Having multiple disabilities can often be isolating, but I’ve found solace in solidarity. Learning about the rich history of movements fighting for civil rights gives me a context in which to put my own challenges, and empowers me when I feel most downtrodden.
I was twelve when the Americans With Disabilities Act passed. As an insecure junior high student, I wanted nothing more than to be seen as normal (a quirky version of normal, but still). Sheltered by family, I had yet to know the true frustrations that would later arise from navigating the world as a disabled adult craving independence. I don’t think the bill’s passage even crossed my radar.
Later, I would erroneously view the ADA as an uncomplicated goodwill gesture towards disabled people. But then I did my research and was shocked to find out how hostile lawmakers had been towards the idea. I watched footage of activists leaving their wheelchairs to climb and crawl the Capitol steps, including a little girl who proclaimed, “I’m gonna get to the top if it takes me all night!”
Learning how hard that intrepid community worked (and had to work) was both humbling and exciting. Every time I now fight a battle or voice a frustration, I see my struggle as a stitch in the fabric of a vibrant history of activism.
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