It does not feel humble to write a blog. It seems to give the general impression that I am an expert, qualified to speak on anything and everything disability. Please know, this is not the case.
Like any disabled person, I am not a monolith. Just because I have some disabilities does not mean I am qualified to speak on them all, or to speak for everyone with my disabilities.
This has become a fairly rehearsed disclaimer, but one that still irks me. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, of course I am confined to only my personal experiences. But time and time again, I am treated as a monolith, as an inspiration, as someone to be saved or protected or coddled.
When telling non-disabled people about these experiences, I’m often met with wide eyes and nodding heads conveying a “Of course! How could others be so ignorant!” But by the time our meetings are over, the wide eyes and nodding heads give way to parting words of “thank you for your bravery in sharing your experiences” and “thank you for your impactful perspective.” Ignorance prevails, but under the checked box of “consulted with stakeholders” and a warm thank you email.
Nothing about disability is easy. It is complex, and messy, and confusing. In the disability community, the infighting and cross-disability ableism makes matters worse for the non-disabled onlooker. To those without disabilities among us, I invite you to be confused. And overwhelmed. And frustrated. If you are not feeling this way, I have failed you as an advocate by sanitizing my experiences with disability. If you feel like giving up and turning away, I will have succeeded in my duties, and if you choose not to give in, you will have truly begun your allyship journey.
And for those of you with disabilities, challenge me. Challenge my beliefs, my perspectives, my values. Hold me accountable for positively contributing to the disability rights movement, and I will return the favour. In advocacy, we often forget to write for the communities we serve. So, I will write for you, for myself, for the community, and for the allies. I encourage you to do the same.
With non-disabled folk monopolizing the conversation, funding, and platforms, we need more disabled voices in the disability movement. The fact that this has to be articulated shows how much we are up against. To my disabled peers, your voice matters. Your experience matters. You matter.
Disclaimers aside, promises made, and audiences addressed – welcome to the blog. We have a lot of work to do.