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."

Disability Visibility in Election 2016: The #CripTheVote Campaign

Alice Wong, Co-Partner in #CripTheVote and Founder and Project Coordinator of the Disability Visibility Project™, created a video presentation for the opening panel of the Disability Rights Bar Association West Coast Conference“Intersectionality and Oppression: A Day of Cross-Movement Coalition Building and Skill Sharing.”

The title of the talk is “Disability Visibility in Election 2016: The #CripTheVote Campaign” for the opening panel, “Using Social Media to Forward Civil Rights Movements,” that will take place on October 20, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.

Thank you to Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan, #CripTheVote co-partners, for their support!

Below the clip you will find the full text transcript and image descriptions featured in the video.


Hi, my name is Alice Wong and I love social media. I use it in my personal life and in my work as an activist. I’d like to thank Michelle Uzeta for inviting me to talk with you today. I can’t be there in person, but I prepared a short video presentation instead. And by the way, images in this video are described in detail in my PowerPoint slides.

I’ll be talking about my involvement in Crip The Vote and our campaign’s usage of social media, how people are using our hashtag to advance political participation and voting rights, and some final lessons learned so far in our 10 months of existence.

[Graphic with a white background. In the center is a voting box with a marked ballot and the box has 4 quadrants with pictures of a wheelchair, 2 hands signing, a person using a cane and image of a person’s brain. The word “#CripTheVote” is below that image.]

I’m the founder of the Disability Visibility Project™, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. You can check out my website at Disability Visibility Project dot com.

I’m also a co-partner in Crip The Vote, a nonpartisan online campaign to engage people in a productive discussion about disability issues during this Presidential election.

[Rectangular graphic with a white background. In the center is a voting box with a marked ballot and the box has 4 quadrants with pictures of a wheelchair, 2 hands signing, a person using a cane and image of a person’s brain. The word “#CripTheVote” is to the left of that image.]

Here are images of my co-partners, Andrew Pulrang on the left and Gregg Beratan on the right. This is from a recent Google hangout when we gave a presentation at a voting summit for disabled youth in Sacramento.

[Two screengrabs from Google hangouts overlapping one another in the slide. The one on the left is of an older white man with short brown hair and eyeglasses. He is wearing a purple turtleneck and wearing earbuds in his ears. He has a graphic across the image that reads: Andrew Pulrang, #CripTheVote @AndrewPulrang

On the right is the image of a middle-aged white man with brown hair and a beard. He is wearing glasses and a dark colored shirt. He has a graphic that reads: Gregg Beratan, #CripTheVote @GreggBeratan. Below that image you can see smaller squares showing Andrew and another participant in the google chat, Alice Wong.]

The mission of the Crip The Vote is three-fold: to encourage disabled people to become politically active; to amplify the voices of people with disabilities and the issues they care about; and to share our views on disability policies to the public.

Crip The Vote’s activities take place primarily on Twitter. We also have a Facebook group with our events and updates. We chose this approach for the following reasons:

  1. It takes a lot of resources and energy to organize in-person events
  1. We can have conversations with a wide range of people with disabilities by using the hashtag itself and scheduled Twitter chats on specific issues
  1. It’s relatively easy to use social media and doesn’t require any special training or preparation and
  1. For three people who don’t do this for a living or with any professional connections to the political world, Twitter is one direct and public way to insert ourselves into the broader policy and election conversation

The strength of Crip The Vote is in creating spaces for our community. We believe online campaigns can go hand-in-hand with grassroots community organizing. We may not be involved in specific direct actions or protests, but we have motivated people to register to vote or engage with civil society for the first time. This can have a fantastic ripple effect when shared on social media. We also realize that social media is not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok! Using social media is a privilege and we recognize that.

There simply isn’t enough intersectional disability representation in media. I’ll describe some of our activities and how Crip The Vote advances political participation, disability rights and voting rights with an intersectional approach.

We’ve hosted 10 Twitter chats this year on topics such as storytelling, mass incarceration, long-term services and supports, violence, voting rights, and voter suppression. These chats ask questions that recognize the intersectional experiences of complex disabled lives—that we’re not from a monolithic white majority of wheelchair users and that multiply marginalized disabled people experience disability differently.

Here are a few tweets from our June 18th chat on mass incarceration, disability and the legal system with guest host T.L. Lewis, an attorney, professor, and activist:

Emmanuel AM Sam tweeted:

The criminalization of poor people happens at the hashtag intersectionality of race, class & gender. It breaks than building. Hashtag Crip The Vote.

Lydia X.Z. Brown tweeted:

Police assume atypical communication is noncompliance, can be deadly for disabled people of color. Hashtag Crip The Vote.

T.L. Lewis tweeted:

Women with an x, Indigenous, Black, QTPOC folx are disproportionately affected by poverty & disability. With that the hashtag Bail Trap is set. Hashtag Crip The Vote.

These are just a few examples that highlight the rich and powerful perspectives shared during our chats. Most discussions during this Presidential election about mass incarceration haven’t touched on any of these important aspects. To document our work, all of our Twitter chats are Storified and can be found here at: storify dot com slash SF direwolf

[Screengrab of Alice Wong’s Storify page, just the top section. There is a horizontal background of blue polka dots and the lower half of the image is all white. On the left-hand side is a small square profile picture of an Asian American woman drinking coffee with a straw. She’s wearing glasses and has a jacket on. The text in the image reads: alice wong SFdirewolf 73 stories 21 followers 1 following. Below that row of text is additional text that reads: 
San Francisco, CA
Alice Wong Unrepentant night owl. Obscene consumer of tv, food & news. Runs @DisVisibility Project, A Community Partnership w/ @StoryCorps There is a green +Follow button on the right-side of the image.]

Earlier I mentioned storytelling as the topic of one of our chats. Crip The Vote recently partnered with Rooted in Rights, a non-profit that produces videos and social media campaigns exclusively on disability rights.

If you want to see some CripTheVote stories, check out Rooted in Rights dot org slash videos slash voting slash crip the vote stories.

[A screengrab from the Rooted in Rights website. At the top you see the navigation tabs for Rooted in Rights such as About, Videos, Podcast, Blog, Hire Us and Donate.

Below that are the words: #CripTheVoteStories. In the center there is a large graphic with a white background. In the center is a voting box with a marked ballot and the box has 4 quadrants with pictures of a wheelchair, 2 hands signing, a person using a cane and image of a person’s brain. The word “#CripTheVoteStories” is below that image with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow)]

We invited people to create videos about the importance of political engagement and voting in their lives with Crip The Vote Stories. We received several submissions and here are a screenshots of 3 videos produced by Rooted in Rights featuring active members of the Crip The Vote community: Hamza Jaka, Michele Kaplan, and Vilissa K. Thompson.

[Screenshot of a Tweet by @RootedInRights: “The 1st of #CripTheVoteStories comes from @HamzaAJaka urging us to #CripTheVote this fall. Full visual descr.:

Below the text is a graphic: Logo of #CripTheVoteStories with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow) an image of a young man of color with dark Black hair and a short-sleeved white t-shirt. He’s sitting in an upholstered chair and speaking to the camera. Below is a video player that allows a person to press play.]

[Screenshot of a Tweet by @RootedInRights: “The 2nd #CripTheVoteStories video from @RebelWheelsNYC highlighting the power of the local vote. Full visual descr.:

Below the text is a graphic: Logo of #CripTheVoteStories with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow) an image of a young White woman in a wheelchair wearing glasses and speaking to the camera. Below is a video player that allows a person to press play.]

[Screenshot of a Tweet by @RootedInRights: “Final #CripTheVoteStories vid. w/ @VilissaThompson reminder: Your vote matters, our vote matters. Full visual descr.:

Below the text is a graphic: Logo of #CripTheVoteStories with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow) an image of a young African American woman speaking to the camera. Below is a video player that allows a person to press play.]

Throughout the entire campaign, my co-partners and I consistently highlight the stories of disabled people of color since the disability rights movement is often whitewashed in the media.

Everyday it’s a delight to scroll through the hashtag—there are many folks who see Crip The Vote as a place online for them to express their culture and pride.

Lauren Tuchman tweeted: “I just cast my first independent ballot using a fully accessible voting machine. I am totally blind. It felt awesome. Hashtag CripTheVote”

On instagram, perfecthannah posted a selfie with her fingers crossed and an “I Voted” sticker on the lapel of her shirt. Her post said: “Obligatory sticker selfie & Here’s to November!

Hashtag I voted today

Hashtag Locals Only

My peoples:

Hashtag Crip The Vote

Hashtag No Justice for Natives

no melanin/no question:

Hashtag Black lives matter

Hashtag La gente unida

When we first started this January, we had no idea if people would embrace Crip The Vote or whether the hashtag would take off, but it did. One thing we know for sure is that our project will continue well after Election Day. Here are a few lessons learned during our first 10 months:


  1. Collaborate with others

Being open and partnering with others with specific expertise and skill sets is one major lesson learned from our campaign so far. Having guest hosts for our Twitter chats like TL Lewis re-shaped our thinking about mass incarceration. Collaborating with other disability rights organizations like Rooted in Rights helped our campaign extend its reach, diversity, and ability to engage on multiple platforms. Andrew, Gregg, and I run Crip the Vote without any funding or infrastructure and much of our support comes from the community.

  1. Don’t micromanage or feed the trolls

Another lesson learned is not to micromanage how people are using the Crip the Vote hashtag. It belongs to everyone—we have very little control over the conversations and that’s the way it should be. We’ve had a few times when people tried to derail the conversation into partisanship, but we resisted hammering on them. We just repeated our purpose and most of them got the message. Here is a meme of Yoda from Star Wars with the quote: “Do or Do Not. There is no try.” As for feeding the trolls, let’s all be a little more like Yoda and choose not to feed the trolls.

[A meme of Yoda, a character from Star Wars. Yoda has a green non-human creature with pointy ears and green skin and fuzzy white hair. He has a shroud over his small body. At the top of the image are the words, “DO OR DO NOT” and at the bottom of the image are the words “THERE IS NO TRY.” In small print on the right-lower corner is:]

  1. Invest time and labor in engagement

It takes a lot of work to build an online community—you can’t convince people to use a particular hashtag—they have to see the value in it. Support for an online campaign has to happen organically in order for it to have longevity and credibility. With that said, there’s a lot of care, time, and labor that creates the conditions allowing a community to flourish. Andrew, Gregg and I are on Twitter and Facebook everyday engaging with folks, sharing information and links, and answering questions. Our main goal is to keep the conversation as nonpartisan and focused on disability issues as possible. By being available and responsive, I hope people regard our campaign as an authentic and thoughtful one.

Identity and storytelling are essential elements for movement building. Social media can facilitate both. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network tweeted: “When people with disabilities consider themselves part of a group, they take action, such as through Hashtag CripTheVote”

To conclude, civil rights movements and other disability rights and disability justice movements can use social media as a tool to organize and identify communities within communities. In the case of Crip the Vote, it does the following:

Gives people a name and space for their stories and voices

Gives people a way to initiate dialogue with candidates about disability issues from the perspective of disabled people

Gives people a sense of ownership and identity—that we belong to this significant body of voters that is tired of being taken for granted and ignored.

As a final example, here’s a photo of me that I tweeted holding a sign that says, “I vote because the Medicaid poverty trap needs to end.” I hope you’ll consider joining us, whether it’s just reading Crip The Vote Tweets or participating in our upcoming chats or live-tweets.

[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.” A graphic that has a word bubble is right above the photo with the word: “Thanks” inside the bubble.]

For more about Crip the Vote, go to Andrew Pulrang’s website:

Disability thinking dot com slash election hyphen 2016 hyphen crip the vote

If you have any questions or feedback you can email me at:

Disability Visibility Project at gmail dot com

Or find me on Twitter at SF direwolf d-i-r-e-w-o-l-f










#CripTheVote Interview: Thida Cornes for Mountain View City Council

On Election Day this November 8th, there will be local and state elections in addition to the one for President. Local elections are just as important as national ones. In Northern California, there is one election with a person with a disability as candidate.

As Co-Partner of #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online campaign encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities, Alice Wong interviewed Thida Cornes, Parks and Rec Commissioner and Candidate for Mountain View (California) City Council about her campaign. For more about Thida Cornes, go to her website:


Photo by Hyperfocus Photography. Source:

According to your website, your involvement in politics started from your role as a concerned parent when your son fell at a park. Before you served in the Parks and Recreation Commission in Mountain View, were you always interested in politics and civic participation as a kid?

Thida: Yes, I was interested in studying politics. I majored in Political Science at Bryn Mawr College. I also was politically active in college, marching on Washington for LBGQ rights and as a woman of color. However,  I never wanted to be a politician (they all seemed white male and macho) until I got involved in politics in Mountain View and met some women who were members of City Council.

In the Meet Thida section of your website, you mention your disability in the very first paragraph which is wonderful. There probably are many elected officials with disabilities but they do not disclose for fear of being ‘unelectable’ or for personal reasons. Do you think it’s important that people are open about their disability? Why does it matter to voters? Why should it matter to the candidate?

Thida: While I think it’s an individual’s choice whether to discuss their own disability, I think in general we need more discussion about disability. Being open about your disability is still like coming out as LBGQ was fifteen years ago and has risks as well as rewards.

I appreciate and admire the politicians and actors who are very visible like Tammy Duckworth and Michael J Fox. But I have no judgement about people who find it too risky.

For myself, I made the decision to be visible when I got a service dog. I also move differently than many people but that was fairly invisible to most people. However, as I’m new to running for office, my movements can become more evident.

I’d rather voters hear from me what that is about rather than someone making up their own reasons. I also have a reputation for being direct. Even so I find people are hesitant to discuss disability with me, and not talking about it can become a barrier.Maybe a few folks are put off by my putting my disability out there but they are probably not my likely voters. I also feel having a disability informs my perspective on life and politics. It makes very pragmatic and aware of how we are all interdependent.

Photo by Hyperfocus Photography. Source:

Photo by Hyperfocus Photography. Source:

I loved seeing the photo of you and your service dog on your website! Tell me a little about what it’s been like campaigning with your service dog and how important your service dog is to your life.

Thida: Having a service dog has changed my life. I find walking difficult without my service dog. Before I had a service dog, I have to focus attention on walking to compensate for my basal ganglia, I had to think about whether going on a particular surface was a good idea, and even so I used to trip and fall about once a week.

I sprained my ankle regularly, and was starting to break toes and I was spending more and time non-ambulatory. I never regularly used a wheelchair or scooter because it requires a lot of hand motions or are too sensitive and my hands are the most affected by my dystonia so being non-ambulatory was very difficult for me.

Last year I did go to Myanmar for two weeks without my service dog and I brought a walking cane and I had to be careful the whole time and I had to sit down if my walking rhythm was off. I missed my dog and my freedom. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I had spent on walking.

What is it like running for office for the first time? Did you encounter any barriers or accessibility issues while running?

Thida: The main accessibility issue I’ve had is around microphones which I find hard to use but I’ve learned to adapt. Before I fundraised my first $10,000, I encountered a lot of “Can you actually run?” While money shouldn’t matter to answer basic competency questions, it does seem to have stopped a lot of the overt questions. I also have a lot of great endorsements.

What’s been the most surprising thing you discovered during your run for office so far?

Thida: I did Emerge, which is training for Democratic women who want to run for office. They told us fundraising was important. I’ve been surprised and a little sad to see how fundraising addresses the competence issue.

As a resident of Mountain View, what do you love about this community?

Thida: I moved to Mountain View for its high tech and socio-economic and cultural diversity. I love our diversity of people, how most people really try to see other people’s points of view, not just their own, how people care for others less fortunate, and how most people appreciate and take pride in civic participation. I’m a nerd and I moved here for the high-tech industry and there’s a nerdy curiosity and delight in new experiences and new things. At the same time, we like our downtown, which has a retro feel with a lot of small businesses. I love how we’re small and my kids can bike by themselves to many places.

How did your interest in open spaces, urban planning/design, pedestrian safety and housing start?

Thida: It started when my then toddler son fell through a gap in the top of a tall play structure. Ironically the play structure recently had become accessible to him because the City added ADA compliant steps to a structure for 8-12 year olds. Previously you could only access the top of the structure by climbing it, which my son wasn’t capable of at that time. Before that time, I assumed that design was a lofty skill that experts had, and that wasn’t really a part of my skill set. But that incident showed me how my perspective can be important. That something that seemed common sense to me weren’t necessarily common to other people. Adding nice easy to climb steps would attract and enable young children to access a play structure so the structure should not have gaps that young children could fall through.

I then became to notice other safety issues in my City that I had assumed were only barriers to me as a person with a disability were actually barriers to other people. Things like our lack of curb cuts, long crosswalks with a short-time to cross and no median to wait.

Family portrait outside of a home. A multiracial family. An Asian Man sitting next to a multiracial woman. The left of the man is a young multiracial girl with long hair and glasses. To the right of the woman is a young multiracial boy with short hair. A golden retriever service animal is sitting front and center between the two adults.

Photo by Hyperfocus Photography. Source:

Like much of Silicon Valley, communities are under pressure when it comes to demand for housing, growing inequality, the lack of accessible and affordable homes, and the displacement of working-class families as property values and rents rise. How will you balance the tensions between growth, development, and sustainability for all residents of Mountain View?

Thida: That is a complex question and one that is central to my campaign and I think is best answered on my campaign website

What are some ways better signage, infrastructure and technology can improve pedestrian safety?

Thida: By making pedestrians feel more comfortable so they use designated crossings and claim their space instead of darting across. By making pedestrians more visible to drivers, slowing down drivers at the places where pedestrians and drivers interact, and allowing better communication between drivers and pedestrians.

More cities and organizations are adopting universal design principles in their public spaces and buildings. What are your thoughts about universal design and the importance of accessibility in Mountain View?

Thida: I support universal design principles. Sadly, this isn’t a topic that has come up in the campaign, because we’re still at the point of working on designing spaces and buildings for humans, rather than automobiles.

Most people don’t realize that children with disabilities are excluded from playgrounds socially or physically and that can impact their development and relationships. With your involvement with the Parks and Recreation Commission, what are your thoughts about accessible playgrounds? Have you been to the Magical Bridge playground in Palo Alto?

Thida: Yes, bringing a Magical Bridge playground to Mountain View is part of my campaign platform.

Why is it important for all people, including people with disabilities and other marginalized communities to vote and get involved in the political process?

Thida: We have important and different perspectives to share and the best way to have those voices heard is to vote and to get involved.

What is your advice to other people with disabilities who might want to get involved with politics in their local communities but might not know where to begin or feel hesitant?

Thida: Find something you’re passionate about. Search online to find a group that is involved in that issue. If you don’t see a person with a disability (and we are still few or hidden), talk to the people who are visibly different, whether it’s people of color, women, LBQT or some other difference. If you’re too shy to join a group, go online and find the agenda of your City Council meeting and go speak at a City Council meeting. Anyone can go speak for three minutes on a topic that’s on the agenda or there’s also a time for speaking on items not on the agenda. If you can’t access your City Hall then email City Council about that.

Additional links

Elect Thida Cornes Facebook page:

September 14 2016, Los Altos Town Crier: Meet the Candidates for the Mtn View City Council




Media Talk 2: Responses to Clinton campaign ad by disabled people

This year the Clinton campaign featured a number of people with disabilities in their ads (here and here for example)— quite possibly more than any candidate during any Presidential election. In the most recent disability-related ad, “The Right Thing,” the 30-second spot features Jennifer Kohn, a parent of an autistic person.

For this second DVP Media Talk blog post, here are some responses to the ad by disabled people (including a few parents of disabled people to mix things up).

While the ad is centered on a parent’s story, disabled perspectives are important to explore since there is a historical lack of representation of actually disabled people in media.

These critiques are not attacks on the people featured in the video but rather commentary about the framing and messaging of the ad itself. Nor are they attacks on the candidate Hillary Clinton.


Amy Sequenzia

I think the ad shows the usual misconception the media has about disabilities and disabled people: that a non-disabled person speaking for us is always better. I also think that the ad is pity porn. Trump is bad for disabilities, for many reasons. The making fun of a journalist is awful and gross, but it is what way too many people do all the time, and most people laugh. Jon Stewart did, Ricky Gervais did. The difference is that they didn’t singled out one person.

Finn Gardiner

I have mixed feelings about these ads. On the one way, I applaud the Clinton campaign for highlighting disability–and striking a stark contrast between Clinton’s and Trump’s attitudes towards disability–but on the other, I’m tired of the constant use of parents speaking for disabled people, especially when our voices are constantly being drowned out by those of parent advocates.

Larkin Taylor-Parker

Are the ads perfect? No. Are her policies perfect? No. Are women standing up for their children and grandchildren the likely swing voters who can prevent a regime that will cause a lot of unnecessary suffering and death in the disability community and, taking Mr. Trump at his word, do long-term damage to our political system? Yes. This is a very good thing for us. The sensible thing to do on our part is to first do what we can to help her get elected and then hold her feet to the fire on substantive disability issues. Let’s deal with the existential threat before we try to optimize.

Sara Luterman

I have no strong feelings about this ad.

On one hand, it is frustrating that the young man in the video doesn’t get the chance to speak for himself.

It’s also frustrating that they’re talking about the making fun of reporter thing, when the real reason her son can’t live in Trumpworld is because of the end of the preexisting conditions requirement, rolling back of SSDI, and many other vital support programs.

On the other hand, the mother was remarkably not awful, in my opinion. She doesn’t talk about her son as a burden. She seems to genuinely love him and want what’s best for him. That’s important.

And on the other other hand, I recognize going deep in policy in a 30 second political ad isn’t really possible.

Kara Mannor

This is an issue that transcends political party and electoral politics. Politicians, universities/colleges, charities, service providers and more will use disabled people as it is convenient to furthering their interests, which includes the interests they’ve defined for disabled people. Only disabled people who can be depicted as acceptable enough or pitiful enough through an able-bodied lens will be represented. To be acceptable enough means espousing an overcoming disability narrative and modeling productivity in a capitalist system, which will ultimately never understand disabled people as valuable. To be pitiful enough means only to be understood as a tragic object and have access to private resources and support as to not appear “dependent on the system.” Any other ways of showing up in the world for disabled people is a threat to the status quo – and therefore must be marginalized.

Lauren Storck

I like it. Don’t find it “pity me” at all – seems to educate as well as sell HC of course. Autism is a huge diagnosis these days. broad spectrum. In terms of “using” people with disabilities, probably hard to mention in any political ad these days without criticism of the topic or use of it. Worth doing overall IMHO.

Talina Jones

We currently live in Trump world. Sigh. and forgive me, but I would also want to hear from a diverse group of people with diverse disabilities, and if at some point we can shake up what the perspectives of families who have children with disabilities actually look like it could add some much needed richness to the conversation. Just a thought.

Cara Liebowitz

I’m tired of Hillary’s ads around disability following the same pattern – a parent of a disabled kid speaking about Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter. We got one or two good ads where it was disabled people speaking for themselves, but the majority has been focused on parents. And sure, Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter was horrible and an example of Trump’s bigotry. But there are real policy issues at stake here. I would say to the mother in this ad: “The reason your son can’t live under a Trump presidency is because Trump will abolish the Affordable Care Act so that your son can be denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition. And that will literally kill a lot of disabled people.” I mean, come on. Let’s focus on the bigger issues here. Make no mistake, I am a Hillary supporter. But I’d like to see her step her game up, especially since she has a history of helping disabled people access education and health-care. She knows how important policy is for disabled people. So why doesn’t she focus on how Trump’s polices will have a devastating effect on disabled people, instead of repeatedly harping on just one of his countless examples of bigotry? I want to see her do better. ‬

Katherine Randle

I expected a lot worse. It would be better for ads to feature people with disabilities themselves — like the Nyle DiMarco ad did.

But while this ad plugs in to some narratives of able-bodied people talking for and about people with disabilities, it doesn’t treat people with disabilities completely as pitiable objects. (It comes close, but it doesn’t focus on viewing this young man’s everyday life as pitiable.)

Lydia Nunez

Most of us wish that the body politic understanding of ableism were expanded beyond the obvious egregiousness of bullying. Ableism is often more invisible and nuanced than this. For example, I find that just as many liberals or progressives are ableist and exist in an epistemology of ignorance about ableism (as their conservative counterparts). There is an insensitivity toward it, and the common reaction when it is pointed out is denial and hostility toward disabled people.

Interestingly, rarely are nondisableds willing to come from a place of critical doubt and even momentarily consider that they may in fact be ableist.

If a disabled person points it out, we are likely met with tired pathologizing, e.g., we are angry because we aren’t typical bodied, we haven’t adjusted to having a disability, we necessarily need therapy because the nondisabled view disability as necessarily bad.

Moreover, much of ableism is the benevolent variety, which arises from the amalgamation of the charitable, medical, and economic model.

Then, there is the epistemic injustice that disabled people must endure, i.e., our perspectives are dismissed. We are not respected as legitimate knowers or experts with situated knowledge. In such instances, the nondisabled will feel emboldened–through epistemic excesses and arrogance–to educate us about disability. This happened to me recently when an educator decided that she knew more about disability than I even though she hadn’t the slightest inkling of disability theory. This has also occurred ad nauseum with nondisabled parents of children with disabilities or with people who have mild disabilities and feel that their perspectives on assisted suicide are as valid and researched as people with severe disabilities who are in immediate danger of being coerced into suicide.

Brad Krautwurst

This ad isn’t the worst thing in the world, and somewhat informative about a trait that some autistic people exhibit. From a disability rights standpoint, that’s probably the best thing I can say about it. Otherwise, the ad refrains from talking about real issues, and stoops to viewing people with disabilities as needing “defending.”

Mandy Ree

I’m still waiting on Trump to give his plan on how he can help the disabled population. As far as I know, he hasn’t done squat. Hillary using parent focused advertising isn’t perfect by any means, but she seems to be doing a better job than her running mate.

Grace Trumptower

I liked the ad. The mother tries to educate and inform the audience about autism. She promotes acceptance, rather than appealing for pity.

However, I don’t like that the ad is only from her perspective. Parents, no matter how close they are to their child, have not actually experienced disability. We should have heard from the autistic man himself. These ads should give disabled people a chance to speak for themselves. I’m tired of hearing from parents and caregivers, instead of the disabled community.

Karin Hitselberger

I’m really glad disabled people are being mentioned and seen in this election cycle, however it’s a bit frustrating that most of the representation verges on inspiration porn at the very least. I don’t want people to vote for Hillary Clinton because Donald Trump picks on people who look like me, because that continues to turn me, and people like me into a charity case. I want people to think about the issues and vote for Hillary Clinton because they think she will do good for the country. I want my voice to count in a real way, not as some symbol of “if you need more proof Donald Trump is horrible, remember that he makes fun of disabled people, and you’re not supposed to do that.” I want real change, and I want disabled to have real opportunities. I want to focus on education, healthcare, housing, and employment for all, including disabled people, I don’t want to focus on seeing disabled people being painted as defenseless.

Mike Poe

Why is “the face” of a disabled person always the parent or guardian? Why do they have to make it look like disabled cant speak for them selves? Why are people with autism only ever portrayed as children and never adults? They are just exploiting the imagery of disability in a completely fake way and I am sick of it. The ad ambiguously claims that Clinton will do the “right things” and that it some how magically is going to help the disabled community. What “right things” is she going to do? She is against choice when it comes to public schools and shes against charter and private schools, that is extremely harmful to students like the kind that I was. This ad is nothing but empty platitudes and exploitation for the sake of emotional reasoning. This Jennifer Kohn person says that she’s voting for Clinton and her only reasoning is that Trump offended her. In the process she insults the entire disability community by reinforcing stereotypes and ableism! This ad is nothing more than a PR advertising firms attempt to cram autism into a video because they think it will poll well. This is just blatant pandering and clearly they are not trying to get the actual votes of autistic or disabled people here. Why arnt autistic people important enough for Clinton to speak to directly? Why doesnt she address the community its self instead of pretending to have some right to speak on its behalf? It doesnt seem like she cares about the votes of people who actually have autism, thats extremely dismissive and degrading in its own way.

Kerima Cevik

The ad is wrong.

I do not believe in unnecessary compromise in the representation of autistic people.

This is my response for those in that thread trying to justify allowing the ableism and devoicing in it by saying it was meant for a target voter audience exclusive of me:

So, if Senator Clinton is trying to win the undecided voter who believes that Hispanic immigrants have taken their jobs, should I now accept that Afro-Latinas be stereotyped or marginalized in a campaign ad because she isn’t trying to appeal to me? When every vote counts, you don’t insult Peter to win Paul’s vote. This type of logic is one of the reasons we are not moving forward…The ad could have been done better. Period. The price being asked of the autistic community to bear is one that could determine who defines public policy. Autism Speaks wants institutional settings for autistic people. They want genetic screening for autism, in the same way, said screening is being used to encourage abortion of other disabled infants. Who speaks for autistic people? Autistic people should be speaking for themselves to whatever degree they are able. Obama did several ads with autistic adults that did not use them as props. To go from that to this is not acceptable regardless of who the target audience is. This ad could have been done to appeal to anyone and been done better.

Rayne Depukat

As a parent and spouse of autistics, I want to hear from autistic people on these issues. I want to hear from people who haven’t been put there by Autism Speaks. Let’s hear from the people at the center and not just from parents.

David Perry

Right now, Clinton is running ads aimed at suburban moderate to conservative white women in swing states. To me, as a pragmatist, that’s how politics works. Her campaign’s polling says there are votes to be gotten there, so she goes and gets it. It’s good politics for her to run those ads now. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t critique the representation politics of the ad, but for me the bigger question is – how do we get white suburban women to care about disability rights issues beyond bullying. We’ve made some progress around “work,” but that often engages in a kind of respectability politics that marginalizes as much as it includes.

That said: Trump is the most ableist presidential candidate in modern history (and possibly ever). Clinton should point that out.

Shannon Des Roches Rosa

I get what the mother is saying about Trump making ableism/stigma worse. And I realize it’s a short ad, trying to compress many messages and emotional sweet spots. But I’d also like to see people of a variety of abilities get similarly emotional about matters like how the ACA and eliminating pre-existing conditions transformed their lives, and how Trump puts that at risk. Because that’s terrifying, to me.













Image of an exam room that has everything in all white--white cabinets, countertops and an exam table with a small step stool.

Guest blog post: Disability and the Dilemma of Accessing Quality Women’s Healthcare

Disability and the Dilemma of Accessing Quality Women’s Healthcare: A Cautionary Tale

By H. Lee

I am a woman with muscular dystrophy in her late 30s who uses a power wheelchair. In many ways, I have been pretty private about the medical aspects of my life. A lot of people I know do not know what I went through the past couple years, only close family and friends. The pain that I feel from my experience is still raw and traumatic so it is hard to open up about this. I really want to share my story with the Disability Visibility Project because it is an important story to share as well as a cautionary tale. My story is about my experience as a woman with a disability accessing women’s healthcare in the United States.

Access to quality, accessible women’s healthcare has always been very difficult for me. That is why getting regular pap smears and gynecological exams were not something I did regularly. I have been turned away from exams due to clinic staff telling me they could not lift me on the table because of liability reasons. I had a gynecologist that was completely condescending and talked to me like a child and other ones that spoke to the person that brought me to the exam instead of me. After many failed attempts, I was finally “accommodated” at Planned Parenthood. By accommodation, it meant having my pelvic exam and pap smear in the basement of the clinic where they performed abortions since they have tables they could lower and they could help me there. But exams were awkward, severely painful, and I bled from being scraped up too hard because they could not easily reach my cervix because they did not know how to handle my curved spine and body. As a result, by the age of 31, I had only five or six pap smears in my life.

Image of a white female doctor with blonde hair. She is wearing a mask over her mouth, latex gloves and a lab coat

Fast forward to 2013, I was 35 and had not had a pap smear in 4 years. I stopped going because the experience was so frustrating. I never worried too much about not getting regular exams until a close friend of one of my dearest friends died of ovarian cancer at 37. And although pap smears and pelvic exams do not detect ovarian cancer but cervical cancer, it got me thinking again about gynecological health. I decided that I should get a gynecological exam, but I did not want to have a repeat of past experiences so I did research and found a clinic that served people with disabilities.

I made an appointment and it took two buses and one and a half hours to get there but I thought it would be worth it, but I was wrong. The clinic website mentioned they had a special table designed to be more accessible for women with disabilities to get a gynecological exam. But, the table looked old and dirty like it had not been used in a while. The doctor actually asked me if I could get on a high table since he wasn’t sure that the other accessible table even worked. I was livid, how could this clinic that claimed to serve people with disabilities not have an accessible exam table that functioned? I told him I could not get on the table and he ended up figuring out how the accessible one worked but I ended up only having a basic pap smear because even this doctor that treated people with disabilities apparently did not know how to work with somebody with muscular dystrophy.

One week later I got a call that my pap smear was abnormal, I had a high grade form of pre-cancer, CIN III or carcinoma in situ (CIS), and would need a biopsy to confirm it. The news was shocking, but at least it was not cancer. My primary doctor referred me to get a colposcopy. I made the appointment and went to see a doctor who was a specialist. She was nice, treated me like an adult, and the exam room looked accessible, I thought great finally maybe I’ll have a smooth exam. I was wrong again.

Photo of a microscope with multiple lenses and a flat platform for viewing slides.

They got me on the table and tried to perform the colposcopy, which is similar to a more detailed version of a pap smear and pelvic exam except they use a special magnifying device. Again the doctor could not reach my cervix because of my curved back with the equipment she had in her office. She got on the floor and tried many ways but could not get enough of a sample. She apologized and she said she would have her colleague from the women’s hospital call me to set up an appointment there. They called me the next day and I set a time for a visit but it was canceled at the last minute. I am beyond frustrated at this point. I finally get an appointment and waited a while before being seen. Four people including a nurse, a doctor, two medical students, and my mom were in that room with me. When I was on the table they raised it and tilted it until I was almost upside down. The doctor saw that I had an abnormal growth that she believed was pre-cancer so she asked me if just wanted to have it removed right now in the office, they could do a simple procedure that could be sent for biopsy but in removing the sample it would also be the treatment. I agreed because I did not want to come back. It was the most excruciating painful experience and I screamed bloody murder the whole time. They did what they could but were not sure they could get everything. I was supposed to bleed a little for a couple days and get the results back in a week and that should have been the end of it.

I ended up bleeding for a month and expelled large blood clots from my vagina. I had to return to the hospital multiple times to try to stop the bleeding and saw many more doctors that did not know how to handle my body. During this time period, I was hospitalized for chest pain, high blood pressure, and tachycardia and was almost killed by the incompetent doctors at another hospital (this is a whole other story). My biopsy did indicate that I had a high grade form of pre-cancer but that they likely removed it when they did the procedure. I was to come back in six months. The nurse decided to schedule me with the most senior and expert doctor in gynecology and gynecological oncology for my six-month follow-up and for the first time I had a smooth checkup. The doctor knew how to examine me. My results were better and the pre-cancer went from high grade to low grade, CIN I. I would be checked again in another six months but at least I finally had a good doctor.

Then in 2014, I found out I had cervical cancer and would need to have a total hysterectomy. It was at the earliest micro stages so I was lucky. My husband I never wanted to have children. But, not to have a child was my choice but now it was being taken away from me, I could not stop crying. In my thirties, I would no longer have a cervix, uterus, or fallopian tubes. I was in shock. That same year I had a bad bout of pneumonia and had a horrible experience at the hospital where I was treated in a demeaning and inhumane way. One doctor also prescribed me an antibiotic called Levofloxacin that caused me permanent gastrointestinal issues, which I later discovered is not good for many people with neuromuscular disability.

Photo of a surgical bay. In the foreground is a woman in a blue gown, face mask and cap over her head. In the background are other doctors and someone laying in a hospital table.

Later that summer, I was diagnosed with low lung function, 25 % capacity. So during this time I had to get a VPAP, Cough Assist, and The Vest Airway Clearance System. These are machines that help my lungs stay healthy. Doctors were concerned about the effects of anesthesia on me. It took months to prepare me for the surgery and I and those close to me were scared if I could make it. The night before my surgery I had a breakdown and could not stop crying as my husband held me in his arms, I was worried that I would not wake up from surgery and never see my loved ones again. Anesthesia is a scary thing for people with muscular dystrophy and given my recent lung issues, it was particularly risky. But, I was lucky this time because I finally had a good team of doctors that had a good understanding of muscular dystrophy. Even my surgeon and anesthesiologist had worked on patients with neuromuscular disability and they both worked closely with my pulmonologist. It made all the difference in the world and my surgery and recovery were successful.

Because so much of the past few years were focused on fighting for my life, concentrating on my recovery, and then a major move across country, I had not fully processed the mental and emotional toll my experience took on me. I have felt a sense of loss reading the posts of mothers with muscular dystrophy online because I will never get that experience. Yes, I never had a strong maternal desire, but that was my choice. And with choices, you can always change your mind. When that choice is taken from you there is so much anger and grief. I really feel this would not had happened if I had yearly pap tests, it takes years for cervical cancer to develop and pap smears protect women from this. There is also a vaccine, that girls as young as 11 can get to prevent cervical cancer.

According to the 2010 US Census there were over 156 million females in the United States. And according to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 12,000 women get cervical cancer each year. The lack of accessible women’s healthcare, both physical and attitudinal, caused me and my fellow women with disabilities not to seek this care. When I finally did, doctors did not know enough about my body to treat it properly. I believe that they did not remove all of my pre-cancer the first time because they did not know had to deal with my body and reach my cervix. And I believe my past pap smears and pelvic exams were never done properly. I am just lucky it was not a cancer that spread. But, my cervical cancer could have been prevented if I had the right care all along. My last check-up in spring of 2016 was cancer-free, and the first normal pap test in almost 3 years.

It is sad that it took a pre-cancer and cancer diagnosis for me to finally receive the proper gynecological healthcare but that is what it entailed. I finally found good providers but due to a recent move, it has made me feel uneasy and scared. It took me a lifetime to find quality care and now I have to start over again. I am still flying back to my hometown to see my doctors, but I know I cannot do this indefinitely.

My current women’s health doctor talks to me directly about my health in a respectful manner. The head nurse of the department, who is always helpful and a wealth of knowledge, was the one that advocated for me to even get that initial appointment with my doctor. She knew that he would be the one that would be able to work with me successfully based on her own experience working with him. My doctor, nurse, and the resident doctors have all assisted with lifting, sliding, and positioning me. My doctor speaks to me directly regarding test results and answers all questions that I have. Most importantly, I feel like I matter as a full human being by people that care and I am treated like an adult. They actually talked to me about sexual health and pleasure post-hysterectomy whereas most doctors assume you do not have sex if you are disabled.

Diversity training that includes working with patients with disabilities should be a focus in medical school as well as ongoing throughout a doctor’s career. Especially when working in women’s healthcare, medical providers’ innate stereotypes or prejudices about women with disabilities such as believing we are asexual, childlike, or unable to have children can hinder their ability to provide quality women’s healthcare. We have the same parts as any other woman, maybe in a different package, but to put it bluntly we have breasts and vaginas and everything in between. Women with disabilities have sex, have children and need regular pap smears, pelvic exams, mammograms, birth control, etc. It is easy for medical providers to view people with disabilities from only a medical model perspective, to see us as just as illness or disease because it is ingrained into their education and training. It may be difficult to work with a patient whose diagnosis you are not familiar with and it might be easy for a provider to just say “we can’t help you.” Not many doctors know much about muscular dystrophy or the unique needs and features of my body.

I would love it if more doctors would take me seriously and listen to my needs. I am the one that lives in this body and I can tell you what is the norm for me or how you can handle my body. I’ve had so many arrogant doctors throughout my life just talk over me and blow me off since they are the “expert.” It would also be great if an apprehensive provider would consult with another doctor that may be more familiar with muscular dystrophy or whatever disability their patient has to get a better background on how to treat them. The reason that my care and recovery went so well is that all the doctors at this hospital had no egos, they worked in tangent with one another across departments for the good of their patient, me. That is something I had not experienced before. They also kept in contact with my primary care doctor. Most importantly, they listened to me. I also cannot emphasize how important it is to be a self-advocate for yourself. I am the one that brought up the anesthesia concern in the first place to my surgeon. Also, in the past having a strong voice on my own behalf has likely meant the difference between life and death for me.

More physical accessibility is needed especially in exam rooms. Universal design has been incorporated into architecture in recent years and the same basic principles should apply to hospitals and clinics. There should be no reason why they could not make exam rooms wider and with exam tables that raise and lower. These are things that would benefit not only people with disabilities, but all patients as well as doctors and nurses. The exam room that my appointments are in is a large wheelchair accessible room with enough space for my wheelchair to turn and also park while I am being examined. The exam table is one that raises, lowers, and tilts at the touch of a button. There is a private, wheelchair accessible bathroom attached to the exam room. There is so much more to be done, but having accessible exams rooms is a start and it is disconcerting that in 2016 the majority of exam rooms don’t provide even basic access.

Picture of a typical exam table in a doctor's office that's covered in a white sheet with a white pillow. On the wall are various medical instruments such as a blood pressure cuff.

After my experience, I have faced depression quite often. I have had lingering and permanent health issues due to my surgery. After this scare with cervical cancer, I also live with the fear of developing breast cancer one day since I have family history of this. I’ve had a couple mammograms before and although they had accessible equipment, it was still difficult to do because of my limited muscle strength and since I have dense breast tissue the results were also difficult to read. So, I always fear a repeat of what happened to me before, but worry that next time I may not be as lucky.

I hope for the day that women with disabilities and all people with disabilities will be able to access the care that they need without barriers. I don’t want any woman to go through what I had to go through, but I also know that I was lucky that they caught the cancer in time. So many women with disabilities are not as lucky and lose their lives because of inadequate healthcare. I can’t emphasize how important it is for women with disabilities to receive timely screenings like pap tests and mammograms, they are lifesaving. But, I totally understand why they often don’t because of the frustration they feel and the obstacles they face. But, even if they face barriers, it is important to fight on and not give up. I think that doctors and health care providers need to be better informed about how to treat people with disabilities. Not only do they need to provide better physical accessibility but there are also attitudinal barriers that we must face from providers who treat us like children or worse yet, less than human. It is ridiculous that in 2016, 26 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that we must, fight and claw in order to be provided basic healthcare. This should not be the case; it should not have to be as difficult. Healthcare is a fundamental right.

*All images CC0 Public Domain from

Additional Resources

Healthcare Stories, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Healthcare Access, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Disabled Parenting Project

Center for Research on Women with Disabilities

Centering Disabled People in Conversations About Menstruation, s.e. smith (August 4, 2016)

More than Ramps: A Guide to Improving Health Care Quality and Access for People with Disabilities, Lisa Iezzoni, Bonnie O’Day (2005)

Women with Disabilities, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


Graphic with a bright aqua blue background with black text that reads: #CripTheVote Twitter Chat Congressional, State, and Local Elections October 22, 2016 8- 9 pm Eastern Guest hosts: @AndrewPulrang @GreggBeratan @DisVisibility

10/22 #CripTheVote Chat: Congressional, State, and Local Elections

#CripTheVote Twitter Chat

Congressional, State, and Local Elections

Saturday, October 22, 2016

8:00 – 9:00 pm Eastern

Hosted by Andrew Pulrang, Gregg Beratan, and Alice Wong, #CripTheVote Twitter chats explored various policy issues important to people with disabilities this year. Our 12th Twitter chat will focus on Congressional, state, and local elections.

You can find the questions for this chat in this post. The Twitter chat will be archived in Storify for anyone who would like to see it in chronological order at a later date.

How to Participate

Follow @AndrewPulrang @DisVisibility @GreggBeratan on Twitter

When it’s time, search #CripTheVote on Twitter for the series of live tweets under the ‘Live’ tab to fallow the full conversation.

If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions, check @DisVisibility’s tweets. Each question will tweeted 4-5 minutes apart.

Use the hashtag #CripTheVote when you tweet. If you can’t join us on 10/22, feel free to tweet anytime before or after with the hashtag.

If you don’t use Twitter, check out the live-stream:

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan:

Questions for the 10/22/16 Twitter Chat

Today’s #CripTheVote chat is on Congressional, state, and local elections. All the races other than the Presidency.

Let’s look at Congress first. There are 34 Senate seats are up for election this year. #CripTheVote

Republicans have a majority now. Democrats would need 5 more seats to achieve a majority. #CripTheVote

Q1 What are some of the closest, most critical Senate races? Which races are you following? #CripTheVote

All 435 House seats are in play. Repubs. have the majority & Dems. need 30 more seats for a majority #CripTheVote

Q2 What are some of the closest, most critical House races? Which races are you following? #CripTheVote

Q3 What kinds of disability issues are affected by Congress? #CripTheVote

Q4 Which state governorships are up for election this year? Is there a gubernatorial election in your state? Tell us about it. #CripTheVote

Q5 Are there any critical state or local level races to watch? Has disability come up during any of these races? #CripTheVote

Q6 What kinds of disability issues are affected by state & local governments? #CripTheVote

Q7 Some may say “down-ballot” elections impact people in tangible ways more than the Presidential election. Agree/disagree? #CripTheVote

Voter turnout for midterm elections is usually low. Source: #CripTheVote

Q8 Why do people vote less in Congressional, state, and local elections? Why is voting during midterm elections important? #CripTheVote

Q9 Aside from the Presidency, which results will you watch closely on November 8? #CripTheVote

Q10 Which races do you feel have the biggest impact on your life and why? #CripTheVote

#CripTheVote crowdsourced a list of Twitter handles for people running for Congress by state:

Feel free to contact the candidates in your state and others with your disability policy Qs! We can all #CripTheVote!

This concludes our #CripTheVote chat. Thanks to everyone and keep the convo going!

Our next #CripTheVote chat will be about healthcare on 10/30, 7 pm Eastern. Details coming soon!

Resources Senate projections

270 To Win election maps:

#CripTheVote archive of Congressional candidate Twitter handles

“Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why?”

Drew Desilver, Pew Research Center – July 24, 2014.

About #CripTheVote

Resources on voting and people with disabilities:

#CripTheVote Facebook Page:

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

#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.


#CripWisdom: Interview with the Artists of Sins Invalid

From October 14-16, Sins Invalid returns to the stage this year in San Francisco with  “Birthing, Dying, Becoming Crip Wisdom.” From Sins Invalid’s website, the show is

A journey through genesis, transformative power and earth, this performance features cast from 9 years ago as well as emerging artists, prompted by dialogue and questions including: What were your first understandings that your body was disabled? How did your emerging understanding of yourself affect your gender identity? How does disabled embodiment open us to the possibility of a deeper engagement with the universal phenomena of transitions in embodiment? The resulting work is a kaleidoscopic plunge into visions of life and death, the disabled body/mind and liberation.

Sins Invalid is a disability justice based performance project celebrating the power of embodiment & sexuality, stripping taboos off disability to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities. For more about the show go to their Facebook event page:

The header image in this post is by Micah Bazant,

Below is my interview with two artists involved in the latest Sins Invalid production, Neve Be(ast) (aka Lyric Seal) and India Harville.

Tell me about about yourself, your work as an artist/performer/activist and your involvement with Sins Invalid.

Neve: I’m a black punk femme with arthrogryposis Sagittarius sun/Scorpio rising! Witty, weird, wild, driven, opinionated yet sensitive, with my fingers in many pies! I’ve been black and proud and disabled and wondrous since I was born, a writer since I could write, a dancer since I was eight, an anarchist and activist since I better understood systemic oppression at Unitarian Universalist anti-oppression training camp, and an adult actor, entertainer, and sexual health advocate since I was twenty two. For the five years that I was living in the Bay (up until three months ago when I moved to Seattle), I interned and volunteered for Sins Invalid as a promoter, facilitator, and educator. This is my first main stage show as writer, emcee, and dancer, and I am so deeply excited.

India: I am a mixed abilities dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor. I believe that dance is everyone’s birthright and my mission is to bring dance as a healing practice, dance as radical self acceptance practice, dance as a way to dismantle ableism, dance as a community building practice, and dance as fun, to as many people as possible.

My work as a dancer/performer is about telling the stories that are untold, creating projects with people who have internalized that they cannot dance, creating dances that are about how they make us feel liberated versus their aesthetic value, although the dances are often quite beautiful. The activism in my work is foregrounded, I seek to make works that centralize those who are most marginalized, I encourage my dancers to let go of ableist ideas about their bodies and about dancing. In addition, the content of my work deals with social justice issues like police violence, survivorhood, internalized oppression, and inaccessibility.

I first attended the 2009 Sins Invalid show and it was a life changing experience, one of the 1st time I saw amazing artistry, beauty, and truth telling from a whole collective of disabled artists with politics that challenged me to change how I perceived them and myself.  I was hooked.  After that I took several Sins Invalid workshops that were equally powerful.

In 2015 I had the honor of being in the Disability Liberated performance along side Nomy Lamm which explored imprisonment and policing of the disabled body.  That year I was also a Teaching Artist in Residence for Sins Invalid and taught a three part movement and sounding series with Nomy for the public.

Photo of a person dressed in a white tank top and white pants. The person's curly dark hair and the person's palms are open and arms outstretched. The background is completely dark.

Sins Invalid Performance 2011. Z Space Theater – San Francisco. Photo by Richard Downing

Describe what it’s like being in this production so far–your role as a performer and your activities up until the actual date of the first show on October 14th.

Neve: I am emceeing (which involves co-writing some show structure), dancing, and appearing in other performer’s pieces. Up until June, from the beginning of the year, Patty and I were meeting weekly planning meetings. Starting in August, Nomy, Leah, and I got together twice a week to rehearse.

This is the last week of local rehearsals and then next week we’ll all be together for tech rehearsals, 1 to 10 every day until the show. This is my favorite part of the process. Down to the wire! It’s so scary and fun!

India: Preparing for a Sins show is an amazing process.  At first Nomy and Patty approached me with some ideas and we started visioning what my offerings might look like in the show.  Since several members of the cast are no longer in the Bay Area, there are lots of emails, phone calls, videos, and virtual rehearsals!  As that process continues we start to revise, get new inspiration, and the show starts to tell us what needs to happen. My role is to stay flexible and responsive and to get into the essence of the pieces.

Last Monday the whole cast was in town and we did a first showing of the works in progress and started making decisions on the technical aspects like lights and set design. It was really moving to get to see everyone’s work.

Now we keep rehearsing until the week of the show where we work all day on finalizing everything!

Image of a person dressed in white on stage. The person's arms are raised. A projected image is projected over the person's body in different shades blue.

Photo by Richard Downing. Sins Invalid Performance 2011. Z Space Theater – San Francisco

What attracted you to participate in this show? What is the collaborative process like with the entire cast and crew?

Neve: I have wanted to be in a Sins show since I found out about them at the Allied Media Conference in 2010! This is only the second show since that time, so I feel pretty accomplished.

Even though all of the shows have been tightly knit, this is an extremely collaborative production, especially considering from how many different states some of us are traveling from. I was very blessed to be in the same area as so many performers up until June. Since my move to Seattle, I am also so excited to be near Leah, Nomy, and Ellery. We have all met with one another, workshopped things through, rehearsed together, and contributed tangibly or psychicly to one another’s works. Every single part of the show I am in is something I created with another person, including the incredibly talented Patty Berne.

India: I love these people.  I love Sins Invalid and the way we embody disability justice.  Collaborating with this cast is amazing, I admire and respect these performers so much and to work with them is an honor.  I have performer’s crushes on all of them. It’s also so easy on my mind and my body to work with a cast that centers meeting everyone’s access needs. We make a lot of space for each other and it works.  It’s kinda awe inspiring.

Large woman sitting on a stage dressed in bright colors aqua colored fabric flows over her legs, she has aqua hair extensions as well. She looks like a dreamy sea creature. Her top is a form-fitting tank style in bright citron yellow-green. Behind her are blue lights on the stage.

Photo by Richard Downing Sins Invalid Performance 2011. Z Space Theater – San Francisco

How are you feeling right now with the premiere just a few weeks away? What do you hope the audience takes away from the main themes of the show?

Neve: I am feeling really excited and nervous and earnest. Like this feels like a big break for me. I hope the audience will feel the power and profound truth of crip wisdom, past and present.

India: I am excited that the show is coming soon!  And a little bit nervous too. And I want the audience to take away exactly what they need and so many things!!!  I hope crips in the audience feel pride and a deeper sense of their brilliance and lovability.  There are lots of gems of wisdom in this show that I wish I had known as a younger crip, so I hope the baby crips embody this wisdom earlier in their lives than I did.  I also hope that our crip elders and ancestors feel our deep respect, love, and admiration – it is because of them that we can pass this wisdom on.

I hope anyone new to the ideas in Sins Invalid’s work open their hearts and minds to a radical shift in how they relate to disability, to us, to themselves, to ableism. I think the show is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on aging, age related disability, and death.  So many people fear disability and death, and I hope the show is a opportunity to ease into these topics with humor and grace.   This and so much more!

A woman of color with curly brown hair on stage (the background is all black). She has a red flower in her hair. Her hands are clasped together at her chest. She is wearing a light blue tank top.

Photo by Richard Downing Sins Invalid Performance 2011. Z Space Theater – San Francisco

As an artist/performer/activist, how important is a group like Sins Invalid to you? What is unique about this collective of crips?

Neve: Sins Invalid, namely co-founders Patricia Berne and Leroy Moore, helped feed and sculpt my politics into what they are today. I wouldn’t be who I am without Sins, and I like myself so much! Our collective/family is unique because ties us together is a drive towards creative interventions for liberation and justice for all. Racial and gender justice is tied up in disability justice, every second is queer and weird and cute as hell.

India: This group is life giving to me and is extraordinarily important.  It is so rare to find a POC, queer and genderqueer, disability justice centering crip arts organization where everything about the organization really strives to practice and embody the values it centers versus just talk about them.  That’s unique about Sins.  But also having an artistic director like Patty who pushes each artist and cultivates us is incredible too. Having an organization that values our work and values art as professional work and compensates us accordingly is amazing. Lastly, Sins is family, deeply centered in love.  I don’t find this combination most places!

Image of a Black man bare-chested on a stage. His hands are wide open and outstretched. He has a beard and short dreadlocks. The stage is light in orange, black and blue starting from the floor up.

Photo by Richard Downing Sins Invalid Performance 2011. Z Space Theater – San Francisco

What does ‘Crip Wisdom’ mean to you? Where does it come from? How do we create and share it?

India: ‘Crip Wisdom’ is magic and to me, it comes from crips figuring out how to survive in a world that doesn’t always encourage that.  It frequently comes from necessity, adversity, challenge.  It also comes from loving each other, taking care of one another, from being together. We listen to our ancestors, to our elders, to our own wisdom.  We share ‘Crip Wisdom’ in so many ways – just being with someone who needs company, sharing herbal remedies with each other, taking turns care taking each other, posting words of support on Facebook for someone who is isolated.

Neve: Crip Wisdom is the brilliance and experience of disabled people. It is grounded in bodies and it transcends time and grows with it. We create crip wisdom by innovating ways to survive and take care. We share it by making art, forging relationships, nourishing movements.

For me, a lot of wisdom comes from my crip body–the pleasure, pain, strength, and difficulties that comes from it. What have you learned from your crip body that you’d like to share with others?

Neve: When warm enough and calm enough, a body will write you songs.

India: Be gentle and loving with yourself. Each moment is new and what your body needs will shift, be willing to listen.  Don’t do too much, and ask for help when you need – interdependence is dope no matter what other people think. You will forget all of these things and fuck it up, be gentle then too.


Photo of a young woman with long dark hair lying on a outdoor patio furniture in the shape of a couch, one hand is resting on her stomach while the other is lying against the surface of the couch. She has a dress that has an abstract print in black, red-orange and white. The person featured in this image is a self described, 'a black, gross femme, queer punk writer, dancer/actor/model with arthrogryposis'

Photo by Kitty Stryker

Neve Be(ast) (aka Lyric Seal) is a bud, an outburst, a growth on the mossy embankment of a river. Descended from many rivers and people, including the Nile, The Mississippi, the South Branch of the Raritan, and the great great grandchild of the author of The Velveteen Rabbit, Neve has never stopped swimming, or becoming real. The Beast called Neve, in their current form, is a black, gross femme, queer punk writer, dancer/actor/model with arthrogryposis, and sacred/creative accessible space maker for all occasions. They are an adult and alt art film performer and director, sex and love coach, wedding officiant, accessible event consultant and planner, columnist for Maximumrocknroll, contributing writer for Everyday Feminism, and proud queer family builder and crew starter for those who like to roll deep. Neve co-founded Oakland’s Blueberry Jam with Ali M-O, an integrated improvisational dance lab for women and nonbinary people. Ali M-O also co-starred with Neve in them and Nikki Silver’s upcoming film, Diathesis: A Tale of Three Dancers, their third screen collaboration to date. Beast has been working with Sins Invalid since 2011, first as a summer intern traveling from New Jersey, and then as a local writer, educator, and performer beginning in 2013. Neve’s video work will be on exhibit in We’re Still Working, a sex worker multimedia art show at Somarts in San Francisco in January 26th-February 27th 2017 and they will perform with Cum Glitter Live Sex Show at the closing night party. Neve’s writing also has appeared in Plenitude, Harlot, Curve, Jiz Lee’s Coming Out Like a Porn Star, and on’s blog, in the form of the advice column “Slumber Party with Lyric Seal!” You can learn more at or on Twitter or instagram @littlebeasthood.

Image of a self-described, 'an African American, queer, disabled, femme' sitting in a manual wheelchair. Her head is tilted back, arms and hands raised upward, her legs are resting on the ground at different angle, one leg straight while the other is bent 45 degrees. The background is completely dark.

Photo by Ben Ailes Performance: 
In the Beginning God Created Difference by Eric Kupers and the Cal State East Bay Inclusive Interdisciplinary Ensemble

India Harville is an African American, queer, disabled, femme of center integrated dancer/dance instructor, choreographer, performance artist, somatic bodyworker, social justice activist, and educator.  India has danced professionally with Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange, based in Washington DC, DanceAbility, based in Eugene Oregon, and is a company member in the Dance Sing Drum Company and Inclusive Interdisciplinary Ensembles at Cal State Hayward and Sins Invalid based in Berkeley California.  India has had the privilege to travel and perform across the United States.  India’s performance work addresses racial justice, queer identity, survivorhood, disability and chronic illness. In addition to choreographing and performing, India is dedicated to supporting people with personal and collective healing and transformation from a place of embodiment.  India believes “If you can breathe, you can dance.” India offers classes in many styles of integrated dance including DanceAbility, American DanceWheels Wheelchair Ballroom, Adaptive Stretching, NIA, Dancing Freedom, and KiVo.To find out more about India please visit her website at

Yellow graphic with the following in black text: #CripTheVote Twitter Chat Poverty and Disability October 13, 2016 8 pm Eastern Co-hosts: @AndrewPulrang @GreggBeratan @DisVisibility

10/13 #CripTheVote chat: #Poverty and #Disability

#CripTheVote Twitter Chat

Poverty and Disability

Thursday, October 13, 2016

8-9:15 pm Eastern

Hosted by Andrew Pulrang, Gregg Beratan, and Alice Wong, #CripTheVote Twitter chats explored various policy issues important to people with disabilities this year. Our 11th Twitter chat will focus on poverty and disability. Joining us as a guest for this chat is the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency on disability policy. 

You can find the questions for this chat below in this post. The Twitter chat will be archived in Storify for anyone who would like to see it in chronological order at a later date.

How to Participate

Follow @AndrewPulrang @DisVisibility @GreggBeratan @NatCounDis on Twitter

When it’s time, search #CripTheVote on Twitter for a series of live tweets under the ‘Live’ tab to follow the full conversation. 

If you might be overwhelmed by the volume of tweets and only want to see the chat’s questions, check @DisVisibility’s tweets. Each question will tweeted 4-5 minutes apart.

Use the hashtag #CripTheVote when you tweet. If you can’t join us on 10/13, feel free to tweet anytime before or after with the hashtag.

If you don’t use Twitter, check out the live-stream:

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan:

Questions for the 10/13/16 Twitter Chat

Welcome to our 11th chat! We’re thrilled to have @NatCounDis join us. 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

During this chat, ‘safety net’ programs refers to benefits that help low-income people such as housing assistance #CripTheVote 1/2

…tax credits, food stamps, #Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Pell Grants, Head Start, just to name a few examples #CripTheVote 2/2

Q1 When you think about poverty, how do you define/describe it? Is it solely based on income & assets? What else? #CripTheVote

There’s the working poor, the underclass, people working in the shadow economy, people w/ growing debt #CripTheVote

Q2 What’s missing in the discussion on #poverty & how #inequality & #disability intersect & impact one another? #CripTheVote

Q3 How do ableism & other forms of discrimination exacerbate the inequality & poverty of disabled people? #CripTheVote

The federal poverty level (FPL) is used to determine eligibility for programs such as Medicaid #CripTheVote

Q4 2016 FPL for an 1 is $11,880 & $24,300 for a family of 4. Do you think the FPL is an accurate measure of poverty? #CripTheVote

It is expensive being disabled! What are some of the costs of being disabled that are invisible & not taken into account? #CripTheVote

Q6 Do you struggle getting the basics such as food, housing, healthcare, personal assistance, utilities? How do you manage? #CripTheVote

Q7 What changes have you experienced w/ safety net program cutbacks, elimination of services, or tighter restrictions? #CripTheVote

Q8 How does the ‘safety net’ help or trap disabled people with income and asset limits? #CripTheVote

Q9 How can fed/state policies & programs such as #Medicaid #SocialSecurity, food stamps, unemployment insurance be improved? #CripTheVote

Q10 What are some major assumptions about poor disabled people that policymakers have? What do they need to know? #CripTheVote

Q11 What ideas do you have that can ‘lift’ disabled people out of poverty related to employment, minimum wage, and debt?  #CripTheVote

Q12 What are some anti-poverty initiatives that should be invested into the disability community? #CripTheVote

This ends our #CripTheVote chat on poverty & disability. Thank you to our guest @NatCounDis! Please continue the convo!

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

Additional links

It’s Time to Ask the Candidates: #WhereDoYouStand on Fighting Poverty?

Jeremy Slevin,, October 3, 2016

Poverty Data

How Medicaid Forces Families Like Mine to Stay Poor

Andrea Louise Campbell, Vox, July 28, 2015

5 Despicable Ways We Keep Disabled People Chained to Poverty

s.e. Smith, Alternet, October 22, 2014

State General Assistance Programs Are Weakening Despite Increased Need

Liz Schott and Misha Hill, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 9, 2015

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Poverty and Inequality

U.S. Census Bureau on Poverty

#CripTheVote Links

Resources on voting and people with disabilities:

#CripTheVote Facebook Page:

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

About the National Council on Disability

The National Council on Disability (NCD) is a 38-year-old independent federal agency tasked with advising Congress, the White House and its partner agencies on all issues impacting to Americans With Disabilities Act. Made up of nine individuals selected by the President of the United States and leadership of Congress, NCD has decided that for that for 2017 the theme of its work will be the nexus of poverty and disability. Policy projects, quarterly meetings and other public events will be focused on this issue and allow the council to hear directly from the disability community what changes are needed to achieve the goals of the ADA, economic self sufficiency, independent living, equality of opportunity, and full participation. 

NCD’s Executive Director, Rebecca Cokley, @NCDExecDir, is thrilled to be joining #CripTheVote for this Twitter chat.
Twitter: @NatCounDis

About #CripTheVote

#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 stage performance of "Assisted Suicide, the Musical" The main character, a thin, petite white woman is Liz is seated in a hoyer lift on centre stage. There is gold curtain behind her with a sign 'suicide' in lights. Two women wearing white tops and skirts with red belts are dancing, with two men in red jackets with white trousers are holding up flags.

Review of “Assisted Suicide: The Musical”

Assisted Suicide: The Musical

Review by Eleanor Lisney

*Spoiler warning—details about the songs and scenes in the musical are discussed.

**Above photo credit: Rob Anderson

It is admittedly an odd title. A musical about assisted suicide?!? The description of the musical from the Southbank Centre is well worth a visit. There is a short 2-minute video (audio described and subtitled) with Liz Carr giving her reasons for the show herself. Some of my friends raised their eyebrows when I said I was excited to get a ticket to see the fabulous Liz Carr performing in that spectacle. Even more wonderful is that I would be joined by a few new Canadian friends who would discuss the show with me over a bite later in the evening to give me a North American take on it. After all, I am writing this review for Alice Wong and the Disability Visibility Project based in the US.

I find the show is imbued with the character of Liz Carr herself – her acerbic wit, her passion, ingenuity, anger, compassion and dare I say, vulnerability, shone through. She is well known for playing forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery on the BBC drama Silent Witness, a regular in the comedy line-up Abnormally Funny People, and previous co-host of BBC Ouch! She is also a campaigner at Not Dead Yet, an international network of disabled people opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide.


Profile view of an Asian woman in black wheelchair. She has a brown shopping bag hanging on the back of her wheelchair. Behind her is a large billboard for "Assisted Suicide: The Musical" showing at the Southbank Centre in London. The word UNLIMITED is in gold. The billboard shows a thin petite white woman in a gold manual wheelchair sprinkled in gold confetti.

This show is Liz Carr’s satirical and musical musings on the issue of assisted suicide, ‘a TedX Talk with show tunes,’ Well, it is a bit more than that. There were quite a few rousing songs. In particular, I thought the song ‘Put me down in the name of love’ was superb satire, a pastiche of the romantic song genre sang in duet in all musicals (think ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story for example) but the lyrics are so subversive, the tenet of the song is to ask the partner to promise assisted suicide in the event of needing it – to ‘put me down’ unimaginably the substance of a conventional love song. The reference here is, of course, to the film, Me Before You, supposedly the glamorous romantic tearjerker where the disabled man in the lead role finds the love of a beautiful and caring woman as not enough for him to continue living. He decided that he cannot manage to accept himself as a ghost of the previous active, hedonistic young man he was and decides to end his life.

The Suicide Tourist song was hilarious, knowing of Liz’s own Euthanasia Road Trip documented on BBC World Service, I loved the lines ‘Dying abroad is all the rage but Switzerland is the only place that will take foreigners,’ This song gives a list of countries where assisted suicide/dying is permitted and the flags are waved – Canada has passed laws allowing doctor assisted dying in June this year. My Canadian friends told me after the show that this was the one time they did not feel proud to see their flag.

Program from the theatre show, "Assisted Suicide: The Musical" featuring a white woman sitting in a gold wheelchair. On both sides are two people dressed in white and red guiding her down a red carpet. These people are holding helium balloons with spelling the word, "Exit"

As one of her fellow campaigners outside the House of Commons and elsewhere, I appreciated her question: When does the ‘right to die’ become ‘the duty to die’? The song with the ‘Pope’ addresses the criticism that campaigners are in cahoots with Christian fundamentalists was great – fab song. However the exchange with the pro assisted suicide supporter on stage did not work so well for me. This reminds me too well of many debates I have and continue to have with people, even disabled activists, that it is selfish to refuse assistance to people who want to die. There is no easy answer.

The sketch of rebranding Assisted Suicide was very clever and knowing that it was a real exercise does not deflect from the truth – the campaign for Assisted Suicide (AS) is very well funded and slick. .There is a scene with flip charts, marker pens, and PR specialists trying to come up with the catchphrase to make suicide palatable. They come with: ‘Society is off the hook…I choose it as my free will and I’ll be brave,’ The idea linking freedom and choice with AS is sown.

I have to mention Palliative Claire as well. She does a number as a ‘carer’ in a very suggestive manner which challenges the normal stereotypes linked with palliative care. It is one of those unexpected surprises, except I should not be surprised, knowing Liz’s repertoire in cabarets at the Royal Festival Hall. The bit that brought me close to tears, however, was the finale where Liz sang in a poignant duet with herself (on a flat screen tv), her dark side, I think she called it. This catches me there because it is so close to my own dark dreams where suicide can be so seductive because of fears of the future, of the present in dealing with disability, the pain, the loneliness and being left behind. She sang, ‘Don’t open the door. Can I trust you/ me with the key…a willing volunteer…’

At dinner after the show, in discussion, one of my Canadian friends pointed out the lack of diversity in the cast. Diversity, in this case, to mean colour. I did not realise it myself. However, as a black friend of mine remarked, the whole notion of dignity in dying and the right to die, assisted suicide is very much a first world issue. Globally, people, disabled and non-disabled, are fighting to survive, the right to live, not the right to die.

For me, the show affirms positively what I feel about assisted suicide, it was clever, witty and entertaining. I think it deserves to be more widely seen by those who campaign against and those who campaign for assisted suicide. I hope it takes the debate away from the personal emotional narratives to reflect on the nuances.


Middle-aged Asian woman with shoulder-length long hair, a hat on her head, and eyeglasses. She has a pink scarf wrapped around her neck.

Eleanor Lisney is a founder member and coordinator of Sisters of Frida, a disabled women’s collective in the UK. She is an access advisor, a National Union of Journalists’ member on the New Media Industrial Council and the Equality Council. She is also on the British Council Disability Advisory Panel and the web team of the International Network of Women with Disabilities.

Twitter: @e_lisney


Light green graphic with black text that reads: #CripLit Twitter Chat Disabled Writers, Diverse Literature, and Intersectionality October 12, 2016 7 pm Eastern Co-hosts Nicola Griffith @nicolaz and Alice Wong @DisVisibility Guest host: Alaina Leary @alainaskeys

10/12 #CripLit Chat: Disabled Writers, Diverse Literature, and Intersectionality

#CripLit Twitter Chat

Disabled Writers, Diverse Literature, and Intersectionality

Guest host: Alaina Leary @alainaskeys

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

4 pm Pacific/ 7 pm Eastern

The Disability Visibility Project is proud to partner with novelist Nicola Griffith in our third #CripLit Twitter chat for disabled writers. Nicola Griffith is the creator of the #CripLit series and the DVP is the co-host/supporting partner. For our third chat, we are both excited to have guest host Alaina Leary, a queer disabled activist and social media team member of We Need Diverse Books™.

All disabled writers are welcome to participate in the chat including reporters, essayists, poets, cartoonists, bloggers, freelancers, unpublished or published. We want to hear from all of you! Check the #CripLit hashtag on Twitter for announcements of future chats that will focus on different genres or topics.

How to Participate

Follow @nicolaz @DisVisibility @alainaskeys on Twitter

Use the hashtag #CripLit when you tweet. If you only want to respond to the questions, check @DisVisibility’s timeline during the chat. The questions will be timed several minutes apart.  

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan:

If you don’t use Twitter and want to follow along in real-time, check out the live-stream:  

#CripLit Tweets for 10/12 Chat

Welcome to our 3rd #CripLit chat! Created by @nicolaz, this chat will discuss diverse literature, intersectionality & disabled writers.

We’re thrilled to have guest host @alainaskeys of @diversebooks join us in this conversation #CripLit

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

Q1 Please introduce yourself, describe your background in writing plus any links about you & your work #CripLit

Q2 As a disabled writer, what does intersectionality mean to you? How does it impact your writing? #CripLit

Q3 Are there times when your identities are erased or devalued by publishers/editors? Why does it happen? How do you respond? #CripLit

Q4 Why is it essential to discuss intersectionality in relation to power & privilege in the publishing industry? #CripLit

Q5 How do your intersectional lived experiences contribute to the creation of diverse stories and characters? #CripLit

Q6 When did you first read a book w/ a character similar to you? How did you feel before and after? #CripLit

Q7 Do you write about all your intersectional identities? Why/why not? #CripLit

Q8 How can we improve disability representation in lit & all forms of diversity as part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks mvmt? #CripLit

Q9 What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation & creative freedom of writers? #CripLit

Q10 Are disabled writers the ‘best’ ones to tell disabled stories? Do these stories belong primarily to us? #CripLit

This concludes our 3rd #CripLit chat! Please keep the convo going. Thank you very much to our guest host @alainaskeys!

Be sure to tweet co-hosts @nicolaz @DisVisibility questions, comments, and ideas for the next #CripLit chat

Additional Links

Disability Art, Scholarship and Activism

Nicola Griffith (5/18/16)

4 Important Reasons Why Disability Visibility Matters

Alaina Leary, Everyday Feminism (9/27/16)

Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait

Kimberlé Crenshaw, Washington Post (9/24/15)

Perspectives of Authors with Disabilities, Part 1

Lyn Miller-Lachmann, We Need Diverse Books  

Perspectives of Authors with Disabilities, Part 2

Lyn Miller-Lachmann, We Need Diverse Books

Looking Back: From Deaf Can’t to Deaf Can

Angela Dahle, We Need Diverse Books (8/31/16)

Disability in Kidlit


A young white woman with long brown hair and bangs over her eyes. She is wearing a short-sleeved white-and-black striped shirt and black pants with suspenders. Her left arm is leaning against a wall. Behind her is greenery with red flowers.

Alaina Leary

Alaina Leary is a Boston-based editor, social media manager, writer, and intersectional feminist activist. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Everyday Feminism, BUST, and The Establishment, among others. She is pursuing an MA in publishing at Emerson College. When she’s not reading, she spends her time at the beach and covering everything in glitter.


Twitter: @alainaskeys





A middle-aged white woman with short cropped hair. She is looking toward the left of the image with a microphone in front of her. The background is all black and she is wearing a scoop neck shirt with a metallic necklace.

Nicola Griffith is a British novelist, now dual US/UK citizen. In Yorkshire, England, she earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defence, fronting a band, and arm-wrestling in bars, before discovering writing and moving to the US. She was diagnosed with MS the same month her first novel Ammonite was published. Her other novels are Slow River, The Blue Place, Stay, Always and Hild. 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. Among other honours her work has won the Washington State Book Award, the Tiptree, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, the Premio Italia, and six Lambda Literary Awards. She is married to writer Kelley Eskridge and lives in Seattle where she emerges occasionally from work on her seventh novel to drink just the right amount of beer and take enormous delight in everything.

Twitter: @nicolaz




Asian American woman in a wheelchair. She is wearing a black jacket with a black patterned scarf. She is wearing a mask over her nose with a tube for her Bi-Pap machine. Behind her is a wall full of colorful graffiti

Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based disability advocate, freelance journalist, television watcher, cat lover, and coffee drinker. Alice 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.  

Twitter: @SFdirewolf




Selfie of two young white women in a large call. Behind them you can see a stage with a lectern, multiple American flags hung up and patriotic bunting on multiple floors.

Campaign Events, Accessibility & Disabled People: Interview with Sarah Blahovec and Laura Halvorson

Alice Wong and her co-partners Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan have been encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities as part of their activism with #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online campaign focused on disability issues this Presidential Election. As the Founder of the Disability Visibility Project™, Alice recently interviewed Sarah Blahovec and Laura Halvorson about their recent experiences at a rally in September. How can event planners and political campaigns improve the accessibility of their activities so that all people feel welcome, safe, and included?

Note: This is not an attack on a particular party or candidate. The opinions and views expressed are about a singular incident and not generalizable for all people with disabilities.

Describe briefly the event you attended, who it was organized by, the speakers featured at the event, where you were located, and the location of the event.

Laura: On Friday September 16th, Sarah and I attended a GOTV (Get Out The Vote) Hillary campaign event that was organized by the White House and held at George Mason University (GMU). Speakers included students at George Mason University, Congressman Bobby Scott, Congressman Gerry Connolly, First Lady Dorothy McAullife of Virginia, Interim Chairman of the DNC Donna Brazile, and First Lady Michelle Obama. Sarah and I were seated (Sarah in a chair and myself in my power wheelchair) in the front row of the ADA section which was “house left” of the stage.

Sarah: Laura and I attended a rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on September 16th. This rally was coordinated by several groups: as it was for Hillary’s campaign, her campaign team was involved; the White House was involved along with the Secret Service; the DNC had a hand in it; and of course, GMU’s event staff was also involved…It was held in a building at GMU that was not specifically an event space like an arena, but more like a common area in a student building. It was a rather small space, and there were three floors above around the room where people were placed to watch the First Lady, as well as on the floor, where we were.

Photo of the stage at George Mason University that has a lectern and signs that say, "Stronger Together". Patriotic bunting and American flags are in the background.

Image courtesy of Laura Halvorson

As politically engaged disabled people, what did you anticipate before you attended the event? Were you excited? What were your expectations?

Sarah: I was extremely excited for the event. As somebody who is invisibly disabled, I do not often attend events, as it is more difficult for me to get into ADA seating, and standing in line for hours and then in an auditorium is unfeasible and would put me in severe pain. Also, for someone with Crohn’s Disease that is out of remission, there is also the concern of a flare and a potential urgent need to access a restroom. As Laura is a wheelchair user and I attended with her, I had the opportunity to actually attend not just for myself, but to make sure that she didn’t have anybody accidentally disconnect her ventilator, which she told me had happened at a previous Hillary Clinton rally that had also taken place at George Mason University.

When we arrived, I was astounded by the line. I walked along the length of the line for about ten minutes and met Laura near the front, where we were allowed to form an ADA line with a few other disabled people. My expectations for the rally were that there would be a separate ADA line outside to go through security, and an ADA section that was physically well separated from the general audience.

Laura: Michelle Obama is known for giving great speeches so I was excited to see her speak in person as well as the other speakers. I anticipated it to be a large crowd and from the last time I attended a rally at GMU I anticipated people in the crowd might get near my wheelchair and ventilator, which is a non-invasive mouthpiece ventilation system mounted on the back of my wheelchair. I made sure Sarah knew how to operate my machine and we both made sure to tell others in the ADA section to be mindful of my ventilator and to not get near my machine or bump into it. I even told a mom and her young son next to me that were on the side of my ventilator connection to be mindful and to help monitor others to not get near my machine. My expectations was that people in the ADA section would be understanding and respectful. It was also my expectation with the amount of volunteers and security there that someone would be monitoring the crowds in the ADA section.

Please share with me details of what happened to you both, what you experienced and observed and what happened afterward.

Sarah: Laura and I experienced a few problems. Prior to being let into the building, the ADA line had been stationed near trash cans. For nearly an hour, we were accosted by bees. As people with several medical sensitivities, this was concerning for us and for others in the ADA line. Laura seemed to be the biggest attraction for the bees, and they kept landing on her and her wheelchair, so we had to keep shooing them away. We asked organizers if we could move away from the trash can, and they would not let us do that. Luckily, nobody was stung, but the lack of flexibility to allow us to escape the bees was frustrating.

When we entered the rally space, the ADA section was on the left side of the stage (from the direction of facing the stage). Laura’s wheelchair was positioned right next to the “barrier” for the ADA section, which was a rope barrier. I was seated to her left, which concerned me, because her mouthpiece ventilator connection was on the right side of her wheelchair, and I was quickly boxed in by other attendees and couldn’t maneuver to be on the other side of her wheelchair to make sure that nobody would knock into it. However, we both told those around us about her ventilator and clearly asked people to make sure that they did not hit it. On Laura’s right, there was a woman with her young son and her baby in a stroller who we warned about the ventilator multiple times.

Prior to the rally and during the opening speakers, people continuously crossed the “barrier” for the ADA section to try to get to the restroom. To do this, they stepped within Laura’s personal space and over her wheelchair, which looked very uncomfortable and seemed very inappropriate.

The crowd crush incident happened after Michelle Obama was done speaking. FLOTUS came down from the stage on the opposite side and started working her way around to shake hands. During this time, pressure started forming around us from people who began to shift from the back and to the right of us to have the opportunity to shake FLOTUS’s hand. A woman cut between me and Laura almost immediately after the speech, making it more difficult for me to get next to her wheelchair and make sure that her ventilator didn’t get hit by the crowd. However, the crowd quickly became so packed that I was unable to move. On Laura’s right side, the crowd kept pushing into her wheelchair, especially the stroller of the woman with the infant and her son. I’m not sure what happened to the rope “barrier” between the ADA section and the crowd, but the crowd no longer paid any attention to it. People started pushing from behind me to try to get around or even over me to get near the First Lady, and both Laura and I started to feel extremely nervous from the intensity of the crowd. The young boy to Laura’s right began to push into her wheelchair controls, and the crowd on her right started to tip her wheelchair towards me. I had to lean across her wheelchair to try to put a counter pressure on the controls. At this time, we were both panicking and asking the crowd to please not push on Laura’s wheelchair, especially near her ventilator.

Photo of a person holding a smartphone taking a photo of First Lady Michelle Obama at a rally.

Source: Photos by Mimi Albano and Leslie Steiger.

When FLOTUS was in front of us, people started climbing around and on top of me, and Laura was almost invisible in the crowd. I yelled to Secret Service, which was standing right in front of me, that we were being crushed and that Laura has a ventilator, but he ignored us, as he was preoccupied with the baby being handed to FLOTUS by the young boy. Around this time, Laura told me that her ventilator stopped working, so I yelled at the crowd behind her and tried to force myself around to the back of her wheelchair to hook the connection back up. At this time, a woman who identified herself as a nurse noticed that we were struggling and helped me to alert the crowd. Laura and I were both having panic attacks at this time, and the shaking make it more difficult for me to hook back up her ventilator. After I got it hooked back up, the nurse helped to make a pathway and push chairs out of the way so that Laura could back out. At this time, the woman with the infant and stroller hit Laura’s ventilator again with her backside and nearly unhooked the ventilator again.

Unfortunately, after we cleared the crowd our struggles were not over. Having a panic attack is a very overwhelming experience, and suddenly many of the people who had just been climbing on top of us to try to talk to FLOTUS began to hover around us and show concern, touching Laura without her permission. This only made it more difficult for us to regain our composure. We also received ableist comments, with Laura being called “brave” for coming to the rally as somebody with a visible disability and being called “the poor child in the wheelchair.” Meanwhile, these women came over to me and commended me apparently for no other reason than the fact that I was friends with someone in the wheelchair.

How did you process everything afterward? How do you feel now that it’s been several days? Are you taking any next steps on speaking out about what happened?

Laura: It took me a while to de-escalate from my panic attack. I am glad someone suggested that we talk to the person in charge of ADA accessibility for the DNC. He agreed to set up a conference call with the both of us and informed us prior to contacting him that he was already alerted about the situation and started to take action. The first action being making sure organizers at future events know to put a bike rack or similar barrier between the standing room and the ADA sections. He informed us that the ADA section at the event was on the wrong side and was supposed to be on “house right” of the stage to prevent other people from rushing into the ADA section to try and meet the speakers. He said at the next Michelle Obama event in Philadelphia will have the ADA section on the right side of the stage and a bike rack barrier will be in place to keep people from sneaking into the ADA section. I have contacted people in Philadelphia to attend the event and critique the event and am eager to hear back from them on what they experienced.

Source: Photos by Mimi Albano and Leslie Steiger.

Source: Photos by Mimi Albano and Leslie Steiger.

Sarah: After the incident, I was both very frightened and very frustrated by our experience. We were very close to a situation in which Laura’s wheelchair could have tipped over and injured both of us and the crowd, or a situation where I could not access her ventilator to hook it back up. After settling down, we discussed writing a letter to explain our experiences to the DNC and ask for safety changes for the ADA section at rallies. Laura and I sent a joint letter explaining our experience and calling for specific changes to improve rally safety.

The letter contained comprehensive details about what we experienced, which we wrote down the same day, along with specific recommendations on improvements the DNC and other event organizers could make to ensure the safety of attendees with and without disabilities. Here is an excerpt of our letter:

We are not sure whether we will ever be comfortable with attending a rally again after this experience.  Being crushed and smothered by people who are more focused on shaking a politician’s hand than ensuring that fellow crowd members aren’t physically harmed was a demoralizing and traumatizing experience. Those in ADA seating, especially those with life-sustaining equipment like ventilators and costly, personal mobility devices like electric wheelchairs, shouldn’t have to weigh whether it is safe for them to attend a political rally, something which should be an exciting, engaging part of our political process. However, while we may never subject ourselves to this again, we feel a personal responsibility to other disabled people to fight for their safety and ability to participate in these types of events. What we experienced was unacceptable and could easily have been more disastrous, and the DNC needs to hold itself accountable, make changes, and ensure safety for all event attendees in the future.

Can you elaborate on the difficulties that people with disabilities face in events like this and why access is so important?

Sarah: After this experience, I am not interested in attending a political rally any time soon. While I know that rallies can be chaotic due to the enthusiasm of the crowd, it was truly terrifying to be in a situation where we couldn’t move, where people were climbing over us, and where we could have both been injured. The most disheartening aspect for me was the fact that people showed absolutely no concern about putting other people in danger because they were too fixated on shaking a politician’s hand.

I do not want my experience to discourage people with disabilities from attending rallies, as these are an exciting part of the political process. However, it is frustrating to have to weigh whether it is safe for someone with life-sustaining medical equipment or mobility devices to be able to attend these events. It is frustrating to wonder whether your safety will be at risk as an invisibly disabled attendee who is affected by chronic pain and fatigue. It is absolutely vital that the organizations and people involved in organizing these events make safety changes so that people with disabilities are able to safely participate in rallies. Nobody should have to let their disability status dictate whether they can participate in political rallies.

Laura: Although DNC rallies appear to be leaps and bounds safer and more accessible than Trump and other former Republican, and 3rd party rallies, this will likely be the last rally I attend unless I hear from others with disabilities with similar needs as myself that these proposed protections are in place. Thankfully most rallies are available on live stream I will watch from the comfort of my own computer where I don’t have to worry about people in the crowd disregarding the safety of others just to get near a candidate or representative. This is unfortunate because people with disabilities are the largest voting minority in the country that also intersects with many other minority statuses.

Photo of a young woman of color with a white t-shirt on holding a sign that says, "Love trumps hate" at a political rally. Behind her are crowds and a stage.

Source: Photos by Mimi Albano and Leslie Steiger.

For any event planner, what are some of your recommendations on accessibility and crowd control? Any other overall message you want to share with campaigns from all political parties?

Laura: Make sure your event is accessible to all types of disabilities, whether it’s a physical, cognitive, invisible, hearing, sensory, vision or disability of any need. We face enough disenfranchisement as is and should be able to attend political events. I commend the DNC for the huge strides they’ve made in just this past election season alone and hope it continues to improve. I implore other political parties to do the same and have a designated person in charge of accessibility and public engagement just as the DNC has. After all, as I stated before we are the largest voting minority in the country that intersects with other minority statuses.

Sarah: Laura and I shared a few recommendations for improvement to the DNC that we hope will be put into action at future rallies. First, the ADA section should have stronger, sturdier barriers to prevent people from crushing people with medical devices or mobility devices. We have been told that, resources willing, bike racks will be placed around the ADA section at future events. Second, we requested that there be crowd control on the audience side of the barrier at rallies to help manage the crowd and prevent crushing. Third, we asked that the ADA section be more strictly enforced, and that the section does not get too crowded by general admission folks and VIPs that arrive late, as these members of the crowd provided much of the pressure around us during the crush as they tried to maneuver to the front of the ADA section. Fourth, we asked that organizers allow the ADA line, as well as anybody else, to be able to move away from issues outside the venue such as the bees that were landing on us, as this could have been a serious safety issue.

My final message to share is to reinforce this idea: disabled people want to participate in the political process as much as anybody else. Nobody should have to weigh whether they, their medical equipment, or their mobility devices will be at risk by attending a political rally. Please make the necessary changes to ensure that all people, disabled and nondisabled, are able to safely participate in rallies.


Profile of a young white woman with shoulder-length brown hair and a black blazer. She is speaking in front of a lectern. Behind her is a screen projected with a slide.

Sarah Blahovec is a disability voting rights activist and blogger who has Crohn’s Disease, which is an invisible disability and chronic illness.

Twitter: @Sblahov

Young white woman in a sepia-tone photo. She is in a power chair and a black labrador retriever that is her service animal has its two front paws on her lap.

Laura Halvorson is a disability rights advocate with muscular dystrophy. She uses a non-invasive ventilation (NIV) machine for breathing and a power wheelchair for mobility.

Twitter: @sneschalmerz