Why Haven't I Heard Of Her Before?

Red stick figure behind speaking podium addressing audience of blue stick figures.

I have asked myself questions like this many times since I really got into disability blogging and social media, a little over three years ago.

I hear or read about an interesting, accomplished disabled person others seem to know all about and love, but they're completely new to me. Sometimes that's because they are, compared to me, actually new. They are young in age and have only been doing noticeable things for a few months or a couple of years.

Sometimes, though, it's someone I really should know about, because they have been active and known in the disability community for a long time. Some of these "new" heroes and roles models were doing their thing and becoming known exactly during the time when I was most active in disability activism and organizations.

That was the case yesterday and this morning when I started reading about a Democratic National Convention speaker lots of people were excited about: Anastasia Somoza. In addition to browsing her website, I suggest watching these two videos. Together, they seem to provide a pretty good explanation for why Ms. Somoza will be speaking at the convention, and why there's a good chance speech will make us unambiguously proud.

What do I mean by "unambiguously proud?" What would "ambiguously" proud mean? I think we are ambiguously proud when we're kind of glad to see a disabled person brought to public attention in an appealing way, but we're not sure the messages they are sending are entirely the kind we want sent. It's the difference between being glad for them, and also glad for us.

Since Ms. Somoza is, unfortunately, new to me, I can't say for sure how I will feel after her speech. I am optimistic though, and not just because she's a Democrat. She really seems like the kind of person we as a community really want to be famous, a disabled person who moves beyond their personal story and example to a larger message about disabled people and disability issues.

Remembering Stella Young

Stella Young died one year ago today. She is still my favorite well-known disability activist, writer, and role-model, and I miss her voice and her “cracking brain” so much.

I wanted so much to re-post some amazing videos from Stella’s Memorial Service in Melbourne, Australia, but it turns out the Australian Broadcasting Corporation owns those videos, and though they are still on YouTube, they can’t be viewed here in the United States. What the hell?! That really pisses me off!

Instead, I’ll share my two favorite pieces of Stella’s writing:

Her TED Talk on “Inspiration Porn” is essential:

I would so love to hear what Stella would have to say about Kylie Jenner.



Blue icon of quotation marks
I’ve been away from Tumblr too long.

When I started disability blogging 2 years ago, I also started reading disability-related Tumblr blogs more or less daily. It helped me get a feel for, I suppose, a younger, more spirited, less careful community of disabled people. I carried on with regular Tumblr reading until maybe 6 months ago, and then for some reason fell out of the habit. I kept posting to my own Tumblr, but only rarely latched onto or “liked” other stuff on Tumblr.

I found the following this afternoon, a reblog by WheelieWifee, of an April post at Words N Stuff:
1. Ignore their stares. You owe no one an explanation.
2. If they are rude, be witty. If they are rude, be sarcastic. If they are rude, be ruder.
3. Never sacrifice yourself for their approval. You don’t need it.
4. Laugh in the faces of those who call you “faker,” those who call you “scammer,” those who call you “liar.”
5. Walk as slowly as you like. Let them sigh loudly behind you - you are doing nothing wrong.
6. If they’re in your space, tell them. If they don’t move, make them.
7. Don’t feel obligated to “look sick.” Don’t feel obligated to “look well.” Don’t feel obligated to look any which way except how you do right now.
8. Use their words against them. Take the ones they hurl at you and embrace them. They are yours now.
9. Flaunt your “imperfections.” Show off the things they hate. Put stickers on your braces and tattoo the hip that never stays in place. Don’t let them ignore you. Don’t let their eyes slide over you.
10. If they hurt you, if they slip past your defenses and under your skin, if their ignorance is more than you can handle. If they hurt you. Don’t let them know.
cripple punk
april 26/30//q.e.l.//
I don’t agree with every bit of it. For instance, I think that if “they hurt you,” it’s sometimes important to “let them know.” But it’s all good stuff to think about. It’s the sort of thing disabled people who are still struggling with their disabilities and internalized ableism need to read. I’m talking about youth with disabilities, and people of any age dealing with new disabilities. Parents and families should read it, too. It’s the nuts and bolts of disability pride, in very concrete, non-theoretical words.

Must not forget Tumblr.


Video Of The Day

Jared Sosa, BuzzFeed - March 29, 2015

I have to offer a light rebuke to Mr. Sosa, for saying that Santina has “been in a wheelchair since she was 5 years old.” I’m not sure, but I suspect that at the time of filming this, she’d been in a wheelchair since she got up that morning.

I found this because Tonia of "Tonia Says linked to it and gave her own interesting answers to the questions Santina answered.



For Senate

Mark Murray and Carrie Dann, NBC News - March 30, 2015

As a Democrat and a disabled person, I am very excited about Rep. Tammy Duckworth running for Senate. I think its also interesting that her opponent, Sen. Mark Kirk, is also disabled  recovering from what I recall was a very serious stroke. How will the disability factor play out when both candidates are disabled? Do Duckworth and Kirk have different perspectives on their disabilities? Do they talk about them differently from each other? Or, will their individual approaches to disability just cancel each other out, making disability entirely irrelevant? I look forward to finding out.

I am also thinking that it might be fun to start following all of the major 2016 election campaigns that include candidates with disabilities. I don't tend to think that having more disabled people in Congress or more disabled Governors would necessarily make for better policy, but more of us being in office might have broader, more abstract positive effects on the disabled community.

In any case, following the races might be fun.


Jane Hawking’s Not-Bad Idea

Photo of a stack of newspapers with Breaking News! in large headline print
The Guardian - March 11, 2015

“The Theory Of Everything, the film about Steven Hawking that won Eddie Redmayne an Oscar this year has caught a lot of flack from the more activist parts of the disability community, including me. In brief, were tired of non disabled actors winning awards for playing disabled characters, especially when disabled actors cant get work. Plus, we hate to see tired old clichés repeated, such as the scene where Hawking … while being recognized for his astounding achievements in physics … dreams of walking again. Forget being one of the most recognized and admired physicists of all time, I just wish I could walk over and pick up a pencil.

All that aside ...

I was really impressed that Jane Hawking, Stevens first wife who is also portrayed in the film, used a gala reception at Buckingham palace, for a very traditional disability “charity”, to suggest that what disabled people in the UK really need is better support from their government. Usually, these charity “dos” are all about raising donations for a cure, and are carefully apolitical. It’s one reason why so many disability advocates shy away from traditional charities.

Jane Hawking’s proposal is pretty vague … to use funds from companies that don’t pay taxes now to fund better support services. But it is radical and refreshing for her to even mention systemic change and economic justice in a high-profile charity event.

For what its worth, I dont think we have ever heard anything so specific and political from Dr. Hawking himself, who when he talks about disability tends to stick with a very personal perspective and a somewhat blandly neutral tone. Ive always kind of liked that about him, that he neither bemoans nor romanticizes his disability. It would be helpful, though, if he had more to say about disability in general, and the status of disabled people in society.

Anyway, I just think that Jane Hawking deserves some praise for her observations, and where and when she chose to make them. More like this please.


Video Of The Day

It has been quite awhile since I posted anything about the Disability Visibility Project, so Im so glad to have a chance to post this video by the project coordinator, Alice Wong:

This presentation was given at a conference at the University of California at San Francisco, Developmental Disabilities: An Update for Health Professionals. I stumbled upon this conference on Friday, when I noticed lots of Tweets about some of the sessions. I was hugely impressed at how many speakers the conference had who focused on the cultural and social justice sides of disability, alongside the more clinical content one would expect at a conference aimed at the medical profession.

Im going to post more about the conference tomorrow.


Stella Young Memorial

Melissa Davey, The Guardian - December 18, 2014

A memorial event for Stella Young was held on Thursday, December 18, in the Town Hall of Melbourne, Australia.

I don’t have anything to add really. Just watch the videos.

Nelly Thomas

Graeme Innes

Stella Barton

The Best Stella Young Tribute

I have been really impressed with how the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and other bloggers and news outlets have written about Stella Young after her unexpected death. I have seen barely a whiff of either “inspiration porn” or morbid fascination with the details of her disability. The ABC’s articles were loving and respectful.

Still, Benjamin Law’s article is by far the best tribute I’ve read so far.