Thursday, October 14, 2010

Advocacy, Really?

The older I get, the more interested I become in disability advocacy - mostly from wanting to apply my personal experiences toward positive change. Right now, though, I'm a bit frustrated (disillusioned?) with the advocacy scene in general.

Here's why. Today I attended a meeting for a disability advocacy group I'd gotten wind of, keen to contribute my abilities and perspectives. Of course, I went expecting no help from sign language or interpreters, and expecting little general deaf awareness - but, hey, since these people were already passionate about accessibility, wouldn't they be likely to really "get it" and communicate efficiently anyway? It turns out, no.

The scene, I thought, ended up being a bit ironic. Here's a small group of sharp, able-bodied people sitting and conversing avidly about how to solve disability and accessibility-related issues - all while forgetting the elephant in the room, that there is a disabled person in their midst, a person who is still struggling to engage despite all their well-intentioned talk. Argh. They all came across as inconsiderate - even though I am sure this was not their intention. And, from my end, asking people to slow down and speak in turn only goes so far. People forget, get wrapped up in their own ideas. All my CI did to help was pick up on the traffic noises outside, plus the bartender pouring drinks, wiping counters, and sliding chairs across the floor. Thanks a lot.

I won't go on, but I will say this at least. True inclusiveness requires action, directed toward the people whose needs are most immediate - not only theoretical strategies. Walking the talk, so to speak. General "advocacy" means nothing if it's impersonal.

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