“Physical Visibility is an important step toward political/social freedom and equality.” – Alice Wong
This week on my Instagram is reviews of a few books I’ve recently read centered around disability and written by disabled folx. Here is the anthology “Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century,” edited by disabled activist Alice Wong. Published this summer on ADA’s 30th anniversary, Disability Visibility is a curated collection of essays that examines various disabled experiences, from physical to mental to the neurotypical, and intersectionalities that exist. It’s also one of the only anthologies written by multiple disabled people.
While our stories are all incredibly different, one area we hold in common is having to prove our worth, value and individuality to a non-disabled world not built for us.
According to the U.S. census, 20% of Americans live with a disability and yet we aren’t included into the fabric of society.
When you think of it, society has decided how “normality” should move, look, think, feel, see and act. And if you are not a picture perfect physical contributor to the capitalistic structure, you are deemed worthless. These set qualities define our inherent worth as human beings and if you fall outside this spectrum you are harshly graded accordingly.
Little is expected of disabled and when we do succeed we become front page inspiration porn material, because us overcoming the challenges placed by an ableist society is considered inspiring, while able saviors congratulate themselves for how kind and open the world is to those “less fortunate”.
This book is a good introduction to disability. The stories combat how society views disability and “the archaic belief that people with disabilities lead horrible lives that are not worth living”. But in no way is it meant to encapsulate the experience for all disabled, just like my story doesn’t. Even as a disabled person I am learning all the time.
I don’t believe ALL ignorance is malice, and much of ignorance derives from lack of exposure. But society needs the curiosity and willingness to learn another’s experience that is vastly different than their own, and this desire to know is where change and humanity can start.
It’s important to remember disability and illness is not a fringe thing as we and our loved ones all have the potential to be touched by it. So our cries for equality should be an issue we should all care about. A small example of society’s lack of concern or disregard for disabled lives is evident in the mocking attitudes of Covid and lack of access to healthcare. When hospitals get overrun it’s actually policy in several states to deny disabled Covid treatment. So the idiots who get it after calling it a hoax are still deemed more worthy for treatment than us.
We still have so far to go as society is greatly inaccessible in all ways.
Purchase on Amazon:
“Disability rights activist Alice Wong brings tough conversations to the forefront of society with this anthology. It sheds light on the experience of life as an individual with disabilities, as told by none other than authors with these life experiences. It’s an eye-opening collection that readers will revisit time and time again.” —Chicago Tribune, Best books published in summer 2020
“Implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) makes the case for acknowledging and accommodating society’s overlooked population of disabled people.” —The New York Times Book Review
About the Author:
Alice Wong is a disabled activist, media maker, and research consultant based in San Francisco, California. She is the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community dedicated tocreating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. Alice is also the host and co-producer of the Disability Visibility podcast and co-partner in a number of collaborations such as #CripTheVote and Access Is Love. From 2013 to 2015, Alice served as a member of the National Council on Disability, an appointment by President Barack Obama. You can followher on Twitter: @SFdirewolf. For more: disabilityvisibilityproject.com. –This text refers to the paperback edition.