By Cassaundra Bell
November 3, 2016
Disability. It’s a word whose definition has marked my entire life. I have Cerebral Palsy. I am legally blind. I am on the board of a non-profit organization which helps those with similar disabilities. I work at Disability Advocates of Kent County. On my personal social media accounts, I write about my daily experiences as a woman with disabilities, and I am constantly interested in how our current political and cultural climate affects individuals with disabilities.Â My whole life is saturated with this word, â€œdisabilityâ€, and yet, at 27 years old, I am daily trying to figure out the reality of what â€œDisabilityâ€ means.
What does that definition mean to the individual and to our community? To humanity? What does it mean to identify as a person with a disability, to advocate for the use of person-first language, but to also understand that not everyone in the Disability Community subscribes to this paradigm? What is it mean to think about systems that cater to the able-bodied, but also recognize that my physical limitations are real and often problematic? How do others think about these questions?
I don’t pretend to have all of the answers to any of these questions. If I’m honest, I’m still figuring out where I stand day-to-day when it comes to my identity as a woman with a disability, or as a member of the Disability Community. The important thing for me, I think, is to remain vulnerable in expressing the unknown. To remain humble in my opinions, ponderings, and questions. I recognize that people may disagree with me on any of these opinions or questions that I raise.
I’m writing this blog because the conversation about Disability matters to me. I’m writing this blog because I have a personal interest in expanding every conversation in my life — arts, politics, social justice, etc. — to include the perspective of people who live with disabilities. We’ve had our civil rights movement in waves, with the passage of the ADA as a pinnacle moment of that movement, but I think we still have miles to go, and I truly believe we are only at the very beginning of a societal shift in the perception of disability. I think that blogs like this one –conversations like those that Dis.Is presents — are the sparks to ignite this shift, and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this.
So, what is disability? Well, let’s start the conversation.