Disability Justice and the World We Live In

For those who don't know, I have an identical twin who uses a wheelchair. I myself don't have a disability, but I'd hardly question, at least in the case of myself and my brother, the common assertion that identical twins have a special personal bond. The issue of disability justice is thus rather important to me.

During the previous fall semester, I took a course called Media, Disability, Futurity, which dealt seriously with how we conceptualize disability (and accessibility) in the world in which we live. I love Fordham very much; that does not stop me from being perpetually a bit dismayed at the lack of wheelchair accessibility in several of its buildings. (My freshman dorm, for example, had no elevator, and I thus had to live on the first floor if I wanted my brother to be able to enter my room when visiting; there was also no ramp to get into the building, and my family had to bring its own portable one.) The image which I've used at the beginning of this article is a pointedly revised version of the icon used to mark handicap parking spots. It came up this past Saturday when I participated with my brother in a Disability Pride event; he and I painted a panel featuring the sign for "I love you" in ASL.

Our generation tends to talk a lot about building a just society as regards the presence of the LGBTQ+ community, racial minorities, and women, as it certainly should: many different people have many different ideas about what a just society's interactions with these groups ought to be like, and, excepting the existence of bigotry, I'm probably optimistic enough to suppose that that is as it should be. We cannot, as equal members of the human race, build a just future without dialogue. The dialogue that currently goes on is sometimes enriched by the discussion of disability, but it sometimes isn't. This ought to be a chief concern of the present moment's social justice advocates.

Above and beyond previous generations, we are very capable at the present historical moment of directly influencing our future. The serious ethical issues of our day, from capital punishment to overfishing, all have quite a lot to do with how we value the lives of our fellow human beings, and the positioning of disabled persons in society is nothing if not intimately connected with that. At this point in time, I do not think it is out of place to remind us all that words do matter very much and that we should not leave disability out of all the serious discussions which we all must have.

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