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Friday, May 29, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Medicare Changes for 2015

wonderful article previously published by AARP

Millions face increases to their existing premium for prescription drugs

Medicare Open Enrollment Part D Pills Stack
If Medicare changes in 2015 impact your current drug plan, you may want to shop around to get prescription drugs at a lower price. — Getty Images
En espaƱol l Millions of Medicare recipients could be hit with rising prescription drug premium costs in 2015. Nearly 10 million people now enrolled in six of the 10 largest Part D drug plans face premium increases ranging from 11 to 52 percent if they don't switch to a different plan. Three other large plans, with nearly 3.5 million members, will drop their premiums by 13 to 31 percent.
The numbers — from Avalere Health, a company that tracks health care trends — come as a sharp reminder that all of Medicare's private plans can change their costs and benefits every year. Open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 5 to Dec. 7, gives Medicare beneficiaries the chance to find the best deals for next year by comparing coverage and out-of-pocket costs in their current plans — whether Part D drug plans or Medicare Advantage HMOs and PPOs — with what other plans offer. The Medicare Part B premium, which covers doctor visits and outpatient services and is currently $104.90 a month for most beneficiaries, will remain the same in 2015.

It's especially important, experts say, to look beyond premiums to copays.
"You could be in a drug plan in 2014 where your copay is maybe $50 and then for 2015 the plan has increased that amount to $100," says Christine Harhaj, Avalere's senior manager. "So does it still make sense for you to be in that plan? Or does it mean it's time to shop around and see what else is out there and whether you can get your drugs at a lower price?"
Copays differ enormously among Part D plans, even for the same drug —and can vary by more than $100 for a month's supply, according to an AARP Bulletin analysis. For example, among 31 plans in California, the insulin drug Lantus SoloSTAR will cost between $24 and $170 for a 30-day supply in 2015 — with 14 plans charging under $45 a month and eight plans charging over $80.
Beneficiaries should compare plans according to the drugs they take, by using the plan finder at medicare.gov (which automatically does the math to identify the plans that cover your drugs at the lowest cost), or by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227. For those who switch plans, the new coverage begins Jan. 1. Those who do nothing will see their current plans continue into 2015.
Medicare Advantage plans — private plans that offer benefits beyond those of traditional Medicare — will receive somewhat lower government payments in 2015, due to the Affordable Care Act. That move prompted speculation that more plans would withdraw from Medicare or reduce benefits. A few have withdrawn in rural counties, and none has been available in Alaska since 2012, but overall the program remains robust, Medicare officials say. "Enrollment is now at an all-time high and premiums have fallen," says Medicare's administrator, Marilyn Tavenner.
Still, there are signs that some Medicare Advantage plans are shifting other costs to enrollees, sometimes in novel ways. For example, plans charging annual deductibles for health services have been rare in the past but now seem to be on the rise. Of the 39 benefit-rich plans offered in one competitive area of Miami in 2014, none charged a health deductible; of the 35 plans available there in 2015, six will charge deductibles of between $500 and $975. In this same area, 30 plans offered extra help in the prescription drug coverage gap, known as the doughnut hole, in 2014; next year, none will.
Such shifts make it all the more important to compare plans. "Shopping around is the best thing a Medicare beneficiary can do," says Avalere's Harhaj. "There's still so much choice in the market."
Other changes in Part D coverage for 2015
Fewer plans and higher deductibles make shopping around critical, experts say.
Wide choice of drug plans
Although the total number of plans nationwide will drop to 1,001, the lowest since Part D began, there's still plenty of choice — from 24 plans in Alaska to 33 in Illinois. Monthly premiums range from $12.60 to $171.90. The average monthly premium will be $38.83.

Some plans disappear
Some insurance companies that offered three Part D plans in the past will consolidate to two or one. Among top plans that will go: AARP MedicareRx Enhanced; SilverScript Basic; Aetna/CVS.
Part D doughnut hole keeps shrinking
In 2015, you get more discounts in the drug coverage gap — 55 percent off the cost of brand-name drugs and 35 percent off generics. Medicare officials say that shrinking the gap, a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, has already saved 8.3 million enrollees more than $12 billion.
Fewer plans provide extra gap coverage
For example, in 2014 in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas, six to eight plans in each state gave additional coverage in the gap (on top of the ACA discounts); in 2015, none will.
Drug deductibles increase
The maximum Part D annual drug deductible rises by $10, to $320, in 2015. More plans will charge a deductible (from $1 to $320) and fewer will waive the deductible.
Patricia Barry writes AARP's "Ask Ms. Medicare" column and is the author of Medicare for Dummies.

In The Past Year Over 4 Million Working Americans Suffer From Anxiety Disorders

as published by healthfinder.gov

Illness can be debilitating, but treatment is available so workers can stay productive, experts say.

Over 4 Million Working Americans Suffer From Anxiety Disorders
THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that 4.3 million Americans with full-time jobs had an anxiety disorder in the past year.
That number represents 3.7 percent of full-time workers aged 18 and older, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
As the agency explained, people with anxiety disorders experience overwhelming worry and fear. However, these conditions can be managed through counseling and/or medication.
"People with anxiety disorders can have a hard time gaining employment and sometimes dealing with certain situations," SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release. "But fortunately, with treatment and support they can make enormous contributions to the workplace and the community."
Researchers analyzed data from 67,500 respondents aged 12 and older who took part in SAMHSA's annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2008 and 2012.
Rates of anxiety disorders were even higher among adults without full-time jobs: 5.6 percent among part-time workers (1.7 million adults); 6.9 percent among those who were unemployed (1 million adults); and 8.9 percent among those not in the workforce (5.9 million adults).
Overall, 5.7 percent of all American adults -- almost 13 million people -- had suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year, the report found.
According to Hyde, "employers, unions, educators, health providers and all segments of the community need to work together so that we can help people surmount the challenges of anxiety disorders and lead full, productive lives."
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about anxiety disorders.
SOURCE: U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, news release, May 21, 2015
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Connect with Veterans during Mental Health Awareness Month (May)

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 
May is a good a time as any to remember the people in our lives who have made a difference. Memorial Day reminds us of the sacrifices our service men and women have made for our country. There are many ways to honor them, and one way is by helping our veterans in need of mental health services.

If you know a veteran who needs help, connect them to this veterans crisis line. It is a free resource that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Services are available via phone, chat or text messaging. You can reach the line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. 

Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities Releases New Call for Investment

May 29, 2015

Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities Releases New Call for Investment 

The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities has released a new Call for Investment (CFI).  The purpose of this CFI is to identify an organization or a collaboration of organizations that can effectively and efficiently administer a Consumer Stipend Program. The goal of the Consumer Stipend Program is to empower individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities and their family members with resources and information they need to actively participate in the decisions that are being made which affect their lives. Many policy, procedure, and program decisions affecting the lives of people with intellectual & developmental disabilities are made without the involvement of the people who are most affected by those decisions.
This is a 3 year grant with $300,000 available to distribute stipends to individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities and families/guardians.  The outcome is that individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities and families/guardians become better advocates.  Proposals are due July 14, 2015.

For more information about the CFI or the Council, visit our website at www.state.il.us/agency/icdd.

Abilities Expo "Chicago" 2015 in Schaumburg is June 12 thru 14!

Its that time of the year for the "Chicago" Abilities Expo in Schaumburg..

Pre-register today and we'll see you June 12 - 14, 2015 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center!

There is no charge for admission so come and see:
Don't keep it to yourself! Bring your family.Tell your friends. With all of its life-enhancing possibilities, this event is a must-attend for anyone in the Community.

Visit www.abilities.com/chicago as often as possible to check out new show features. Or start the conversation now on our Abilities Expo Facebook Page, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
Abilities Expo Chicago will be here before you know it so mark your calendar now, Friday, June 12 through Sunday, June 14 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. Click here for directions and parking. We look forward to meeting you there!
There are also more transportation options this year, for info: http://www.abilities.com/chicago/transportation.html

While Uber makes life easier for deaf drivers, but still faces lack of Accessibility for Disabled


BY MATT PETRONZIO | Mashable.com | May 28, 2015
Just a week after the ride-sharing company came under fire for continued allegations of flouting disability laws, Uber, master of stunt marketing and PR recovery attempts, is updating its Uber Partner app to cater to deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers.

The app's new features — a result of Uber working with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and deaf driver partners to learn about their specific frustrations with the platform — include a flashing screen for trip requests (as opposed to previous audible-only beeps) and the ability to turn off the option for users to call deaf drivers (users will only be able to text them).

The app will also send a notification to users to let them know their drivers are deaf or hard of hearing, prompting them to enter destination details ahead of time.

Uber announced the updates at an event with the NAD in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning. The new features are now available to all Uber Partner drivers in four U.S. cities with some of Uber's largest markets: Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. A broader rollout will come "soon," according to a blog post from the company.

These efforts, developed over several months through Uber's product innovation team, are intended to make the platform more accessible and "remove some of the friction we were hearing about from our driver partners, and even from riders who were taking rides from deaf or hard-of-hearing partners," Rachel Holt, Uber's east coast general manager, told Mashable.

"I think it's just a really neat way that our technology platform can enable this frictionless experience, and really showcase a way for members of the community who are deaf or hard of hearing to now feel like, 'Here's an opportunity for me to make money with a technology platform that's actually designed around the unique needs that I have,'" Holt said.
Uber update for deaf drivers
At face value, these app updates do seem beneficial. Holt mentioned the number of deaf Uber drivers is growing; that means the new app features have the potential to increase work opportunities for the deaf community, which has a disproportionately high unemployment rate. It also ultimately increases communication between drivers and riders.

But the juxtaposition of this announcement to Uber's recent practices might compel the public to view the initiative as conveniently timed.

Over the past eight months, there have been several lawsuits alleging that Uber drivers have discriminated against blind and wheelchair-using riders. Uber claimed that, as a technology company and not a transportation service, the Americans With Disabilities Act doesn't apply to its operations, according to The Daily Beast's Nina Strochlic.

Kristin Parisi, a Boston-based Uber rider who has used a wheelchair for 25 years, said Uber drivers have refused to take her; others have been verbally abusive.

Via The Daily Beast:
Parisi says the driver called her an “invalid” and said she “must not be a Christian” and needed to “develop thicker skin.” At the end of her ride, Parisi says the driver asked if she was going to give a bad review. “I said, ‘It has nothing to do with bad review, it has to do with illegal practice,’” she says. “‘You have to understand what you’re doing is not only mean — it’s against the law.’”
When asked whether the new app updates have anything to do with these recent controversies, Uber's Holt simply told Mashable she thinks the Uber app was "always designed to expand access to safe and reliable transportation options for all on the rider side, including riders with disability."

"I think we're incredibly committed to continue to build solutions that support everyone's needs and to move around more effectively. I think this particular update is unique in that it also addresses partner needs," she said.

While considering driver needs is important, it's the treatment of riders that has largely earned Uber a seemingly never-ending streak of bad publicity.

Examples include a number of sexual abuse allegations against Uber drivers (and a canceled partnership with UN Women), concerns over privacy violations after an executive suggested the hiring of "opposition researchers" to dig up dirt on journalists, alleged shady business tactics against competitors and enabling surge pricing during crises.

The company has tried to introduce new features that tackle social issues before, such as adding an "SOS" button to the app in India earlier this year after a New Delhi driver allegedly raped a female rider. Critics, however, pointed out that such an update is not enough to protect Uber customers.

In addition to app updates, Uber has engaged in a number of marketing stunts over the past several years— some charitable, some downright strange — in attempts to refocus its public image. Despite these efforts, many users continue to boycott the app.

Ultimately, Uber maintains that Thursday's new app features will benefit drivers in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, as well as passengers overall.

"I think this is the right thing to do for our partners, and for riders who are connected to those partners," Holt said.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Wins Veterans Employment Leadership Award

Citing its innovative practices in employing Veterans and servicemembers, The Chicago Lighthouse was given a special VELA (Veterans Employment Leadership Award) on May 27th, 2015.
Accepting the honor was Angela Kearney, human resources generalist who assists in recruiting Veterans for employment opportunities in call centers managed by The Lighthouse.
The award also saluted the agency for "recognizing the value and talent that Veterans bring to the workplace" and for "providing inspired leadership through a long-term commitment and partnerships with federal and state Veterans employment programs."
Lighthouse President and CEO Dr. Janet Szlyk congratulated Ms. Kearney and her colleagues in the human resources department for this "amazing honor!" Dr. Szlyk noted that in just a few years, The Lighthouse has gone from employing one Veteran to nearly 70 and is fully committed to recruiting more.
The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired's photo.

The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
1850 West Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608-1298
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:00am-5:00pm
Tel: (312) 666-1331
Fax: (312) 243-8539
TDD: (312) 666-8874

Protection and Advocacy agencies (P&As) network protects your Civil and Disability Rights

There are a lot of ways to stand up for disability rights. But only protection and advocacy agencies (P&As) are federally mandated to protect the basic human rights of people with disabilities. Did you know there's a P&A in all 57 U.S. states and territories? Did you know they serve people with all kinds of disabilities? Have you even heard of P&As? Let us explain in this new original Rooted in Rights video. To find the P&As in your state, please visit: http://www.ndrn.org/ndrn-member-agenc...
YouTube published by Rooted in Rights | May 26, 2015

NARRATOR: All people deserve basic human rights. That's why Congress created a system of protection and advocacy agencies, also known as P&As to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, because in the past, they have not been treated equally. For most to the 20th century, the phrase "Out of sight, out of mind" was more than just a popular saying. It was the means for dealing with an unwanted segment of the population. People with disabilities were either segregated from society, locked away in institutions, or, remained isolated at home with absolutely no services, not even an education. They [people with disabilities] were abused, neglected, and forgotten. Then, in 1973, ABC news cameras exposed the filthy living conditions and poor treatment inside Staten Island's Willowbrook School, which housed people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It shocked the nation.

REPORTER: The doctor had warned me that it would be bad. It was horrible.

NARRATOR: Finally, in 1975, Congress acted. They mandated that every US state and territory have an official protection and advocacy agency. P&As go by many names, but their mission is the same: To protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Together, the P&As form the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), taking on issues affecting people with all kinds of disabilities. No other organizations have the sweeping access authority that P&As have. They go anywhere services for people with disabilities are provided, from schools to hospitals, to prisons and jails, to monitor conditions and listen to concerns. They make sure people with disabilities are treated equally, with dignity and respect, and never have to face the same kind of mistreatment they saw at Willowbrook. P&As ask the public for input on which issues to take on in their communities. P&As can fight against abuse and neglect in residential services, to end exploitation at work, for fair treatment in the criminal justice system, for equal access to public education and voting, for accessible communities and services, and assistive technologies, and countless other issues. That's the protection and advocacy system.

Click here to find the P&A agency for your state or territory, and subscribe for more videos from the P&A network at Rooted in Rights. http://www.ndrn.org/ndrn-member-agencies.html

Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers Orbit Medical Inc. and Rehab Medical Inc. to Pay $7.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

with my personal experience with Orbit Medical in Illinois was very negative, happy that some accountability has been administered. Jim at Ability Chicago Info.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers to Pay $7.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
Orbit Medical Inc. and Rehab Medical Inc. will pay $7.5 million to resolve allegations that Orbit submitted false claims to federal health care programs for power wheelchairs and accessories, the Justice Department announced today.  Orbit Medical and Rehab Medical, a partial successor of Orbit, are durable medical equipment suppliers based in Salt Lake City, Utah and Indianapolis, Indiana, respectively.
“Power wheelchair suppliers must bill federal healthcare programs accurately and honestly to ensure that federal dollars are used for individuals who truly need these mobility devices,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Justice Department is committed to pursuing those who seek to abuse taxpayer-funded programs.”
Medicare pays for power wheelchairs for beneficiaries who cannot perform activities of daily living in their home using other mobility-assistance equipment, such as a cane, walker or power scooter.  To qualify for reimbursement, a physician must conduct a face-to-face examination of the beneficiary and provide the supplier with a written prescription for a power wheelchair within 45 days of such an encounter, along with documentation that supports the medical necessity of the device.  The prescription must be completed by the physician who performed the exam and must include the beneficiary’s name, the exam date, the diagnoses and conditions the wheelchair is expected to accommodate, the length of need and the physician’s signature. 
The settlement with Orbit Medical and Rehab Medical resolves allegations that Orbit sales representatives knowingly altered physician prescriptions and supporting documentation to get Orbit’s power wheelchair and accessory claims paid by Medicare, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan and the Defense Health Agency.  In particular, the government alleged that Orbit sales representatives changed or added dates to physician prescriptions and chart notes to falsely document that the prescription was sent to the supplier within 45 days of the face-to-face beneficiary exam; changed the physician prescription to falsely establish medical necessity for the power wheelchair or accessory; created or altered chart notes and other documents to falsely establish the medical necessity of the power wheelchair or accessory; forged physician signatures on prescriptions and chart notes; and added facsimile stamps to supporting documentation to make it appear as though the physician’s office had sent the documents to Orbit. 
“The resolution of this case helps to restore funds taken from the Medicare trust fund through the use of falsified records and billings,” said U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen of the District of Utah.  “Taxpayers’ dollars paid for power wheelchairs not legitimately prescribed by a physician.  Health care fraud is aggressively prosecuted in Utah and every effort is made to restore government funds taken through such conduct.”
“Wheelchair schemes such as this divert Medicare funds meant to pay for legitimate health care, including providing wheelchairs for patients who have a genuine medical need for such equipment,” said Special Agent in Charge Gerald T. Roy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “Our agency will continue to investigate those who attempt to cheat federal health care programs.”
The allegations resolved by the settlement with Orbit and Rehab were filed under the False Claims Act by two former Orbit employees, Dustin Clyde and Tyler Jackson.  Under the Act, a private party can sue for false claims on behalf of the government and share in any recovery.  Clyde and Jackson will receive approximately $1.5 million.  The whistleblowers’ suit also named as a defendant Jake Kilgore, the former vice president and sales manager at Orbit Medical for the Western region of the United States.  The United States intervened in that aspect of the suit on April 2, 2014, and today’s settlement does not resolve the pending claims against Kilgore.  Separately, on Oct. 23, 2013, a federal grand jury in Utah indicted Kilgore on three counts of health care fraud, three counts of false statements related to health care and three counts of wire fraud.  
Today’s settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $24 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.3 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.
This case was a coordinated effort among the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Utah, HHS-OIG, the FBI, the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Health Agency.  The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Clyde et al. v. Orbit Medical et al., No. 2:10-CV-00297 (D. Utah). 
The claims settled by the government are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.    

How Everyday Language Reflects Negative Attitudes about People with Physically Disabilities

‘Standing up’ for something is viewed positively, while taking something ‘lying down’ has negative connotations. chadinbr/flickrCC B

very nice article on experiences of daily life with a disability.


published by The Conversation | May 11, 2015

Because there’s a quite lengthy list of offensive terms connected to disability, when we think of how disability is expressed in our language, it’s most commonly in the context of avoiding this offensive language. No surprise there.

However, there are more subtle ways in which the disabled are belittled and excluded – often covertly – in everyday life.

It could mean segregating children with disabilities in our public schools, as educator Torrie Dunlap outlined in a recent TED talk.

But in language, it’s not just obvious words like cripple ordeformed. In fact, many common turns of phrase insinuate that being disabled is a bad thing.

As author, multimedia storyteller and wheelchair user Dr Ju Gosling explains, “The oppression and exclusion of disabled people by society is currently enshrined in our language.”

Focusing on physical disability, let’s take a closer look at how this happens.
Descriptions of the physically disabled

Though it may seem easy enough to rid ourselves of the language thought of as offensive at a given moment in time, a glance at the history of such terms makes it clear that erasing words will not erase the social structures behind them.

Instead, words referring to disfavored groups tend to go through what psychologist Steven Pinker has called the “euphemism treadmill.”

With regard to physical disability, for instance, just in the past few decades, several terms have been run off the track:

Since the 8th century, lame was commonly used in everyday speech to describe a physical disability or a limp, before it started to be used as a negative descriptor in the 20th century.

With time, this use of lame was abandoned in favor of new terms that had not (yet) acquired such undesirable connotations and were therefore considered less offensive, such as handicapped.

But by the 1980s, many abandoned handicapped fordisabled, or, influenced by the “people first” movement,people with disabilities.

Some hyper-euphemized terms, such as differently-abledand alter-abled, never enjoyed widespread acceptance among disability communities or among the general public.

Another term, physically challenged, was both limited in scope and quickly parodied – for example, “vertically challenged” for “short” – and it quickly fell out of common use.

Some of these changes coincided with groundbreaking civil rights legislation, like IDEA, a 1975 law that guarantees access to education for children with disabilities, and the ADA, a comprehensive civil rights law, passed in 1990, that prohibits disability-based discrimination and seeks to guarantee equal opportunities for social inclusion for those with disabilities.

Nonetheless, social marginalization and poverty remain tied to disability.

For this reason, language policing is nothing more than a wild goose chase. Even if it succeeds, without concurrent social change, it’s destined to fail: for every new term that emerges, it will eventually be transformed in everyday speech to mean something negative.
New meanings aren’t random

At the same time, much media attention has been paid to the use of slurs such as retarded. Similarly, the stigma associated with psychiatric disabilities has left its mark on many words, rendering them insults, such as crazy and insane.

So why isn’t more attention being paid to words like lame?

In the case of physical disability, once-neutral lame now describes someone who is “inept, naive, easily fooled; spec. unskilled in the fashionable behaviour of a particular group, socially inept.”
The meaning of the once-neutral ‘lame’ has changed through time. clotho98/flickrCC BY-NC
Those who use these expressions tend to try to justify their use in one of two ways.

First, disability is (in their view) actually a bad thing. As one blogger explained:

It’s not okay to call a coward a pussy, or a bad thing gay, they argue, because there’s nothing bad about having a vagina or being homosexual. But there IS something bad about not being mobile! In fact, it’s no fun at all, just totally miserable. All other things held equal, isn’t it better to be not-lame than lame?

(It goes without saying that many people with disabilities would object to having their identity hijacked as the automatic stand-in for all things bad.)

Second, it can be argued – and with some legitimacy – that some of these terms no longer generally refer to disability. Languages change. New meanings emerge from old ones.

But that’s the point: new meanings are not random. Having undergone a process linguists call semantic bleaching, lame has lost some elements of its meaning over time. While physical impairment is no longer part of its (new) meaning, my study of its use in Time Magazine since 1923 showed that it has retained the social meanings associated with disability in the 20th century: awkwardness, stupidity, femininity, lack of social graces and sophistication, and more.

Today’s lame is an attitudinal echo.
Language is the bloodstream of society

Those who perpetuate ableist language – that is, language that devalues disability – tend to make claims of good intentions. They mean no harm.

But as pointed out in a recent New York Times article on racial bias, “good intentions do not guarantee immunity.”

Indeed, the proof is in the pudding. The words used to describe disability itself are only the most obvious – and superficial – reflections of how disability is actually perceived.

A closer look at our everyday language reveals a more insidious challenge.

Human beings tend to construct their world through metaphor. And the human body, a universal experience (everyone has one, after all), is one of the most common bases for the development of new abstract meanings through grammaticalization – the process that forms new parts of grammar as languages change.

Many common words or phrases that are associated with disability or deformity – like ‘crooked’ – are used in negative contexts.Andrew Aliferis/flickr, CC BY-ND

Not only do we use body parts to create prepositions like inside (that is, “in the side of”) or behind, but we also encode our beliefs about the social meanings of certain body shapes or postures.

We undoubtedly prefer the company of the upstandingcitizen who stands forsomething. An upright person who stands proud, standing up to the crooked politicians and their twisted plans, leaving them without a leg to stand on. Our friend should be as straight as an arrow, and never just sit there or take it lying down.

In a 1967 Saturday Review editorial (which was cited by sociologist Irving Kenneth Zola in his 1993 reflection on the language of disability), the author noted:

Language…has as much to do with the philosophical and political conditioning of a society as geography or climate…people do not realize the extent to which their attitudes have been conditioned to ennoble or condemn, augment or detract, glorify or demean. Negative language inflicts the subconscious of most…people from the time they first learn to speak. Prejudice is not merely imparted or superimposed. It is metabolized in the bloodstream of society. What is needed is not so much a change in language as an awareness of the power of words to condition attitudes.

Yet we are not simply linguistic parrots. We speak in ways that reflect who we are and who we want to be. Perhaps one day our culture will find power in stillness.

Until then, sitting here in my wheelchair, where do I stand?