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September 28, 2021
Transcription is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.
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>> Welcome to AccessAbility Works. A podcast about the possibilities of accessibility for people with disabilities. I’m Jonathan Hermus.
>> And I’m Albert Rizzi and this is AccessAbility Works.
>> We’re going to start today’s episode by saying that this one is going to be NSFW.
>> I just learned that means Not Suitable for Work.
>> And probably not children, either.
>> It’s an adult-themed podcast today.
>> Yeah, the content we’re talking about is quite sexual in nature.
>> Because people with disabilities have sexual needs and we’re touching on that taboo topic.
>> It’s almost like they are human, too.
>> Oh, yes.
>> So yeah, so make sure the children are not in the room.
>> If you’re not okay with NSFW, skip this episode come back on the next one, try us on the next one.
>> Yes so if you are sensitive to vulgar language or sexual innuendoes.
>> Sexual themes.
>> Sexual themes, sex in general, just move on right now.
>> So —
>> Our guest today is a man by the name of Andrew Gurza.
>> Andrew is a colleague and now I can say friend from Toronto who started a podcast called DAD, DisabilityAfterDark. And a company called Handi. And he’s an advocate and an evangelist for the Disability Community. Primarily discussing sexual therapies and sexual needs of individuals within the Disability Community. And how often we get overlooked in that regard.
>> And Handi is a company that creates products to help people who happen to have disabilities.
>> Explore our sexuality.
>> With I would say it’s more assistive devices for sexual pleasure.
>> There you go. I like that.
>> It’s necessary because according to the Bear in the Chair 50% of the physically disabled people surveyed struggled to receive sexual pleasure on their hand. They needed a hand. A little handy hand. You know what I’m saying?
>> It’s a very important topic. At My Blind Spot we discuss and advocate for full inclusion. We need are our needs to be addressed. We don’t want to just find a way to point click and shop. We want to be able to buy something we can use. Andrew, the Bear in the Chair, will be telling us about his company, Handi, as well as some of his other advocacy work in the Disability Community. It is an earful.
>> It just so happens our next blog is going to be focused on dating as a person with a disability. Primarily with a blind focus. AKA my personal experiences. And I really never dated. I just basically found you in the living room at your parents’ house.
>> Oh, my God.
>> But some people aren’t as lucky as me.
>> But it’s something, yeah. So dating and sexuality as a person with a disability is worthy of a discussion. So here we are. So that blog will be coming out shortly. Please look for it. Find that at myblindspot.org of course as always. And we will be sharing it out on social media. So keep an eye out for that.
>> You might notice that the sound quality has changed a little bit from our last podcast to this one. And it’s going to change again when we switch to the interview. Because when we interviewed Andrew, we were in the —
>> The trailer.
>> A camping trailer, living on our front lawn. And we have since moved back into our house. We’re not really settled yet. But we’re getting there. Eventually we’ll have sound grouping to make better audio for you so bear with us until then.
>> So we are in our home and in our new recording studio that hasn’t been successful wired for sound but we’re very excited and happy.
>> Intro and outro for the next one or two videos are going to be — not videos but podcasts will be different from the sound quality of the actual —
>> You’re dyslexic, it’s okay. Let’s get to some exciting things that have happened since the last time we aired one of our podcasts. A number of people have gone to space. And I’m not talking about getting high and getting lost. We’re talking about space such as.
>> Richard Branson.
>> Richard Branson, disability power buddy. You get up there.
>> Elon Musk is shooting passengers into space.
>> They are going around the globe in 3 days and I think it was 18 times a day and one of them is a patient child from the St. Jude’s pediatric ward.
>> So they are just doing this now, just shooting people into space.
>> Take a cruise on SpaceX SpaceLiner and go around the Earth. The first day three-day trick. God, there’s a Gilligan’s Island joke in there.
>> Somewhere. But I’m telling you the first $200,000 we have to spare, we’re going.
>> It was only supposed to be a three-hour space cruise. Now we’re on Mars, baby.
>> Could you imagine if they did in response a sequel that was based upon —
>> That would be a prequel.
>> No, not necessarily. But we could do I’m saying a variation of him. You’re such a picky person. If we could get lost in space Jeff Bezos style and Elon Musk style.
>> Let’s not doing the Jeff Bezos style. I don’t like the Jeff Bezos style at all.
>> And the funny thing is we’re about to talk about sexuality and I don’t know that I would want to fly in a spaceship that looked like a penis. Anyway so that’s been happening and that’s been exciting to listening to and follow.
>> People may have been confused because there was a bit of a time difference from when we recorded with Andrew and now when we’re recording the intro and outro.
>> We discussed and anticipated with a lot of excitement that Richard Branson was going to be the first to launch into space so this is not —
>> The first pleasure cruise into space.
>> I’ll call it a pleasure cruise.
>> It’s a fucking pleasure cruise.
>> I like the way you did that, the Gilligan’s Island pleasure cruise. So the first of three launches has happened after the recording of this podcast and that’s what we’re speaking about at the beginning with Andrew Gurza.
Additionally we have the pleasure of the Olympics and the Paralympics over the past number of weeks. And congratulations to all of the medalists. The USA came out on top with the largest number of medals.
>> Yeah, we beat China.
>> Beat them good. And I think for the first — one of the first times that I can recall, the Paralympics was aired on national/international television. And we will be speaking with and interviewing Mallory Weggemann, who is a paralympian, Gold Medalist, Silver Medalist, swimmer extraordinaire. We’re all happy to share with you now a little teaser. She’s going to be on our podcast. We’re really excited about her telling us all about her wins and the excitement that’s happened and all the buildup to the Paralympics.
You know, I used to swim in high school and I can’t wait to ask her how do I flip at the end of a pool to go back. I think I want to try to swim in the Paralympics. I want to be Mallory.
>> How do you flip? Or how did she flip?
>> Yeah, because she’s paralyzed from the waist down and I always wondered how they do it. That was always the bane of my existence in competitions. I always had a problem —
>> I would assume she had to push off the wall with her arms.
>> I don’t know; I don’t know. So I’m curious. So anyways that’s coming down the pike so we hope you tune in for that.
>> Maybe there’s no flip. Maybe there’s just one way.
>> I don’t know. Have you seen swimming competitions before?
>> No. I’ve got to be straight with you, not Parlympic ones.
>> No, I’m saying in general, though, as a person who isn’t sighted —
>> Yeah, they jump with their legs in the pool.
>> You’re missing my point. When you’re doing laps in the pool, you get to the end of the pool, you have to twist underneath and —
>> You do a front flip and kick.
>> I had a problem doing the front flip and the kick. So I’m curious about how to do that. But anyway, irrelevant.
>> And without any further ado, here is Andrew Gurza. And just as a reminder, this is adult content. Outside our usual content, which is for all listening audiences. So adults only.
>> Beware, there be sexual content ahead.
>> Hey, Andrew, how are you?
>> Hello, good. How are you?
>> Thanks for joining us today.
>> Thank you for having me.
>> Jonathan, our resident guru on everything that has to do with your program, Handi dandy fun times for people who are disabled. Just to our listening audience if you haven’t grasped what I warned you about before, this is going to be a freewilly episode. Keep your children away.
>> Adult content.
>> NSFW is what it is.
>> Not Suitable for Work.
>> So Andy, again, welcome. John, do you want to start us off with any prying questions to get him to open up.
>> I don’t have any prying questions, I just have a lot of weird statements.
>> I can be pretty open. Just take some — a little bit of time.
>> Anyway, so why —
>> In researching for this interview with you, I checked out your podcast and I’m a guy who likes to start with the first episode and go to the last episode and see the difference in changes but I thought it was appropriate to stop at Episode 69, which was great. I liked that about. It was about scheduling sex. And then I moved up to the last episode, which is also the most recent episode. Which was great. You got a new fan.
>> Oh, thank you. I appreciate that.
>> No problem.
>> I don’t schedule anything. I’m all about the impromptu and spontaneity so it was interesting John picked that one and here we are trying to figure out what our schedule is going to be like because John is my Business Partner as well as my life partner. And we’re living —
>> Oh, shalom, I didn’t realize that you guys were life partners.
>> Thank you.
>> Well hello.
>> It changes the conversation.
>> A little bit, yeah, it does.
>> You can let your hair down a little but what’s odd for us is we’re in the midst of the rebuild of our house we actually took it down to the foundation and rebuilt it and currently living in a trailer on the front lawn.
>> So if you hear a truck go by, you’ll really hear it.
>> And if the truck is a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’ because we planned it that way. Anyway, so Andrew, I know that you are a member of the community so give us a little bit of insights into what it was like growing up. And I believe you grew up in Toronto.
>> Yeah, I did. I grew up north of Toronto in a little hamlet called Snowball Corners.
>> Not too far from Santa town.
>> Yeah it’s an hour north of Toronto where I grew up. Growing up, I had a fairly quote-unqoute normal childhood. My family really made every effort to include me in everything. Make sure that everything was accessible for me as a wheelchair user. For those who are listening who don’t know who I am, I was born with cerebral palsy. And I’m a power wheelchair user. So when I was growing up, I learned how to drive a power chair. I did all of the normal things that kids did. But it was at the slant of being disabled.
My family did a great job of accommodating and adapting their lives to what I needed. We built — the reason I lived in that little hamlet was because we had to build a house just for me. So I understand when you say you’re renovating stuff, I know, I’ve been there.
>> It’s interesting because I’ve only been blind for about 16 years and this project, we both — we’re living in my grandmother’s house. And prior to moving in together, Jonathan was living in his grandmother’s house, a rental property she had. And his family has been in this community here for about four generations.
In addition to this being something that I’ve always wanted to do, it’s also part of my quote-unqoute recovery, you know, how they rehabilitate those of us who are differently abled and it’s supposed to be through recovery and I keep looking for the needle in my arm going, okay, I’m getting over an addiction.
But going over how to understand to design the house for accessibility and usability for people with disabilities in mind. That’s been interesting. I’ve shared a few things with my friends. A guy who is building the house is someone I have known since I was four. The architect is somebody I’ve been — we’re still friends with everybody, obviously. And the architect is somebody I’ve known since 7th Grade. This has been a new experience for them.
So it’s been exciting, trepidatious. And now we’re done. We want to be in our home.
>> Nice, well, soon you will be. I look forward to that for you.
>> Yeah, so growing up, it sounded as though you had parents similar to many of our guests and our friends and colleagues whose parents went to length to make sure you had as normal a childhood, whatever that is these days, growing up. But I keep thinking of all of the snow in Canada. Did you have snow tires on your wheelchair?
>> No, I didn’t. But I remember getting stuck in the snow. And being snowball in fights. I have two brothers and one sister. So I was — and my siblings didn’t take any prisoners. They are like we don’t care you’re in a wheelchair. You’re coming out in the snow with us and we’re going to throw snowballs at you until somebody tells us to stop.
>> They didn’t care so I really appreciate that about my childhood is my brothers and my sister and I we did all of the normal kid things. We also lived on a big, big plot of land. So we had a lot of places for my wheelchair to get stuck. A lot of adventures we went on as brothers and sister. It was really, really fun. And my wheelchair was a wagon for my brothers to ride on and play on so I always love how it was always incorporated into what we did.
>> It reminds me, your last episode, the most recent one, you were interviewing a woman from New York who got cerebral palsy, who is kind of a quad and she was saying how inaccessible New York City is. But I have a friend of mine —
>> You were listening to the one with Kathleen.
>> Kathleen, Kathleen, there you go.
>> Episode 250.
>> yeah, Episode 250. And by the way, before we get too much further along, you had asked for help with transcripts for your program. My Blind Spot does that. So we would like to maybe discuss how we could support you being more accessible on the digital front. Because that’s all we do. We want to make sure that people can recreate, procreate and educate themselves.
>> Recreate, that should be on a shirt somewhere. I like that.
>> It should be on a shirt.
>> Maybe we can sell it at one of your next conventions. Which, by the way, when I first came across — I don’t remember how I came across your name honestly except I saw it and I’m like we have to get this guy on the show ASAP. My friend Joseph Patzner (phonetic) and colleague who actually helped us start some of the long-standing business partnerships we have with some of the Fortune 500 introduced me to a friend Michael — was it Michael? Anyway, the two of them both freaks, said, Al, this has got your name written all over it. And I’m like, I was reading up on the hoists that you had for people who are paralyzed and everything. I was like, I can’t wait to go Cirque du Soleil crazy at one of your conferences.
>> Yeah, I did that some time back in 2015.
>> Wow, it was that long.
>> Six years ago, it was really, really hard. I loved doing it. I was really proud to do it. It was the first accessible play party specifically for disabled people. It was called Deliciously Disabled. It was something that I was really, really proud of. But I don’t know. I never want to say never. But it was really hard to do.
>> The backlash we received from people when —
>> Judging Judys.
>> Yeah, when it went public it was really, really hard. And people said because we held it in an accessible space, it was also a theater space, that we were defiling the theater community.
>> Defiling the theater community.
>> I loved it. And was really proud of it.
>> How is that even possible?
>> I don’t even know.
>> Aren’t strip shows supposed to be entertaining to some degree?
>> Right. Isn’t that theater.
>> At an artistic level.
>> That’s what we did and proud of what we did.
>> You just make me wonder where I’m going to put my dollar bills when I have a stripper in a wheelchair rubbing up against to me.
>> Where do you want to put the dollar bill?
>> I’ll take all of the options. It was funny because Kathleen was telling me how — Kathleen was talking about how inaccessible the city has become and you talked about giving your brothers and sister wheelchair rides. I have a colleague of mine who is the Commissioner for the Office for People with Disabilities. And Victor Calise is just doing fantastic stuff after it was Matt Sapolin was the Commissioner before him and Matt had unfortunately passed.
And the oh system has been working doggedly to improve accessibility. I take my hats off to him every time and every chance I get. He is also a wheelchair user. And works out quite regularly. We were at a conference one time. I said, I am tired of walking. I would love to hop on your lap and go for a ride. And he says, go ahead. And before I gave him an opportunity to change his mind, I hopped on his lap and found this big hard briefcase.
>> Oh, that’s not what I wanted you to say.
>> I know, but Victor was like, you moved too fast, Missy. And I’m like damn. But they have done phenomenal work in New York City. But there are just some areas like down in the financial district that still require a lot of work to be done.
>> Yeah half the city is under construction at any given time.
>> At any given time. But they have been working in Toronto. There was a guy in New York State — New York City specifically, I’m sorry, MTA that had hired that was in Toronto who made the Toronto system accessible, he was in Australia and the UK. And he just left. But they were really — he was really all about ripping all of the stops out and getting rid of excuses about why we couldn’t have accessible subway systems with elevators and you know, information at the point of entry as opposed to deep in the bowels of the subway system.
>> But there are things that need to be done. But there’s been some significant advancements with the touchscreen taxi systems and the audible crosswalks and the like. And I’ve noticed more often than I used to the audible elevators for somebody who is blind, that’s really a critical fun thing to realize when you hit a button and you hear, “You’re on the 7th floor.”
>> For someone who is not blind who — I have spatial awareness stuff and I don’t know where the fuck I’m going ever.
>> So that’s not a bad thing for me, either. So I think the more accessibility, the more it helps everybody. But I think what’s happening in many major cities is they are doing this without long arduous conversations with the disabled community to figure out what access looks like.
>> Because what they tend to do, at least in my experience, is they will talk to one or two disabled people. And they are like, we can solve that, that’s it. But there’s more than two of us.
>> Don’t you find they always ask the wrong people, the two wrong people who you know from your community like, oh, my God why would ask her or why would you ask him? That’s not the right person.
>> Or they don’t know enough about the Disability Community to know who to ask so they will find somebody who is a wheelchair user and say, can we ask you? And you’re going to be the be-all and end-all.
>> Yeah, no.
>> It’s like no you need to put together a committee and have them walk you through and also pay them to do that for you.
>> Yeah, I know, and they also want you to volunteer on everything. Don’t you want to help other people? Yeah, but I also need to put food on the table.
>> Yeah, but I have to feed myself, too.
>> Yeah, that’s where we believe at My Blind Spot Nothing About Us Without Us. You know, we need to be part of the conversation and the dialogue. And I also think that people with disabilities tend to be at the intersectionality of ability, of gender, of race, of orientation, of religion. Everybody and their grandmother, if she’s not there already, will join the Disability Community through no choice of their own.
Now, growing up, I never — I’m going to say it this way. But I never knew a person with a disability. I just knew people who were differently abled. My cousin, John, who was born I think the term mentally retarded still applies to him because his mother had gotten measles or something. My friend PJ across the street. A young girl I grew up with, Ellen — I think Ellen — still is my age, she must be in her 50s now. And then my cousin, Christopher, who has cerebral palsy. He uses a cane. And a friend of mine I knew from college Chris Horn was a person with cerebral palsy. But I never saw them as disabled. They were just who they were with the abilities they brought to the table. And I’m the first blind person I ever met in my entire life.
So it’s interesting to meet people like you, who I’ve — at least the community of people you hail from I’ve known. But never looked at them as anybody other than just Andrew or Chris or Chris. It’s just the way people should be.
You know, we all have our own limitations or disability that we carry with in our hearts. But you know, I don’t know that we should be segregated and separated out, even within our communities, I was listening to your podcast with Kathleen. And how you were talking about how segregated you could feel. And by the imposition of dislabeling us. I don’t like to be labeled so. I call it dislabeling. Don’t diss my ability is what I like to say. And talking about the segregation that’s imposed upon us by the non-Disabled Community. But I also see that within our community as a whole.
I see the Blind Community very segregated from the Deaf Community, the Deaf Community very segregated from the mobility-impaired community and so on. And it’s time for us to come together universally.
But look backwards in history and take a look at the civil rights movements here in the state. All you have to do is look at the struggles that African Americans or our Black brothers and sisters had to go through by either being too Black, not Black enough. They called them high yellow back then. Or you know you’re trying to be an Uncle Tom. All of the communities that have struggled for recognition. And disrespected inclusion in our society has been demonstrated by African Americans. Women struggle with that.
If you all of a sudden want to go to work and not stay at home barefoot and pregnant and make cookies, you were a lesbian and you were trying to go to work and not be a Gentile woman who just married for money and babies pumping out. And the LGBT community has really advanced significantly over the past few years. And all we have to do is look at the current societal gains and understand that even though we have benefited in so many ways as a nation that’s very diverse and a mosaic of different abilities and different races and genders and orientations, we still have a long way to go.
And I think the Disability Community could take it’s lead from the successful accomplishments realized by our civil rights predecessors and forefathers and foremothers.
>> I think we have to look at the 504 sit-ins where back in the ’70s when they were looking to — before the ADA was created.
>> Like the Black Panthers were a part of that. And were a part of the sit-ins to create change around disability. So I mean, there’s definitely overlap between those two things. And I got to speak with like my disability hero Judy Heumann a couple of episodes ago. Okay, like 30 episodes ago. But I got to talk to her about the history of disability rights. And that was incredible.
So I think we have a lot of work to do still. But I think we have —
>> Covered some ground.
>> Yeah, we’ve benefited from other communities going through stuff. And again, remember that disability touches all of those. Every intersection.
>> Queer, People of Color.
>> Muslims, Jews.
>> Yeah, trans, all of that stuff is connected to disability. And I think there’s time to be unified. And there’s also time to look at your own experience and say, yes.
>> Your individuality.
>> The way I say this, Andrew, is, you know, we celebrate our sameness but lift up our oneness.
We all have so much in common. But then there’s those idiosyncracies, those characteristics that make us unique. By drawing attention to and finding ways to be in alignment about individuality and who we are allows for embracing of the differences in a manner that they are celebrated rather than having somebody, like you said before, judging you for the choices you’ve made. Or the lack of choices that have been left to you.
You know, as a person with a disability, choices left to us for employment, specifically those us of us from a Blind Community, are zero in some instances. Because we haven’t paid attention to the digital platforms that empower our innate ability and our — harnesses our intelligence to allow us to stop being taxing dependents but instead become independent taxpayers.
>> And that’s a very important part of who we are. And if we take that by extension to enjoying ourselves sexually, it rocks peoples’ minds to even discuss sex —
>> Well, that was a really weird but awesome —
>> It was a really weird segue there. But I like how you got there. I like how you got there, you but you made it.
>> I got there, it’s all about you. No but in general people are uncomfortable talking about people with disabilities or even talking to them. Gayle King for CBS had done a PSA about how do you start a conversation with a person with a disability? Well, I don’t know, how are you? How are you doing today? What is your disability? It’s not that difficult. I don’t understand it.
I’ve had to endure it. John and I will go out in public. And at least one every fourth or fifth time, the person in front of us is talking to him asking him what I would like. And in instances, he will order for me because we like to do that together. And in instances where we’re buying or shopping or doing something, they will say, well, does he need this? I’m like, I can hear you mother fucker. Don’t do that.
>> Yeah, it’s hard because it’s really easy to be like, I can hear you, mother fucker. And it’s easy to settle down — I’m learning to — and I don’t always do it — but I’m learning to remember that these people are just ignorant.
>> I mean that in the most politest sense possible.
>> In an uneducated way.
>> Yeah, they are truly uneducated.
>> But sometimes it can be an insult to people.
>> Oh, yeah.
>> It’s stupid.
>> Well, you’re calling them stupid technically.
>> Once you pull back the veil of knowledge and they continue to choose to be ignorant that’s when it becomes just plain old stupid.
>> Yeah, but I try to remember that if I can use my platform as a disabled person, especially in queer spaces, and sexuality spaces, to teach somebody something in a kind way that’s going to give them the tools to — you know, that’s going to change their worldview within that 30 seconds, why wouldn’t I do that? As opposed to fuck you, you’re an ableist.
>> Yeah. No, I agree with that. Because ever since I’ve lost my eyesight, there have been these teachable moments. Some little boy, hey, miss at that, why are you swinging that stick? Oh, come here little boy, let me tell you about this. And I’ll give the kid my cane and either just be like, oh, okay. I have the elasticane so I can show them how to do magic. And there would be that opportunity.
But one day I think it was 2011 or 2012, I was walking back from getting a — I remember — that chocolate raspberry cake that was to die for. I can’t remember who it was for but I remember the cake. We were on 11th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue and I hear this young woman I would say maybe 13, she was definitely a teenager, Mommy, that man is blind. And I’m like, hmmm, how did you know? I’m not Deaf but you’re dead-on accurate, little girl. And her mom started shushing her. I’m sorry so sorry she said that. Honey, you don’t say that about people. And I’m like, hold the freaking phone.
My teachable moment was for that mother. I said, “Ma’am, your daughter was not insulting, she was highly intelligent and engaging. She noticed me.” Do you know how many people look away from me every time they see me coming down the street? The dog — they think because I don’t present readily as a blind person. I try to look you in the eye but I look at you in the forehead. Other people see my cane and it’s like I don’t know how old you are but there used to be a TV show called Get Smart before it became a movie.
>> I’m not that old. But —
>> I don’t like them too old.
>> And I guess I would be perfect for you then.
>> There you go. Bear in the Chair, which by the way a good friend of mine, Kathy Squasazy (phonetic), Martin Squasazy’s daughter, used to — she made the film Elf on the Shelf and I think if we hit her up we could do a good, good episode of Bear in the Chair and have it be right up your alley.
>> Listen if somebody wants to make me — I’m pretty sure —
>> Christmas books.
>> I’m pretty sure I’m the one who coined that phrase.
>> Yes, I know.
>> You were.
>> I think I am.
>> But I think there’s a Bear in the Chair episode coming to a show near you.
>> Listen, I mean, yes.
>> But it’s interesting how many people need to be informed or educated about our ability and to many people who seen me in the street — to your point about the 30-second interlude of educating people, I have seen other blind peers of mine go off on somebody when they said, can I help you across the street? Yeah, maybe you were crossing the street for the 75th time that day but there’s an easier way to say let me take your arm and having a great conversation. Letting them know you live in the neighborhood. That if they need directions, I can help them next time. Sort of to deconstruct the antiquated myths and misperceptions about disability. And reconstruct a healthier perception on our ability to do whatever it is we’re doing.
>> Yeah. I mean, I am of the mind — and I used to be one of those angry disabled activists like oh, you’re all ableists like fuck you.
>> Because it’s really easy to go there, to get to that place.
>> Oh, it is.
>> And unfortunately because we live in an echo chamber, if you replicate that story on Twitter or social media, all of the disabled activists will go, yeah, you’re right, they are fucking assholes so then you think you’re doing activism when really what you’re doing I believe is you’re shutting down people from wanting to learn.
So the example that I’ll give of that is that I have a queer friend. We’re going to be doing a sexy movie together at some point when it’s safe to do that. And we were talking to each other and I said, you know, how do you feel when a disabled person shuts you down and you want to learn? He goes, well, I don’t want to learn anymore. I don’t want to engage with them. Because I’m afraid that I offended them.
He was like, I really — I just want to learn. And I have questions and I just want to do that.
So in my view I think that it’s never my responsibility. But it is, as you said, my opportunity. And I think the opportunity is a really powerful thing to change someone’s view.
>> Yeah, I find, and maybe you’ll agree with this, I find that I am now — I’m going to use the word forced only because I have a lot of attitude. I’m from New York. And I don’t take prisoners when they piss me off. But I’m an ambassador even though I have never wanted to be diplomatic about it. And now you have to learn how to be diplomatic.
>> I actually have a question. So I know for Albert what came first. But what came first for you? Was it advocacy about being gay or advocacy for being disabled?
>> Or do they go hand in hand together.
>> I wanted to be a lawyer, to be honest with you. I didn’t want to do — I wanted nothing to do with being disabled. I wanted to go to law school. Because I was obsessed with Law & Order when I was a teenager.
>> I love that show.
>> I still am. Chris Meloni, call me, let’s go on a date, please.
>> I was obsessed with that show when I was a kid. And I was like, well, I want to be a lawyer. That looks really cool. I want to do that. So I studied law. It’s what I studied all the way through to my Master’s. But as I was doing my Master’s, I realized — it’s like, I want to do something different. Because I couldn’t find a job. I couldn’t find work. And I was like, well, I have this lived experience that I’ve just been sitting on not talking about, what the fuck do I do?
So I finished school. I finished my MA. I went back home. I was back home. And I was looking for work. And all the they could say to me — I went to a disability employment agency and she said, well, all we can get for you is Call Center work. Which I had already done for five years in school. Or we can get you a job flipping burgers.
And I was like, well, that’s not what I want to do. So I said to them, I want to do disability advocacy. And I want to do Lecture Series. And I want to be a speaker. Can you find me an agency that would do that? And they were like, oh, no, no, that’s just a hobby.
>> See this is why I really resent a lot of these state-funded a Federally funded programs that purport to be empower us when they do anything but. Like you, I was supposed to be a lawyer. At least I come from a long line of law enforcement officials. My great uncle was the chief of detectives for all of New York City during the Koch Administration. And I was supposed to go to law school. And I did not ever want to be a lawyer.
But I did go to school for it for a bit. And then as my life took different turns, I was running a $300 million licensing business for a woman’s publishing company called Jones New York. And then I got into owning restaurants and eventually became a kindergarten teacher. Because my grandmother, my father’s mother, was — and my grandfather were foster parents to about 65 children over 15 years. And I loved it.
But then I lost my eyesight. And I was told, there’s no way you could teach. There’s no way you could be a principal. There’s no way you can do anything except sit home and wait for death basically.
>> I was told like you, oh, you can volunteer for two years and prove to people that you know what you’re doing. I’m like, I do more than most people do in a lifetime. Let alone the days that I’ve been blind.
And I found that offensive. I found that belittling. Why can’t I be an executive in why can’t I do anything and everything that I want to? I’ve even driven in a blindfold taxi. Do I want to do driving for a living? Hell to the no. But I did want to drive again.
I just find that our community tends to be — have these low expectations imposed on us. And they dislabel us in a way that generalizes the group. And there’s nothing general about people with disabilities. But I don’t know, have you seen — you probably have seen the movie Forrest Gump.
>> Yeah, so I use Forrest Gump, I use a lot of movie analogies for shit because people always pay attention to movies more than they pay attention to real life stuff. If you take a look at Forrest Gump in the United States we have 62 million people with disabilities. Around the world 1.4 billion. If we just assume that Forrest Gump is that median definitive line for ability and we consider that not everybody in the Disability Community is dependent on the kind of sub like Blanche DuBois from a “Streetcar Named Desire”, I’ve got tons of them. Just wait.
>> I mean, listen, listen. If Stanley Kowalski wants to come and make me do things for him, the answer is straight yes.
>> I’m pushing your wheelchair down the stairs. I got it for you.
>> Listen, okay, young Marlon Brando —
>> I’ll share. Mommy said, sharing is caring.
>> Young Marlon Brando, I remember being in Grade 11, whatever class, I’m pretty sure it was English or art studies or some bullshit.
>> 11th Grade.
>> I remember the teacher put on that movie and I was like who the fuck is this and why did no one ever tell me this person existed? I was definitely a homosexual right now.
>> You see, I go — I’m definitely older. I knew I was gay the minute I fell in love with Mr. Clean, Thor and Hulk, all of the cartoon characteristics. Because we didn’t have any — aside from the people on TV. But yeah, he was definitely one of those hotties back in the day.
But we take a look at Forrest Gump being that middle of the road individual not requiring daily care.
>> Forrest Gump, the character was disabled. Tom Hanks is not disabled.
>> He overcame physical adversity. He overcame mental adversity. He overcame socioeconomic adversity. Because he had what you sort of alluded to before and it’s one of the mantras at My Blind Spot, he had access to the right tools that promoted his own ability and allowed him to create infinite possibilities in his life.
And we have people like Forrest Gump who have college degrees, high school degrees, Master’s Degrees, I think you and I both have some of those.
>> And then we have people with PhDs who can’t execute, who can’t — and look at Richard Branson. So Richard Branson just made it to fucking space. And he’s dyslexic, severely, so and ridiculed and chastised growing up and being called stupid.
>> Did that happen today?
>> That happened yesterday. You should pay attention to stuff rather than looking at memes? Oh, they don’t have a meme about it yet? They should.
>> They totally do, I’m sure they do.
>> Everybody has a meme.
>> Also not that I want to be inappropriate. I creep people out. But you’re both very attractive gentlemen.
>> Thank you.
>> I just went —
>> You can Google me any time.
>> No, I just did. I was like I want to see who I’m talking to.
>> Yeah, we’re not bad-looking people. We definitely turn heads. Every time we go — and I think that has a lot to do with John in our life. Because whenever we go out, John will get us ready. We’ve been in Amsterdam together. We’ve been in California. You know, Los Angeles, San Francisco. DC. New York. People always stop and — Minneapolis of all places that I never thought I would go to and love that city so much. And I’m sorry all of that shit going on there.
But what a great time we had there for a concert and people always stop and take pictures of whatever we’re wearing. Because it definitely is interesting.
>> Yeah, it’s always something.
>> Thank you very much for that. I’m blushing right now.
Anyway, so I think that we have people of ability. If you did — I did the research. Once I became a member of the community, I was all in. You know, I wanted to see who the hell shaped the world that had a disability.
And the very first reference to a person with a disability was I think a thousand years or so before Christ. And it was an India queen who went into battle to fight with her knights and soldiers or whatever they called them and had lost a leg and she just stuck freaking — freaking boss, she stuck a big steel iron in her leg and rode out to battle.
Then you take a look at the people around since then. And how people with disabilities have shaped the human condition and improved life for others. I can go on with the names. But right now, you have Richard Branson. Einstein. I don’t know if people really knew. But he was dyslexic. Then you have Cher who is dyslexic. All of the gay guys love her. I mention her for you, Bear in the Chair.
>> I didn’t know she was dyslexic that’s cool.
>> Yeah then you have what’s his face.
>> Then you have me.
>> Then we have you. And me. If you listen to my TEDTalk, I have this whole thing — I did a TEDTalk a few years ago and John produced it and behind me are all of these famous people throughout human history that have had a disability that have helped shape the direction our society, our global society has gone in. And you realized that we should not be turning a blind eye and a deaf ear, pun absolutely intended, to people of ability. Because we have done so much. And I just don’t know — I find that people have this sense of fear and guilt. Fear that they are going to catch what we got. Fear they are not going to be able to talk to us. And fear how to simulate with us. And then guilt because they couldn’t protect us from being born with it or catching it or getting into an accident that caused our disability.
And it complicates that inasmuch as at home, I’m sure your mom doesn’t call you the poor kid with cerebral palsy.
>> Oh, no.
>> She just calls you Andrew.
>> She has faith in me.
>> Your brothers and sister, we know they throw snowballs at you so they treat you normal. But the minute we roll out into sister they slap a Post-It on your freaking forehead and say, he can’t do much. He can just sit there and collect dust. Isn’t that weird?
>> It’s — I mean, it’s not — well, I mean, it’s not weird because the history of the laws around disability, the discrimination around disability, has been going on for thousands of years.
>> It’s like there’s literal — I’m thinking of the ugly laws in the U.S. from the 18th, 19th Centuries up until ’74 there were laws in the in the books in most states that said if you look a certain way in the street, they can arrest you.
>> Or institutionize you.
>> Or kill you. Back then they would put you out into the elements and expose you —
>> If you go back far enough, you can find anything.
>> Sure. But he mentioned it before, you’ve heard me say this, and I agree with you wholeheartedly, Andrew, this has been over the Disability Community for thousands of years. Just the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. How people were walking by, clergy, rabbis, rich people, poor people, right by the prophet Jesus in the gutter. Not wanting to help him. Because he looked disabled and dirty.
>> It’s just so offensive and so unfortunate. But it’s one of those things, it’s hard for us to overcome. Because it is part of human nature to judge others for the way they look.
>> And you know just because — just because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I also can’t do that. I’ve done that to people with different disabilities myself. And you know, it’s something we — all of us have to unlearn ableism all the time every day.
>> So it isn’t something that just because we’re disabled we’re exempt from being assholes.
>> No, I’ve definitely been an asshole for sure. So it’s something I have to unlearn all the time.
>> It’s funny you should say that. Because a few years back, actually 2014, I had done this — we were trying to do this documentary but we didn’t think anybody would really want to watch a documentary about a blind person or somebody transitions into the Blind Community. Boy, did we make a mistake.
And I worked with this fantastic artist from NYU. Daniel is fantastic. And he wound up turning it into a film short about 13, 14 minutes. And it aired at the Boston Film Festival. Where it was won the Audience Award.
>> Wow, that’s cool.
>> Oh, no, it really was cool. And all of these things that happened to me because of my new way of seeing. Which I consider a blessing. I’ve been very blessed. I knew I was going to be blind when I came out of my drug-induced morphine haze oddly enough. And I remember my mom saying to me, it’s okay, we’re not sure it’s permanent. I was like, oh, no, it is. She kept trying to talk me out of that mindset. I was kind of prepared for it. I actually learned when I could see. And I learned sign language when I could see. Now I’m deaf in sign language and the neuropathy in my fingers has fucked up reading Braille. So funny way to treat me, God. But — or Satan, either way. It works.
>> God your father Satan is your daddy.
>> Who is your daddy?
>> I was just noticing that the abbreviation of your podcast, DAD, DisabilityAfterDark is DAD.
>> It’s dad.
>> I am your No. 1 disabled daddy. That’s what I want to do.
>> Disabled daddy.
>> I love to play with all of that stuff because it’s fun. Why shouldn’t we play with it? It’s fun.
>> So did DisabilityAfterDark come first or did Handi come first?
>> DisabilityAfterDark became first.
>> When did you start Handi.
>> Handi started with my sister and I. My sister is the CEO. And I am the Chief Disability Officer. We started it —
>> That’s cool.
>> Chief Disability Officer. I like that.
>> That’s the best title ever. We started it in 2018. I went to go visit her in Australia. Where she lives. And we were on the beach talking. And she had seen recently a national Film Board of Canada doc that I had been in called Picture This. I was talked about how I couldn’t masturbate anymore. She saw that — because it’s not very often I talked to my sister about my sex life.
So she had seen that, not realizing that I struggle with masturbation as somebody with CP. She had a light bulb moment. And we were on the beach in Australia like six months later. And she said, what about sex toys. And I explained to her because of my spasticity in my hands and the tightness in my hands, I couldn’t masturbate and she said, “Haven’t they made new toys for you on the market?” And I explained again how the toys in the market weren’t made for me.
So we talked some more. And she was like, do you want to make one? We didn’t go straight into it. We did some research.
We did —
>> You went into it the right way.
>> Yeah, we did a poll on Reddit and said, is this something you struggle with? What we found was that 92% of people said they wanted a toy like this; 56% of people said they struggle with hand pain; 63% of people said they couldn’t masturbate because of hand pain.
So we realize, this was —
>> There was a market.
>> Yeah, there’s a huge market.
>> Oh, yeah.
>> So we were like, well, let’s do it then.
>> There’s a Facebook group that I am a part of that just intrigued me. I forget the name of it now. I’ll have to email it to you. But you might advertise Handi there. Because there are people who have similar issues. And I think there was one toy that they had recommended that like $950. And again, that’s another thing that our community overall has to deal with is the cost factor. Because not many of us have disposable income to spend on something like that. And I don’t think Medicare is going to pick up the cost of that. But it would be nice.
>> It would be nice.
>> So now what I want to say about that is My Blind Spot wants to be your usability Testing Team. I want to test out your toys. I want to make sure they are disability ready.
>> I want to make sure the website is disability ready. Because that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed in your — with Kathleen that you had been — somebody pointed out that the lack of transcripts, meaning you weren’t as accessible as you could be.
And that’s where our new friendship and our partnership will go, Daddy Bear. We can help you with that.
>> Well, I very much appreciate that. I will talk —
>> I know we have a plug-in on the Handi website. On my website I don’t.
>> Plug-ins are only as good as the outlet you are plugging them into. But we do this quite regularly for ourselves. Our podcasts are always transcribed. So if there’s anything that we could do, we can take this up offlist, because I think there’s a friendship here outside of a mutual appreciation for masturbation and sexual activity for people with disabilities.
>> I’ll definitely confer with the people above me. Just to make sure everybody was tiptop.
>> Here I was thinking you were always on top. You’re always on the bottom. Nice. Badaboom.
>> You don’t know me well enough. Just wait.
>> I can flip fuck.
>> No, I really appreciate that because I think accessibility is something that in the Disability Rights Movement we all talk about it online. Again, it’s that angry — that anger of not being included. But what happens is it comes back on community members who don’t have the resources, don’t have the money, don’t have the energy or the time. Because you know, outside of Handi, when I do my Andrew Gurza stuff, it’s me on my computer in my house. Doing — running a business basically.
>> So when people come at me and say, why isn’t everything you’ve ever done transcribed? It’s like, well, because I’m trying to just — I just can’t.
>> Yeah. There are so many resources I have. And a knowledge deficit that is in each of our lives. And that’s one of the things that I had to understand is having had one foot in the sighted community and then another foot in the Blind Community, there are subtle nuances that you need to be aware of.
So you’re walking the walk and talking the talk just as much as you’re advocating for everybody else to do it.
>> Yeah. And I think that this is what — this is my issue with the larger Disability Community. Is that they tend to forget that many disabled people don’t have access to resources.
>> So when they come at each other and start fighting about, you didn’t do this, it’s like, could you just calm down for like a hot minute and love on me?
>> Yeah, I have run into My Blind Spot our very first major gig with a multi-billion dollar corporation was making QuickBooks accessible for people who were blind. And by default, when we make it work for somebody whose eyes are closed, we improve the usability and functionality for 90% of the entire ability spectrum from people with disabilities to people who don’t have any at all.
>> And still I got criticized and chastised and ridiculed for not making it 100% the first time out of the gate. But if you know anything about accessibility, which I know you do, inclusion is a journey. It’s not a destination.
>> This is what I think — and I 100% agree with you. And this is what I think people — a lot of quote-unqoute disabled activists are forgetting. It’s a journey. It isn’t a destination. And like sometimes, I forget to be the most accessible. I’ll be honest, I just forget.
>> But the amount of bitch mail I sometimes receive for forgetting it’s like, okay, wow, all right.
>> That’s what I learned when I used to be a member of the social clubs to help out the community. When I would get somebody criticizing me about how I’m not doing it right, I would say well, it seems like you know so much about it. Why don’t you do it for me? Uhhh.
But now there’s just so much we’re in alignment on that it’s interesting. Because I honestly listen to your podcast, I’m like, I don’t know if we’re going to see eye to eye when we talk. But boy, when you’re not on, you’re still on.
>> Look, here is the thing I think about that.
>> We don’t have to agree.
>> We don’t have to agree with everything.
>> No, I’m just talking about the energy. One of the things I’ve been very proud of with regard to our accomplishments with AccessAbility Works is the fluidity. I can use that word since we’re talking about sex. That the interviewees and the interviewers have.
And in podcasts in general. And you have such a wonderful openness about you that it’s very easy to speak with you and talk to you and communicate.
>> Oh, thank you.
>> It’s really cool.
>> Thank you.
>> No, to your — thank you. Because it makes my job a lot easier right now. I can sit back and listen to you talk. Instead of always intruding like I’m doing right now.
>> That what we’re supposed to be doing.
>> Listening or intruding.
>> Shut up. I’m not allowed to talk. What do you want to say, Andrew?
>> What do you want me to say?
>> So one of the things you said, too, before, about deconstructing and reconstructing knowledge and appreciation for, let’s — I know that people in general are uncomfortable talking about sex and masturbation and stuff like that. But how receptive, if that’s the word, or hungry for —
>> Hungry, nice choice of words there.
>> Daddy, I’m trying to make you happy, my bear.
>> People are for being open and honest about what they are not able to access and what they really want when it comes to sexual satisfaction and gratification. Do you think that there’s an education curve or knowledge curve that’s lacking? Or people assume they don’t deserve? Do you have to educate our community of people about what they are entitled to or what they are missing or about what they can deliver if we all speak on the same level about our needs?
>> Well, I think the education system around sex and education for disabled people is horribly lacking.
>> Yeah, it’s completely non-existent. If you look at the some of the curriculums out there, and I’m thinking of the one that was in Canada for years and years in Ontario, when they talked about sex and disability, if they did, they would say, if your student has an intellectual disability or is this, they are at risk to be abused. They are at risk to be raped. They are at risk to be blah blah. That was it. That was the only conversation around disability that they would have.
>> Fear. Be afraid.
>> There’s no discussion of pleasure. There’s no discussion of, hey, let’s talk about the realities of sex and disability. And —
>> The pleasurable sides.
>> Instead of, you might be abused by somebody.
>> The incidents of disabled people being abused is higher.
>> Yeah, I know, all jokes aside. It’s hard to have people impose their sexual proclivities onto you as a person who says no or maybe can’t say no. You know, we’ve seen — I’ve seen enough. It’s funny, you said SVU. I’ve seen there was a woman who was being sexually abused and was basically paralyzed and also not able to communicate. But who was able to tell with her eyes that she was being abused by the sister of all things, the sister who hated to be the one who always took care of her.
It’s very real. But what we don’t touch on is the very real truth about our sexual needs. Our curiosities going up. And how we address them. I keep thinking — and I would love to be able to investigate looking with the other things we’re doing together —
>> What are we doing together?
>> Everything. So far until — I respect limits once I know what they are. So we’ll have to test that one out.
>> Put it on the schedule some day.
>> I would love to be able to — and I’ve said this before to the adult websites like Pornhub. Pornhub thinks they are doing it right. They have some described audio. But they don’t have an accessible platform where we can go and click on things very easily. Or there’s Mr S Leather that we like to buy our toys from in San Francisco. They meet the minimum requirements that really don’t impact the usability and functionality for peoples who use assistive devices to navigate a website.
Now, do you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking when you access the computer? What do you use?
>> I do not. I am privileged enough that I can type with two fingers really fast. So I can still type. For now anyways. It could change when I get older. But for now I type. And I find that Dragon Speaking and all of those things, and I tried them when I was younger. I found them to be really —
>> Labor intensive.
>> Inaccessible. Yeah, really labor intensive. Similar to me trying to do transcripts on my own, I don’t have three hours to sit there and do it.
>> It takes up too much energy. So it’s like, fuck it, I’ll just learn how to type and it will be faster.
>> Yeah. Well, just so you know, Dragon NaturallySpeaking has improved dramatically. We have a member of our team, Jeff Weldon, who is paralyzed from the neck down due to a biking accident he had about 12, 13 years ago. And is so proficient in it, it’s sick.
It does take a little bit of dedication. And there’s a learning curve.
>> You have to know what you want to say beforehand. You have to speak it all in once — it’s really difficult to get used to.
>> It’s like dictating into an iPhone for a blind person.
>> I’m pretty sure I can teach Dragon Speaking how to say take me, Daddy, that shouldn’t be a problem.
>> No, I did that one time. Funny, oh, my God, that you say that. One day I was so freaking bored and I wrote out, fuck me period. Fuck me real hard fuck me all day long. And I copied it and put it into 75 pages. And I just had it read the document. And all you could hear was that going through the house. I know about myself. I was laughing so hard.
>> That’s funny.
>> Oh, my God. And I remember watching that episode. Was it the Simpsons or was it Family Guy? It was Family Guy when you had the two people who were paralyzed.
>> Stephen Hawking and his wife.
>> Stephen Hawking and his wife.
>> Oh, yeah. I really like it like that. It was so —
>> You wonder.
>> Yes, oh baby, yes.
>> That’s what I always do when I meet people, especially people with disabilities for some reason, don’t ask me why, I wonder, so how do you fuck? This is where — to me, the things I want to look at, I look at everybody. I miss being sighted for one reason. Because I was a voyeur times 10. I would look at people, male and female, fat and skinny, what it was, I’m like, how do you do what you do every day with that body? Whatever the body was.
And I remember seeing people in wheelchairs thinking that. I’ve just always been preoccupied with how people get off.
>> Well, not that I want to toot my own horn.
>> Toot, toot.
>> You don’t have to see anything because with consent and love, if you were to see me, you need two hands.
>> Well, I think you and I could hang out at the same club. We would be servicing people properly then.
>> Yes, correct.
>> Okay. So now we know where we stand in that neighborhood.
But how receptive are people from the Disability Community since most of the people in the Disability Community take their cues from able-bodied, purportedly so, individuals with well intentions, who really don’t have a clue what it’s like to have sex.
>> In terms of sex?
>> In terms of sex and in general. We’re talking about you and your business. And everything you do is rooted in sex.
>> I mean, the Disability Community in terms of Handi has been very receptive.
>> And we have a team of people that we consult and consultants that we talk to and testers in Australia that have looked at the first round of the toy. And so our mission has been to employ what we refer to as disability-driven design from ideation all the way through to creation.
>> That’s where we would make it into the process with the digital equity work that we do. We definitely want to see it begin at the begin. We want to have it be included from concept to usability testing from an intuitive perspective then all the way to launching with functionality and usability for the end user and for the consumer.
>> For the company that’s why I’m the Chief Disability Officer because my job is to —
>> Test the toy.
>> Well, I haven’t because it’s in Australia and it would take forever to get here. But I did preliminary testing when we were looking at how to make the toy and what the toy would be. I was sent a bunch of sex toys. And I was told to literally, you know, try and let the team know what worked and what didn’t work.
But also my job as Chief Disability Officer, my job is to go through all of our copy, all of the things that we do and make sure that it looks okay. And again, like I said, sometimes I forget. But my job is to make sure that it looks as acceptable to the community as we can. And again, some people are not going to grow with us, but we do our best.
>> To that end, I know I have been beaten up and I kind of embrace it now. You seem to refer to disabled people as opposed to people with disabilities.
>> Do you get crap for that?
>> Um, sometimes.
>> Because the word disabled by itself, you’re taking the life force or the energy out of something and by definition people can’t be disabled only computers and bombs and cars can be. But it still says the same thing. But I’m just curious since you’ve got slack about so many different things, people with disabilities versus disabled people, what kind of crap do you get? I mean.
>> I mean for me, four me it’s disabled and I can only speak for me. It’s identity first. So for me, disabled is a culture. It’s a part of who I am. My disability doesn’t come with me everywhere. And it’s probably different for you because you were not born disabled. Right? It was acquired?
>> So I understand the nuance there. For me, it was from Day 1. So for me being disabled it’s like a cultural thing. It’s a identity piece. It’s something that I feel very strongly about because I’m proud of that. But at the same token, I use the term differently abled and use those terminologies quite openly. So I think it really depends on who is saying it, how they are saying it. And what it means for them. And I think each person with a disability has a right to choose language that works for them.
I also think if a non-disabled person does something like, for instance, I let my mother do that. But when she was growing up and raising me, the language that she learned around disability was special needs.
>> That was the accepted language at the time. So she will still to this day call me a special needs person.
So I could stop her and say, oh, Mom, you can’t use that anymore. Or I could listen to how she’s saying it.
>> And not attack her. Because she’s not going to hurt me.
>> I think that’s the best way to handle it, to be honest.
>> I don’t disagree at all. And you and I have had this conversation before about words that have been used to degrade and people keep down. The N-word, the F-word.
>> I’m of the opinion that if you give words power, then they have power over you. And I’m kind of a really rude person. So like if someone wants to call me a retard, they are not wrong.
>> And the whole thing is there’s the word retarded has a definite terminology and definition that goes along with it. And it’s all about the delivery I think. Because you can call somebody an asshole without even using the word asshole. It’s all the intonation and emphasis that you put on a syllable.
>> You know, I can’t —
>> Go ahead.
>> I can’t speak for retard, because it’s not — not being somebody with an intellectual disability, you know, I can’t speak about that word.
>> But I can say that like, you know, if somebody said to me this language is hurting me, can you use something else? I would stop.
>> Yeah, oh, we agree with you.
>> Yeah, of course.
>> That’s one of the things I notice you embrace the word crippled. In a few instances when we have listened to your podcast. And I think it was a Professor Rose in Harvard who wrote a white paper on what it means to be a super Crip. And one of the things I’m always cognizant of is making my life look as easy as it appears to people around me. For fear that those people who are having a difficult time assimilating or processing or executing in life might be compared to people like you and I who don’t take prisoners when it comes to what we want to do and how we want to do it.
But again, like you, I embrace words that most people, oh, you can’t say that. Well, it’s how I refer to myself. But again, to your point, if it makes them uncomfortable, I refrain from doing it. But privately, I know how I am using words. I know I am not judging somebody else from being different from me. I know I am not racist, I know I am not — what do they call it when you degrade women.
>> Misogynist, there you go.
>> But I would challenge all of that and say we all are. I know that actively you’re not trying to be. And I’m not trying to be. And none of us are trying to be. But there are moments where 100% I can be ableist. I can be racist. I can be misogynist.
And so I think we have to — all of us have to start saying, yes, I am. But I’m working on it.
>> And that’s where I think, again, I might not say it that way. But I think we all have prejudices that we have either grown up with. That are nurtured into us. Or ones that we are developed on our own. But yes, I do believe that acceptance and inclusion — I don’t like the word tolerance. Because tolerance means, eh, I’ll put up with you but I really don’t like you in my mind.
>> But it’s got to start somewhere. Every journey begins with self-reflection and understanding. And that’s where I think having become a member of the Disability Community, I am more perceptive to the types of discrimination in a very loose way because I don’t want any of my brothers and sisters from other minority groups to really think I know what it’s like to walk a mile in their moccasins. But I know what it’s like — there was a program in 2020, one of the news magazine shows, back in the day, where they did this episode of Black people and White people hailing cabs, looking for jobs.
And they were in various stage of finery or lack thereof and they always went by the Black people, regardless of what they looked like. And it’s one of those things that’s socially built into our structure. And I think we all need to work on understanding the sameness that celebrates the oneness. Without seeming superior in any way.
>> Yeah. But I also think it’s important to understand the sameness. But also celebrate the difference, too.
>> And I think, you know, like I get all the time, I don’t see you — like what you said earlier, and I kind of bit my tongue. But you said earlier, I just seem them as Andrew. And I was like uh, can you see them as disabled Andrew? Because that’s okay, too can you see them? It’s all right.
>> But that’s one thing that John always says, I don’t see color. Well, that’s the problem. You’re supposed to see the color.
>> I’ll give an example. I did a big talk three years ago for this big country club. And they wanted me to come in — no, it wasn’t a country club. It was at a big country club. It was for like the sexuality therapists of Ontario or something.
>> So we’re doing it and I did it and I was up there for two hours talking about sex and disability and kink. And I did my job. Right near the end, the CEO of this organization or the Chief Financial Officer, somebody walked out and said, oh, I have a question. I just want to say that your talk was so good. That by the end I didn’t see your wheelchair anymore.
And they hadn’t paid me yet so I smiled and nodded and said, oh, thank you so much. And I just smiled and I didn’t want to be rude. So I said, thank you. And I bolted out of there. And I was like, okay, I’m going home now.
And I just thought, I know he was trying to be kind to me.
>> I know what he was trying to say. But, oh, my goodness, that feels so weird what he just said. And it bothered me for days and days after. Because he was trying to be nice.
>> That’s where I have to give you props for something you said earlier. You tried to listen to what I intended to say without having your expectations color it in a way that got you even more upset than you were.
>> He was trying to say, thank you for teaching me.
>> Teaching me to see you for who you are.
>> Yeah, but what he said was, I don’t see your wheelchair anymore. It was like, oh, God.
>> If you can’t see my wheelchair, you must be blind.
>> Some people are just terrible at communicating.
>> Yeah, communications, that’s one of the things, too, when I speak to children, I come out and say, look, if you want to be a doctor, learn how to communicate. If you want to be a street sweeper, learn how to communicate. Learn how to effectively listen, speak and write.
>> The same thing is true if you want to have — don’t say this to kids. But on a more adult level, if you want to fuck disabled person, learn how to communicate.
>> Yeah. Andrew, communication is key in just about anything. And I like the way you took it from high school and elementary school right back to adults. You have to teach children and adults the same way.
And I find that regardless of ability, communicating to your partner about your sexual wants and desires and needs is a difficult consideration. But then, I guess throw in the fact that you have a disability or are disabled, it makes it for a more interesting conversation. Because there’s so many hoops we have to jump through to make it happen, as it were.
>> I mean, yes and no. I would say that the communication around if you are a non-disabled person and you want to have an intimate moment with a disabled person, and you want to know what to do, just ask? Just say, hey, what are your access needs? How can I —
>> How to do it?
>> I mean, you’re not wrong.
>> Well, you know it’s kind of funny, I always joke about it now, now that I’m blind, I redefined AC/DC I can plug it into any socket and get a good shock out of it. I can do it any time. That’s why I keep pillows on the bed. In case I don’t like the connection I made originally.
>> Well, pillows are also a great accessibility feature.
>> Props you up the right way.
>> That’s correct. Yes.
>> Andrew, we’re getting — running out of time here, so tell us what you have planned for the future. And we’ll finish up somehow.
>> Yeah, sure thing. With Handi, we just finished testing. So we’re hoping to have presales August-September. Really excited about that.
>> When that happens, we will have — if you get us an announcement or something, we will definitely spread that far and wide on our social media.
>> We will make an announcement about it. Whether you would like us to or not.
>> Yeah, when we have a proper press release and something to announce, we definitely will. And things are in the works for us. So then we hope that we can do — once the toy is on the market — more things around education. More things around that kind of thing.
>> Awareness about our sexuality.
>> I actually Googled your website a little bit. The Handi website. I see you have a few books on there that are ready to be sold.
>> Yeah, along with the toy, we had a book we produced last year called “The Handi Book of Love, Lust and Disability.”
>> Which is a book of stories curated by 50 contributors from all over the world. But asking them things about their sex life like, what is the sexiest thing someone has ever said to you about your disability? What is it like to have sex with chronic pain?
We found that a lot of the stuff before we wrote this book was the stuff around sex and disability was rather dry, rather clinical.
>> We wanted to do something that was more touching on the emotionality of sex and disability. And that’s what this book does. And when you buy our book, every dollar goes back to us making the Handi joystick our first toy a possibility.
>> Very nice. Tell us more about this DisabilityAfterDark. It sounds like something I need to do at midnight with you.
>> I mean, wow, wow.
>> So my podcast is called DisabilityAfterDark. It was at one time a sex and disability podcast. Now it’s more like a disability variety podcast show.
>> That just touches on everything. You said you listened to the first one and then you listened to the last one —
>> No we listened to 69 and right to 250. Normally we listen to more.
>> I did get to see the beginning of the podcast and how it’s been going so far.
>> Yeah, so you’ve obviously noted an evolution there.
>> Yeah, I think it was a good move to move to a more spectrum of things but I’m sure you’ll keep it —
>> The way you want to have it. A little rush every now and again.
>> Yeah, I still have episodes that are totally sex based.
>> I still do episodes that are dirty and fun to do. But I felt like there were so many stories around disability that people had that didn’t have to do with sex. And I was like why don’t I change it from shining a bright light on sex and disability to shining a bright light on the stories. Because the stories are what people want.
>> So that’s what I kind of decided to do.
>> Now, just let me know what episode it is. But do you have any podcasts or episodes about people who are blind?
>> I do actually. And I don’t remember what episode it is. Maybe 130 — 113.
>> 13 is his lucky number.
>> My friend Belo Cipriani did an episode about two years ago now. And I have spoken to blind people on the show before. I’m always looking for new guests.
>> So if ever you want to come on.
>> Ask and we shall deliver.
>> Feel free —
>> We’ll take you up on it. You’ve got to be a good boy and be worthy.
>> Wow, wow, wow, wow. I don’t know what’s happening here.
>> I don’t know what’s happening.
>> It’s not after dark yet. I have to forget. It’s still 5:00 o’clock somewhere. This is like the primetime family hour.
So your podcast has been — tell us a little bit about the podcast. How long has it been going? I know you’re at Episode 250. But how many years have you done that? Because we are not even a year into ours and we are just looking forward to hitting milestones that you did.
>> I started mine in 2016, September 2016. So mine is about five years going now.
>> And again, I didn’t think I would make it past 10 episodes. And if you listen to No. 1, it was kind of bad. It was me on my computer without — I had no mic. I had no proper stuff. I just said, I’m going to record and see what happens.
I said um 85 times throughout the whole thing.
>> You had it together by Episode 69. That’s all that count.
>> Yeah, I’m telling you, I heard this — when we started this, John was buying microphones, headsets, because we really wanted to make sure we had the quality and sounds down. We were basically doing this from our computers and everything like that. We don’t have any fancy equipment.
>> One Yeti mic.
>> Yeah, and no, the quality of your podcasts, I didn’t hear the first one, I’ve heard 69 and two others. But the quality is good. And even, you’ve got sponsors into everything. Hats off to you, brother.
>> Because I was like, I’ve got to make that money if I’m going to do this.
>> Daddy needs a new pair of shoes, make some money, honey.
>> Speaking of sponsors, what was that one sex shop in Canada that sponsors you?
>> Come as you are.
>> Come as you are.
>> Come as you are, yes.
>> Was that it?
>> Yeah, it is.
>> I remember, I’m looking that up. Because we might as well shop and then get a discount for DisabilityAfterDark. Fantastic. If our listeners wanted to reach out to buy your Handi dandy sex toy or follow your podcast or buy a book, give us some details about where they can find you and your wheres.
>> Sure, they can follow Handi by going to www.thatshandi — with an I — and .co. And they can register their interest for when we do a press release or that kind of stuff in an email saying, hey, we’re going to do this now. If they want to buy a book, they can also do that on our website. That way, like I said, every dollar that they put into a book goes into us creating a toy. So not only are you buying a book, you are also making sure that a disabled person can have —
>> Hats off.
>> I love that kind of charitable work.
>> So please buy a bunch of books, that would be great. You can follow my podcast DisabilityAfterDark on all of the podcast players. New episodes come out every Saturday. And you can follow me personally on my Twitter and Instagram where I give a lot of hot takes about disability stuff. At Andrew Gurza underscore. You can book — I also do private talks and private stuff. That’s all virtual now because of COVID. So you can also hire me to do talks.
You can follow me at www.AndrewGurza.com but I’m more active on the social media.
>> All right.
>> That’s pretty much it.
>> I was poking around there. I saw you had something on there called the Handi cast.
>> Yeah, that’s a part of DisabilityAfterDark so once a month on the DisabilityAfterDark podcast feed, I sit down with my co-founder, my co-creator, my sister Heather. And we do an episode dedicated to Handi. And what we do is what we do together. So we can get some ears on it, people hearing about what we do. And then talk to people about sex and disability with a special guest once a month.
>> That’s cool.
>> That is cool. And it’s nice that your Handi dandy toys are in the family. I really appreciate everything that you do and have been doing for the community. So it’s kind of interesting. Because it’s very rare that we’re sitting around talking about what people can do to improve their sex lives in the Disability Community as opposed to just making sure they can point, click and shop or point, click and work. But it’s sorely needed.
>> And I agree and again, I’m glad I got to sit down with you guys. It sounds like what you’re doing is really great. And I appreciate the opportunity.
>> Well, that went a lot better than I expected. I thought we were really going to have to have a lot of bleeps and editing but true to form we kept it real and authentic and I appreciate it.
>> Professional. Professional with a twist. But really appreciate Andrew taking the time to talk to us about his exploits, his Bear in the Chair lifestyle. And everything that he is doing in an area that is really uncomfortable for most people to discuss, let alone contemplate how to navigate and if I may say overcome. Period.
>> Well I was going to say period. I saw — yeah, it’s tough to overcome some of the barriers that are in front of us. And we know that sexuality, it’s just — people are uncomfortable talking about sex. So it was nice to be able to do that.
>> I hardly have met anyone comfortable talking about sex. Like maybe a handful of people.
>> Yeah, that’s interesting. Thank you, Andrew. Really appreciate the time you took to be with us.
>> And if you would like to get your own Handi device, you can place a preorder on December 3rd. Andrew had mentioned it was going to happen in August-September. But they have moved their launch date for the first Handi device to be ordered on December 3rd.
>> As we close for today, feel free to reach out on our website. MyBlindSpot.org/AccessAbilityWorks. There you can find a link to our email which is podcast@MyBlindSpot.org.
>> And you can follow us on all the social media outlets. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
>> LinkedIn. And we’re going to be creating a presence on Reddit shortly. Because unbeknownst to me, I am one of the hot topics there for a situation that presented itself back in November of 2013 with the — where I was removed from a flight and 40 some odd people got off in protest.
>> In computer talk, it made it to the front page of Reddit for a little bit.
>> Thank you for translating my English into computer talk. I don’t do that well. Yes, I made it to the front page of Reddit. I don’t know what that means. But I did it. So please click on that. And don’t forget to read our blog about dating with disability. Find that at MyBlindSpot.org. And as always, we want to have you stay healthy and live a long and fruitful life. This pandemic is still with us. There are variations and variants happening. So please, remember to wash your hands, wear your masks.
>> Don’t touch your face.
>> Don’t touch your face.
>> And please, please know that the vaccine is very safe. Get vaccinated John and I are both vaccinated we are still here living, breathing and our brains have not been stolen by the Government. We are still functioning individuals.
>> As far as you know.
>> As far as you know. Your brain is just damaged beyond repair. So I’m sure they probably — would probably kick yours back anyways please stay safe and healthy and join us at our next podcast AccessAbility Works.
>> A podcast about the possibilities of accessibility for people with disabilities. I’m Jonathan Hermus.
>> And I’m Albert Rizzi. Thanks for joining us.
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