Filmmaker and activist Cheryl Green recently interviewed Aimee Elber on July 26, 2014 during the City of Portland ADA 24th anniversary celebration held at Matt Dishman Community Center. Cheryl Green is a media partner of the Disability Visibility Project and we appreciate her continual support!
Below is are some excerpts of Cheryl’s interview:
Aimee Elber on Disability Storytelling
Right now, I work with people with disabilities at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Oregon, and my job there is to serve students with disabilities and help them get accommodations in the classroom. So my experience continues to support me and my goal of serving others with disabilities in the community, being an advocate and an agent of change and someone who is striving for social justice around these issues. My hearing loss is one part of my disability, but I also have the experience of living with others who have disability. And so what I bring to the table is a diverse range of experience and opportunity and understanding around these issues.
Well, this is interesting. I could probably honestly say that I have been offered employment because of my disability. With me, I see my disability as a strength in certain areas. I am somewhat proficient in American Sign Language, which is actually an asset in my field. And so when there’s that little box at the bottom of the application that says “Are you a person with a disability, are you a veteran,” you know, “are you a minority?” I’m able to check one of those boxes that I do have a disability. And it helps me to bring awareness to my colleagues about disability and access and accommodations in the workplace. So I think it’s been helpful for me. It’s gotten me places. I’ve embraced it as a part of who I am and used it to my advantage.
Someone recently asked me, they said, “Oh! You had a hearing loss, and you’ve had that all your life. Was it hard as a kid?” And I said, “Yeah. You know, there were times where I was embarrassed of my hearing aids, the large over the ear.” You know, every kid in junior high has some self-image issue going on. So that was mine. But as a adult, my hearing loss’s become a part of me just like if people were to say, “Aimee has brown hair and blue eyes.” It’s just who I am. So for those who have an acquired disability, it’s not who they are. It’s something new. It’s different. It’s a change. And it can be disabling, or it can be a part of who you are. It depends on how you learn to accept and accommodate and work with and understand all of that. And neither way is good or bad. It’s just how it works.
So I would say I think there’s value in hearing the stories of people with an acquired disability. They have a different perspective that is important for us to hear. At the same time, I think there’s value in those that’ve grown up with a disability or have had it for a long time. And I think that the answer is to meet in the middle and come together and share stories as a group together, and to open up the lines of communication for understanding and collaboration.
I think it’s important to recognize, though, that there’re certain communities that have been oppressed in the disability world. And because of that oppression, sometimes we become guarded. And I think that there is value in understanding and recognizing hey, yeah, you get it because you’ve dealt with it too.
For the entire interview: http://whoamitostopit.com/2014/08/07/aimee-elber-on-disability-storytelling/
Aimee Elber is a Coordinator at the Disability Resource Center, Clackamas Community College.
Who Am I To Stop It: http://whoamitostopit.com