So, why am I interested in disability studies and activism?
For most of my adult life, I have had chronic ill health. At first, I didn’t really understand what was happening to me, and kept assuming I would get better. Eventually I realized that I wouldn’t get better, and I even stopped expecting a diagnosis.
As you can imagine, being a young ill person, with no satisfactory diagnosis, was very frustrating and upsetting. I wrote a few years ago about what it was like to live without a diagnosis. I did not expect my life to go this way and I did not know how to cope. My illness affected my ability to work; and I still don’t really know how to talk about it. I find writing about it to be much easier.
In 2007 I went to my first WisCon, a feminist science fiction convention. In the packed of registration materials, there was a handout on the convention’s disability access policies. Reading this handout was a revelation. I realized that I was a disabled person, and that this space welcomed me as such. Simple accommodations such as water service in every room, a designated quiet space, signage and maps identifying the bathrooms, and ways to manage stress, were designed as if they had me in mind. Rules for etiquette were clear and logical. Me plus disability studies equaled love at first sight!
Like other social justice movements, disability studies tells you that it’s OK to come as you are. That you are welcome and valuable as yourself. You don’t have to try harder, or struggle to be someone else.
I decided I just had to learn more about the Access Team at WisCon and get involved. I befriended Jesse the K, who eventually handed over the reins to me, and now I am the Access Chair.
WisCon is known for being a leader in accessibility; we hope to keep it that way. I want other people to be able to fall in love with disability studies the way I have; I want other folks to feel welcome in our space whether they are disabled or not; and I want other conventions, conferences, and events to adopt similar policies.