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Archive | September, 2014

And…Kanye West Responds.

This is just my opinion…but based on this speech that Kanye West gave at his show on Monday night, I don’t think he gets it.

I could be wrong.

Thanks to The Daily Beast for the transcript of West’s rant:

“What I want you to do is I want you to run the video everyone’s talkin’ about where I so-called screamed at somebody and everything. I want you to run that, right, since this is such big media-press-news and everything that obviously they trying to demonize me for. It’s like, ‘Welcome to today’s news, ladies and gentlemen.’ We’ve got Americans getting killed on TV, kids getting killed every weekend in Chicago, unarmed people getting killed by police officers…

…It makes you just want to reflect on what are the things that are a little bit more sensationalized than others. I want to take this platform. If I didn’t have this last concert, maybe I would’ve tweeted something or put out a statement with a publicist, but I can talk directly to you—my fans. Because they’ve got this thing where they want the masses—people who’ve never heard my albms—to somehow read a headline that reads negative, and think that I’m a bad person or somethin’. I’m not judging, I’m just going to tell you who I am. I’m a married, Christian man. So, if you take someone that can go from being a rock star across the globe and everything and make the decision to pick one woman and raise a family, anyone here that’s married or that’s in a relationship knows that there’s enough things workin’ against you. I’m not going to make one of them Ben Affleck statements and shit.

But what I’m sayin’ is, you’ve got like 12 years that we put in positive music. How many people ever heard one of my songs on their way to work—they heard it, and it made them feel better? And on those songs that made them feel better, don’t I say offensive shit here and there, like, so wait a second, that’s my brand! I curse and say really offensive… wait a second. That’s why when I did ‘Runaway’ earlier, I said, ‘I sent ya a picture of my dick…’ what did ya think when y’all heard that? That’s not G-rated! This is rap fuckin’ music! This is real expression. This is real artistry. You know, an artist’s career doesn’t happen in one cycle of news—an artist’s career happens in a lifetime. And if you’re a true artist, you’re willing to die for what you believe in.

And I don’t know if you feel like this, or give this feeling after the 10, 11, 12 years, but does it seem like in any way I might be slightly a true artist? So, people on the Today show, I’m not sure I keep up with the news, but if Michael Strahan is still at the Today show—no, Good Morning America, Matt Lauer, the girls on The View—Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Roberts, if y’all run this, take a step back and look at this: I’m a married Christian man with a family. At my concerts, I make sure everybody has as good a time as possible. So all this demonizing me, it ain’t goin’ to work after a while. Pick a new target. Pick a new target. Because I’m not one of these dumbass artists that you’re used to. You come at me, I’m going to take my platform and break this shit down for real, intelligent people every night. And then, we’ll get back to the music.”

 

I might come back to this, I might not. Right now it’s just making my head hurt.

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Kanye West’s Treatment of Disabled People Proves that He Really is a Jack-Ass

“He’s a jack-ass.”

President Obama is speaking, in this clip from off-the-record portion of a 2009 CNBC interview that was later leaked, about singer Kanye West. It was right after West had jumped onstage at the 2009 Music Video Awards and interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video category, insisting that Beyonce’s video in that category was “one of the best of all time.”

More recently, Obama publicly called Kanye West a jack-ass in an article in The Atlantic…a talented jack-ass, but a jack-ass.

I know pretty much nothing about Kanye West (expect that he married one of the Kardashians, because it was difficult to miss that story this summer), but the Taylor Swift incident pretty much had me and just about everyone I know convinced that he’s just astoundingly arrogant and really not a person in whom I’m all that interested. But even I couldn’t miss the news of his apparent need to get the disability community’s attention last week.

You got our attention, Kanye West. Congratulations on a job well done, jack-ass.

Setting the Scene: September 10, 2014, Melbourne, Australia

You’ve paid good money for a ticket to a Kanye West concert on his “Yeezus” tour. (Your guess is as good as mine.) You’re wearing a cast.

When the song “Good Life” comes on, West stops the music and claims that he can’t go on until everyone in the audience is standing…unless you’re handicapped, and willing to pull out your “handicapped pass” right now.  He walks around the stage asking seated people why they’re not standing.

Since you’re wearing a cast, he tells you that it’s okay for you to stay seated.

But it gets worse.

Setting the Scene: September 12, 2014, Syndey, Australia

It’s September 12 in Sydney, Australia. You’ve paid good money for a ticket to a Kanye West concert on his “Yeezus” tour. You’re using a wheelchair.

Again, when the song “The Good Life” comes on, the music stops, and Kanye West demands that everyone stand…unless you “got a handicap pass” and “get special parking and s**t”. You are one of the two that he zones in on as not standing up – the other is man that uses a prosthetic, that he waves in the air as proof of not being able to stand. Despite audience members around you yelling that you’re in a wheelchair and making motions like they are in a wheelchair, and despite Kanye West saying that if you’re in a wheelchair, it’s okay if you don’t stand up, he sends a bodyguard to check to make sure that you are indeed in a wheelchair.

Onstage, West says, “This is the longest I’ve had to wait to do this song. This is unbelievable.”

Once he’s sure that the people who aren’t standing up are in wheelchairs, he goes on with the song.

Washington Post Article on the Sydney Incident

Let’s Talk About Kanye West and How He Treats His Disabled Fans

Now, just to start with…I really resent the idea of being told how I have to enjoy the music at a concert, just as a matter of principle. The first concert I went to, I was at the start of a stomach virus. While I managed not to throw up, I was fairly nauseous through the whole thing, and I don’t remember standing up a whole lot, and I don’t know how pleasant it would have been for everyone if someone had made me.

I don’t know how much a ticket to a Kanye West concert goes for, but I’d imagine it’s probably more money than I spend on a couple of weeks worth of groceries right now, and I’ll be damned if I, as a member of the audience whose financial support even allows the performer to tour, am going to be told by said performer, “If you don’t do it my way, I’m not going to play.”

Whatever. It almost…almost…makes me want to buy a ticket to one of his concerts so that I can remain sitting down when he insists that I have to stand up, just because I have the right to do so. I’m really rubbed the wrong way by this.

However, there’s a larger issue here, and Scott Jordan Harris sums it up quite nicely:

“Kanye West gave so little thought to disabled people that he was surprised to find two among an audience of thousands. When he did, he felt it was his right as an able-bodied person to determine whether those people met his personal standard for disability. This attitude comes from the belief that public spaces belong to the able-bodied and that disabled people can only ever trespass in them.”

What did these disabled people get for daring to buy a ticket to a Kanye West concert?

  • They were shamed because they couldn’t stand
  • They were centred out in front of an entire concert venue audience on the basis of their disabilities
  • They had to “prove” that they were disabled to Kanye West before he’d continue the performance
  • Because *he* needed the proof, they were made to feel like they were holding up the concert

Not only would I have left, I would have asked for my money back.

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that Kanye West hasn’t given any thought to what his behaviour says about how he views disabled people and their place in the world. The man obviously needs a separate tour bus for his ego.

What still should at least give us pause is that society doesn’t think all that differently than Kanye West does:

“He can walk fine…why has he got a sticker?” I’ve heard people say, watching someone walk from their car parked in the disabled parking spot to a store door.

“That person’s not disabled enough to get benefits. Scrounger.” I don’t like to think about how many people in England have heard this said over the last few years, possibly about them when they were in earshot.

“Why is he using a scooter? I’ve seen him walk.” I’ve heard this a lot about disabled people in my community who end up using scooters instead of manual or electric wheelchairs.

Many non-disabled people (and sometimes even among other disabled people) seem to think that they have the right to declare, based on what they think disability should look like, whether it’s “okay” for  a person to do/not do certain things, act/not act in certain ways, have/not have certain supports…it doesn’t always come with the arrogance of Kanye West declaring it’s “okay” that you remain seated once you’ve proven that you can’t stand up from a wheelchair, but even the more subtle manifestations are still a reminder that there’s a perception out there that if disabled people expect to participate in society, we should expect to have to prove that we’re “disabled enough” to the general public every now and then.

No.

There are very few people to whom I have to prove that I’m disabled. They are service providers that need proof of disability so that I can start/keep receiving some sort of service. I’m not crazy about this, but it’s part of life, it’s fairly infrequent, and I deal with it.

I do not have to prove that I’m disabled to a person on the street, another disabled person, or anyone else that I don’t want to. That includes Kanye West and any other jack-ass pop-singer whose ego is so fragile that he can’t bear not to have every single person in the audience up and dancing during a performance.

I’m nearly 37 and I’m too old for this crap – from Kanye West and anyone else. But let’s just say I have further incentive not to buy any of any Kanye West’s albums.

 

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Thoughts on Inclusion and Intellectually Disabled People

Thoughts on Inclusion and

Intellectually Disabled People

Shiny green push button with shiny grey border, "inclusion" in uppercase black letters across button. Keyword: intellectual disabilities.
Recently, in an internet  discussion group to which I belong, we were debating all things inclusion for intellectually disabled people.

Inclusion vs. Segregation for Intellectually Disabled People

It was an interesting experience for me, because I’ve never really heard people defend the argue the idea that moving toward community-based housing and employment and out of institutions, group homes and sheltered workshops potentially violates the ideals of person-centred planning, and that institutional residential and employment arrangements aren’t segregated…that they are, in fact, a better option for intellectually disabled people than more community-based alternatives.

I was one of the ones arguing in favour of more inclusive practices when supporting intellectually disabled people which probably doesn’t shock anyone. Out of the three of us “inclusion types” that were talking the most, though, I was definitely the moderate one. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with a lot of parents and seen how scared they are for their intellectually disabled childrens’ safety once they leave the home, that the constant supervision of a group home or even a more institution-like setting (Ontario doesn’t have institutions anymore, but I understand that other areas still do) becomes attractive. I can see the other side, while still firmly coming down on the idea that it’s more desirable that all disabled people , including intellectually disabled people, be as much a part as the community as possible, and that institutions, group homes, and sheltered workshops tend to work against that.

The Argument Against Community-Based Placements for Intellectually Disabled People

But, said the people arguing the other side, what if people are more comfortable in those environments and they don’t want to leave? You are taking away their choice. You are telling them, “Inclusion is the right way, and you’d better get on board, even if it means leaving your home/workplace and your friends and all the things that make you feel comfortable.” It wasn’t about segregation, they argued. It was about really listening to intellectually disabled people and what they wanted out of life.

And wow, did it ever take off from there.

We got into questions of whether people can actually make an informed choice if they haven’t experienced the alternatives, whether social systems stream intellectually disabled people into segregated settings and when that starts if people do believe that it happens (I do believe it happens, practically from the time that a child is officially identified in school as having an intellectual disability), whether disabled people having other disabled friends is “inclusive”, and medical intervention versus “warehousing” when a person does have to spend time in an institution. We talked about caregiver rights. It got heated, sometimes a little nasty. People were very passionate about their positions.

The other, less moderate gentleman and I tried to explain our positions on all this several times, but I didn’t feel like I was being understood…I’d venture a guess that the people on the other side of the debate were feeling the same way, from the tone of the discussion, but it seemed to me that we were all ultimately working toward the same goals. I was puzzled as to where we were going sideways.

What I Do Know – How I Support Intellectually Disabled People in My Work

I’m not interested in fixing a situation that isn’t broken to begin with, including moving someone out of an institution, group home, or sheltered workshop if they haven’t indicated that they’d like to move and they’d like my help to do so.  There are some situations where, unfortunately, people have to move out of places because of issues related to safety and violations of rights, like when people were moved into community settings when institutions started to close in Ontario, or when medical issues arise that require specialized interventions that can only be delivered in a hospital or, say, inpatient mental health services setting, or when families are in crisis to the point where they can’t care for an intellectually disabled family member anymore and that individual must by necessity take the first placement that opens and wait for a more suitable one.  These are tough situations, involving the health and well-being of the individual, and sometimes that has to take priority over whether a placement is community-based.

However, how can a truly person answer, “Do you want to continue living in a group home or live (or work toward living) in your own place?” or “Do you want to stay at the workshop or try to get a job somewhere else?” if they’ve never experienced anything but living in a group home or working in a sheltered workshop (or at least never had it explained to them that there are different ways that people live and work than what they’ve experienced and that they have to right, as citizens, to try these things if they want?) Maybe it doesn’t happen tomorrow, because maybe there are skills that need development and supports that need to be put in place…maybe it takes a long time to work up to being ready to live independently…and maybe it even doesn’t work the first time out because it’s too overwhelming…

But intellectually disabled people should have the right to take risks, and it’s not the worst thing in the world for them to experience disappointment. And you never know – what you think is going to turn out terribly (and I’ve been there in my work, when an intellectually disabled person that I support has announced intentions to do something and I’ve just wilted inside, thinking, “Wow, there’s no way this is going to work”) may actually turn out wonderfully for all involved. I’ve seen this happen too.

One interesting thing I noticed about this discussion was that sometimes it felt like each side was criticizing the other for the same thing:

  • There are too many rules and the individual doesn’t get to make them
  • People fall through the cracks and that leads to bad service and potential abuse

I took two classes on person-centred planning for my Developmental Services Worker Diploma, and have been exposed to it as a philosophy of support for as long as I’ve been in this field (over half my life). I’ve never taken it to mean that it’s about making choices for people, or even influencing them a certain way. Yes, it’s unfortunate that intellectually disabled people (all disabled people) are at the mercy of whatever current trends are shaping the services that they use, and if that means that means that a person has to leave a group home or sheltered workshop (or move into a group home or institution setting if you’re living in England, or even in Canada – loss of control is a theme for disabled people the world over, it just manifests in different ways sometimes), but when I worked with youth I told them:

“We’ll talk about what your options are, we’ll make a plan, and then we’ll talk to the people who can put the plan in place. If you ever want to change the plan, just say so, and we will. This is your life.”

Part of the process was, “If you don’t like doing something that we’ve set up, tell me, and it doesn’t go any further. It stops there.”

The individual always set the course. Why wouldn’t they? It was their life, not mine.

When families are involved, that kind of process is difficult.  It takes a bit of negotiation sometimes, particularly if the person was under 18 and not considered an adult. In the group discussion, I didn’t get into how my first responsibility was to the individual (with some exceptions dictated by legalities around age). It didn’t seem like a discussion that would be welcome among parents in the group.

I don’t use a specific person-centred planning tool, but I use the methodology, and didn’t understand the objections to it in the discussion.

And if you want to argue that people don’t fall through the cracks and that abuse doesn’t happen in residential settings, then I’ve got a long list of articles that you need to read.

I left the conversation when it was obvious that it was getting personal and not going much further, but not before I posted this:

I don’t know whether it was this thread or another that I wrote about Special Olympics, but I’ll say again that my experience of it is that intellectually disabled people get told, “This is a great chance for you to play sports” when some of them could definitely play sports on a level that would allow them to comfortably compete on a community league…certainly much better than I ever did before I acquired disabilities. I understand the reasons why people like SO, and it’s certainly a valuable program, and even if people can play in community leagues and would rather stick with SO for their own reasons…go for it. But people have the right to know all their options, if they’re interested in playing sports…that they have the right, as all community members do, to try community league play if they want, instead of having people assume that because they’re disabled, they “belong” in SO and that it’s the option they’d choose, so no others need to be talked about… but as far as whether people choose to associate with other disabled people, or non-disabled people, or a mixture of both, or hang out by themselves…not my call to judge their choices or to presume to tell them their choices are wrong. I just let them know what their options are and, if they want/need the help, assist them to set it all up (assuming I ever get work in this field again). Does that make sense?”

I think that there will always be some intellectually disabled people who require a level of care that’s more institutional in nature than inclusion advocates like me would like, because of specialized needs. I also think that there are ways of increasing agency and self-determination within these settings for providers who are really committed to doing so, and that the population who really requires this level of care is smaller than we assume. The thing that really bothered me about the arguments against community based-supports was that they seemed to minimize the fact that intellectually disabled people have rights – not rights that can be ignored or tweaked because of the individual’s disabilities to fit others’ needs, but rights that they have by virtue of being adults in our society.

We need to get back to presuming competence and finding ways to allowing intellectually disabled people to make truly informed life choices, not letting ourselves be afraid of individuals potentially making bad decisions.  We need to be okay with the lives of people we support getting a little (or even a lot) messy as they learn about being a community member and the rights and responsibilities that come along with that.

Ultimately Agreeing, But Still So Different

The thing that we all agreed on this discussion? That disabled people in general and intellectually disabled people in particular should drive the discussion in which services develop and change, and that they should have as much input as possible into that change process. I feel like we all had a lot more in common than anyone would guess at first guess. Just drastically different ideas of what that should look like, which was perhaps the most frustrating thing of all about the whole discussion.

Thoughts?

 

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