#EqualAccess Series Guest Post: Embracing Disability
This post is part of The Exponent’s #EqualAccess Series. Disabled voices rarely get a chance to speak for themselves, but this blog series seeks to eliminate the stigma that disabled people are less than, and need a representative to speak on their behalf. This blog series is intended to break stereotypes by gathering the voices of disabled individuals. #DisabilityExperience
The image below is a photo of sun rays shining through the clouds, sparkling over an ocean. Islands in the background frame the picture.
When I review and edit submissions for the magazine or the blog, I try to be an unobtrusive as possible when interacting with our writers. I have told myself that I don’t want to pry or make them think that their piece isn’t already so great.
I always thought that I was scared of putting my foot in my mouth and hurting their feelings or making them angry.
I learned in putting together this series, that I was also afraid of being called out, of doing something wrong. That fear gave me some blindspots into the presentation of this series.
When Kendra and I first worked on this series, I asked her to find images to go with the submissions because I tried for a bit, and have you Googled “disability” images? We either found inspiration porn or images full of anguish and despair. We wanted real life examples.
Kendra was able to find a bunch, but as I started to load them to the website, I realized the images were too small and looked blurry on the blog.
Not wanting to ask her to do even more work (I am still amazed that a first semester law student was able to put this together so completely and professionally), I went to my usual spots for public domain high-resolution images, and she also continued to look for images we could use.
And, I found some lovely scenes that I thought would be nice accompaniments to the pieces. But, as I uploaded them to Google Drive, I had a feeling that they weren’t the right ones.
Then, Kendra showed me her’s…She has a friend who also noticed this problem and did a Creative Commons site for the kind of images we wanted. But, mostly, she got pictures of the authors.
And that’s when I realized where my discomfort lay. I had avoided using images of physically-disabled people. I had erased their images from this series when I thought I was doing everything to amplify their voices.
I am grateful for the words of each of our authors, who have shown me how to navigate the world with a disability. This series has made me feel a little braver in embracing my mental illness.
I see Megan’s face full of joy, Mette’s proud and reflective body stance, and Kendra and Topher’s wedding photo as they gaze into each other’s eyes, and I remember the purpose of intersectional feminism and Exponent II. We provide a safe environment where we practice being vulnerable, saying what we need, and giving ourselves emotional self and communal care.
Like our #HearLDSWomen series, we intend for this series to be ongoing, though no longer on a scheduled basis. If you have felt inspired to write about what you need as a disabled person, please consider submitting to the blog (firstname.lastname@example.org) or magazine (email@example.com).