Monday, June 18, 2012

"Nothing about us, without us"

The great Justin Dart’s words of “Nothing about us, without us,” has rung true to my ears since the moment I learned and engaged in the disability rights movement. Yet, the meaning behind his words always seemed abstract until this past week at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Annual Conference. Never before have I seen the disability rights movement at such a lively and large scale. As soon as the Open Plenary began, the speaker referred to the attendees as “brothers and sisters” as he yelled with passion and intent, “What do we want? Access! When do we want it? Now!” I was overcome with happiness, pride and enthusiasm for this movement that I was thankful enough to witness and engage in.

Throughout the week, I couldn’t get enough of everything! I was the one person in the audience always taking notes, as I wanted to soak in every bit of knowledge from the unique and diverse leaders from around the country. These leaders, whether center directors, lobbyists, independent living specialists, youth organizers or policy analysts, were all here under the same cause that people with disabilities have the right to live independent, free, dignified and fulfilling lives. No matter how many structural, ideological and cultural inequalities that oppress people with disabilities, this grassroots movement is not ready to give up. And that momentum, which emulated throughout the conference, provided me with my own burst of energy and excitement for the future and my own place in the movement.

As the conference came to a close, Amber Smock spoke of a new movement: the “Disability Justice Movement,” where for the first time, people of color, the LGBT community, the prison community and others will be fully included in the movement. It is no longer about just enabling and maintaining the simple accommodations, it is about deconstructing the institutional structures of ableism and changing the mind of the mainstream to see disability as a valuable part of society.

Thank you to AAPD for providing myself and the other interns opportunities to attend the NCIL conference. And thank you to all of the disability rights leaders leaders before me who have continued to say, in Justin Dart’s words, “Lead on! Lead on!”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commenters must avoid profanity, harsh language and disparaging remarks on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability. All comments to the blog are moderated by AAPD, and can be subject to removal at any time.

Please use the comments section to engage in the ongoing dialogue between our program funders, current and former interns, our colleagues, and the broader disability community, and to respond to intern posts that intrigue you, to share your own stories, or to simply express your gratitude for being allowed into the world of our summer interns.