Category Archives: disability

dear ada generation,

i’m really really disappointed. and hurt. and feeling betrayed. i’m realizing that sitting in the bathroom of this coffeeshop crying is not productive and know i can’t get back to writing my paper (that’s due in a hour) until i write this letter. 

over the last year, one of our own, micah fialka- feldman, began to fight his university so that he could live on campus. the school accepted his money, gave him a move-in date, and then changed their minds because of an old housing policy that was created before people with cognitive disabilities were allowed to attend through the OPTIONS program. now they are saying they do not have enough space. as you know, students and activists have strongly voiced their support for micah

however, many of you have not. in fact, some of you have come out against micah. now i understand disagreeing if it is because you feel that the university is justified in their policy. we can just call that a difference of perspective and understand that while we enjoy bipartisanship, disagreement is a part that comes with it.  living in north carolina where the disability community can be surprisingly republican, i understand that we need each other to advance our people. 

what i do not agree with, and what i am strongly offended by, is when you use ableist rhetoric and take up an assimilationist politic. we, young folk in the disability rights movement, are called the ada generation because we grew up with rights older disabled people fought for. we, for the most part or at least a higher proportion, were allowed in schools and in public. many of us who are labelled as ada generation have also been given opportunities, like congressional internships, activist training, mentorship, and access to youth leadership development programs, to grow within the movement. what we do with these opportunities is going to define the future of our movement and community.

i think every young leader in the movement should read the INCITE! anthology, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. the book speaks a lot about the professionalization of movements and what happens when the focus is shifted away from community. the conversations become about leadership skills and how to get business cards, not about ableism and what we need to do to mobilize. disability becomes a 9-5 career.

i feel like that is what is happening with micah. we are forgetting our community. instead of asking why shouldn’t he be allowed to live on campus, you instead ask “why can’t he live off campus like i had to?” and use words like “pulling heartstrings,” “asking for handouts,” “bending the rules” and “using his disability”. you then say “now… if X experience i had was happening to micah, then of course i would be outraged!” really? are we only saying we share support if we’ve experienced what they’ve experienced? this doesn’t sound good for cross-disability organizing. and have we really adopted tools and tactics that have been used against us instead of extending solidarity to micah? 

it’s so disgusting. i know this is not new— that the disability rights movement functions with people from all backgrounds contributing different things—but this ada generation scares me because we say we speak for young disabled people everywhere while simultaneously only caring about our careers. we are working from a network model instead of a community model without recognizing what both models offer (and constrict).

as leader of an organization that has bred many of us, i know i must sound like a contradiction. i think there are many cards stacked against us and we do need networks, mentorship and development opportunities to advance our community. i just hope that we can do these things, and grow into ourselves, without hurting our community. our people. folks like my friend and fellow activist, micah.

hanging on,

more info below the cut. Continue reading



Filed under community, disability, i love my people

casting my ballot

“hey lady! hey lady! they have curbside voting!”
a group of 15 or 20 people stand on the sidelines and shout at me as i get out on the lift of my van.

“i know, that’s great, but I’M going to vote INSIDE!” i yell back loudly, annoyed at having to have said this allllll morning already (i have some serious health issues going on & it seems as though everyone and their mother had a personal investment in making sure i did not go out in the rain).

i expect the crowd to be embarrassed or something but instead they erupt in cheers, clapping, and you-go-girl!s.

what’s more american dream-y than the disenfranchised stepping to the polls, right? i walk by, waving at all of the people like a star.

just kidding. the totally fun moment turns serious when one of the folks breaks the line and approaches me:

“i just want to say thank you.”
she says all big eyed

“for what?” i ask pretending like i don’t know. i’m about to be really annoyed if she’s going to go inspirational crip on me and ruin my big first-time voting moment.

“for coming out to vote.”

oh great. she really is going to ruin my moment! damn! i brace myself for the on-coming pity party.

she continues:
“my husband is handicapped. he just began riding an electric chair and i couldn’t get him to come volunteer with me. a few weeks ago he was at a store and after knocking out a whole aisle of candy, he is too embarrassed to come out. plus with transportation being the way it is, everything set up against you, you know?”

i nod and explain that for the first year that i used a powerchair, my specific expertise was in knocking down store displays, particularly large pyramids of shoe boxes. she smiles in shared understanding and continues to open up, telling me more about all the issues her husband is facing as someone who has just acquired a disability. we brainstorm solutions and exchange phone numbers. i go inside, vote, wave to her, and leave.

i’m not much for electoral politics but moments like these really remind me how important policy and participating in the political process can be as tools for the advancement of disabled people. as disabled people, our lives are intertwined in the system. the stakes are high and bad policies play out in intimate, real ways for each of us. i have hope that next time elections come around, she and her husband will be out on the sidelines together.

“Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.” Justin Dart.


Filed under disability, politics

neurodiversity & disability

a lot of times disability pride gets watered down into this happy-go-lucky accepting who you are/gaining self esteem bit. though self-acceptance is so important, nondisabled people understanding disability pride in this way disregards the power of disability pride and critiques of ableism. disability itself redefines normal, redefines what is considered dependence, and if included in social justice analyses, can be extremely useful in understanding how the world works. living and practicing disability pride is so much bigger than self acceptance.

i credit a lot of what i know about the revolutionary nature of disability to the frameworks utilized by the reproductive justice movement, queer liberation movement, and the autistic self advocacy movement. in the same way understanding heteronormativity helps me understand institutions, gender, and the importance of queer liberation for society in general, neurodiversity has taken my understanding of disability to a new level. this is why i am so energized by work autistic self advocates and advocates of neurodiversity are doing— the potential for transformation is endless. truly a new frontier.

on that note, the canadian broadcasting company aired a documentary this week on neurodiversity the autistic self advocacy movement that, well, everyone needs to check out. you can watch this 19-minute video and read the transcripts of interviews at:

(hat tip to ASAN)


Filed under community, disability, intersections

disability is..

this comment by amandaw was just too amazing to hide under a week old post of mine:

…disability, really, when you get down to it, is the ultimate unraveling of that ball of individualism — it FORCES you to look at all these little things that go into the living of a life, and realize that not all of them are yours to do or yours to control — and also to realize how many of those little things YOU affect for OTHER people’s lives — and to finally give up, and fall back into the arms of the community.

it means you have to stop looking at things as “mine, yours, this person’s, that person’s” etc. you have to stop keeping the damn tally — and just rush to give, knowing that those around you will rush to give back…

so many people are afraid to admit that ultimately, they DO depend on the people around them, and their accomplishments are not solely their own, and the things they do, affect people besides themselves. but it’s all true! and it’s not a bad thing, if you look at it the right way.

amandaw in response to some freewriting on interdependence, dependence, disability, and how communities view these things.

so what else is disability to you?

poetry? another way of living, breathing, thinking? the clash between body, movements, thought processes and a society who does not accept these different way of being? hardships? your way of understanding the world? your connection to a whole group of amazing people? all of the above? none of the above?

just some questions..



Filed under disability, links

thoughts on the politics of independence

“the community is not great for anyone until it is great for everyone.”        –WIDU motto
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Filed under ableism, abolishing medical and charity models of thinking, API-A, community, disability, i love my people, race, woc


we live in a world where nonprofits give off a corporation vibe
a world where change-seekers and believers have to get on their hands and knees
begging and compromising their beliefs
starbucks cup in hand, the focus is on funders, elections, conferences, networking, volunteer hours
people become an afterthought
this is a business
jobs (and money) are on the line, damnit!

events are in glass hotels that scrape the sky
internet costs $18.95 a day
breakfast $10.99,
lunch $15.84,
dollar menu for dinner when you can’t keep up with the others
i try very hard not to break anything

my people at home want to taste this community we talk about
wade their feet in it..
but they’re stuck at home
“bus don’t come here”
…if they even have a home
“where do i go to sign up for housing list?”
looking for a job
“no places will hire me”
with bruises on their arms, legs, back
“i think i need to get out”
no money in hand
“i don’t even see that check”
these are every day conversations with friends

and yes i tell them about those good disability acronyms—
you know, the difference between medicaid and medicare, ssi, ssdi, pass, irwes, the “ada bus”, microenterprise, p&a services EVERYTHING—
but when it comes to the disability rights movement,
what do i say? that yes, go to this board meeting, you will feel like you’re making a difference?
seeing folks tear each other apart’ll be worth the 90 minute paratransit wait?
how about that this complex buys into the system?
that while people are dying in trifling situations
we’re shaking hands and passing out business cards?

yea… 501c3s… just another way to keep us in line.

note on poem below the cut. Continue reading


Filed under community, disability, organizing, writing/poetry

on the way home

a friend and i took a group of new disability activists to dc this weekend. so thankful for the opportunity to grow with them. the poem below the cut is something i scribbled down on the train after saying goodbye.

Continue reading


Filed under community, disability, writing/poetry