Today is International Disabled People’s Day. It’s a day marked by the U.N. as a time to recognize the disabled community around the world and strive to make society accessible to and inclusive of disabled people. But I’d be lying if I said today feels special. If anything it feels much like any other day in this year that’s included a global pandemic, civil unrest and a presidential election that could still very well end with a coup. That is to say, it’s a Thursday. At least I think it’s a Thursday.
I’d love to feel celebratory today, really I would. There’s nothing I love more than gassing up my fellow disabled people. But this year especially I look around and find myself at a loss for something to celebrate. The COVID pandemic has taken so much, especially from the disabled community, so many lives needlessly lost. COVID deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities make up over 40% of COVID deaths in the U.S. Not only that but our current administration has been a threat to disabled people long before COVID ever became a threat.
The government assistance disabled people rely on to survive is constantly threatened, when it’s even awarded at all. Unemployment rates for disabled people remain above 70% when members of the community who have given up looking for a job are taken into account. High school graduation rates as well as secondary education rates remain low. Penalties to government assistance mean many disabled people aren’t allowed to get married and are often forced to live at or below poverty level.
But despite all of this, despite all of the ways society tries to exclude disabled people, we persist. We resist. And we make a way in the world however we can, to the best of our ability.
The disabled community is one of the strongest, most resourceful and resilient communities I’ve ever been a part of. The way we can bond over similar lived experiences, swap advice, even just offer a listening ear is unparalleled. I am so incredibly grateful and proud to be part of the disabled community.
Being disabled has informed so much about how I live my life and experience the world, I don’t know how else to feel except proud. Dammed lucky maybe? Lucky to have been born at a time and under circumstances that meant not only did I survive, but on occasion I’ve been known to thrive. I have the disabled community to thank for so much of that. I am indebted to those that came before me who, unbeknownst to me, made my way easier. I can only hope to do the same for others, today and every day.