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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Page 2

It’s been so long since I wrote a non-sports blog post, I have completely lost my rhythm for doing so. Of course, that statement assumes that I actually had some rhythm for it at one point.

A couple of years ago I combined my Philly Sports Review and Casual Critic blog into Rob Q. Ink in an effort to have a blog that was updated two or three times a week. Part of what I liked about the idea was being a writer with a disability offering commentary on various issues – including disability issues – all in the same spot.

As recently as a few weeks ago I wrote out a list of topics for articles that I wanted to write. The list started with the above topic:

• Why I write about multiple topics on the same blog
• Speech disabilities and disability hierarchy
• Scottie Pippen in the Hall of Fame (note)
• Pending lockouts, NFL & NBA
• “Mainstreaming” has benefits
• Widener class (my discussion with a group of prospective special ed teachers)

With only a few edits for the sake of clarity, that was the list. Topic number one may have tripped me up, as the more I thought about it the more I wondered if it really was a good idea.

In fact, I ultimately decided it was not a good idea to have a blog on multiple topics, at least not one that included sports. My blog posts on Philadelphia sports were dominating all of the other topics. It’s just easier for me to write about sports as I’m naturally following it every day. I can just sit at the keyboard and let my passion flow, and if I really get into a specific issue that requires some research, I have enough desire and knowledge to do it easily.

That’s not to suggest that I don’t have passion for other topics. I can certainly get revved up about disability issues, politics, and more. They’re just not things I have enough desire to write about two or three times a week.

My sports posts were dominating in other ways as well – they get the most hits and I have actually obtained a few advertisements within posts. I finally realized that it might be a good idea to try to maximize that modicum of “success.” The thought also occurred to me that people reading my sports posts – as well as other potential advertisers – were probably turned off by the occasional book review, political rant, or whatever.

Not wanting to go back to having a third blog – I also produce an informational blog for the disability community* – I tried to figure out how to display individual topics on their own pages. My hope was to take advantage of Blogger’s relatively new feature allowing stand alone pages. For instance, Rob Q. Ink would have had a “Sports” page with its own sidebar links, advertisements, etc. I did enough research to know that it was probably possible, but beyond my programming capabilities.

So, I comprised, and Rob Q. Ink – Page 2 was born. Of course I realize I’m back to a third blog, but hopefully the continuity in the name will pay off. Who knows? I’m already thinking that I should have just gone back to using Philly Sports Review for my sports blogging, but there were too many logistical, pain-in-the-butt things to do to transition back. I especially didn’t want to have to try to re-obtain a link on’s sports blog roll.

I still believe in the concept that people with disabilities who find a voice in the general community need to maintain some focus specifically on disability issues. The combination is key. I think it would help move the conversation on disability, and eventually those with disabilities, into the public conscious more.

For instance, if my pipe dream of establishing myself as a major Philadelphia sports blogger came to fruition, I think it would be incumbent on me to use that notoriety to speak to a larger audience on topics that are relevant to the disability community. The voices that are being heard from the disability community tend to speak only to disability issues, and therefore only that part of the population.

Mark E. Smith and, to a larger degree, Josh Blue are the two strongest voices that I know of in the disability community. Blue seems to have moved a little bit into areas outside of disability with his comedy from what I catch on YouTube now and then, and Smith touches on other topics in his essays but the focus is always on disability. Steven Hawking is probably the one guy that is still in the public eye occasionally with a disability known for his work totally unrelated to disability, though I’ve never heard anything about him drawing attention to disability issues. (That’s not to say he hasn’t done so.)

Even as an unknown blogger, I’ve learned that there is no doubt about the danger of spreading yourself too thin. My focus on sports blogging has only increased since I made the original Rob Q. Ink exclusively about sports. Hopefully, the increased effort will pay off.

Whether it does or not, Page 2 will be where I pontificate, babble, or just plain bitch and moan about the world outside of sports. Posts may run once a week, once a month, or on a completely random schedule. Disability subjects will be part of what I write about, but only a part. Politics, entertainment, news of the day, and whatever else moves me to write, will make up the rest of the posts.

Hopefully, the effort will move others to give Page 2 a read now and then.

*I no longer produce the disability blog as of the end of 2011.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A True Story: My Gym Encounter the Day after the Election

The day after the election I was finishing up my hour on the exercise bike, pleased I had gotten through level 8 on “random hill” for the first time even though my miles were a bit down at 16.7. That’s not an exact number, as I was quite distracted for the last several minutes of my workout by the man who had sat on the bike to my left.

The mere presence of President Obama on the television screen above us prompted this 50-something white man to seek out what he thought was an agreeable face. The wheelchair in front of my bike apparently meant I didn’t fit the bill, which I was perfectly fine with. My speech disability makes impromptu conversations with strangers extremely difficult, and sucking wind doesn’t make it any easier.

“He’s an idiot, huh?” he said, apparently finding what he was looking for in the 40-something white man two bikes to his left.

Not wanting to play along, the second guy just sort of shrugged and said something like, “I think he’s doing ok.” Certainly I didn’t take notes, but I began writing this post, especially the dialogue as best I could remember, shortly after returning home.

Unsatisfied, Mr. 50-something pressed on. Eventually he said, “Then there’s all the unemployment benefits he’s extended.”

As my blood began to boil, I shared a look with the second guy. He again tried to avoid the conversation. As a woman walked by he even attempted to toss out a classic male-bonding comment. “I try not to get into it. I’d rather just talk to a pretty girl.”

Finally, Mr. 50-something pushed too far. “Eh, he totally ruined the economy. All that money to the banks.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I finally chimed in, rather loudly. “He had to do something.”

Ignoring me, the older man kept talking until finally the second guy had enough.

“The economy tanked because they were letting people buy homes they couldn’t afford. Instead of saying, ‘You can’t afford this,’ they wrote loan after loan. Who was president then?”

“Bush,” I said, louder.

“Exactly.” I wasn’t being ignored any more.

“You can’t blame Bush. That’s the banks.”

“And my son’s been out of work for 6 months,” Mr. 40-something said. “There is no work because everybody’s afraid to move forward in this economy.”

Done my workout, I got in my wheelchair. I honestly planned to just leave, but the true nugget for me of the mindset of those reveling in yesterday awaited me.

“And how about this guy. What’s he supposed to do? Do you work? Or, I guess, you can’t?” asked the younger guy.

“I can work, I just can’t find another job.”

“What’s he supposed to do?” asked the younger guy.

“That’s different. That’s disability. I have no problem with that.”

“No, it’s not different,” I said. I gave the younger guy a half handshake, half high-five, and thanked him as I left.

Ask Rand Paul, who won in Kentucky, if it’s different after he spoke out against the Americans with Disabilities Act in May. reported:

Paul has suggested the law goes too far, incorrectly describing what it requires for many businesses.

This is what Paul said in a May interview on National Public Radio: "I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator."

However, elevators "are not required in facilities that are less than three stories or have fewer than 3,000 square feet per story, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal," according to the Web site of the U.S. Justice Department, which enforces the law.

The law requires only that public facilities — such as stores, banks, hotels and restaurants — "remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is 'readily achievable,' i.e., it can be done 'without much difficulty or expense,'" according to the Justice Department.

Yahoo! News reported soon after Paul's May statement that the Justice Department and legal experts could not cite any instance of a private employer being successfully sued to install an elevator.
In other words, the man didn’t even know the law or its consequences. He merely knew that it is perceived as bad for business so, as a Republican, he was looking to roll it back.

And the Republicans and those like Mr. 50-something have chosen not to know that the economy tanked long before Barack Obama was sworn in as president. He’s not what they wanted in the White House, and they simply want to roll back whatever he’s done.

They don’t have the problem of paying the bills or not having health care, so they don’t feel a need to deal with it. They prefer to live in the dream world where giving rich business owners tax cuts cures all because the wealth will “trickle down” to the rest of society. And since they don’t really want people with disabilities in their businesses, they have no problem giving us benefits to live on (not that it’s possible to truly live on Social Security) as long as we’re happy staying out of the way.

These are the types of people that just won a so-called victory yesterday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Voting Against Arrogance

I was thinking of not voting this year, until I saw a message on Facebook. A “friend” managed to take a video I posted on PhillyACCESS, an informational website for people with disabilities, and turn it into a message against the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The video was of an extreme sports athlete doing a long jump off of a ski jump type of ramp in a wheelchair. It’s an amazing video.

It also doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the ADA.

Yet, somehow he posted the words, “Must be a guy in charge of his own destiny ... probably doesn't spend much time worrying about the ADA.” I only know what the hell that means because I know how he thinks.

On the surface, it’s completely incoherent. Actually, even when it’s examined a little deeper, it’s completed incoherent. But, like I said, I know how he thinks.

The guy thinks the rest of the world should just pull themselves up by the bootstraps he never needed to pull on.

If you haven’t guessed, he’s a Republican.

He’s the guy who thinks “programs are out there to help those people,” and everyone should just fend for themselves. He thinks he can get away with saying these things because, after all, he knows someone with a disability. It’s sort of like the guy who tells racist jokes, but thinks it’s ok because his best friend is black.

I’m tempted to explain just how little he knows about my experience, but his ignorance is only the impetus for this post.

His ignorance is that of the elite and the wannabee elite. As a casual observer of politics, it seems perfectly clear that one of the main political breakdowns in this country follows the fault lines of the wealthy and those clutching at their skirts to become truly wealthy versus everyone else. The other falls along the lines of racial tolerance and racism, inclusion for all and ignorance.

I was actually a registered Republican during the last election. I had registered when I was old enough, and followed in my parents’ footsteps without much concern for which party I was registered with. I had this crazy notion that I would actually try to learn about the candidates running for election.

Yet, after the last election, I was simply too embarrassed to be registered as a Republican. Their not-so-veiled racist attitudes disgusted me. Sarah Palin’s presence on the presidential ticket was simply insulting to anyone with a brain, as was her suggestion that giving birth to a child with a disability made her an advocate. It most assuredly did not, and the attitude she and John McCain demonstrated toward the then infant son of Palin only proved it.

I figured Palin would fade back to oblivion where she belongs after the election, and things would settle down. Instead, Republicans have merely dug in their heels and two years later still call the airhead from Alaska their voice of the future.

There’s a future I want no part of.

The venom that continues to spew from enraged Republicans, angered by the fact that a black man is in the White House, is what has me going to the polls. It’s not really covered by the media, but we all know President Obama’s race is the cause of the vitriol.

Ignorant people want to hide behind catch phrases like Obamacare, big government, bailouts, and socialism. Of course, most of them obviously don’t understand what socialism is, don’t seem to comprehend that the bailouts of the banks have their origins in the Bush administration, and are somehow offended by the notion of attempting to give everyone health care.

They merely “want to take the country back,” which doesn’t mean anything. The country wasn’t taken over by an enemy. It’s merely code for “we want a white guy back in the White House.” Just ask Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who recently said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

That’s funny. I thought it was about governing the country better, in their opinion, than President Obama.

For two years, I’ve been told by obnoxious Republicans that I regret my vote in the last election. I most assuredly do not.

According to all reports, my vote won’t matter much tomorrow. But voting against the arrogance of Republicans is never wrong.