August 24, 2012
In the world of Disability Non-profits there are very few who are run by and for folks with disabilities AND who are grounded in social justice. When Centers for Independent Living (CIL) first were created in the 1970s around the country, access to transportation, education and community resources for Disabled folks were downright radical ideas. As we have slowly gained the rights to go to school, ride the bus and have interpreters or ramps at court hearings, other questions have arisen. How can we choose where we live and have support to live at home? How do we have relationships with non-disabled allies who often hold all of the money and power? How do we understand our experience in the world? While other CIL's have stayed in one place, going over the past 40 years from radical to service-based and sometimes obsolete, SVILC has stepped-up to challenge themselves and the community that they work in to address these new questions. They have embraced the new ideas of Disability Justice, a second-wave of Disability identity and activism, and have tried to practice this ideas and values. I worked with them in designing an anti-bullying curriculum for kids (age 9-12) grounded in Disability history and identity. Kids with diverse disabilities sat in rapt attention as they learned about their history and culture. Showing an Autistic artist which his detailed drawings, one of the kids faces suddenly lit up with recognition that he was autistic too and belonged for once here in this community of diversity. SVILC has challenged me as well to bring all parts of myself to the organization. In a forum on Race and Disability I was invited to assist with organizing and was asked to share why addressing my identity as a woman of color was important to explore with-in Disability activism. It was the first time I felt like all of who I am was honored and had space in an organization. It has not always been comfortable, but fear of vulnerability is something Disabled people must learn to embrace, and embrace it SVILC has. It's been an honor and life changing for me to work with SVILC.
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