Nobody wanted long COVID on our collective pandemic Bingo card, but there it is. In her The Daily Show interview, OG disability rights badass Judy Heumann told Trevor Noah that his likelihood of acquiring a disability, temporary or permanent, was statistically high. He took her statement as a threat in jest, but there’s truth in that for us. For some, long COVID is speeding up that transition from nondisabled to disabled.
Now, it can be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don’t forget that we have Judy Heumann and everyone she worked with to thank for making the ADA a civil rights reality. Long COVID folks won’t be alone. The disabled community makes up twenty-six percent of the US population, our largest and most diverse minority.
So in the name of Disability Pride Month, we’re serving up an inexhaustive handful of titles from our catalog centered on our favorite disabled s/heroes and on disability life, then and now.
By reclaiming our personal disability lineage, we open up the possibility of connecting it to a larger communal ancestry, with powerful political and social implications for all our family and kinship systems . . . . Though not all disability lineages can be fully reclaimed, the very act of assuming that our families always included disabled people can be transformative. Every family story is a disability story, if you choose to so tell it.
—Jennifer Natalya Fink
It didn’t occur to me then to think it unusual that I joined in all the kids’ games in my wheelchair. Because there was never a question of whether or not I would play, too—we all figured out a way for me to do whatever everyone was doing. Even when we jumped rope or roller-skated, we figured it out. We’d put roller skates over my shoes and I would pretend to be skating in my chair, or I’d turn the rope for the jumpers, or play in some other way. I didn’t know anything different. Now I know that this was the way it was because we were kids, and kids are problem solvers. But it taught me, at a very early age, that most things are possible when you assume problems can be solved.
—Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner
After the ADA, never could anyone see disability as deserving charity. No longer could anyone see disability as a purely medical condition or a rehabilitation opportunity. Instead, disability would be seen now and forever as a civil rights issue in which aid and redress would not be focused on physical therapy or monetary benefits. Rather, it would be about the right of individuals to have access to the world that everyone else is part of.
—Lennard J. Davis
Benjamin repeatedly dramatized what was wrong in both the Society of Friends and the world at large. For a quarter century he railed against slavery in one Quaker meeting after another, in and around Philadelphia, confronting slave owners and slave traders with a savage, most un-Quaker-like fury. Whenever he performed guerrilla theater, his fellow Quakers removed him by physical force as a “trouble-maker” or “disorderly person” as they had done in Burlington. He did not struggle against eviction, but back he came, again and again, undeterred, or rather more determined than ever. He began to stage his theater of apocalyptic outrage in public venues, including city streets and markets.
I really shouldn’t blame other people for misunderstanding us. We [my wife, M.L., and I] were unusual. We were inventing something new—or so we thought. There were few resources to draw on, so I assumed most people born with a severe disability like mine didn’t get married at all, let alone have children. (And those who did rarely managed to stay together, I conjectured.) Our problem was, nobody ever told us we couldn’t.
Clara and Jessy [Park] were affected by the ways in which experts on the human mind and behavior, from psychiatrists to psychoanalysts to psychologists to therapists, conceived of autism. But Clara and Jessy also contested some of their views. In the process, they actively helped shape the history of autism. Their story illustrates how science affects people and how people contribute to transforming science.
At school I couldn’t wait to make a commotion, and headed straight for drama club. I could be one scary little kid, damp and lisping with need until my teachers gave me the male roles the boys my age scorned, like dorky, pantaloon-wearing Wilbur in the series of plays that bore his name. No matter how they cast me, I’d find some excuse to fall flat on my butt violently enough to shake the stage, and if the stage directions read laugh or cry I’d guffaw myself into hiccups or wail until snot shot out of my nose . . . . All the world a stage, and I was hell-bent on using it as such.
Eds. Emily Paige Ballou, Sharon DaVanport, Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
The greatest thing that a parent can do is support their child. Let your child know how amazing they are and how much you believe in them. It really does seem so simple, but it makes a world of difference. I’ve met hundreds of people on the spectrum and hundreds more who are not. Most everyone I’ve met says they wish their parents were more supportive and loved them unconditionally. Most parents do love their children, but it is important to let them know verbally, because we don’t always pick up on nonverbal cues. Yes, as difficult as it is to say it, we sometimes do not know when people care about us or love us.
—from Brigid Rankowski’s “It’s Us Against the World, Kid”
In her televised speech before the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Hamer spoke candidly about her violent interaction with the police [in Winona, Mississippi]. She explained how the Winona beating left her with kidney damage, a blood clot in her eye, and a worsened physical limp from childhood she would carry for the rest of her life . . . . Unlike so many others, Hamer lived to tell her story. And she certainly told that story—over and over again to anyone who would listen. For Hamer, directly confronting racial and gendered inequalities was a key strategy to eradicate them.
—Keisha N. Blain
He came to understand the shaming and stigmatization of certain bodies as working to isolate people, to prevent them from assembling as a collective—a proven way for those lacking financial resources to empower themselves—to demand a better life. The origins of this viewpoint lay in Guthrie’s earlier life, in the tragedies that beset his family, all revolving around his mother’s mysterious condition, her undiagnosed Huntington’s disease.