Our connection with disability

This is a quickie post, part of a blog hop that Meriah is hosting over at With a Little Moxie.

I'm one of the latecomers to disability awareness, which is unfortunate because it fits so beautifully within the feminist worldview I've been developing since I was probably 12.  Harriet McBryde Johnson made me aware of the connection early in my time at the College of Charleston, something I've written about here before.  If you're someone who believes that all people are fully human and deserve to have their full humanity recognized and respected, then you're a feminist, and you're also someone who should be a disability rights advocate.

My connection to disability was enhanced in 2008, when I was incredibly lucky and gave birth to Maybelle, a person whose Down syndrome has opened new doors for me, new ways of seeing the world. 

Before Maybelle's entrance on the scene, I was someone who was uncomfortable with disability, particularly intellectual disability, mostly because of lack of practice.  As it turns out, there isn't anything inherent in intellectual disability that triggers discomfort--my discomfort came from the fact that I'd been raised in a mostly-segregated world.  In my schools growing up, people with disabilities were locked away in their own sections of the school.  "We"--those of us without disabilities--didn't even get to see "them"--the people with disabilities.  That segregation, of course, helped to create those categories of "us" and "them" that came to seem intuitively obvious but, in fact, aren't at all.

There's no "us" and "them" in Maybelle's school.  She's another kid in her class.  This is one of the things that integration achieves:  a bigger "us."

So these days my connection with disability is the fact that I'm a human being in a world of human beings, about 20 percent of whom have disabilities.  The longer I'm around, the more likely it is I'll have one, too.  And I have the good fortune of living in an integrated family, one that repeatedly demonstrates how cool Down syndrome is.


Rairy said...

Today I am struggling with being a segregated them. It sucks to find it increasingly difficult to breathe and have reduced mobility and then find myself fighting an employer who prefers cookie cutter normal employees.

I personally didnt think my employer was going to be so backwards on the accommodation process. Didnt think asking for help was going to cause me to work alone and get all emails with my mgr copied to HR. Didnt think Vanderbilt of all places was going to go the freak and outcast route for something they didnt understand.

Today the universe can have my disability back. I'm tired of a body that betrays and limits me and of a world that forever thinks I am not good enough.

Alison said...

Rairy, I'm sorry that Vanderbilt isn't treating you the way it should. It does seem to me from stories I've heard that folks with disabilities and the people who love them often are pioneers, almost no matter where they are, having to fight for their rights. And that's exhausting.

Elizabeth said...

I love to read this and only wish that everyone thought and acted so sensibly about disability. And like your answer to Rairy's comment, it IS exhausting -- sometimes too exhausting.

starrlife said...

The world, in my opinion, over values intellect over all which creates the false idea that without a certain level of it and education that an individual is less than. It's a very hidden ism but now we can see it and realize that there is room for all. They teach feminism, racism etc but not intellectualism...

Rairy said...

Thank you Allison. I look forward to a day when those of us with differences in our bodies are considered so like everyone else that we no longer need to pioneer.

Until then I am grateful to share my life with love ones and friends.

Meriah said...

I also like the saying "two thirds of the planet" - that is, two thirds of the planet are touched by disability in some way (personal experience as a PWD or family member, etc).

I really enjoyed your post (as always!)

And I also really liked Harriet MacBryde Johnson. I met her only once while I was working at UC Berkeley.