I’m leaving for a conference tomorrow in Amherst to give a workshop on disability and reproductive justice. Maybe I’m nervous, scared, tired, and excited all at the same time because it’s where I came out last year (if you’re gonna be queer Hampshire College is the place to be), or because I’m traveling w/ family as PAs, or because I’m still trying to find my place, my home, in communities outside the Disability Rights Movement. Either way, this is what I needed to read tonight.
Historically, anecdotal evidence seems to show that discussion about disability in other subgroups had often been met with indifference with a responses like, “Well, that’s a disability issue, not a LGBTQ issue.” Or disability groups may work on issues such as barrier removal and access to services and supports but do not directly address the inherent inequities related to access when race and minority status are a part of the equation.
A recent discussion among advocates put forward the example of the Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration hearings. A number of the younger advocates were somewhat unhappy about the fact that there has been little or no representation of minorities, not just as witnesses, but even in the audience. When one looks at photographs of disability events and celebrations, there is a dearth of representation from individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds.
In addition, when policy, advocacy and outreach are discussed as part of the “disability agenda” specific cultural and linguistic awareness and outreach are not addressed. Considering that health care disparities are an acknowledged problem by the Federal government (and we all know how slow the government is), it has been disheartening to see that recognition of cultural and linguistic disparities is missing from the disability community in general.
However, there are signs of change. It isn’t here in Washington DC. It isn’t with the large disability non-profits or policy and regulation efforts (although one can hope it’ll eventually get there). It is with individuals with disabilities who are actively working to embrace their personal statuses and demanding a voice not just in the disability community but also in other groups such as LGBTQ, ethnic minority status, and gender equality groups. It is stronger in younger advocates and definitely in the “internet” generations. As a vibrant example, it has been very positive to see the “cross-pollination” of ideas and support between feminist bloggers and disability bloggers. This is where the REAL “breaking out” is taking place.