It’s important to me that my activism is intersectional. Since I started sharing my experiences as a Fat, Black Traveler and created Fat Girls Traveling I’ve learned so much about intersectionality and the importance of being an ally to all marginalized communities. Disability rights is a cause I’m passionate about. For the Inclusivity Issue of Unearth Women I interviewed Tatiana Lee, an actress, model, and accessibility activist. Our conversation changed my perspective. It forced me to consider things that had never even crossed my mind because of my privilege.
When it comes to dollars, according to a 2018 study by the American Institutes for Research, disabled people have disposable income totaling upwards of $490 billion — almost half a trillion dollars in market value. So if you’re looking for another reason to consider this demographic besides common sense, it’s dollars.
Tatiana is a black, plus-size woman with big hair and a bigger personality. She’s also a change-maker. Tatiana’s not only putting herself front and center to represent her community. She works as a consultant to make sure productions hire actors and consultants with disabilities. She’s also the founder and editor of Accessible Hollywood, where she highlights her journey as an actress, model, speaker & lifestyle influencer born with Spina Bifida.
From my conversation with Tatiana, the two most memorable things she shared with me about disability rights was Season 5 Episode 5 of Drunk History which explains that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law in the United States.It passed in 1973, bus wasn’t enforced until 1977 after the sit-ins.
The second was the Ugly Law. From the 1800s until the 1970s some American cities had laws that made it illegal for “any person, who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or deformed in any way, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object, to expose himself or herself to public view.” This basically means that people with disabilities were forbidden to be seen in public fifty years ago!
Politicians are known for pandering for support from specific demographics like women and people of color but For the First Time, Disability Rights Are a Major Campaign Issue. It’s about time, considering that 61 million adults in America live with a disability according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Co-founder of the #CripTheVote movement, Gregg Beratan told Rewire.News that “Perhaps the most important thing we have seen is candidates bringing in disabled staffers to advise their campaigns and inform their outreach.”
Did you know that some wheelchairs cost as much as a car? That specialized power chairs can cost as much as a house? Those details might make you feel differently when you learn that US Airlines have damaged 7,747 Wheelchairs since January 2019. Because of a law passed thanks to U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., major commercial airlines must inform the Department of Transportation each month how often they gate-check wheelchairs and scooters, as well as how often passengers report those devices as damaged, lost, delayed or stolen. “These medical devices are essentially a part of a disabled person’s body,” Duckworth said. “Imagine if in a single year (that many) people had their legs broken by an airline as a result of flying. The effect is the same.”
Photo via USA Today
From one nightmare story to the next. Have you ever thought about how someone with a disability would manage during an emergency evacuation? I hadn’t until I read this article about a Disabled Guest at Premier Inn Abandoned in Stairwell for an Hour For An Hour After Fire Alarm Goes Off.
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• update 🏥 • Today I went to see my consultant to find out/plan what’s next in my treatment. It’s been decided that I will be put on the waiting list for a femoral osteotomy. To have a big operation 300+ miles from home is a big deal, even more so when we can’t know whether it’ll necessarily help me – but we are at the point of needing to try something to relieve some of my pain. A long period of intensive rehab will follow it. I’m so grateful for all of you joining me on this journey! #uclh #london #chronicpain #femoralosteotomy
Fun & Games
Let’s lighten the mood with some toy releases that put accessibility and inclusivity first. Like the first deck of UNO in Braille. “Teachers say this is more than a deck of cards. This can be a springboard to more accessibility and mindfulness from those in sighted-world.”
The first Black Barbie doll to use a wheelchair was released earlier this year by Mattel and it’s exactly the representation needed. According to the CDC, the share of people with disabilities is higher among women and people of color: 1 in 4 women have a disability and the stats are the same for Black adults.
Photo via Target
Irish toy company Donegal company creates the first ‘Little Person’ doll as a tribute to activist Sinead Burke. Launched on World Dwarfism Awareness Day, the Sinead doll was created in partnership with the charity, Little People of Ireland. €1 from the sale of each Sinead doll sold on the Lottie website will be donated to the charity.
Working remotely is the biggest benefit of being a digital nomad. I’m currently looking for more remote work, so holla at ya girl if you know of any openings. One thing I’d never thought about is how Remote work is more than a job perk—for people with chronic illness. Author Jennifer Aldrich shares the story of a woman dealing with being diagnosed with a chronic illness. Her mind is fine, but her body doesn’t cooperate. Remote work empowered her by allowing her to maintain a full-time job and excel at it.
Dating can be arduous at best, trust me I’ve been swiping for the last few years. Noor Pervez shed some much-needed light on dating in You Are Not A Burden: On Disability, Dating, and Support Needs. Some of the things she shared resonated with me as a fat person. Especially when she shared that some partners “make assumptions about what I can and can’t do, and push me accordingly. (“You should walk more! Come on, let’s go up the street to the coffee shop, you’ll feel great afterwards.”) In reality, that isn’t their choice to make. I know my body, and I am in charge of it, and how much I push it and for what purpose on any given day.”
During our conversation, Tatiana explained how she often has to call a restaurant beforehand to make sure it’s accessible to her. Meaning no stairs or an ADA approved ramp and an elevator to get her between floors. Writer Dear Restaurants, Your Inaccessibility Is the Opposite of Hospitality. A study from 2003 by the Open Doors Organization found that disabled diners spent $35 billion in restaurants that year; the same study found that more than 75 percent of disabled people ate out at restaurants at least once weekly. Those stats alone should be enough for restaurants to make accessibility a priority.
I’m OBSESSED with the show See. Have you been watching it? Initially, I didn’t know what to think about a show set in the future when most people are blind. After some research, I did learn that they hired a blind producer, consultants, and actors for the series. Tatiana was at the premiere in Los Angeles, which made me feel like this production was a little more tapped in.
Yet Comedian with cerebral palsy says Hollywood isn’t doing enough to hire disabled actors and I couldn’t agree more. The multi-talented and outspoken Maysoon Zayid describes herself as a comedian, actress, activist, and tap dancer. A quadruple threat. And all you have to do is take a look at her Twitter to see how she REALLY feels about things.
Did this post help you become more aware of disability rights? Is there an activist you think I should know about? Tell me in the comments.