Monday, September 28, 2009

Disability Pride and Power

In this video, a woman with paraplegia describes her journey toward empowerment and what disability pride and power mean to her. In a second video, a female amputee talks about how her identity has changed after becoming active toward working for disability rights.

A woman with cerebral palsy talks about being institutionalized at the age of 12 after her parents called the state for help with her care and her eventual journey toward working for disability rights.


Anonymous said...

How appalling that a young girl with mild CP could be put in a mental institution and knocked out with drugs like that. I wonder when that was - she doesn't look older than mid-30s (I'm 32). It reminds me of what happened to Ruth Sienkiewicz, who was treated like an imbecile and forced to live with mentally ill people when she was a 12-year-old quadriplegic who just couldn't communicate. It's scary as she was younger than my mother.

A while back I read an article by Victoria Brignell, a quad who writes an online column for the New Statesman's website (the NS is a generally left-leaning British political magazine). She became paralysed at the age of six as a result of an operation to remove a cervical spinal tumour; she is, by the sound of things, an incomplete C3 (or thereabouts) quad who has feeling, but no movement, in most of her body. You can find the article I'm referring to here.

Something I found remarkable is that she said she was glad she became disabled then and not later, because she would have found the adjustment much harder as an adult, while she still has many happy memories of being able-bodied. I found this rather contentious, because the early teens are the worst time to be vulnerable in any way in our society: you're becoming adult-sized and sexually mature, and there are plenty of people who will take advantage. Sexual abuse in deaf schools (as well as ideological abuse such as preventing them from signing) is well-known, and I know two blind women who suffered sexual abuse in blind schools in the USA and Canada in the early to mid 1990s. I was in a special boarding school for boys in eastern England at the same time, and I spent a lot of my first year there (age 12 to 13) fending off gropers.

So, she had a relatively easy time of it either because she had supportive parents who fought to keep her out of special schools, or because she lived in an area which had an inclusive educational culture. Others aren't so lucky. I had come to think of these things as things that went on in the 1940s and were banished by progress; it's so upsetting to think that this could have been me or my mother in different circumstances.


Matt Smith

Wheelie Catholic said...

I appreciate your heartfelt comment.

How I wish that more people realized it could be them - or their children- or other loved ones who face institutionalization (and all that comes with it) if we don't pay attention to community care programs for those with disabilities.