By Andrew Pulrang: For Complete Post, click here…
Most people with disabilities have to be advocates at some point. We have no choice. Some later adopt it as a calling, for ourselves and others like us. A few are inspired to commit to more long-term and consequential disability activism with the potential to benefit thousands or millions of disabled people.
Activism as a way of life offers unique and valuable rewards to the committed activist. It also wears us down, both physically and emotionally. This may be even more true in particular for disability activism. It’s one of the most common avenues for building a more liberating sense of self for people with disabilities. It also regularly chews disabled people up, leaving many of us exhausted, disappointed, and demoralized. We may end up more empowered and connected in some key ways, but at the same time worn out, cynical, and alienated in others.
A wheelchair user can do all of the supposedly “right things” to get restaurants and stores in their area to install ramps and accessible restrooms. But years of good-faith, polite but persistent advocacy may still fail to bring about anything but vague promises, mild regret, and only the most minor changes. Coalitions of both professional and grassroots disability organizations may fight for decades to expand home care and end institutionalization, but continue to run into political obstacles and public indifference or misunderstanding.