A friend of mine keeps joking that I need to take the path of least resistance and just become professionally disabled. The way things are heading, she is probably right. Disability is an element of what I live, study, and talk about every day. This column is hardly helping my case. I used to swear that disability was something I’d never write about, ever.
Words—the writing, reading, and reveling in them—was for me always about imagining my way into other places and possibilities. It wasn’t that I wanted to escape being disabled, it was just that it belonged to the everyday. Stories and poems were reserved for something more: the parts of me less obvious to the world. But in the conversations around identity that I am having both casually and academically I feel the yawning gap where disability should naturally be and jump in as if to say, “I’m here too!”
It’s something I’m still grappling with. Part of me wants to take the current identity politics position of, I’m not your guru, go inform yourself. The other half says, well, I’d rather you heard it from me than the angry depths of the internet. I think the emphasis we place on lived experience, though aiming to ensure we allow minorities to speak for themselves, equally encourages a feeling of defensiveness, meaning we argue with uninformed others who could potentially be allies given the time and space to learn. There is sometimes a lack of distinction between what is wilful and what is circumstantial ignorance.
When those people beyond our own communities have both listened and thought long enough to see accessibility, inclusion, and disabled people’s voices in their day-to-day is when I can go back to writing about other things—but, in the meantime, it is hard to abdicate responsibility for those conversations just because I know them like the back of my hand.
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