A row of lockers, focusing on the lock

The Benefits of Bullying

I have been delivering (questionably) motivational speeches for schools and community groups since the dawn of time, talking to kids about disability and encouraging them to challenge ableism in all its manifestations. After my talks, I usually do a Q&A with the students because I feel like it’s a more authentic way to talk about things and hope that if they can get answers to all their burning questions about disability it will help naturalize difference. Inevitably, a student will ask about bullying and if I have any suggestions on how to stop it. I honestly dread this question because I’ve never been quite sure how to respond. I usually sidestepped the question with a spiel about self-confidence, talking to friends/adults, and it getting easier with age. I knew it wasn’t a great answer, but bullying seemed (and still seems) like something so much bigger than myself. But after thinking about it for years, I’ve decided to finally take a moment and answer this question once and for all. (more…)

Read More

Theory of Everything: the incredible story of Jane and Stephen Hawking

Theory of Everything (2014)

With Oscar season upon us, I felt it was my duty as a disability studies & media scholar to sit through the latest Stephen Hawking bio-pic, Theory of Everything. What follows is my review of a wholly mediocre movie that likely only got nominated because it featured a nondisabled guy pretending to be a disabled guy. As with most reviews, the following may (read: likely does) contain spoilers – consider yourself adequately warned. (more…)

Read More

AM980 Banner for the Andrew Lawton show

Andrew Lawton is not a scandal

Last week, AM980 conservative radio host Andrew Lawton had an epically bad week. Inflammatory comments made both online and on the air by Lawton have dominated the attention of Londoners, with some demanding AM980 fire him immediately while others promise said action will only make Lawton a martyr for free speech. Obviously, AM980 is in a tough position, where no matter what they do someone will be upset. But in this post, I would like to suggest that we’ve missed the forest for the trees here and aren’t actually talking about what really matters. (more…)

Read More

Black background with centered white text stating "Empowering us all". Microsoft 'window' logo in the top right corner

Microsoft #Empowering Campaign

Earlier this afternoon I was contacted by Microsoft on Twitter who are rolling out an “#empowering” campaign, tied in with the tonight’s Superb Owl competition (annual gathering of ornithologists?), aimed at showing the ways Microsoft is changing the world through technology. One such commercial focuses on a young boy named Braylon O’Neill who, with the help of advanced prosthetics, is going to take over enslave the world. Here are some of my initial reactions to the campaign. (more…)

Read More

A smiley face with the text "Bell Let's Talk"

How #BellLetsTalk is both problematic and vital

If you’ve been on social media this morning, you no doubt have discovered that it’s #BellLetsTalk Day in Canada. An initiative started several years ago, #BellLetsTalk aims to open up conversations about mental health with the promise that every tweet or post using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media will garner a donation of $0.05 from Bell Canada. But is this campaign really about mental health or just a crowd-sourced advertising campaign for Bell Canada? (more…)

Read More

Facebook post featuring Sarah Palin and her son, Trig, with the text "A show topic yesterday in which Andrew innocuously referred to Sarah Palin's son, Trig, as "Down's Syndrome-afflicted" spurned several complaints alleging that calling Down's Syndrome an "affliction" is wrong. Do you agree, or is it splitting hairs?"

Are the disabled ‘afflicted’?

On January 6th, I was invited to speak on AM980’s Andrew Lawton Show about a recent Facebook post on the radio station’s fan page stating Trig, Sarah Palin’s son, was “Down Syndrome-afflicted.” Mr. Lawton and I had an engaging conversation around whether or not the term “afflicted” is offensive or if people are simply nitpicking for political correctness. For those who were not able to tune in to the broadcast, I’ve decided to write a short meandering blog post outlining why we need to stop referring to disabled people as being “afflicted.” (more…)

Read More

The Raid 2 movie poster

The Raid 2 (2014)

A sucker for mindless action films, I was excited to see Gareth Evan’s follow-up to the energetic and gruesome hit The Raid: Redemption (2011). While The Raid 2 (2014) is probably a mediocre film at best, there are enough interesting aspects to this film to make it worth watching. As with most reviews, the following may (read: likely does) contain spoilers – consider yourself adequately warned. (more…)

Read More

Modesta, silhouetted in black, dancing in front of a red background

Why Viktoria Modesta doesn’t rethink disability

The Internet has been abuzz over the past week of a new “bionic” pop star, Viktoria Modesta. Modesta’s meteoric rise is thanks to Channel 4’s “Born Risky” campaign, which provides resources and support for “alternative voices” that would otherwise struggle to break into the mainstream. Leading the campaign is Modesta with her song “Prototype,” the beginning of which demands the viewer to “forget what you know about disability.” But for a text that demands the viewer to “forget” what we know about disability, it seems to spend a lot of time marinating in the juices of all-too-familiar tropes and images of disability. Is Viktoria Modesta really revolutionary or is she simply Lady Gaga with one leg?

(more…)

Read More

An empty wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs

The problem with “Spend a Day in a Wheelchair”

Many advocates, myself included, often point to the general population’s ignorance of the experience of disability as being central to the oppression faced by the disabled. The problem is that too many developers, designers and administrators are designing buildings, spaces, and programs along normative understandings of ability and function rather than basing their work in the aberrance of the human form. For years, we have run events like “Spend A Day In A Wheelchair,” in which able-bodied individuals are assigned certain disabilities and required to complete tasks, the theory being that by experiencing life with a disability these individuals will have a better understanding/appreciation for the plight of the disabled. In this blog, I would like to take some time to explain why this is a flawed educational tool and recommend we stop deploying these schemes, as they’re doing more to hurt the disabled subject than help. (more…)

Read More