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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

Empowerment, Inclusion, Equality: International Day of Disabled Persons 2018

Photo by Eli Mora

It's International Day of Disabled Persons. This year's theme is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusion and equality.”

I think about this every day.

Empowerment, inclusion, equality. It's in every story I tell. In every adventure I have. Every relationship I am in has navigated it to some extent.

The other day I was talking to a friend who said, "I don't even see you as disabled, you just sit a lot for someone so active.”

"I think I know what you mean, but I am disabled, it's not bad to me to be seen as disabled. When people say that, it's like they're saying, in order to accept you, I have to separate you from this thing I have a problem with. Generally, people say it when I'm the only disabled person they know and their experience of knowing me and their ideas of disability aren't compatible. But I am exactly, no caveat, no different than whatever kind of disabled you have in your head, disabled. Who I am and how I live isn’t an exception to how disabled people usually are, it’s just one of the ways a disabled person can be."

"Yeah, I think that you're right, my ideas of disability weren't based on anyone I knew,” my friend said. "I think what I mean when I say I don't see you that way, is that I am surprised to realize that I expected to have a problem with it."

I got told twice in the same week that disabled people were just too hard to deal with. In casual conversation. Like it somehow didn’t apply to me. To one, I said, "What am I supposed to say to that? Yeah, we suck, sorry?”

Another friend told me that he thinks it's my attitude that makes the difference. But I disagree. My privilege makes the difference. I am in these places you don’t often see disabled people because I am empowered by money, by language, by race and passport to do the things I do and to do them my way.

“Bad attitude” is not the reason disabled people can't access education, health care, job opportunities, social inclusion and a general sense of fullfillment. Well, it is, but it’s the attitude the world has toward disability that’s the problem. The disabled people I get to meet as I travel and connect online have a range of attitudes, perspectives, feelings and philosophies and ways of being. Because we’re people. OH MY LIFE HOW AM I STILL MAKING THIS POINT??

I am not unique among my people. Ok. I'm unique among *all* people. But I'm not unique among disabled people for wanting to live, participate, do what I love and be valued. I am not an exception to society’s pathetic disabled rule. I am not the only example of disability that doesn’t fit that one-size fits all disabled people world-wide model media currently lazily clings to. I am not even the most impressive, or the most daring or most adventurous or the most accomplished - or even the sexiest. I am probably the only you know. But I am not the only one.

The reason this point is important is that if people meet a disabled person who challenges the idea that disability is the problem and they think of them as an exception, the perception of disability stays the same. and the perception creates the reality: disempowered, excluded, unequal.

I will keep expressing and exploring what I think it might be like if disabled people were internationally empowered, included and equal - and visibly so.

Until the day when exposure to a broader range of disabled people is the norm, here is a BUNCH of people being disabled in their own, awesome ways. Be like a #sexicon - expose yourselves.

@sitting_pretty scholar, lyrical writer, cat lover

@rvbytheartist awesome artist

@mia.mingus disability and transformative justice advocate

@jillianmercado disabled, latinx model who has been on BILLBOARDS IN MOTHERFUCKING TIME SQUARE AND ON THE COVER OF ACTUAL VOGUE

@aaron_philip fashion model

@loopwhoop cool guy making cool how-to wheelchair vids and being cool.

@nathaliemcgloinracing Only female tetraplegic Racing driver in the world.

@wheelyfit First para to wheel/climb Mt Everest basecamp with minimal assistance.

@pansystbettie gorgeous pinup model. seriously. her ‘the moon is gay’ photo is iconic.

@robynlambard who is the most fashion, an athlete and the coolest

Lily Rice WCMX Women’s silver medalist at WCMX world comp 2018

@ktbeattie also cool WCMX athlete and writer!!

@michelle_roger love her fashion and chickens aesthetic so much @sidmarcos travel!! Curb Free with Cory Lee more travel Dani Zapata wheelchair dancer @piotr.iwanicki84 really awesome wheelchair dancer with @InfiniteFlowDance @carlyfindlay PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!! @erinballcircus circus artist!!!

Photo by Eli Mora Photography

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