International Day for People with Disabilities 2017

Earlier this week, a stub of paper was slipped under my office door — it read “Your wheelchair is RAD”. I snickered, thought it was cute, and felt that whoever decided to share this with me (presumably a student) really “got” me and my sense of humour.

But this little slip of paper has some increased significance given the proximity its receipt has to today: International Day for People with Disabilities.

I don’t typically celebrate this day. It doesn’t feel like a holiday and it’s at least a bit disheartening that the largest minority in the world rarely even gets their day mentioned on the news, let alone receives any sort of pop culture acknowledgement.

Perhaps this day shouldn’t be just about “raising disability awareness” among those poor souls who haven’t joined our ranks yet. Maybe this should be about celebrating us, “the community,” and all the amazing, staggering and radical things we have done over the past year to push back against the ableism that lurks outside the comfortable confines of our accessible home spaces and work places.

Today, let’s not celebrate the rad chairs. Or the rad walkers or rad crutches. No need to fete rad prosthesis or rad hearing aids or any of the other rad devices Yes, they can be cool and yes they are liberating, but these are all just tools. They’re devices that some people use and others don’t feel they need.

We, the users, are the ones that make them radical.

We make them radical in the ways we use them to oppose a society that says we do not belong. We MAKE them rad because our very existence is a radical act of opposition against normative and eugenic ideologies that have long attempted to eliminate us. Adaptive devices are tools of resistance, yes, but we the users are the true radicals.

So I dedicate today to everyone who radicalizes their tools and uses their devices to confront the disabling aspects of our world. I dedicate today to those who demand a world where using a device doesn’t have to be a radical act. I dedicate today to the radicals that we lost in 2017 and to those who will continue to be radical into 2018.

And last but certainly not least, I dedicate today to all of those who taught me, trained me and inspired me to be a little radical too.