Just Say the Word, Disability!

No, “disability” is not a bad word.

No, having a disability is not shameful.

No, disability does not mean being “less than”.

No, disability does NOT mean a complete inability to do things. It only means, needing to do things differently from everyone else.

No, it does not mean that your life loses value. Disabled lives are LIVES WORTH LIVING.

Claiming the disability label for yourself or for your children and other loved ones is NOT a form of “giving up”. It doesn’t mean that you stop working toward greater autonomy, improved abilities, integration into society, or a more fulfilled life. It just means, acknowledging that you may need to do things differently. Sometimes accepting a disability can be an important step toward achieving your life goals. You can’t imagine away limitations, but you can imagine how to work around them.

Claiming the disability label can be an act of pride. Many disabled warriors have fought for everything from the right to ride public transportation, to attend school, to have the same access to information and communication as everyone else, and more. Even if you’re not disabled, then you have still benefited from our advocacy. Every curb cut you’ve ever used for your baby stroller, every line of captions that enables you to understand television in a noisy bar, and many more things are there because we fought for them.

If you’re worried about “appropriating” the term from people who need it? If you are worried that your difficulties are too “minor” to “count”? If you think the best way to show respect for disabled people is to disclaim the label? Please relax. Most of us want MORE people, not fewer, to feel entitled to identify with the word “disability”. Even people who experience different degrees of difficulty may still share a common need for accessible environments and respect for our value as human beings. You’re not taking anything away from us by claiming the identity. On the contrary: you are identifying common ground that lets us work together toward common goals.

If you still believe disability isn’t an accurate descriptor for you? Or if you need to think about it more first? You have a right to define your own identity. You do you.

But please, have the courtesy to disclaim the label in a way that doesn’t imply that being a person with talents, autonomy, and value as a human being is somehow a contradiction to being also a person with disabilities.

And, please, learn what the term means before explaining why it doesn’t fit. If you say you’re not disabled because there are so many things you can do, then you haven’t understood what it means. If you say you’re not disabled because you “only need to do things differently,” then you have just given the definition for what “disability” means. Wouldn’t it feel silly to learn that your explanation for disclaiming the label instead explains why you have a right to claim it after all?

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Open Letter to People Writing Articles About Successful People with Disabilities

Open letter to people writing articles about successful people with disabilities:

Yes, that’s right, [insert disability here] completely failed to stop this person from [insert ordinary accomplishment here].

Do you know why their disability did not stop them from doing well with the thing?

Here, let me help you. The reason why their disability didn’t stop them? Is because there’s no reason why it would! Because having this disability doesn’t have anything to do with the success that you have described!

The negative assumptions that other people make about disabled people? The prejudice and discrimination that people with disabilities have to deal with? The accessibility barriers in our environment? These things can slow us down. Sometimes these things can even stop us altogether. But nine times out of ten, articles about successful people with disabilities aren’t talking about these things when they say, “[disability] did not stop this person from [accomplishment]”!

You may think you are doing a good thing in sharing stories that help bust stereotypes about disability. You are helping show that people with disabilities can be successful!

Yes, this is good. But the way you frame this matters. When you say that the person accomplished X despite having disability Y, you help reinforce the concept that disability Y should normally be a barrier to achieving accomplishment X. These kinds of statements can actually reinforce negative assumptions about disability. This can imply that the person’s success is a rare exception that other disabled people might not achieve. And often that implication is incorrect.

If you really want to help break stereotypes, then please don’t do it like this. Instead, please help your readers understand that,

  • Yes, this person with a disability is successful!
  • Because lots of people with similar disabilities are also accomplishing great things!

Help employers and other gatekeepers understand that, very often, the only thing standing in the way of the next successful disabled person is the lack of opportunity. And they’re in a position to offer these opportunities.

Thanks.

Signed, Annoyed Reader with Multiple Disabilities Who Sometimes Gets Tired of Seeing the Same Tropes in News Stories About People with Disabilities

[Note: I originally posted this “open letter” at my Tumblr.]

[Disclaimers: Yes, I recognize that sometimes disabilities are the barrier. I do not intend to erase the experiences of people for whom disability is the primary challenge to meeting conventional definitions of “successful”. However, in a high ratio of media coverage, disability in and of itself is not as much of a barrier as media purveyors seem to assume. Also: Yes, I absolutely agree that people do not have to be employed to have value as people, or to be defined as “successful”. Hence, “and other gatekeepers”.]

Let August Voices to Senators be Loud! Tell them to Support the Disability Treaty!

Text inside circle says "We Support CRPD", text around circle says www.disabilitytreaty.org also on rim of circle are icons for sign interpreter, wheelchair, audio loop, and blind person with caneYes, the campaign for U.S. ratification of the “Disability Treatycontinues!   We still need your support to move forward the struggle for the human rights of 1 billion people with disabilities around the world!  This isn’t a quick sprint, this is an ongoing marathon.  And like any other marathon, getting this treaty passed requires persistence from all of us!  It isn’t over until it’s over!

  • This handout is a good start for people new to the CRPD:  http://bit.ly/CRPD1Pager
  • Find more resources on what the “Disability Treaty” is and why it matters at http://bit.ly/Resources4CRPD.
  • Recruit friends and family to help you call Senators! The Action Center at http://disabilitytreaty.org provides phone numbers for your Senators and a suggested script.  The Action Center also has a template email.   Tell Senators that you want the U.S. to ratify the “Disability Treaty” (called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD).  Tell them as many times as it takes for them to hear us.
  • Did you know that August is a great time to meet with your Senators in their home state offices about the “Disability Treaty” (CRPD)? A personal meeting with a Senator (or their staff) can be a powerful way to get the message across that you want them to ratify the CRPD.   Your Senators both have at least one office in your home state.  This handout has guidance on how to meet with your Senator: http://bit.ly/MeetSenators. To find a town hall meeting to attend, consult your Senators’ website, or your local newspaper.

If you’ve done all the above and now want to call more Senators in addition to your own, here are some who need to hear from more CRPD advocates:

Senator Reid, Nevada
202-224-3542
http://www.reid.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
Senator Reid is the person who has the power to schedule a floor vote on the CRPD–or not.  He supports the treaty.  But he still needs to hear from us that we want him to please schedule a Senate floor vote on the CRPD in 2014!

Senator Flake, Arizona
202-224-4521
colleen_donnelly@flake.senate.gov

Senator Boozman, Arkansas
(202) 224-4843
http://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

Senator Isakson, Georgia
202-224-3643
chris_sullivan@isakson.senate.gov

Senator Chambliss, Georgia
202-224-3521
Brandon_bell@chambliss.senate.gov

Senator Coats, Indiana
202-224-5623
terry_snell@coats.senate.gov

Senator Blunt, Missouri
202-224-5721
lauren_mccormack@blunt.senate.gov

Senator Cochran, Mississippi
202-224-5054
tim_wolverton@cochran.senate.gov

Senator  Wicker, Mississippi
202-224-6253
bevin_wilkinson@wicker.senate.gov

Senator Fischer, Nebraska
202-224-6551
peter_schirtzinger@fischer.senate.gov

Senator Johanns, Nebraska
202-224-4224
leslie_campbell@johanns.senate.gov

Senator Burr, North Carolina
202-224-3154
Cynthia_ramos@burr.senate.gov

Senator Portman, Ohio
202-224-3353
tyler_brace@portman.senate.gov

Senator Toomey, Pennsylvania
202-224-4254
dan_adelstein@toomey.senate.gov

Senator Graham,  South Carolina
202-224-5972
matt_rimkunas@lgraham.senate.gov

Senator Scott, South Carolina
202-224-6121
spencer_pederson@scott.senate.gov

Senator Hoeven, North Dakota
202-224-2551
josh_carter@hoeven.senate.gov

Senator Hatch, Utah
202-224-5251
tom_jipping@hatch.senate.gov

 

After the Disability Treaty Rally–Yes, We Still Need YOUR Calls to Senators!

This was disseminated yesterday by Access Living in Chicago, which is one of hundreds of organizations involved with the national campaign for the U.S. ratification of the “Disability Treaty” (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD).  The rally referenced in this email occurred on July 29th, 2014.  Certain Senators still really need to hear from CRPD supporters!  You will find phone numbers below.  A suggested “script” for what to say is available via the Action Center at http://disabilitytreaty.org.  If you are comfortable using the phone, please do: Many Senators do count phone calls more heavily than most other forms of communication.  Yes, voice mail messages left outside of office hours are still counted!  But if making a phone call isn’t your thing, then email addresses for a staff person in each Senator’s office is also included below.  A template email for you to modify is also available at http://disabilitytreaty.org.

If the Senate adjourns for August recess without voting on the CRPD, then those of us who support the human rights of 1 billion people with disabilities around the world will need to sustain our pressure on Senators during August.  Please read below for more information on latest events and for a list of Senators who need to hear from you!

Date: July 30, 2014 12:00:39 PM EDT
Subject: Update on the CRPD Fight from Washington, DC!

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

Writing you from Washington, DC!  Yesterday was an amazing day with disability advocates from across the nation fighting for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

First thing yesterday morning, hundreds of advocates marched from downtown DC to the Reflecting Pool at the US Capitol. Energy and positivity was very high as we knew we were marching with our best!  We rallied with a number of members of Congress who came to express support for independent living and the CRPD.  Among them were our own Senator Dick Durbin and Representatives Brad Schneider and Jan Schakowsky.  They lit the crowd on fire!

Then, about 150 of us marched to the Senate Hart Office Building where there is a large atrium.  We rallied in the atrium with a range of national disability advocates.  Then, we split up to focus on visiting the offices of Senators whose votes we need to pass the CRPD.  I personally visited eight of the twelve key Senate offices with support from Access Living and Progress Center team members. We found some people are still wavering, while some are resisting.

I know that advocates are working all fronts right now to get that support so Senator Tom Harkin can call for a floor vote on the CRPD.  No news yet this morning, but if we have new developments we will be sure to let you know! In the meantime, desk warriors, your support yesterday has meant so much and I need to ask you to call those offices once again today.  Below my signature is the contact info you need.  Just say, “Support the CRPD!”  Every contact counts. Let’s go Illinois!

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

Key Senators:

Senator Flake, Arizona
202-224-4521
colleen_donnelly@flake.senate.gov

Senator Isakson, Georgia
202-224-3643
chris_sullivan@isakson.senate.gov

Senator Chambliss, Georgia
202-224-3521
Brandon_bell@chambliss.senate.gov

Senator Coats, Indiana
202-224-5623
terry_snell@coats.senate.gov

Senator Blunt, Missouri
202-224-5721
lauren_mccormack@blunt.senate.gov

Senator Cochran, Mississippi
202-224-5054
tim_wolverton@cochran.senate.gov

Senator  Wicker, Mississippi
202-224-6253
bevin_wilkinson@wicker.senate.gov

Senator Fischer, Nebraska
202-224-6551
peter_schirtzinger@fischer.senate.gov

Senator Johanns, Nebraska
202-224-4224
leslie_campbell@johanns.senate.gov

Senator Burr, North Carolina
202-224-3154
Cynthia_ramos@burr.senate.gov

Senator Portman, Ohio
202-224-3353
tyler_brace@portman.senate.gov

Senator Toomey, Pennsylvania
202-224-4254
dan_adelstein@toomey.senate.gov

Senator Graham,  South Carolina
202-224-5972
matt_rimkunas@lgraham.senate.gov

Senator Scott, South Carolina
202-224-6121
spencer_pederson@scott.senate.gov

Senator Hoeven, North Dakota
202-224-2551
josh_carter@hoeven.senate.gov

Senator Hatch, Utah
202-224-5251
tom_jipping@hatch.senate.gov

(If you missed the Disability Treaty Rally that was in Washington DC on Tuesday, July 29th, you can watch videos of some of it–some labeled CRPD, some labeled NCIL–at http://bambuser.com/channel/USICD. Unfortunately no captions, but the person who did the filming attempted to keep the sign interpreter in the shot when feasible.)

ALERT: Disability Treaty is Moving Again! We Need More of YOUR Phone Calls to Senators

Edited (July 24, 2014) to add this paragraph: The Disability Treaty has passed a major hurdle that we have been working toward during more than 18 months of sustained campaigning!  The treaty (called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD) has been passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This means we are a major step closer to ratification–but we’re not there yet.  We still need your help calling Senators to ask them to ratify.  The Action Center at http://disabilitytreaty.org can help you with phone numbers and a script for talking with your Senators’ staff.  With the Disability Treaty passed out of committee, Senator Reid could schedule a Senate floor vote at any time.  Things may move VERY QUICKLY from here on out.  Although I try to post alerts here when I am able, sometimes there is simply too much to do.  The best way to ensure you don’t miss any important opportunities to take action is to subscribe to the CRPD Action Alert mailing list at http://disabilitytreaty.org/app/register?1&m=9605.

The text of the original blog post (posted on July 18) follows below:

Thank you to everyone who called their Senators this month and expressed support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)! Based on your incredible show of support, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez has scheduled a mark-up hearing on July 22nd! (Senators will propose and vote on Amendments for the CRPD, then vote it out of Committee).

We need your help! It is critical! We cannot stop now: The world is watching!

Your Senators need to hear again from you and know that you support the CRPD! Show the community is behind this treaty and that we want the process to keep moving forward to a Floor vote!

Visit our citizen action portal,www.disabilitytreaty.orgto find yourSenators information and CALL them! They need to see that we want this NOW or we will not succeed.

For examples on contacting your Senator through Twitter follow @Ashettle and @USICD and @AdvocatEquality.

You can make the CRPD Sticker your Facebook profile picture to encourage support by your friends Text inside circle says "We Support CRPD", text around circle says www.disabilitytreaty.org also on rim of circle are icons for sign interpreter, wheelchair, audio loop, and blind person with caneand family

​ Or, find more stickers at http://bit.ly/CRPDprofile!

If you would like to the join the next National Youth and Campus leaders call, please contact Andrea Shettle at AShettle@USICD.org.

YOUR International Travel Stories Could Help Global Disability Rights

CRPD_StickerAre you a person with a disability? Have you traveled or lived in a country other than the U.S.? Have you faced accessibility barriers or disability-based discrimination while in another country? Or, have you ever been unable to participate in an international exchange program because of accessibility barriers abroad?

YOUR story could help the U.S. ratify the “Disability Treaty”, called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, http://disabilitytreaty.org). This is an important international agreement to honor the civil rights of people with disabilities: 147 countries have ratified it, but the U.S. has not.

  • Please take a few minutes to think of one specific incident in which you experienced problems in another country because of your disability.
  • OR, think about a time you couldn’t participate in an international exchange program or other international trip because of disability discrimination abroad.
  • Please write a few sentences about this one specific incident. Then, submit your story via the web at http://www.harkin.senate.gov/help/crpdstories.cfm
  • You may have experienced problems on many occasions in another country. But we are asking you to choose ONE incident to describe.
  • Please submit multiple stories if you are able! We ask that each story describe a separate, single incident. 

Your story could be used to educate U.S. Senators about why 1 billion people with disabilities around the world need them to ratify the Disability Treaty (CRPD).  Learn more about the campaign for U.S. ratification of the CRPD at http://disabilitytreaty.org.

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