Astronaut Corps?

Dear readers,

While talking to a friend over text messaging, I could not help but wonder if blind people would ever be chosen to go to the Red Planet, space, etc. While my friend, Esoteric Quality on medium and other things, believes that blind folks are taking over science, tech, engineering, and math (STEM) professions more than ever, where is there room for us to go to outer space, deep space, or the Red Planet? Okay, notice that not one lead character in any classic sci fi books about Mars is blind or disabled in any way. In the real world, Astronaut Corps members live in Houston, Texas, which could be one of the worst transit spots for blind individuals if you are not lucky enough to have a driver. I have a friend in Austin, and she complains bitterly on Facebook about Austin’s transportation and the sisters at mosques don’t seem to take her seriously.

Now, what are the qualities that the Astronaut Corps needs in order for someone to journey to Mars? I have a few qualities that I’m sure NASA will have to consider. In my mind, NASA should consider a willingness to learn and perhaps a college degree in aeronautics. But what about adventure? Someone with spunk? I’m sure that should be considered, but NASA really needs someone in the Astronaut Corps or Navy, both closed to blind people, to go to Mars. I wish we could not colonize the Red Planet because people like myself and my fiance Trenton could be left behind on Earth, no kidding, and the Astronauts that do go to Mars will all be navy and army trained, something blind people don’t usually get.

Individuals with disabilities should be considered if, for example, the Earth is about to explode. We need to consider the apocalypse perhaps, but no zombies included. Earth will die one day, and it won’t really be us causing it. We will have to go somewhere with sentient beings on it, though, not Mars. Why Mars? Why should we bother colonizing the planet? Blind and handicapped/disabled people should be allowed to go there if Earth countries and inequality of able and disabled people is too much. What other choice do we have!

So how do you put an astronaut with disabilities in space, let alone Mars? Or some other planet? First, kNASA should open doors instead of close them, make the Corps accessible to ordinary people who are not Army or Navy trained. Training should be open and in some ways modified where visual content lingers, so that the blind can learn how to perhaps pilot the spacecraft, put it in control, and listen to guidance instructions from capcom, etc. There are a zillion ways that a blind person could become a space flier or spacefaring soul, but we must, if anything, drop the Navy and or Army requirements. Sure, living in Texas should never be required but it currently seems like it. We also need to find alternative spaceports other than Florida because Florida has winds, anvil clouds always in the way, and beaches and other things. Florida is also an ableist community, which would then lend the space port not friendly to those with blindness and other physical differences. IF I wanted to fly in a rocket somewhere into space or on another planet, we’d need a flat and easy trip but I wouldn’t ever recommend Florida, that is because in my experience with my dad working the program until its demise in 2010, there were more scrubs than launches and computer problems were only a quarter of the problems. We had mostly weather, and Florida weather sucks for some people. An anvil cloud could ruin time and date for many people, including the astronaut hopefuls. I’m sorry, but we need a better space port that doesn’t have as bad a weather problem. What about a flat piece of plain in Colorado? Or Arizona? Desert weather is a bit more predictable, and monsoon season can be avoided so the shuttles and rockets can go up. Summer could potentially be a better season in the Plains, but there has to be fair weather, no snow, at least for one time. Arizona might be a better place because there’s no beach, and their springs could potentially be good for space launching. Summer would be too hot, and what about the cold of winter? There has to be another way to do this other than fly up from a place that is not only unsafe, but whose weather is unpredictable, whose people don’t feel confident in blind folks going up, etc.

While a blind person is indeed able to train to become an astronaut, I’ve thought about how they’d do on Mars. There’s a Mars research station in Utah, so why aren’t any blind scientists going there? Why you ask? I think it is because people don’t feel we’re qualified in any way to go up there. Nobody’s going to colonize Mars and think, what about the Earth’s disabled inhabitants? It’ll be like Elesium, where only the wealthy and able persons can go to the big station in the sky. We don’t know if Max da Costa will ever come save the day, but truthfully I don’t know if there will be a Max da Costa who will depolarize the world of Earth and outer space, so brace yourselves. The colonization of Mars could be a whole fifty years away.

Beth

Why or Why Not Go to College?

Dear Readers,

As ambitious as every blind person is, going to college has more negatives than positives, and I’ve been told to make unnecessary sacrifices for this purpose. Leaving HUD housing, possibly having to leave Trenton behind, live on campus, and deal with tech that only gives kickbacks to rich folks. Freedom Scientific’s Jaws for Windows, for instance, is supposedly the best screen reader that works with current Blackboard software. Trenton glanced at this, and unfortunately, I’m not one to give Freedom any more kickbacks because JAWS though innovative is too expensive and if Rehab foots the bill, kickbacks happen. I don’t want anyone getting a kickback off my college degree, and until universal access to things with screen readers other than JAWS is promoted, I will not be going to college.

HEre are the pros of going to college. ANd they’re too general.

  1. You get certified in a degree, and if you graduate with honors, great. And you can get a job in your field.
  2. You get paid more.
  3. Getting a house or better rental would be in the horizon, no matter how much, because at least I’m not paying car insurance.
  4. The field I want to do, social work, doesn’t just take babies away. I was hoping to get a degree in social work and specialize in elder and disabled case management so I could help elderly and disabled people get out of situations where their children or family could manipulate or take advantage of their funds, lives, and health. I would probably not recommend nursing facilities unless there is no family, or the elder cannot take care of themselves compounded by aggression such as that what happens to a friend’s father.
  5. I could write a book about my experiences.
  6. I could impact the world.

But here, my friends, is a listing of six cons of going to college.

  1. Rehab won’t support because of possibly an outdated file from a psychologist who is ethnocentric to European AMericans, bearing in mind he thought I was Arab just for wearing a stupid veil. And he made brazen comments about me because of it. HE should be reeducated about Islam, and not make such brazen statements about Arab women. The subject matter of his talks are inappropriate at best.
  2. Having to use jAWS as mentioned before. Chromevox is a universally accessible thing in a Chromebook, but JAWS is a third party screen reading software that costs too much and takes up too much room in a Windows pc. Why Windows? I hate to say it, but Windows eats up a lot of space in a computer by itself, plus JAWS could mean other things and problems. Forget the free Microsoft Office 365 for the college, I’d have to use Windows in a pc with a third party screen reader instead of its own Narrator, which is universally available. Firefox is also becoming less accessible.
  3. Lecture halls suck. And professors who don’t accommodate suck as well.
  4. Taking a test with a human reader could lend itself to bias.
  5. Having to live on campus simply for academic access or success is awful. In my experience, it costs more than $18,000 to house a student in a dorm, and then what? The dorm could contain drunks, students coming in and peeing on your tile flooring, “That’s not the toilet.” Funny phrase, but so needed when dealing with that. Then there’s the chance of rape on campus if invited and cajoled to attend parties. I won’t have it.
  6. No cooking and even worse loss of other blindness skills along the way. As much as my friends think it best to sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, it doesn’t work for blind individuals who don’t have blindness training, those who do but need to be allowed to cook in their own appliances, or those who would rather fix a crock pot meal instead of going to a dining hall, where lines are long and people don’t take me seriously. I hate cafeterias, buffets, and worst of all, the college dining hall experience. There are times I’ve been at the college in Tallahassee, FLorida State University, and their dining hall staff was short, and I had to rely on students just to get food in my stomach!!!!! Do you really think dining halls are appropriate too? Sometimes the a la carte selections aren’t right at all.

I might add that the Auraria campus does not have dorms, student housing, to my knowledge a dining hall, etc. They share three colleges: UCD, MSU, and CCD all in one campus. The Auraria campus is also a light rail or short bus ride away from my apartment. However, I might add that I would have to be a lot closer this time, but I want my own place so that I can cook and survive while doing classes. Part time college is the only way for me, but even that is unacceptable. I had a debt to pay with Metro State University and can’t pay it because of the exorbitant costs and the SSI and worse, debt collectors have called me about it. I’ve sassed at them because really, debt collection agencies contain bad people who have the potential to threaten lives and wives, and I have no money to waste on these stupid debt collectors. Thankfully, I appealed, but I was in a mental health crisis at the time and did not receive support from Rehab and any other agencies at all. Support always seems to make the difference, but I don’t want strings attached. I want to go to college, use what I have to get through college, and get a degree in something that would allow me to reverse the effects of probate abuse, etc. What to do! ANd why bother with JAWS training because I use a total of three screen readers. Voiceview on Amazon tablets, and then there’s Voiceover on Macs and iPhones, and then there’s CHromevox, with which I type this blog. Why deal with VFO and kickbacks and enriching folks who do corporate work only and don’t price JAWS for the average Joe blind person who can’t make enough to keep the JAWS license going. JAWS licenses are expensive.

Books. I know you guys want me to have books, but I won’t buy it. College textbooks need to be in an accessible PDF format and thankfully, CHromevox can read this stuff, but then … figures and diagrams. Oh no.

Really, I’d like to see colleges do a few things differently:

  1. Use only accessible education platforms, ones that allow universal screen reading software like Chromevox or Voiceover to access their stuff.
  2. Accommodate whatever the perwson has, and allow that person to have what they want in accommodations including universal screen reading design in their computers.
  3. Allow the use of laptops that don’t have JAWS.
  4. Allow a blind person to take a test on a computer, not with a human who may get sick and not make it.
  5. Allow blind people to cook in their own places. Rehab should support home living situations, especially those including wives and children, or husbands and children and let them do online classes so that they can also tend to household duties. Such things as a sick kid, a husband who wants a date night, or family outings or family time can interfere with traditional college tracks.
  6. Don’t require a blind college student to be in classes with huge lecture halls if possible. Lecture halls don’t accommodate. Small class size benefits not only blind college students, but sighted students who want more engagement in class.
  7. Serve better food in dining halls, or better yet, accommodate those with food allergies. Don’t push eggs or nuts on someone allergic to eggs or nuts.
  8. Don’t force blind people to pay for unaccommodated classes, or in times of civil rights violations.
  9. Be consumer driven. Since consumers pay lots of big bucks for university degrees, let them choose their future.
  10. Allow guide dogs in all classrooms, lecturing halls, and other places where classes and dining and things are done. I’ve seen great examples of this in Tallahassee. A young lady brought a beautiful German shepherd to class and was guided by this beautiful creature. Sada was a sweet and gentle natured dog, friendly I might add, but did as her mistress said. All guide dogs should be allowed given the rampant denials I’ve mentioned in a prior post. Thank you all for reading.

Beth

A Blind Sex Offender? ??? Yes!

Dear Readers,

I came across a Medium post in which my dear friend, rapper Esoteric Quality, wrote that boundaries and consent was one thing the blind community must change in order to become more solid and coherent and get things done. I couldn’t agree more. There were predators that I told him about that preyed on the friends I’ve made here in Colorado. A young woman from Idaho was preyed upon by a man who now lives the easy life in California and denies the existence of a ten-year-old son. This man, whose name I won’t mention, says the kid isn’t his, but my old friend Doc knows all. He’s hardly the only one, this California casanovas I speak of, and there are more blind men out there who have deviant sexual behaviors and attitudes toward women and young girls, will never see his son grow up because the boy was adopted out of reach, and the man is hardly the only one who may be obsessed with doing young women wrongly. Here is a composite sketch of what sex offense treatment should look like for blind sex offenders, men and women.

Let’s suppose that the cowboy Casanova in the previous narrative did get popped for sex offense, rape and assault. What is the consequence for normal sex offenders? Well, serial rapists get registered, their names and addresses get flared up on all sides of the Sex Offender Registry. This guy is hardly, like I said, the only blind person who needs sex offender treatment, but we often deny that there are predators in our midst.

Here in my composite sketch, we have Jason, a man who is about six feet two inches, blonde hair, and blue eyes, and happens to be blind. He had a privileged childhood, for the most part, but when Jason turned 12, he was exempted out of sexual health and education class. His mom said, on the teacher’s right side without Jason knowing it, “He’s blind. HE’ll never have sex, and I don’t want him to get married. Who’d marry him?” Jason later went home one day, and got bored. As a blind person, he thought he’d be exempt from boundary issues, but his sister, Shannon, was hanging out with friends in her bedroom. Jason went in to Shannon’s room, and the next thing the girls knew, he had his poor sister on the floor, was fondling her down there, and squeezed her breasts. Shannon went ballistic, told her mother, and her brother, blind and a sexual deviant, went to juvenile detention.

Let’s suppose Jason did not do the deviant thing I outlined earlier. LEt’s suppose, then, that he is 24 years old, and is a student at a rehabilitation center for the blind. Jason with the clean record at this age could still have deviant sexual attitudes towards women because by this time, even without deviance towards a sister or a friend of his sister’s, Jason is lonely, bored, and anxious. Suppose by now, his mom has never told him one thing about sex, never taught him about sex, not through books or classes or anything. One day, Jason finds Susan, a young girl of 18, autistic and blind, perhaps in Jason’s mind, the perfect target. While they’re making out furiously one day outside in a gazebo, Jason takes off the girl’s clothes, and without her consent, he rapes her.

Either way, it is imperative that if we want to avoid blind sexual deviants in our midst, we must force them to take a sexual education and civics class. I will stress the class’s module design, for I don’t know if books exist for blind people that are up to date and talk about sexuality and disability. LGBTQIA peoples should get the best and most up to date information about sex and sexuality, period, and have healthy discussions about sex with family, friends, and neighbors.

HEre’s how the class would look, and who it would be taught to.

  1. Start with anatomy. Most sex books start with male and female anatomy, but do realize that the pictures of male and female anatomy don’t add up as much as seeing a 3d model. I’ve seen a plastic penis, for instance, so why not show both sexes the plastic penis and vagina models? Show them plastic nude male and female bodies, I mean plastic ones. This way, they know and are familiar with what is to touch and what is not good.
  2. Consent for both sexes. Blind male sex offenders should be encouraged to be accountable for their behavior as with normal sex offense. With the middle and high school students though, they should learn consent for both sexes. IF a female says no, it means no. IF a male is allowed to pressure a female into sex, he’s got it wrong. Males should learn not to rape, so let’s say we teach all males, blind ones included, to worship women in appropriate ways. This means sure, you can hug a female in crisis, but sexual parts of the body must be kept sacred for both sexes, period.
  3. STD’s and STI’s. All sex ed classes for high school and middle school folks should include comprehensive information about how you get STI’s. For example, AIDS cannot be gotten through handshakes. And not all teens who choose to have consensual sex get these. Blind female teenagers as well as their male counterparts should learn consent, and if they do decide, should not be ashamed of it. Blind teen girls and guys alike should know all the ins and outs of STI infections and how to treat these. AIDS may not have a cure, but Hepatitis C does, so does Chlamydia and many others. Herpes may not have a cure, but there is the gardicil vaccine that may be able to protect boys and girls against HPV, human papilloma iris, which causes not only warts and herpes, but cervical cancer.
  4. Sex is not a dirty word. Teens should be taught that marriage may never happen for them if they are disabled, not to say it won’t happen, but about 80% of blind adults are single, live at home with their families, or both. And how hard is it to find a mate? A lot harder for us blind folks than we’d like to admit. Relationships should never be judged on the basis of religious holy text and decrees that a disabled person should wait until marriage to have sex. Marriage costs a lot of money, more than the $30 license that says you are bound in marriage. For a blind couple, money is cut from their checks, and their checks might not be enough to live on. We are 80% likely not to find work, or able to get a meaningful job because employers simply won’t hire us. Therefore, sex without marriage is often the only expression of love that two disabled adults can do. So what do we say to those disabled teenagers who could or could not become sexually offending adults? It’s okay to tell your family how you feel, safely in words, of course, but the big thing is consenting on both parties. If a male doesn’t want it rough, that’s his call. Females should be allowed to pleasure themselves, practice feeling sexy, or perhaps find it within themselves to find all the sexy stuff within.
  5. For both genders, sex toys should b e used as an enhancement for the couple’s spiciness in the bedroom. If you’re alone, the toys are great for pleasuring yourself and relieving stress if needed. IF you’re not feeling particularly sexy enough, you could grab a stress ball, a stuffed animal, a favorite comfort object as my middle school teacher would say, and just hug the comfort object in your arms or squeeze the ball. A punching bag is much much better than punching out your spouse on Jerry Springer, which is happily over. Most adults who sexually offend don’t realize they are impacting their victims the way they do. They are told to take anger management classes, do therapy and group counseling, and for those who abuse children, they are not allowed contact with them. Back to my example. If Jason is in a group of sex offenders, he should have access to the treatment so he can of course be motivated to change, and the therapists should strip his right to use his disability as a means to abuse people, including a sister or girlfriend, and replace it with genuine empathy as illustrated in many books and templates by others. Empathy is hard to teach, sure, but my boyfriend, my fiancĂ© has empathy. He has the healthy image of me as a female, doesn’t have deviant sexual attitudes. I’d like to thank him for who he is from the bottom of my heart.

So what is the basics of sex offender treatment? Leigh Baker’s book Protecting Your Children from Sexual Predators explains all the basics and how sex offenders, male and female, get treated. However, Dr. Baker forgot that blind adults sexually offend. So calling out such people is not a crime, it’s a service we must do in order to protect females from being impregnated unnecessarily by blind sex offenders. I’d like to thank Esoteric Quality for writing about this, and allowing me to share in the triumph of your writing, it’s amazingly awesome. I’d also like to give credit to all the guys who understand the all important “No means no.”

The Most Innovative Thing in Science, and It’s Not Rockets

Dear Readers,

The following is a highly revised version of an essay I composed for a chemistry assignment, which got me third place in a science essay contest that told us to write about innovative things in science that affect you. Since there were two people who did better than me, according to the judges, let me just say that I could’ve done better, but to me, it was the best essay I ever wrote because the thing I wrote about has become so popular and widely used not only in the blind community, but for other disabilities as well. What do you think this thing is? Speech to text, and text to speech perhaps, but let me now provide a history of the screen reader as it should now be written today. And it dates even further back than Ted Henter and Henter Joyce, the founding company behind Freedom Scientific, which was later eaten up by Vector Freedom Optelec, or VFO group.

 

Imagine you’re a blind person going to work. What’s the first thing you do in the morning? What do you do when you get to the office? You sit down at the computer, that is if you’re an ordinary sighted person, but one of my nagging questions I get from sighted people is, “How do you use a computer? Or a phone?”

Since computer technology is so widely used, one must think of how a blind person can accomplish the same tasks as the sighted, and the answer is simple but complicated. Enter screen readers. The first fully functional corporate interest screen reader was designed by a company called Henter Joyce, designed and invented by a blind veteran who lost his sight. Ted Henter wanted to maintain his ability to work in an office or do professional things, so he invented JAWS. Today, many years after JAWS was invented, hardly a day goes by that you don’t notice other screen reading softwares out there. Henter spearheaded not only the invention of a screen reading software, but an entire movement based on the idea that blind people should have equal access to computer software such as Microsoft Word, that we should be equally able to maintain job skills, etc. JAWS, back in 2003 when the last essay was published, was barely able to allow you to write word processor documents, check email, browse the web, etc. Compared to now, you couldn’t just pop in a DVD and expect to see text in an image, but now you can. JAWS now has so many more capabilities than it did in 2003 when I composed an essay on its history and how it works. So how did Henter’s invention help blind people use computers?

Henter invented JAWS so that blind people could gain access to employee trainings, places of work, websites, word processors, charts, all kinds of stuff, but today, JAWS has some buddies that compete with it. Enter Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple, the company NV Access, Microsoft themselves, and finally, the highly evolved VFO. Apple has done something that not only VFO and Microsoft want to do, but can only dream of doing when it was done. Apple put Voiceover, a universally built in screen reading software, into everything from its iPhone to its Mac lineup to its wearable Watches. Voiceover has the ability to allow you to do the same things you would do with a Windows computer such as talk to folks on Skype, surf the web, type up essays on a word processor, and did I mention or forget to mention planning vacations, buying things online, etc. The wearable Apple has allows you to do specialized gestures with haptic feedback so that you can know when you are supposed to stand or get out and walk. The watch is more a fit bit with voiceover on it, though you can do other apps as well.

Cell phones such as those produced by Apple and Google now have screen reading functionality built in, and I tried to justify getting one of those by stating, it’s like a JAWS for cell phones. Well? It took me years to realize there was access to iPhones and androids, but I got my first touch screen phone in 2014 or so. I ended up getting two more new phones, and then … then, I got my iPhone SE. My iPhone allows me to not only make phone calls, facetime calls, and such things as this, it allows me to find hangout spots, navigate around the world, surf the web (why not!), check email, tweet, send Swarm check ins, and much more. There are games available that work with Voiceovber and other screen reading software for the blind. For instance, I love playing DiceWorld, and it works on both Voiceover and Talkback as well as Amazon’s baby, Voiceview. Compared to other screen reading things, Voiceview right now doesn’t have keyboard support, but Amazon is working on it. This is their project, and after many years of no access to their Kindle lineup of books, Voiceview seems to have been the answer to the blind people’s prayers.

JAWS spearheaded many ideas as well as the ability for blind people to use a computer. Since it costs a lot of money, and since the average Joe blind person doesn’t make enough, not enough to support that price point, and since DVR, Departments of Vocational Rehabilitation, pay the bills for all purchases if not 90% of purchases for Braille and talking softwares for the blind, a movement has begun to include universal accessibility in product design. Henter would be proud because now, Microsoft is improving its Narrator screen reading software. It is now usable for Windows 10 builds, contains many familiar keystrokes, and the voices are much higher quality. Sighted people sometimes find those voices fun to play with, so if you search for Microsoft Sam on YouTube, you’ll find many creators who play with Sam and a bunch of other voices, which to blind people are so familiar they use it daily. Desktop David and Zira are among many other voices Windows now contains, and the Encore voices now use NVDA (nonvisual desktop access), a free screen reader. NVDA is popular in developing countries such as India, and many blind people there are poorer than those in the U.S., but a company there managed to break the price for a Braille display down to $550 in U.S. dollars. Who knows how much that is in ruppees? Indian currency is much more than American currency, but a display with that price in India made in India is hard to find.

Voiceover and voiceview both have Braille ssupport, but JAWS has it even more. WindowEyes, a screen reading software from a now eaten up company called GW Micro, has since died. We blind people are eager to see where VFO tries to take the screen reader market, but for those average Joes who don’t work, buying a computer is the last thing on their minds. Enter tablets.

AMazon’s Kindle Fire lineup has their Voiceview screen reader, which allows you to read ebooks, do surfing on their Silk browser, and shop and many more, The highest price point on a tablet from Amazon is only $100. Now, I own the following pieces of tech that currently work, and all have semblances of screen readers on them.

I’m typing this using Chromevox, Google’s Chrome OS screen reader, on an HP Chromebook. I love it.

Then, we have a working iPod touch, two working phones, one a galaxy S8 kwith Samsung’s own Voice ASsistant on it. Then we have two Fire tablets with Voiceview, then we have my iPhone of course. We are also playing with AI, so we have an Echo dot on the desk. Then we have a Google Home and a Google Home Mini, both of which have google’s AI on them. In tandem with our phones, we can control the home and echo devices, set them up independently, and do many more tasks. Henter wasn’t probably trying to spearhead what I call the Screen Reader Revolution, but many times we see it happening. My brothers use a gaming system, a Xbox to be exact. When they first did, Narrator wasn’t there. Now, Microsoft and Sony have both attempted to make gaming consoles usable for blind gamers, and Microsoft has done a landslide pound all over Sony, as must have happened and most of you know.

JAWS might never appear for Xbox, but the amazing invention of screen reading software has changed a blind person’s rank in society from the bottom to near the top. We still have to argue with employers about jobs, and we still have to contend with predators in guardianship cases, but blind people are going to be around no matter what sadism does to us. Screen readers have made it easier for us to work in executive positions, play videogames, and edit essays. We can now keep track of our diabetes should we have it, our exercise, mail packages, and many other things thanks to developer commitment to making it all work with screen readers. JAWS was the first fully compatible thing but I never saw the ones for Mac, but now Macs have universal access design, and when I attended NFB convention, they got a big award for making their product usable for blind individuals.

Screen readers and their voices don’t just extend to blind people. You might recognize Steven Hawking’s voice when he was alive, and the man used Eloquence to talk to his audience. Neospeak voices have been used in other popular ways, have been plugged into transit announcements, and so much more. Another company might use Vocalizer Samantha which is popular on iPhones to announce stops on a transport train, alert weather conscious folks about storms, and so much more. Blind people and their sighted counterparts are now able to stand equally hand in hand with each other. The voices you hear alerting you to floods, bus stops, AI answers, and many more are the same voices that read the world to blind people who can’t see the screen.

WHile space travel is ambitious, I don’t think it will change the world as much as earthbound inventions such as the screen reader because sighted people don’t need to worry so much. Going to Mars could be dangerous, especially if a blind astronaut is not chosen for the mission. So, what can impact people more than rocketting into space? ANswer: screen reading software and text to speech voices hands down. Everybody can understand each other, and even more so, text to Braille will make it even easier for deafblind individuals to work and communicate. Yes, braille display software and hardware are expensive, but we can’t leave our deaf friends out.

Thank you all for reading.

Beth

Nelson Mandella’s Legacy: How does this Affect Us?

Dear Readers,

I remember years ago, doing as I always do, my work in school. I sprained my ankle while in the process, doing a report with a partner and we chose to do an African country that at this time, has had a great taste of racial freedom, but not always. Alex, my classmate, and I chose to do this as our geography assignment required we do a report on Africa, any country therein. While doing my research and dealing with the pain of having to elevate my crippled foot, I never got to touch the surface of Apartheid, the worst acts of racial hatred in a country since Jim Crow 1.0.

 

Nelson Mandella’s birth was a hundred years ago. He died in 2014, buto he was born on July 18, 1918. In his South African homeland, the white folks colonized and there was a big scramble to grab, choke, and steal most of the African continent. South Africa is home to many peoples, however. The Matabele, many forms of black tribes, and then there were the Afrikaans Dutch folks. Some Africans died in the colonization process, but there were some tribes that stuck around. Whites didn’t like interacting with or having anything to do with blacks.

Mr. Mandella was a freedom fighter, and he happened to be around with us when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Alabama. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a serious issue at one point, and Mandella, who later in his life met Rosa Parks, cheered her on. Mandella was jailed in the latter part of the nineties, but what got him out? I still don’t know.

As president of South Africa, Mandella redefined the face of race and humanity. If I had had the chance to meet Nelson before he died, I would be pretty floored. The one question I’d ask is, “How can your legacy be used to improve things in America?” Well, Jim Crow 2.0, as I like to call the current racial environment today, would have Mandella crying out from wherever he’s at.

In South Africa, since Nelson’s death, there have been allegations of corruption, namely with Jacob Zuma, who wasn’t that great from what I understood. Nobody really has Mandella’s empathy for the human race, and to think that this man would spur me onward as a revolutionary and a freedom fighter also.

While Nelson Mandella’s legacy might not sound relevant to us, it is. Barack Obama might have looked empathetic, but why would he allow bombs to be dropped on people? Mandella would probably have not allowed bombs to be dropped on every corner of the world. I don’t firmly believe Obama should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize because politicians are rarely if anything going to display their empathy on the back that carries their shirt. However, Mandella as a peaceable man did not get far in travel, as he was listed a Terrorist for a time by the United States. This is a relic of Jim Crow 1.0.

I am sad to say that Nelson Mandella is gone. But who could possibly have told me to just live my life, and racial divisions need not stop me from being with the man I love? No kidding. Mandella and his example set a precedence for the undoing of everything from the bans on interracial marriage in the legislative books to the right of a guy like Trenton to live where he wants, sit with me on a light rail train car or bus, sit with me at restaurants without being told to “go out back and eat scraps, boy.” That kind of mentality should never be allowed. The Civil Rights Movement is likely being eroded because white nationals don’t want to learn the correct history in schools or by exploring museum pieces. AS a woman who was raised by a white and somewhat mixed maternal family, I find it heartbreaking that the blindness and race are the reasons my family not only made up what they did, but don’t accept my husband. Nelson Mandella’s legacy should have told them better. Nelson’s descendants are probably racially mixed, and that’s fine. But we must never forget the kind of things that humanity experiences on a daily basis.

A song that comes to mind in memory of Mandella is the one called Weeping recorded by Josh Groban and Lady Smith Black Mombasa, which contains the following refrain dealing with Apartheid.

 

It doesn’t matter now, it’s over anyhow.

He tells the world that it’s sleeping.

But as the night came out, I heard its lonely sound.

It wasn’t roaring it was weeping.

It wasn’t roaring it was weeping.

 

I wish I could say that white nationalism, Neo-Nazism, and other such hateful things could be locked up the same way as Apartheid is in this song. If you’d like to listen to this song, listen carefully to the way a white classical singer and a South African chorus group interpret the lyrics. Of course, hear the drums. Mandella would have and probably did smile as this was released while he was alive. I want to say that the nationalistic viewpoint of America should be not roaring with laughter as unarmed black man after unarmed black man is shot and killed by white people, but should be weeping and dissipating like a cancer that doesn’t progress thanks to drugs and chemo and efforts to fight it off. While cancer cells and racial divides dissipate, I hope that the readership in this blog remembers that Nelson’s legacy had nothing to do with just South Africa. His example is why we need to allow more blacks and whites to hold hands, march and protest hate groups, and show the rest of the country and the planet that love conquers all. Mandella would have been proud to see MEgan Markel who is mixed race marry a royal white guy, but more importantly, I would say that Mandella should have stuck around and seen the ordinary citizens and not celebrities only that are drinking the sweet waters of racial freedom. Trenton, for instance, doesn’t have to walk around in fear that he could be lynched or sold to a cruel master, and doesn’t have to worry about being punished for making love to a white woman, and doesn’t have to worry about being separated from his light skinned brethren in a rail car or bus.

May I add also that we have black friends who are female, and I’ll pick on my friend Jataya from school. She’s mixed, awesome, and has a great sense of humor. Her parents brought her up with not one single racial division or the whole mentality of “Choose what race you want to be.” She can be both. Jataya is free to marry anyone she wants, be served in the same hospitals as white people, have dinner with me and Trenton at a resteaurant, go to the same school or college as me–she attended my high school–and she also knows things that most people wouldn’t. Jataya understands about the importance of Braille, and has drawn smileys on my notes. I don’t often think about race as a reason we’re friends as about 90% of privileged whites do. I don’t care.

While Trenton and Jataya are two close examples of the beneficiaries of Mandella’s legacy, there are many more individuals who must be allowed to do the same. I wonder if South Africa has improved upon its abysmal crime stats, its murder rate, and its racial disparities as Americans must do all of this. LEt’s see if we have.

While a white boy is born into privilege, good schooling, and comes out successful, a young African American boy or a black South African boy might be born into any number of ghettos and townships, all of which usually are poor, with poor housing and healthcare. Black women are twice or even three times as likely to die from pregnancy or maternal complications because healthcare is not equal and affordable because the lady in this example is black. IF she’s lucky, our black lady will have to keep her black sons inside, away from the chances he or they could get into drugs, gangs, or worse. Police officers and white privileged jerks seem to think it’s okay to call out black people for just doing ordinary activities, appearing suspicious in the eyes of whites. Imagine if Jataya got escorted out of Starbucks because some white person called the police on her for doing suspicious activity. Would race play a part? Perhaps. If Jataya were shopping, cleaning lawns, etc., is it right to call the police? No. And these things and activities such as cleaning the lawn, shopping, or getting a Starbucks coffee are not criminal acts, yet police did indeed escort black patrons out the doors and some ignored the calls. Will Trenton, as another example, get arrested for illegally loitering? Or for walking around a grocery store? Or worse, if he had two black male pals with him, will they get arrested or turned away from a pharmacy over a real coupon? These questions sometimes hit me and then I remember what Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King both envisioned. King envisioned a world where his “four little children” would wake up in a world where they would never be judged by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. Mandella saw a world without Apartheid, sure, but he also had ambitions about world peace, prosperity for blacks in all areas of the world, and joined hands with civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks. We are too far away from the visions of both these icons to say we’ve accomplished a mission that dates back to the colonial days here in America. We can’t wave our banner until equality for all races is realized, both de jure and de facto segregation thrown away, AFrican Americans are granted the right to exist, marry, and do as they please. And one more, disabled people in all races should be allowed to exist, whether black or white. Mandella never understood the intersectionality between disability and race and inequality that exists today. As Mandella aged, due to his importance, he received good healthcare. But what about the elder blacks here in the States that fight for their care? IF Trenton, an ordinary citizen, can’t care for himself for all I know when he’s 99 years old, it’s not his fault. He would need constant or at least some physical care and in his own home with his wife and family. We’d never advocate throwing away our family in nursing care, but this happens all too often. Elderly black females are not entitled to the same care as elder white females, and this must change. To fulfill Mandella’s legacy, let’s show the rest of the planet what humanity is capable of doing and make life equal for all blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, disabled people, elders, and many more.

Thank you, Nelson Mandella, for your legacy of peace and determination, and rest in the valley of freedom.

If you were here, you would be a hundred years old today.

Beth

No Pets Allowed

Dear Readers,

This post is dedicated to guide dog handlers. I also want to extend this post to business owners, people who distribute goods and services, and … well, any working adult with decency.

Do you ever know what a guide dog is or does? Did you get education in school about guide dogs? Well, if you have a no dog policy at your business, I feel your pain, but wake up. Guide dogs legitimately do a service for disabled people. It is unlawful for you to ask for ID or paperwork. Let me tell you all about a few incidences that might be able to teach a few of you, if not all of you what guide dogs do and what not to do with a guide dog team.

 

  1. Melissa in California went to a Chinese place, working her dog Zappa as she trotted into the store. The guy and managers all said she couldn’t bring Zappa in to the restaurant. The results? The restaurant got sued. Melissa hopes that this teaches people a lesson. What can you learn from this? If you’re the Chinese owner of a restaurant or any restaurant for this matter, let the harnessed calm dogs into your establishment with no incident. Otherwise, you will get sued, and worse, you could lose business from other blind community members.
  2. Deanna from Ohio went to the Subway one day, was denied entrance to the Subway because of her dog Mambo, and then was later cajoled into coming in even with free sandwiches. The lesson here is that sometimes it’s a bit too late to get your business back if you deny a guide dog service in the restaurant and his/her handler has to go to a different location within your franchise.
  3. Merry and Marion were in a Tampa McDonald’s with not one, but two guide dogs. The Hispanic manager, a lady that spoke few words of English, said, “No dog allowed in here.” What she didn’t realize was that Merry was about to give her an earful about why she shouldn’t have said this. Merry ripped into the managers and staff at this McDonald’s, and said, would you like me to tell you that you can’t come in because you’re speaking Spanish? And she was correct. Guide dogs are an extension of their handlers, do the work that the handler obviously needs help with. A lady in a wheelchair or a guide dog handler are both equally able to access all public utilities, and it’s the law.
  4. Sassy in Massachusetts has written repeatedly that lyft and uber drivers don’t want her dog Ferdinand, a working guide dog, in their vehicles. Sassy laments that she had to report two drivers, not just one, and they both lost jobs because of their refusal to take the working dog team. Sassy and Ferdinand are a working team, and numerous complaints of this kind surface everywhere. The Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, requires that service dog teams be accepted in Lyfts, Ubers, and other rideshare companies. Sure, this may not be America if you’re using Didi, but otherwise, Uber and Lyft dominate the market, and they in turn must allow guide and service dogs in the vehicle main body with their owners/handlers. No Muslim driver can object, and that might get you in trouble with the ADA. SEcondly, even if you’re allergic to dogs, you should consider that guide and service animals are well groomed, don’t often have tons of pet dander all over them, and if you’re allergic, well, you shouldn’t notice them. Deanna and Melissa might have had their shares of denials via ridesharing because of their dogs, but it should never ever happen.
  5. Airlines, where do I begin? Jessica, from Colorado Springs, of all the people I know, has had problems with some airline policies that dealt bad hands to her and her guide Prada. Jessica was told she couldn’t have the dog on board the aircraft but she pretty much got in their faces, telling them that Prada is a guide, that this dog belongs with her, etc., and that’s why nobody came back to get papers from Jessica. She knows her stuff, so you should too.

The lesson with all these denials is this. IF you’re not empathetic to people who use dogs for services such as guiding the blind, hearing things for the deaf, helping with wheelchair tasks, etc. Oh, and may I add that capuccin monkeys for the paralyzed count in the same category as service and guide dogs? YEs, they do. They help totally paralyzed people avoid having to deal with human caretakers who can possibly leave a person neglected, unable to leave their excrement or urine, or worse, the caretaker could lose their minds and neglect the person and not feed them. If the person has a monkey working with them, they get fed, taken to the bathroom, etc., and the monkey does their job feeding and turning pages on a reading stand. I have a great example of a capuccin at work. A lady who was paralyzed was asked to pitch a ball for the Red Sox during Disability Awareness Day in Boston, and I witnessed her pitch. The monkey threw the ball, and the stadium applauded the lady and her working partner. Many people could use a smart dog or monkey helping them out if they need it, physically need it. Blind people sometimes prefer to use canes, but guide dogs offer something canes don’t. My friend Rhonda, a young woman in the California Bay Area, had a very awesome guide dog named Mya. Mya was a German shepherd, which made her pretty good for guiding and such. German shepherds were among the first breeds of dog to be used to guide war veterans, and that’s how Dorothy Harrison Eustis came up with the Seeing Eye, and Frank Morris and Buddy, and the whole nine yards. Buddy was a guide dog, the first American guide dog to work for a blind person in the United States. Mya, because she was so great, joins many German shepherds in her heavenly palace on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, and Rhonda remembers Mya’s abilities to judge character. Mya and Rhonda had a great connection, and even when she had seizures, Mya would rush over and put a paw on her as if to say, “Are you okay, Mommy?” That dog could have been dual trained, but she knew naturally that Rhonda was hers, and she was Rhonda’s. Mya was the best dog Rhonda could have ever had, and everybody remembers dogs like this one. Mya saved Rhonda’s life many times, protecting her butt while she crossed streets and navigated the alleyways of California, and now Mya is celebrating her years of service with her dog friends, awaiting the time Rhonda would meet her there on the side of the Rainbow Bridge. By then, Mya will play happily as a puppy should, but now, Rhonda will consider her options as she is going deaf, but her experience with Mya is something she will never forget.

I’ve seen smart dogs, fun dogs, and I’ve watched some aggressive dogs. Guide dogs are the calmest dogs you’ll ever meet, usually well trained, lest the owner gets wrecking the dog. Most guide dog handlers won’t wreck their dogs, trust me on this, my guide dog handler friends have more brains than some of the people who deny the services and goods to the handlers just because of their dogs.

So, if you’re an airline, a hotel, a restaurant, a business, a place of employment, even a doctor’s office or baby birthing center, let the guide dogs stay at their handlers’ side. Learn from the great dogs of yesteryear, and learn from the handlers why denials of service and goods is not acceptable.

Beth

Why Is Religion and Organizations Related Thereto Dangerous for Blind and Disabled People 80% of the time?

Dear Readers,

Before you all go on a rampage explaining how Jesus saves, Allah is all knowing, or God knows all, I have to tell you all my story, for the new ones that are just getting to know my blog.

I was christened Elizabeth Ann Taurasi at Ennunciation Catholic Church as my Baptismal records confirmed, and to my horror, my godparents weren’t there. My grandparents had to proxy for two godparents who couldn’t make it, obviously. Was it my uncle perhaps? Later on my Confirmation day, I received presents, bouquets of roses, things that are important when a young Catholic is given the sacrament of Holy Commencement or Confirmation. It’s supposedly a sealing of the Holy Ghost for the person receiving such, and they pick a Confirmation name, and in my case, it was Rose. Rose was close to God, the one I chose, and I understood she was pretty badass. She did not marry, didn’t want to be looked at or objectified by Peruvian Spaniard men, and didn’t take crap from any person who said, you shouldn’t be doing work outdoors, cook and clean for a big family, that sort of thing.

What disenchants me from the Roman system of the Catholic Church, and also may include the Orthodox Christian church, is the line of men who lead it, the sex abuse scandals, and the more pertinent nonsensical ableism of my family who decided to, rather than send me to a public school where I could learn to play the violin and maybe obtain a meaningful career in music in a symphony, decided to spend half their life and savings worth sending all three of us to a private diocesan run school in Titusville, under the auspices of religious education. While stuff like this never makes any sense, I know why it doesn’t and wish I had been able to stand up mind to mind but I was only a child. My parents did not put me first, did not put any daughter first in their lives. Some of the religious books I read constantly told us to “put God first.” First of all, who’s God? What is God? I can’t see God, smell God, taste God, hear God speak, and certainly because my parents misinterpreted God’s word, I don’t interpret God’s word in any way shape form whatever, and worse, the dating game was out of the question when I left private school because of God, what my friend Tyler would call “an imaginary friend.”

Well, I honestly believe that this monotheistic God could very well be a lot of people’s “imaginary friend” because of a few things:

  1. This is the most important. Women are seen as second class in all three monotheistic sacred texts. There is homophobic and transphobic literature present in the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. Women are considered, for example in Leviticus, to be unclean, especially after pregnancy. Where did the beauty of giving birth go? Instead, men decided that women were dirty, and men should not have sex with women when in a so called “unclean” state. In the Jewish traditions, especially ultraorthodox traditions where males and females are separate, including Hassidic, women’s places are dictated clearly in the books of Exodus and Leviticus, homophobic commandments being brought against men who sleep together, but according to one of my reform Jewish cantor friends, not so much against women. However, women are still considered second class. Boys are given consecration according to Leviticus, but girls are not. This is a clear separation of men and women, and no matter how you put it, none of the pronouncements in Genesis, Leviticus, and Exodus are friendly to women, lesbians, and or especially children with disabilities. Disabled women are more likely to be abused by family members in the modern nonbiblical world, but the excuses parents make for doing what they often do to disabled girls comes from Judeo-Christian roots. This is terribly off the course if we want to improve our world, and it certainly lost many a religion my business. Who is God in terms of women? My family could punish me for worship of the Goddess, but who cares? At least there’s a little piece of the goddess in every woman, but monotheistic religions such as the alt right Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ideology have suppressed such divinity in every woman.
  2. In developing Christian countries like Mexico, Ethiopia, and Kenya, where police don’t necessarily protect the people they are supposed to, blind women and men are not allowed to choose who they will marry. Yes, able people can’t either, but in the developing nations, including Somalia, and sometimes in Israel, or any other place where there is monotheistic religions, there tends to be the notion that “you should marry a sighted person”, if I say I’m going to marry a blind person. I tried this trick with a Somali born blind man I dated prior to meeting Trenton, and unfortunately, I lost him to a Somali handmaiden of the highest order, perhaps because the family didn’t understand both our wants. Deq, on the other hand, put family duty and honor above my desires and wants. We dated for a year and a half, but I had to break up with him, everywhere even on social media. Deq could not move the relationship forward because of what Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls the code of Honor and Shame, but it takes a more ableist turn in Islam and Christianity more so than in Reform Judaism.
  3. Because the American court system is ableistic and didn’t support a blind father who lost his daughter to a woman who was sighted who lives in Iowa, I wonder if Judeo-Christianity has found its way into the court system. There are many people who believe marriage is a contract and for some, a way to avoid paying a home care attendant for a disabled female. So what’s marriage anyway? The consenting parties must be able to at least consent to sexual relations, which I gladly do with my partner, and the two parties must love each other without conditions, strings, whatever you call the things that go with some people’s brains. Marriage is not a way to put an intellectually disabled female in the hands of a good hearted guy. The guy and the woman must have conversations, about the children, about who and what does the housework, when to have sexual relations, etc. The story of Michael, a Haitian guy from Titusville, is a favorite example of mine in this case. Michael married Amy, a developmentally disabled and hearing impaired female ten years younger or maybe even two years younger, hard to tell. Amy’s check went to rent and other things, but she had a childlike godlike image of her husband, whose duty it was to take care of her. Well? I advised Michael after his youngest child was born that what was marriage if a couple couldn’t have a communication with one another? And what about the kids? Michael’s deep Haitian accent might tell you that she could never handle the responsibilities of motherhood, and he is correct. Unlike many single dads out there, Michael is taking care of his children, and it has been years since I contacted Michael, but his story is a good reason why when marriage is proposed for a developmentally disabled person, equality of power between the two should be considered. But the Biblical consensus of “wives submit to your husbands” applies here. Amy was not supposed to be married to Michael, but should have had proper case management, the ability to not consent to sex if she so wished, and the ability to understand what and with whom a relationship was appropriate. I am betting Amy did not feel safe in a relationship with a man of Michael’s intellectual stature, which was a full head and shoulders higher than Amy’s eleven-year-old functioning levels were. But the biblical submission of wives in the Bible, that recorded by Paul the Apostle, allowed Amy’s family to take advantage of both her and Michael.
  4. Monotheistic religions lack the fundamental inclusion about 80% of the time you are visiting an organization. I have visited churches, synagogue, mosques, and other places of monotheistic worship during Sabbaths, Shabbats, etc., Passover seder anyone? And there is something missing from about 80% of these places. At Grace Community in Westminster, Colorado, I did not see the real inclusive God of real Christians present. The church elders decided to misuse Christian scripture, the book of Proverbs, and vote me and another ex boyfriend out of the church. They removed me from the church directory, and the church never spoke with me via email, phone call, etc. If I’d been in this church, they would expect asexuality from their disabled female members, my two blind friends included. It is a highly elitist church with no plans to support mine and Trenton’s upcoming wedding. While this church condoned the predatory practice of guardianship, misusing the book of Exodus’s famous quote, “honor thy father and thy mother”, they also treated me as a second class citizen and did not afford me a place on their worship team or a devotional group that was able to be open to Access A Ride. They refused to offer transport so I could be free to attend everything from weddings, celebrations, group meetings, and anything except Sunday prayer meetings. I could have gone but in the end, I retaliated against the church, first off by selling a member’s keyboard on Facebook marketplace. Secondly, I deleted all the numbers of the people responsible for the voting process, including the church’s secretary. One other member was a CPA, and attempted to help me manage my money. But who cares as if I married Trenton in the church, there would have been strings attached, pastoral counseling required in subservience and submission to the will of men, etc. I can no longer go along with this kind of rhetoric. The church could have alienated a transgender friend of mine and Trenton’s, so the good thing is I never spoke to anyone again. On the other hand, St. Bernadette’s Catholic is a rarity among churches, and their pastor and priest, Father Tom, as my friend likes to call him, helped my friend prepare for his wedding. His bride had support from her family, and this is what gets me. Most churches simply won’t marry you to your intended unless it’s a legally binding document reported to social security. Then, like my friend and his wife, you could lose your ability to provide for children and yourself. SSI is not enough for a family and children, and Habitat for Humanity, a Christian home organization requires that you make $1900 and not the couples rate in your state, for example, $1125 in Colorado.
  5. Churches won’t help blind women in times of crisis, and won’t include their children in any but patronizing roles ksuch as helping their parents. My children can honor me without slavish obedience. Obedience to parents is every parent’s dream, but the monotheistic religions not only place obedience in too high an esteem, but place women in the second class citizenship I mentioned above. This could spell doom for disabled children both male and female. For example, a long term ex, Blake, was told by his mother to break up with me due to a perceived “psychological problem.” The mother claimed I would kill her son, which is a lie. It is a blatant way to discriminate against a blind female, who has an 80% chance of having psychological issues due to parents who practice monotheistic religion and worse, abuse. This woman should know, she is and has taken full advantage of her son’s devout Christianity to force a misguided interpretation of “honor thy father and mother.” Mother? If she was a true mother to her son, this woman would let him go. SHouldn’t there have been a commandment that said, “Parents, let your children go as soon as they reach adulthood?” I hope she doesn’t read this, for there is no such commandment. The command to honor parents does not mean mere slavish obedience, according to an Irish Catholic friend of mine, John, who now lives in Arizona. John is a retired lawyer, is a rarity among those liberal enough to see the flaws in the interpretation of “honor thy father and mother.” John says that you can acknowledge that they are your parents, so I recall from a phone conversation we had one day, though now it’s a vague memory. But one thing I did take away from this talk was that “honor” does not mean “stay pure” or “obey.” Due to the experiences I had with being on both sides of the aisle, I’ve come to the conclusion that this dictate is dangerous for disabled men and women, at least 80% of whom are living at home in the state of Arizona alone.
  6. Clergy should be trained in sexual sensitivity, whether Catholic priests or Jewish rabbis or Muslim clerics/imams. But they don’t get enough of it. There are good examples of Muslims, Christians, and Jewish people everywhere, but let me tell you that Pope Francis is trying to clean house with the sex abusers. They must be tried as sex criminals and registered as sex offenders. All such clergy who end up on sex offender registries should never practice as a priest, rabbi, or cleric ever again if found guilty of sex abuse. Let me show you three examples of clergy people who show the best sides of the church, the synagogue, and the mosque. And these people are hard to find.

Father John S. Murray was a priest from Ireland, who shared in both my First Communion and Confirmation, and shared in the first Communions and Confirmations of my brothers, though he played bishop for mine because of the new Millennium and such. Murray served for about 28 years or so as a parish priest in my town, I forget exactly the number, but he was great with children. He baptized babies, married couples, did all the things a priest was supposed to, but most of all, he had a wisdom unlike any young priest today. Sure, you could say, “What? An Irish white hair with no sense of charisma?” No, far from the truth. Murray preached, approved of my cantor roles, and eventually retired to Our Lady of Lord’s Parish in where my grandparents used to live, a gift parish in Edgewater, Florida. Who knew he could serve as long as he has?

Cantor Tanya Greenblatt is a Jewish cantor in the reform Jewish sects. She is married to Scott Greenblatt and they have three rambunctious little boys, twins Joshua and Michael, and little Theodore, and she has taught many things for many years. I met Greenblatt when she was a maiden and had not married yet, but she was still teaching children at Temple Israel, a tolerant liberal JEwish establishment in Tallahassee, which I might add made the fifty worst places to live recently in the newspaper USA Today. But that’s not all. Mrs. Greenblatt has proven that ableism need not stop her from living and loving with a blind man, and their three sons matter. The Greenblatts will teach their sons to be open and accepting of transgendered people, as Mrs. Greenblatt’s brother transitioned from female to male. Jewish literature does have examples of LGBTQI people and beings in it, and it was Greenblatt who taught a naive group of college students, and most of all, a girl who was blind, but was just waking up to the realization that what she was taught about LGBTQ+ individuals was wrong.

While Islam gets a bad rap for mistreatment of women, I must point out that more Somali clerics in the Denver, Minneapolis, and other metropolitan areas are telling young boys they should never go off to fight Jihad. It is a relic, this holy war business, and I know that most of my Muslim American friends would agree with me on this. One such cleric is the leader of the Dar alTahweed Muslim organization in Denver, Colorado, who was formerly the imam of Masjid Abu Bakr. Meet Karim Abu Zaid, who did an interview of such good proportions on a radio station. Abu Zaid does not believe in violent jihad, and while he does study the Sunna and Qur’an, he doesn’t encourage young minds to grapple with terrorism. While headlines blasted several Muslim women for going overseas to help Isis and other groups, or should I call them simply the Islamic State, Abu Zaid probably preached against them. I don’t see him as a guy who doesn’t talk interfaith dialogue with Jews and Christians, but he has an American wife. He is indeed very knowledgeable about his studies, and in the interest of security, he would probably set the jihadi Johns and Janes in Denver straight, and Muslims, to their credit are turning the right direction. Isis was driven out of Iraq, and Syria barely has Isis there, but in several places. What does the driving out of the Islamic State mean? Clerics might tell you that it means the Jihadi violence as chartered right there in their holy Book is truly a rhetoric thing, a relic of the seventh century. While Abu Zaid did preach that women should lower their eyes, he must understand that Islam is about to get a good shakeup.

 

While I applaud the work of all three people mentioned, I want to applaud those who see the value of inclusion in any religious organization. Of course, I’m not advocating blind or disabled females get involved in churches or cults that despise them, I’m stating that the people mentioned here know the value of inclusion. Murray included me in his lectures to the Confirmation candidates in 2000, and Greenblatt included Scott and myself in her life in two very different ways. Scott married her, but I learned a lot from her presence. Abu Zaid’s preaching was interesting, but I must also add, his heart is in the right place, though people don’t see it that way sometimes. Muslims will eventually reform and become more tolerant as the world’s progress turns rapidly, and all people should be included in the organizations’ meetings and events as a result. Here’s how you can include disabled people, and make your organization or branch thereof safer.

 

  1. Include support for those disabled folks without famnily in your organization. If a disabled couple does not get support, allow them to get married with the help of a minister, cleric, or rabbi.
  2. Bless all babies. Disabled babies should be given special attention, but blessed as equals to everybody else. Protestant churches should include disabled children in Baptisms and dedications, and allow Baptism to take place without requirements such as marriage if the person is living with their significant other. Marriage costs so much more than a $30 piece of paper that says, you are married. It could have detrimental effects on some couples who truly can’t work, and want to live good lives with each other, have families, etc.
  3. Bless the products of disabled parents. They should be named and blessed equally with nondisabled parents’ kids. Teach inclusion in all scriptural passages, and demonstrate love for your neighbors by including the parents and children experiencing disability by allowing yourself to be open to transporting the disabled parents’ children and the parents themselves to your locations. Why? Because paratransit does not allow families to board. All children should be given opportunities to meet the opposite sex, and be allowed comprehensive birth control even if a cleric, priest, or other clergy objects. Some disabled women have medical reasons not to get pregnant, and may want adoption. Allow the domestic foster systems in your state to do its thing, but as a clergyman or woman you should guide these disabled parents in their quest to become parents. Not with ableist comments, but with tips and suggestions and yes, support.
  4. When a disabled person dies, this means that their funerals should be attended by all members of the parish, masjid, synagogue, or church body if applicable. Let the flowers fall on their graves, and depending on how they died, the celebrant should speak kindly to them, no condemnation. For LGBTQ+ disabled people, should this be the case, no condemning the person or persons to Hell is permissible. You can never condemn anyone to Hell, and depending on the beliefs of each sect, the person who died should be given a better send off than anyone else, even a serial killer. Should Ted Bundy be given a place in Heaven? Certainly not. Because of his wrong choices about women, the choice to act on deviant sexual attitudes, he should indeed get the death penalty or life in prison, and no funeral at that. However, a disabled female to male transition should never be condemned as going to Hell for who they are. While Conservatives may disagree, they should put themselves in the shoes of a blind baby boy in Mexico whose parents wanted him to die, all because of blindness. This could have meant to him that he could go to Hell for being blind, if the parent figures had no brains.

Think on why I say what I do, and think closely on what you can do to make life easier for people with disabilities. See my prior post on the tax exempt moneys that churches get easily, and how they should be used. Just because your building architecture is inclusive does not necessarily mean your organization is 100% inclusive, however. So think about it. Let women lead your organization, preside on the governing board, and make decisions about their own lives. This differentiates between true religious teachings and cultish behavior.

Sincerely,

Beth