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Common Reading 2021: I Promise We’ll Have Fun by Nadina LaSpina

Chapter 24: I Promise We’ll Have Fun — Nadina LaSpina

In this chapter, Nadina LaSpina details a health emergency that sends her husband Danny to the hospital to undergo an emergency surgery. Throughout the selection, LaSpina and her husband confront issues of access and accessibility, such as the lack of accessible public transportation in New York City, and stereotypes about people with disabilities and their quality of life.  

About the Author

Nadina LaSpina is an activist in the disability rights movement. Her work has been featured in AbleNews and Ragged Edge, New Politics, And Then, and Bookwoman, and others. She is the author of Such a Pretty Girl.

Discussion Questions

1. This passage demonstrates LaSpina's fear that medical professionals might not understand her husband's wishes due to their own biases about disability and wellness. What are some ways we can engage our own biases to become more inclusive people, both as students and as future professionals?


2. LaSpina will be visit campus for the Common Reading Lecture on September, 9. Write a question you might want to ask her about her experiences, her activism, or her vision for a more adaptable world. 

Class Activity

LaSpina's memoir demonstrates the failings of everyday accommodations and services and how people with disabilities are forced to adapt to live their lives. Research the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other legislation aimed at supporting the disabled community. How do these regulations make buildings, services, and healthcare more accessible and in what ways do they fail to do enough? Then, propose an amendment you think would better support disabled people.

Introduction — Joanna Messineo

Nadina LaSpina recounts the cutting and heartbreaking story of her husband’s trip to the emergency room and the constant fight that they, as disabled people, engage in to be accommodated, treated, and heard. It’s a story that rings painfully true for so many of us who engage in that same fight every day. In my seven and half years of being disabled, I’ve had multiple emergency room trips, dangerous medications, and scary health moments. But worse than that, I’ve had a lot of people look at me and express some variation of “you are not enough.” For disabled people, the fight to be seen as “worth it” in the eyes of others, and in our own eyes, is one of the hardest of all. This fight isn’t unique to people with disabilities. Many of us have had moments when the system or an individual has failed to believe that we were worth it. So I’ll challenge you to this: What limitations has the world put on you that you’ve had to adapt to? What struggles are others experiencing that might not be visible to you? How can we come together to build a world that accommodates everyone’s differences?

Universal Design & Access

PRINCIPLE ONE: Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

  • It provides the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
  • It avoids segregating or stigmatizing any users.
  • Provisions for privacy, security, and safety are equally available to all users.
  • The design is appealing to all users.

PRINCIPLE TWO: Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

  • It provides choice in methods of use.
  • It accommodates right or left handed access and use.
  • It facilitates the user’s accuracy and precision.
  • It provides adaptability to the user’s pace.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Simple and Intuitive Use

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

  • It eliminates unnecessary complexity.
  • It is consistent with user expectations and intuition.
  • It accommodates a wide range of literacy and language skills.
  • It arranges information consistent with its importance.
  • It provides effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

  • It uses different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
  • It provides adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
  • It maximizes “legibility” of essential information.
  • It differentiates elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • It provides compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

  • It arranges elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
  • It provides warnings of hazards and errors.
  • It provides fail safe features.
  • It discourages unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

PRINCIPLE SIX: Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  • It allows user to maintain a neutral body position
  • It uses reasonable operating forces.
  • It minimizes repetitive actions.
  • It minimizes sustained physical effort.

PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

  • It provides a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
  • It makes reaching to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
  • It accommodates variations in hand and grip size.
  • It provides adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.

Additional Resources

Read "I Promise We'll Have Fun" on the Disability Visibility Project

A Note on Language

In this selection, LaSpina uses the phrases "crip family" to define her network of friends and "supercrip" to describe herself in her race to the hospital. 

The word "crip" has a complicated history, and is typically considered a derogatory term for people with disabilities. Some communities, however, have begun to reclaim the word and to relate it to disability justice initiatives. LaSpina's use of the word here links her to disability justice communities. This term is not universally accepted by people with disabilities, however, and should not be used by people who do not belong to disability-related communities. 


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