From Chapter One
Disabled people, and I will immediately identify myself as one, are
a group only recently entering everyday civic life. A host of factors
have typically screened us from public view. The public has gotten so
used to these screens that as we are now emerging, upping the ante on
the demands for a truly inclusive society, we disrupt the social order.
We further confound expectations when we have the temerity to emerge
as forthright and resourceful people, nothing like the self-loathing,
docile, bitter, or insentient fictional versions of ourselves the public
is more used to.
We have come out not with brown woolen lap robes over our withered legs
or dark glasses over our pale eyes but in shorts and sandals, in overalls
and business suits, dressed for play and work – straightforward,
unmasked, and unapologetic. We are, as Crosby, Stills, and Nash told
their Woodstock audience, letting our “freak flag fly.” And
we are not only the high-toned wheelchair athletes seen in recent television
ads but the gangly, pudgy, lumpy, and bumpy of us, declaring that shame
will no longer structure our wardrobe or our discourse. We are everywhere
these days, wheeling and loping down the street, tapping our canes, sucking
on our breathing tubes, following our guide dogs, puffing and sipping
on the mouth sticks that propel our motorized chairs. We may drool, hear
voices, speak in staccato syllables, wear catheters to collect our urine,
or live with a compromised immune system. We are all bound together,
not by this list of our collective symptoms but by the social and political
circumstances that have forged us as a group. We have found one another
and found a voice to express not despair at our fate but outrage at our
social positioning. Our symptoms, though sometimes painful, scary, unpleasant,
or difficult to manage, are nevertheless part of the dailiness of life.
They exist and have existed in all communities throughout time. What
we rail against are the strategies used to deprive us of rights, opportunity,
and the pursuit of pleasure.