If It’s Not Accessible, Who Is It For?

I think that this point is important, and is the complementary counterpoint to my crowdfunding piece that so many of you read on freshly pressed. Hopefully we can find a balance, pooling resources so that valuable voices are not silenced for true financial limitations, while encouraging individuals and organizations to reflect their values with their pocketbooks. Thank you, Sam Dylan Finch, for writing this insightful piece.

Let's Queer Things Up!

Since going viral last October, the invitations to speak at conferences and other events have slowly but surely started trickling in.

At first, it was thrilling. I’ve always wanted to travel and talk about my experiences, because I still believe that face-to-face interaction does something that my words on the screen simply can’t. I wanted people to put a human face to the very important issues that I’ve been talking about.

I wanted people to realize that trans people exist, trans people with bipolar no less, and that I am not only surviving, but thriving in a world that often limits us.

But just as quickly as the invitations came in, they were being revoked. Not because I wasn’t capable of speaking, or that the engagement was cancelled – time after time, the conference and workshop invitations were being withdrawn because I had asked for disability accommodations.

As a…

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A Little Fire for the Engine of Change: The Driving Power of Love and Outrage

I’m not exactly sure when I began to view emotion as an obstacle to my advocacy.  When did it become the case that I viewed myself as a less effective advocate if I was “too emotional?”  When did a potential ally, or fellow advocate become someone that I couldn’t work with because he or she “felt too strongly” about an issue?

I’m not sure when, but I think that I understand why.  Most of the important issues on which I advocate, from personal care and healthcare, to employment and consumer strength, have rational, policy-based solutions.

Some emotions, most notably, pity, fear, bitterness, or revulsion, really get in the way of these solutions.  Pity or revulsion can devalue the very individuals whose needs are most at stake, while fear and bitterness can alienate potential allies before ever extending a hand.

And yet, passion is the strongest human motivator.  In my hurry to dismiss destructive emotion, I’m beginning to believe that I have been too quick to dismiss the important role of constructive emotion in bringing change.  Laws can change individual behaviors, but it is hearts that change the world.

So here is my emotional prescription: I invite advocates for inclusion to embrace the twin emotions of love and outrage.

This combination, and the idea of productive outrage, might be counterintuitive to some, but bear with me.  Let’s start with love.

Love is an incredible driver of proactive inclusion.

Years ago, as my sister was searching for an apartment in Brooklyn, I was living in Cincinnati Ohio, with little ability to afford plane tickets.  Though not eventually successful, my sister searched tirelessly for an accessible apartment that she could afford.  I did not yet live nearby, and it was unlikely that I was can be a regular visitor, but it was important to her that I could get into her house, if the opportunity arose.

Similarly, upon moving into their new home, my brother and sister-in-law immediately undertook, at significant expense, to build a ramp.  This, even though when we had lived a mere 20 blocks apart, our busy lives had allowed for a visit perhaps once every six months.  Again, it was important to them that I could get into their home, whether or not there were immediate plans for me to visit.

Most recently, my cousin bought a home in Key West Florida, and before she had shared the news of the purchase publicly, she called me delighted to share that the home was accessible and that I could visit whenever I wanted.  Given both of our financial situations, we expect that this visit is a long way off, but still I was in her mind when she purchased her home.

The common theme here is not particularly complicated.  My siblings and my cousin love me.  They want the opportunity for me to be a part of their lives to be built in, not addressed only when there is an occasion.

This type of love drives a lot of the allies of the disability movement.  Parents who want access and dignity for their children, and children who want to be able to share their world with their parents.  Be it these, or siblings, or spouses, or dear friends, it seems to me that almost every time that I meet an inclusion advocate who is not themselves a person with a disability, their advocacy is born of some connection of love to a person with a disability.

Instead of running away from that connection, I propose to grow it.

The Judeo-Christian Bible commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Endless reams of paper, or bits and bytes in today’s age, have been spilled on the meaning of this injunction, and I don’t propose to unpack it today, especially since my thesis is not a religious one.  Rather I propose to paraphrase it.  I propose to suggest that we extend some measure of the love that we would extend to the friends and family described above to our community of neighbors.

This is a hard prescription.  I am essentially asking for each person to embrace a love for a hypothetical person that you haven’t met, and to make your places and programs inclusive because you love them and want them participating in society, even though you don’t yet know who they are.

Certainly, it’s difficult, which is why I presume that the ancient moral code enjoins it.  It’s unnecessary to order those things which people do naturally.  At first, it might even seem nonsensical.  And yet, it’s not really so much of a stretch in this instance.

We, in the disability world, acknowledge that disability is a club that anyone can join at any time, and that everyone, should they be privileged to live long enough, will join.  Today, we talk about the hypothetical stranger.  Tomorrow, it may be your aging parent, or a beloved sibling or spouse with sudden illness or injury, or your newborn, beloved and beautiful, while diagnosed with something making her different.

I guarantee you that love will drive you then, but maybe, just maybe, we can try to get there first, embracing some empathy before it becomes personal.  And maybe, then we can begin to embrace people before they ask.

From this context of love, I think it becomes easier to understand what I mean by outrage.  If you love someone, and the door is figuratively or literally slammed in their face, whether by physical sensory or intellectual access, or simply a lack of opportunity, it is not a stretch to think that you would be outraged.  Certainly, you would be outraged if they were subject to violence, or brutality.

And yet, every day the persistent exclusion of people with disabilities is met with resignation, sadness and regret.  Even I can only summon outrage when a person with a disability is murdered by a parent or caregiver, as happened so recently to London McCabe, or strangled by police, as in the recent case of Robert Ethan Saylor.  It is much more common to react with grief than outrage

I’ll be releasing another piece on this specific idea within the next few days, fully extolling the virtues of outrage, but for now I’d like to focus on outrage is the flipside of love.  It is hard to be outraged at the exclusion of the faceless other, but easy to be outraged at the exclusion of one whom we love.

The bridge, then, is to try to empathize with the excluded other, to love them, or at least realize how easily they could be one of our loved ones.  I question the people who claim to fight for justice simply because of an intellectual conviction that it is the right thing.  I think that the best lawyers for social justice recognize that the people for whom they advocate are simply themselves, if life had gone a little differently.  “There, but for the grace of God, goes me.”

This empathetic outrage, as I will argue for more fully in the next piece, is critical to a true push for change.  Not for counterproductive bitterness, or for blame for the artifacts of exclusion which are so often left over from an earlier time, but for urgency.

The things about which we are sad, we hope to someday change.  The things about which we are outraged, we will not rest until we find a way to change.  With so much work to be done, we need love, with its accompanying outrage, to fuel the engine of practical change.

Disability, Judaism

Welcomed Without Asking: Making Our Communities Inclusive to All

I got caught up in the discussion this week based upon a fantastic blog post that I did not write, posted on the blog of the Ruderman family foundation, linked here.  When I shared it to my Facebook page, with an exhortation for those in positions of leadership to change the exclusionary dynamic about which it was written, a friend in such a leadership position took issue with the fact that the mother in the piece had not, after all, asked for changes so that her family might be included.

This point, which has a certain facial appeal, falls down, I think, when one gets into application.  It’s nice that people will respond positively when asked, but I’m deeply concerned for those who don’t or can’t ask.

What of the single mother, uncomfortable and having already faced hostility from members of the congregation, as described in the post, who is afraid to address the leadership, which, might not only be imposing, but, in so many of our synagogues. is older, and/or male?  What of the parent. beleaguered by a life filled with challenges, who comes to synagogue for spiritual and human support, and simply does not have it in themselves for one more confrontation?  What of the parent who does not even know that their child has a diagnosis, and therefore knows no buzzwords with which to demand special treatment, but is merely looking for a place where they and their child are welcome?

What of the deaf person, seeking to attend services themselves, who, in the absence of an interpreter, or at least a person willing to look at a smart phone screen, is unable to make their wishes known?  What of the person with a mobility impairment who arrives at an inaccessible front door and can’t even breach the entry to ask if there’s another pathway inside?  What of the new self advocate who does not yet know exactly how to articulate his or her needs, looking for a spiritual community of support?

In the Passover Seder, as we are going through Jewish archetypes, one of the types of Jew described is the one “who does not know how to ask.”  The Haggadah tells us to start for that child, making asking unnecessary.

I think that this is a powerful lesson for inclusion.  Inclusion should be proactive, so that asking isn’t necessary, precisely because so many people cannot ask, or at least, facing an apparently hostile environment, will depart before ever asking.

Now, this is relatively easy when we are talking about mobility access, or even putting together a core from among the congregation that knows how to sign, or training ushers to look out for other visible disabilities and offer support, but what of behavioral disabilities?

After being told of my idea that the need to ask should be removed, my friend, mentioned above, challenged the idea that any and all behavior should be acceptable to a service leader, suggesting that the community has a right to regulate the disruptive effect of apparently aberrant behavior in the absence of a request for accommodation.

I think that this idea fails precisely because it makes inclusion dependent upon disability.  Leaving aside the vagaries of misdiagnosis, and the incidence of simple failure to diagnose an unknown condition, should acceptance and inclusion really be predicated upon the ability of medical science to quantify particular behavior?  The law craves such distinctions for rights to enforcement, but do we need them as we define how to welcome?

To my mind, if a service can continue with a particular behavior ongoing, (and there’s no question that the children’s behavior in the original blog post was insufficiently disruptive to derail services), then the community norm should be to accept it whether or not it comes with a diagnosis.

Isn’t a community more inclusive if we simply accept that some children (and adults) are more comfortable rocking, whether or not identified as autistic?  Isn’t a  community more inclusive if we accept that some people do better moving rather than sitting still, without predicating our acceptance on whether or not they have been diagnosed with an attention deficit or hyperactivity?

I reject the idea that forcing people to identify is necessary or right.  Certainly, at the very least it creates awkwardness and stigma.  In a worst-case scenario, it gives license to exclude from a community of support simply because someone isn’t carrying the right (metaphorical) paper.  I posit that a truly inclusive community would strive to broadly accept the habits and behavior of its members, without requiring an identity of disability.

Conversely, if a particular behavior is rendering worship untenable, or dangerous, or destructive, it seems to me that the identification of a disability at the root of that behavior isn’t an argument to ignore it or blithely accept it.  Under those circumstances, the goal is to find a mutually acceptable solution.  Again, I’d like to imagine a world where we don’t predicate such a willingness to collaborate on a diagnosis, and I accept the fact that, if no accommodation is possible, not even the law as applied to secular organizations requires an organization to accept programmatic destruction simply because the root cause of a person’s need is a disability.

My broad point is that the identification of a disability should not be the prerequisite for being welcomed into our community, even for those who present differently than some norm.  Not only would such a requirement turn certain people away at the door, and penalize others for being unaware of diagnoses, it adds an unnecessary burden to the already complex life of even those who would surely be granted accommodation on request.

If, instead, we make our communities as broadly welcoming and accessible as possible, we turn them into the places of love and support that we’ve always held them out to be.  It’s a sort of universal design for an accepting and inclusive congregation.  Yes, it allows people with disabilities and their parents to access our communities, but it also makes our communities open to the widest numbers of our potential fellow children of Israel, whether or not they fit these designations.

I invite all of you, clergy, lay leaders, and fellow community members to reimagine our environments from the ground up to include, rather than exclude.  Let’s strive for a baseline that accepts a broad range of humans, rather than reflexively excluding those acting somewhat differently than we.  Maybe then we can begin to find true inclusion.

Disability, Disability Rights

Cartographers Needed: Looking to Draw a Roadmap for Change

I have not yet seen the movie, Selma, but there has already been plenty of controversy in the press, including some interesting comments by Oprah Winfrey regarding the current protest movement.  Recently, the Washington Post reports on a People Magazine interview where she said of the movement, “’I think it’s wonderful to march and to protest and it’s wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it,” she said in a video interview posted Thursday on the magazine’s Web site. “But what I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, ‘This is what we want. This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it.’”  See the Post article linking to the People article.

I am singularly unqualified to speak to the agenda of this movement, and whether it indeed lacks these things as she asserts, but I am nonetheless moved by Oprah’s basic point that a diffuse spirit of protest is far less effective than a targeted goal, with a detailed roadmap, and a set of tactics and strategies to advance that roadmap.

I feel that the Disability Rights movement has historically been quite good at this, just as the African-American civil rights movement was at the time of Selma.  In fact, when it comes to particular initiatives like the push for CRPD ratification or a few recent legislative initiatives, we still are.  We have goals and strategies and tactics.

I’m hoping that we can apply that energy to some of our other massive problems including unemployment, institutionalization, and massive poverty.

I think we’ve done a great job of articulating the problems.  Any educated team of disability activists could quickly come up with these and some others, and just as easily begin providing numbers to demonstrate the breadth and nature of these problems.

Where I would love to see energy and leadership is in coming up with specific, actionable, and practical solutions.  Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that even if Congress and the President were to allow me to unilaterally write laws, I don’t immediately know what laws I would write within our governing framework to solve these problems.

It’s easy enough to mandate the closing of institutions, but have we gathered models of the programs that work to find everyone appropriate community-based placement?

In theory, a person with such absolute power might consider alleviating poverty by the direct broadscale redistribution of wealth, but as a committed American capitalist, that doesn’t strike me as a viable long-term solution, let alone one that would ever be enacted by any democratically elected government.  For those of us for whom self-sufficiency through employment is not practical, have we thought through the best programs and vehicles which will provide optimum dignity and comfort?

Lastly, even if we believe, as I do, that the vast majority of poverty could be alleviated by full employment, have we come up with proven, systemic, large-scale programs that People with Disabilities to work in a way that is both meaningful and economically viable?

These questions are not rhetorical.  I believe every one of these problems is solvable, and people smarter than me may already have the solutions.  I’m asking these questions in the hope that we can gather these solutions into a centralized agenda.

Then I call upon our best political strategists.  Since we don’t run the world, (and who would want a world run by me anyway?), what is the natural coalition that could make these programs a reality?  What combination of protest and persuasion, cajoling and horsetrading, exhorting and shaming will get us the programs that we need?

From there, just as we did with the ADA, and with the Rehabilitation Act before that, I propose that we come together on a broad national scale to get it done.  I propose that we combine our individual strengths into a massive united effort for change.

I believe that individuals change the world.  I believe that each individual policy changed, each individual life improved, has value beyond measure.

And yet, I believe that for the largest and most intractable problems, grander scale solutions are needed.  I don’t have them, so I can’t propose them, but I’m asking for them.  Join me in starting the dialogue, that together maybe we can find the answer.


Crowdfunding Disability: Pay for the Change That You Want to See in the World

From those studying the medicinal benefits of centipede venom to those researching the existence of life bearing extrasolar moons, scientists have turned to crowdfunding for issues which have captured the popular imagination but have been overlooked by a traditional grant process.  Without commenting on the value of individual projects (one questionable project has funded a review of frog sounds in the Amazon), I’m fascinated by the phenomenon of crowdfunding allowing people to put their money where their passion is.

It’s a cliché that everything in our society costs money, but that doesn’t make it less true.  Rather than lament a reality that I can’t even see a way around, (after all, whether it’s rent, utilities, food, or equipment, most money for expenses goes to people who themselves have bills to pay) I love the idea that crowdfunding gives society the opportunity to pay for the things that they deem valuable, and thus bring them to fruition.

It is with this in mind that I have begun to consider an idea that has been suggested to me by various individuals for over a year, the idea of crowdfunding my activism.  I have been reluctant, because it’s hard for me to articulate the return on investment with changes that I can’t promise, but I decided to throw the issue to you, that the realization that the only true measure of whether my work is worth funding is it folks decide to pay.

Here’s how I’ve come to understand the issue.

There are two types of activists.  One is the volunteer activist.  This individual, while maybe in some cases independently wealthy, is usually someone with a full-time job outside of the world of activism, who devotes his or her spare time to a cause.

These folks really are the backbones of social movements, contributing the massive energy and capital, social and financial, that brings change.  With many competing concerns, however, it can be difficult to be the architect of change in your spare time.

The other is the professional activist.  These are the dedicated individuals, who, often for meager salaries, funded by grants and large donations, actually get to spend a substantial portion of their professional time working on change.  (I say a substantial portion because the reality of these jobs is that the majority of time is often spent fundraising to support the work.)  Most leaders of the major historical social movements at some point had to transition to this type of full-time role in order to truly make a difference.

I feel that this has been complicated for disability movement.  Many people with disabilities lack employment, it’s true, but that simply means that they are on a day-to-day struggle for subsistence, leaving even less time for energetic activism then those working other jobs.  While there are sometimes government benefits available for certain disabilities, maintaining eligibility and managing those benefits is itself a major undertaking, balancing the minuscule sums in such a way as to maintain some kind of life is a never-ending daily dance, and many people, like me, remain, thankfully, insufficiently limited by our disabilities to qualify for some categories of benefit.

That people with disabilities have, as far as we have while balancing these realities is laudatory.  That we haven’t come further is unsurprising.

This is complicated by the fact that living with a disability is expensive.  Most of us cannot live in the rundown walk-ups, split between five people, which are the stereotypical native habitat of the activist.  Medical conditions may prohibit us from eating the cheapest food available, access conditions may prohibit us from traipsing around our cities to find the cheapest food prices, and insufficient assistance available for activities of daily living probably mean we need to buy more prepared food than the average activist.  Many of us can’t ride bicycles or share the same 1980s Chevrolet among the five denizens of the previously mentioned walk-up.  When we travel, sleeping on the floor is right out, and we often need to pay extra to meet our needs in other environments.

And so, there are professional disability activists, but a disproportionate number of them are lawyers, since the civil rights statutes have attorney’s fee provisions and there is some federal funding for ADA enforcement, but this is a very specific type of activism.  Many of the balance are supported by vastly underfunded federal programs specifically designed to focus on expansion of services for people with disabilities.  If they spent too much time on activism, they would probably lose their funding, if not their jobs.  In essence, they are like the first category, with a day job in disability and activism on the side.

Is it any wonder then that a philanthropist friend asked me the other day when the disability movement would get its next big leaders?  We were blessed with Justin Dart, and a few other people in our history that for whatever reason had personal circumstances that allowed them to travel and speak and build a movement.  But we could be a long time waiting for the next one.

Even in my own humble efforts, most of what I have been doing is simply because of my current involuntary state of underemployment.  Every day I apply for jobs that, should I receive them, will sharply curtail my ability to write and speak on these topics.  I have to, because none of the articles that I write or the speeches that I give provide any means to pay my basic living expenses.

Further the, my ability to speak is limited by the complete lack of funds available for me to travel.  Forget honoraria, I have to decline most speaking engagements because small synagogues or organization where I might spread a message can’t come up with the substantial sum to fly me out, put me up in a hotel, and pay for my care and equipment on the road.  A two day trip to New York last month cost in excess of a thousand dollars.

So at the heart of this article is a question: what is my activism worth to you?

I know that people like to read what I write, because they tell me so at length.  I know that people are moved by my speeches, and my perspective, because they tell me so.  What I don’t know is if people attach sufficient value to my writing and speaking and advising to provide the funds to allow me to continue.

I differentiate this from the wonderful people who have lent me money to pay my rent and eat over the course of this year.  These people are being generous for love of me, and I’m forever grateful.

I started this piece, however, by saying that crowdfunding allows us to use our resources to enable work that we think is important.  So, again, if I were to set up a crowdfunding site, what might you give?  More than that, what might you want?  My understanding is that most successful crowdfunding campaigns offer clear benchmarks for their funders.  So, in exchange for your funding, what do you want me to write about?  What and where do you want me to speak about?  What else do you want to see me doing?  Most of my articles are prompted by issues that I have been asked or moved to address, and my speeches are by invitation to organizations that want to hear what I have to say.

On the larger question, if it’s not me, what other type of activist would you crowdfund?  What would you want them to do?  Whether or not you believe that I am the necessary change agent, I hope that we can come to consensus on the idea that change is needed, and that money is needed to facilitate that change.

I love and respect the activists that work for free.  More than that, I’m a little jealous that they can.  But isn’t it about time that we start recognizing what activism is worth?


Honoring Our Families, and Ourselves: Refining the Narrative of Families of People with Disabilities

My mother loves me.  I know this because she made a specific point of leaving me a New Year’s message today with that important information.  My father loves me.  I know that because, while I haven’t heard from him today, I do hear it from him on a very regular basis.  Moreover, I know that my parents love me from their actions, whether it’s driving a few hours to see me and focusing a large portion of that visit in helping me around the house, sending me a check specifically so I could have nice food to eat around a holiday, or simply the consistent interest in my life, I know that my parents love me.

I’m pretty sure that this makes me neither entirely unique nor entirely common.  Many people have wonderful loving parents, while many, unfortunately, have parental relationships defined by abuse, neglect, or indifference.  The former are an immense leg up on the road to success regardless of circumstance, the latter can be a source of trauma, and even an obstacle to overcome in achieving life’s dreams.  Both themes can be part of the real experience of the person living them.

It’s a common thing among a certain class of disability advocates speak of the important role of the family.  It’s a fairly common tactic to speak of the effect of disability issues on the family when pushing for supports and to extol the virtues of family support in telling success stories.

Recently, I’ve seen frustration expressed with this narrative, on the part of some self advocates, who have either had negative or abusive home lives, or know someone who has.  Some were physically abused, others the target of such pervasive family ableism that only the strongest extra-familial support network could help them to see their own self-worth.  They get tired of hearing about families playing a critical role in success, because it wasn’t their story.

It seems to me that the real conflict is around mythologizing any area of disability.  At the root of any myth is that the target population is “other” and can therefore be defined categorically rather than individually.

I think it’s fairly well-established that people that come from strong supportive families (which can include many different structures, but share the common theme of love and support) have, on average, greater success than those who do not.  Certainly, those who do and achieve success often attribute some part of that success to their family.

That said, there are many other paths to success in the human experience.  I think that the discomfort is that the narrative somehow assumes that all successful people with disabilities come from strong families.  Some do, some don’t.  Those who do usually appreciate their good fortune, and those who don’t have found other ways.

I think then that the key is not to downplay the role of family in the success of certain people with disabilities, but to avoid fitting individual lives into a mythos in which they do not fit.  See the person, not the myth.

To me it’s something similar to the debate around what the disability community colloquially calls “inspiration porn” the horrible literary, artistic and sometimes even journalistic genre which paints the lives of people with disabilities as a great inspiration to the rest of the world.

On the one hand, I agree with the late, great Stella Young that “I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning.”  Living with a disability should not be, in and of itself, considered an inspiration.

Going to the other extreme, however, Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the country out of the Great Depression, through the Great War, and, though he wouldn’t live to see it, with Social Security and the alphabet soup of depression programs, planted the seeds of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and even President Obama’s stimulus recovery from the Great Recession.

Looking at the life of FDR, I would be inspired by all that he managed to accomplish, whether or not he did so from a wheelchair.  That he did it from a wheelchair does inspire me, perhaps, just a little bit more.

I think the distinction is that I’m inspired by what FDR actually accomplished, including doing so with the added difficulty imposed by his disability, not by some fantastical perceptions of ordinary life transmuted into inspirational achievement simply because the person living it has a disability.  This allows me to laud his achievements, while also disapproving of several of his geopolitical decisions and even his attitude around issues of disability.  He’s a real man, who did great things but made mistakes, not a mythical paragon.

In essence, any time we embrace myths, whether uplifting or depressing, we risk losing the underlying human being.  This is terribly painful for individuals whose lives completely depart from the mythos, including the many with difficult family lives expressing discomfort over the near deification of the family role in current dialogue.

In honesty, it’s also difficult for those of us who had good family lives.  My family was and remains wonderful, and I will forever be grateful for their role in my life.  That said, when people seek advice on familial interactions where one has a child with a disability, sometimes I refer to the positive things that my family did, and sometimes I have to use our mistakes as examples of what not to do.  No family is perfect, and part of the problems with a fictional role is that it leaves no room for nuance.

Lastly, it’s destructive to the family members without disabilities.  I have at least one sibling who takes great pains to emphasize the normalcy of our sibling interactions.  This sibling will emphasize the real sibling relationship, working hard to distinguish our relationship from either the motif of long-suffering martyrdom or that of rose colored admiration.  The sibling strongly rejects any attempt to define our relationship to fit someone else’s picture, and I know that the need to do that does not come without frustration.

So I humbly offer that we should continue to emphasize the important roles of family in our advocacy, both because it’s effective, and because the contributions of those families that work so hard for their family members with disabilities should not be overlooked.  At the same time, let’s take pains to acknowledge that people with disabilities come from a wide range of real families with a wide range of experiences and try to focus our narrative on the real experiences of real people so that we, in so doing acknowledge everybody.