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Showing Revision 2 created 12/07/2020 by Brielle Summerhays.

  1. My name is Lydia X. Z. Brown,
  2. and I'm an attorney, advocate,
    community organizer, educator, strategist,
  3. and thinker and writer on
    disability rights and disability justice.
  4. For over 10 years, my work has focused
    on interpersonal and state violence
  5. targeting disabled people
    at the margins of the margins,
  6. especially disabled people living
    at the intersections of disability, race,
  7. class, gender, sexuality,
    language, and nation.
  8. Like all disabled people, it's impossible
    to say that there was one instance
  9. in which I suddenly became aware of
  10. inaccessibility or exclusionary practices
    in social life,
  11. because my entire life has been shaped
    by the forces of ableism.
  12. Like most other autistic people,
    I experienced bullying
  13. throughout my childhood and in schools,
  14. and I experienced a disconnect between
    the ways that I moved through the world,
  15. and the ways that people around me,
  16. who were largely not autistic,
    moved through the world.
  17. But I will say that one of the times
    that I became most aware
  18. of grave injustices targeting
    other disabled people
  19. were a series of incidents
    that were widely publicized
  20. when I was in high school.
  21. And, in all of those instances,
    young autistic people were criminalized,
  22. taken out of their schools,
    often charged in adult criminal court
  23. for simply existing while autistic.
  24. In many of those cases,
    the autistic students in question
  25. had been subjected to prolonged restraint
    and seclusion, sometimes for hours,
  26. before they were the ones who were charged
  27. with assaulting the teachers
    in the schools in the first place.
  28. Some of those students were white.
  29. Others were Black, brown,
    or other people of color.
  30. And, in all of those cases,
    the sentiment that came most strongly
  31. and clearly through public reporting
    on the incidents,
  32. was that these were kids
    who had to be managed or controlled,
  33. instead of, here are kids who have
    been targeted on the basis
  34. of disability discrimination.
  35. That, to me, was a very clear indicator
    of just the beginning
  36. of how pervasive and how awful
    violence against disabled people is,
  37. especially those who are
    multiply marginalized.
  38. In the cases of many of the white
    students, if they were unlucky,
  39. they might have been forced
    out of their school.
  40. But in the cases of the Black and brown
    disabled students,
  41. some of them were sentenced
    to prison terms of years.
  42. Others were killed outright.
  43. Although the ADA was passed
    and signed into law three decades ago,
  44. government agencies, individual
    organizations, and even and especially
  45. disability advocacy organizations,
    flagrantly and violate-
  46. flagrantly and blatantly violate
    the ADA's most basic provisions.
  47. Government agencies that are required
    to support disabled people
  48. and provide and enable access
    for disabled people
  49. routinely disregard those obligations.
  50. Private corporations and nonprofit
    organizations do much the same.
  51. Colleges and universities do not
    respect their disabled students.
  52. Corporations do not respect
    their disabled employees.
  53. Writ large, in society,
    although the law has changed,
  54. the values that we hold
    and the beliefs that we have
  55. as an entire society
    have not changed at all,
  56. because you can't legislate morality.
  57. You could pass the best laws on the books,
  58. and even if you somehow monitor
    and enforce them,
  59. it doesn't mean that you've actually
    changed the ways that people think
  60. and talk about and understand
    and react toward and act
  61. about disabled people
    and disability in society.
  62. So, when I think about ways
    that the ADA has fallen short,
  63. it's not necessarily just
    what is the language of the ADA,
  64. but it is how individual advocates,
    it is how courts,
  65. and it is how those with positions
    of power and access to privilege
  66. and resources choose to act
    or not act upon the ADA.
  67. And you see that everywhere.
  68. The disability organizations
    that have the most access
  69. to power, privilege, and resources
  70. generally advocate only for the interests
    and the issues that affect those
  71. who already hold the most privilege
    in disabled communities.
  72. That is, they care deeply about issues
    that primarily, or only,
  73. affect disabled people who are white,
    who are monied, who are degreed,
  74. who are otherwise considered palatable.
    But for disabled people who are
  75. at the margins of the margins,
    for disabled people of color,
  76. for disabled people that are
    generationally low income,
  77. for disabled people who are undocumented
  78. or have other immigration status
    other than citizenship,
  79. for disabled people who belong
    to minority religions,
  80. for disabled people who are
    queer or trans,
  81. for disabled people who cannot work
  82. in the ways that are
    expected under capitalism,
  83. those issue areas of inclusion
    in the corporate workplace
  84. or the ability to access
    swimming pools in a hotel
  85. or the ability to bring
    your service animal on a plane
  86. can be important,
    but are often not affecting our lives
  87. in the same daily ways as they do
    those who have infinitely more privilege.
  88. And so, where I see the gaps are
    where are the folks
  89. who have power, privilege, and resources
    in talking about the right
  90. to Black and brown
    disabled students to AAC?
  91. Where are those folks in thinking about
    the horrific violence inflicted
  92. on largely Black and Native disabled
    people in carceral systems?
  93. Where are those same people
    in looking at the ways in which police
  94. destroy the lives of sex workers and
    people who are using criminalized drugs
  95. who are not white, who do not come
    from upper middle class
  96. or upper class families and neighborhoods
    and communities?
  97. Where are those folks when thinking about
    the ways in which universities
  98. not only prevent disabled students
    in general from accessing supports
  99. and accommodations,
    but put the brunt of that violence
  100. most predominantly on queer and trans
    disabled people of color and even
  101. force disabled students, especially
    those that are multiply marginalized,
  102. out of the university altogether,
  103. or prevent them from ever getting to ask
    the university in the first place?
  104. Where are those same advocates
    when thinking about not just,
  105. how are disabled people in the U.S.
    represented or not represented in media
  106. or in electoral politics,
    but what about the ways in which
  107. the United States inflicts
    and causes disability globally
  108. through our wars, through our imperialism,
    through our colonization?
  109. We need to be pushing as hard
    as we possibly can for money to go
  110. directly back into the hands
    of directly impacted community members
  111. and out of harmful systems
    like the foster system, police, prisons,
  112. coercive mental health care.
  113. We need to be demanding
    a return of resources
  114. and a return of power,
    and that is a ceding of power
  115. by nondisabled people, by white people,
    by those who have hoarded and controlled
  116. the most amount of power
    and privilege and resources,
  117. and done so at the direct expense
    of disabled people
  118. at the margins of the margins,
  119. and that has to start
    within our own organizations.
  120. Disability nonprofits are notorious
    for being so often white-led
  121. or predominantly white-led,
    and sometimes only white-led,
  122. for being male-led,
    for being led by people who are either
  123. not disabled at all or have what
    are considered palatable disabilities,
  124. and that needs to change.
  125. And the only way that will change
    is if those people
  126. who occupy those positions of power
    agree to give up that power.
  127. Not to be told, "You don't have a voice,"
    to be very clear.
  128. To be told, "Your voice doesn't have to
    be the one that's in charge
  129. and holds all the power."