The Mortiest Morty: Disability on Rick and Morty

Disability in Rick and Morty. Image of two main characters in a green swirl

Guest blogger: Adam Langley is a full-time dweeb and part-time writer, specializing in mental health, disability, and why Jessica Jones is the best Defender.

Disabilities are often treated by popular culture as problems that need to be fixed, as something to overcome. Learning or developmental disabilities in particular are shown to be surmountable if the character in question just works hard enough. Look at Sheldon Cooper. Look at TV shows like Atypical or literally any “special” episode which tries to portray autism or dyslexia. There is an underlying message that, with hard work and perseverance, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone and let people in, you too can be “normal” – or at least as normal as you can be until the narrative requires a quick gag and your condition is played for laughs. … Read more…

Facing Anxiety: Streaming Games While Disabled

Facing Anxiety: Streaming Games While Disabled. Erin staring at her computer screen

Through most of my life, I’ve been afraid of public speaking. I always found more comfort in the written word; there’s a relief in the solace of the craft, and it gives me time to construct the perfect sentence. Getting my job at Easterseals forced me into public speaking, mostly over the phone. I facilitate conferences between our organization and potential influencers, report my progress during our department meetings, and hold one-on-one chats with my boss every Friday. All of these things would have seemed impossible to me a few years ago. Now, I still feel that twist in my stomach as my voice shakes, and my mind goes blank when asked questions. But with over two years of working there, I learned to find that confidence to speak, and to (mostly) not care if someone misunderstands me or notices how nervous I am.

Building that energy to speak publicly also affected my work here at The Geeky Gimp. I’ve branched off and made a podcast, hosted live events on Google, and now stream regularly on Twitch. I even appear on Geek Girl Riot, a show on Idobi Radio with over 20,000 listeners. Being forced to approach my fears led to other opportunities that I enjoy, and different ways to express myself. I’m able to reach out to more audiences about disability inclusion and accessibility. And more importantly, I’ve made some amazing friends through these projects where I would otherwise feel isolated. … Read more…

The Digital Crip Wave: Podcasts by Disabled People

The Digital Wave: Podcasts by Disabled People

I started listening to podcasts about two years ago when I was looking to alleviate my insomnia; the first show I found was Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period with W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery. Being a Denzealot myself (who isn’t?), I was hooked by these hilarious and insightful dudes breaking down the best of Denzel’s work.

Then I started checking out other podcasts, like Stuff You Should Know, The Black Tapes, and Welcome to Night Vale. They all fascinated me in different ways, but I longed for the disability voice I wasn’t hearing in these shows. I wanted to know where all the crips were, and how I could support their work on the digital airwaves.

Through research and word-of-mouth, I discovered these rich, powerful, illuminating shows produced by crips. That’s why I created this living resource showcasing podcasts by disabled people. Our words hold value, and more folks need to pay attention. … Read more…

On Perception and Authentic Disability Representation

Perception and Authentic Disability Representation. A woman with moths on her face, her eyes are blank and Perception is in braille

Perception is a horror exploration game attempting to bring forth a strong disabled protagonist with an original gameplay style. In this title made by the same developers of BioShock, you play as Cassie, a blind woman who taps her cane on surfaces to see, much like echolocation. When tapping Cassie’s cane, a blue wave emits and briefly shows the outline of the objects in your vicinity. If you tap your cane too much, an evil force is disturbed; you can take cover briefly in one of the hiding locations you come across, like in a wicker basket or under a bed. You also have access to Cassie’s cell phone, and can use it to take pictures of different texts, like prescription bottles or cards, and have the accessibility program on the phone read them aloud for you.

It’s rare to find a video game that realistically portrays disability, and abled developers and storytellers often rely on tropes to carry their narrative. With Perception, I was wary of the blind person with echolocation stereotype; but I thought if developers could show a disabled person using accessibility tools to navigate the world and solve mysteries, it would be a step toward normalizing disabled characters in video games. So even if the whole echolocation bit concerned me, I was willing to give it a shot. I backed the digital copy on Kickstarter and waited over a year to finally play it.

I want to point out that I am not blind or have low vision. My disability affects my strength, dexterity, and range-of-motion, so I am going to start with my initial thoughts and access barriers, then bring in the voices of actual blind/low-vision gamers to share their experiences. … Read more…

Doctor Poison and Disability in Wonder Woman

Doctor Poison and Disability in Wonder Woman

This blog post contains major spoilers for the Wonder Woman movie!

This past Tuesday, I finally got to see Wonder Woman. My expectations going in were high; friends gushed about the film, and some hailed it as the best movie in the DC franchise. I should point out that, despite my critical nature, I have low standards when it comes to DC superhero movies because I love those characters so much; Batman vs. Superman was even listed as one of my favorite films in 2016.

In terms of pure entertainment, Wonder Woman did not disappoint. I was enthralled throughout and adored our first big-screen look at Themyscira and its powerful Amazons. Gal Gadot was lifted right from the comic pages and was especially convincing in battle scenes. One of my favorite moments was when Diana took control at No Man’s Land (a scene that almost didn’t happen), refusing to leave people behind and let them suffer as unfortunate casualties of war. She ignored Steve Trevor’s pleading to stay back and forged ahead with her bad-ass weaponry. That scene encapsulated everything that Wonder Woman’s culture is about, and the strength of her people’s history. … Read more…

My Gimpy Feet: The Quest to Find Accessible Shoes

My Gimpy Feet: The Quest to Find Accessible shoes. My feet wearing Mary Jane style shoes, one shoe's fabric looks like a notebook cover and the other looks like lined paper

Finding shoes that work on my feet is a trial, for several reasons. Muscular Dystrophy makes my ankles contract and curve inward; this shape also makes my ankle bone protrude, leaving the sides of my feet extremely sensitive. And because they arch so heavily, they’re smaller than average, meaning I wear child-size shoes. Imagine me, age 33, trying to find sandals in the kid’s section that aren’t bedazzled with Frozen characters or excessive bows. But that isn’t the only trouble; my sensitivity issues mean I can’t slide my foot into most shoes – so sneakers and boots are out, and anything with a heel is impossible. … Read more…

The Boiling Point: Disability in The Handmaid’s Tale

The Boiling Point: Disability in The Handmaid's Tale. Image of Janine, a handmaid in a red robe with a white hat. One of her eyes is scarred over

Warning: spoilers for the book and first three episodes beyond this point!

After the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale aired on Hulu, folks were rightfully horrified by the scene where June (later known as Offred) and her fellow women coworkers were fired; the women in that fictional world also lost access to their bank accounts and credit cards, ushering in the Republic of Gilead, the authoritative regime that took over the country. While this scene was chilling, it didn’t impact or disturb me as much as intended. Why? Because this dystopian fiction is a reality for many disabled people, especially those who are multiply marginalized – like queer and trans disabled women of color. As a disabled latina, I’ve already lived through, and continue to live through, that scene in the show. Let me break down what I mean. … Read more…

Losing Friends to Ableism

Losing Friends to Ableism. Little wooden meeples, one side they are all grouped up, other side is just one, lonely meeple

“I would’ve made sure it was accessible if we were closer friends.” An ex-friend said this after I expressed hurt over his party being held in an inaccessible venue. I wasn’t even mad at him initially since it was a surprise planned by his family; they knew I couldn’t get inside, and ignored guests offering alternate, accessible spaces. When this ex-friend told me of the event, all he said was “sorry you can’t come.” That was it.

I wouldn’t have been too upset if this person offered to visit for a mini celebration with mutual friends. I wouldn’t have been angry if he gave a sincere apology rather than defensiveness and silence. Making accessibility a privilege offered only to closest friends or family is horrifically ableist. This person was someone I hung out with regularly, so I assumed we were good friends. But even if we were acquaintances, what he said was dehumanizing. To make things worse, he spouted that quote above knowing I was going through an emotionally vulnerable time in my life. I’m glad I ended that friendship, especially after realizing he was toxic in other ways. … Read more…

LARPing While Disabled: My First Impression

LARPing while Disabled. Two Storm Troopers, one in a wheelchair being pushed by the other

It’s been a few weeks since I attended Dreamation, a tabletop and LARP convention in New Jersey. I’m more of a board gamer, and my only experience with RPGs has been online. I play-tested a LARP about disability at a previous convention, but beyond that, I’ve yet to break into the hobby. My boyfriend Michael is into LARP, so I decided to go out of my comfort zone and play a full game. At the least, I would get blog material; the worst outcome would be me spiraling into anxiety mode and quitting. I ended up playing two LARPs that weekend, taking away a new understanding of myself and the space I inhabit as a disabled woman at a convention.

The hotel hosting the event was ADA compliant, with elevators, smooth flooring, automatic doors, table seating near the bar, and spacious rooms. The folks running Dreamation also had a disability liaison on hand (the amazing Elsa), and attentive staff aware of potential access needs. Because organizers give attention to safety and accessibility, a lot of disabled people attend; not just physically disabled, but mentally and chronically ill gamers were in abundance. So I knew if I had a problem in-or-out of the game, Dreamation’s staff would support me and find a solution. Other conventions should follow this pattern for disabled attendees. … Read more…

Ableism in Fiction: My Guest Blog for Disability in Fiction

A pile of books on a shelf, illustrated

A few days ago, my guest blog was published for the Disability in Fiction blog series, hosted by fantasy author Intisar Khanani.

Growing up as an avid reader, I never came across any disabled authors or characters in literature. Before the internet, I only had access to my small-town school library. Seeking out books with disabled characters never crossed my mind; disability was something that I had and not part of my proclaimed identity as it is now. For most of my childhood, abled was the norm, even though I’ve been disabled my whole life. I was the only visibly disabled person in my social circle, and I wasn’t aware of invisible disabilities as a concept.

Read more at BooksByIntisar.com

I want to know what you’re reading! Share your experience with disability in fiction, including any book recommendations, in the comments below.