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This is What Allyship Looks Like…

“There was nothing more liberating for me than laying down my arms and walking away from the fight against difference. There has been nothing more fulfilling than whole-heartedly accepting myself and those I love for exactly what and who we are rather than despite what we’re not, or because of who we may someday become. Because it was then that we all discovered the joy that comes from supporting one another as we strive, not toward the folly of indistinguishability from the masses, but toward the glory of becoming our very best selves. I choose acceptance. This is why.”

“For now, my goal is to continue to work in community with those who share a fire in the belly to disrupt, dismantle, and upend the toxic systems so long ago built on bigotry and fear and to rebuild them together on a solid foundation of loud, messy, brave love. I want to leave my girls a world that welcomes and encourages them – and everyone – to be the best versions they can possibly be, of exactly who they are.”

Written by Jess Wilson of Diary of a Mom. Read more here:

From the Facebook Files: The Adventures of Blind Elevator Travel

I did my postdoc at the University of Washington Medical Center. My office was on the ninth floor of an eleven-story hospital building. Each day I walked about a quarter-mile from the bus stop to the front entrance, traversed much of the hospital lobby, and finally reached the elevators (I think in the B-wing) to ascend to the ninth floor. My walk from the bus stop to my office, and back again at the end of the day, became so routine that I could be buried in thought while doing it. But many spectators found this simple task to be truly incredible.

Frequently, I ran into strangers who made interesting comments about my elevator use. Below is a story of one such encounter, and a little education on how ordinary elevator travel can really be for us blind folk.

From December 14, 2015:

Lady in the elevator at work: “Wow. You know where you’re going better than I do!”

Said lady almost missed the elevator because she thought it was going down instead of up. Then she started to exit on 5, said “oops” then got off on 8.

Sometimes the standards for blind people are low indeed.

BTW, for those who don’t know: I can tell if the elevator is going up or down because when it arrives it beeps once for up and twice for down. I find my

floor button by reading the Braille numbers on the panel. (They’re not just there for decoration!) Then I know when to get off by counting the number of

beeps as the elevator moves.

These things may not be obvious but they’re very simple.

Now, believe me, I’ve made the same mistakes that lady made, more than once. But like most people, I make those mistakes when I’m not paying attention,

or doing something on my phone.

Blindness doesn’t limit a person’s ability to move about in the world.

People Would Rather Get Cancer Than Be Like Me

“     Ellie’s words are a sledgehammer blow to my chest. We’ve shared homework assignments, secret nicknames, jokes, and drunken, laughing nights. Do they

really think I live every day in darkness and suffering? Do they think I’m faking my happiness, my love of life?”

“I want my sisters to understand that being blind isn’t the apocalypse.

Researching cures for blindness is all well and good, but it can’t happen at the expense of our dignity and our truth.”

“I do what society has trained women, especially disabled women, to do: assume that the

fault lies with how I raised the issue, not the response of those in power. The world may think blind people live in eternal darkness and suffering, but

ironically, it wants to see happy, nonthreatening, nonchallenging blind people.”

How do you cope when a member of your chosen community makes a speech demeaning members of another beloved community? On this week’s post, Sophie Trist writes about the experience of attending a sorority function where one of her Greek sisters spoke about the imperative to cure blindness as part of the sorority’s philanthropy. It can be hard to know how to cope, and even harder to know if you have done the right thing, or even if you can continue to hold the same level of trust after such a microaggression.

People Would Rather Get Cancer Than Be Like Mehttps://spreadsecondstories.org/sophie-trist/?fbclid=IwAR2bq9UQrX82eB6MQ6vvx1v7O2m2aBZL_4VlkeRi8sXgeVcaBSCSYBMjL4M

New Year, New Partnerships

Happy New Year to all my Disability Wisdom blog readers!

For nearly four years, I have aimed to offer information, inspiration and reflection through my blog. I genuinely appreciate the thousands of individuals who took the time to read, share, and comment upon the material. It means a lot!

It has always been my intention to feature multiple disabled voices here on the blog. This next quarter of 2021, I expect to be busier with consulting work than I have been in the past. So, I will be making more space for content from others with diverse lived disability experiences.

Toward this goal, while you will still see a post on the first, third and fifth Fridays of each month, I will be partnering with the Peaces of Me Foundation and sharing some of their writings with you. Peaces of Me is an innovative new nonprofit that works to eliminate stigma associated with disability, physical difference, and chronic illness by providing resources and connections to individuals/families and appropriate training to professionals in these spheres. I encourage you to check out their website and consider getting involved with their important work.

Further, as always, I welcome guest post contributions from people with lived disability experience, and I can pay a small honorarium for your contribution. For more details, please email me at

arielle@disabilitywisdom.com

Best wishes for a happier, healthier New Year!

Rudolph: A Tale of Disability Justice, or Oppression?

Even as a Jewish kid, I always liked the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Each year, we ponder the life of one creature who was set apart from his peers by a highly visible difference, a lone red nose. It’s a tale of coping at first with exclusion (“They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games)” followed by vindication when Santa realized that Rudolph’s red nose was actually an asset for his team. At that point, Rudolph was not only included, but celebrated as a valued leader who “will go down in history” forever.

The tale carries obvious motifs that are relevant to the disability experience. Many of us have risen from exclusion to success and celebration when others in power recognized the gifts that we bring, not just despite our differences, but because of them.

However, I’ve recently seen a critique of Rudolph’s tale that is worth considering. To some disability justice advocates, Rudolph was only successful because he was productive. His red nose provided the team with an advantage in efficiently delivering presents. If Rudolph had carried some other visible difference that did not advantage the team, would he still have received love and appreciation from the other reindeer? What if it hadn’t been a foggy night and the shine of his nose had not been necessary to advance the team’s mission?

When we talk about inclusion, we often focus on workplace inclusion. We like to extol the benefits of hiring employees with disabilities, who despite appearances, end up being loyal, dependable, highly generative employees with special gifts for problem-solving and morale-building. It can be tempting to focus our attentions on the “super-disabled” athletes or high academic performers who shatter our expectations for what disability is about. But in the midst of this, the “average” disabled person can be overlooked. We might unintentionally devalue the life of the disabled person who cannot hold a conventional job, or one who doesn’t appear to be overcoming their disability hard enough. Everyone brings something good to the table, whether or not that thing is valued in our capitalistic system.

During this most unusual holiday season, let’s consider how we can truly appreciate every person we encounter, regardless of what we think they will be able to contribute in the conventional sense. Let us strive toward a world where all human beings are equally valued, not despite our differences but because of them. Best wishes for a warm, peaceful holiday season and a joyful transition into 2021.