Last week sometime, I shared an article written by some pretty cool people on another website about a bill that is currently going through the house called The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. I don’t so much want to talk about the bill in this post, but the reaction I got from what I posted. To see the original post, you can find it here. The question I get asked the most is some variation of “how can I hope? What can I do to get people talking?” At the dire risk of sounding like a shameless self-promoter, here’s what you can do: buy my book… Or don’t. If not, by books and documentaries created by people with disabilities. And I’m using that term as broadly as humanly possible. People with mental health conditions, people with physical disabilities, people on the autism spectrum, people who are active in the deaf community. Buy their work! That’s how you can help all of us. And when you’re done with it, give it to someone, talk to other people about what you’ve learned, share your thoughts, talk about how it made you feel. Tell people about how you had thoughts that you’ve never had before. Get involved.
This sounds ridiculously simple, but here’s the thing… It isn’t that simple. There are so many stories out there that haven’t been written, or that have that no one will ever see. That’s the thing about being a part of a marginalized group within the larger society… People don’t always see you, even when they think they do. And a lot of the time, when one of us gets up to speak about some unjust law or circumstance, no one listens. And this is it anyone’s fault, it’s mostly because of a lack of experience. Experience builds empathy… When we read a book written by someone, or we watch a movie or a documentary about someone’s life who has a specific set of struggles… We begin to understand something about that person that we didn’t know before. Not only that, we begin to become more aware of the fact that there are other people out there who have very similar struggles, and that maybe there is something that we can do to make things better not just for them, but for everyone else in the process. This is how we make things better, I building bridges from ignorance to knowledge, and then from knowledge to understanding.
There are people out there that think that the book I wrote is just about me. It isn’t, at least not entirely. I grew up in a school that had a special wing in it for people with orthopedic handicaps. People who use crutches, wheelchairs, and other means of conveyance. Some of them also had cognitive difficulties. The short of it is this: I grew up seeing a lot of people with a lot of different challenges in my life. And most of us, when people ask us if we would give up being disabled, many of us would say no. We would answer that it makes us who we are. And I still believe that it does. But I have seen with my own two eyes how that statement can eclipse every single difficulty that someone has in their life because they feel as though they have to be true to that statement at the expense of everything else that can make life more challenging. So, there are people out there who won’t speak up because they feel like they can’t. These are the people I wrote for, these are people that I knew growing up, and there are people that exist all around the world. My experience informs how I tell their stories, but it doesn’t replace their stories with my own. If you want to support equal rights for persons with disabilities, help our voices be heard. Support us.
If you’re at all interested in finding a copy of my book for yourself, can find it at Amazon here. Thanks for listening!