First, as a part of this administration’s accessibility and inclusion efforts, starting today, we will have an ASL — an American Sign Language — interpreter for our daily press briefings. Today’s interpreter, Heather, is joining us virtually. The President is committed to building an America that is more inclusive, more just, and more accessible for every American, including Americans with disabilities and their families.

Source: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 25, 2021 | The White House

Hearing the words and getting a shout out sure is nice, especially after the open ableism and eugenics of the previous administration.

“Race does not exist outside of ability and ability does not exist outside of race” (Annamma et al., 2013, p. 6). This insight is powerfully confirmed by the experiences of the Black middle-class parents and their children in our research. LD categories, such as autism and dyslexia, are mostly treated in contemporary England as a property right for the benefit of White middle-class students—a property right to which our Black interviewees’ social class profile does not grant access. Even armed with the supposedly “scientific” warrant of a formal assessment (a certification meant to credentialize and medicalize the “condition”), Black middle-class parents’ claims were rejected. Within an educational competition where particular LD dis/ability labels can become a valuable asset, therefore, this asset is denied to the Black parents and their children. Their greater social class capital is rejected, their claims denied, and their motives questioned. In contrast, however, schools seem content to mobilize certain dis/ability labels, especially negative behavioral categories, in all too familiar ways against the parents and their children—a finding that relates to a further DisCrit tenet:

  1. DisCrit emphasizes the social constructions of race and ability and yet recognizes the material and psychological impacts of being labeled as raced or dis/abled, which sets one outside of the western cultural norms. (p. 11)

At the particular nexus of identities and locations (England in the early 21st century, wherein Black racial identity, middle-class social status, and a range of dis/ability labels collide) the outcomes follow a pattern that privileges White supremacy and the racial status quo. Although a dis/ability label might be a useful resource (providing additional resources or supports), it is generally denied by White power holders. Yet, dis/ability labels that serve to exclude, stigmatize, and control (emotional or behavioral disabilities) are applied without regard to national guidelines or formal procedures.

Source: DisCrit—Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education (Disability, Culture, and Equity Series) (p. 50). Teachers College Press. Kindle Edition.

Disability solidarity means that we are all advancing intersectional justice - that Disabled folks are working hard to achieve racial justice, economic justice, gender justice; and Black folks are holding ourselves accountable for disability justice, immigrant justice, indigenous justice, etc. Disability solidarity means the folks fighting for racial justice and disability justice are one and the same. In this way, no one is left behind.

Disability solidarity encapsulates the lived experience of Emmett Till and millions of Disabled youth of color living at the intersection he once occupied. These are the youth who continue to be profiled, criminalized, and killed for existing. They deserve to have their whole humanity affirmed. Disability solidarity saves lives and makes room for laughter, love and freedom at an intersection that does not have to continue to be the most dangerous intersection that we’ve ever held.

Source: Emmett Till & the Pervasive Erasure of Disability In Conversations about White Supremacy & Police Violence – TALILA A. LEWIS

Disabled people already have to give up our privacy just to access basic services, support, and accommodations. We have to deal with consistent, lingering beliefs about fraud and deceit that lead to implementation of policies like Electronic Visit Verification, which subjects disabled people receiving publicly funded support to increased scrutiny.

Source: How to center disability in the tech response to COVID-19

This is forced intimacy. It’s the opposite of inclusion, and it is exhausting.

So intertwined are these oppressions that any attempt to rid the nation of racism without doing away with ableism yields practically nothing. The same is true in reverse. Disabled communities attempting to rid the nation of ableism find themselves having made very little headway because they are still practicing racism.

Source: Emmett Till & the Pervasive Erasure of Disability In Conversations about White Supremacy & Police Violence – TALILA A. LEWIS

The Complications of Kindness

Selections on kindness from “Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body”:

I am a magnet for kindness. Like the center of a black hole, my body attracts every good deed from across the expanse of the universe to the foot of my wheelchair. I move through parking lots and malls, farmers’ markets and airports, bookstores and buffets, and people scramble to my aid. They open doors and reach out their arms to help, they offer prayers, grab my handlebars for a push, watch over me, and hold out wads of cash.

Okay, so not every single person who comes within my orbit suddenly sprints to my service. There are plenty of people who don’t seem to notice me, and some people who are actually repelled by my magnet. They look down, pull their bag or their child closer to them, draw their legs up to their chest as I roll by. (Yeah, it doesn’t feel great.) But it’s the abundance of kindness that gets me all tangled. It’s the fly that won’t stop buzzing, won’t hold still long enough for me to swat it, won’t die.

It’s harmless, really. What damage can a tiny fly do? But then why do I feel like tearing down the house every time I hear its familiar buzz? And here’s the real nasty cherry on top of the fly: more than any other subject I write about, people do not like what I have to say about the complications of kindness. Because how could kindness be anything but good? What do I possibly want from the people if not kindness? And really, what kind of ungrateful hag must I be to complain about people trying to do nice things for me??? I’ve talked enough with folks to know—this conversation is uncomfortably disruptive.

As a culture, Americans are pretty well convinced that disability is something they’ve figured out. In fact, this was a puzzle solved years ago. How could ableism exist when we’ve memorized the rules? Don’t say the R-word; don’t make fun; disability doesn’t define anyone; just try to be helpful; and the rule that guides them all: Be kind. I’ve seen so many people perform these creeds in one form or another.

Like the folks who try to do me a favor by keeping me separate from this disabled body of mine: All I see when I look at you is a beautiful woman. I don’t even notice your wheelchair! I don’t think of you as disabled. It’s meant as a kindness, but it feels like erasure. These words handpicked to soothe the wounds of disability are weapons themselves, reinforcing the deep-seated belief that beauty and value can’t coexist with the deviations we all know I embody.

I think I understand how it happens: If you live in a community where disability is framed as tragic, sad, and inferior, then claiming not to see that so-called defect feels like a favor. We try to extract the disability from the person, because we think disability is ugly, and the rules tell us that this separation is nice. But do we attempt to extract thinness, Ivy League education, or wealth from a person? Of course not. We see these characteristics as inherently positive. Maybe individuals hold on to these features as part of their identity, maybe they don’t, but as a culture, we don’t take it upon ourselves to graciously inform people that we see past their fit bodies, fancy diplomas, and piles of cash. There is no urgency to ignore thinness, no discomfort in recognizing education, no knee-jerk desire to erase wealth. Deep within our cultural understanding of what it means to be a human with a body, we position disability below ability and at odds with health, beauty, wholeness, success, and happiness. But I don’t need my paralyzed legs to be erased in order for me to be seen as able, healthy, beautiful, whole, successful, or happy.

Time and time again, people in my life and readers of my work become uncomfortable with, ruffled by, and hostile to the stories I share about sitting on the receiving end of “kindness.” Maybe it’s because so many of us claim “kindness” as one of the most important qualities a human can possess. Disrupting our understanding of kindness is a direct threat to our sense of self and understanding of the world around us. But as a veteran Kindness Magnet, I’ve found people’s attempts to Be Kind can be anything from healing to humiliating, helpful to traumatic. It’s complicated.

Source: Taussig, Rebekah. Sitting Pretty (pp. 128 – 130). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. and Here’s Why Kindness Toward Disabled People Is Complicated | Time

See also:

Ms. Morin herself has neurodivergent children, for whom virtual learning has been “a relief in a lot of ways,” removing the social pressure and sensory overload of an average day. “They’ve been so much calmer about school,” she said.

As nondisabled people rush to return to face-to-face interactions, accessibility threatens to narrow back to pre-pandemic levels. But the window is still open to make accessibility permanent, ideally under the guidance of people with disabilities, who used online tools out of necessity well before they became universal.

Source: Disability, Work and Coronavirus: What Happens Now? – The New York Times

My kids also prefer the sensory and social calmness of schooling at home.

Telemedicine and distributed education are accommodations our disabled and neurodivergent family had to fight for, usually unsuccessfully, that are now no longer accommodations because they have suddenly normalized. I’m cynical enough to expect to go back to fighting as soon as some sense of the old normal is reclaimed.

I updated “Design is Tested at the Edges: Intersectionality, The Social Model of Disability, and Design for Real Life” with selections from “Black Autistics Exist: An Argument for Intersectional Disability Justice | South Seattle Emerald”.

The term intersectionality is used more broadly today to describe the cumulative effect within one’s lived experience of being in the world with two or more socially constructed identities; and the world’s perception, storying, and interaction with them.

The crux of intersectionality as a philosophy is that it does not allow for socially constructed identities to occur discreetly in the sociopolitical and sociocultural sphere. When someone like me walks into the room, I don’t have the opportunity to negotiate with others which of my identities they intend to hyperfocus on or criticize. I am a package deal. We all are. This is what I feel is so important when advocating for affirmation of intersectional autism. Just as we seek to discuss misogynoir, we need to bring in the complexity of these sorts of social dynamics into the autistic experience. Intersectionality can serve as a silencer of autism if the other seeks to home in on some other stereotype or archetype they find more threatening or – said with disgust – fascinating.

Autism doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and neither do any aspects of our intersectionality. They all happen at once, in the moment, and influence our being in the world, and how the world is with us at all times.

Intersectionality is not only arguing for factualizing these marginalized identities as inextricably intertwined, but also acknowledging that their accumulative interactions are absolutely inseparable.

It is unjust to only think of intersectionality as a crossroads of one dependent and independent variable. Instead, we must grow to see intersectional disability as a radial: multiple streams of energy coalescing at one central point of consciousness and lived experience.

Source: Black Autistics Exist: An Argument for Intersectional Disability Justice | South Seattle Emerald