Disability Rights are Civil Rights

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.

Telling Our Stories

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.

Disability pride festival

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!

Advertisements

Lent Post #31: Forgotten

I belong to a land that time has long since forgotten,
a land filled with hospitals, metal cages, and rooms full of invalids.
I come from a life whose prognosis was always grim,
and now that things have changed,
I mingle amongst the people who think that I’ve lost my mind, that I am somehow deranged.
The metal cages are gone, the rooms full of invalids have disappeared,
and invisible walls have come to take their place.
Looked upon with a mild neglect, I have never found nor experienced true love.
The streets are filled with cut curbs and wider doors,
yet another poetic experience I will never have
the freedom of running across the British moors.
The people with the gift of sight refuse to truly see,
that I am one who comes from a land that time has long since forgotten.
They are stuck in the past,
with visions of the progress that has been made,
yet they refuse to see all that remains to be.
The ones who remain forgotten are the ones just like me.

Lent Post #30: The “-ism” As I See it

This piece is a part of my book The Gimpy Monologues. If you like this one, consider giving the book a shot.

The world is fractured by isms, racism, sexism, classism, Christianity… Oh, wait that isn’t one is it? What about Christian fundamentalism? It doesn’t matter what word those three letters find themselves at the end of, they are probably three of the most divisive letters applied to any word in the English language. I’m going to talk to you about the ism as I see it, but before I do, I’d like to add another one to that list… ableism. It works just like all the others, just as sexism sees women as inferior to men simply for being women, just like classism says that a person deserves what they get because of the class they happen to inhabit, ableism says that in some regard I am less human than you, that somehow my differences make me inferior. These nebulous things… These three letters, they’re not sitting very well with you, are they? They don’t sit well with me either. Because here’s what ableism says about me. It says that I’m in a wheelchair and because I’m in a wheelchair I’m inferior. It says that I don’t contribute to society. And you know what? In some sense, it’s right. In some ways, I can’t contribute to society… Not because I don’t want to, but because society won’t let me. But this is nothing new, it’s just the nature of those three letters. It is a three letter wall, but I have a solution, the only trouble is I can’t take credit for it. This is probably the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned in my entire life, and I learned it from Bruce Lee.

Here’s what Bruce Lee said… I’m probably going to fuck it up, so bear with me. Be like the nature of water. Water erodes even the strongest rocks, if you give it enough time. It can overcome any obstacle in its way, with even the smallest weakness. Water is formless, it is shapeless, it becomes whatever it is held in. That is not to say that water is weak, quite to the contrary water is strong, persistent, and adaptable… And yet it is gentle at the same time, but it can become a true force of nature all the same. I’m going to take the sentiment from Bruce Lee just a little bit further. You can’t divide water from itself, unless you place the water into separate containers. That is what an ism is. It is taking the water that is the beauty of humanity, the humanity that we all share, the potential for the love that we all deserve and the fulfillment that we all seek, and dividing it into several containers, so that we are no longer connected. The solution is simple, tip the damn container over, and let our humanity, the humanity that you and I share be like the nature of water; gentle yet strong, persistent yet patient, adaptable yet indivisible and unweakened. That’s the nature of water, it’s the only way to defeat the ism as I see it.

Lent Post 29: The Quest for the Rainbow Bagel

Okay, so, to be honest, today might feel a little like I’m phoning it in. And in some ways, I am… I’ve had about three or four hours of sleep a night for the past couple of weeks and it’s gotten to the point where I can hardly think coherent thoughts. Luckily for me, I have fantastical friends who share pieces of content with me that they think I will like. Below, you will find one such piece of content which puts the issue of accessibility front and center well hopefully making you laugh! Give it a good think, and leave a comment about accessibility issues below. I’ll check in with you guys tomorrow! Or you know, whenever you guys start commenting!

So, it doesn’t look like WordPress will let me embed the video with a free account anymore. So check out the video here!

Lent Post #28: Bias, The Problem As I See It

This piece is a part of my book The Gimpy Monologues. If you like this one, consider giving the book a shot.

My physical limitations are very real, people might think that they get in the way, and sometimes they do. But the real problem is the way you look at me, and the way I look at you. The problem is bias. We go off to college and we take these classes, we read these books, they take us to the various times past and the one that still passes. Every teacher thinks that their discipline can change the world. And they’re only part right. Sociology, psychology, philosophy, and the sciences. All of them hold fundamental keys to human understanding with one fatal flaw. But I’ll get to that.

Wielding these books and we learn the truth, the brutality that’s befallen our forebears in the prime of their youth, we fill with anger welling up inside wanting to take down the power that is, and begin to uprise. Some think we’re pacifists, but we have the mouths and sullied hearts of war makers, gossip mongers, and the monsters that are created in the name of protecting an ideology. We stamp out racism with the same hatred with which it began, instead of looking to our left, then to our right, and realizing we inhabit the same land. I remember that hatred deep inside my heart, it found its insidious way into what I thought was my purest art. I was wrong. I called it ableism, to me the world was divided between those who had what I wish I did and the people who had taken away everything I had to give. I live in a world where Brown gave way to white, and even when that difference was out of sight it was still me versus them… Those who could walk and had all the fun, and me; the guy who was filling his heart with fire and hatred before his life ever begun. And then, I remembered my history, and then all I saw was nothing but a shattered mystery, I could finally see the whole. It didn’t matter now, ‘cause in my mind, I had no goal, except to destroy that which held me down. And I owed to the place who gave me my second cap and gown.

Now it’s time for me to drop poetry, and give you the real message. I sat in these classrooms and listened to these people and I thought they were revolutionary. They told me that I’ve been cheated, they broke down the system that did it, this showed me all the problems, all the greed, and lust, and hate. All the problems with no solutions, and anger with nowhere to go. I joined people who said they were going to change the world and I would do it with them, but I failed to see the exact same hate that welled up within them. Fire is never best fought with fire, mutually assured destruction is not protection, it’s just what it says, a form of assured destruction. A complete annihilation of the soul and psyche. So from that vantage point, I left. Off to fight my own battles, to seek and to understand. To leave this little speech, this little piece of paper, into your tender and capable hands. Don’t seek your identity within a group of hateful people that tell you you’ve been owned by another group, people are just people. If you give into that, you’ll surely be duped. There is no ultimate discipline, it’s not like they say. I wish I could tell you that there was another way, but these battles are hard and to be fought long and with difficulty, but just as much as you say you believe in me, I believe in you completely. Leave the poison behind, take my hand, and walk with me, roll with me, hobble along… We’ll change the world hand-in-hand, woman after woman, and man after man.

Lent Post 27: See the Chair, Don’t be the Chair

This piece was inspired by my wheelchair. It’s a very real thing, and sometimes it even makes a good analogy for social relationships! This piece is a part of my book The Gimpy Monologues. If you like this one, consider giving the book a shot.

See the chair?
Don’t be the chair.
There are many ways to take that
It’s confusing I know
it helps me get around
but some doors I can’t go through
doors both imaginary and real
barriers of life, love, and liberty
see the chair
recognize the difference
don’t be the chair
the thing that inhibits
be the chair
the thing that helps you move
and explore the world around me
until I can get into a vivacious groove
see the chair,
don’t be the chair
the hesitation and limitation
be instead
the mode of support and exploration

Lent Post #26: I’m Not an Inspiration

This piece was inspired by the concept of inspiration porn, the calling of people with disabilities inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability. This piece is a part of my book The Gimpy Monologues. If you like this one, consider giving the book a shot.

I’m not inspiration. Let me explain what I mean. I know so many of you out there staring at the future me and thinking that I wrote this play, it made you think in ways you haven’t necessarily thought before, therefore, I must be an inspiration. You might be right, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Everything about what you see right here, right now… That is intended to inspire. What I’m talking about other random people who have no idea who I am, what I’ve done, or for that matter, what I have failed to do. Random strangers constantly come up to me and tell me what an inspiration I am for having overcome such adversity. To them, I say, what the hell kind of adversity are you talking about? Are you talking about the adversity I faced this morning when deciding whether or not I’d like to get out of bed now, or maybe an hour? Last I remember, everyone did that from time to time. For that, I’m not inspiration.

And then, suddenly it dawned on me. They must be talking about the thing everyone talks about, the fact that my body is the source of my adversity. Everyone’s body is the source of their adversity, uncontrollable urges brought about by chemical reactions uncontrollable by the conscious mind, and at best we can only mitigate those, not really control them. Maybe they mean the fact that my body doesn’t necessarily cooperate; if you talk to any woman who’s ever had a period, shall tell you that that has nothing to do with being disabled, because once a month her body refuses to cooperate with her, and yet she still lives with it. But I know you mean, you’d like to congratulate me because I have managed to figure out how to sit on the toilet, use it, and wipe my own ass. So in the words of the little boy in that Adam Sandler movie: I can wipe my own ass, I can wipe my own ass!

It’s thinking like this that is the real disability, it’s a disability born of imposed societal norms reinforced by unthinking masses. I’m normal, I’m human just like you. My struggles are probably no more or less difficult than your own, I cry, I bleed and I smile, just as you do. So I have a favor to ask you, the next time you feel the need to tell me I’m an inspiration, just remember… I’m not inspiration… Unless of course, something I’ve done has moved you to to do something you’ve always wanted to do. In that case, I’m an idiot these failed to realize that I am an inspiration.