Reflections on the Last Week
by Rev. Justin Hancock
I’ve had some time to think lately about the state of disability civil rights and the place of the wider disability community within our current cultural landscape. I, like many disabled people, found myself reeling when on February 15th, House Resolution 620–a bill which severely curtails the effectiveness if not the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act—passed the House, in a vote that included 12 democratic congress members. What’s more, this step which will, if passed through the Senate, will effectively devestate the Americans with Disabilities Act, was performed without barely a whimper from the mainstream national media. I certainly understand that with the events in Parkland, Florida happening nearly simultaneously, there wasn’t very much media oxygen to go around.
I am, however, left with one overriding question: how can we in the disability community unite?
When there seems to be so many issues facing people with disabilities across the spectrum, many of which seem to push and pull against one another, how do we speak with one voice? I know the thing that usually happens in blogs like this, is that this is the part where I give you my solution. But I have none. There is no magic bullet that makes it easy for a person with chronic fatigue syndrome to understand the situation of a person with hearing loss. Or for a person with extreme chemical sensitivity to really identify with the life situation of someone with sighted issues. The one thing I know is for us to properly understand one another, and begin a cross disability conversation, we must first know that we belong at the table for the broader cultural conversations. The way I say this within The Julian Way is that God doesn’t apologize for granting us the gifts of our disabilities. It is time we stop for our own existence.
If recent history has taught us anything, it is that change occurs and movements begin when people stop asking permission to speak, and begin trusting themselves and the move of the Spirit. All we need to do is look at the momentum of some high school kids in Florida to see that play out. Those courageous students are beginning to shift and change the landscape of an intractable debate because they were brave enough to follow the heartbeat of their own convictions and trust the justice of their own voices.
I call on my people, persons with disabilities, to do the same thing. I’m not saying we need to be rude about it, or ignore everybody else, but people with disabilities have to stop waiting to be invited into the cultural conversation, and enter the room themselves.
My friend, the Reverend Stephen Taylor, and myself started the Julian 360 blog several months ago to have difficult disability related conversations. Find me on Facebook and let’s begin to talk. As people with disabilities, let’s help this country heal by finding our place within this nation's voice. It is only when everyone speaks that silence is truly broken.