Disability Resource Index

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Helix, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. Disability Resource Index
    On Wednesdays, I’ll share a couple offsite links and general information on disability and writing disabled characters.

    Topics will range from physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, chronic illnesses, assistive technology, (dis)ableism, to just about anything. The topic of the week will trace back to how it will affect the character and those around them.

    If there is demand for a specific subject, I’ll make an effort to put something together on it.

    I encourage you to call things into question, add your own information, add your own experiences, and generally run with things.

    Index (open)

    Visual impairment
    • Long canes (Post 2)

    (I just realized this may be off-topic. Um, I'll wait for the verdict.)
    #1 Helix, Oct 29, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2014
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  2. Visual impairment - Long canes
    (...got a little infodump-y)

    Long canes are assistive technology used by the blind and visually impaired. They are primarily used to detect objects in the user’s path and changes in terrain. There are other kinds of canes, but this one seems the most likely to crop up in roleplay situations.

    There is no universal cane length, even for people of the same height. Things that factor into cane length are height, stride length, posture, cane usage, personal preference, overall experience, and many more. Canes typically range from 44 to 68 inches long, and when starting out one that reaches the sternum is usually tried first before adjustments are made.

    Canes used to be made of wood, but those are on the rare side today. They are now more commonly made of graphite, carbon fibre, fibreglass, and aluminium.

    While being white and red-tipped is an indicator of lack of vision, they don't necessarily have to have that standard appearance, especially on special occasions or non-traditional settings (This bride, article, and cane are all impressive). They can be glow in the dark for increased night visibility, as well.

    Long canes come in solid, folding, and telescoping varieties. The style of cane will depend on your character’s lifestyle, level of vision, and personal preference. Folding and telescoping canes are easier to store, solid canes provide more feedback. Here is one of many articles on cane selection, and a source for some of the information here.

    A good example of a folding cane’s construction and appearance is this video. It's a bit long, but thorough.
    An example of a telescoping cane's construction and appearance can be be found in this video.

    When used, the cane is usually held about where a belt buckle would be and will sweep across in an arc. Typically it will be tapped at the leftmost and rightmost ends of the arc, and be an inch or two above the ground between those points. The tapping provides audio feedback, and the height above the ground is to detect small cracks or objects without dragging the tip.

    Cane use takes practice, and is usually taught through orientation and mobility specialists, though self-taught cane users exist. No one picks up a cane and is proficient right off the bat, it'll likely take some time.


    Ways long canes may affect characters:
    • Breaking, outgrowing, or otherwise needing to replace a cane
    • Having difficulties storing longer canes in cars
    • Telescoping canes collapsing while walking unexpectedly
    • Improving mobility
    • Increasing confidence in navigating unfamiliar places
    • Being recognizably blind or sight impaired, and all that entails
    #2 Helix, Oct 29, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2014
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  3. @Helix

    This is totally fine, since it's written with the intent to be used as a roleplay resource. Actually, it's awesome!
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  4. I think people should be careful when making characters with mental illnesses as it can offend some people and i suggest not making a character with mental illnesses.

    Not only that their also difficult to pull off properly, i heard one time from a friend that one of his friends in college actually had to talk to psychology teachers and counselors about making a schizophrenic character, after weeks of researching and reading stories about schizophrenic people, he actually pulled off a schizophrenic character. (Gosh i hope this made sense)

    But really its all down to what kind of mental illnesse you want your character to have. More hmm how should i say this "crazy" mental illnesses take a lot more time to write I'E schizophrenic characters.
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  5. @ResolverOshawott As long as a warning is in place, I believe all characters types are fair game~

    @Helix This is great! I'll be keeping an eye on this without a doubt
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  6. As someone with a mental illness, yes, it can be pretty offensive when I see someone create "crazy psycho murderer #8472" and uses it to justify some pretty shitty, generally story-wrecking behaviour. On the other hand, I do recognize that most people who create such characters are either misinformed by Hollywood or just want to have some fun in a fantasy-land against a generic antagonist (like Russians, Commies, evil corporate America, et cetera) and mean no real harm.

    The general rule of thumb for making mental disorders in my opinion is thus: Don't mention a specific disorder unless you do specific research. Any regular Joe can become a hardened killer through training and/or trauma, or garner a complete disregard for human life without the need for a disorder. You can still portray your character as being a crazed tyrannical murderer without having to say that he's a psychotic crazed tyrannical murderer. On the other hand, if you do your research into, say, Bipolar Disorder, and want to portray that, then by all means do your best so long as it fits into the story. (ex: You wouldn't bring a person in a wheelchair to a battlefield. You wouldn't bring a schizophrenic into a psychiatry ward full of the mentally insane. Etc.)

    Also: Mentally unstable does not equate to mentally insane. For example: I'm unstable, but I have the capacity to understand that, and thus I am still sane. This is also pretty key to understanding how to portray an instability: A person who feels depression understands their sorrow and lethargy is unnatural, and is mentally capable of attempting to circumvent or overcome it (depending on circumstances), which can be used as a story device. A character who is completely and utterly insane isn't someone like the Joker--who is still capable of making rather methodical and complex plans--but is someone who has completely lost any comprehension of the real world and, while dangerous to others, is just as dangerous to themselves. Perhaps moreso to themselves than others.
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  7. This is wonderful! Can I request some resources on

    Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)


    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    Manic Depression


    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

    These are ones I see mistaken a lot; and yes, I agree that misrepresenting disabilities/illnesses can be very offensive; especially if

    • You are using it as a gimmick or quirk to make your character more interesting. People who have these kinds of life-altering conditions don't usually appreciate people trivializing them like this.
    • You only portray the parts of the disability you find interesting or sympathy-generating. Did you know that narcoleptics, in addition to falling asleep round the clock, also tend to have severe seizures? Or that medications for a lot of conditions can give you upset stomach, vomiting, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping or restrict your diet?
    • You use it to create an image that 'people with X condition are scary/dangerous/untrustworthy'. Do I need to explain this one?!
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  8. As said before, just avoid naming specific illnesses when making characters like this. Honestly some of my characters don't fit a specific set of issues that I was able to find, so I think it's usually best to not even name things. It's not needed, since you don't need to label them with things. Let them be what you think they should be, and if people label it a certain way, that's on them.

    @Minibit What do you see wrong with it making them more interesting? Isn't that the point of every trait you give a character, to build them up into a three dimensional character you can act with? I can see if it just is a quirk, but I'm a bit confused by that point...
  9. There's nothing wrong with wanting to write about a character with, for example, MPD because you find the illness interesting and would like to explore it through the character/have an excuse to research it more, etc. My problem is more where people tack the disease on and base their whole character around it the same way they would with a job or a skill.

    Let's see if I can be more specific; with the MPD example, it would be disrespectful/offensive if someone made a character who would be pretty bland if it weren't for their disorder. There's nothing of note about them, nothing that is highlighted in the story (eg; they love being outdoors, they're great at math, they want to be a firefighter someday, they have a rough home life, they're fun to be around...) except their disorder. It might be just me, but I think when a character is designed more as "MPD girl/guy" than as a fleshed out character with multiple quirks and elements to themselves, it makes it look like they're using the disease as some sort of accessory, rather than respecting the fact that a lot of people have their lives completely f*cked up by it, or that there's more to the disorder than getting to write several characters in the same body.

    I guess the best way to summarize would be to say that when you take a serious condition and turn it into a gag or accessory, you're dismissing the struggle of those who actually have it.
    #9 Minibit, Nov 1, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
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  10. Ahhh, I see what you mean with that now. I completely agree with all of that, saying it should only be an element to the character, just like how it is with actual people. No one is "just an illness/disability", so characters should not be that way either. It should be part of them and of course be accurate, but you should be able to take it away and still have fairly playable and fun character. Thanks for clarifying that!
  11. I'll try.

    Multiple Personality Disorder is not an actual disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DiD) is however the disorder most are going for, and is "characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states that alternately control a person's behavior, and is accompanied by memory impairment for important information not explained by ordinary forgetfulness." In general, a person who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder would be classified as a non-functioning person even with medication, and would not really be suitable in a role play, which is interactions-driven, as the lack of coherency and memory blanks would quickly get the character in question in serious trouble, not factoring anything else.

    Of all the disorders I've seen, this one tends to be the most abused in terms of people wanting "edgy" factor.

    Schizophrenia is "characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, auditory hallucinations, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and inactivity." This is often mixed up with DiD in terms of multiple personalities, a person who suffers from Schizophrenia does not have multiple personalities, but may be unable to separate various thoughts and delusions in their heads from reality, which can include voices in their heads. Someone with milder forms of Schizophrenia can function in most role playing environments, but would tend to paranoia in attempting to hide their symptoms from the world. It should also be noted that most schizophrenia involving hallucinations is not constant: A person is not constantly afflicted with "voices", for example. There are also medications which effectively limit or even completely eliminate certain or all symptoms, depending on the person in question.

    People often cannot tell the difference between Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder. I don't blame them: Hollywood can't either.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is different from Schizophrenia and DiD in that PTSD is exclusively a trauma-based disorder, whereas the other two are more often genetic than traumatic. What this means is nearly every case of PTSD can be healed over time. People who have PTSD do everything in their power to subconsciously avoid the event(s) that caused them extreme distress, but will relive it in delusions and nightmares. People who suffer PTSD often have extreme paranoia and never feel safe, even when in a perfectly calm environment. They're often overly stressed independent of the environment and adding more stress can cause them to easily break. For role playing, it is doable, but you don't want a character with PTSD on the front line of a battle unless your entire goal is to have him or her lock up and die, go indiscriminately berserk, or panic and flee.

    People often attribute characters with PTSD where it wouldn't be appropriate. People who have this disorder aren't monsters: They're paranoid and terrified, and this can be hard to play seeing as how role plays thrive off of interactivity and paranoia and terror are the opposite of this.

    Bonus material for people who want to learn more about PTSD from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

    Manic Depression is usually referred to as Bipolar Disorder, and is characterized with elevated, excitable moods that then swing down to depressive, fatigued moods. What makes this different from every day life is in how extreme the swings are and how suddenly they can come about. Notable, people in the mania phase of Bipolar Disorder often become more aggressive and often suffer with impaired judgment, whereas people in the depressed phase become more defensive and reclusive. Bipolar Disorder has a large number of medications that can assist each individual, aimed at lowering the extremes of one or both states. Depending on whether the disorder is trauma-based or genetic, it can eventually wear down and be healed over time.

    Surprisingly I don't see many people go for Bipolar Disorder, they usually go for Depression. Those that do though often have the character swap between the states every five minutes or so, which is inaccurate: The phases usually last anywhere between a few hours to several days, and vary from person to person, month to month.

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is... Well, the Wiki article does it pretty much perfect justice, so here you go. "Characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms of the disorder include excessive washing or cleaning, repeated checking, extreme hoarding, preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts, relationship-related obsessions, aversion to particular numbers and nervous rituals such as opening and closing a door a certain number of times before entering or leaving a room. These symptoms are time-consuming, might result in loss of relationships with others, and often cause severe emotional and financial distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic. However, people with OCD generally recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational and may become further distressed by this realization. Despite the irrational behaviour, OCD is associated with high verbal IQ."

    Most that portray OCD do so in some trivial way that highly undervalues how frustrating it is to live with. Imagine if before every battle, your character had a compulsive disorder to unsheathe his or her blade in a precise, slow way, so that the blade tip never touched the interior walls of the sheath, and then failing that, became preoccupied with that for the entire battle. It's totally doable, and in my humble opinion the easiest to live with in a typical role play adventure, but that's not really saying much in what we're comparing it to above.
    #11 Brovo, Nov 2, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
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  12. Since most of the discussion has been centred around mental illness so far, this wednesday I'll probably bring up some resources on medication used for treating such, their side effects, and off-label usage.
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  13. I'm just going to post here so I remember to come back. I have issues with your opinion of people that have a DID diagnosis.
  14. Would that be me by any chance?
  15. Lets take this to a PM instead of turning this into a debate.


    Issue resolved amicable. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

    #15 Brovo, Jan 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
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  16. My apologies to everyone who had to read my little outburst. It has since been deleted, and I'm gonna kindly bow out of this thread before I further embarrass myself.

    You all have a good resource here. Keep it up.
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  17. Ahem! Moving right along

    Anyone who wants to add some info on wheelchair use and how it affects daily life is appreciated!
  18. I don't have a real definition, but since I've been in a wheelchair for a good 4 weeks and so has my mother and friend (jeez, I lead a calamitous life), I think I have a good grasp on it.

    Firstly Wheelchairs are ridiculously tiring on the arms. If, like me, you had to use one due to an injury, as opposed to something like paralysis, your arms are going to ache. It's hard to go up a ramp that's longer than 25 meters. When you're someone like a Paralympian, or have lived with one for 2-3 years or longer (I only guessed at this, based on other people's opinions) (shorter for those who were more athletic before their wheelchair-requiring incident), then you probably will feel the burn less, and will actually have very toned arms. Next, transitions from floor texture to floor texture or generally bumpy things are a literal pain in the ass. It's like driving in a car over potholes, but more sensitive. (Doesn't apply if you're paralysed waist down) Also, if you get stuck, it's a real problem because it's very hard to get out (involves lots of forward and backwarding) and even harder if you're paralysed in your legs, I imagine. You often bump your elbows in corridors or doors that are narrow, and you get bruises. Your legs get pins and needles a lot (if you're not paralysed) and your hands can get blisters. Also, riding downhill is very very scary as most wheelchairs don't have good handling. Finally, not many people are stubborn about only driving the wheelchair themselves, and DO prefer help. It would have to be a good reason for your character to decline help. If I think of any I will add...?
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  19. Thanks! Any additional info is appreciated; guesswork is okay too, since it's a starting point that I can do further research from :P For reference, the character I want this info for is paralyzed in both legs
  20. Perhaps someone who is too proud and would consequentially have their pride hurt by "leaning" or "depending" on others. Of course, this would probably apply to more than just needing assistance with a wheelchair and may be generated prior to needing one, in case they didn´t need one early in their lifes. Personally I haven´t met someone like that who´d happen to be moving thanks to a wheelchair, but I can picture it being a scenario. Perhaps this thoughts of mine are also fed by a particular character in the sequel for Scary Movie, who´s character accentuates in the fact that he shrugs any kind of help while he suffers of multiple obstaculizing conditions and events, one of them for instance, him using a wheelchair.