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.
2 years ago