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DVP Interview: Tara Ayres and Leah Rothman

Leah Rothman interviewed Tara Ayres. for the Disability Visibility Project™ at StoryCorps San Francisco on December 6, 2014. In this clip,Tara Ayres talks with Leah Rothman about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which she has attended for many years. Tara describes the intersectionalities of being queer and a person living with disabilities. Tara also shares about the DART community at Mich Fest, what it means to her to be a part of the community, and how she came into her disability consciousness.

Text Transcript:


[Instrumental music – acoustic guitar, twangy and bright tone]

Tara Ayres: Since I was 18 I’ve been going to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. This past summer was my… either 35th or 36th time attending. And… You know, Mich, Mich Fest is an interesting place because it is a rustic camping music festival. Everything that’s on the land, um, gets built, um, for the festival every year and torn down at the end of the festival.

Tara Ayres: Well I have Multiple Sclerosis so about 6 or 7 years ago I had just, I had arrived at festival just having come out of an exacerbation and I could barely walk. I set up in general camping where I always, where I always do and uh, my friend basically kicked me and said “you can’t, you can’t camp in general camping.” There is a disabled resource area called DART. I did not want to move to DART, I did not want to acknowledge that I had a severe enough disability to have to be there.

Tara Ayres: So there are women like me who have fairly significant mobility impairments. There are women who are there because, uh, we’re the only place on the land where you can plug a CPAP in and or, uh, recharge a power wheelchair or a scooter. We’ve got women who don’t really think of themselves as disabled. We’ve got women who are totally righteous amazing disability justice activists. And we’ve got women who are coming in because they’ve had an injury. Or women who are newly disabled, who are freaked out about what’s going on in their bodies, like, like I was my first year in DART.

Tara Ayres: From the minute I am in DART I’ve got women being kind to me, taking me under their wing. Um, but I’ve also got women commenting on everything from ableist language that was coming out of my mouth to mmm… you really… that piece of adaptive equipment you have really is not the right one for you.

Tara Ayres: I found women that I could talk to who, who have similar things going on in their body that I had never ever had the opportunity to talk to or probably would ever feel safe to talk to anybody in a different context about everything from how do you deal with sex when you can’t move this part of your body. Or what do you do when the Port-o-John is a quarter of a mile away from your tent and you have to, you’re going to have to figure out how to get down there in the middle of the night. How do you deal with that kind of stuff?   

Tara Ayres: You know, part of the problem with having a disability in this culture is that one of the things that anybody needs for decent mental health is a sense of realistic mirroring. You get to see us kick back and drinking beer and you know… that’s the other thing. You know, models of disability out in the rest of the world are so bloody sanitized and or so infantilized. It’s just, it’s different when you’re hanging out in the woods in your underwear for a week.

Tara Ayres: I feel recognized and seen in a way I don’t really anyplace else on the planet. And it’s a gift. Able bodied people who want to be, or able minded people who wanna be allies to people with disabilities, look at institutional barriers. In the same way that I try to think about being an effective ally to people of color and look at where there isn’t access. Check attitudes about who is fully human and whose not. If we can’t get in the door, we can’t be part of your community.

[Instrumental music – acoustic guitar and drum beat, hopeful, garage band tone]

Source: Freemusicarchive.orgMusic Credits: “Sparks Fly” by Waxahatchee and “Rosalie” by KieLoBot. All songs under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License

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Suggested Reference

Disability Visibility Project™. (6/9/17). DVP Interview: Tara Ayres and Leah Rothman Retrieved from:

Image Description:

A photo featuring Tara Ayres and Leah Rothman was taken on December 6, 2014

A close up portrait of two women outside the metallic exterior of the StoryCorps booth sitting next to each other, both facing the camera. The woman on the left, Tara, has chin length curly, brown and gray hair. A pair of glasses are propped up on top of her head. Tara also has blue eyes, identifies as white, is dressed in a turquoise leather jacket with a light blue scoop neck t shirt and a thin silver chain necklace with a larger silver pendant. Tara is facing the camera and smiling. The woman on the right, Leah, has short dark brown hair, is wearing oblong dark brown glasses and appears to be white. She is wearing a collared button down shirt that is tan with muted black, green, and dark red plaid stripes. Tara is facing the camera, smiling, and also has two black backpack straps visibly around her shoulders.


Produced for the Disability Visibility Project™ by Yosmay del Mazo and Alice Wong with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: and

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