As the parent of a child with a physical disability, I have grown in my understanding and knowledge of the disability community through the years. If you dig into the beginnings of this blog, you’ll see I used the words “special needs” and “different” a lot. I use the word “disability” now. That evolution is not unusual for parents who discover themselves learning about disability through the view of the parenting experience. Many people experience the world of disability for the first time as a parent.
If you read the years and years of blog posts on this website, you’ll notice the evolution. I moved away from confusion and concern to acceptance while finding and developing resources and now toward more collaborations and education.
In the last four years, I’ve watched Jordan step up and start to develop her own voice to speak up and about disability. In that process, I was given the gift of meeting and learning from some tremendous leaders in the disability community: Liz Jackson, Alice Wong, Vilissa Thompson, Ashley Shew, Imani Barbarin, Rebecca Cokley and so many others offer insight and perspective through writing, speaking and social media platforms.
When I was new to the world of disability, I felt alone and I immediately sought out other parents of kids with limb differences. It helped me better understand ways I could provide support for Jordan. It also gave Jordan a chance to meet other kids who have similar experiences to hers. What I didn’t do was extend my view toward a wider view of the disability community. I’ve only started that process in the last few years as Jordan has grown and her opportunities in the world expanded. I needed to grow past my parent-focused view of disability and understand the community as a whole.
Why is this so important? From my perspective, listening to members of the many different disability communities makes it easier to parent a kid with a disability. It helps me better understand the language we should and shouldn’t use. I have learned so much about the gifts and challenges every person faces as a disabled adult in the United States and beyond.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is all typically bodied and minded people should take the time to listen.
Listen to disabled voices.
Take a deep breath and know there’s nothing wrong with “disability” as a word or as a community. It’s a powerful collective of people who see and experience life in so many different ways. Everyone deserves access. Everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed. That access and opportunity for all can happen if we all take the time to learn and listen.
I’m tremendously proud of Asmani Huda who attended a BOOST by Born Just Right workshop last year. She recently spoke at a TEDx event and her talk is so good. It’s worth taking a moment to listen to her. There is so much power in being disabled.
Here are some of the websites I keep an eye on to continue to listen and learn:
Disability Visibility Project
Crip The Vote chats
#CripTheVote on Twitter
Ashley Shew’s course blog, Technology and Disability
Critical Axis – insight on how disability is presented through advertising
The Disabled List – a disability-led consultancy
Crutches and Spice
Ramp Your Voice