Committee to capitulate to that pressure, and some members of the Committee, bitterly resentful of disability rights even to the extent that they denied that my disability existed,  were more than willing to capitulate  because it provided them with an opportunity to shut me out.  I found that I was no longer able to defend Palestinian rights or the larger human rights agenda because of the pervasive resentment of my assertion of my rights as a disabled person.

I had hoped when I became disabled to continue the work I was doing; to essentially, be a human rights activist with a disability, but the pervasive limited access, the bitter, hateful and fearful  (or at best, patronizing) reaction to disability rights within the greater human rights movement, has made my former activism impossible.   The attitudes, prejudices and barriers of an ablest society are much more disabling to me than my disability itself. That I have to fight to get my foot in the door (as you point out)  of so many human rights groups in the city  is demoralizing and marginalizing.  What are disabled activists to do? Shrug our shoulders and say, “We understand, we’ll wait until  after the revolution”?  Should we allow ourselves to be pushed to the sidelines while the rest of you carry the fight?  Would you ask that of any other group? (Actually, that was the excuse given by otherwise progressives within UTLA when we were told  by President Duffy not to discuss Palestinian human rights because it would offend so many other union members ; that Palestinian rights were too costly an issue to address in the union hall.  It is the argument of many anti-war activists, that we shouldn’t take up the issue of Palestinian human rights, that it’s too  too controversial, too divisive that it prevents us from reaching more people.  But we cannot fight for human rights without fighting for everyone’s rights.  To exclude any group is to deny us our full humanity!)

It is hard to explain to able bodied people how pervasive disability discrimination is.  Personally, and I am hardly unique:  It cost me a job of 18 years.  It cost me my place in my union hall.  Often people with disabilities cannot access public transportation, most restaurants or stores.  An ordinary event like grocery shopping often turns out to be humiliating and impossible. Although it may be difficult to understand or believe,  it is not uncommon for store clerks, when seeing me  or any other disabled person,  in scooter, or with a walker or wheelchair,  to put obstacles in our path.  Some clerks are bold enough to do this in full view and to the amusement of their employer or supervisor.   To add insult to injury, many of L.A.’s dog parks  are not accessible to wheelchairs or scooters!!!!!  The walking trails at Elysian Park are blocked to wheelchairs; that is, the terrain is accessible but the entrance is not.    There is one off leash trail in Los Angeles.  It is not accessible.  It is easier to find dog accessible facilities on most city web pages, than to find which facilities offer disability access. The rest room at the park near the Westwood Federal Building is not wheelchair accessible, and once inside, the stalls are not accessible either.  (Disabled demonstrators must go several blocks to find a bathroom, often having to pass through hostile counter demonstrations to do so.) Even the sidewalk in front of my house is  not accessible. These are daily indignities.  I am writing you this letter, which takes hours of thought and craft.  It replaces the hundreds of other letters I could just as easily be writing to other businesses, programs and events to which my access is barred on a daily basis. It is rare for me to leave the house without encountering some obstacle to access of services most people take for granted or for enduring some humiliation when my vulnerable status provokes bullying and ridicule.

As a small business (which includes non profits) you are obligated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make sure that all services are fully available to all sectors of the public. I would hope that the left would never consider  having an event that was not a model of accessibility, consulting with disability rights activists in all phases of the planning. The left should not only be abiding by existing law, but demanding though word and deed, greater access and rights.  You have a moral obligation to exceed the legal requirements when it comes to any issue of human rights.

Furthermore, in your announcement of your open house, you do not even recognize the difficulty that your venue imposes on people with disabilities.  Do you expect us to call every establishment we wish to frequent?  Would it have been unreasonable, having had access to your previous venue, to assume that you were providing similar facilities (especially when you state that this new venue will allow you to accommodate more people)  or to assume that you were not in violation of the law in having an open house that was not fully accessible?  Is our time of so little value that we could spend an evening attempting to attend an event only to be faced  with the daunting options of exclusion or humiliation?  Or are we, simply invisible, until some uppity gimp has the audacity to bring the issue to your attention?

Discrimination is profitable, fighting discrimination is costly.  The rationalization that real estate is expensive  only uses the market to further justify daily humiliations and marginalization. It is important that we go beyond  the medical model of disability rights that sees us as client and patients relegated to our homes and hospital beds, and embraces  the civil rights model of full access.  We need to be seen as more than just clients, but rather participants in design and accommodation.  This is what was also wrong with my conversation with your office.  The person I spoke with  never attempted to include me in the problem solving, merely told me he understood but all that he could offer was that I would be carried into and out of the hall. (We never did get to discuss if the bathrooms were accessible and what humiliating options that might pose!)

I wish you had raised this as a public concern, welcoming the input of disability rights activists  while you were searching for space, before you took on the encumbrances of a lease.  We could have perhaps found many solutions. Those of us with disabilities  face daily the cost issues of access and housing, while simultaneously facing employment and income limitations imposed by not only our own physical condition but by bigotry and discrimination.  We have found solutions through necessity that you may have overlooked with privilege.   Now you  are limited to finding solutions within the building you have made a commitment to (unless your commitment to full human rights could over ride that.)

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to make this building accessible.   Anything else would mean capitulating to a criteria that is substandard to  what is minimally required by legal statutes that themselves are insufficient.

One place to start is with your obligations under the ADA. I think your choice of words here is most interesting; that you have appealed to the landlord.  we don’t appeal for rights.  We demand them.  The landlord has an obligation (if not by law then by right) to allow you to provide whatever access you deem necessary.  (And it is a full tax write off for him if he shoulders the expense!)  We need the same revolutionary spirit in this arena as in all others.  I fight not only for my rights, but for yours too.  Any one of us can become disabled.  Think about how you will have to reorganize your life, not only around the limits imposed by the disability, but by those imposed by the society at large were you become disabled, a transformation that can come at a moment’ notice and happens to everyone, if they live long enough. (Perhaps this is one key reason why the non-disabled would rather not have to see us, it is too  big a reminder of their own vulnerability; why their most compassionate response to disability is assisted suicide and not humane treatment and full social access.)

Please let me know how I, and other disability rights activists can work with you to solve this problem in a way that is fully cognizant of our fullest humanity, our rights and our inclusion.

In solidarity, and with the greatest respect for the important work that you do,

Emma Rosenthal


Re: Next ANSWER Meeting – Tues, April 24, 7pm




Tue, 17 Apr 2007 13:59:32 -0700 (PDT)



Hi Andy:

I haven’t seen an email from Emma to Did she email this address or just reply to our posting on Changelinks or Dopex? She did call the office and spoke to Carlos today though. He said she seemed very upset. That is really too bad.

Unfortunately, this building has no elevator, but it has two sets of stairs–front and back. It certainly is not ideal, but it is the best we could get with our limited budget and time pressures for moving. With March 17 and then April 7, we had almost no time or resources left to find an office.

And with prices in LA, we were almost priced out of the city. Like nearly every other grassroots organization with a very limited donor base, we had to make due with this. It isn’t perfect or what we strive for, but it is what we could get.

We’re sorry about any inconvenience it causes you or Emma. We assure you that we will make every effort to accommodate disabled people who wish to attend meetings at our office. I’m sure this problem pops up elsewhere–like the Peace Center, the IAC office, and many other office building–but it is something we have tried hard to avoid.

We have appealed to the landlords to try to rectify the situation, but we can’t make any promises.

Thanks for your support and understanding.

In solidarity,
ANSWER Coalition

—– Original Message —-
From: “” <>
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2007 12:34:14 AM
Subject: Re: Next ANSWER Meeting – Tues, April 24, 7pm

Would love to attend–but as Emma inquired, is there an elevator and parking close enough to accomodate accessibility for the handicapped?


From Naomi Jaffe:

Naomi Jaffe probably needs no introduction.  She was a member of the Weather Underground and has dedicated her life to social justice and human rights.  (You can catch her in the film.)  I included her in this dialogue because of discussions I have had with her on this specific issue and felt that she could give important input into this very real dilemma.

Thank you so much for your contribution to this discussion, especially your correction regarding of the status of people of color and women within the left.  We don’t disagree.  In fact I have found that sexism and ableism are very close companions, with expectations of feminine decorum  and invisibility even higher when requesting accommodation.    I agree that the struggles against racism and sexism are hardly resolved.  But in looking for parallels to access I was stymied.  It is hard to imagine a situation within the LA left  where women or people of color couldn’t even get their foot in the door; where requests for mere access were met with solutions that were dangerous or humiliating. Most (though not all) events in Los Angeles allow entry to everyone regardless of lack of funds, and there is at least enough awareness of  the rights of immigrants, women and people of color that a venue that prohibited their entry without humiliating or dangerous solutions would be hard to imagine and would raise a flurry of controversy.  It’s why my examples (a strip club, INS office etc) seem ridiculous.  It would never  happen, (as I stated; one would hope!)

Although, as I mentioned,  the response to Palestinian human rights seems to meet with at least as much resistance as disability rights and has resulted in the exclusion  and vilification of those who attempt to raise the issue, which was the only step-child issue I could find within the political dialogue in Los Angeles.  (Though Sonali will point out that Afghanistan is pretty much ignored; no one is marginalized for raising the issue.)  In this sense, inclusion can mean complicity with a status quo that is decidedly opportunistic and racist.

ANSWER  is especially sensitive to issues of race and gender.  Their events reflect an unusual attention to diversity of cultures, values, politics, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc.   I hope that they will reflect on this issue and embrace it with the same vigilance and determination.


Naomi wrote:

The opposite of access for everyone is collusion with the culture of inequality.

Emma, you have said most of it better than I can. But just as racism is a problem of white people, and we white people are responsible for seeing, understanding, and overturning it, disability rights are a problem of and for the non-disabled,  to recognize, educate ourselves and others about, and combat. In both (and all other) cases of oppression, we do this not out of compassion or generosity, but because we cannot do the work of changing the evils we confront in the world any other way. We cannot survive any other way.

Nobody said it was going to be easy. Every issue of inclusion is a case of swimming upstream against a dominant culture of segregation and the utter failure of our society to value anyone’s life and dignity. If we are not building our social change movements in a way that overturns those deadly values, we might as well give up and join the ranks of the oppressor, where we would have a much easier time, not having to struggle constantly against internal and external racism, sexism, heterosexism and all the other isms.  Why not just swim with the current? If we are not about valuing all the components of  our precious universe, what are we about?

Emma, the only place I disagree with you is when you imply that progressive groups would not be as careless about the rights of women or people of color as they are about disability rights. None of these battles have been won yet. One can still find left forums where four or five white males constitute the range of expert analysis; feminist publications with a token woman of color; anti-war groups where tackling racism and homophobia is considered a distraction from the business at hand; and conferences too costly for people with limited economic resources. Some advances in consciousness have been made on all these fronts, and different organizations have very different levels of awareness and practice, but the gains are still spotty. I agree that despite some changes hard-won by disability rights activists, our movements are even more backward on disability awareness than on other issues.  I once went to a conference on inclusion with a friend who uses a wheelchair, only to find that we couldn’t get into the conference center! (This actually happened: they were thinking of race and sex, not disability.) One particularly dismaying way we lag is the absence of non-disabled voices reminding us that disability access is not a distraction from our work, it IS our work, just as every other fight for total equality is our work.

As for the practical difficulties facing any organization in implementing disability access, they are formidable, but without uncompromising commitment as the first step, we will never get to step two, implementation. As you say, Emma, people living with disabilities have a mountain of useful experience, gained the hard way, that they will be more than willing to share once the commitment is there. Albany, New York, where I live, is an old town with a lot of pre-access architecture. Our organizations that have a commitment to use accessible spaces know the few venues we can use (mostly church halls) and we plan around their availability. In the old buildings that belong to our alternative institutions, we arrange their use so we have meeting space on the first floor and we use it. None of us can remotely afford full elevators, and so far our attempts to finance them with grants, fund-raising and arrangements with construction unions have not borne fruit. But one institution, housed in a very common style of old Albany building where none of the floors are at street level, put in one of those small outdoor lifts to access the basement, and converted space there to public meeting space. And yes, there are organizations that continue to ignore the issue and go on trying to operate progressive organizations in spaces that scream exclusion and inequality.

The practice of inequality, injustice, and hierarchy will fatally weaken our movements for change morally, intellectually, and practically. This is what Audre Lorde means when she says the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Equality, real equality, universal equality, is the most radical concept we have. It is the only weapon strong enough to take on the massive forces of greed and violence which now dominate and threaten to extinguish our world.

Naomi Jaffe


From Sonali Kolhatkar:
Dear Emma, Andy, Ian, et al,

Thank you Emma and Andy for bringing up this very important issue. Personally, 
I am indebted to Emma for helping me understand my own ignorance when it came 
to issues of disability and access. I am ashamed to admit that I rarely thought 
about such issues and I suppose few of us do because we feel it doesn't or won't 
affect us. But that's not true. Just like racism and sexism affects us all, 
so does prejudice, conscious or unconscious, against the disabled.

KPFK is not exempt either. We have a two story building without an elevator. 
This impact if felt greatest with respect to the Pacifica Archives, which are 
exclusively housed upstairs (while KPFK has most facilities on both floors). 
It is an issue that must be tackled.

We need a sea-change in the way we think about access. We must all become 
as sensitized to it, as we are to racism, sexism, and other insidious -isms.
 We must all make the effort particularly by example. Perhaps ANSWER will 
consider, as a first step, holding all public events in accessible arenas 
(although that doesn't address the issue of access to disabled volunteers 
and members - but it would be a start). Thank you Emma and Andy for raising 
such an important issue.

warmly, Sonali
From Michael Novick
Anti-Racist Action-LA supports disabled access and believes that "progressive" organizations
 must be much more self-critical and do a much better job about accessibility. We make every
 effort to hold our events and meetings at accessible venues such as the YJC Chuco Justice
 Center, the Southern CA Library, etc. Our awareness on this issue goes back to a Martin
 Luther King Day activity we held jointly with the Valley Interfaith Council in the late 
1980's, when we were rightly criticized for neither reaching out to the disabled community
 (whose members have been the victims of hate crimes and bigoted violence, as well as state
 repression)  nor making efforts to have our event be accessible to disabled speakers or 
protesters. We were able to successfully rectify our program and our site prior to the 
actual rally, and the participation of a disabled speaker and of disabled protesters was
 acknowledged and appreciated by everyone involved -- and noted for its rarity. As an anti-
fascist organization, we have exposed and opposed the racism and sexism of fascist groups
 that have blatantly advocated the liquidation of the disabled and the roots of Hitler's
 genocide in US eugenics proponents who advocated and made government policy the forced 
sterilization of many disabled people. Over the years we have printed articles from the 
disability rights movement (such as a sharp critique of Million Dollar baby and it 
euthanasia theme), worked with blind comrades in the Puerto Rican independence movement, 
Mexicano movement and the prisoner solidarity movement, as well as with many PWAs, and 
others with medical disabilities and debilitating conditions, and seen first hand that 
physical disabilities and medical conditions are no barrier in and of themselves to the
 ability to provide insightful leadership and challenging examples of commitment, struggle
 and solidarity -- that it is only the obtuseness and patronizing attitudes and 
unwillingness of "movement activists" to take the necessary steps and actions that makes 
the movement inaccessible and exclusionary. This is extremely short-sighted and self-
defeating and is rooted in racism and sexism, and denial. How can we build our movement
 without making it accessible to GIs and vets who have been disabled by the imperial war
 machine, to prisoners, ex-cons, homeless and other poor people disabled by denial of 
access to medical care, to immigrant and other poor workers and youth who have been 
disabled by backbreaking labor, deadly chemicals, malnutrition and grinding poverty 
and exploitation? Obviously we cannot and must not. The time for lame excuses is over.

A whole new definition of Chutzpah

Youth for Human Rights and the Politics of Exclusion.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that roughly translates to “nerve” as in “She’s got a lot of nerve.”  The classic definition is that of someone who has killed both his parents and then pleads to the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.

The first ad from “Youth for Human Rights” was probably brought to my attention via facebook.  It shows images of children from many ethnic backgrounds, and asks, “Can you tell which of these children was not born free ?  Can you tell which of these children was not born equal? Can you tell which of these childre  does not deserve to be treated with dignity? We can’t either?”  Missing from the ad, are any children with visible physical dis-abilities, children with and  non-conforming appearances and weight.  

Quite a statement, no?  There’s always more information in what is excluded than what is included. 

These are the children most likely to endure the daily humiliation and rights violations in the most “normal” of situations– the school yard, the playground, summer camp, assuming that these children can even get their “wheels in the door!”   

So I wrote a letter to the organization, and I include the email exchange below.  I also revisited the web page and found that there were several ads.   I don’t know if they were new, or if I simply hadn’t seen them the first time.  On reviewing all of them, in this human rights vision, I noted other oversights as well– gay rights, Palestinian rights, women’ rights that were either excluded or undermined by this campaign. 

Here is that exchange:

There were no children with visible disabilities, outside of normative weight categories. in your commercial. These students remain the segregated in all communities and often are the most ostracized. What is your vision and work regarding the human rights of children with disabilities?

Emma Rosenthal


From: YHRI 
Sent: Nov 10, 2009 12:29 AM 
To: Emma Rosenthal 
Subject: Re: youth for human rights, and children with disabilities. 

Dear Emma,

Thank you for your comment.  Of course we’re interested in rights for all, that’s the purpose of the whole activity.  I hope you can use these materials to forward your purpose in this area. 

Beth Akiyama



Ms. Akiyama, 
I personally find it outrageous that you would have the chutzpah to even respond so patronizingly to my suggestion, stating “Of course we’re interested in rights for all” without also stating that you were working to address these oversights nor the acknowledgment  that an entire segment of the population was excluded in your otherwise diverse image of humanity.  –making the marginalization of this demographic even more marked in their absence! 

The exclusion of pwds (people with dis-abilities) as well as of people whose appearance doesn’t conform to narrow constraints of acceptability (the children most likely to be excluded from public school, programs, etc and most likely to be bullied, harassed and ostracized by their peers) is more than a minor editorial decision, but is part of an overall and rather comprehensive segregation of pwds from most areas of public life.  

When I first wrote to you I had only seen the first ad. Having now viewed the entire series I am even more appalled.  You show several classroom and playground scenes, yet there are no pwds, even quietly, in the background.  In your human rights schoolroom, everyone is model beautiful and below average weight (for developed countries– malnutrition worldwide aside.) Most of the people with a voice in your videos are male, and the few spoken roles by women are not positive (the school teacher who doesn’t know about modern slavery and the young white woman who accuses a Black student of stealing from her). In the segment on nationality you have students from several countries, each stating “I am”, and the name of their country, including Israeli, but NOT Palestinian– a rather glaring oversight in the contemporary dialogue on human rights, and that ad ends by saying  “We are Mankind” instead of humankind, or humanity– an obviously more inclusive term.   In your segment on the right to marriage all of your couples are heterosexual, thin, young, attractive, and definitely NOT displaying ANY dis-abilities.  One of the couples, the man says “She’s my queen…. of course I’m The King.” –not exactly a human rights model of sexual equality.  In “The Right to Democracy”  a public forum, a city council meeting perhaps, is being conducted, and as the men scream back and forth, a small boy, gets on a chair and says into the mike “I have something to say.”  There are no women in the room at all,  How does that advance a human rights agenda?  Judging by the exclusion of pwds in your ads, pwds don’t have a right to access to education or to play (schools and playgrounds being the areas of highest exclusion, marginalization and discrimination for children with dis-abilities), we don’t work, go to court, (in a recent small claims case, the judge refused to let me present my own case!!!), We aren’t included in your social security ad, except perhaps the boy with the cast on his arm. Despite the incredibly limited housing stock that is wheelchair accessible, you don’t include us in the ad granting everyone else a right to housing, (In the U.S. families with small children and pwds comprise the largest sector of the population experiencing housing discrimination).  I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.  In the entire series, there is ONE example of a pwd, a brief image of an athlete in a wheelchair– an image pwods (people wiithout dis-abilities) find comforting, (referred to in dis-ability studies, as the hero gimp) but an image of dis-ability most pwds find difficult to live up to. 

Finally, your last ad, states that these are “your human rights.”  “You don’t need to buy them or ask permission to have them.”   “No one can take away your human rights.” 

So, no, I don’t think I can use this material.  it would be in contradiction to the basic principles of full inclusion and the vision of universal human rights that I adhere to.    Human rights isn’t about nice pretty people, in expensive, well executed ads, with nice ideas. Human rights ARE denied, they ARE taken away, they HAVE to be fought for.  People DIE  defending them.  And, most importantly, they have to apply to everyone, even those whose image isn’t pretty enough for you slick campaign.  The only use of your material in my work would be as an example of the incredible unwillingness to recognize and include the issue of dis-ability rights, as well as Palestinian, gay and women’s rights, in the dialogue on human rights.    

Emma Rosenthal

Letter to the L.A. Eco Village

I sent this letter to the Eco Village, on two occasions, and months later, have yet to receive even an acknowledgement of receipt.  I sent it via their email address and posted it to a local listserve.  I do doubt that they ignore ALL emails they get.  After all, they provide the email address so inquiries can be made.  So why IGNORE this email?  Why refuse to even dialogue on this issue?  What is it with human rights organizations and activists absolute hostility and indifference to this issue?

According to their web page,  which was updated this month, and still makes no apparent mention of dis-ability inclusion on their web page. They have a new page, entitled Some Neighborhood Issues and Potential Eco-Village Responses, which I hoped might have included some response to the concerns I raised, but no. Dis-ability inclusion doesn’t seem to be part of their housing agenda, their social agenda or their auto-dependency agenda. Their purpose is defined as follows:


We are a neighborhood in the built-out Wilshire Center/Koreatown area working toward becoming a demonstration of healthy urban community. Our whole-systems approach to community development tries to integrate the social, economic and physical aspects of neighborhood life to be sustainable over the long term. Eco-villagers intend to achieve and demonstrate high-fulfillment, low-impact living patterns, to reduce the burden of government, and to increase neighborhood self-reliance in a variety of areas such as livelihood, food production, energy and water use, affordable housing, transit, recreation, waste reduction and education. We also plan to convert the housing in the neighborhood from rental to permanently affordable cooperative ownership. 


Eco-Villagers demonstrate the processes for creating a healthy neighborhood ecologically, socially, and economically. We try to reduce our environmental impacts while raising the quality of neighborhood life. We are a public demonstration of sustainable community development sharing our processes, strategies and techniques with others through tours, talks, workshops, conferences, public advocacy and the media.

 (emphasis mine)  (maybe pwds aren’t healthy enough for this vision of the future?)  

For more information about the eco-village:   

According to their web page, their email address is:

Theirs is a nobel project, and it has done much good, apparently, in the community it serves, but whenever a vision of social justice or sustainability excludes any significant sector of society these omission must be part of the dialogue, must be welcomed, must be considered, and must inform a change in praxis.  


l.a. eco village:

i just visited your web site and wiki. i live in echo park, have a burgeoning urban farm, am a writer, activist and artist and educator.  am very intrigued by your program.  i do have one concern or inquiry and wonder why, for the most part, it isn’t included in your information.

with the exception that children’s special needs will be taken into consideration in accepting families, there is no mention of inclusion of people with disabilities in your program at all.  you explain your policy around pets, without mention of service animals, have a discount for residents without cars, without mention that pwds (people with disabilities) often can’t rely on bicycles or public transportation, and therefore might have that requisite waived.  there is no mention in your barter system for meeting the social needs for people who may have less conventional means of contributing to a community, or who simply are at a point in their lives when their needs outweigh what they can contribute. 

as a community, what have you done to address these issues?

are these issues of concern to you as a community?

how do we build sustainable communities that are inclusive?

in building a sustainable community, how do we take into account needs that pwd and people with chronic illnesses may have that might not be needs of people who fit the dominant physical paradigm and may require extra ecological and financial resources?  (such as air conditioning, cars, service animals, etc.)

if you have taken these issues into consideration, why are they not reflected in your mission statement or your on line presentation of your community?

if you have not taken these matters into consideration, why not?

in solidarity,

emma rosenthal