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Virtual Assistants Can Offer Independence but Not Privacy

By Halsey Blocher / 2023-01-27
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Have you ever felt like there could be someone spying on you by listening to your private conversations? Well, perhaps that sensation is being caused


Should I Get a Puppy? That’s a Tough Question to Answer

By Alyssa Silva / 2023-01-27
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The best advice I could ever give someone is simple: Get more dogs. I guess if cats are more your thing, that’s OK, too. What’s


I Want to Show Gratitude for Those Who Care for Me and Others

By Ari Anderson / 2023-01-26
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As it is still early in 2023, this is a good time for me to evaluate what things I’m doing right and what things I


3 Little Boys at 5 Months, 5 Years, and Almost 5 Years Old

By Helen Baldwin / 2023-01-25
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In the fall of 1996, as my husband, Randy, battled a stressful job situation, our surprise pregnancy packed an additional wallop. It also sparked much-needed


Netflix’s ‘Inventing Anna’ Prompts Introspection About My Career

By Sherry Toh / 2023-01-25
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The staff at the fictional Manhattan magazine waits with bated breath. It’s a make-or-break moment for reporter Vivian Kent, who’s on a call with Kacy Duke, the


Christina Applegate and the Power of Disabled Hollywood Stars

By Rachel Charlton-Dailey / 2023-01-24
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Christina Applegate has rarely been off our screens throughout the different eras of her life and ours. After emerging in commercials and a soap opera as a child, she played a teenager on the successful and long-running American sitcom Married with Children. Then, she won an Emmy for her guest appearance on Friends. Other starring roles have included the Anchorman films.  

Over several years, as she recounts it, the tingling and numbness she was experiencing worsened. Finally, she was diagnosed during filming for another successful TV show, Dead to Me, that captured another era of life. She had Multiple Sclerosis.   

This ever-presence in our lives gives an influential and compelling power. In a world where disabled people don’t control their narratives, the disabled celebrity might be the most revolutionary of digital storytellers.   

There’s an artificial intimacy between celebrity and observer, particularly because stars like Applegate have acted since infancy, meaning our lives have been wrapped around theirs for decades.  

So, they can shape their narratives and speak on their terms. Still, celebrities have a knack for making individuals feel seen and understood — even if it’s only a fleeting illusion of intimacy. Thus, celebrities as digital storytellers can be gritty, honest, tough and tender.  

Hollywood celebrities like Christina Applegate are expanding representation — with an intimate, up close, staring-at-you-right-in-the-face honesty about the reality of having a disability.    

Even if just in a moment of recognition when you see the brand of the cane she uses – Neo Walk by the way – or that she has found that elusive thing: a durable, practical and attractive shoe — the power remains with her.  

The way that Applegate offers snippets of her life feels important. That she can reflect honestly on living with a disability in her own words and can share her hard-fought lessons.  

In her current social media presence, deeper truths are conveyed than most media will permit: the media only allows for archetypes or binaries. So often, non-disabled people don’t think of disabled people as complex human beings with conflicting emotions or of the nitty-gritty disabled mind.    

Honesty such as this is essential: “This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she said. “I put on 40 pounds; I can’t walk without a cane. I want people to know that I am very aware of all of that.”  

Seeing those differences in your reflection can be jarring, and seeing how those differences are warped on social media is more so. 

To be a disabled woman is to be fair game. When Applegate shared her exchange with a troll, who accused her of getting ‘bad plastic surgery.’ It felt commonplace — an everyday piece of ableism that doesn’t quite land how it used to; or should.    

In a newspaper interview, Applegate said of the acceptance process: “it’s not like I came on the other side of it, like, ‘Woohoo, I’m totally fine,’” she declared. “Acceptance? No. I’m never going to accept this. I’m pissed.”   

It reminds me of something I said at 16 and will resonate with many disabled people: I couldn’t have a moment of ‘I don’t wanna do this.’ My younger self never articulated anger about my condition and what it stripped away; to say, “I’m pissed”, would have elicited lectures about how I simply didn’t have a choice. 

There was no time to process the medical interventions littered throughout my youth. That repression or resentment, or some of it, would’ve been healed rather beautifully by a cathartic ability to say at intervals: fuck this.  

Scathing honesty is essential because so much of the disabled experience is hidden — we’re taught to hide and downplay it. 

The scraped-back hair, the bone-deep exhaustion, the days spent in darkness because you pushed, the lethargy that sets into your limbs, the fog, the coldness of your bathroom tiles as you collapse from exhaustion.     

Fame is an evergreen, often bleak subject for the camera. But there’s a growing honesty when it comes to those staring-at-you-right-in-the-face moments. 

For example, Selena Gomez sharing her experience with lupus. The snippets that the public received mainly focused on her mental health, which includes a bipolar disorder diagnosis.    

Disabled Hollywood stars, whose voices and faces have defined generations, from Michael J. Fox to Selma Blair, are telling their human stories through photoshoots, candid, confessional interviews, public appearances and red-carpet walks. 

They are splintering those stereotypes, archetypes and old Hollywood ideals — with plainspokenness.  

Christina Applegate, Selena Gomez, Selma Blair and Michael J. Fox might be the forerunners for something which will continue to develop. 

More intimate, up close, staring-at-you-right-in-the-face disabled celebrities who can continue to move through the world on their terms enable us to do the same. 

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The post Christina Applegate and the Power of Disabled Hollywood Stars appeared first on The Unwritten.


This Year, I’m Reclaiming My Ability to Live in Community

By Brianna Albers / 2023-01-23
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Like my mother before me, I’m an avid collector. Books, rings, blankets I’ll probably never use — as a child, I even collected those souvenir


Managing My Physical Health Takes a Huge Mental Toll

By Alyssa Silva / 2023-01-20
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I got out of my van at the hospital for what felt like the millionth time that month, and I could hear the deafening sound


Pain Chronicles: The Real Reason why Disabled People Exercise Less

By Caroline McDonagh-Darwin / 2023-01-20
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Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 

One of the main guarantees of disabled life on the internet is being asked “Have you tried yoga?” I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been asked that question. 

In fact, if I had a pound for every time I’d been asked that I’d have too much money for the DWP to give me the disability benefits they don’t give me anyway. 

I was actually asked the yoga question in public last week. My face has never been good at hiding my true feelings (cheers neurodivergence), but I think it must have borderline provided subtitles to the swearing that was going on inside my head. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released census data yesterday from 2021 for England and Wales, on the number of people who identify as disabled. Although the data comes with its own issues that I won’t get into at the moment, the total came in at 9.8 million, or approximately 18% of the population.

Activity Alliance has also released their own data from a survey on inactivity. 42% of disabled people do less than 30 minutes of exercise per week, compared to 23% of our non-disabled counterparts. 

It’s probably not a big surprise that a lot of disabled people have activity limitations – it’s pretty hard to exercise when everything hurts or your fatigued limbs feel like they’re wading through treacle. 

But what the statistics don’t show is the reasons for this activity limitation. As I said, pain and fatigue get in the way but that’s not necessarily the whole story here. It certainly isn’t the whole story of why I don’t do yoga. 

Among other things, my joints are extra bendy, which contributes to why they hurt. This can be something that comes at loggerheads with good old yoga, as well as with a lot of different physical activities. Overstretching can cause joint damage – and it’s why a friend of mine with the same conditions as me has a list from her doctor of the exercises she absolutely should not do; including yoga. 

“No pain, no gain” might be something that is often said to the non-disabled population (although I also don’t agree with it then) but it has the potential to be disastrous for disabled people.

Okay, so maybe I need a specialist class, such as chair yoga, or adaptations to a workout routine; that should work, right? In theory. But the latest news from the Tory party seems to be that they’re looking at reducing their funding for leisure centres

Swimming is one of the few exercises I sometimes find myself able to do, but with the sky-high energy costs for a centre with a funding cut, and the general cost of living crisis making justifying the gym membership incredibly hard, this avenue may in fact be closed off. 

And if you’re lucky enough that your local centre survives this, you still have to get through the door. My nearest leisure centre has terrible accessibility – the cardio gym is upstairs with no lift access, there’s just the one disabled changing room for the whole place, and the chair to help you get in the pool if you can’t do the ladders was once broken for 6 months. 

The accessible gym that’s just outside the town centre is a good 10-minute walk from the bus, and costs you twice the price, so that’s out too. Local classes are held in community centres and churches with enough access that they can meet their “reasonable adjustments”, but generally you have to deal with car park mazes and ramps with the tightest turns known to man. 

Even if you manage to get the perfect class or gym that you can do on a day when you can get yourself out of your house, there may still be another barrier in your way – the DWP. 

If you’ve been awarded benefits based on the fact that you can’t do certain things, they may find that your ability to exercise shows that you have been dishonest (when you haven’t). 

Never mind the payback such exercise will probably leave you with. Certainly never mind the potential long-term benefits such exercise may have, or if it’s recommended by your doctors. Nah, if you can carry a yoga mat into a class, you can clearly look after yourself and work 40-hour weeks. 

In case that sounds like hyperbole, Vice reported on one benefit claimant who had been personally surveilled and then had this taken widely out of context – assuming her showing up for an event meant she fully participated. 

Photographic evidence can be presented from plain clothes agents who may snap you making your way into your local leisure centre before patting themselves on the back for a job well done – even if you were only going in to inquire if they know anywhere local offering chair yoga. 

But what about the rather flexible and slightly relaxed elephant in the room? Yoga will not cure my disability. Physical activity can be good for certain issues had by certain people when done in certain ways, where possible.

If you can move in a way that isn’t harmful to you, that is accessible to you, and that helps you short or long-term, then fair play to you. 

If you have a long-term health condition, I strongly advise that you talk to your doctor before you do any regular exercise (or one-off exercise, actually), and be aware of how your new regime may affect your health.

I would love to be able to swim three times a week, doing up to 10 miles in that time, just like I did when I was slightly more healthy. But I just can’t do that anymore. 

The different factors that can be in the way of exercise helping – the factors that will make the difference between feeling better and feeling worse – are not something that can be represented in the ONS statistics, because they’re so individual to each person. 

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The post Pain Chronicles: The Real Reason why Disabled People Exercise Less appeared first on The Unwritten.


What I Learned When Sleep, My Longtime Friend, Eluded Me

By Ari Anderson / 2023-01-19
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There are a few things in life I take refuge in, such as faith and family, which offer safety. My ventilator also makes me feel