By Qamar Medina: For More Info, Go Here…
How Traditional Activism Shuts Out Disabled People.
I have been increasingly alarmed and motivated by the sociopolitical chaos continuously erupting here in the US. I write to my representatives regularly, but that never feels like enough. I want to participate in activism around the causes I’m passionate about. Unfortunately, I’m also disabled, and when I make that clear to groups that organize that activism, I get ghosted. Activism is wholly inaccessible where I live, which means that some of the people most directly impacted by events and policy here are unable to make their voices heard.
The bulk of visible activism where I live happens in the form of marching and protesting. I can’t do either of these things because of physical barriers to participation. The three herniated discs in my back and lifetime of damage to my hips and knees (all from a connective tissue disorder) mean that being on my feet or in a wheelchair for hours at a time, either marching or picketing, is unbearably painful and robs me of the ability to do nearly anything afterward. For days. In Arizona, temperatures have already crept into the triple digits which, for someone who doesn’t sweat or otherwise regulate her body temperature and who has a cardiac dysautonomia that causes her heart rate to skyrocket and blood pressure to plummet in stress conditions is, obviously, unsafe. When I’ve shown up to marches before, I’ve been a woozy, exhausted mess by the time the march even started, wiped out just by the preliminary speeches and signature gatherings. Fortunately, marching isn’t the only way to participate in activism. Unfortunately, other avenues appear to be even harder to access.
In addition to being physically disabled, I’m also autistic and mentally ill. For me, that means that I communicate best via text-based methods, and that I have little interest in or aptitude for actions that demand face-to-face or telephonic conversations with strangers. I’m not a good canvasser. I make that very clear when I approach organizations, but I also make sure to list my strengths. I may not be smooth on the phone or a great extemporaneous speaker, but I’m a good writer, I have web and technical skills and I’m a reliable and thorough organizer. I can help, if you let me. Of the organizations I’ve contacted, all of whom were soliciting volunteers, only one returned my message, and their reply was that they didn’t have any actions in my area. They were concentrated over two hours away in the southern part of the state. They had no suggestions for what I could do from where I live.