I was going to try writing something profound about the U.S. Independence Day and the idea of “independence” in the context of disability. But, I figured I should check to see what I’ve written already on past July Fourths. As it turns out, I wrote two pretty good pieces making this obvious connection. Since I still agree with them, I’ll just post them here, add a few comments, and leave it at that.
July 4, 2013
Discussions of disability activism have shifted quite a bit since my early days in the movement. We argue more over policy specifics and social identity now than we used to. I also think we are less optimistic than we once were about the power of simple “awareness” to bring about positive change in disabled peoples’ lives. However, among people with disabilities who are not involved in the disability community, or who are just taking their first “steps” into it, this very particular concept of independence is still absolutely key. That has not changed. It’s still almost impossible to move forward, positively, as a disabled person unless you stop clinging to the idea of physical independence and embrace this more conceptual … and meaningful … independence that’s about choice and personal agency.
July 4, 2014
A lot of traditional agencies have, finally, left medical, institutional, custodial models behind. Unfortunately, many others have simply gotten more creative about promoting systems whose purpose is still to manage and regulate disabled people’s lives in the most convenient ways possible for those running the programs. So, a checklist like this one is still extremely useful for stripping off the shiny candy coating that now pretties up so many fundamentally unchanged disability programs and facilities. Independence isn’t about choosing what color of socks to wear, whether to go bowling or to a movie, or whether to have chicken or beef for dinner. It is about deciding who you live with, (maybe nobody!), regulating your own space, and being responsible for yourself, even if you need assistance, (maybe lots of it!), to get through each day.