Assorted accessibility frustrations, podcast thoughts and interesting news

I wrote the following thread on Twitter which reads:
I just know that there are multiple someones out there who need to hear this: just cuz 45 is disregarding the CDC’s guidelines, that doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods yet!! All it means is that hospitals have more room for folks now than they’ve had in past weeks. That is…literally all this means. We still don’t have a vaccine for Covid19&we aren’t even close to finding one yet. Yes, this whole thing sucks. Yes, we all miss being able to have human contact; but don’t be stupid, just cuz the toddler in chief isn’t a fit leader. We can all make…better choices than he is&has. We owe that to each other&I mean that in a compassionate&loving way.

Also on Twitter, I wrote the following thread that reads:
I just read something that makes my heart smile: Stacie Orrico, one of my all-time favorite musicians, sharing her journey in a way that we’ve never seen her do. It made me cry tears of happiness&I hope you all will celebrate her too!! I’m excited to see that I can officially…count her in as being 1 of my favorite feminist women. Here is the direct link to read her story, in her own words.
https://www.thenileproject.org/meet-stacie

Sunday afternoon I was going to watch a live stream of a wedding of some chosen family members of mine. I’d initially felt frustration at the fact that these friends of mine had only posted a live stream link for the platform called Zoom; so to minimize the frustration I’d experienced, I texted one of these folks to ask if they’d planned to live stream their wedding using FB. And thankfully, the one I’d contacted said that that was indeed their plan; but in addition to that, these special people in my life had also created a private FB group specifically for their wedding. And since I was a member of said group, I just assumed that because I’d successfully been receiving all of that group’s notifications, I’d also successfully receive the notification regarding when the live-stream of their wedding had actually started. But sadly, I was wrong. I was unable to watch their live-stream happen in real time.

So after literally sitting on FB for more than 10 minutes, I realized that I hadn’t planned for myself to potentially experience technical issues such as group notifications not hitting my phone right away…or not hitting my phone at all. And so once I’d also realized that I’d have to search for these folks’ live video of their actual wedding, I began to feel a bit calmer. Because quite frankly, before the calmness had hit me, I’d felt super anxious, mostly because I didn’t want to totally miss seeing these people’s wedding. But given that I rarely watch people’s live videos when they are actually happening in real time, I don’t think that I could’ve problem-solved this situation. But the fact that I also didn’t have the knowledge of whether FB live videos would stay on people’s FB pages after they’d been created, caused a real problem for my brain. But thankfully, as I’d said, I was able to go back and listen to these folks’ FB live-stream of their wedding. And hopefully, the next time that someone tells me that they’re going to live-stream something on FB or on another live-streaming platform, I’ll factor in that I ought to also plan for myself to potentially have technical issues…instead of only planning for the happy event that I want to watch.

Now, to talk about my thoughts on the platform called Zoom that I mentioned earlier in this post: I honestly hadn’t even heard of said platform until people began using it when they realized that as a society, we’d be social-distancing ourselves to lessen the spread of Covid19. Community colleges started using Zoom to allow their colleges to maintain giving class lectures and continue allowing students to participate in their classes, even though the students would do so differently for the time being. National organizations like the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) also began to use Zoom regularly, to help their organization members continue to feel connected to each other. But while many folks seemed to be singing Zoom’s praises, I kept reading article after article that talked about a concept called “Zoom-Bombing” in which people could unexpectedly get into people’s Zoom groups and post pictures of penises/other genitalia, use slurs like “faggot” or do any number of other things that were harmful to folks. And this sort of thing had started happening because Zoom as a platform didn’t seem to prioritize people’s privacy as a whole, the way they should have. And to date, even though I haven’t read any more articles saying that Zoom-Bombing is still happening, I’m still personally skeptical about using Zoom myself.

Throughout this last couple months or so, I’ve been receiving text messages from people regarding voting by mail; and until now, I’d just been ignoring those text messages. Because I figured that the people texting me were most likely volunteering and I get that. I also empathize with wanting to help create a better world…and that’s actually what pushed me to eventually respond to one of these texts. What I responded with reads:
I voted in the primaries and that was the best I could do. As a totally blind person, I choose to only vote when I have access to an accessible voting machine which speaks all of the information to me via audio that’s done through headphones. This method enables me to make my own selections, rather than having to have someone do things for me/foregoing my right to privacy. If anyone ever makes ballots into a fully accessible format…for all people, not just people who read print, I will happily give more of my support to candidates. But until then, voting using an accessible voting machine in the primaries/November elections is all I can do. If you could pass this message along to others, that would be great–it is important that conversations around equal access be openly discussed, as that is what would help the world become more inclusive.

In a recent episode of the podcast called Cognitive Dissonance, Tom and Cicil (the hosts of this show) talked about a survey that the organization called American Atheists wanted non-religious folks to complete. American Atheists was very clear with people when talking about this survey, that the survey could be filled out by anyone who identifies as non-religious in some way, shape or form. And of course, I wanted to fill out this survey myself, as I’m in a few minority groups besides being a free-thinker. But unfortunately, this survey was not accessible with VoiceOver (my phone’s screen reader). And at the time that I’d first gotten knowledge about this survey’s existence, it didn’t occur to me to ask American Atheists for help completing the survey, being that they were the ones who’d created the questionnaire in the first place. All I’d thought of at the time was that I could mention this situation on Twitter and just hope that someone helpful would notice what I’d written and then respond favorably. And someone did respond to my tweets about this accessibility issue, but all they suggested to me, was that I call a phone number that was located on the same website as the survey was located on. But then it occurred to me that even if I did choose to use this method to participate in this survey, I’d still have no way of actually knowing what the person helping me fill out the form had put on said form. And so, needless to say, that would’ve been a huge risk that I was unwilling to take. Other secular blind folks may, and probably do, feel differently about this than I do.

One reason I didn’t want to take the risk of chancing what someone would put on this survey for me, was because I know from numerous past experiences of mine, that I could fill out forms by myself. Like, if people created text-only versions of forms, doing things in that way would increase the likelihood of people who use speech output software being able to participate in the survey. But another reason I didn’t want to go through such bullshit, was because I’m done with trying to convince myself that I’m a blind person who can do all of the things. I say I’m done with doing that, mostly because living that way takes up every bit of my energy. And it’s important to me to figure out how I can maximize the limited energy I have on any given day, in the ways that are most meaningful to me. What finally encouraged me to rethink this though, was the realization I had about how unhappy I felt when I was unaware that I could actually set boundaries throughout my life, to help create the life I truly want to have. Like, until I actually heard the words “Chelsea, you really can choose how you respond to many of the things that happen to you,” I continued to stay in the harmful pattern of being an onlooker in my own life.

But going back to the thought process I used to have about tons of things when I was in high school and beyond, this black and white thinking of mine was even present in how I thought members within the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) should represent themselves. What I mean by that, is that I had this very specific idea in my head of “NFB members all need to think the same way as one another, on every issue that we as blind people face.” And I think what had encouraged me to think that way, was that the NFB can seem very aggressive, in terms of how they approach many things that are related to blindness; for example if you’re a student at an NFB-based training center who uses a guide dog, you’d have to use an NFB cane for the duration of your training. And as I understand this particular practice of the NFB’s, this particular organization has tons of things that it (the organization) thinks create a person who’s well-adjusted to their blindness. But that being said, I’ve written elsewhere on my blog about how the NFB itself has affected me. So if you search my blog for the initials NFB or you search my blog for the keywords National Federation of the Blind, tons of search results will definitely come up.

But the thing about my black and white thinking was, I never actually asked anyone within the NFB if what I’d thought about the organization was actually true. And TBH, it wasn’t until within these last few years, that I’ve just naturally grown into having the understanding that NFB members are individuals first and foremost…which means that their perspectives on things will not all be the exact same as one another. And as someone who myself has been an NFB member for a couple years now, I have no problem with taking the parts about the NFB that most resonate with me and leaving the other stuff alone. I’ve grown so much where my views about the NFB/who I am as an individual, are concerned. Like, my beliefs and my attitude about the NFB acknowledge that just because some things about the organization work for me, that doesn’t mean that the NFB is for everyone, necessarily. But in some instances, I can totally forget about where I used to be, in terms of having had such black and white thinking.

And so, pretty recently there have been times when someone on my FB friends list would see me post a status update about how I’m happy to be a Federationist; and then this person would message me privately via FB and say “I can’t believe that you’d become a member of the NFB, knowing how political said organization can be!! The people within this organization are so hate-filled.” And honestly, my initial reaction to that person’s generalized message was coming from a place of feeling hopeful that they’d understand the explanation I’d give them. But then I decided that I didn’t actually want to dedicate my energy to wasting my breath in that way. Because I’d known that this person was someone who seemed to enjoy being confrontational…and you have to pick your battles wisely. This person was also outwardly hateful towards the NFB which would’ve been fine…except that this person liked to spew their NFB-hatred constantly. And I wasn’t going to take part in that mess.

In other recent episodes of Cognitive Dissonance, I’ve been laughing my ass off. Like, if I remember correctly, several weeks ago when this Covid19 fiasco first became bad in the United States of America, I was disappointed. Because when that happened, Cicil and Tom (who both host Cognitive Dissonance) said that because of all that’s going on in the world right now, they’ve decided to change the format of the show. And so, instead of them talking about news stories that make them angry that usually also happen to be about deranged church-goers or deranged pastors or just deranged people, they’re talking about humorous things for the time being. And usually, I’m right there along with Tom’s and Cicil’s anger at this kinda crap. I’d seriously look forward to hearing their show every week. It’s a great way for me to keep up with skeptical current events and laugh too, both at Cicil’s and Tom’s banter but also because the content they played/discussed made me laugh. And as I’d said above, I remember that when Cicil and Tom told us as listeners that they wanted to change the show’s format for a bit, I felt disappointed. I mostly felt this way because I was unsure how the two of them having an entire show switched from being anger-inducing, to content that was funny, even if it was untrue, would actually land as a listener myself. But TBH, I’m glad that they’ve changed things up a bit, especially being that I can’t leave my house and hang out with people who make me laugh. I’m not sure how long they’ll be able to keep doing the show in this way, as I’d imagine that at some point, iTunes will try to recategorize this podcast. And Tom and Cicil have both said that they want to keep the original format of their show which I’m glad about. I just hope that they stick to their guns about that.

In an episode of Multiamory where Jase and Emily talked about how people’s romantic relationships can change into friendships, I very much agree with that way of thinking. Like, even though I’ve yet to have actual experiences of how that can successfully happen in my own life, I know that in my future, I definitely want to allow space for relationships I’m in to change with time, just as I myself will change with time. But that being said, listening to this particular Multiamory episode really made me think about why it is that society has toxic views, like the view that if a heterosexual couple are together, the woman who’s within that couple can’t have male friends. I mean, when I think about why that happens, I know that it’s because people tend to think that creating that rule will prevent the woman they are with from seeking other partners. But contrary to that way of thinking, things don’t necessarily play out the way the rule-makers expect or even want them to play out. And not just that, but rules themselves will likely create feelings in multiple people, like that those people are objects rather than individual human beings…with their own individual needs and desires. Put another way, this sort of practice is considered unethical by many folks, including me, because other people’s needs are not even being considered or respected. Because in my opinion, part of what makes non-monogamy ethical, is that those who practice it keep the lines of communication open throughout their romantic/casual sex relationships. As I’ve said before, cheating is cheating, whether it’s monogamous-cheating or cheating within some form of non-monogamy.

In another episode of Multiamory, Jase, Dedeker and Emily talked about non-monogamous folks making the decision to meet their partners other partners. Honestly, I have a lot of thoughts about the subject of folks meeting their partners other partners; although, I realize that the way I’ve written this makes it sound like what I have to say on this subject could be bad. But that isn’t the case, at all. On one hand, I think it’s great for people to get to know the other people that their partner is dating; I could totally see how allowing one’s relationships with their partner’s other loves to develop, could be beneficial all around. For example if someone has some form of a relationship with any of their partners other partners, the newer partner could ask their partners other loves for gift ideas for their shared partner. And quite frankly, as someone who doesn’t feel like gift-giving would be a top way that I’d show someone I care about them, I appreciate having the knowledge that it’s totally OK for me to ask for gift-giving help. Because truthfully, there have been tons of times throughout my life when I’ve felt like a shitty gift-giver, simply because I had this mistaken idea that I was supposed to like, magically know what to get people…all the time. And then along with that harmful belief, I also felt guilty about not necessarily being able to be a gift-giver. Because I’m a poor person; but yet I used to have religious people at different churches I’d gone to, tell me that I was obligated to either give my money to whichever church I go to…or to just be a gift-giver to others. And being told those things repeatedly really fucked with me (and it still does fuck with me) to this day. What I mean in saying that, is that it can be difficult for me to move through guilt where this particular trauma is concerned. Like, I want to do nice things for people but at the same time, my financial situation usually doesn’t allow for that to happen. And so then, it can become hard for me to give myself the helpful reminder that people who are in my life now, and people who will come into my life in the future, are not holding my circumstances against me. Because the way that I learned otherwise growing up/in most of my adult life, does not have to mean that I continue carrying those things with me. I really do have agency in most aspects of my life, gift-giving included.

Something else that’s come up on my blog many times before, is the fact that I believe no one should ever be forced into anything. I know that probably sounds to some folks like I don’t even need to say it; but personally, I think it can never be said enough. Hell, even in past romantic relationships that I’ve been in, whomever I was with had a very specific idea of how our relationship needed to look to themselves and to others who were close to them. So for example, several folks I’ve dated, seemed to have no problem trying to force me to get along with anyone who was close to them. And even though I remember feeling trapped by this in a sense, I was not aware that I had the agency to make my own choices around this particular thing. I mean, I’m generally a friendly person who enjoys getting along with others. But at the same time, as I’ve said on my blog numerous times before, it can become unreasonable if you physically carry out forcing your romantic relationship partners and other close family members and friends of yours, to have meaningful relationships with each other outside of their interactions that involve you. And TBH, I feel like as a poly person myself, much of the pressure to put relationships into specific boxes is taken off of me…which was not true when I was living as a monogamous person. Because a huge principle of polyamory as I understand it, is allowing all kinds of relationships to develop authentically, rather than individuals attempting to create a relationship that looks a specific way. Because at the end of the day, people are not robots; we’re all human beings who have specific needs and desires, along with different life experiences, all of which shape who we are/how we move through the world.

In another Multiamory episode, Dedeker, Jase and Emily talked with each other about the immportance of people using the word “no,” in different contexts. I’m glad that the three of them have chosen to discuss this particular thing, as saying “no” to people can still be quite uncomfortable for me. But also, until just a couple years ago, I hadn’t even thought to examine why I felt like saying “no” was literally one of the worst words a human being could utter. But I think what finally encouraged me to think about this, was the fact that my body physically started to feel worn out, due to all the things I’d taken on. So instead of me telling people “no,” I took on way too much…and ultimately, I was the only person who suffered because of that choice I made. Everyone that I was trying to help, whether it be transcribing audio files for folks or being part of a project in Texas where disabled folks worked towards doing our part to create a better healthcare system for every human being in Texas. And then if we were successful with that part of our venture, we’d incorporate what we’d created, into the world at large. And so with both of these things (transcribing audio files and being a part of a state-wide advocacy group in Texas) were both fun things for me, at one time. But as time went on, I realized that I’d completely lost myself. Because back then, my mind-set was all about doing for others–hell, as a woman, I’ve been socialized to live this way. I’ve literally been told that my entire identity is created by the things that I can physically do for other people. My health and over all well-being didn’t factor into this equation, at all…and for so long, I didn’t question the “why” behind that!! I figured then that life just must not be meant to be enjoyed, as all the traumatic things I’d experienced had also made clear to me. And as I’d said above, it’s only been since fall 2017 that I’ve started questioning these harmful messages that I’d learned throughout my life. So needless to say, I’m hopeful that I can become more skilled in using the word “no” with people…through projecting self-confidence/self-assuredness in my “nos.” Because intellectually I do understand that when people know that they can trust you to take care of yourself, they’ll also know that you’re probably someone who reacts well to being told no by others.

It’s been interesting for me to reflect on the kinds of things I’d like for myself and for any future sexual and romantic relationships of mine to have. And when I’d very first created a dating profile for myself, I’d created a long list of qualities that I felt I absolutely had to have in long-term partners. Some examples of this restriction I’d created for myself were: that I wanted any partners I may have to be atheists like me, or that I wanted potential partners to share my love of all kinds of music, or even that I wanted potential partners to be morning people, like I am. I know that this last thing in particular probably sounds silly to some folks, but that was how I’d initially thought about building custom-made relationships for myself. But then it dawned on me that the reason I’d thought in this limiting way, was because I was still operating under the idea of living as a monogamous person. But once I’d had that epiphany though, I was then able to change my actions to align with who I truly want to be. And while it’s taken some time for me to get to a point in my life where I know I do in fact want to not only be polyamorous, but also to be openly out as such, I felt myself naturally settle into this particular change. And so now, I can honestly say that I’m living another part of my truth…and that’s a great feeling.