Don’t schedule important events on major Jewish holidays

kivrin:

realsocialskills:

A lot of things get scheduled on major Jewish holidays, in a way that prevents Jews from being able to participate. This needs to stop. 

If you’re in charge of scheduling things like:

  • Protests
  • Conferences
  • Public school orientations
  • College orientations
  • Exam schedules
  • Field trips
  • Other important events

Please avoid scheduling on major Jewish holidays. The most important ones to avoid are:

  • Rosh Hashana
  • Yom Kippur
  • The first two nights of Passover 

These holidays are at slightly different times each year, because the Jewish calendar is lunar. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are in the fall, Passover is in the Spring. You can check when they are at hebcal.com, and hebcal.com also has a calendar you can subscribe to that says when the holidays are.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the times at which Jews who don’t go to synagogue at any other time of year go. (In the same way that some Christians only go to church on Easter and Christmas). They are also major family holidays, even for people who are otherwise secular. Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast (from both food and water) and most people who observe it are pretty wiped out immediately afterwards. 

The first two nights of Passover are when Jewish families hold Passover seders. It’s a major family holiday, even for people who do not consider themselves religious and never go to synagogue at all. Nearly all Jewish families have some sort of seder. 

It is considerate to also avoid scheduling important events that would require travel on the day before and after these major holidays. It is critical to avoid scheduling events on the holidays themselves.

There are other Jewish holidays that will create conflicts for some Jews, but they’re not as important to most Jewish people. 

tl;dr: If you value Jewish participation and solidarity with Jews, it is critically important to avoid scheduling important events on on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the first two nights of Passover.

The Hebrew calendar measures days from sunset to sunset, so a single-day holiday will span two dates on the Gregorian (civil/secular) calendar. If the calendar you’re using doesn’t say ‘Yom Kippur begins at sundown,’ check another calendar to verify which Gregorian evening and day will have the holiday observance(s).

That too. Thank you.

Why you should contact your representatives even if they’re already on your side

When your politician wants to do the right thing, they need your help. Calls and tweets are very helpful to them. Here’s why:

Politicians can’t just do whatever they want, because they represent us. Whatever they believe personally, they have to take into account what their voters think. Politicians can do some unpopular things, but they have to pick unpopular issues very, very careful, or they lose reelection and can’t do anything at all.

If you call/tweet your representatives about something they already agree with, you are telling them: We have your back. You don’t have to worry that doing the right thing will cost you the election. Doing the right thing will get you votes, and make you *more* likely to win. That gives them more options.

Another way that calling representatives who are on the right side helps them: Representatives can’t pass legislation by themselves. They have to persuade other representatives to vote the right way. There are usually politicians who are on the fence and potentially open to persuasion.

If your representative can say to other representatives: “My phones are ringing off the hook about this issue”, or “My twitter mentions are overwhelmed with people asking me to do this”, it can persuade other politicians that this issue matters to voters. Every representative who can do this makes a difference. A politician may sometimes be in denial about what their constituents are saying; it’s harder to stay in denial if they’re hearing it from multiple politicians whose states/districts are similar to theirs. Even if your representative is unwaveringly on your side and in a safe seat, your calls/tweets can help them  to persuade others.

Stories and pictures also matter. Telling stories can persuade politicians to do the right thing. During the health care debates, every politician told stories that a constituent told to them. The vote was close, and the Republicans who voted against it said that stories were part of what convinced them to do the right thing. If you tell your representatives stories about why the issue matters to you, it can help them to act on it, even if they already agree with you.

Tweeting pictures at your representatives can also help. Pictures of protests show politicians that people care enough to show up in person and protest. This suggests to them that people care enough to show up and vote. This is reassuring to politicians who agree with you, and they can use those pictures to put pressure on politicians who aren’t sure how they want to vote. Pictures of real people affected by the issue are also helpful. They show, viscerally, that this is about real people. That can be very persuasive.

Another reason why contacting politicians who agree with you matters: If you make the issue you’re calling/tweeting about a safe issue for them, then they don’t have to spend political capital on it. If they don’t spend political capital on it, then it’s available to spend on a risky issue. Calling/tweeting them helps them to do the right thing about the immediate issues *and* future issues which may be riskier.

Tl;dr: Even if your representatives agree with you, it’s still worth contacting them about important issues. Calling, tweeting, and otherwise contacting them can give them them *ability* to do what they already want to do. Tell them stories. Tweet them pictures that tell stories, including pictures you take at any protests you go to. Scroll up for more explanation of why this matters.

A problem with “behavior is communication”

In certain contexts, just about everything a disabled person does will result in someone following them around with a clipboard, taking notes on their behavior, and designing a behavior plan for them.

This is often called ‘listening to what the behavior is communicating’ or ‘keeping in mind that behavior is communication.’

I know that nothing I’ve ever done was intended to communicate ‘please put me on a behavior plan’. If anyone asked me, they would know with certainty that I don’t want them to do anything of the sort.

I’m not alone in this. Very few people would willingly consent to intense data collection of the kind involved in behavior analysis. Far fewer people would willingly consent to the ways in which that data is used to control their behavior. 

A lot of people never get asked. People do these things to them that very few people would willingly consent to — without asking, and without considering consent to be a relevant consideration.

Somehow, an approach that involves ignoring what someone might be thinking gets called ‘listening to what is being communicated’.

That is neither ethical nor logical. Behaviors don’t communicate; people do. If you want to understand what someone is thinking, you have to listen to them in a way that goes beyond what any behavior plan can do.

Collecting data is not the same as listening, modifying behavior is not the same as understanding what someone is thinking, and disabled people are fully human. 

Don’t schedule important events on major Jewish holidays

A lot of things get scheduled on major Jewish holidays, in a way that prevents Jews from being able to participate. This needs to stop. 

If you’re in charge of scheduling things like:

  • Protests
  • Conferences
  • Public school orientations
  • College orientations
  • Exam schedules
  • Field trips
  • Other important events

Please avoid scheduling on major Jewish holidays. The most important ones to avoid are:

  • Rosh Hashana
  • Yom Kippur
  • The first two nights of Passover 

These holidays are at slightly different times each year, because the Jewish calendar is lunar. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are in the fall, Passover is in the Spring. You can check when they are at hebcal.com, and hebcal.com also has a calendar you can subscribe to that says when the holidays are.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the times at which Jews who don’t go to synagogue at any other time of year go. (In the same way that some Christians only go to church on Easter and Christmas). They are also major family holidays, even for people who are otherwise secular. Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast (from both food and water) and most people who observe it are pretty wiped out immediately afterwards. 

The first two nights of Passover are when Jewish families hold Passover seders. It’s a major family holiday, even for people who do not consider themselves religious and never go to synagogue at all. Nearly all Jewish families have some sort of seder. 

It is considerate to also avoid scheduling important events that would require travel on the day before and after these major holidays. It is critical to avoid scheduling events on the holidays themselves.

There are other Jewish holidays that will create conflicts for some Jews, but they’re not as important to most Jewish people. 

tl;dr: If you value Jewish participation and solidarity with Jews, it is critically important to avoid scheduling important events on on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the first two nights of Passover.

Using Twitter to contact (and keep up with) your representatives

This is a US-centric post, but some of it probably applies outside the US as well.

Contacting politicians isn’t just about using the phone to make calls. Twitter can *also* be a really useful way to talk to elected officials.

Politicians who have Twitter feeds pay attention to them. They use them to market themselves to constituents, and to gather information about what constituents care about. The way constituents interact with politicians on Twitter can make a real difference.

This is a post explaining some of how I interact with politicians on Twitter. There are a lot of things, and some may seem overwhelming. Don’t feel like you have to do everything — *anything* you do will help, even if it’s only occasional.

I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep up with and interact with politicians if I make Twitter lists of them. Here’s a way to keep up with your representatives on Twitter:


Step one: Make a Twitter list called “Representatives”. Twitter has instructions for making Twitter lists here.

  • Step two: Find out who your senators and representatives are:
  • You have one Representative in the House. Your state is divided up into congressional districts, and you are represented by the person whose district you live in. Find out who they are here.
  • Your state has two Senators. They both represent you. Find out who they are here.

Step three: Find your senators and representatives on Twitter:

  • Generally, the fastest way to do this is to search for “[their name] Twitter”
  • Senators and congresspeople also often have their Twitter handle on their page.
  • (You likely also have local and state level politicians who are on Twitter, but don’t get bogged down trying to find them if it’s taking a while. There will be more information about finding them in a subsequent post.)

Step four: Add your representatives and senators to your Twitter list:

  • Now that you have a Twitter list, it’s easier to check up on what your representatives are saying. 
  • It’s also easier to remember who they are.
  • This will be useful in a lot of situations.

Step five: Ready the block button:

  • If you’re interacting with politicians on Twitter, you may attract unwanted attention from deplorables, Nazis, misogynists, and other cruel people. 
  • If you do, remember that you don’t have to talk to them. If people tweet obnoxious things at you, err on the side of blocking them.
  • You may also want to subscribe to an automated block list in order to block known cruel people. 
  • (I subscribe to Nazi Blocker

Now that you have a Twitter list of your representatives, here are some things you can do with it:

Check your “Representatives” list, and watch what your representatives are doing:

  • When you open your list, you will see all your representatives. 
  • This can be a fast way to keep track of all of them.
  • Even if you don’t interact directly, or don’t often interact directly, knowing what’s going on can be helpful.

Reward and boost tweets you like:

  • When politicians say things you agree with, like and/or retweet them.
  • You can also reply and say something like “Thank you, I’m glad you’re representing me”.
  • Politicians use Twitter to market themselves to constituents, so it’s useful to tell them when you see something you like.
  • It’s also useful to show *other people* who follow you that a politician is doing something good.

Express disapproval of tweets you *don’t* like:

  • When politicians post bad things, it’s useful to tell them that they’re upsetting constituents.
  • Eg, you can reply saying something like “I’m a constituent, and I’m appalled that you’d do/say that”.

Reply with a comment:

  • You can also reply with comments that say more specific things than “thank you” or “don’t do that”.
  • It helps to say something personal that establishes 1) that you’re a constituent, and 2) that this will have a real effect on you.
  • Politicians respond well to stories. 
  • Eg: “I’m a North Carolina small business owner, and this healthcare bill would damage my business”
  • Or: “As a public school teacher in [your town], I’m appalled that children are at risk of being deported as school”

Retweet with a comment:

  • You can also retweet with a comment. If you do it that way, other people will see it. 
  • One useful thing to do can be to tag your other representatives.
  • Eg: say, your senator @SenatorExample tweets about supporting Good Bill [S. Example Number].
  • You can retweet it with a comment “Thank you @ExampleSenator. @OtherSenatorFromMyState @ExampleRepresentative, do you support it too?”
  • You can also do that with bills that other people’s senators/representatives support. (I also maintain a list of politicians I like in order to do this.)

You can also initiate contact yourself. Use your Twitter list to remind yourself who your representatives are/what their Twitter handles are, and then you can do these things:

When you get an action alert asking you to call your representatives, you can also tweet to them about the issue:

  • Generally speaking, phone scripts are too long for Twitter — but you can still use them to make tweets!
  • The most important part is the specific thing you’re asking them to do.
  • Usually, this will be either asking them to vote for a bill, cosponsor a bill, or vote against a bill.
  • Sometimes it will be other things, eg: Asking senators to call for a Senate hearing on white supremacist violence.
  • Point being, action alerts will contain a specific ask, and your tweet should too: 
  • Eg: “@ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative I’m a constituent from [Your Town], and I’m asking you to vote against Example Terrible Bill”.
  • You can also add more details about who you are/why you oppose the bill.
  • Eg: “@ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative Everyone deserves the right to vote. Please vote against the Terrible Voter Suppression Act.”
  • Eg: “@ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative the Stop Abuses of Power Act would make us safer in [your town]. Please support it”.

Tell your representatives stories about issues you care about:

  • Politicians tend to respond well to stories — and they can also sometimes use stories in speeches and negotiations. 
  • Tweet a story about who you are, and why you care about the issue:
  • Eg: “I’m disabled. Civil rights protections made it possible for me to go to school in [your town].”
  • Eg: “My grandmother came to this country as an immigrant. Please don’t deport other people’s grandmothers”.
  • Eg: “Violent white supremacists marched through my town. I’m scared. What are you doing about it?”
  • (If you have relevant pictures, it can be helpful to include them.).

Twitter can also be very useful at protests (whether or not you’re there in person):

Tweet about protests and tag your representatives:

  • These days, most protests have hashtags. Include the protest hashtag in your tweet. 
  • If you’re there, mention that you’re there:
  • Tweet something like “@ExampleSenator, I’m at #IStandWithPP asking you not to defund Planned Parenthood”.
  • You can also tweet things speakers are saying at the protest.
  • Check what others are saying in the protest hashtags. You can also retweet those, and tag your representatives saying you agree.

Tweet pictures of protest signs and tag your representatives:

  • Tweeting close-up pictures of people with protest signs can be an effective way to show representatives that you and others care about this issue.
  • Ask permission before taking pictures of people at protests — some people may be in danger if their picture is seen.
  • When you ask “May I take a picture of your sign to tweet at representatives?”, most people will say yes.
  • (But some people may ask that you leave their face out of the picture. *Always* respect this boundary. If someone doesn’t want their face in a picture, *leave their face out*).
  • Remember to include the context when you tweet pictures, and make a specific ask.
  • Eg: “We’re at #ProtestHashtag, asking you to protect our care by voting against Example Terrible Bill Act. @ExampleSenator @ExampleSenator2 @ExampleRepresenative” 
  • Some people may ask you to also tag *their* representatives. In which case you can say “@ExampleSenator, one of your constituents asked me to share her sign with you. Please vote against Example Terrible Bill Act.”
  • This can show politicians that a protest is happening, remind them that the people protesting are real people and not just generic “protestors”, and show them that some protestors are constituents.

If you can’t go to a protest yourself, you can still use Twitter to draw your representatives’ attention to the protest by:

  • Tweeting in the protest hashtag yourself, and tagging your representatives.
  • Watching the protest hashtag, retweeting things you agree with, and tagging your representatives in the retweet.
  • It’s especially helpful to retweet pictures. Eg:
  • Say you see a sign that says “Kill the bill, don’t kill us” in #HealthcareProtest. 
  • You can retweet that, and add “@ExampleSenator Don’t kill me either. Vote against #AHCA and anything else that would cut Medicaid”.

It’s also useful to tweet/retweet information about where a protest is happening and why it’s happening. Whether or not you’re there, tweeting about it can help other people to go and/or boost the protest’s message.

Tl;dr Twitter can be a really useful way to interact with elected officials. Scroll up for some examples of ways to do it.

We need to be as good at lifting up as we are at calling out

In advocacy/activist space, we’ve gotten really good at noticing and naming oppression. We’ve gotten really good at criticizing the things that people are doing wrong, and demanding change. We’re also good at noticing organizations and people who shouldn’t be supported, and explaining why people shouldn’t support them.

This is important — and it’s not enough. We need to be equally good at noticing and naming things that *are* worth supporting. We need to be equally good at noticing what people are doing well, describing why their approach is good, and finding ways to support it. Calling out isn’t enough. We need to seek out things to lift up.

When we focus exclusively on finding things to call out, we send the implicit message that nothing good anyone is doing is worthy of our attention. But none of the work of building a better world happens by itself. It depends on the people who are putting the effort into doing the work. When we ignore the value of the work people are doing, we both harm those people and the work itself.

The work is hard, exhausting, and vital. It’s also often thankless — because we’re not acknowledging it in the way we need to be. Often, doing activism and advocacy means signing up for a life of being paid less than a living wage (or volunteering your very limited time), having your work ignored, and being noticed by your community only when people are angry at you.

This is particularly common when the work is done by marginalized people. Our culture socializes us to ignore the work that women and other marginalized groups do, except when we find reason to criticize it. This dynamic carries over into activism/advocacy spaces. It’s just as toxic when we do it as when corporations do it.

There’s nothing inevitable about this. We can make it stop. We can pay attention to the work people are doing, and we can show respect to the people doing it. We can describe the worthwhile things people are doing, and talk about why they should be valued. We can seek out ways to support what people are doing, whether that means donating, signal boosting, going out and voting, connecting people to each other, or any number of other things. By getting just as good at support as we are at call outs, we can make the world much better.

Advice about contacting rabbis to discuss conversion

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
Hi! Do you have any advice re: contacting a rabbi to discuss [reform] conversion? I am disabled and struggle with a lot of anxiety (especially around communicating clearly and needing accommodations!) Please let me know if you’d rather I message you off anon. Thank you and have a great day <3

Realsocialskills said:

A few things (this is US-centric advice; it’s somewhat different in other countries):

The short version: Send them an email, say you’re interested in conversion, and ask to meet with them. If you can’t find their email on the synagogue website, there will probably be a general office email — email that and say you want to meet with the rabbi about conversion. (If you’re a college student, you might want to start with the Hillel rabbi, but you don’t have to.)

Probably what will happen next is that they’ll set a time to meet with you. Probably what will happen at that meeting is that they’ll ask why you’re interested, along with general getting-to-know-you kinds of questions. They’ll also probably want to know if you’re dating anyone, and they may want reassurance that you understand that Judaism is not a form of Christianity.  

They’re likely to tell you to take an introduction to Judaism class, through their synagogue or through a local organization. Not everyone does this, but it’s really common. Conversion almost always takes at least a year, in part to make sure that prospective converts have a clear sense of what they’re getting into.

There’s a myth that rabbis tell you to go away three times — *some* Orthodox rabbis do that, but it’s *really* uncommon in liberal movements. I know a lot of rabbis, and none of the rabbis I know would do that. You don’t have to prove your worthiness, and you don’t have to be sure what you want. 

It’s ok to feel anxious and uncomfortable. Most people do when considering conversion, especially when making first contact.

In terms of needing accommodations — there’s a *huge* range of where Jewish communities are in terms of accessibility (I’m working on improving this). I can’t tell you what your particular community is like, or how they’ll regard disability. (One thing I can say is that Jewish conversation patterns are different than the mainstream, and some people find them intrinsically more accessible. But again, I can’t say what your experiences will be access-wise.)

Also, religious descriptions of Judaism and books written for people considering conversion can sometimes be misleading about what communities are actually like. One way to learn some of the things those sources don’t cover well is to look at Jewish humor. This huge set of Jewish jokes may help. 

The drawbacks of anger, and some alternatives

A lot of things that are normal aren’t ok. It’s hard to notice this. We’re socialized to accept a lot of things that really ought to be unacceptable. When we try to object, we’re punished. Being punished for objecting is often humiliating and disorienting.

It’s hard to remember that these things are wrong even when others punish you for saying so. It’s hard to remember that you have rights when others act like you don’t.

One way to remember that things are wrong is to get angry about them. Feeling outraged can make it easier to hold onto your sense that, no, this isn’t ok, and yes, it is ok to object.

Unfortunately, the price of rage is high. Rage hurts. It’s physically unpleasant, physically exhausting, emotionally draining, and makes it hard to think clearly. The physical and emotional exhaustion from anger makes it harder to do other things. The fog of anger can lead to mistakes that make it harder to remember after the fact that you were justified in objecting. Rage is better than nothing, but there are other strategies that don’t hurt as much.

One thing that can help is to develop your understanding of the situation over time. If you learn to understand what you’re angry about and why, it can make it possible to use understanding rather than anger to stay oriented.

Questions like these can help:

  • What am I angry about?
  • Why am I angry about that?
  • What happened that I think is wrong?
  • Why do I think it’s wrong?

For instance, say I’m in class, we’re doing an activity, I’m not able to do the activity, and I’m feeling angry. We’re writing thoughts on big paper, and I can’t do handwriting well enough to participate. In that situation, I might think:

  • Why am I angry?
  • I’m trying to participate and failing over and over and that’s intensely frustrating.
  • Why am I angry about that?
  • Because I’m sick of being left out all the time.
  • What happened that I think is wrong? 
  • The teacher knew about my disability and didn’t do anything to accommodate it when they planned the activity. 
  • When I pointed out that I couldn’t participate, they didn’t do anything to fix it.
  • Why do I think that’s wrong? 
  • Because I have a right to be here, and the teacher is supposed to be teaching me. 
  • I’m a student here, and I have the right to learn the material and be part of the activities we’re using to learn it.
  • This is disability discrimination, and that’s wrong.

Then, the next step in using understanding rather than anger is to notice that something is wrong before you start feeling enraged. Sometimes that can make it possible to fix the problem without having to get to the point of outrage. It can also make it more possible to decide when to fight and when not to.

For instance, take the class activity. If I remember that I have the right to be there and that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to teach me, this might happen:

  • I go to class and see that there is big paper on the walls.
  • I remember that I can’t do big paper activities.
  • I remember that I have the right to participate in educational activities.
  • I remember that I have the right to learn the material.
  • I ask right away “Are we doing a big paper activity today? How will I participate?” 
  • At this point, I’m annoyed, but not outraged, and able to assert something without it hurting so much.

They may or may not respond the right way — and I might still get really angry. But if that happens, I can repeat the strategy again, figure out what I’m angry about and why. Then I can get further without depending on anger the next time. (Even when you can’t win or fix the problem, it’s still often possible to use that kind of strategy to stay oriented without rage. I have more posts in the works about that specifically.)

Anger isn’t a failure. It’s ok to be angry when unacceptable things are happening. It’s also ok *not* to feel physically angry. Anger hurts, and you don’t owe anyone that kind of pain. You don’t have to be pushed to the point of rage in order to be justified in objecting to unacceptable things.

Sometimes it might help to explicitly remind yourself of this. Some affirmations that have sometimes worked for me:

  • I don’t have to hurt myself to prove that this is wrong.
  • It’s still wrong if I’m calm. 
  • It’s still wrong if I’m not crying and shaking. 
  • It’s still wrong if my heart isn’t pounding.
  • Even if I’m ok, the situation isn’t ok.
  • Even if I’m ok in this moment, it’s ok to object to a situation that’s hurting me and/or others.

It also helps not to beat yourself up for getting angry. Anger in the face of outrageous things isn’t a failure. No strategy can completely replace physical outrage for anyone. Holding yourself up to impossible standards won’t help. Working on your skills at staying oriented in other ways will.

These strategies are harder to learn and harder to use. They also make it a lot more possible to resist and stay oriented without hurting yourself. It’s not all or nothing — any skills in this area help, and it gets easier with practice.

Protest at the Capitol NOW

The vote might happen within the next hour. We’re at the Capitol protesting. If more people show up, it’s less likely to pass. If you’re around and can, consider coming to the Capitol NOW.

EDITED TO ADD: the protest is over. We won. And there are approximately a zillion posts I need to write about the political system.

ACTION ALERT: LAST CHANCE to Save Health Care

autisticadvocacy:

Dear friends,

The Senate plans to vote THIS WEEK to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The vote could come as early as TOMORROW – even though we still don’t know which of the recently proposed bills they’ll be voting on. But we do know that all of these bills would be devastating to people with disabilities – and anyone else who hopes to access health care in the coming years.

This chaos and uncertainty is part of their plan. They’ve seen that when we speak out strongly, their backroom deals fall apart. Their only hope is that we become tired and confused and give up. We can’t let that happen.

What stands in the way of the Senate passing this bill? YOU.

We have to keep calling. You can find your Senators’ contact information by entering your ZIP code at contactingcongress.org. If you find it easier to leave an answering machine message than to talk to a staffer on the phone, you can call after work hours, and your message will still be counted. If you don’t speak, you can call using your AAC device, or get a friend to call in and read your message. No matter how you do it, your call is critical right now. Here’s a script you can use:

My name is [your full name]. I’m a constituent of Senator [Name], and I live in [your town]. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote NO on repealing the Affordable Care Act. If this bill is passed, millions of Americans will lose health insurance. This bill takes away protections that patients depend on, and it will return us to the bad old days when people with disabilities like [me/ my family member/ my friends] were uninsurable. We can’t go back. Please vote AGAINST repealing the Affordable Care Act. It’s time for Congress to scrap repeal, leave Medicaid alone, and work together to improve the ACA. We’re counting on you to do the right thing.

A bill that puts millions of Americans’ health care — and lives — at risk is not a replacement for the ACA. It’s time for Congress to scrap this bill, and work together on a meaningful, bipartisan basis to improve the Affordable Care Act and make health care better for all of us. They work for us – but they need constant reminders. With your help, we can remind them how much this bill would hurt all of us, and make sure they do the right thing.

Let’s go.

Julia Bascom
Executive Director
Autistic Self Advocacy Network

P.S. – Need help understanding what the ACA repeal does? You can read about how it would change the ACA and Medicaid in our plain-language toolkits.

Please call, tweet, or email your senators TODAY if you can.

It’s very important. It could be the difference between keeping our healthcare and losing it.

Anonymous advice on getting fundraising callers to stop

Anonymous said to realsocialskills: I have done fundraising calling (different, but similar), and in the UK, it is illegal for us to keep contacting people who tell us to stop calling. But you have to be very unambiguous. “Please do not call me again for any reason, and take my number off your list” will work.

realsocialskills said:

Thanks for the tip!

Cancelling cable service

Anonymous said:

I wanted to pass on a tip. My cable company, Comcast, is very aggressive with trying to keep people on their service. I received many calls pressuring me to stay. Finally, I told them I’m moving to Europe. They stopped harassing me because they don’t have service there. I hope this helps others.

realsocialskills said:

I’ve never tried this, but it makes sense to me that it could work. Have others tried this? Has it worked for you?

Chronic trauma and a clarification about my Israel/Palestine post

“Israel is about as well-governed as you’d expect from a country run by people with PTSD in one of the most volatile regions in the world.” This sentence in your recent post feels uncomfortably close to perpetuating a poor stereotype of both abuse survivors and people with PTSD, or like a joke in poor taste at their expense. I think I get what you meant it’s just, in my opinion, very poorly phrased.

realsocialskills replied:

Agreed. I should have phrased that differently. I haven’t really tried to discuss anything related to Israel on this blog before. I was assuming certain context that I didn’t actually explain. I don’t talk about Israel very much, and when I do, it’s usually in a context in which people know that I’m a rabbi and a disabled disability advocate. (People often also know that I have significantly disabling trauma.) That context matters more than I realized. I’m sorry I wrote it that way, I see what it looked like I meant now that people have pointed it out to me.

One thing that I want to be clear about now: I did not mean that as an insult. Part of what I meant is that trauma makes everything harder, and that it’s a factor in why the situation is so intractable. I absolutely was *not* saying that people with PTSD shouldn’t be in leadership roles. And in any case, in Israel/Palestine, there is no alternative. If you couldn’t have traumatized people in leadership roles, it would be difficult to find anyone to govern. That doesn’t mean that the situation can’t get better — it means that it’s *hard*. 

(This is one of the many reasons why I believe that people who want to help should support efforts that are led by Israelis and/or Palestinians and located primarily in Israel/Palestine.)

Some of the things I’ve most appreciated about spending time in Israel are directly related to how normal trauma is there. PTSD is really a misnomer — the situation in Israel/Palestine is chronically traumatic. In Israel, there’s much more serious conversation about resilience in the face of chronic trauma than I’ve ever found in the US. (I’m saying Israel specifically because I’m directly familiar with Israeli culture and I am not directly familiar with Palestinian culture.)

In the US, the conversation about trauma tends to be “You need to get past what happened and let go of it so you can get on with your life.” In Israel, it’s more like “Whether or not things ever get better, we have to live our lives.” (Pronoun choice deliberate; Israel is much more collectivized than the US, which is a cultural can of worms I’m not going to get into in more detail in this post.)

A lot of populations in the US face chronic traumatization, and there’s very little discussion here about how to deal with that. There’s a tendency to inappropriately apply a *post*-traumatic recovery model along the lines of “You went through something terrible, but you’re safe now. Let’s help you to feel safe.” That model is really inappropriate for people who aren’t safe and aren’t likely to be safe any time soon. We need more things that help people in unsafe situations cope psychologically and build as many good things in their life as they can. 

For example, group homes are not safe places. More generally, disability service provision systems are not safe. They’re safer than they used to be, but the rate of abuse is still very high. It is irresponsible to say “you’re safe now” to someone who is statistically likely to be harmed again in the future. It’s irresponsible to say “People can’t heal until they are safe”, and leave it at that. There are a lot of people who aren’t likely to be safe any time soon, and their lives matter *now*.

Safety is not a prerequisite for growth, and it’s not a prerequisite for having good things in your life. We need to do better for people in unsafe situations. We need more space to say “Being hurt matters, and it’s not the only thing that matters,” and more competence to say “Here are some things that often help.” Safety is important, and we should work for it — and we can’t let that be the only thing we do. (Related: “It gets better” is often worth saying, but it can’t be the end all and be all of how we express “Your life is worth living”.)

This matters in service provision and it also matters in activist community. I think that we need a much broader conversation about resilience. We’re fighting for survival and for critically important rights. We can’t abandon these fights and we also can’t afford to treat victory as a prerequisite for valuing our lives. We have to live. I think a significant part of that is finding ways to strengthen each other, and seeking out every form of growth and resilience available to us. 

I have more to say on all of this, but I haven’t found the words to say it yet. 

If you want to help in Israel/Palestine, acknowledge context and support local efforts

I see a lot of Western talk about Israel and Palestine, and not a lot of Western awareness of the context or the work of Israelis and Palestinians. People on both the right and the left often treat Israel/Palestine as a symbol and ignore the fact that it’s a real place, it has a real history, and real people live there.

One of many pieces of context that matters: Israeli Jews are mostly genocide victims and descendants of genocide victims who see Israel as the only reliable way to protect themselves. In their experience, most Jews who relied on non-Jews to protect them died. That context matters in any discussion of Israel, and it’s antisemitic to disregard it.

Another piece of context that matters: Israel is a mess. Israel is about as well-governed as you’d expect from a country run by people with PTSD in one of the most volatile regions in the world. In addition, Israel has from the beginning depended on less-than-stable compromises between different populations in the area, in a way that’s hard to imagine in the West.

I don’t know what would make things better in Israel and Palestine. The more I learn, the less I feel comfortable having a lot of opinions about policy. There are just too many pieces of game-changing context that I’m unfamiliar with.

One of the few things I’m sure of is that no one involved is suffering from a shortage of Western feelings. It’s not news to anyone who lives there that things are a mess. Israelis and Palestinians who live in Israel/Palestine have their own feelings about the situation.

Israelis and Palestinians also have their own opinions about what would help, and they’re doing their own work. There are Israelis and Palestinians all over the political spectrum, pursuing all kinds of attempts to make things better. (Some of which I’m inspired by; some of which I find horrifying.) I think Western conversations on all sides tend to erase the actual Israelis and Palestinians involved.

For instance, the Western left often erases the work of the Israeli left by pretending that only Americans and other Westerners have heard of justice and human rights). Similarly, the Western right often erases the work of Palestinians pursuing coexistence by speaking as though only people in the West have heard of peace.

If loud Western feelings and platitudes from afar could fix the situation in Israel and Palestine, the conflict would have been over decades ago. Palestinians and Israelis have heard it all before. It’s not helpful. Israelis and Palestinians already know about peace and justice, and many of them are working very hard to pursue both.

If you want to help make things better in Israel and Palestine, the best way to do that is by supporting the work being done by pro-justice/pro-peace Palestinians and Israelis who live there. Find Israel/Palestine-based organizations that share your values, and support their work. Foreigners can’t support political parties, but there are a lot of nonprofit organizations doing good work.

I don’t have an extensive knowledge of justice work in Israel and Palestine, but there are a few organizations I’m comfortable recommending:

The Jerusalem Open House For Pride and Tolerance. Hebrew home page; Facebook page  (They used to have an English page as well. In any case, you can use the Hebrew page to find contact emails). 

JOH is an LGBTQ center located in Jerusalem. (In Hebrew, the word for “gay” is a pun on the word for “pride”.) They provide services in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and I think Russian as well. They also organize the Jerusalem LGBT pride parade.

A Wider Bridge (an organization I’m *not* personally familiar with) has an English summary and links to English-language news articles about the Jerusalem Open House. 

Bizchut: The Israel Human Rights Center for People With Disabilities.

Bizchut works for disability rights in Israel, and has information in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. They work on a number of issues, including alternatives to guardianship, inclusive education, voting rights, and communication access for people with disabilities in the legal system.

Yad b’Yad/Hand In Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel  runs joint schools for Jewish Israeli children and Arab Israeli children. The Yad b’Yad schools teach in Hebrew/Arabic/English, and are educationally progressive in other ways as well. (Eg: The Jerusalem Yad b’Yad school has physically disabled students in regular classrooms, which is unusual in Israel.)

There are many other good organizations doing important work on the ground in Israel/Palestine — these are just the ones I’m personally familiar with. Whatever justice issue you care about, there are Israelis and Palestinians who care about it too. If you want to help, support them.

Tl;dr Neither idealization nor contextless criticism will make things better in Israel/Palestine. Palestinians and Israelis are not suffering from a shortage of Western feelings. Israelis and Palestinians already know about justice, peace, and human rights. If you want to help, support local efforts led by Israelis and/or Palestinians who live there.

Anyone know how to make a tag cloud work?

Just so you know, the tag cloud has not been working for the past couple of weeks at least. I don’t know if you have control over that or not, but I thought you should know. It’s helpful in looking up old posts with useful information. Thanks, and thank you for your hard work on this blog! I really appreciate it!

Thanks for letting me know — I think the platform I’d been using for that doesn’t work anymore for anyone.

Do any of y’all know of a way to make a Tumblr tag cloud that still works?

Activism must not be derailed by behaviorism

Behaviorist ideology says that there are four basic reasons people do things: to get things/activities, to get pleasant sensations, to avoid something they dislike, or to get attention. 

All of these are real reasons people do things, and it’s useful to keep them in mind. It’s also important to remember that they are not the only reasons people do things. People also have thoughts, feelings, and values.

This behaviorist framing assumes that human beings are fundamentally amoral and selfish.  Behaviorism has no room for courage, integrity, or concern for justice. In real life, values matter.

For instance: People who would not steal to support themselves will put their lives on the line to protest cuts to Medicaid. People who find it humiliating to be publicly praised as ~inspiring~ will call congress to fight bad policies, including bad policies that affect groups other than their own. There’s more going on than attention. Values matter.

In activism and advocacy, it’s often useful to show others that it’s in their interests to support our policies. (Eg: “Your constituents care about Medicaid, and you’ll lose your seat if you vote for a bill that would cut it”, or “No matter how responsible you are, you could get sick tomorrow and need access to Medicaid.” 

It’s *also* useful to show them that the policies matter within *values* they already care about. For instance, if someone cares about religious freedom, it could be useful to point out that institutionalized people lose access to their houses of worship and other things they need in order to practice their religion on their terms. If someone cares about encouraging people to work, it could be useful to point out ways in which Home and Community Based disability services make it possible for people to work.

It’s also important to make a case for our values more broadly. People don’t understand what ableism is and why it’s bad. Many people are receptive to learning, if it’s explained in a way that they can understand. It’s not just about self-interest. It’s also about values. People can understand right and wrong, and act accordingly, whether they are marginalized or privileged.

Privilege doesn’t need to prevent someone from being a good person and doing the right thing. There’s more to life than behaviorism and self interest. People are capable of caring about their values more than they care about enjoying the advantages of privilege. 

tl;dr Behaviorism reduces everything people do to self-interest, with no room for values. Activism based solely on privilege analysis falls into the same mistake. We need to keep in mind that all people are capable of learning to tell right from wrong and act accordingly. We need to make the case for our values, in a way that people can understand. Lives depend on it.

"It's not just about wheelchair access"

I think that in disability discourse, wheelchair users face some fairly unique pressure to pretend not to be disabled. At the same time, wheelchair users are treated as the ultimate symbol of disability. In combination, I think there is very little space in which wheelchair users are allowed to talk about their actual experiences and needs. (Even in disability rights space.)

To some extent, all disabled people face some version of this. The thing I think is somewhat unique to wheelchair users is pressure to be the model of successful accessibility. There’s a misconception that accessibility is basically a solved problem for wheelchair users, and that we need to expand that model to all disabled people. This goes alongside a related misconception that the purpose of accessibility is to make disability irrelevant.

Wheelchair users face intense pressure to enthusiastically pretend that wheelchairs and ramps erase disability. This goes alongside pressure to have exactly the kind of disability that fits the story that others want to tell. The story goes: “Wheelchair users can’t walk. Wheelchairs and lifts and ramps solve that problem. If we had ramps everywhere, wheelchair users wouldn’t be disabled anymore.” The reality is much more complicated.

People get very angry when wheelchair users contradict this story. Wheelchair users are often not allowed to have access needs that don’t fit the story — and they’re also not allowed to have *abilities* that don’t fit the story. This anger is so intense that it’s dangerous for wheelchair users to stand and walk in public places. People also get angry at wheelchair users when a ramp is too steep, when it’s blocked, or when they insist that the existence of a lift isn’t good enough, they need to have the key so that they can actually *use* it. There’s not much room in the wheelchair access success story for talking about these realities.

There’s also not very much room in this success story for talking about the realities of growing up with a mobility disability. Children still grow up manhandled by therapists and pressured to learn to walk at all costs. Children still go through repeated surgeries aimed at fixing them. Children still get taught to allow adults to hurt them and touch them in ways that would be regarded as abuse if they were typically developing. Children are still pervasively excluded from educational and recreation activities and expected to bear it with a smile. Ramps and wheelchairs didn’t fix that, and accessibility advocacy should not make those things unspeakable.

The success story has even less room for talking about pleasure. Harriet McBryde Johnson said it better than I could, so I’m going to quote her:

“We need to confront the life-killing stereotype that says we’re all about suffering. We need to bear witness to our pleasures. …

Throughout my life, the nondisabled world has told me my pleasures must be only mental, never physical. Thinking to help me, it has said my body is unimportant. I respectfully disagree. For me, the body—imperfect, impermanent, falling apart—is all there is. Through this body that needs the help of hands and machines to move, that is wired to sense and perceive, comes all pleasure, all life. My brain is only one among many body parts, all of which work through one another and cooperate as best they can.”

McBryde Johnson, Harriet. Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life (p. 255). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Treating wheelchair users as a symbol of disability successfully erased has the effect of silencing wheelchair users. I think that a lot of us have been complicit in this silencing, and that we need to address this in disability culture. Partly for the sake of better solidarity with wheelchair users; partly because the silencing is hurting all of us.

I think that all disabled people face pressure to see ourselves as characters in a story about accessibility. Sometimes we’re expected to write the story. Sometimes we’re seen as characters in a story someone else is writing. Sometimes we’re supposed to believe that the story has already been written, and that all we have to do is get people to read the book.

I think that wheelchair users face particularly intense pressure to pretend that the story has already been written and has a satisfying ending. That’s not something any of us should envy. It’s not privilege. It’s silencing. And I think we need a lot less silence and a lot more solidarity. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it isn’t always this way. When we have space for honesty about the realities of disability, our communities are a lot stronger.

Wheelchair users are not a collective accessibility success story. Wheelchair users are people. None of us are stories. We’re all people. No amount of accessibility is going to make our bodies and brains irrelevant. Disability rights advocacy shouldn’t be about erasing difference. The point is not sameness; it’s equality. Accessibility is about building a world that treats us all as fully human, differences and all.

Disabled presenters tend to face really intense ableism. One way this plays out is that audiences laugh at us when we talk about serious things.

This happens particularly frequently when:

  • Nondisabled professionals or our parents are also on the panel, or presenting right before or after us.
  • The audience is primarily parents of disabled children/adults.
  • The audience is primarily professionals who work with people with intellectual disabilities.
  • We talk about a desire to be taken seriously.
  • We discuss our objections to being treated like children.
  • We describe being proud of a personal accomplishment.
  • We describe being treated inappropriately by a professional.
  • We describe how we felt as disabled children.

When audiences do this, it’s not nice laughter. It’s a way of asserting power. That laughter means “I don’t have to take you seriously”.

As a disabled presenter, it’s often possible to insist on respect. It’s easier said than done. It gets easier with practice, but the practice often hurts. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:

It can help to remind yourself that you know what you’re talking about, and the things you’re saying are important:

  • You’re presenting because you know what you’re talking about.
  • People should take your expertise seriously. When you talk about the things you know, they shouldn’t laugh at you.
  • Your accomplishments are not a joke. People should not laugh or be condescending about them.
  • People who treat you like a baby are doing something wrong. Your desire to be treated in an age-appropriate way is not a joke. People shouldn’t laugh at you for talking about it.

When an audience laughs at you, it can help to make it uncomfortable for them:

  • Don’t smile, and don’t laugh yourself.
  • Wait for the audience to stop laughing. 
  • Wait a second before going on to make it feel awkward. 
  • One option: Ask the audience “Why is that funny?” then continue.
  • Another option: Repeat what you said before people started laughing.

Try to avoid nervous laughter and nervous smiles:

  • It’s taboo for disabled people to talk about disability.
  • Talking about taboo topics can be embarrassing.
  • When we’re talking about embarrassing things, it can be natural to smile or laugh nervously.
  • If you seem embarrassed, the audience is more likely to feel like the topic is embarrassing and laugh to get rid of the embarrassment.
  • If you laugh, the audience is more likely to feel like it’s ok for them to laugh.

Making jokes on purpose:

  • Making jokes can be a way to control what people are laughing about.
  • This can be easier than getting them to not laugh in the first place. 
  • In these contexts, it can be better to avoid self-deprecating humor. 
  • It’s usually better to make jokes about ableism.
  • (This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule though, do what works for you.)

For instance, say you’re giving a talk about educational discrimination:

  • This is self-deprecating: 
  • “I was this ridiculous little kid in third grade. I was so enthusiastic, but I couldn’t even read. I’d hold up the books and pretend. My imaginary friend may have stolen the cookies, but she sure didn’t read for me.”
  • This is making fun of ableism:
  • “My teachers kept assigning me worksheets that I couldn’t do. They kept making me read in front of the class, even though I could never do it. They kept telling me to just do it. And they say we’re the ones who lack empathy and theory of mind.”

Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong:

  • Presenters/panelists with disabilities face intense ableism.
  • It’s going to hurt sometimes.
  • The problem isn’t that your skin is too thin; the problem is that people are hurting you.
  • A thick skin is still worth developing.
  • If an audience laughs at you, it’s their fault, not yours. They shouldn’t act like that.
  • It’s messed up that we have to develop skills at deflecting ableism and insisting on respect. 
  • It’s also worth knowing that these skills exist and can be learned.
  • It gets much easier with practice, but no one succeeds all the time.
  • When a talk goes bad, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t blame yourself for the audience’s ableism.
  • You’re ok, they’re ableist, and the things you have to say are still valuable when they’re not valued.

These are some of the methods I’ve used to deal with audience ableism. There are others. What are yours?

Tl;dr Disabled presenters face a lot of intense ableism. In particular, audiences often laugh at us. Scroll up for some methods for insisting on respect.

When audiences at disability conferences laugh instead of listening

A challenge to disability professionals and disabled presenters at conferences and panels: Please find a way to respond to the routine contempt that presenters with disabilities are treated with.

I’ve gone to a fair number of disability-related conferences in the past few years. At nearly every conference, I saw an audience laugh at a presenter/panelist with a developmental disability. This happened particularly often to presenters with intellectual disabilities, but I also saw it happen to autistic presenters and presenters with speech disabilities. 

This isn’t a matter of random jerk encounters; it’s a major cultural problem. Even disability professionals who pride themselves on inclusivity and respect tend to behave this way.

This isn’t nice laughter. It’s not a response to something funny. It’s a response to presenters talking about what they’re proud of, what they’re good at, or talking about wanting control over their own lives. People also laugh similarly when parents and siblings talking about their disabled relative wanting autonomy or objecting to being treated like a little child. This happens all the time, and it needs to stop.

If you’re moderating a panel and the audience laughs at a panelist, here’s one method for shutting this down:

Be proactive about taking the panelist seriously:

  • Don’t look at the audience while they’re laughing, and *especially* don’t laugh or smile yourself.
  • Wait for the audience to stop laughing.
  • Pause briefly before going on. This will make the laughter feel awkward.
  • Ask the panelist a question that makes it clear that you respect what they’re saying.
  • You can explicitly ask “Did you mean that seriously?”
  • You can also be a bit less direct, and say something like “That sounds important. Can you say more?”
  • You can also ask a follow-up question about the specific thing they were saying. 

I think that we all need to be proactive about changing this culture. (Including disabled presenters who get laughed at; we need to insist on being taken seriously. More on that in another post).

There are more ways to shut down disrespectful laughter and insist on respectful interactions than I know about. What are yours?

Another book request

I remember reading a children’s/YA novel once in which a girl wanted a sport model wheelchair so that she’d be able to go faster. Her parents wanted to buy her a water bed. She tried to save up for a sport model wheelchair.

I don’t remember what else happens in the story.

Does anyone know what this book is called?