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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Letter #4 Screw July 4 and Clint Eastwood

I do not celebrate July 4th. I celebrate my independence day on July 26. On July 26th 1990 President Bush signed the Americans with Disability Act. On that day I became equal. My civil rights for the first time were protected. Disability rights are a hard sell. We people with a  disability are a distinct and disenfranchised minority group. How many typical people know the ADA is civil rights legislation on par with the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Not many. Painfully few in fact. Most people think like Clint Eastwood. They wish we people with a disability should go away. Get over it Mr. Eastwood would say.

Rail against disability based bigotry. Celebrate your independence day on July 26. You were not equal until 1990. You are the first post ADA babies to become adults. I fought hard for you. I put my body on the line. I was spit on, cursed out, and urinated on. And I was on the periphery. I was not part of ADAPT. I was not hard core. I was not getting arrested and taking over buildings. I expected, demanded, to be treated like any other biped. I forcefully rejected lower expectations. Special education did not exist. Handicapped parking did not exist. I had no rights and was often refused to board an airplane. I was a flight safety risk. There were no lifts on the buses. A person with a disability did not have the right to an education until 1975. I was 15 years old when the law passed. Think about that. I am not elderly.

You have a social disease. Robert F. Murphy taught me that disability is defined by society and given meaning by culture; hence disability was and still is a social malady. Never question this. Challenge typical others. Call them out on their deeply ingrained ableism. This is a lot to ask. I had no choice. I had to do something. You post ADA cripples have a choice. You can choose to be passive in the face of ableism. I see this often. It breaks my heart. I have been told by many students "It is too hard to get accommodations through disability services". This is not acceptable. All those ramps and lifts and curb cuts exist for one reason. We refused to take no for an answer.

Mary Johnson in her review of Million Dollar Baby wrote:

The truth is that the real problems a disabled person faces are caused by a society that refuses to see the condition of disabled people as being the result of bigotry, discrimination, and flawed social policies emanating from the belief that nothing can really be done for a disabled person if they can't be cured or made better physically. 

Accept this. Reject it and move on. You are part of a oppressed minority. This is a revolutionary perspective. It will not make you popular. It will, in fact, make you decidedly unpopular. That is something you must learn to live with.