"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.

"Have fun" should not be a rule

A lot of summer camps, youth groups, and other activities have a “have fun” rule.

The implied message is usually: This is a fun place. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. Fix your attitude and have fun doing the fun activities.

Sometimes “have fun” rules are explicit. Sometimes they’re more implicit, and come in forms like: making people sing a song every day about how much they love camp, announcements about “we’re all having so much fun!”, or whatever else.

The problem with this is: nothing is fun for everyone. People have the right to feel how they feel about things. It’s really degrading to tell an unhappy person that they should just feel some other way.

“Have fun” rules are especially problematic for many disabled people.

Because — most programs are not fully accessible, even when they think they are. Most of us expect to encounter activities that are inaccessible in ways that make participation impossible — or that make them no fun.

And often, initially fun activities are ruined when someone treats you in a degrading way or says something awful about disability.

Being left out when everyone else is having fun is bad enough. When there’s a “have fun” rule, it’s even worse. Not only are you hurt by the exclusion, you’re told that you’re violating the rules by being hurt and unhappy.

“Have fun” rules make it really hard to solve these problems, because they make it risky to admit that you’re not having a good time.

“Have fun” rules make problems harder to solve, even when the problem has a straightforward solution. All the more so when the problem is complicated. (Or only has a partial solution.)

“Have fun” rules actually make things a lot less fun.

Recognizing uniqueness is not a substitute for thinking about disability

Teachers who are really good at teaching typically developing kids sometimes have trouble understanding the significance of disability. I’ve heard a lot of things like “all kids are unique” and “I always individualize my approach for every kid” and “I don’t see the need to label any kids as disabled, it’s just a matter of finding what works for them”.

This sounds positive, but it can be a disaster for kids with disabilities.

We talk a lot about uniqueness, but a lot of effective teaching depends on understanding ways in which kids are similar to each other. Developmentally appropriate practice means understanding how kids the same age are similar to each other — then being flexible in ways that recognize kids’ unique humanity. We develop a sense of what the range of difference is for kids of a particular age.

Kids with disabilities are more different than that, and we need to take those differences seriously. Disability matters, and practices based on typical developmental milestones don’t account for it.

For instance:

Developmental milestones tell us:

  • Two year olds don’t have the motor skills to support handwriting.
  • Early education helps two year olds develop the motor skills that will eventually support handwriting.
  • Ten year olds do have the motor skills to support handwriting.
  • If they’ve had appropriate education, ten year olds should be able to write.

Developmental milestones don’t tell us:

  • How to teach ten year olds who don’t have the fine motor skills to support handwriting.
  • What early literacy and pre-writing instruction looks like for young children who are unlikely to develop the motor skills needed to support handwriting

It’s also important to understand the difference between unusual and unique. Disability means having unusual differences. But not every difference is unique. Some differences are shared by other people with disabilities. Those shared differences are important.

We need to understand the disability-related similarities. Part of that is having the right words to describe them. Calling disabilities by their right names isn’t about labeling, it’s about breaking isolation and making important things speakable.

For instance:


  • Braille exists because blind people need it to exist
  • The differences between sighted people and blind people are a reason that braille needs to exist.
  • (And a reason that Braille is better than raised print).
  • The similarities between many blind people are a reason that braille *can* exist as a standard way of accessing literacy. 
  • If each blind person was completely unique, there would be no way to create a reading and writing system that would work for large numbers of blind people.

Some other examples:

  • Wheelchairs.
  • Ramps.
  • Large print.
  • Cars with hand controls and/or wheelchair lifts.
  • Text-to-speech communication devices.
  • VoiceOver and other screen reading software.
  • Signed languages.
  • Medications that manage symptoms.
  • Supportive seating.
  • The ADA, Section 504, IDEA and other disability rights laws.

People with disabilities are unique, and not interchangeable with each other. Similarly, kids the same age are unique, and not interchangeable with each other. Both the similarities and differences are important.

Tl;dr Sometimes progressive educators are uncomfortable with the concept of disability, and want to instead just see every kid’s uniqueness. That doesn’t work, because disability means having unusual differences — and because the differences aren’t unique; they’re shared with many other disabled people. Recognizing uniqueness isn’t enough — we also need to understand and accommodate disability.

“Can everybody hear me?”

Presenters often open by asking “Can everybody hear me?” or “Can everyone hear me without the microphone?”

This isn’t a very effective way to find out if everyone can hear you. It feels like asking, but it isn’t really — because it doesn’t usually give people the opportunity to say no.

If you want to know if everyone can hear you, this way of asking works better:

  • First, ask if everyone can hear you. This will get the attention of the people who can.
  • Next, ask everyone “Can the person next to you hear me?”
  • Wait 7 seconds for people to ask each other
  • Next, say, “Raise your hand if you or someone near you needs me to talk louder or use the microphone.”
  • Wait at least 7 seconds before moving on. 
  • (7 seconds feels really long as a presenter. It helps to literally count silently to yourself).

Asking this way solves two problems:

It makes it easier for people to hear the question:

  • If someone can’t hear you well, they may not hear “Can everybody hear me?”
  • This can give you the misleading impression that everyone can hear you.
  • When you ask, “Can everybody hear me?” the people who can, tend to respond “yes” immediately
  • The people who *can’t* hear you well, often don’t hear the question.
  • Or they may not understand what you’ve said until you’ve already moved on.
  • But they probably *can* hear people who are close to them talking to them directly.
  • Asking “can the person next to you hear me?” makes it more likely that people who can’t hear you will understand the question.

It makes it easier for people to respond to the question:

  • Saying “Can everybody hear me?” or “Can everyone hear me without the microphone?” *feels* like asking, but often it really isn’t. 
  • The problem is that asking that way doesn’t give people an obvious socially acceptable way to respond.
  • So in order for people to say “I can’t hear you” or “I need you to use the microphone”, they have to interrupt you.
  • Which feels like a conflict, and most people don’t want to go into a presentation and immediately have a conflict with the presenter.
  • It also makes them have to identify themselves as having an inconvenient impairment in front of the whole group.
  • That’s uncomfortable on a number of levels, and may be actively frightening. 
  • Not everyone is going to be willing or able to interrupt you or take risks. 
  • Even when people are willing, it’s still anxiety provoking in a way that’s likely to make your presentation less comfortable and effective
  • Giving people a clear way to respond gets you better information, and helps you to build a better rapport with your audience 
  • (And doing it in the specific way I suggest makes it possible for people to let you know they can’t hear you without having to interrupt you, identify themselves to you, or identify themselves to the whole group.)

Tl;dr If you’re giving a presentation, asking “Can everyone hear me?” probably won’t result in people who can’t hear you telling you so. Scroll up for more detailed information about a more effective approach and why it works better.

Braille is not a language

Braille is not a language. Braille is a system for making printed words accessible to blind people.

All braille looks the same visually. There is no bold or italic in braille, and there are no fonts or scripts.  Braille is always read left-to-right, even in languages that are printed right to left. Languages that are printed in different alphabets still look the same in Braille.

For example, even though Hebrew and English look dramatically different in print, they look the same in Braille. This can sometimes mislead sighted people into thinking that Braille is its own language, but it is not.

The only major difference between Braille and print is that Braille uses raised dots instead of visually distinct letters. (A minor difference: Braille uses a lot of contractions to make it less verbose.) 

Braille is not translation, and putting something into Braille does not change the meaning.

If an English book is brailled, it’s still in English, and it still has all of the same words. It hasn’t changed languages; it’s just been encoded in a way that makes it possible to read by feeling rather than seeing.

tl;dr Braille is not a language, and brailling books doesn’t change the meaning, Braille just makes it possible to read with your hands.

Rebuilding what was built incorrectly

Most of our social infrastructure was built incorrectly. It was built on the assumption that everyone is basically physically and cognitively similar, and that people who aren’t need to go away and be someone else’s problem.

People with disabilities have been treated as disposable. Children have been kept out of school; adults have been excluded from higher education. People have been institutionalized, and many are still stuck in institutions. 

People live without freedom, and are kept from their communities. People are forced to stay unemployed rather than supported in finding work that they can do. Disabled people have been harmed in any number of ways.

It has always been wrong to exclude people with disabilities like this, and in recent years, more people have come to understand that it is wrong. Accessibility and inclusion are on the table much more often than they used to be (in significant part, because the disability rights community has insisted that they be there.) 

Part of what we have to do is be willing to be inclusive, and be willing to change things for the sake of access. That’s necessary — and it’s also not enough. There are a lot of access needs that we flat-out don’t know how to meet right now. For some people, nothing we currently know how to do is good enough.
In order to build a more accessible and inclusive culture, we’re going to have to create things that don’t currently exist. We need better infrastructure and support. We need better technology. We need more resources, and more understanding that funding disability needs to be a priority. We need research and development, we need to learn a lot of things that we don’t currently know. 

The only way to get better at accessibility and inclusion is to start from where we are, and to commit to getting better at it. We can’t wait to be ready; we will never be ready. What we can do is understand that the people who are still being excluded matter, and keep building the things that need to exist.

Some inclusion requires ongoing effort

Inclusion means a lot of different things. Sometimes inclusion can be passive, sometimes it needs setup, and sometimes it needs ongoing effort and/or expense.

Sometimes inclusion is passive. In that sense, it’s the opposite of active exclusion.

Some examples of passive inclusion:

  • Meeting in a building that happens to be accessible.
  • Not harassing disabled people with intrusive unwanted “help”
  • Seeing a conspicuously disabled adult alone in a public space without assuming it’s somehow an emergency or that they’ve escaped from needed supervision. (And therefore not bothering them.)
  • Raising no objection when people bring service dogs into a store or some other place
  • Not having an admissions policy that prohibits people with certain disabilities from enrolling in a school

Sometimes to get to passive inclusion, you have to spend some time changing one thing or setting it up. After the temporary period of active change, the inclusion becomes passive.

Some examples of inclusion that requires setup, but may not require ongoing active effort:

  • Building a wheelchair ramp
  • (Or renovating an unsafe ramp and bringing it up to code)
  • Hiring an architect knowledgable about accessibility when you’re building a new building
  • Making your book available on Bookshare 
  • Changing a restrictive admissions policy

Sometimes there is no passive way to include people. Sometimes inclusion means active ongoing effort or expense

A couple examples of active inclusion:


  • Some people need captioning to understand speech reliably. (Including many people who can hear).
  • Captioning takes time and human effort. Computers can’t do it; it has to be done by people.
  • Live captioning has to be done by experts (in CART or TypeWell), and it’s inherently expensive.  
  • CART or TypeWell captioning events/classes in real time takes time, effort and expertise. It is inherently expensive.
  • High quality captioning also requires ongoing collaborative effort with the providers - people doing the captioning need to understand the words you’re saying in order to transcribe them accurately. So they need  to be provided with any acronyms, technical vocabulary, or culturally specific words you will be using.
  • If videos and events/classes aren’t captioned, a lot of people are passively excluded.
  • There’s no cheap or passive way to include them. Inclusion requires effort and resources.

Alternative format materials:

  • Some people can’t read standard print.
  • In order to access education or events involving print, they need materials in an accessible format
  • (Eg: electronic copies, braille, scans, large print, audio recordings, or something else, depending on the person)
  • Someone has to convert materials to an accessible format, every single time. This is inherently time consuming, and may in some cases require expertise or expensive equipment. 
  • Every time materials aren’t converted, print disabled people are excluded. 
  • There is no passive way to include print disabled people.
  • Inclusion of print disabled people is only possible when communities and schools and teachers are willing to put effort, time, and resources into inclusion.

There are many, many more examples of all three types of inclusion. When we talk about inclusion, the conversation needs to be about all three. Passive inclusion, setup inclusion, and active inclusion are all vitally important. People with disabilities are worthy of time and money.

Tl;dr Sometimes inclusion is easy and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes inclusion means that you stop actively excluding people, and include them by letting them be. Sometimes inclusion means setting something an access feature initially, then including people by letting them be. Sometimes inclusion takes ongoing effort and expense. Sometimes inclusion means you stop passively excluding people, and start actively including them. All of these forms of inclusion are vitally important.

Access straw men

A lot of people are reluctant to change anything for the sake of accessibility, even if the change would be inexpensive and easy. Often, they resist even considering the possibility that there are changes they could make that would enable a broader range of people to participate.

Often, they set up access strawmen as a way to avoid negotiating access. 

Those conversations go like this:

  • The disabled person asks for a modification of some sort.
  • The resistant person ignores the actual request.
  • They instead describe something vaguely related that’s obviously unreasonable.
  • Then they insinuate that the disabled person asked them for the obviously unreasonable thing
  • They implore the disabled person to be more flexible and reasonable
  • The disabled person generally doesn’t get their needs met, and often ends up disoriented and feeling a lot of shame

An example:

  • Douglas: I can’t climb stairs. I need class to be held in a room on the first floor.
  • Roger: It sounds like what you really need is for all the buildings to be rebuilt for you. I can’t rebuild all the buildings; I have to focus on teaching.

Or sometimes:

  • Dawn: I can only read lips if people are looking at me. Can we talk about how to make class discussions work?
  • Robin: I can’t stop other students from talking to each other. Why don’t you take this opportunity to work on your listening skills?

When a person with a disability asks for an accommodation in school, work, a conference, or wherever, don’t set up a straw man to reject. Respond to the actual problem, and try to find a solution. Is there  a way to do the thing they’re asking for? If not, why not? Is there something else you *could* do that would work? Occasionally there is no good solution; more often, there is a way to make things work. When people in positions of responsibility are willing to look for access solutions and put effort into implementing them, a lot of things become possible.

People with disabilities are worthy of money and effort

In the part of special education community that promotes inclusive education, I often hear advocates say things like “inclusion doesn’t have to be hard,” “inclusion doesn’t have to be expensive,” and “inclusion doesn’t require special skills.”

This isn’t really true, unless we exclude a lot of people from “inclusion”. Some access needs are easy to meet; many are not. We can bring some people in without too much trouble. In order to commit to full inclusion, we’re going to have to be willing to spend money, acquire expertise, do hard things, and make changes.

For instance, people who can’t rely on speech as their primary means of communication need support learning to communicate. This is inherently expensive:

  • They usually need expensive devices
  • (The cheapest good option is an iPad with a $200 app; some people need dedicated devices that cost upwards of $10,000.) 
  • They also usually need therapy
  • Having a communication device doesn’t solve all of someone’s problems; they also have to learn how to use it
  • (And they usually need help learning how)
  • Or they need something like RPM, which is low-tech but requires twice-daily 1:1 lessons which use scripts that generally have to be prepared in advance specifically for that student.
  • If they are in school, they need teachers who know how to teach them (which generally means that experts have to teach their teachers how.)
  • AAC communication is slower, and can be hard to interpret
  • Inclusion doesn’t happen automatically; teachers have to learn how to make sure AAC users are able to participate and be heard in class
  • (Eg: If someone isn’t using complete sentences yet, it can be hard to know what they mean. You have to be willing and able to do the work of helping them to clarify).
  • (And: if someone responds slowly, you have to proactively make sure they get a chance to express their thoughts in class discussions)
  • All of this requires money, expertise, effort, and willingness to change
  • If we’re only willing to consider cheap options, people who need communication support are left behind

Another example: People need to be able to get into the building

  • Many buildings were built incorrectly
  • They may have large flights of stairs at all entrances
  • They may have many floors that can only be reached by stairs
  • They may not have any accessible bathrooms
  • The bathrooms may all be too small to enter in a wheelchair (which means there’s no way to fix them without moving walls)
  • All of the doors may be big and heavy
  • Often, there’s no cheap way to fix this
  • There may be inexpensive starting places; we can’t stop there
  • If we care about including people with mobility disabilities, we have to be willing to spend money to fix buildings
  • We have to hire architects who have expertise in accessibility
  • We have to make sure that people with mobility disabilities are part of the conversation, even if no one with a mobility disability has expressed interest in accessing the building recently
  • We have to be willing to make changes that make the building look different, in ways that may mean changing or destroying things that longtime users of the building are emotionally attached to.

We can start with the low hanging fruit; we should not pretend that all fruit is low-hanging. A lot of access needs are inherently expensive. There are a lot of needs that no one even knows how to meet yet; the expertise we need does not yet exist. If we want to commit to full inclusion of children with disabilities in schools; if we want to fully include adults in all aspects of society, we need to be in it for the long haul.

tl;dr In order to stop excluding people with disabilities, we’re going to have to spend money. We’re going to have to bring in expertise and develop expertise. We’re going to have to do difficult things. We’re going to have to make changes. We’re going to have to start seeing this as normal. People with disabilities are worthy of money and effort.

A thought on making difference ok




One issue with accommodations and modifications in school, is that it can often be hard to avoid stigma. Kids don’t usually like being singled out or doing things conspicuously differently. Also, nondisabled kids often resent it when disabled kids are allowed to do things that they are not allowed to do.

Further, one frequent objection to accommodations is “but if I let one kid do this, then all the other kids will want to.”

Sometimes that’s true — and, often, the best solution to that problem is to just let all the kids do whatever the thing is. Sometimes there’s no good reason to restrict access to something. Sometimes changing the rule works better than making exceptions to it.

One way that something works to correct this problem is to make some of their accommodations available to other kids who would like to try them. The kid who has a documented need for accommodations probably isn’t the only one who would benefit from them.

And even aside from that, it’s good for kids to explore the world and experiment with different ways of doing things. This is a good way to learn that difference is normal, and that doing things differently is a basic fact of life.

For instance, if one kid needs to use manipulatives for math, maybe try making manipulatives available to all the kids.

If one kid needs a large print worksheet, maybe make a few large print copies and let kids try doing it that way.

If one kid needs to chew stuff, maybe make things available for other kids to chew.

If one kid needs to use fidget toys, maybe make them available to all the kids who would like to try it.

If one kid needs to type, and you have the resources to make that available to other kids too, maybe let them try doing assignments that way. And let the kids that works better for continue to do it.

And, beyond that, it helps to get in the habit of providing different ways to do things even when there isn’t a kid who needs them as a specific accommodation.

Not in the sense of “take a walk in the disabled kid’s shoes”, this is not a disability simulation. The point shouldn’t be empathy building, and it should not be presented as being about the disabled kid. The message is “there are a lot of legitimate ways to do things, and it’s ok to experiment and figure out what works for you, even if most people don’t do it the same way as you”.

You can’t always do this, and you can’t always do this for everything. When you can, it helps, a lot.

mmmyoursquid said:

I think this is implied in the post, but just to make it explicit: disabled kids without diagnoses or paperwork are still disabled. You can’t accommodate them without making accommodations available to kids without paperwork.

The other stuff is right and important too, I just thought that could use highlighting.

alv529 said:

Yes to all of this. The main reason other students in my class were upset with me for being ahead of them and two of my friends for getting extra help due to dyslexia and disability? That we got to do something they didn’t get to try. Not that I was “too clever” or “thought I was better than them”, or that my friends were “bad readers”, “stupid” or “not learning fast enough”.

If the other 10-14 kids in my tiny primary school class had been allowed to try my middle school level school books, or had been allowed to try my friends’s dyslexia friendly font books, I’m absolutely certain they wouldn’t have kicked up a fuss like they did. Because they would have realised that my books were too advanced for them, and my friends’s books were basically the same as theirs, but with a different font and sometimes with shorter paragraphs.

Safety vs making people feel safe

There are all kinds of affective things and cognitive tricks you can learn that make it more likely that people will trust you and feel safe.

It is possible to get really, really good at that without actually learning how to be trustworthy. You can be really, really good at making people feel safe, and still be a danger to people who trust you.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to focusing on trying to make people feel safe.

Often, it’s much better to focus on learning how to be trustworthy. Two major components of being trustworthy are paying close attention to practical safety; and listening to the people whose safety might be impacted.

For example:

If you want to know what’s dangerous, it’s important to seek out the perspectives of people you’re trying to create safety for. This isn’t something you can do completely on your own.

Part of this is seeking out writing about danger and safety by members of the affected group, or advocacy organizations run by members of the affected group. Another part of this is listening to the individual people who you are actually interacting with about their needs.

It’s important to communicate effectively about the things you are doing that might make trusting you a good idea.

It’s important to talk about safety improvements to make sure people know about them. (Eg: if you fixed a dangerous ramp, people need to know that it has been fixed). It’s also important to communicate your willingness to listen to people about their needs and fix things that are endangering them. It has to be true, and you have to do things to communicate that it’s true. It does not go without saying; willingness to listen and address safety issues in practical terms is actually fairly uncommon.

If you focus on practical safety through proactive research and listening to affected members of your community, you can get very far in building safe and welcoming community even if people do not feel safe.

Some people who do not feel safe still care very much about being there, and are willing to take risks in order to participate. It’s important to honor and accept that.

Some people aren’t ever going to feel safe. (And some of them will be right.) It’s important to accept them as they are, and not make feeling safe a prerequisite for participating.

tl;dr “Making people feel safe” is often the wrong approach. Focusing on being safe often matters a lot more. Some people don’t believe that they are safe, and are willing to take risks in order to participate. They should be allowed to have that perception. They should not be pressured into feeling safe as a prerequisite for participation.

Does anyone know how to get rid of the anon captcha?

Recently, when I do anonymous asks to you, I have to fill out a capcha to prove I’m not a robot. First it just has me click a box saying I’m not a robot. Then if I take a minute or so to type in my ask, it says my session has expired and I have to answer difficult questions about pictures, e.g. type the text and it’s really hard to see the text, or recognize which pictures are of sushi and it shows a bunch of complicated photos of food. So far I was able to answer them but they were hard.

realsocialskills said:

Oh no, that’s awful. I didn’t change anything about my theme, so it must be related to the new Tumblr update.

I don’t want it to do that, and I’m not sure how to make it stop.

(Two options for people who can’t get anon to work and don’t want their name posted:

  • Send me an ask off anon and tell me not to publish your name
  • Send me an email at (I assume that all emails are intended to stay anonymous unless someone says otherwise)

Does anybody know how to make the captcha go away?

Making reading assignments clear to students who use electronic formats

When reading assignments are assigned in the form “Read pages 75-100 in the Book of Subject Relevance”, it creates a problem for students who use electronic formats such as Kindle or Bookshare. Those formats often do not include page numbers, and it can be difficult-to-impossible to know what to read just by seeing page numbers.

There’s a simple solution that allows students to do the assignment:

  • If you’re assigning a whole chapter, tell students which chapter you mean.
  • eg: “Read Chapter 3 in the Book of Subject Relevance (pages 75-100).
  • If you’re not assigning whole chapters, include the first and last sentence in the assignment.
  • This allows students to use the search function to find the place you’re talking about.
  • eg: “Read pages 75-100 in the Book of Subject Relevance. (From “I have a slightly plausible theory.” through “In conclusion, I have shown that I am definitely right.”)

It’s good to also include the page numbers, because that’s better for students who use the print edition, and it gives all students a sense of how much reading there is.

tl;dr Giving reading assignments in page numbers causes a problem for students who aren’t reading the print edition. There’s a simple solution to this. Scroll up for details.

Electricity is an access issue (short version)

A lot of people with disabilities need reliable access to electricity. If you don’t make electricity continuously available at your event, your event is not accessible.

Some people need electricity in order to breathe. Some people need electricity to be able to move across a room. Some people need electricity for life sustaining medical treatments. Some people need electricity to communicate.

All of these people, and anyone else with an access need for electricity, should be welcome at your event. They can be, if you make proper plans and make sure that electricity will be reliably available. 

(For further details, see this post.)

Electricity is an accessibility issue

When you’re planning an event, conference, venue, retreat center, house of worship, community center, or similar, it’s important to keep in mind that many people need reliable access to electricity in order to be able to participate. A choice to build or use a venue without reliable electricity is a choice to exclude people with disabilities.

Access to electricity is always important, but it’s especially important for overnight events or multi-day conferences. Many people with disabilities absolutely depend on electricity to be able to participate in events.

Here are some people you’re excluding if you choose or build a venue without reliable electricity:

People who use electric wheelchairs or mobility scooters:

  • Power chairs do not have infinite battery power
  • They have large batteries that have to be charged overnight
  • Charging them takes a lot of power
  • Minimalist electricity isn’t enough. Having a generator available for a few hours in the evening will not make a conference without electricity accessible to people who need to charge large batteries
  • If people can’t charge their chairs at your event, then you’re excluding power chair users.

High-tech AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) users:

  • Not everyone can talk.
  • Some people who can talk can’t reliably use speech to communicate
  • Many people use high-tech speech-generating devices to communicate
  • (For example, some people use apps such as Speak For Yourself on an iPad, or a dedicated device such as a DynaVox)
  • High-tech AAC devices only work if they are charged
  • The batteries aren’t infinite. Devices need to be charged overnight and some may also need to be charged during the day.
  • If your venue doesn’t have reliable electricity, people who need to keep their communication devices charged can’t participate
  • A choice to hold an event in a venue without reliable electricity is a choice to exclude people with communication disabilities who use speech generating devices to communicate

People who use ventilators and other breathing equipment:

  • Everyone needs to breathe
  • Not everyone can breathe adequately on their own
  • Some people need ventilators, bipaps, or other breathing equipment
  • People who use breathing equipment also do things besides sit at home and breathe, like go to conferences or other events you might be planning
  • People need to breathe while they do things like go to your event, which means they probably need to be able to plug in their machines
  • Machines can run off of batteries, but no battery has infinite power. Reliable access to electricity is important. No one should have to worry about where their next breath is coming from because they can’t find an electrical outlet.
  • If your venue doesn’t have reliable electricity, people who need machines to breathe can’t safely participate in your events
  • If you choose to hold your event in a location without reliable electricity, you’re choosing to exclude people with disabilities who need breathing support

People who need powered medical equipment:

  • Some people with chronic conditions need to do regular nebulizer treatments in order to keep their lungs functioning
  • Some people who eat through feeding tubes need powered infusion pumps to eat safely
  • Some people need to sleep with a CPAP in order to breathe at night
  • Some people use powered dialysis systems at night
  • If your venue doesn’t have reliable electricity, people who need powered medical equipment can’t safely participate.
  • If you choose to hold your event in a location without reliable electricity, you’re choosing to exclude people with disabilities or chronic conditions who rely on powered medical equipment


  • Some people rely on medication that needs to be refrigerated.
  • If you hold a conference in a venue with no electricity and no refrigeration, they can’t safely participate.
  • A choice to hold an event in a venue without electricity is a choice to exclude people who need medication which must be refrigerated.

Some specific considerations in making sure electricity is available:

  • There need to be available outlets in people’s rooms and in the public areas where events are happening
  • Make sure the outlets are available and in good working order
  • (A broken outlet will not charge someone’s wheelchair)
  • Neither will a two-prong outlet. Make sure three-prong outlets are available.
  • If the available outlets aren’t at the tables (or whatever other space) you’re using, make sure you have a three-prong extension cord that reaches them
  • An outlet on the other side of the room is better than nothing, but it’s still a barrier to full participation. Extension cords can often solve that problem.
  • (In any case, a long, three-pronged extension cord is a good thing to keep in your supply kit for events; there are a lot of situations in which they are useful)
  • If you can, arrange the room so that the outlets are near the tables you’ll be using (this is also helpful to people who need to charge computers and phones).

tl;dr Electricity is an accessibility issue. Having an event (and especially a conference) in a venue without reliable electricity excludes people with disabilities whose adaptive equipment requires electrical power.


Math without handwriting?



said to :

Do you or your followers know any math programs for people with hand pain? It’s very painful for me to handwrite, but I can’t understand math without doing problems over and over.

I’m not sure what to suggest; hopefully other people who read this…

mr-muppetface said:

I work in the academic resource center of a college, and I’ve helped a student with this very issue.

My first recommendation, on a PC, is Dragon Dictation paired with MathTalk. These two pieces of software have a fair bit of a learning curve and require purchasing, but once you’ve set them up, you can dictate mathematical expressions simply by talking!

If that doesn’t work, MathType (also on PC) allows you to write expressions with your keyboard and an on-screen toolbar.

It’s worth mentioning that neither of these methods, in my experience at least, allows the fluidity and spontaneity of working out problems by hand, since you have to think about what you’re going to say or type before you do so. That’s a real potential disadvantage, and I don’t know of any good ways to circumvent that.

If you’re a student and haven’t done so already, I strongly recommend checking in with your school’s academic support center or related office to see if they can help you out!

Math without handwriting?

 said to :

Do you or your followers know any math programs for people with hand pain? It’s very painful for me to handwrite, but I can’t understand math without doing problems over and over.

I’m not sure what to suggest; hopefully other people who read this will have ideas.

It might depend somewhat on what your goals are. Are you trying to gain a deeper understanding of math? To pass a particular class? To memorize certain calculations? To learn how to use applied math to solve physics problems? The answers might be different.

One thing to look into is using math computing software that calculates complex things. 

(Eg: Mathematica or Sage.) If you want to use applied math for complex things, that will eventually be necessary to use software anyway, and it might be necessary or helpful now if you can’t learn math in the usual way by writing out tons of problems. 

It’s not the same, and you probably couldn’t learn the same aspects of math that you’d learn by doing all of the problems yourself, but you’d learn other things that are worth knowing. (Similarly to how something is lost by using calculators, but something is gained too.)

There are probably other options that are closer to learning math by using paper and pencil, but I don’t know what they are. 

Does anyone else know good options for learning math for people who have hand pain or otherwise can’t readily use paper and pen to work out problems?

Use the microphone

Microphones are important. 

Not everyone can hear and understand lectures without amplification. Microphones and sound systems allow many people to listen to talks they would otherwise be unable to understand.

For some reason, many people who have loud voices try to avoid using the microphones. They will say that their ability to project makes the microphone unnecessary. Often, they refuse to use the microphone, and many members of the audience can’t hear what they are saying.

Do not be that guy. The sound system is there for a reason. The event organizers decided that it was needed in order to make the lecture accessible to others. Don’t unilaterally undo that. Use the microphone, unless you’ve agreed in advance on an alternative way to make the lecture accessible.

Some concrete reasons that people who refuse to use microphones make their talks inaccessible:

  • No matter how loud your voice is, it only comes from one point in the room. Speakers can distribute it and make it more understandable in other parts of the room
  • Loop systems project sounds from the microphone into people’s hearing aides, and they only work if you speak into the microphone. No matter how good you are at projecting, people who need the sound to be right by their ear will not be able to understand you if you don’t use the microphone.
  • Your voice may not be as loud as you think it is; that’s hard to judge from the inside, and it’s very easy to overestimate your skill at projecting.

In particular, do not start your talk without a microphone and ask if everyone can hear you:

  • People who can’t hear you without the microphone probably can’t hear you and react quickly when you ask a question like that.
  • Asking if everyone can hear you as a way to check whether you need a microphone is like saying “raise your hand if you don’t understand English”. It’s not going to get you a useful response
  • It’s also really uncomfortable to contradict a speaker at the beginning of their talk. No one is likely to want to say “actually, no, I can’t hear you and you need to use the microphone even though you obviously don’t want to”.
  • Similarly, many people with disabilities don’t like drawing attention to their access needs. If you refuse to use a microphone, you’re effectively saying that some people have to choose between their right to access your lecture and their right to privacy. Don’t do that to people.
  • Your audience probably contains people who need you to use the microphone.
  • That’s why it’s there.
  • Use the microphone.

If there is a good reason that using a microphone is a problem for you, talk to the organizers ahead of time. Sometimes there are competing access needs, and that’s not your fault. People who have an access need that makes microphone use complicated or impossible also have the right to speak publicly. (Eg: If you can’t hold a microphone; it hurts to hold it; it makes you unable to speak coherently; etc) It’s just not ok to decide to ignore other people’s access needs on the spur of the moment. It’s important to either work out another solution with the organizers (eg: maybe a wireless clip-on microphone would work?), or else warn people ahead of time so that people won’t come to a lecture that they won’t be able to understand.

If you are an event organizer - be aware that some speakers will probably try to refuse to use the microphone. It’s important to insist that they use it anyway. It helps to have an explicit microphone policy and explain it to speakers, but some people will still probably try to give their talks without microphones. It’s possible, and important, to be firm about this and insist that everyone use the microphone unless they’ve made an alternative arrangement ahead of time.

tl;dr Microphones are important even if you have a loud voice and know how to project. If you refuse to use the microphone, it makes the talk inaccessible to some people who want to listen to you. Asking a room full of people if everyone can hear you without the microphone doesn’t solve this problem. (If you have an access need that complicates microphone use, it’s important to either find a solution or warn people that a microphone will not be used. This should not be decided on the spur of the moment.) If you’re running an event, it’s important to be assertive about insisting that speakers use the microphone.

Accessibility is more valuable than paper

Sometimes, when organizations need to make hard copies of things, they try to save paper by making the print tiny. This is an accessibility problem.

For example:

  • Printing copies of a song you want to teach in a small font so that you can get four copies out of a single piece of paper
  • Reducing the size of a flier so you can fit four on a page
  • Passing out sheets of instructions in very small print

This does save paper. It also excludes a lot of people. Not everyone can read 8 point text. Most people above a certain age can’t read that, and many younger people can’t either. Those people matter more than a few sheets of paper.

If it’s important enough to make copies, it’s important to make copies that everyone who needs the information can read.

If you must make the copies small, make a few large copies available for people who need them.

wheeliewifee : 
  Know Your Rights: Voting While Disabled  
  •  You have the right to an accessible voting location- with a loading area, clearly marked ramps and accessible entrances.  
   •You have the right to request a chair while waiting in line. ( or curbside-voting in some locations, call your local  Election Commission  for details ) 
   •   You have the right to vote on an accessible voting machine  .  
   •   You have the right to assistive technology, including: a qualified reader, information in large print or braille; accessible electronic information; audio recordings of printed information, Video Remote Interpreting, captioning, and more.  
   •   You also have the right to have anyone you choose assist you in the voting booth, including a poll worker  .  
  Reminder— you will need to ASK for these accommodations, they will not be offered to you.   
   If you run into any issues, contact the ACLU Voter Protection Hotline  at (877)   523-2792  
  Visit the following links for more information:  
 Please share this post/the graphic— especially if you are able-bodied/neurotypical!


Know Your Rights: Voting While Disabled

You have the right to an accessible voting location- with a loading area, clearly marked ramps and accessible entrances.

•You have the right to request a chair while waiting in line. (or curbside-voting in some locations, call your local Election Commission for details)

You have the right to vote on an accessible voting machine.
You have the right to assistive technology, including: a qualified reader, information in large print or braille; accessible electronic information; audio recordings of printed information, Video Remote Interpreting, captioning, and more.
You also have the right to have anyone you choose assist you in the voting booth, including a poll worker.
Reminder— you will need to ASK for these accommodations, they will not be offered to you. 

If you run into any issues, contact the ACLU Voter Protection Hotline at (877) 523-2792

Visit the following links for more information:

Please share this post/the graphic— especially if you are able-bodied/neurotypical!