19 June 2010

Disability Justice

Yesterday I attended a disability justice workshop. I thought it was great, I learned a lot and thought the presentation was very well organized, and productive.

Here are notes:
Disability Justice Notes from the Allied Media Conference in Detroit
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I am in Detroit Michigan for 10 days for the Allied Media Conference (AMC) and the 2010 US Social Forum (USSF 2010). The AMC started on Friday. I have attended three workshops so far, including one on Disability Justice (DJ). The USSF will start on Tuesday the 22nd. I have been photographing a lot. I haven't counted by I am sure that I have well over 500 photos from the 5 day road trip from Olympia to Detroit. Photo content ranges from snapshot scenes inside the bus to landscapes from the moving bus to some candids and landscapes.

I attended a couple more workshops this Saturday afternoon. One was entitled Hurricane Season: Unearthing Solutions in an Era of Unnatural Disaster, by Climbing PoeTree. The other was a symposium about the writings of Octavia E. Butler. I thought both were very worthwhile.

I thought the DJ workshop yesterday was excellent and I heard from others that they thought so too.

The workshop started with a discussion about what Disability Justice means and the workshop organizers shared their working definition:
DJ is a multi-issue political understanding of disability + Ableism, moving away from a rights-based equality model, to a framework that centers justice + wholeness for all disabled people + our communities.
The various major disability movements were compared. These movements range from advocacy for services, to advocacy for rights, to working for basic root level justice. One of my thoughts about the justice movement is that it's radically different from the other movements because it includes the struggle for cultural transformation.

The room was full, with about 80 people in attendance. The participants split into three separate groups to discuss three interrelated aspects of DJ: Policing Bodies, Medical-Industrial Complex, and the Myth of Independence.

I was in the Myth of Independence group. After a round of brief introductions and sharing of thoughts, we discussed various aspects of how the myth of independence affects society and individuals, especially impaired people. Our conclusions included a social analysis of how our society favors a notion of independence, but that this notion is really illusory, and impaired people are discriminated against for being dependent, when in reality everyone is dependent-everyone is interdependent on each other, and interconnected. There is an fictitious idea, a harmful myth, that those whom are ambitious, DIY'ers, whom are entrepreneurial are somehow independent and that independence is a sign of strength, and intelligence (or even superiority.) When in reality, we are all interdependent, and interconnected, both able-bodied and disabled alike.

We see this myth in concepts like, "independently wealthy" and in comparisons between "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" persons, placing value and higher esteem on those who seem more highly functional. There is usually also higher status granted to those whom have invisible impairments, vs. impairments which are visible. We also see this idea reflected in the concepts of rugged individualism, pulling one's self up by their bootstraps, the "American Dream" - all of which carry the odor of Social Darwinism.

It seems to me that the myth of independence relates in important ways to the myth of meritocracy and the myth of scarcity. I think there are some important dots to connect between these concepts.

I think it is important to also mention that the function of our society causes harm. The function of our society causes impairment.

It was exciting to be around so many differently-abled people and think about the re-birth of a nonviolent world that places peoples' well-beings above and beyond anyone's supposed self-interest.

Just imagine. Imagine a world that is not harmful. A world that does not cause impairments...impairments that are caused by calculated and structural poverty, exploitative economics, any of various other deeply entrenched oppressions, or any other violence, very much including war. So I thought the education was good, and important.

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