We celebrate the human spirit:  its diversity, power and potential.
 

Shirts      Bumper Stickers      Posters      Pins


Questions ... and the answers folks are giving me.

 

"The greatest wisdom is shared wisdom." - Dan Wilkins

People often tell me that they get more comments on the street, at work, wherever, when they are wearing my shirts. If that is the case, then the shirts are working. My work, my shirts are meant to inspire dialogue. Communication leads, hopefully, to understanding; understanding to respect, and respect to equity. As this web site grows and as more and more people hear and feel the philosophy I am putting forth though these products and stories, I want there to be the opportunity for dialogue; for questions to be asked and answered. We all have questions. We all have answers. Through this dialogue, this sharing of what we know so far, we are building on and defining our Disability Culture as we go.

A little of what I know so far...

You know, I spent the first twenty-three years of my life growing up a white, 6'5" able-bodied, male living in rural suburbia, USA. Unless I can count the 43 days I spent in USAF basic training, in that twenty-three years I had not known oppression. Not real oppression. I was raised to respect other people and though their struggle did not seem to touch me personally, I was a supporter of civil rights, the movements for equity for African-Americans, women, gays and lesbians, (at that time, not knowing anyone with a visible or physical disability, I hadn't even considered the disability-rights movement.) It wasn't until I rolled my Camaro, until I fledged, fused neck, chair and all, out of rehab and back into the real world that I suddenly began to see through bigger eyes. Suddenly I couldn't get into to places I had enjoyed not a few months earlier. Suddenly, I was having to come in through different doors, back doors, kitchen doors, loading docks. The guy with the mayonnaise in the corner of his mouth finally opening the door, saying, "Sorry, I didn't hear the bell." Suddenly, I'd enter and people would go hushed, would stare, would slowly put hands on their kids. Suddenly, I would sometimes be escorted to a back table, a different room, or, on a few occassions, to the door, kindly asked to leave. Suddenly people would look down the steps at me for a second then glance at the steps then return to their conversation. Others would pull open heavy doors saying "Boy, they sure don't make things easy for you people, do they?" Suddenly, I knew oppression.

I began to have questions. Recognition stirred emotions. My desire to get back to where I was before, not wanting to be able-bodied but to be living without oppression, became a passion, and, as I met and befriended folks along the way, from different walks and rolls, different colors, genders, sexual preferences, I grew to see connections where once there appeared to be none. These revelations lead to more questions. Questions to answers to partial truths to cosmic truth. I've been asking questions for twenty years and, because of these questions and my search for answers, I've met a great many cool people along the way, people of like mind and kindred spirit. On this page, as questions are raised, any number of these cool people may weigh in with thoughts, comments, or more questions. Where it goes, well...who knows...might turn out pretty cool.

All e-mails come to me unless otherwise requested. Names are added to thoughts shared unless otherwise requested. I will be cutting and pasting everything into an ongoing stream of collective consciousness. Nothing will be omitted.

I only ask that, besides telling others about this, you reference your comments to the questions they address. Copy the question into your email so I'll know where to put it.

Here's a start: a comment from a visitor to the catalog.

Hello,

I'm not sure who to ask this question to. It's more a discussion/personal opinion question but I don't know where to start. If you could answer it just from your point of view and/or direct me to someone who could help me understand more, I would appreciate it.

I agree that it is the same struggle, different difference. I was curious, does anyone know what the end goal looks like? What does change look like?

Also, if there is no "us" and "them," why does each individual group have to rally... doesn't that create an "us" vs. them, when we should instead focus on the larger idea that there simply is no us and them and tackle discrimination, abuse, oppression as a whole? Is this too direct?

I apologize in advance for any ignorance.

Thanks.

Je

I was speaking with Carol Tashie from The Institute on Disability at U of NH when the email came in, and asked if she would like to respond.

Carol Tashie wrote:

you ask the essential question - how do we remain pure to our goal of true inclusion while advocating specifically for peace and justice for folks with disabilities. this is certainly not an ignorant question. it is one that must guide us at all times.

you probably know this already, but i would say that the struggle for access, and value, and full participation for people with disabilities is one that is not on the minds of even the most progressive thinkers in our society. many people, even those who fight, in mind and deed, for human rights, for gender equality, against poverty, for children, etc.. are often ignorant of the struggles that children and adults with disabilities experience every day. some of my closest friends have had to be educated (gently but persuasively) that special education classes are not good for anyone, that no one really wants to live in a group home, that jerry lewis and christopher reeves are not saviors.... these friends are not bad people. they have not yet had the privilege that you and i have had - to understand the richness that comes only when we celebrate the whole.

and that is one reason why we, as advocates and freedom seekers, need to continue to speak out and act out specifically for the rights of people with disabilities. we must get the message out to everyone and hope that many will begin to understand. that they will see that it is "the same struggle, different difference"

of course, we must also continue to fight for the rights of all - we must speak out, march along side, write letters, send money, talk and cajole, never give up. we must practice every day what we believe - - that we are all in this together.

the goal? the goal is that we no longer have to use words like inclusion because schools will believe in the celebration of each and every child. the goal is that we no longer have to wonder if we can take our lovers to the new restaurant in town, for we will know that all doorways are flung open wide. the goal is that we will never have to march down the streets of dc, chain ourselves to buses, rescue our brothers and sisters from the prisons of nursing homes or institutions for freedom would be guaranteed for all. keep asking these questions. you make me have greater faith in our collective humanity.

ct

 

Your questions or comments are invited and appreciated.

To contact us about anything at all. please click Wheelchairboy@glasscity.net

We look forward to hearing from you.

Dan, Beth, Taylor, Patt, and friends

 

[top of page]