and the answers folks are giving me.
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.
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
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
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.
a start: a comment from a visitor to the catalog.
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.
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.
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