The Myth of Walking
“Rucker is a gifted observer-humorist, unleashing a straight-arrow honesty and a vibrant, penetrating wit while probing the most intimate aspects of contemporary life and human behavior…” (Publisher Weekly)
Mr. Rucker lectures widely on the subject of living with disability. He is also a contributing editor to “New Mobility” magazine and the chairman of the Writers With Disabilities Committee at the WGA. He lives in LA with wife, Ann. They have two sons.
I have been married for forty-five years to the same woman, the last sixteen as a T-10/12 paralytic. I just got back from the hospital a few days back, another seven days of life wasted because of cellulitis in my left leg. It’s not the first time I spent New Year’s Eve in a hospital bed and not the first time my wife Ann spent New Year’s Eve alone. You can file this irksome but non- life-threatening episode under the title, “Drip-Drip Costs of Paralysis.” Read More
"The Sessions," the highly-acclaimed film about the real-life tale of severely-disabled poet Mark O'Brien and his first sexual experience, is picking up award nominations right and left this award season. Lead actor John Hawkes and supporting actress Helen Hunt have been nominated for three major awards so far: the Golden Globe Awards, the SAG-AFTRA Awards, and Film Independent SPIRIT Awards. Read More
(NOTE: I know everyone is weighing in on the Senate rejection of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It makes no sense to me either. Here’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with.)
I, for one, have been pondering this question for months: what the hell is going on with these people? By these people I mean the American right-of-center movers and shakers, or what pundit David Frum dubbed “the conservative media complex.” I’m not trying to start a political fight here – the election, thank heavens, is over – but just trying to see the grand strategy behind many of the words and actions recently espoused by our brothers and sisters on the right. Frankly, by the conventional wisdom that says people say what they mean, it doesn’t add up.Read More
I know, many if not most of you are already sitting down, and therein lies the subject of today’s post. We wheelchair users consider ourselves unique because we spend most of our waking hours sitting. But, according to new research recently reported in the New York Times, we aren’t as outside the mainstream in this regard as we think. The truth is, accordingly to researchers in Australia, “the average adult spends 50 to 70 percent of their time sitting.” That’s only a couple of hours less than you and me. Australians aren’t a whole lot different than Americans – they sit all day at work and sit all night watching the telly, next to Sheila (their girlfriend), munching on a bikkie (a cookie) and sipping a Toohey’s (a beer). Read More
If you listened to President Obama’s victory speech the other night in Chicago, and listened very carefully, you heard this:
“I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love (ph). It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. (Cheers, applause.) You can make it here in America if you are willing to try…” Read More
You learn something new every day and today – Election Day, 2012 – I learned something that made my life just a little easier: curbside voting. This means, at least in the state of California and many, many other places, that all you have to do as a wheelchair user is drive up or be driven up to your polling place, call a number listed in front on your cell phone, and a voting official will come out to your car with a ballot and you fill it out right there. Having voted in every major election in California, this is the first time I’ve been offered this option. It was as easy as ordering from McDonald’s, ie, pretty darn easy. Read More
When it comes to attitudes towards people with disabilities, the non-disabled world can be roughly broken up into three groups: one, those who treat you like a human being: two, those who resent all the “advantages” you enjoy as disabled, from SSDI benefits to those little lifts that take you up three steps at the restaurant; and three, those who are simply out to exploit any perceived advantage you might have and use it to their own advantage. Read More
The annual Media Access Awards, Hollywood’s most sustained effort to recognize those who promote characters, storylines, and actors with disabilities in film and television, has had a checkered history of late. Begun in the late 1970’s by Norman Lear and others to simply introduce the idea that people with disabilities belong on the big canvas of American entertainment, the event has been through a dizzying array of formats and funding over the decades. In the middle of the current decade, it was run out of Sacramento by the California Economic Development Department, good people but completely unskilled in doing show biz events. In 2007, like everyone else, the EDD ran out of money and cancelled the Media Access Awards. For two years they were gone and forgotten. Award shows are a dime a dozen in Hollywood and they die every day – remember the CableAce Awards or the Hollywood Pet Awards? Read More
The most common perception of people in wheelchairs is “weak.” Equally out there these days is “heroic, even superhuman.” Both are well-known distortions. The way to dispel these bad raps is probably not with rhetorical assaults or righteous legislation. Even laws have their limits in changing minds. A living, breathing personal example is much more powerful. The most inspirational stories are usually of some guy or gal in a chair you happen to know personally who succeeds in life, one way or another. Read More
Many of us living with paralysis, either because of good fortune or maybe a studied myopia, see the world out there as generally sympathetic to our plight. In fact, speaking for myself, my main complaint is that most people I encounter are a little too friendly, irritatingly solicitous, and treat me like a helpless senior citizen. The occasional ramp-less entry way aside, I don’t run into that much trouble. I certainly don’t encounter rank hostility or prejudice. People might secretly think I’m a pathetic, useless, social-service-sucking member of society, but they hide it behind a supportive smile.
Then something happens that jars me back to reality. Read More
The single biggest barrier to equal status for all Americans with disabilities is employment, and yet a lot of the disability cognoscenti don’t want to talk about it. First of all, it’s depressing. The needle of economic progress has hardly moved from the day the ADA was passed in 1990. According to a recent Forbes magazine piece, the rate of unemployment among disabled workers hit a high of 16.9 percent in the second quarter of 2011, essentially twice that of workers overall. Another way to look at it: the Christian Science Monitor reports that as of June this year, 32% of the disabled were working, while 80% said they wanted to work.
Statistics can cause headaches and drive some to heavy drinking, but the point is clear: if you are a disabled job seeker, it’s tough out there. Same as it ever was. Read More
I love to fly. I love to sit back with a free coke and some peanuts and be carted in the air from point A to point B. On an airplane, all mobility distinctions disappear, unless you have a sharp eye and see that my legs are tied together because it’s more comfortable and since I’m always in an aisle seat, my legs don’t flop out and trip up the next guy. Flying is a mental vacation and sometime you come up with your best ideas on vacation. Or read your carefully concealed copy of “Fifty Shades of Gray.” Read More
Is there reason to be optimistic about the greater inclusion of characters and/or performers with disabilities in American film and TV? I’ve been watching this stuff for a while and I say yes. But don’t break out the Cristal just yet. No sea change has occurred. But do take notice. There are at least a new crop of shows featuring the disabled to watch and maybe, God forbid, serve as a spawning ground for others. Read More
If you are old enough, you might remember the mid-70’s TV-movie called “The Boy In The Plastic Bubble.” Starring a young, ex-Sweat Hog named John Travolta, it was a ripped-from-the-headlines story of a kid whose immune system is so out of whack that any exposure to any pathogen – bacteria, virus, fungi -- was potentially life-threatening. Or you may have caught the classic Seinfeld episode on the same subject, “Bubble Boy.” George gets into an argument about Trivial Pursuit with a dyspeptic boy in a bubble he visits. Of course the bubble gets ripped open and George is blamed.
What a sad fate, you’re saying, to be so susceptible to every bacteria or virus floating around that you have to live in a sterilized bubble. Well, recently, as a T-10 para who is prone to infection, I’ve felt exactly like that: a man in a bubble without the bubble. Read More
Ever since writer Norman Cousins laughed his way through heart disease and wrote a book about it in the late 1970’s, “Anatomy of an Illness,” we’ve all known that the physiological and psychological effects of humor are profound. There is now even an entire field of study devoted to laughter called “gelotology.” If you work hard and make good grades, you too can get a PhD with a thesis entitled “The ‘I Get No Respect’ Humor of Rodney Dangerfield And The American Male Ego In Decline.” Or, “Groundhog Day And the Epistemology of Time.” In other words, you can now go to Stanford and study The Three Stooges. Go figure. Read More