Disability rights movement is for everyone
Disability is commonly thought to be defined by its physical aspects and how able-bodied someone is.
However, disability encompasses a wider scope of social, political and cultural factors that are evolving and difficult to capture in a single sentence. Because of this, the view society has on disability needs to be redefined to reflect the actual experiences of disabled people and the issues they face, as well as involve people outside of the community to fight for disability rights.
Currently, disability is seen by some as a bad word that people are scared to approach. Susan Wendell makes an important point in “The Rejected Body” when she talks about how the definition of disability is not created to “include” people but to “exclude” them.
People do not want to be disabled.
Their understanding of disability focuses on the negative connotations that come with identifying as disabled that include ableist language, inaccessible buildings and the never-ending fight for fair treatment in the workplace and medical field.
People fear the word because they know they will not be treated with respect and dignity.
Wouldn’t this realization force people to fight for disability rights? Once they realize that groups of people are ostracized from society, wouldn’t they want to figure out ways to deconstruct and end this misconception and discrimination?
Sadly, the battle for disability rights is still confined to those in the disabled community.
Curb cuts, which are an important aspect of universal design, were notably advocated for by Ed Roberts, a prominent activist in the disability rights movement. Because of him and other activists disabled people were able to live their lives more independently, a sentiment that was unheard of and dismissed in the 1970s.
Another example of the battle for disability rights confined to its own bubble is Simi Linton’s experience from her book “My Body Politics”. Throughout the book, her desire for love and intimacy is challenged by a myth enabled by doctors that said disabled people were unable to love and could not be loved.
The lack of information regarding disabled people’s sexuality and pleasure prompted her to set out to find her own answers on how the disabled community can seek intimacy in their own ways. This advocacy on her end only furthers the idea that it’s disabled people who have to seek out their own answers or else no progress would be made.
Finally, a more notable and powerful form of activism from the disability rights movement is the Capitol Crawl where over a thousand people, many with various forms of disability, climbed the steps of the Capital to showcase the physical, social and political barriers the disabled community faced during that time and to fight for Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.
With that in mind, if you were to ask someone to recount a prominent moment of the disability rights movement or why it is important to support it, it is unlikely that someone will be able to tell you an informed, thoughtful answer.
Many people are removed from the disability rights movement even though it is something that directly affects them whether they know it or not. People are just taught to push it aside which leaves them no room to draw connections.
If able-bodied people were to take a moment to look at the issues the disability community faces, they will see a battle against time.
Crip time and chrononormativity are two terms used to describe the way time is used in society. Crip time highlights how disabled people use time differently than able-bodied people because their body demands a different regime and accommodations. Chrononormativity is how society expects a person to follow a certain timeline of achievements and expectations that, quite frankly, do not fit everyone.
The disability rights movement aims to reconstruct these strict boundaries of time and allow individuals to create their own timeline that prioritizes their needs, wants and desires. Whether this is allowing yourself to take more sick days or deciding to not get married and have kids, these decisions impact the happiness and fulfillment you feel in your life.
Regardless, even if the disability rights movement did not impact your life or you do not see the connection in your own life, the one thing we all share in this world is the lived human experience.
Simi Linton stated in her book, even if disabled people have their own experiences navigating the world, they all share “the vantage point of the atypical” of living in a world built for the non-disabled.
Disability is part of that lived human experience that we all share and disabled people should not be excluded from living a fruitful and engaging life.
If anything, people should be enraged at the discrimination and injustice the disabled community has faced because, in the end, they’re our community as well.
As people, a community of individuals striving to lead better and happier lives, we need to support one another and not leave a single person behind.
It’s our life goal.
Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]