International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018

A lot of things have happened in my life since the first time I celebrated IDPWD two years ago.

I started to tell more people that I’m disabled. I found a new doctor who is willing to work with me. I began noticing and calling out ableism as it happened around me. I advocated for my rights. My friends and I revamped the campus disability club. I successfully pitched a book to a publisher that will collect stories from our community. I’ve learned more ways to keep myself safe through self-accommodation when others don’t meet my needs. A professor at my university invited me to discuss inaccessibility at a meeting with administration. I’ve become energized by small victories within the community–things like alt-text being added on Instagram and textured sidewalks being installed on campus. I guess I became a voice for our community.

On the flip side, people voice their doubts on the validity of my disability. I had to leave my previous doctor because he mistakenly told me I wasn’t “disabled enough” for certain supports. I started being treated like a whistleblower who people grew frustrated with. Professors talked about me and confidential documentation behind my back, breaking university policy that could (and should) have seen them penalized but ultimately didn’t. Practically no one attends Disability Club events or meetings. I’ve received emails and tweets about how I shouldn’t use the word “disabled” in the title of my book. I’ve been criticized by people, even family members, for self-accommodating. I cried–sobbed, really–in front of university administration as I begged them to include disabled people in emergency evacuation plans. I’ve grown to be beyond fatigued as I witness every small victory be undermined by the atrocities disabled people face everyday–things like not being able to afford life-saving medical care, experiencing segregation and institutionalization, and being harassed by strangers. People around me have begun to lean on me like a crutch (oh, the irony) as someone they expect to educate them on Disability, to teach them how to be allies.

Allies, on this IDPWD, ask yourselves what you do to support the Disabled community. If nothing, ask a Disabled friend or family member what you can do to support them. If you don’t know a Disabled person, go online and educate yourselves about ableism or Disability. Do what you can to do make our lives slightly less of a living hell.

If you take anything away from today, let it be this: Educate yourselves. Assess your abled privilege. Google something about Disability. Anything. Read it. Myself and many people I know in the community are tired. Google it yourselves for once.

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