99 Problems

The daily struggles of urban living as a quadriplegic explained one by one. It's so much more than not being able to find a parking space.

99 Problems — #15 If Orange Is The New Black Then Disability Is The New Orange

-- Download 99 Problems -- #15 If Orange Is The New Black Then Disability Is The New Orange as PDF --

disability-new-blackLike a litter of adorable adoptable puppies, my wheelchair attracts physical contact, head tilting and high-pitched voices from all walks of society. After fifteen years of being paralyzed I’ve become accustomed to the attention that comes along with adversity.

In fact, I once thought I was special.

Now it seems disabled people are everywhere, especially on TV and on the big screen. Sometimes the performances are cringe-worthy and other times they’re legit. And while I have no desire to be in front of a camera (I enjoy criticizing and being criticized safely from my living room, on the other side of the TV) I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the slightest jealous of these people because they’ve found a way to cash in on their “specialness.”  And that’s what you do when you’ve been given adversity—you turn it into an asset.

So maybe I’m not so special.

As more disabled people start to step up and step out into the spotlight, I realize I’m more like those in wheelchairs than I want to believe. Still, I continue to write because I’m hopeful that someone may take interest in my story one day (and I can properly communicate it).

In the meantime (and while continue to type and then immediately hit the delete button), here is a list of disabled people taking my the limelight:


Who & What: Kevin Michael McHale in “GLEE”
The Bit: He’s an actor that plays a paraplegic that can never fulfill his dream of being a dancer, so he sings.
Thoughts: For an able-bodied person he sits down real good.


Who & What: RJ Mitte in “Breaking Bad”
The Bit: He’s a drug dealer’s son who happens to have Cerebral Palsy.
Thoughts: RJ does actually have Cerebral Palsy, although it’s not as pronounced as demonstrated in the show. Rumor has it he would stop taking some meds to display the real effects of CB on his body during filming. Ballsy.


Who & What: John Hawkes in The Sessions
The Bit: A man that is paralyzed from neck down from childhood polio and seeking a sex therapist.
Thoughts: Pretty amazing movie. Disabled people and sex is such a taboo subject. But I can tell you it happens. In fact, sex has improved my injury-related Osteoporosis. How’s that for natural remedies? [Cringe]  You’re welcome.


Who & What: Francois Cluzet in The Intouchables
The Bit: Rich quadriplegic interviews for caregivers and then develops a relationship with one that is life changing for both parties.
Thoughts: If only all caregivers were as cool and strong as Omar Sy.

Ironside - Season Pilot

Who & What: Blair Underwood in “Ironside”
The Bit: He’s a cop that was paralyzed from a bullet on duty and forced to retire, only to be appointed a special consulting position to stay on the scene.
Thoughts: It was a remake. And the series was quickly cancelled. Enough said.


Who & What: Michael J Fox in “The Michael J Fox Show”
The Bit: He’s a dad with Parkinson’s Disease.
Thoughts: With all respect of the bravery it takes to let people see your vulnerabilities, I found it hard to understand what Michael was saying (nevertheless watch him tremble). Maybe more of a reality show of PD would have been better than a sitcom? Regardless, he is brave for putting it all out there.


Who & What: Jamie Brewer in “American Horror Story: Coven”
The Bit: She’s the witch with Down’s Syndrome that can read people’s thoughts.
Thoughts: She’s excellent. I’m jealous. When I watch her I don’t even see her disability.

push girls

Who & What: Tiphany Adams, Auti Angel, Angela Rockwood and Mia Schaikewitz in “Push Girls”
The Bit: A realty TV show about four paralyzed women living in Hollywood.
Thoughts: Just as this show starting airing previews I was putting together a book proposal. At first, “I was like, “nooooo,” because I was toying with the idea of sharing my story and it had seemed like all these ladies had somehow beat me to it. And then I watched the show… and quickly realized I could not be anymore different than any of these girls. Not to mention the show seemed so coerced. Eh. Not totally impressed but can applaud the effort (from afar with, like, a golf clap).


Who & What: Hillary Baack in The East
The Bit: She’s a deaf actress that most recently played Eve, a deaf character.
Thoughts: I love Hillary but I’m totally biased because we’re friends. And even though we both live in Los Angeles we live in different zip codes, which is practically like living in different states. Regardless, we managed to meet up for lunch a couple weeks ago. That’s right a wheelchair person and deaf person having lunch together, just the two of us. Sounds like a sitcom, right? Well it’s real life. Our life. Love Hillary. Love her passion. And love that she’s a wife, a mother, an actress, a writer and breaking through all the stereotypical boundaries.

And the list continues…

Do you think disabilities are being portrayed the correct way by the media? And what actor/role model has effected your perception of disability?


Posted Thursday, January 9th, 2014 in 99 Problems

2 Responses to “99 Problems — #15 If Orange Is The New Black Then Disability Is The New Orange”

  1. Nicole Robbins says:

    Will McElroy from the Magic Kids! =]


    or Adam Woodard from the band Star and Micey !


    Both amazing touring Musicians with disabilities.

  2. Kasey says:

    I’ve started and stopped, and started and stopped, this response multiple times. Not sure how to say it without coming off like a calloused jerk, but will do my best.

    Reality Show: Frankie from the Real World San Diego. Frankie has Cystic Fibrosis, a terminal genetic disease. Terminal means, we “qualify” in the disability bracket if you are talking “social security,” but it’s a condition/disease people can’t see…usually, and if you can see it, it’s because someone is typically in the end stages of the disease.

    I’m 30. In 1997 I had a liver and pancreas transplant, and was given the second chance at a life. One that I would not have had without the gift, there are no two ways about it, I would be dead. Today, due to CF (if anyone is unfamiliar it’s a genetic disease that’s multifaceted. Pulmonary/Respiratory (lungs), Gastrointestinal, digestive, endocrinology, the list is pretty vast. Anyway, as a young kid my disease affected my GI tract. I was diabetic, I took enzymes when I ate, and I had the liver of a 70 year old alcoholic with end stage cirrhosis. My transplant cured me of diabetes. I also had my gall bladder and spleen removed and I have lived a “normal” life. Normal for me anyway. Several times a year I go into the hospital for “tune ups,” in that my PFT (pulmonary function test) are down, I’m coughing a lot (a common symptom/sign/insert your own synonym of CF) and I need a picc line because oral antibiotics are no longer cutting it.

    So, why did Frankie bother me? Frankie bothered me because she didn’t take care of herself. She smoked. When she was alive I felt like she was embarrassing the CF community, that she was making a bad name for us…but today, because I’m “wiser” and more sympathetic to what she may have been experiencing, I feel sad for her. Not because I believe in feeling sorry for anyone else but because I don’t think she was happy, and I think it was fair for her to feel that way. With that said, it is frustrating to be on the other side, watching her show the world – in her short time in the spotlight, that CF was a joke…because smoking…and CF, to me that’s a slap in the face. It sends the wrong message. Some of my closest “CF friends” are waiting for lungs, and without them – they will die, and they will die very soon…I don’t know. Maybe this is where I open mouth and insert foot. I just, she didn’t portray CF the way I guess I would have, if tables were turned…but I guess that’s why you can’t do into something expecting anyone to behave/react/be who you would be given the same situation.


    Jana, you rock. I love your blog, and your humor. Keep it up!

Leave a Reply