John McCain, Disability, the Interwebs and the POW card.

The latest boatload of insulting baloney coming out of the McCain campaign, attacking Obama for making issue of McCain’s lack of comprehension of the Internet Age, plays the disability/POW card, badly.

All over the net ditto heads, idiots and the likes of Jonah Goldberg are suggesting that Obama is insensitive to the fact that McCain has trouble lifting his arms due to the injuries he sustained from torture, which by the way he no longer opposes, and from the plane crash that left him in the hands of his enemy.

This is the Obama Campaign ad in question:

Here’s Mr. Goldberg finger wagging at the Obama campaign:

Does anyone know why McCain doesn’t use a computer or email? As a couple readers suggested to me, it might be because his injuries prevent it. I mean he can’t lift his arms much higher than his chest and it looks like he has all sorts of other mobility problems with them. Maybe he can’t type or use something like a blackberry. I don’t know. But I hope the Obama campaign found out before they played the granpa Simpson card on McCain. I’d hate for Obama to be mocking a veteran’s disability to score cheap points.

As a person who worked for four years in a lab focused on training adults with disabilities to use adaptive technologies, I assure you Mr. Goldberg, neither his injury, the state of the technology nor the cost were a barrier to his adoption of their use in 1990, nor in 2008.

And to the people passing this off as some explanation for why Mr. McCain is not involved in the most transformative aspect of world culture – is an insult to every one with a disability more or less affecting than Mr. McCain’s.

If Mr. McCain is like his predecessor simply incurious and uninterested in all that computers and the net offer, I wish he would just say so. I understand that he has been on committees, but I am pretty sure he slept through them, as every time he opens his mouth on the subject it is clear he has no enthusiasm or real involvement with the topic. Plenty of people, of all ages are, just not interested. However there are also octogenarians who run around the net like their grand kids. Age is not an excuse.

It is unclear to me if Mr. McCain would approve of making the sort of issue of his disability that his surrogates and supporters are. I find it entirely believable that he does not know this is happening, as he is not online, and would at the same time dissapprove of them using his disability as an excuse. Though he has used his POW history many times to misdirect the citizenry away from pertinent policy questions, questions of character, and questions about the Rove tactics of his campaign, so maybe he did approve the message that disabilities prevent you from using or understanding the interwebs.

As Mr. McCain has no coherent policy regarding people with disabilities, civil rights, health coverage, transportation and the very long list of other issues of central concern to people living with disabilities, I surmise that this is just another example of him being out of touch.

Mr. Stephen Hawking has a few words directly for Mr. McCain, his campaign and his supporters. [OK this is not actually Mr. Hawking or a clever youtuber having some fun – either way the points are dead on.]

Here are a few other people who have made use of technology to bridge the gap between themselves, their aspirations and the people around them. And a few more folks who have used technology to communicate past barriers that the non-disabled so consistently put before them.

silentmiaow a very interesting woman on youtube, who has autism. She vlogs about her life. She advocates forcefully for herself and everyone else with a cognitive difference. She uses video and computers to do so. Please watch this one to the end. It won’t make much sense to you otherwise.

Clearly, having a disability does not make McCain a competent advocate for adults with disabilities nor does it mean he respects the demands of the community of persons with disabilities.

Take a look how he responds to demands from a true advocate for the Community Choice Act.

Marly Matlin talks about the work lives of adults with disabilities and the prejudice they face.

This gentleman advocates for accessible subway systems in New York City. He uses video and is computer to do so. It looks to me like he has much less mobility than Mr. McCain, but manages to get his point across using technology.

Getting around in New York City can be daunting for someone using a motorized wheelchair or for someone with any disability. Sharing with you an experience of mine and hoping to create a discussion about accessibility. For more stuff by myself, and my two accomplices, visit the site —

So before you think you should start covering for McCain on this claim that his disability prevents him from using the intertweba, think hard about what you are saying about people with impairments. My guess is, anyone that tries to make this claim, is not disabled – and sure as hell shouldn’t pretend (suddenly) to be an advocate for the disabled. I am not insisting that there are no people out there who are barred from using the net or a computer because of a cognitive or physical disability, I just don’t think McCain has any barrier that could not be fixed with the application of technology and money. Technology is just not his thing, like a lot of people – it has nothing to do with his disability. He’s just not into it. That’s fine, but I don’t think he should be on any committee involving technology policy.

As I mentioned in another post, after Governor Palin made the extraordinary claim that because she’s a new parent of a kid with Down’s Syndrome, people with disabilities will “have and advocate in the White House.” I went off to check the McCain/Palin website to see what their policy positions were, after hearing her speech. That was about a week ago. Checked back just now (September, 13th 2008, 8:26PM EST) and there are still only two crappy paragraphs, focused only on autism. He clearly has not been listening to adult self advocates with a spectrum disorder or any other kind of disability.

Barack Obama has nine pages and has clearly been listening to adult self advocates. He clearly cares enough and has enough respect for the people and the issues that he can confidently address the topic.

“We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination …. policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities.”

— Barack Obama

Obama on disabled vets and what we owe to the men and women that gave all.

And on McCain’s status as a vet with disabilities, though he continues to collect disability, in spite of being married to a woman wealthier than 99.98% of vets, he advocates the ‘rationing’ of health care and treatment for veterans to only those injuries sustained while in battle. It is a disgusting policy suggestion, from a man who wants for nothing precisely because he dumped his disabled wife for a wealthy much younger blond heiress.

If this pisses you off please consider making a donation to Disabled Veterans of America, an organization that should not need to exist in America.


Our veteran heroes need your support! Over 37,000 men and women have been injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many face serious injuries, endure extensive recoveries and are not receiving the treatment and care they have earned and deserve.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is the leader in providing direct one-on-one assistance to veterans. With trained personnel on military bases worldwide and thousands of volunteers, DAV ensures veterans receive adequate medical treatment, provides transportation to/from hospitals for treatments, delivers relief from disasters, and educates the public about disabled veteran’s issues.

As for where technology is taking us – take a look at this bit of advanced tech. McCain is hopelessly out of touch on technology AND on disability. And he will only become more so, not because of his age, but because he is clearly disinterested in anything but war. He is a man out of step with the amazing times we live in.

In Japan they have developed technology that allows this guy to control a robotic arm and a computer with his brain, that is by simply thinking about what he wants to happen.

Updated: A great dairy at DailyKos by devilstower debunks McCain’s claims regarding his role in ushering in the Age of the Interwebs.

And just for balance – Obama’s talk at the Google.