Monday, November 10, 2014

Losing A Teacher

Steven E. Brown, Disability Visibility Project - November 10, 2014

“Mouth” magazine was one of my first introductions to disability culture and what we might roughly term “radical” disability philosophy, back when I was a new staff member at a Center for Independent Living. Along with the somewhat similar “Disability Rag” / “Ragged Edge", Lucy Gwin’s “Mouth” is where I discovered that disability rights and awareness are about more than a few ramps and superficial acceptance. In the newsprint pages of these two pre-Web journals, I learned:
- Why, exactly, nursing homes and other institutions are terrible, not just distasteful. They not only rob residents of their full humanity, they are an outdated, inadequate, and inefficient way to meet the needs of elderly and disabled people who need some help with everyday tasks. I first read well-researched details about all this in the “Mouth”.
- How the experiences of physically disabled people are similar to those of cognitively or mentally impaired people … surprisingly similar to me, at the time when I read about it.
- The various “Catch-22” traps all sorts of disabled people face daily … For example: Either you’re too disabled to be trusted to run your own life, or you aren’t disabled enough to get services you need to function with the disabilities you do have.
- That truly horrific injustices happen all the time to disabled people, not just small indignities and embarrassments.
- That the sheer absurdity of ableism is it’s key weakness, and laughter is one of our most effective weapons.
The “Mouth” was one of my textbooks, which I guess means that Lucy Gwin was my teacher. I suspect there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other disabled people, and allies, who can say the same. I’m so sad that she’s gone.