Yellow background with black text that reads: Disabled people are our own lifelines. No one can save us except ourselves. Disability Visibility Project™ DisabilityVisibilityProject.com Twitter logo in the shape of a bird, @DisVisibility

Ableism, Violence & Sagamihara

Tweets by Alice Wong @SFdirewolf on 7.27.16

Gonna start this mini-essay on Twitter on the #JapanAttacks in #Sagamihara. I’m roiling in a cauldron of anger, sorrow, fear & fatigue. There is such endemic ableist violence disabled people witness and experience every day, that it seriously makes you question stuff.

If you are non-disabled and unfamiliar with #ableism, what happened in #Sagamihara is a clear-cut example of as you’ll ever get.

FYI, it’s not my job to teach you what ableism is.

A man planned methodically to kill disabled people. He notified others. He imagined a world where disabled people should be euthanized by ‘guardians’.  This worldview is held by many people, more than you know.

I turned on cable TV on 7/26 hoping for live coverage in #Sagamihara as I previously saw for Orlando, Dallas, Nice, and Istanbul. Nope.

It was all about the DNC. Will there be the profiles of each disabled person murdered in the news the way they would for acts of terror?

What is more terrorizing than genocidal violence?  So I’m gonna just put it out there…my message to non-disabled folks…

Don’t ascribe mental illness to the killer’s actions. Hate is hate.

Don’t think this is an isolated incident & something that couldn’t happen here (wherever here is).

Don’t presume that it’s a cultural issue or that Japanese attitudes toward disability is to blame.

Don’t #PrayForJapan and think these murdered disabled people are ‘in a better place.’

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Listen to disabled people & take them seriously.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Learn about #ableism & think about your implicit bias.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Share your resources, platform, space to disabled people however you can.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Recognize disabled people as part of a larger continuum of human diversity.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Employ disabled people & support their full participation in society.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Ask what Japanese disabled people want and need. Their story, their lives.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Even if you’re a spiritual person, prayers won’t prevent ableism, violence, erasure, or marginalization.

Don’t #PrayForJapan. Demand accountability from the authorities when mass violence happens. Apologies & investigations aren’t enough.

So weird having to convince folks that disabled people have value. A lot of labor spent in having to defend your right to exist.

In addition to what happened in #Sagamihara, 3 Deaf women in Haiti have been murdered.

Disabled people have been beaten  or killed by law enforcement, especially disabled people of color.

The most recent incident was the shooting of #CharlesKinsey and traumatization of autistic man #ArnladoRios.

This doesn’t include violence that happens to disabled people in the home, schools, institutions, prison, etc. 

The world can feel so hostile and cruel to disabled people–that’s no exaggeration.

I’m not asking for sympathy or pity.

Not waiting for awareness or acceptance.

Not begging for inclusion.

Not feeling gratitude to non-disabled people for letting us live.

Disabled people are more than helpless objects of ableism & violence. We deserve the world, the universe, and more.

Disabled people are our own lifelines. This, I truly believe. No one can save us except ourselves.

Yellow background with black text that reads: Not waiting for awareness or acceptance. Not begging for inclusion. Not feeling gratitude to non-disabled people for letting us live. Disability Visibility Project™ DisabilityVisibilityProject.com Twitter logo in the shape of a bird, @DisVisibility

 


For more on the mass murder in Sagamihara by disabled people:

Ableism is not “bad words.” It’s violence.

Lydia Brown, July 25, 2016

Ableism is Deadly: Mass Murder in Japan

Bill Peace, July 26, 2016

Japan, Hate and 12 Days

Dave Hingsburger, July 26, 2016

Ableism, Mass Murder, and Silence

Annie Segarra, July 27, 2016

Sagamihara

Andrew Pulrang, July 27, 2016

The silence around the Sagamihara disability murders.

Carly Findlay, July 28, 2016


Yellow background with black text that reads: Disabled people are more than helpless objects of pity, ableism & violence. We deserve the world, the universe, and more. Disability Visibility Project™ DisabilityVisibilityProject.com Twitter logo in the shape of a bird, @DisVisibility

 

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 Disabled People of Color Speak Out, Part Two. Vilissa Thompson and Alice Wong. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

#GetWokeADA26: Disabled People of Color Speak Out, Part Two

This is the second of a 2-part report looking at the lives and stories of disabled people of color by Vilissa Thompson and Alice Wong for Ramp Your Voice! and the Disability Visibility Project.

Part One of the report covers the following topics from our online survey:

  • Introduction
  • Description of Survey
  • Racism, Discrimination, Violence, and Ableism
  • Disability Rights and People of Color
  • Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act

To read the first part of #GetWokeADA26: Disabled People of Color Speak Out, go to: http://wp.me/p3Ov4P-FA

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “Disability rights means accessibility, dignity and agency.” —SD. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

 

Intersectionality and Disabled People of Color

We received many responses about the intersectional lived experiences of disabled POC. Respondents talked about the tensions and issues that they experience as being “both and” or a “minority within a minority.”  Some common themes include the following:  the pressure of having to ‘choose’ a primary identity, being the only one in the room like yourself, the need to represent and speak for multiple communities all the time, exclusion and barriers to certain communities, and aspects of your identity being invisible depending on what space you are occupying. 

These stories show how disabled POC traverse and belong to multiple communities simultaneously.  Nothing is mutually exclusive for disabled people of color.

Respondents shared stories of how inequality impacts them on their earning power, access to healthcare, housing, employment and economic self-sufficiency.  Issues that affect white disabled people are going to be experienced differently by disabled POC due to multiple oppressions.  This must be recognized and acknowledged by the mainstream disability community.  

Tension and pressure being part of multiple movements and communities

Reyma McCoy McDeid, African American Aspergian:

We live in a society that, on the whole, is comprised of individuals who think that people can only be a member of one minority group at a time.  For someone like me, who is a woman of color and a person with a disability, I often feel pressured to pick a movement….I…am a person who experiences layers of diversity and, therefore, wish to represent that within the “disability rights” movement.

Finn, a queer, black, autistic, disability advocate:

As a queer, black, autistic person, I feel that all these different intersecting identities impact the way these issues affect me. I feel as though I’m only allowed one marginalised identity, not several, so I might get treated as though I’m JUST black, rather than black and queer, or black and autistic, or all three of those things. It makes me feel pretty invisible at times.

Feeling like a unicorn, singular and alone

Mary Lee Vance, Disabled Female Korean Adoptee:

It is challenging to be a Disabled Asian American Female Adoptee Administrator in higher education because generally there has been no one similar to me for people to reference.

Jae Jin Pak, Korean, Disabled, Male, Straight, American:

I can connect as a disabled person, but I have not seen or met many Asians with disabilities at these events.  Feeling like I am a minority has caused me to feel tension and alone at times. I really do feel empowered being in a room and working on disability rights.  However, outside of those discussions, I have just felt like I stick out.

Ellen Erenea, a Filipina with dwarfism, mother of two:

I feel as though I’m the only one representing the API community, where I know there are more. I do feel welcome in the disability community.  However, it’s the differences within differences that eventually leave me feeling alone mostly.

Attitudes and challenges within diverse communities

Angel A. McCorkle, 24 year old black autistic writer who has OCD:

I’m black and the black American culture doesn’t have a great history when it comes to begin treated for mental illness. My OCD and autism went undiao [sic] for decades and so did my depression, despite numerous symptoms. I was encouraged to hide or ignore others.

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “The LGBTQ community is still largely inaccessible to me, both physically and attitudinally.” —Anita Cameron. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

 

Lulu, a pansexual Puerto Rican with a disability:

My disability, sexuality, and even my race are invisible to most people unless utilizing a cane or wheelchair. I can blend in as white but I don’t want to, I am recognized as Puerto Rican more on the east coast where their assumptions of Hispanics are not just darker skinned Mexicans with black hair. Sometimes I wish who I am was more visible, to be seen is beautiful.

Multiple identities and challenges of identifying as ‘disabled’

Leanne Libas, an Autistic Asian teenager who wants to make a change:

I’m autistic. I’m Filipina and Chinese. I’m a young adult. I’m the first generation of immigrant parents. I identify as a female. For a long time, I have acted neurotypical…The easy part was identifying as a disabled person. The hardest part was getting immersed into the d/Disability and a/Autistic culture. I’m at a different point in my life. I never thought that I would get involved with advocacy because I usually tend to keep my views to myself. However, being an advocate, I’m learning more about standing up to my views and beliefs. I’m proud to be d/Disabled and a/Autistic.

 

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “The LGBTQ community is still largely inaccessible to me, both physically and attitudinally.” —Anita Cameron. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

Impact on inequality

Tiara S., a physically disabled woman of color:

The biggest thing is to be able to work and wed.  I am a woman.  That means $0.78 to the dollare [sic] compared to men.  I am a POC, so I’m less likely to get even that much.  I am disabled, so I have to deal with prejudices all around.  The most pressing issue is trying to prove that I am just as good as my white, able-bodied male counterparts.  All while trying to make magic happen and keep the lights on.

Healthcare, housing, employment, economic self-sufficiency

Rachel Lovejoy, Disabled, single mother of 2:

Health insurance and the affordability of being chronically ill. I can’t afford my copays. I’m a mother of 2 teens. They have health concerns too. And being the black parent of biracial children, I’ve had to prove my parentage to health providers before care would be discussed with me.

Krista Flores, Latina woman with a disability:

I think the most pressing issue is employment, services and health care. The current system is not set up for people with disabilities to be successful and maintain employment. Assistance is available to help you secure a job or not work, but there is minimal assistance designed to help a person who is employed, despite the fact that services are needed to stay employed.

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “...being Black, female, disabled and over 50 means I get less quality health care, hostile health care, and fewer opportunity for employment.” —Anonymous. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

 

Lateef McLeod, an educated African American man with cerebral palsy:

My most pressing issues related to my disability is finding a full time job. I think that is because of both my mobility disability and my severe speech disability makes employers think twice about hiring me.

Anita Cameron, Black Disabled Lesbian:

I’m still at risk of institutional placement. I still deal with a lack of affordable, accessible, integrated housing. There is still a lack of accessibility in doctor’s offices: lack of accessible scales, examination tables, etc.  

Disabled People of Color and the Disability Community

Our survey asked disabled people of color specifically about their involvement, interactions, and attitudes toward the disability communities they belong to, especially disability-related organizations, agencies, and advocacy groups.  Respondents spoke of the following:

  • There is a lack of acknowledgement of race, racism, and inequality within the disability community.
  • A majority of organizations have little representation of disabled POC in their staff and leadership.
  • The concerns and issues of disabled POC are not taken seriously.
  • Sense of invisibility or feeling like an outsider as a disabled POC in the disability community.
  • Added dimension of disabled POC with non-apparent disabilities and not being seen as disabled or ‘disabled enough.’’

It wasn’t all negative!  Several respondents felt welcomed and a sense of belonging by the disability community.  The power of peer-support and connecting with other disabled POC is immense and invaluable.

Lack of acknowledgement of race and racism

Shawn, African-American:

All issues are amplified because within most of the disability community, race is never addressed or acknowledged as a problem within the community. Many organizations and advocates hold the same conservative/typically white views as others non-disabled folks…except when it comes to their personal interests. There are people extremely hostile to affirmative action (for example) for POC but who consistently advocate for policies which resembles affirmative action for middle/upper class people with disabilities.

Finn, a queer, black, autistic, disability advocate:

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the autistic advocacy movement is incredibly white and I’ve struggled to find voices like mine there until very recently…we as a community really need to work on full integration of disabled people who experience multiple forms of oppression. There are too many of us who are isolated because of multiple systemic forces acting upon our lives, like disabled POC in jail or in institutions because they can’t access services, and LGBTQ disabled people who’ve found themselves homeless or marginally housed for similar reasons. I’ve experienced the latter in the past.

Anita Cameron, Black Disabled Lesbian:

Racism is rampant in the disability community, yet, for the most part, we don’t want to discuss it and get defensive when race or racism is brought up…The vast majority of disability organizations are White-run and led and they have no problem with that. Also, they think because they have poc involved that they have satisfied diversity when in fact, there are no Blacks involved. And when Blacks are involved, we are tokenized. We need to get better at this!

Sofiya Cheyenne Perez, artist:

Always feel tension in a room. We are not thought of as a person, but rather an annoyance.

Kathy D Woods, an African American Little Person with Achondroplasia dwarfism. Woman Of Faith. CEO/Founder:

As a POC my experience in the Little People community has been somewhat welcoming. Since I started the only successful clothing line…I’ve felt tension, jealousy and envy from other LP’s. I feel if I was not a person of color, I would be more supported by the LP community.

Invisibility, lack of representation

LaDonna Kirkaldie Fowler, a Native American woman with disabilities:

I have never really felt understood as a tribal woman with a disability. Our cultures are so varied and I find myself repeating over and over what our differences are compared to dominant culture in a continual education process before we can even discuss the issues of disability. I found it interesting at one conference in a discussion with someone from the CDC that all others races were listed except for Native American which were then included in the “others…” When I mentioned this glaring omission I was informed that the populations listed had something we did not have….power, position and money. So that day in particular I felt tension, anger, ambivalence and very much invisible.

Finn, a queer, black, autistic, disability advocate:

I often feel like an outsider because much of the disability rights community is incredibly white, and there’s a lack of understanding of the ways race and ethnicity can intersect with disability. I feel as though our voices are being pushed to the margins, while white people’s experiences are treated as universal when they’re not.

Grace Tsao, an Asian American woman with a disability:

Our voices are often invisible or silent. I have felt that some white people with disabilities have minimized the experiences of people of color or LGBT people and believe that disability trumps all other aspects of identity…all aspects of identity are intertwined and linked and are important.

Invisibility of people with non-apparent disabilities

Anonymous, a Black woman, professor, mother and wife:

It is relatively recently that I have come to identify with the disabled community despite my long-time “ally” and advocate status.  Having invisible disabilities, some of which I have only recently identified, has made it difficult to figure out whether and how to try to connect.  

Isis, a multiracial invisibly disabled girl:

I feel welcomed by the disability community, but not by the visibly disabled. I don’t know it feels like my own disabilities aren’t valid or “disabled enough” for them.

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “My disability, sexuality, and even my race are invisible to most people unless utilizing a cane or wheelchair.” —Lulu. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

 

Anonymous, an “ambiguously raced” queer asian woman:

I also feel that because of my ethnicity and gender, I am not considered disabled by many people. this may be a result of PTSD not being seen as a “real” disability or– maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing.

Finding community and support

Yolanda, a nerdy latina Pansexual on wheels depression fighter:

My family being catholic and my dad being from a poor farming village in Mexico believed the best thing for me would be if I was suddenly healed and that weighed heavily on my shoulders. Then I started meeting other people like me and realized yeah there are hard days when it feels like society doesn’t want you but, in the disability community you have people supporting and loving you for all of you and who tell society to fuck off when you’re too tired to. It’s not perfect but it beats being alone and trying to figure it out.

Malia, a young lady of mixed heritage who works to manage her mental health challenges:

For a long time I did not feel like I belonged, although I know I looked normal on the outside. However, when I started working at a peer-run agency, I finally felt like I found somewhere I belonged. I no longer had to hide who I was or risk losing opportunities because of my mental health experiences.

Angel A. McCorkle, a 24 year old black autistic writer who has OCD:

I feel welcome so far, thanks largely to the efforts of other POC being loud and visible and encouraging me to be the same.

Recommendations to Disability Organizations and Communities

Thanks to the rich expertise of our survey’s respondents, they provided the following recommendations on how disability organizations and community at-large can “Get Woke” on race and racism in a respectful and meaningful way:

  • Listen and engage with disabled POC.
  • Don’t expect disabled POC to do the majority of the labor of educating you.
  • Acknowledge white privilege and other forms of privilege throughout your organization’s work/activities.
  • Recognize the pain that disabled POC experience as multiple marginalized people.
  • Do not co-opt, appropriate the civil rights movement or compare it with the disability right movement. Just. Don’t.
  • Build safe spaces for everyone to engage openly and honestly.
  • Do not represent our views without us.
  • Hire disabled POC as staff, consultants, and experts; and treat them as equals, not tokens.
  • Realize diversity means more than a few disabled POC in a room!
  • Examine your policies and practices for implicit bias.
  • Build coalitions with communities of color and other social justice movements that are already doing intersectional work.
  • Support the creation of diverse media by disabled POC.

Check out the quotes below for more specific recommendations from the survey respondents.

How to engage respectfully, listen and learn

Finn, a queer, black, autistic, disability advocate:

Listen to disabled POC and what we’re trying to say about our experiences. Look at posts on hashtags like #DisabilityTooWhite. Read our blog posts. Talk to us in person…And when you reach out, do it respectfully, and not with the attitude that we’re going to be your automatic educators.

 

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “We don't want surface diversity, we want to be seen as equals and have our voices be part of the conversation” —Yolanda. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

Grace Tsao, Asian American woman with a disability:

As a woman of color with a disability I don’t have the privilege of just turning it off or tuning it out when I want to; racism, sexism, and ableism is a constant presence in my life. Allyship needs to be more than just providing support by writing Facebook posts, sending out a tweet, or sharing an article on social media.  It is a start, but not enough…Reach out, care, support…but make it a real part of your life.

Shawn, African-American:

Stop using the black struggle for equal rights (particularly Dr. King) only as moral leverage to drive home arguments for disability rights but fail to reflect upon their own need to practice what they preach.

Angel A. McCorkle, a 24 year old black autistic writer who has OCD:

…earnestly trying to learn and be open. Build spaces that are safe as you can make them so that compassion and truth become second nature. Be sure to know what compassion is and that it is not selective. Self care should come first so that we can be compassionate and mindful at the same time.

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “Non-POC can't speak for us or represent us. Just don't get in our way and we will handle the rest.” —Yolanda. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

Anita Cameron, Black Disabled Lesbian:

Look within and see why you struggle. Make a concerted effort to reach out to us as full partners, not just tokens to be silenced when you don’t want to listen.

Doing “the work” within an organization, movement, or community

Jae Jin Pak, Korean, Disabled, Male, Straight, American:

Reach out and engage with organizations, leaders from different communities of color.  Chose to learn from these leaders, organizations, groups.  Be ready to and wiling [sic] to make changes to policies, practices, staffing, materals [sic], etc based upon feedback to be more approachable to communities of color. Do an self agency/program assessment to learn how privilege and oppressive messages has influenced your day to day operations.

Anonymous, an African-American female, with a disabling illness:

Hire people of color so those voices are heard…Actively seek people of color at all times.  Make your environment one where people of color are safe and welcome even if you currently do not have anyone in the environment.  Do the work.

SD:

…listen and make room for PoC. Holding more panels, webinars and discussions in the community would help significantly. Use social media to engage, make sure venues are accessible to all. Show that you value people with disabilities as more than just an afterthought.

Building coalitions

Lateef McLeod, an educated African American man with cerebral palsy:

People with disabilities must build coalitions with other people of color, all genders, all sexualities, and all economic strata with disabilities to build a more united community with each other. Only when we are united will we make effective change to better our situation.

Need for More Representation of Disabled People of Color

Another major issue that the respondents frequently highlighted was the lack of diverse images of disability in the media.  One thing disability organizations can and should do is support the creation of media by disabled POC that reflects the full range of diversity in our community.

When you don’t see yourself in the media or in images produced by the disability community, you think you don’t count.  White privilege is never knowing what that type of racialized erasure feels like.

Disabled POC who speak out about this have been criticized and harassed online.  Online communities and activism via social media such as #DisabilityTooWhite are creating spaces where these voices are heard and valued.  Below are a few quotes from our respondents about what they want to see in stories, culture, and media:

Mary Lee Vance, Disabled Female Korean Adoptee:

…our stories still are not being shared with the younger generation to the extent possible. It is time to see ourselves reflected, and for them to see themselves reflected.

Jessica Gimeno, person with visible disability + 4 other invisible illnesses:

Needs to be greater representation of people living with psychiatric illnesses…and “visible” disabilities.  Having a disease like bipolar is hard enough but add to that a daily cane or a wheelchair and sometimes it’s hell to be honest.  

Judith Wilson Burkes, Community Disability Advocate and Nonprofit Founder:

Awareness comes from exposure, and the more the conversations are had, the more POCs with disabilities are in the media, in positions of leadership and collaboration, the more the issue becomes something people know, recognize and begin to think about solutions.

Jae Jin Pak, Korean, Disabled, Male, Straight, American:

I also don’t see a lot of multi-cultural, multi-lingual representation in mainstream disability media.  There are some in targeted PSA’s, but not so much in mainstream content.  I’d like to see movement to be more fair representation of the diversity in mainstream disability media.

Heather Watkins, disability advocate, mother, author, blogger, disabled WOC:

As a disabled WOC, our pain, personal needs, comprehensive aspects of living with disabilities aren’t typically recognized on a wide scale nor are we reflected across media landscape and has an impact on how we’re conceptualized.

Rachel Siota, Latina, feminist, and Spoonie warrior, also a proud Planned Parenthood intern:

Everytime I see “inspiring” stories of people living with disabilities, it’s always some white person who “didn’t let their disability stop them!” I’m tired of the inspiration Porn of a white woman who traveled abroad. Where’s the POC folks who already are treated like second class for having darker skin colors and unpronounceable last names? Where’s the representation of POC women battling breast cancer and Latina girls learning to manage their diabetes while learning English at the same time?

Conclusions

The amount of support and participation for the Call for Stories exceeded both of our expectations for this project.  It humbled us dearly to read the candidness of everyone who participated; for some of you, this was the first time you openly disclosed your experiences, and we are very grateful that you decided to use our Call to do so.  Our hearts were full from every experience we read; every one of you gave us so much of yourselves in your accounts, and we are truly indebted in being trusted with your truths and to share them with our community and society.  

 

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 “I am black. I am a woman. I am disabled. I am magic.” —Joi Meyer Brewer. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort. On the lower right-hand side: Full report: RampYouVoice.com DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

The participation level of the Call provided additional proof that it is imperative for ALL disabled experiences to be visible and understood.  For some of our respondents, the over-whiteness of disability has stymied their ability to fully be included and safe in expressing their intersectional voices, and that is a key aspect we wanted to highlight as we observe the 26th anniversary of the ADA.  We cannot claim to be an inclusive, welcoming community when disabled people color are underrepresented, ignored, and feel disconnected from the very space where they should feel safe to be who they are that includes and goes beyond their disabilities.  

If our respondents have taught us anything through sharing their perspectives, it is that we as a community have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us in order for every member to feel validated and empowered in our space.  This need for complete inclusion, acceptance, and empowerment must be multi-level:  from our local, national, and federal organizations and agencies, to those of us doing advocacy work on the ground and online.  The segregation, isolation, and erasure of disabled people of color and our experiences cannot continue, and with projects like #GetWokeADA26, we are one step further to extinguishing such omission within our community.  

We invite you to connect with us through Ramp Your Voice and the Disability Visibility Project or on Twitter.

Time to Get Woke & Stay Woke!

In Solidarity,

Vilissa Thompson @VilissaThompson 

Alice Wong @SFdirewolf

 


*If you reference or quote from this report, please use the suggested citations:

Thompson, V. & Wong, A. (July 26, 2016). #GetWokeADA26: Disabled People of Color Speak Out, Part One. Ramp Your Voice! http://wp.me/p3Ov4P-FA

Thompson, V. & Wong, A. (July 26, 2016). #GetWokeADA26: Disabled People of Color Speak Out, Part Two. Ramp Your Voice! Disability Visibility Project. http://wp.me/p4H7t1-MLn


**Special thanks to artist Mike Mort who created the Wonder Woman image and allowed us to use it for #GetWokeADA26!

 

Light green background with black text that reads: #CripTheVote Twitter Chat Disability, Violence & Public Policy Sunday, July 24, 2016 5:00-6:00 pm EST Details: https://www.facebook.com/CripTheVote/

7/24 #CripTheVote Twitter Chat: Disability, Violence & Public Policy

#CripTheVote Twitter Chat

Disability, Violence & Public Policy

Sunday, July 24, 2016

5:00-6:00 pm EST

Hosted by Andrew Pulrang, Gregg Beratan, and Alice Wong, #CripTheVote Twitter chats explored various policy issues important to people with disabilities this year. For our eighth Twitter chat, we discuss the relationships between disability, violence, and public policy.

You can find the questions for this chat in this post. For some stats and related articles, check out the links below.

In our upcoming chat, violence can encompass the following (and is not limited to):

  • Hate speech
  • Bullying, harassment, abuse (emotional, physical, verbal, social)
  • Microagressions, non-physical violence
  • Physical harm, injuries, pain, and death
  • Forced treatment, restraint, isolation
  • Deprivation and the withholding of services, access, and equipment
  • Institutional and policy-related violence on disabled people

By no means are we experts on violence, but this is an opportunity for us as a community to highlight the issues and stories that matter to us.

This Twitter chat will be archived in Storify for anyone who would like to see it in chronological order at a later date.

This chat may be triggering so please practice self-care. Feel free to take breaks during the chat and ask for help and support if you are distressed.

How to Participate

When the chat begins, check out the live-stream: http://twubs.com/CripTheVote

or search #CripTheVote on Twitter for a series of live-tweets.

Follow @AndrewPulrang @DisVisibility @GreggBeratan on Twitter

Use the hashtag #CripTheVote when you tweet. If you can’t join us on 7/24, feel free to tweet anytime before or after with the hashtag.

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat

Introductory Tweets for 7/24 Twitter Chat

Welcome to our 8th chat! Today, please remember to use the #CripTheVote hashtag when you tweet.

If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripTheVote

Few notes: ‘violence’ in this chat is used broadly, not only about physical force, injury, or death. #CripTheVote

Violence can be insidious, subtle, long-term, or a single incident. It can happen anywhere, anytime. #CripTheVote

For this chat, we’ll talk about violence in terms of certain domains or spheres where they can take place #CripTheVote

We won’t be able to cover all forms of violence or every issue, but we hope it’s a start to a longer discussion. #CripTheVote

When we say ‘disabled people’ we’re talking about all groups. Feel free to speak about specific communities #CripTheVote

For each domain, we’ll ask for your views, stories, potential solutions, recommendations #CripTheVote

If you become distressed or triggered, please engage in self-care and take a break. Sending you all crip hugs in advance! #CripTheVote

Questions for 7/24/16 #CripTheVote Chat

Q1 What are the most important issues regarding violence that concern you as a disabled person? #CripTheVote

Q2 What are some damaging & ableist misconceptions about disabled ppl that perpetuate violence? #CripTheVote

Q3 Any discussion of violence must include white supremacy, intersectionality & inequality. Agree/Disagree? Why? Thoughts? #CripTheVote

When we refer to White Supremacy we are referring to a system of racial oppression NOT organizations like Nazis & the KKK. #CripTheVote

Q4 Have you experienced violence of any kind as a disabled person in public spaces (ex: microaggressions, hate speech/crimes)? #CripTheVote

Q5 Interpersonal violence (families, friends): Impact on disabled ppl? Changes you want to see? Solutions? #CripTheVote

Q6 Violence by caregivers & service providers: Impact on disabled ppl? Changes you want to see? Solutions? #CripTheVote  

Q7 Violence in educational settings (schools/campus): Impact on disabled ppl? Changes you want to see? Solutions? #CripTheVote

Q8 Violence in healthcare settings & institutions (hospitals, prisons, nursing homes): Impact? Changes/solutions? #CripTheVote

Q9 Violence by law enforcement & agents of the state (ex: TSA, police): Impact on disabled ppl? Changes? Solutions? #CripTheVote

Q10 Training & awareness can only go so far. What are the cultural/policy/systemic changes needed to prevent violence? #CripTheVote

Q11 What resources and tools do disabled people have at their disposal to respond to violence in their lives? #CripTheVote

Q12 What do you demand from policymakers & elected officials on this issue? New laws? Data, funding, research? Other?  #CripTheVote

Community-based approaches such as transformative justice is one way to address violence & its roots: http://www.phillystandsup.com/tj.html #CripTheVote

Restorative justice is another example that involves community-based solutions to violence & conflict http://rjoyoakland.org/restorative-justice/ #CripTheVote

These approaches shift “justice as harming” to “justice as healing” and repairs harm by including everyone’s voices #CripTheVote

Q13 How do you define ‘justice’ when it comes to violence toward disabled people? What can be done when the state & law fails? #CripTheVote

This ends our #CripTheVote chat. Many thanks to everyone who participated. Please feel free to continue the convo!

This Twitter chat will be archived in Storify later this evening. Look for the link with the hashtag #CripTheVote

ADDITIONAL LINKS

AVID (Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities) Prison Project  

Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf

Crime Against Persons With Disabilities, 2009–2013 – Statistical Tables (National Crime Victimization Survey)

Violence against adults and children with disabilities (World Health Organization)

The Invisible Hate Crime

2012 National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities The First Report: Victims and Their Families Speak Out

ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) Comments on FDA’s Proposed Ban of Electric Shock Devices  

Disabled cancer patient slammed to the ground by TSA guards, lawsuit claims

What is the current state of the law regarding the use of police force against people with psychiatric disabilities?

How Police Can Stop Shooting People With Disabilities

Does the disability community need a documentary on police brutality from a retired disabled Black cop?

Disabling Incarceration: Connecting Disability to Divergent Confinements in the USA   

Nevada prisons discriminate against inmates with disabilities, HIV, Justice Dept. says   

Texas accused of ignoring mentally disabled in nursing homes  

Little Oversight in Restraint Practices in Special Education  

Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health

#CripTheVote Links

Resources on voting and people with disabilities:

http://disabilitythinking.com/election-2016-cripthevote

#CripTheVote Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/CripTheVote/

A note on language and why we use the term ‘crip’

http://disabilitythinking.com/disabilitythinking/2016/3/28/cripthevote-notes-on-crip

About

#CripTheVote is a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues in the United States, with the hope that Disability takes on greater prominence within the American political landscape.

While #CripTheVote is a nonpartisan project, we understand that many people have already developed preferences for particular candidates. This is great–we only ask that everyone is respectful in their interactions with each other. Our primary focus here is on increasing engagement with disability issues as a part of American politics and on the need for that we are all in agreement!
Please note we do not represent the entire disability community nor would we ever claim to do so. There are many ways to create social change and engaging in conversation is one approach.

Photo of an Asian American woman in a wheelchair holding a white piece of paper that says, "I Vote because...the Medicaid poverty trap needs to end."

Natl Disability Voter Registration Week: Why do you #CripTheVote?

The #CripTheVote campaign invites you to tell us

 why you #CripTheVote!

The REV UP Campaign is coordinating a National Disability Voter Registration Week to increase the political power of people with disabilities while also engaging candidates and the media to recognize the disability community from July 11-15, 2016.

Click this link for an online voter registration form courtesy of RockTheVote!

Check out this article by Sarah Blahovec for more information: National Disability Voter Registration Week Is Coming. Here’s Why It Matters.

From July 11-15, tweet your story with:

“I #CripTheVote because_____________.”

Some things to consider when tweeting:

  • What does political/civic participation mean to you?
  • Why is it important that disabled people get involved politically?
  • What issues are you most concerned about this election?
  • What message do you want to send the candidates and other elected officials about the power of the disability vote?

Below are a few tweets from disabled people for a recent swag giveaway (now concluded) as a sample:

7/14 update: We added a few more tweets from folks this week at the end!

 

Yellow image with the text in black that reads: #KripHopDVP Twitter Chat Disabled Musicians in Hip-Hop, Rap, Jazz & Blues Thursday, July 28, 2016 5 pm Pacific/ 8 pm Eastern Guest host Leroy Moore @kriphopnation & @DisVisibility On the left-hand side of the image is artwork featuring various disabled people of color. Image by: Carina Lomelli

7/28 #KripHopDVP chat: Disabled Musicians in Hip-Hop, Rap, Jazz & Blues

#KripHopDVP Twitter Chat

Disabled Musicians in Hip-Hop, Rap, Jazz & Blues

Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 pm Pacific/ 8 pm Eastern

 

The Disability Visibility Project is proud to partner with Leroy Moore, writer, poet, community activist, and of Founder of Krip-Hop Nation in a conversation about disabled musicians in hip-hop, rap, jazz, & blues.

Krip-Hop Nation is an international network of Hip-Hop & other musicians with disabilities with a few chapters around the world what we call Mcees With Disabilities (MWD) in Germany, UK & Africa. Krip-Hop is a community as well as style of music, an artistic space where people with disabilities can speak out and speak back to the social structures that exclude people based on disability, race, sexuality, and a host of other marginalized identities.

Source: http://kriphopnation.com/krip-hop-nation-will-turn-ten-years-old-in-2017/

Please note this chat will discuss disabled musicians and Black disabled musicians in particular. FYI: while there are many genres of music, we will be focusing on: hip-hop, rap, jazz, & blues.

How to Participate

Follow @kriphopnation @DisVisibility on Twitter

Use the hashtag #KripHopDVP when you tweet. If you can’t join us on 7/28, feel free to tweet anytime before or after with the hashtag.

If you’re new to Twitter chats, check out this explanation of what happens during a chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat

If you don’t use Twitter and want to follow along in real-time, check out the live-stream: http://twubs.com/KripHopDVP

#KripHopDVP Tweets for 7/28 chat

Welcome to our #KripHopDVP chat w/ guest host @kriphopnation! Please remember to use the hashtag when you tweet.

If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #KripHopDVP” Ready? Here we go!

From the beginning, there have always been disabled artists creating work. Some are recognized while others erased from history #KripHopDVP

Q1 Marginalized & oppressed people have always created art. What barriers do disabled musicians face? #KripHopDVP

Q2 Does it matter if you know whether a musician is disabled or not (from past and today)? What additional context does it add? #KripHopDVP

Disabled people have used as entertainment for consumption of non-disabled audiences (ex: museum exhibits, circus sideshows) #KripHopDVP

Q3 What tensions do disabled musicians have to deal w/ about their image/identity, commodification, & the non-disabled gaze? #KripHopDVP

Q4 How does racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia & other -isms impact disabled musicians who are currently ‘trying to make it’? #KripHopDVP

Black musicians historically have been exploited, appropriated, taken for granted & unrecognized. #KripHopDVP

Q5 Who are some of the Black disabled musicians in Jazz and the Blues that history has forgotten about? #KripHopDVP

Q6 Who are some of the Black disabled musicians in Hip-Hop and Rap that we should know more about? #KripHopDVP

Q7 What is the connection between Black disabled musicians in the US with the African diaspora? #KripHopDVP

Q8 In what ways do Black disabled musicians continue the traditional role of the griot, the storyteller/musician/historian? #KripHopDVP

Hip-Hop and Rap has roots in wordplay, truth-telling, fighting the power & social activism. #KripHopDVP

Q9 What issues & stories are disabled rappers highlighting that are unique to the disabled experience? #KripHopDVP

Q10 What’s your reaction when you see non-disabled musicians appropriate disability culture, or use ableist slurs? #KripHopDVP

Q11 Last question: who are some of the disabled musicians you know and love? Share your memories, stories & any links #KripHopDVP

This ends our #KripHopDVP chat! Many thanks to everyone who participated, especially @kriphopnation. Please feel free to continue the convo!

Additional Links

Shanna Collins. (April 9, 2016). It’s Time to Confront the Erasure of Disability in Hip-Hop

Joseph Gentile. (December 5, 2013). Everyone in this Wheelchair Sports Camp Is Stoned and Making Beats

Adelle Platon. (May 4, 2016). 50 Cent Apologizes For Mocking Autistic Airport Employee on Instagram

Dr. James Peterson. (August 18, 2015). Rapper and activist Leroy Moore: disability a neglected part of hip hop, black culture

Leroy Moore. (February 2016). Stevie Wonder’s Activism Can’t Be Laugh/Wash Away

Leroy Moore. (June 1, 2016). New Term Using History Internationally To Come Up With The Present – AfroKrip

Leroy Moore. (June 6, 2016). Grace A. Jerry, What Is Happening In Nigeria, Africa, Activism & Music?

About

Black and white image of a middle-aged Black disabled man wearing a dark shirt, with a cane nearby his hand.

Leroy Moore is an African American writer, poet, community activist, and feminist. He is notable for the creation of Krip Hop – a movement that uses hip-hop music as a means of expression for people with disabilities.  Since the 1990s, he has written the column Illin-N-Chillin for POOR Magazine. Moore is also a co-founder of the disability performance art collective, Sins Invalid. He currently serves as the Chair of the Black Disability Studies Committee for the National Black Disability Coalition.

Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based disability advocate, freelance journalist, television watcher, news junkie, cat lover, and coffee drinker. Currently, she is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Currently she is a co-partner with Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan for #CripTheVote, a non-partisan online campaign encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities. She is also a Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco.

 

White background with black text that reads: #GetWokeADA26 Call for stories: Disabled people of color Ramp Your Voice and Disability Visibility Project. On the left-hand side is an image of a Black Wonder Woman character in a wheelchair. She has rainbow wristbands and a golden lasso by her wheel. Image: Mike Mort @MikeeMort

#GetWokeADA26: Call for Stories by Disabled People of Color

Last year was a milestone anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it turned 25. Just like that, another year has passed and it’s time for re-examination of disability rights in America from the perspective of disabled people of color (POC).

Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, of Ramp Your Voice! and Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project are looking to survey disabled people of color for an upcoming article to be published on July 26, 2016, the 26th anniversary of the ADA.

The survey will ask disabled POC:

  • their reflections on disability rights and the ADA,
  • the unfinished work of the ADA (specifically for disabled people w/ multiple intersectional identities),
  • why talking about racism and ableism matters in the disability community,
  • and how disability organizations and leaders can respectfully and meaningfully collaborate with disabled POC.

How to Participate

People can respond to interview questions here in this Google form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1EsNWEhJ-A7kBigytRerYL9_ZoH9lctjVurZlV3lcVYs/

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #GetWokeADA26 and follow Vilissa @VilissaThompson and Alice @SFdirewolf!

Deadline to participate: Tuesday, July 19, 2016

If you’re curious about the hashtag and what ‘Get Woke’ means, here’s an article that explains the concept:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/134893-what-does-woke-mean-theres-more-to-the-slang-term-than-you-think

Contact

Vilissa:  Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com

Alice: DisabilityVisibilityProject@gmail.com  

About

A young African American woman in a wheelchair. She's sitting outside with trees in the background. She's wearing glasses, a white sleeveless shirt and a black skirt.

Ramp Your Voice! is the brainchild movement of Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, a macro-minded social worker who is on a mission to educate and inform the public & political figures about the plight of people with disabilities, especially women of color with disabilities, in America. 

Purple image with large letters: RYV!

From her website: “I will use Ramp Your Voice! (RYV for short) as a way to spotlight the issues and barriers of people with disabilities, as well as create effective social and political changes to ensure that all people have the ability to succeed and prosper, regardless of their ability, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, educational level, or place of origin.”

Yellow image with black text that says: Unapologetically disabled Disability Visibility Project™, http://DisabilityVisibilityProject.com Twitter icon in the form of a little blue bird, @DisVisibility

Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based disability advocate and Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF. Currently, she is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. She is a co-partner with Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan for #CripTheVote, a non-partisan online campaign encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities. You can find her on Twitter: @SFdirewolf and online: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

Light blue image with black text: #CripLit Twitter Chat Disabled Writers & Disabled Characters Co-hosts: Nicola Griffith @nicolaz & Alice Wong @DisVisibility Saturday, July 23, 2016 4pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

7/23 #CripLit Twitter Chat: Disabled Writers & Disabled Characters

#CripLit Twitter Chat

Disabled Writers & Disabled Characters

Co-hosts: Nicola Griffith @nicolaz & Alice Wong @DisVisibility

Saturday, July 23, 2016

4pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

The Disability Visibility Project is proud to partner with novelist Nicola Griffith in our first ever Twitter chat for disabled writers and writing disabled characters. Nicola Griffith is the creator of the #CripLit series and the DVP is the co-host/supporting partner.

All disabled writers are welcome to participate in the chat but please note we will be discussing fiction. Check the #CripLit hashtag on Twitter for announcements of future chats that will focus on different genres or posts from these two websites:

https://nicolagriffith.com

https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com

How to Participate

Follow @nicolaz and @DisVisibility on Twitter

Use the hashtag #CripLit when you tweet

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan: https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat

If you don’t use Twitter and want to follow along in real-time, check out the live-stream: http://twubs.com/CripLit  

#CripLit Tweets for 7/23 chat

Welcome to our first-ever #CripLit chat! Created by @nicolaz, this chat is for disabled writers & will cover writing disabled characters

If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripLit”

Q1 Please introduce yourself, your areas of interest as a writer, and any links to your work #CripLit

Q2 Do you identify as a disabled writer (or writer w/ a disability)? If so, why? Or do you prefer to be thought of as a writer, period? #CripLit

Q3 Among writers, what groups/communities do you have an affinity towards? Who supports you & your work? #CripLit

Q4 Do you connect with other disabled writers? If yes, why is that important? #CripLit

Q5 Are there disabled writers you love & want to highlight? Please describe and share your faves #CripLit

Q6 Who are some of your favourite disabled characters? Why? #CripLit

Q7 What is your process in developing a character, a disabled one in particular? Describe some disabled characters you created #CripLit

Q8 What tropes and stereotypes are you careful to avoid when constructing disabled stories & characters? #CripLit

Q9 What’s your advice to disabled & non-disabled writers who want to write believable & compelling stories about disabled ppl? #CripLit

Q10 What do you want most in terms of support? Better representation at conferences? (If so, which ones?) Something else? #CripLit

Additional Links

Disability Art, Scholarship and Activism

Nicola Griffith (5/18/16)

Writing Culture Has An Ableism Problem

Denarii Monroe (6/14/16)

Writing program association continues to debate access for members with disabilities

Josh Logue (3/28/16)

About

Nicola Griffith is a native of Yorkshire, England, where she earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defense, fronting a band, and arm-wrestling in bars, before discovering writing and moving to the US. Her immigration case was a fight and ended up making new law: the State Department declared it to be “in the National Interest” for her to live and work in this country. This didn’t thrill the more conservative powerbrokers, and she ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, where her case was used as an example of the country’s declining moral standards.

In 1993 a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis slowed her down a bit, and she concentrated on writing. Her novels are Ammonite (1993), Slow River (1995), The Blue Place (1998), Stay (2002), Always (2007) and Hild (2013). She is the co-editor of the BENDING THE LANDSCAPE series of original short fiction. Her multi-media memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life, is a limited collector’s edition. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in an assortment of academic texts and a variety of journals, including Nature, New Scientist, Los Angeles Review of Books and Out. She’s won the Washington State Book Award, the Tiptree, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, the Premio Italia, Lambda Literary Award (six times), and others.

Source: https://nicolagriffith.com/2014/02/24/about/

Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based disability advocate, freelance journalist, television watcher, news junkie, cat lover, and coffee drinker. Currently, she is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Currently she is a co-partner with Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan for #CripTheVote, a non-partisan online campaign encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities. She is also a Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Under the ocean you see a blue tang fish, a clown fish and an octopus

Finding Dory, Disability Culture, and Collective Access

On June 25th, I saw Finding Dory after reading many positive reviews and recommendations from my disabled friends. I wasn’t disappointed. There was so much to unpack and process when I got home that I decided to write this review/essay.

Finding Dory is film depicts more than disability, it depicts disability culture.*

I tip my crip hat to the artists, writers and directors of this latest gem from Pixar.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Dory, the central character who is a blue tang, in an underwater coral reef.

Warning: Spoilers to Finding Dory, Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3

People with disabilities do not see themselves very often reflected in popular culture with authenticity steeped in the lived experience. Not only are many disabled characters played by non-disabled people; the storytellers are usually non-disabled who craft narratives about disability by using stereotypes and cliched tropes, robbing disabled characters and stories of agency and diversity.

Finding Dory has multiple characters with disabilities that live in the community (the ocean) and in institutions (the aquarium, the quarantine section of the aquarium). The characters are part of ecosystems (the coral reef) integrated with non-disabled aquatic creatures. Best yet, Dory, voiced by Ellen Degeneres, is a disabled character that is front-and-center. She is the hero on a journey.

She saves the day not in spite of but because of her disability.

When was the last time a live-action Hollywood film had this type of disability diversity and this many disabled characters interacting with each other?!?

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." An underwater scene with wide array of diverse sea life: sea turtles, whale shark, beluga whale, blue tang, octopus, manta ray, clownfish and other small creatures.

3 ways Finding Dory kept it real about the disability experience

#1: Parental anxiety and support

We see Dory as a young Pacific Regal Blue tang with her parents, Jenny and Charlie, voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Underwater coral reef in the background with two royal blue tang fish

Jenny and Charlie are patient parents who help Dory to be upfront about her disability, encouraging her to practice, “Hi, my name is Dory and I suffer from short-term memory loss.” Not a fan of the term “suffer” but anyhoo…Seeing the group of little tangs swimming nearby, I think Jenny and Charlie were preparing Dory as she planned to venture out to socialize with her peer group.  We also see Jenny and Charlie help Dory with her memory by using songs and accommodations such as seashells that enable her to find her way home.

Jenny and Charlie are like many parents of kids with disabilities:

  • They worry about her future
  • They teach her life skills that she will need
  • They are protective about Dory and her safety (“Watch for the undertow!”)
  • They show joy and love of Dory being Dory

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Two parents who are blue tang fish embracing their little baby fish in the center.

I got very verklempt near the end of the film when Dory was reunited with her parents. Jenny and Charlie re-constructed their environment with rows of shells radiating from their home in the hopes that Dory will find her way back. When I saw the wide shot of their home and the long rows of seashells like streaming sun beams, I thought about Jenny and Charlie’s dedication and labor. They had every confidence that Dory would find them–they did their best at preparing Dory for the outside world and believed in her abilities. I teared up thinking about my parents and the sacrifices they made for me, such as purchasing a van with a lift (no small feat for a middle class family) and various modifications to our home when I started using an electric wheelchair.

#2: Social Exclusion and Ableism

Pixar kept it real, yo! There are the warm fuzzies and SO many feels that are de rigueur for every. Single. Pixar. Film. The filmmakers balanced the feels with moments of cruelty in Finding Dory in the form of Fluke and Rudder, the two sea lions that Marlin and Nemo encounter during their search for Dory.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Two sea lions on a rock talking to two small clownfish.

Fluke and Rudder (voiced by former cast members from The Wire Iris Elba and Dominic West) are oafish bros who occupy a prime piece of rock real estate near the aquarium. Fluke and Rudder love to sleep and guffaw in a Cockney accent. They help Marlin and Nemo get into the aquarium by calling Becky the loon to transport them via pail of water.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Gerald the sea lion in a kelp bed holding a green plastic pail in his mouth.

Fluke and Rudder get the pail by luring in Gerald, a non-verbal sea lion who is clearly a sea lion that’s on the fringes of his social group. Gerald looks a bit goofy with his bushy eyebrows and wide-eyed expression and it reinforces his lower status within a larger hierarchy where verbal and physical ability is privileged. Fluke and Rudder bullies Gerald, taking his pail and aggressively pushing him off their rock. They pretend to include Gerald, but then they bray in their loutish sea lion voices, “Off, off, off,” chasing him from their territory.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Two large sea lions staring down at another 'goofy' looking sea lion.

 

The treatment of Gerald didn’t go unnoticed. My friend Heather Ure, a “neurodivergent femme-writer-mom” according to her Twitter bio, tweeted:

I relate to Gerald intensely, his wanting to be accepted and being taken advantage of by faux friends/allies. I was angry for Gerald but was delighted to see him in a scene after the credits where he manages to nestle himself on the rock behind Rudder and Fluke and gives a bit of a snicker. He does have agency and is tenacious in getting his place in the sun.

Isn’t that what we all want and deserve at the end of the day, a rock of one’s own and the warmth of the sun?

In another example of ableism, Marlin the clownfish, voiced by Albert Brooks, did a lot of male fishsplaining in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. Some of it was subtle and came in the form of microaggressions to Dory (when he subtly tried to dissuade Dory from attending Nemo’s field trip because the teacher didn’t want to worry about her safety in case she wandered) and more explicit instances when he blamed Dory for their predicament due to her disability.

 

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Image of Becky the loon, a bird with black and white feathers with white spots and a large red eyeball.

When Fluke and Rudder call Becky, Marlin takes one look at her ‘eccentric’ appearance and automatically discounts her abilities. Marlin’s inability to trust the disabled animals in his life and presume competence leads them into more danger. His doubts of Becky and insistence that he knows what to do is called out by Nemo, his son with a disabled fin.

Only after Nemo points out Marlin’s ableism does he flip the script and ‘thinks like Dory’ as a way to find a creative solution. This is a clear celebration of neurodiversity and neurodivergence. Heather Ure tweeted:

Writer David Chen commented on Finding Dory‘s disability hierarchy in an article where he described both Gerald and Becky:

…it separates animals who are able to speak from those who can’t. The animals who can speak have inner lives, go on adventures, have the ability to help others, possess emotional richness, and generally feel and act like full human beings…Both of these characters feel like cheap jokes. For the kids that are in the audience, they send a pretty clear message: It’s okay to laugh at people who are different, or who aren’t as smart as you are.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." A loon with black and white feathers with her head stuck inside a popcorn container

To me, this is part of the disability experience of many people: ableism, social exclusion, discrimination, and segregation. You can laugh, celebrate, feel distressed and disturbed, and think critically at the same time. This is what great art does.

I’m glad the filmmakers included those scenes of ableist mistreatment of Gerald and Becky. I cringed during those scenes but I could appreciate the spectrum of the social experience of disabled people. It’s not all happy endings and the struggle is totes real.

There will always be playground bullies and people who underestimate you. Many disabled people know these subtle and not-so-subtle signs when we are not welcome or accepted: the long sighs, the eye-rolls, the sudden change of plans, the concerns about safety or accommodations, the ‘accidental’ exclusion to a party or meeting, etc.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Dory, a regal blue tang fish looks pensive and sad.

Dory may have memory loss, but she can sense frustration by others as if she’s a burden to them. In fact, she blames herself for losing her parents and apologizes constantly to everyone for simply existing and asking for help (i.e., internalized ableism).

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Underwater scene where a clownfish is talking to a blue tang. The blue tang looks confused.

The characterization of Gerald and Becky may result in laughs by some in the audience but this could also serve as an opportunity for adults and children to reflect and wonder, “Why did I laugh when Gerald was pushed in the water? Why is it ok to judge Becky’s abilities based on her looks?”

Pixar films have never shied away from the harsh realities of life. Even with animated films geared for children or featuring young characters, it is a misconception that these films must be positive and idealistic in their storylines and characterization. Think Studio Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro and the moments of violence in Finding Nemo (the death of Coral, Nemo’s mother) or heartbreak and rejection in Toy Story 3 (Lotso the bear being replaced and forgotten).

#3: Collective Access

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." A whale shark, beluga whale saying hello underwater to a small blue tang.

The scene that screamed disability culture to me was the one where Destiny (a whale shark with myopia voiced by Kaitlin Olson), Bailey (a beluga whale with a head injury voiced by Ty Burrell) worked together to provide access for Dory who needed someone to guide her through the pipes to find her parents. Dory communicated her needs. Destiny heard her and relayed them Bailey, encouraging him to attempt echolocation.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Underwater scene where a beluga whale has his fins to his head trying to use echolocation. A whale shark is next to him watching.

Bailey is able to echolocate Dory’s location in the pipe system, relays directions to Destiny, and Destiny speaks to Dory in whale (the language of access through pipes) guiding her all the way with a slight detour into Marlin and Dory.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." Underwater scene where Destiny the whale shark is speaking inside a pipe. A beluga whale is separated by iron bars next to her.

Patty Berne, Co-Founder and Director of Sins Invalid, described collective access in a June 10, 2015 blog post as one of ten principles of disability justice:

…we value exploring and creating new ways of doing things that go beyond able-bodied/minded normativity. Access needs do not need to be held in shame — we all have various capacities which function differently in various environments…We can share responsibility for our access needs without shame, we can ask our needs be met without compromising our integrity, we can balance autonomy while being in community, we can be unafraid of our vulnerabilities knowing our strengths are respected.

Get a bunch of disabled people together and witness the collective access organically takes place. This isn’t the kind of access mandated by law or provided by an entity or the state. Collective access is community-based and relies on each person’s talents and abilities in a web of interdependence and understanding. It feels good to see people use what they have and share it with others.  I love it when I can provide access to a disabled friend in my own small way like typing or reaching for something. And there’s no hesitation or worry about asking my friends for help because they get it, no lengthy explanation or apologies required.

The scenes of collective access in Finding Dory fill me with such pride and solidarity for these disabled animated sea creatures.

Disabled life forms, doing it for themselves. Each in their own way!!

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." A triptych of 3 characters: Becky the loon, Dory the blue tang, and Bailey the beluga whale

Another two demonstrations of collective access occurs when Hank the septopus (voiced by Ed O’Neill) moves the baby stroller through the aquarium w/ Dory inside a sippy cup.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." A cupholder of a baby stroller with a sippy cup that has a blue tang inside.He’s near the ground navigating while Dory reads the signage and gives him directions.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." An image of a outdoor crowd with a baby stroller with an octopus and a sippy cup with a blue fish inside.

Dory does the same when they hijack a truck (you have to see it to believe it) and Hank’s tentacles are on the pedals and wheel. Collective access, ya’ll!

Final Random Thoughts

  • As a wheelchair user, I laughed out loud when Hank stole the truck and said, “Suck it, bipeds!” This is something I’ve uttered a million times.
  • Another major theme is about building families–both chosen families and biological ones.
  • Hank reads to me as an someone with trauma in addition to being an amputee since he does not want to be touched.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." In an aquarium, a blue tang fish is in a fishtanks looking at an octopus staring on top of a kitchen counter

  • It’s nice to see Marlin embrace and respect Dory not out of gratitude (she played a larger role in saving Nemo) but because of who she is by the end of the movie.
  • The ending is wonderful when Dory accepts credit for everything she’s accomplished. She is content and comfortable in her own scales.
  • Note: I am not exactly sure who voiced the roles of Gerald and Becky. In one wiki, Torbin Xan Bullock is listed the voice of Becky. In imdb.com, the same actor is listed as the voice of Gerald.

Like science fiction and fantasy, animation gives flexibility and space for new ways of telling stories and depicting characters. Perhaps that is one reason why Finding Dory is a massively better movie about disability and disability culture without explicitly being framed as one.

An animated scene from the Pixar film "Finding Dory." A coral reef with a blue tang fish talking to several smaller sea creatures and a manta ray

 

About

Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based disability advocate and Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF. Currently, she is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. She is a co-partner with Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan for #CripTheVote, a non-partisan online campaign encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities. You can find her on Twitter: @SFdirewolf and online: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com

*Footnote: Disability culture is described by scholar Steven E. Brown as:

People with disabilities have forged a group identity.  We share a common history of oppression and a common bond of resilience.  We generate art, music, literature, and other expressions of our lives and our culture, infused from our experience of disability.  Most importantly, we are proud of ourselves as people with disabilities.  We claim our disabilities with pride as part of our identity. We are who we are:  we are people with disabilities.

Other articles/blog posts about Finding Dory

‘Finding Dory,’ Disability, and Me

Elizabeth Picciuto, June 19, 2016, Daily Beast

The One Thing That Bothered Me About ‘Finding Dory’

David Chen, June 19, 2016, SlashFilm.com

‘Finding Dory’ isn’t just about disability — it’s about community and support

Stacia L. Brown, June 24, 2016, The Washington Post

 

#CripTheVote hashtag in rainbow colors with different letters in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple against a white background. On the right of the hashtag is an image of a ballot box.

#CripTheVote Swag Giveaway!

Now more than ever it’s important to show pride for all of our identities and communities that make up who we are.

To celebrate Pride month, we’re announcing a #CripTheVote Swag Giveaway.

How it works:

  • Tweet “I #CripTheVote because [fill in the blank].” Example:

  • Feel free to include a photo with your tweet if you want!
  • The first 15 Tweets will win. Each winner will have their choice of one sheet of the following stickers below.
  • Winners will be contacted via Twitter by @SFdirewolf.
  • Be sure to check out our t-shirts and temporary tattoos for sale (not part of the giveaway).
  • Please note: #CripTheNote co-partners are NOT profiting from these sales. The royalties (5%) will go to the artist who created these images for us, Mike Mort.

Have Fun and Start Tweeting!

#CripTheVote Swag Giveaway Choices:

 

Additional #CripTheVote Swag For Sale:

 

 

Graphic that has the letters: DIS in large capital letters with each letter in red, orange, and yellow. Below is the text in black: disability intersectionality summit

Disability & Intersectionality Summit: Interview w/ Sandy Ho

I’m personally thrilled to interview a good friend of mine, Sandy Ho. Please check out the Disability and Intersectionality Summit that she’s organizing in Boston later this year on November 5, 2016! –Alice

Image of Sandy Ho, a young Asian American woman in a wheelchair, outdoors on a sunny day. She is wearing sunglasses.

Tell me a little about yourself and your background as a disability advocate.

Sandy: I’m a queer Asian American woman who is a wheelchair user with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (O.I.), and I am also someone who is hard of hearing. I was born, raised, and educated in Massachusetts. My introduction into disability advocacy stemmed from a blog I had 5 or 6 years ago where I reflected on growing-up with O.I. as the sole representative of disability within my family. As I wrote more about my own experiences I connected with other folks with O.I., but it was really when I began asking more probing questions that usually began with “why?” and “how come?” that my curiosity around disability led me to a whole constellation of disability advocates who helped me connect the dots to figure out some of my own answers. My experiences as a young person trying to figure out where she belonged within the larger disability community naturally led me to get involved around advocacy efforts for other disabled young women. I got involved with the Thrive Mentoring Program, and my work around mentorship for disabled young women was really where and when I began to consider myself a disability advocate. 

Photo from an overhead perspective of a bunch of young women with disabilities,many in wheelchairs, all wearing purple t-shirts, they formed a female symbol

I first learned about you through your Letters to Thrive tumblr that I absolutely love. You were kind enough to re-publish a letter of mine. One thing that excited me is that you are another Asian American disabled woman who is proud of all her identities. Do you ever feel that way when you meet other disabled women of color?

Sandy: Thank you for letting me republish that letter! And absolutely! It wasn’t until I first came across you, and your openness to be a collaborator, ‘older sister’, supporter, and co-schemer that I honestly didn’t even realize what had been absent from my understanding of disability. It took a lot of exposure to multiple identities within the disability community for me to begin to feel comfortable engaging in disability justice work. And as frustrating, draining, and head-against-the-wall-banging that work can sometimes be – it is a place where I know I can also recharge and always be proud because of the people I know I’m surrounded by be it in physical body, or in the work they’re doing. Sometimes I come across articles that talk about how women in the work place need to be encouraged to “lean in” or “speak up” etc etc. But the disabled women of color that I know? We *are* the ones who tend to be making the most noise, looking after one another, facilitating connections, teaching, sounding the bullshit alarm, or sticking their necks out.

Why is it important that Asian Pacific Americans w/ disabilities connect with one another? What’s missing in terms of the disability community and diverse populations?

Sandy: It’s important that we connect with one another because if we don’t we won’t know what we are missing, or who we are leaving behind. And since Asian Pacific Americans are one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. alone, it stands to reason that those with disabilities in this community should not only be out front and center within the APA community, but also those who are leading the conversations in connecting with other marginalized communities as well. If we can’t find solidarity, action, support, and mobility among each other – then it’s going to be doubly more of a challenge to get any political, social, economic, and other objectives met.

What does intersectionality mean to you? Why is it important to have an intersectional approach with every type of community organizing/movement building?

Sandy: Intersectionality means the consideration and acceptance of every facet of a person’s identity, and existence. Whether that’s race, gender, class, sexual preference, sexual identity, disability, or immigration status – the point of intersectionality is not just to understand where and how an individual came to their experiences, but the question of “why?” Because when we ask the question “why” in the context of intersectionality, I think that’s when the excitement, the work, the action, and the justice work begins to fall into place. It’s important to have an intersectional approach with every type of movement building because no type of justice work can be done if we approach building movements in a vacuum. Movements and communities involve people, people are complex and it’s not a complexity that needs to be apologized, hidden, or ashamed about. It’s a complexity that we have the responsibility to address and understand; I think it’s critical that intersectionality is utilized to preserve the health of any community and society.

Image of Sandy Ho, a young Asian American woman in a wheelchair in front of a stage at the White House. Behind her is a long table with a blue tablecloth and a large television screen showing the logo of the White House.

You are the organizer of the Disability & Intersectionality Summit which will be held in Boston on November 5, 2016. How did you come up with the idea and what were the challenges in getting this conference up and running?

Sandy: I am but one of the organizers! I think it’s important to note that I’m not doing this alone, and more importantly I have a steering committee of all disabled advocates who include yourself from CA, Maryland, NY, and D.C. I came up with this idea because I was a bit tired of watching TED talks that featured disabled people who were primarily white, upper middle class, and many of them spoke from that same “over coming” or “adapting” disability narrative that is very limiting. It is also not very helpful that TED markets itself as “ideas worth spreading” but at least when it comes to the disability narratives that are predominantly on their platform, it’s not the only idea worth spreading when it comes to disability experiences. So I asked myself what is missing from the disability narrative. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out because the answers were so blatantly obvious! Disabled people of color, those of various sexual identities and preferences, disabled people of various immigrant status, people with the types of disabilities who are not traditionally given a stage to speak from, disabled immigrants, older folks and youth with disabilities, etc etc. One of the challenges was the uncertainty of the idea to begin with. I have had this idea for at least a year before I put it into action and set out a needs assessment to the larger community. I didn’t know if this was an event that would be needed? I didn’t know if it was an event that would be received well? I didn’t know if it was something that would just be redundant? And I didn’t know if this was an event that already existed in some other way. So, it goes to show I think, that while I consider myself to know a lot of fellow advocates who are of multiply marginalized identities and talk / write / present on intersectionality, I still am not exposed to many opportunities or events that are bringing folks together for the purpose of discussing, and exploring disability and intersectionality.

Image of Sandy Ho, a young Asian American woman in a wheelchair. On her left is Judy Heumann, an older white woman in a wheelchair.

What’s the response like so far from the disability community? What kinds of presentations and topics are people submitting? How are you working on outreach to multiple communities?

Sandy: Nothing but enthusiasm! I…know that the number of proposals submitted is 21 as of the last time I checked. I want to wait before I see the proposals submitted until we review them all together with the rest of the steering committee.

I was honestly shocked by the excitement the summit has generated on Facebook, Twitter, sharing it on email list-serves, word of mouth, and in-person meetings! One of my favorite aspects of event coordination is meeting all of the people who are interested, those want to collaborate, and others who want to engage and are curious to learn more. I’m trying my best to be open to answering anyone’s questions, but I’m also relying on my steering committee to get the word out to their own communities as well!

Are there certain groups, issues, and types of presentations that you haven’t seen yet that you’re hoping to see?

Sandy: I guess not having seen any of the proposals yet I can’t really answer this question. But I do hope that people also see this as not just an opportunity to educate and speak to the general public, but also to the larger disability community. I think there’s a lot that our own disability community needs to work on within itself and sometimes when we are so busy trying to change perceptions “out there” we may forget we can also learn from each other. So I hope that people who are submitting proposals also keep that in mind too!

Tell me about the art exhibit that is part of the summit–why did you decide to include artwork by disabled artists?

Sandy: In the many conversations I have had with people about this event, one of the things I’ve learned is what intersectionality is. People have different ideas and understandings about it. Some of them I have learned from, and others I have hopefully tried to expand upon. But the point is that intersectionality can be a difficult concept to define, and interpret, and understand. There’s so many ways to express an idea or an experience – and if that’s what the stage for speakers will be about, then I also want to bring that stage and opportunity to disabled artists! The art exhibit is in collaboration with VSA MA, and we are accepting artwork (2D and multimedia formats) from disabled artists who can express intersectionality through an artistic medium. The exhibit will be running from September 1st – November 12th.

What’s your timeline like this fall as the summit approaches? What kinds of preparations are you working on this summer for this event?

Sandy: Right now I’m doing a lot of outreach whether it’s for funding, or potential speakers who want to know more about the summit. And looking ahead towards the summer I’m going to be focusing more on envisioning what the actual speaker program will be like, and coming up with a rubric for how the steering committee will evaluate the speaker proposals to choose our final speakers! We will also be evaluating the art submissions that will be going into the art exhibit. I’m really excited about this experience because I have never curated an art gallery before, but I can’t wait to start the discussion and learn from them when it comes to art work and intersectionality.

Photo of a wide view of a large meeting space with people with disabilities in a large circle.

What are some ways you are ensuring this event will be as accessible as possible? If there are people who want to participate or view presentations, is there going to be a live-stream available?

Sandy: We will have ASL and CART present. We also want to keep in mind financial barriers and will have tickets be on a sliding scale of some amount (stay tuned for more info on that!) We will also have the talks video taped to be streamed online for folks who are not able to be participants in person.

Anything else you’d like to share with me about the Summit?

Sandy: I’m eager and anxious for this event! Eager because I know that the disability community will not disappoint me in what we bring to the table for this event. I am anxious because while I do have an idea and vision in my mind, I am also aware that I have to allow this event to take the shape it needs to take, which may not be what I initially had in mind. I want this to be an event and experience that multiply marginalized people in the disability community can look to and say something like “I see myself in this program of speakers.” If one person can say that after this event, I’ll have accomplished what I had envisioned.

Additional info

Disability & Intersectionality Summit: Call for Proposals (Deadline September 1, 2016)

Disability & Intersectionality Summit:Call for Art (Deadline July 1, 2016)

Twitter: @DIS_DPC