Both describe how disability community, history, and justice impacted their lives.
In this clip, Stacey Park Milbern (29) shares about her journey to connecting with disability community, understanding the impact of ableism and the importance of disability justice, and then shares her hopes for future generations of disabled people.
The DVP invites you to record your story about Stacey for StoryCorps with two options: remotely or with an app. Details: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2020/05/23/staceytaughtus-record-your-story-for-the-disability-visibility-project/
Note: As this clip is in remembrance of Stacey, hers is the only voice presented. The second storyteller, Corbett OToole (whom you can hear once in the audio), will be featured in an additional forthcoming edit from this same recorded conversation.
[Instrumental music – melodic guitar strumming in an ascending, repetitive pattern]
Stacey Park Milbern:
I think a lot of times society thinks about disability as an individual problem and it’s a way to avoid larger social issues or social responsibility for ableism. And I think for me, I really understood my own disability just through that lens. It was a constant message that I needed to be fixed that it was something to overcome.
I grew up, um, not knowing specifically what the condition was, so I walked until about middle school and then started using a manual chair and then scooter and then in my high school I used a power chair. So much of my childhood memories, I think are really about surgeries and going to physical therapy. But as strange as it sounds, throughout that whole time I never really identified as being a person with a disability. So I might have said… described myself as someone who has challenges.
[Instrumental music – slow and deliberately spaced guitar chords]
I started being in disability community at the same time I got my trach and started using a ventilator. In high school national youth leadership program, I was so shocked because there were all these people with disabilities. They were talking about the history of the disability rights movement and they looked like me, but they’re working at the white house!
Here were all these people saying that they were fine just as they were. That’s when I was like, ok, I’m going to dedicate my life to, like, this community.
[Instrumental guitar music – tone is slow, pensive, and repetitive]
I think people with disabilities are used to the world not being accessible and having to make things work out of nothing. You know, the world literally isn’t made to house us, it feels like sometimes. So we get to be really creative problem solvers and I think aren’t constrained to boxes, can kinda see pictures that other people can’t see.
I laugh at myself sometimes, because I remember a few years ago, there was a place without a ramp. The step was just big enough that I couldn’t do it myself, maybe four or five inches. So I took off my shoe and I used my two tennis shoes to fill the gap and then made a ramp out of it and was able to get up the step. [can hear Corbett OToole laughing] So just things like that. Nobody would ever think, what do I have that fits that exact size. Um, so just things like that. I really appreciate that… the creativity that people with disabilities have, just from everyday experiences.
[Instrumental guitar music – bright toned chord progression, music]
I feel like the last ten years, or longer, have just been around finding beauty and power in myself. And I want people to know and find that for themselves too.
I would want people with disabilities twenty years from now to not think that they’re broken. You know, not think that there is anything spiritually or physically or emotionally wrong with them, you know.
And not just people with disabilities but queer people, gender non conforming folks, and people of color. And all of the people I think that society really pushes down and out. And just to know that we are so powerful.
[Instrumental music – fast strumming guitar and piano, upbeat tempo and tone]
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Disability Visibility Project. (2020, 5/23). DVP Interview: Stacey Park Milbern and Corbett OToole. Retrieved from: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2020/05/23/dvp-interview-stacey-park-milbern-remembered/
A photo featuring Stacey Park Milbern was taken from a Disability Visibility Instagram post and was not connected to this StoryCorps Interview:
Black and white portrait of Stacey looking directly at the camera. In the upper right hand corner is written “1987-2020”. Stacey identifies as a Korean American, queer, disabled person. She has short dark hair that swoops off to one side over her forehead. She is wearing black framed round glasses and smiling with a big grin. She is wearing a dark colored shirt and her trach tube is visible at the base of her neck.
Whom by Beeside and The Curious Roe by Axle. All songs and sound effects included under an Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License
Sources: freesound.org and freemusicarchive.org
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project by Yosmay del Mazo and Alice Wong. Interview recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com