On a Saturday morning in September, I found an unusual email in my inbox. From one perspective, it was a threat.
“If you do not do X, then we will do Y,” it essentially read.
I was not the sole recipient of the email. Rather, it came on the heels of a series of email exchanges between TFW Collective members and disability advocates and activists about this disability forum, conflicting understandings of accessibility, and TFW’s mission.
“If you’re a feminist outlet, then you will care about accessibility.”
This is from one perspective an accusation. But from another perspective, it is a declaration—feminists care about accessibility. And from an altogether different vantage point, it is a request—as feminists, will you care about accessibility?
Ultimately, how one reads these emails depends on one’s perspective.
Disability justice work and critical disability studies, too, hinge on shifting the go-to or dominant perspectives about disability.
Through popular culture inching to be ever more “inclusive,” through helping-profession narratives, through federal policies and international treaties, we encounter an overarching perspective: “Disability is suffering.”
But disability justice movements and critical disability studies challenge that perspective, asking, “Disability is suffering?”
Under what conditions?
And, of course, from whose perspective?
Ultimately, status quo perspectives about disability need questioning. Dominant or monolithic perspectives about so-called facts about disabilities obscure the realties of lived disability. The taken-for-granted belief that ableism is reducible to interpersonal bias conceals the economic, cultural, and political etiologies of oppression. And, superficial progress suppresses transformative solutions.
As the essays of the previous week vividly demonstrate, disability justice and critical disability studies ask us to reconsider dominant perspectives not only about disability, but also about progress, productivity, bodies, accessibility, intersectionality, and nation. Taken together, this forum pushes critical conversations about disability further by compelling us to consider multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives alongside one another.
From one perspective, overcoming is a sought after goal, but from another, the real power lies in being. From one perspective, accessibility hinges on the built environment, but from another, accessibility is correspondingly a question of theoretical and economic exclusion. We are asked to consider that from one perspective, able-bodiedness is an enduring norm, but another emphasizes that being abled is, in fact, ephemeral and temporary. From one perspective, academically situated disability studies is an intellectual home, and from another and like some of our homes of origin, academia has been a site of violence. From one perspective, “crip” is trendy and reductive, but from another, coming out as crip persists as a momentous tool for transforming internalized ableism and wrangling stigma.
From my early morning Saturday, sleep deprived, and physically unwell perspective, the email I received appeared to be a threat. But this conclusion depended on some assumptions about the senders’ perspective, too.
At the conclusion of our forum, I choose to reconsider. From one perspective, these exchanges captured a conflict about accessibility or a debate about the right way to write disability, but from another, these exchanges were a struggle proffered with hope that through dialogue, we might find our way toward a more liberating, anti-ableist perspective.
As we continue to critically interrogate disability and work toward disability justice, we hope that you will return here to these essays that ask us to shift perspective…
My Place in This Conversation By Alison Piepmeier
On Disability and Cartographies of Difference By Wilfredo Gomez
We Exist In Darkness (Living at the Intersections) By Naomi Ortiz
Disabilities Studies Gains Cultural Capital? And Now What? By Alyson Patsavas
Cognitively Accessible Language (Why We Should Care) By Elizabeth Grace
Crip Politics? Just … No By Mark Sherry
Economic Barriers in Disability Studies By Corbett Joan OToole
The Able-ist Gaze: Imagining Malingering By Meadow Jones
War and Disability By Sandra Trappen
Disability Made Visible By AMarie Houser
Feminists We Love: Mia Mingus By Heather Laine Talley