The Official Blog of Ramona Harvey

Author of "Unclipped Wings"

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The Problem with Priviledge

The problem with privilege isn’t that you are privileged so much as when you are privileged you don’t realize how much you are until you aren’t anymore — and that it is human nature to think certain things you don’t want to happen to you never will simply because it hasn’t happened yet.

Working with folks with disabilities I actually see this more often then some of you might think… someone is in an accident and suddenly acquires a disability and their whole world changes not just because they are no longer able to do some major life function, but because society treats them differently.

More then once, someone has came to me because they are having an access issue they want me to fix…. one time a man who discovered it is possible to be walking unaided one day and unable to transfer out of a wheelchair the next came to me asking me to do something to fix the problem of lack of ramp access at his work. He told me adamantly   something needed to be done about this issue.  He shared his frustration nobody at work got this though he knew there were laws that dealt with this thing and protected people from this kind of discrimination. The kind of discrimination he never imagined he would experience.

I agreed there were laws in place to protect him, but told him the truth that the laws only protected him to the degree that people were willing to enforce and protect the law… I explained to him that was why it was important to advocate and educate.

He shared his frustration believing there should have already been a ramp in the building. He wanted to know why I had not done more — why I had not pushed harder for the ramp in the first place so this would not have been a problem for him — after all wasn’t that what I did?

Here I had to stop him and ask him why hadn’t he done something? He explained he hadn’t because before he didn’t realize it was that big a deal — because he had always assumed if he needed something like that his business would take care of it. He told me it wasn’t his job to do something about it, but he knew it was mine because I had a disability and I had approached him before his accident pointing out the access issue.

I knew it wasn’t something he wanted to hear, but it was something he needed to hear so I was frank with him. I told him it was just as much his responsibility as it was mine to advocate for accessibility in his workplace.  In fact, he had a greater responsibility because it was his workplace. I told him: Right now you wish I had done more to insist your workplace had been accessible, but when I approached you on the matter you were the one who chose not to do something when you had more power and authority to do something about it.

He agreed he wished he had done more in the past when he was more listened too. He wished he had not spent his time trying to prove to me did not need access. He said he was sorry, and he was because he knew it was partially his actions which resulted in his work being less accessible than it could have been.

Please be tolerant of people advocating for the rights of others — even if they are advocating for things you don’t think apply to you, because some day they just might.

Nobody’s Perfect, But I’m Not Nobody – Neither are you.

Nobody is perfect, but I am not nobody and neither are you — thank you for your support, and your continued support.

Sometimes life doesn’t work out according to plan. We all get sidetracked and sideswiped at times. When Jodi James was killed in a car accident I felt sideswiped. For a while I was lost and confused. I couldn’t understand how such a horrible thing could happen to such a wonderful person. It was shocking to be reminded how fragile life was and how quickly things can change sometimes without any warning at all.

Fast forward to 2011. Two years later, I would lose another important person in my life – my mother. My mother had been battling cancer for some time. In fact, one of the reasons I published Unclipped Wings when I did was to be sure she saw it. I couldn’t stop or fix my mother’s cancer, but I did publish Unclipped Wings in time for her to see it while she could still enjoy it.

A small thing I know, but sometimes the most important things we can ever do are the small things, like connection and love. My mother did not make it to Thanksgiving or Christmas and Unclipped Wings did not cure here cancer, but she was never alone and she knew that;

Many of you have read Unclipped Wings and you have shared Unclipped Wings with others. I am constantly hearing from people who say they normally don’t like poetry, but can really relate and see themselves in Unclipped Wings. What a compliment.

It is nice to be reminded that the little things we do make a difference, especially when sometimes the big things are out of our control.

I am glad you have enjoyed Unclipped Wings, and I appreciate your support.

Unclipped Wings isn’t about always being perfect. It is about being able to be who we are despite the challenges we all face. It is my sincerest hope that you will join me and soar on Unclipped Wings.

Unclipped Wings – Joins Those Blogging Against Disablism Today

Today is Blog Against Disablism Day 2011. All across the web bloggers are dedicating their blogs today to the topic of Disablism to help raise awareness. I am no exception.

What is Disabilism?

Simply put it is discrimination against people with disabilities.

I would like to say that this is something that rarely happens, but unfortunately it happens all the time. Yesterday a friend of mine was denied access to a restaurant because she had a service animal and many of you have heard about the boy in Texas who was not allowed to participate in communion because he has cerebral palsy…

But it has happened to me also a store owner refused to sell me and a friend of mine a soda. We had money but the store owner would not take our money…. a stranger behind us line was nice enough to take our money and buy the drink on our behalf.

But those are just a few examples, stuff like that doesn’t happen always and not everyone is like that, right? The quality of life for people with disabilities is better now. Thankfully we have laws like the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that protects people with disabilities…

I agree. We have come a long way and people with disabilities have had better access to education and other resources they didn’t have access to in the past. We are a lot more unlikely as a whole to accept the blatant discrimination of not selling a soda to someone with a disability as okay.

But we have a long way to go. Not just in terms of physical access barriers, but systemic biases which are harder to see and combat It is because of the systemic biases that grass roots organizations like ADAPT, which is in Washington today, exists. ADAPT is advocating for the people with disabilities to have the choice to live in the community instead of being forced unnecessarily into often more costly nursing homes.

Disablism does exist, but the problem we have now is that people have seen how far we have come and they think the problem is fixed. We do have laws like the ADA designed to protect the rights of people with disabilities – but that is just a first step.  It is Because disablism still exist that we need to work to make sure that these laws are not only enforced but protected.  We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.

Poetry Is For Everyone, Anyone Can Enjoy “Unclipped Wings”

Poetry is a very misunderstood genre.  It seems many people see poetry as some sort of shapeless blob of abstract thought that they know must have some deep profound meaning – because if it didn’t it wouldn’t be poetry.  Poetry is often seen as secret code, which can only be broken by an elite group of intellectuals, or eccentric poets.  These stereotypes can be intimidating. But you shouldn’t allow yourself to be intimidated by poetry.  The truth is there is no secret code. Poetry is something anyone can enjoy.

But what is poetry? Some types of poems, like Haiku, are rigidly structured, other types appear to have no structure or form at all.  Unlike other forms of writing, even basic grammar rules may or may not apply.  Poetry can rhyme, but it doesn’t have too.  A poem can be very short consisting of only a few words, like my poem “Please” (which is made up of only seven different words – including the title), or it can be long – even epic.  A poem can be used to express an emotion, tell a story, describe a moment, or be simply a learning tool and pneumatic device to help us remember.  Poetry isn’t like any other written art form, but considering the oral tradition from which it originated, this is not surprising.

Some people say they don’t like poetry, because they only like stories.  This is ironic, because poetry was designed for story-telling.  Before books were common, poetry was used to pass on stories and information from one generation to the next.  Poetry originates from a great oral tradition which is why it is often meant to be heard, not just read.

Not everyone will like, understand, or relate to every poem. It is okay to have your own unique tastes and interpretations.  April is National Poetry Month: If you learn nothing else about poetry, I would like you to remember this.  Poetry is an art form that anyone can enjoy.  You don’t have to be a scholar, intellectual, or poet to understand or appreciate poetry. Poetry isn’t something to be intimidated by.

I know I am not telling you anything you don’t already know (as you listen to your favorite songs), but everyday all of our lives are touched, enriched, and influenced by poetry.  This is a good thing, because poetry helps us to connect to and understand others as well as ourselves. I for one think that is a good thing.  I hope you do too.

The Courage to Act, Even If “They Won’t”

“They Won’t” is one of the poems in “Unclipped Wings”.   It has been on my mind a lot this past week. Some people have theme songs, this week I had a theme poem.  This is not surprising given the close relationship between music and poetry, but I am struck by how often I have been reminded of this poem.

The poem begins: “Nobody else does it – so I won’t

That is how we get to the place that we don’t

If you have been following “Unclipped Wings” on Facebook you may have noticed, some posts about people who have not been deterred by the seemingly impossible.  Often, we get overwhelmed. We think a problem is too big and we are too small.  Yet, over and over this week, I am reminded that our actions do matter.  We can make a difference as individuals, especially when we are working together.

Troy Yocum could be at home watching TV and wishing he could do something to help needy military families, but he isn’t.  Instead, he is a on a 7000 mile drumhike.  He is hiking across country to raise awareness and money in order to help needy veterans.  Will he reach all of his goals? I don’t know. I do know he got my attention and has already been able to help several people.  That counts for something.

But the small stuff is important too.  A twelve year old boy named Max, who has terminal cancer, made a wish that he would receive 1 million get well cards.  Now people from all over (including me), are sending him the cards he wished for.  Whether or not Max receives a million cards, the cards being sent make a difference. It is neat so many people are willing to send a card, but the coolest thing is how this twelve year old boy has touch the lives of so many – just by not being afraid to have and share what many would consider an impossible dream.

So, “why continue to care if others just don’t?  Except that we need to.”


Unclipped Wings Cultivates Inclusion

March is disability awareness month, and today is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day – so I thought I would take a moment to talk about disability awareness  and what roll it plays in my book Unclipped Wings.

When I got up today I was very aware that I was a person with a disability.  There was no denying it as I transferred into my chair and began my morning routine.  It is obvious that because of my disability there are certain things I am just not able to do – at least not in the way most people do them.  Just looking at me you can tell I have a disability, even if you can’t tell I have cp.  But you cannot tell who I am just by looking at me or classifying my disability.

Growing up as a person with a disability has had a profound impact on my life and my perception of the world.  As is pointed out in my poem “Your Child” even something as simple as a flight of stairs is a different experience for me then it was my brothers.  But far too often we see a person’s disability without seeing, the person.  A person isn’t and should not be defined by their disabilities, yet it happens all the time.  My disability is a part of who I am, but it isn’t who I am.

The same is true about “Unclipped Wings”.  Sometimes people assume that because I have a disability, “Unclipped Wings” is a poetry book about disabilities.  This isn’t true.  I did draw on my experiences as a person with a disability when I wrote some of the poems, but “Unclipped Wings” is not about living life with a disability. (Though we all have them)

“Unclipped Wings” cultivates inclusion of all people not just those with disabilities, because it is a book about life and many of the challenges we all face.  As a person with a disability some of my challenges are obvious, but we all have our own obstacles to overcome.

All of us have the same basic needs.  We all need food, water, shelter, and love.  We also all have our own abilities and disabilities. Everyone is unique. While we may appear different when it comes down to what matters most, we are all more alike then unalike.  It is easy and sometimes natural to judge people and their abilities and potential by their appearances, but we should try to avoid doing that.

We don’t all have the same abilities, but what we chose to do with the abilities we do have is far more important then what are abilities are.


Overcoming the Crises in Japan – Keep Strong

The world’s eyes are on Japan right now.  Many are holding their breath waiting to see how bad the crisis and damage will be.  The earthquake and tsunami were quick.  Millions of lives were changed in an instant.  Thousands died and those who survived will never be the same.  There are no quick or easy fixes for those who have lost loved ones and their homes. Right now, as I write this, people are struggling to survive.

We are still waiting to see what will happen at a damaged nuclear power plant.  Nobody knows for sure what is going to happen or what the long term impact will be.  For good reasons people have significant health concerns and are afraid. It is going to take a long time to pick up the pieces of this tragedy.

Times like these remind us how fragile and valuable our lives are.  Many people are scared.  Some may feel helpless and powerless, but do not become hopeless.  Focus on what needs to be done today in order to minimize damage and danger.  Recovery will not be easy but stay focused and begin the slow process of recovery and healing one step at a time.

If you have read “Unclipped Wings”,  you know that I do understand that it is not easy to pick up the pieces when “life takes us to where we don’t belong”.  But sometimes life doesn’t give us much choice.  Nobody said life was fair or easy.  It may be scary, but resist the urge to give up.  We can never be sure what will happen – or what will rise up out of the ashes.

For me it was “Unclipped Wings”.  My heart goes out to the survivors and everyone touched by this tragedy.  May you receive what you need – when you need it, so you can recover and heal.   May you overcome and find yourselves soaring on “Unclipped Wings”.

My thanks also goes out to all the “unnamed heroes” who have, are, and will step up to the plate.  I may not know your name, but I value what you do to make our world a better place.

Ramona Harvey

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