Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween. Need I Say More?

Technically, it's been fall for a good chunk of time, but it really doesn't feel like fall to me until a few very significant and absolutely necessary events occur:

1. Trader Joe's stocks their shelves with pumpkin goods and apple cider.
2. Bits of dry, colored leaves start appearing in my hair brush.
3. I begin dreaming up my Halloween costume, even if I have no Halloween plans.

For me, making costumes is the best part of Halloween. There's something satisfying about that frantic, last minute, run-out-of-the-house-while-gluing-sequins-to-your-top feeling. Maybe that's just me. Regardless, homemade costumes are the best! They're fun to make (and less stressful if you start early...), you can show people your creativity, and they're completely original and customizable.

You may have seen some pictures floating around the internet that show that wheelchairs can be the best accessory for Halloween costumes. These are some of my favorites:

Dr. Who

Superman flying over the city

A very elaborate Wall-E

For the sharp dresser

Great group costume idea

PeeWee Herman and the Puppet Chair

My personal favorite: Dr. Scott from Rocky Horror Picture Show!
This one is great if you're pressed for time or resources.

Making a costume like these can be time consuming, so it's important to keep a few things in mind so you don't end up spending hours creating an elaborate costume that is ultimately nonfunctional.

First, like any costume, make sure it's safe. A parade float-style costume looks nice and is fun until paper bits or string get all caught up in wheels. Blood may give a costume a nice touch, but let's make sure it's fake blood.

Equally important is making sure the costume fits through a standard door. Some costumes will add bulk to a chair, so keep in mind the old saying: Measure twice, cut once. There is little more disappointing on Halloween than making something lovely only to have to deconstruct it. (On that note, a tip from my personal experience: When making a mask that covers your nose, make sure you leave room inside for your own nose before you take the time shape, dry, and paint the mask.) So plan ahead! It will save you a lot of frustration and grief.

This last one will be more important for some than others. Don't skimp out on glue, tape, thread, velcro, or whatever sort of fastener you use, and take some with you when you go about your festivities. My Halloween wouldn't be complete without a pocket full of safety pins and a bottle of fabric glue tucked discreetly away. Of course, some of you are likely better at planning and using your costuming time wisely, but homemade costumes do have their oopses (especially when paper and unpredictable autumn elements are involved). Extra backup never hurts!

I just have to throw this out there as a little post-thought. If you're thinking about dressing up a service animal, make sure you give your friend time to get accustomed to his costume so he isn't distracted by a silly hat when he should be focused on his job.

I hope this has inspired you to make some awesome costumes this week, or at least gotten you excited about Halloween or fall. Want some more detailed costume guidance? The Bridge School has instructions.

What are your costume ideas? I haven't seen or read the series, but I think it would be rad to see a Game of Thrones costume. I'm imagining a wheeled version of the Iron Throne. Yes? No?

We'd love to see your Halloween photos on our Facebook page! Also, remember to have fun and be safe.  :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Please, Touch the Art!

In the past, I've posted some amazing art by people with disabilities on our Facebook page, because I love art and think it is worth sharing. But how does one show art to those who can't see it? Art has been breaking its reputation as a strictly visual medium for over two decades, and now an event in the UK is continuing in the effort to redefine art.

At the Touch Art Fair in London, you won't find any signs warning you to keep your hands off. The sentiments are quite the opposite. Touch Art Fair is the world's first event to celebrate tactile and haptic arts. Basically, it's art that is made to be touched.

Often, people with visual impairments do not experience art in the same way people without those impairments do. For example, a man who does not see will not have the same grasp on the “Mona Lisa's smile” situation. That is, he will not have that understanding until he can feel the beautiful tactile image of the Mona Lisa created by artist Scratchadelia. One man teared up at his new appreciation for the smile dilemma after touching the innovative rendition of da Vinci's famous painting.

The exhibit features a variety of media, including (but not limited to!) soft and hard sculpture, metalwork, paper manipulation, and more of those Scratchadelia tactile paintings. While these artworks are particularly accessible to the visually impaired, they are to be enjoyed by everyone. One of Touch Art Fair's goals is to challenge people of all kinds to change the way they experience art, which is a pretty intriguing and admirable goal. I couldn't count all the times I wanted to touch the art displays but wasn't able to for fear of ruining the art and getting kicked out of the museum or gallery indefinitely. (I was most recently met with this dilemma two weeks ago at the Portland Art Museum. Did anyone else see those giant vinyl+zipper soft sculptures?) So to me, this sounds rather appealing. And, to make it even better and more accessible to people, Touch Art Fair is free.

Who votes “yes” for a Touch Art Fair in the US? Have you ever gotten to experience art like this? Share your thoughts!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Andrew Solomon Talks Love

We're in the midst of fall which means that I, [un]fortunately, am spending a gradually increasing amount of time neglecting homework in favor of TED Talks. They are an inescapable autumnal trap, but at least they are thought-provoking and generally pretty healthy as far as bad habits go. Naturally, I found another video I think is worth sharing, especially in light of Disability Awareness Month.

To be aware is not enough, and while increasing awareness is a great goal and challenging endeavor, acceptance is really what we need. The video below does not deal strictly with disability, but it does grapple with the idea of acceptance and love, and speaker Andrew Solomon may wrinkle some foreheads when he brings up a certain dichotomy between increased acceptance and improvements in medicine and technology. I must warn about the video's length; it's about 23 minutes, but if you watch in on, a transcript is available, which could save you some time.

Please, please, please share your thoughts on this one! I was reading through some of the comments on TED, and people had some good points, stories, and alternative perspectives. I want to know yours!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Perfect Paradigm Shift

Imagine this: You're a perfectionist. Not the kind who has to have all the photos straight on the wall, but the kind who has to have every aspect of life planned and executed with precision. You've been in great shape since childhood—a standout athlete. You finished at the top of your class in both high school and college. First you got accepted into law school and then pilot training for the Air Force, and you'll later become an FBI agent. You married the girl knew you would marry since middle school, and she loves you. You have a healthy baby girl. Now you're expecting again, and the doctors tell you your new addition has Down Syndrome. Your perfect image of your perfect life is shattered. What do you do?

This was question faced by Heath White, competitive runner and chronic overachiever. After learning that his second daughter, Paisley, had Down Syndrome, he was crushed. A daughter with a disability was unexpected and unwanted. Heath's wife, Jennifer, says after they found out about Paisley, Heath became distant, and she was terrified that he would run away.

Heath admits to doing everything he could to get Jennifer to get an abortion, but she had already made her decision.

“I contemplated it for maybe and hour. He did it for months.”

Heath was worried that the imperfections in his daughter would reflect on him, show the world that he was an imperfect man. But he could not sway Jennifer.

“I remember the day she was born,” Heath says, “and I remember my mom saying, 'Oh, she doesn't really look like she has Down Syndrome,' and I told her she was lying.” After Paisley was born, Heath stopped running competitively and struggled to accept his daughter and himself.

But one day, he had an epiphany. He was playing with Paisley, tickling her and messing around, and she laughed and interacted with him just like any other child. That moment changed him forever. This was his daughter, and he wanted to grow with her and show her to the world.

Heath started running again, but now he pushed Paisley in front of him. He wanted to show people his pride and love for his daughter, because if doing that can keep just one person from making the mistake he almost made, it would make his next endeavor worth the heartache.

This endeavor involves revealing to Paisley how he felt before she was born. He knows that he could keep his feelings secret from his daughter and never tell her about his emotional conflict with her condition, but he hopes that by telling her the truth, it will help her through struggles she will face later in life. That why when Paisley was 18 months old, Heath began writing the letter he will one day give to her. “I want her to know that she was everything to me.”

When Paisley was five years old, she and Heath completed their last race together. It was a bittersweet moment, sad because it would be the last time Heath pushed his daughter ahead of him, but significant because it would mark their 321st mile together. It's an important number to the family since Down Syndrome is a third copy of the 21st chromosome. But why stop there?

“Paisley doesn't need me to push her,” Heath says. Jennifer reaffirms that Heath thought, “I don't want to take care of a person for the rest of my life,” but now he thinks, “I may not get to take care of her for the rest of her life.”

It's amazing how one person, one experience, can change your entire perspective. What do you think? Did you watch the video? (The video is much more touching than typed words!) Share your thoughts, please!