issue #187 - the one on disability pride
Qudsiya on accessibility, love, and how everyone deserves both
This weeks newsletter take over is by Qudsiya. Qudsiya is the creator and host of the podcast, Down to the Struts, which explores disability, design, and intersectionality. She’s thrilled to announce that the seventh season is dropping on July 18, just in time for Disability Pride Month! You can also subscribe to Qudsiya’s newsletter, Getting Down to It, for updates. When she’s not podcasting, Qudsiya loves organizing adaptive sports adventures through the Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes.
Happy Disability Pride Month, and happy 33rd birthday to the Americans with Disabilities Act! And huge thanks to Hitha for so generously offering me this space to reflect on disability pride with all of you for the third time!
In her 2018 keynote at the Disability and Intersectionality Summit, disability justice activist Mia Mingus said, “Disability justice is simply another word for love.” Her speech inspired the #AccessIsLove campaign, calling on all people, disabled and non-disabled alike, to create access for one another as an act of love.
Access and love have very much been on my mind this Disability Pride Month as my partner and I prepare for the celebration of our wedding. Oftentimes, when people think of accessibility, they focus on things like technology, transportation, employment, and other very important things that are essential to life. But what is so often forgotten is that disabled people do more than just work and survive. We, like everyone else, have rich, complex lives. We crave adventure, as well as the mundane everyday joys that make life worth living—from being able to experience nature to enjoying a great meal with good friends at a restaurant. For me as a blind person and those in my disability community, being able to do those mundane everyday joyful things requires a commitment to access. And when that access is afforded, it is perhaps the greatest gift of love we can receive. It is also the love that we, and everyone, deserves.
I was certainly a reluctant bride. I wasn’t sure I wanted a wedding at all. But after much thought, my partner and I decided that we wanted to share this special time with our loved ones, and give everyone something to celebrate. I even started to get excited at the prospect of a wedding, after so many years of being single and feeling like potential romantic partners didn’t view me as desirable because of my disability. Disabled people are so often not seen as sexual beings or worthy of desire. But now, I’ve found an incredible human to share my life with, and I was ready to celebrate!
But I quickly found that the journey of being a disabled bride was riddled with barriers. From inaccessible bridal shopping websites with no image descriptions of gowns and other clothing to vendors who were not interested in describing makeup or hair styles, or modifying their practices to ensure that I, as a blind person, felt included and affirmed. Not to mention the inordinate amount of time that my partner and I spent advocating for access and finding alternative strategies to share the load of wedding planning.
Despite these challenges, I was still able to find access and love. I’m thrilled to partner with J lauren Photography and the Social Audio Description Collective (SADC) to create a fully accessible wedding photo experience, complete with narrative image descriptions and an audio story of our wedding. Having the photos in multiple formats (visual, written, and audio) also means that all of our friends and family can experience our special moments in whatever mode is best for them. Not to mention that photos, descriptions, and audio are all beautiful art forms in and of themselves and will be integrated in an artful style, thanks to Jasmine Oliver and the wonderful Cheryl Green. This is what love looks like.
I’ll wrap up with four resources that can help us build our shared capacity to create collective access as an act of love:
When we create access, we express love. We also give everyone the power to make choices for themselves—to create joy every day in the way that they wish. When we all have what we need and want, it leaves so much more time and space to create, and to strengthen our relationships with one another. #AccessIsLove
What Qudsiya Read This Week:
Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner- On March 4, 2023, we lost a great light of our movement. Judy Heumann is often referred to as the mother of the disability rights movement, and she indeed was like a mother to so many of us. Judy is an example of what generous, inclusive, and uplifting leadership can and should look like. Her memoir is replete with tales of the movement and all the people who made disability rights possible. It’s a fantastic and important read if you are not familiar with this history. I had the incredible privilege of interviewing Judy on my podcast, and I recently recast that episode with a special tribute to her.
Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life by Alice Wong- Another book recommendation reprise in honor of Disability Pride Month—Alice Wong’s memoir is both powerful and delightful. A collection of Alice’s writings, interviews, and other tales about her tireless efforts to amplify disability stories from around the world, this is the best summer read ever. Also check out this awesome episode of Ten Thousand Things about Alice’s experience of losing her natural voice after a series of medical crises last summer, and my interview with Alice in 2021 about the creation of Year of the Tiger (and much more). If you’re able, please support Aliceso she can continue to keep pace with the mounting medical costs necessary for her to live in community with all of us.
Top #5SmartReads Of The Week
What To Do If You Have Over $5,000 In Your Bank Account (Life Hacker)
“You Can’t Actually Blow Up the White House”: An Oral History of ‘Independence Day’ (The Hollywood Reporter)
My Beauty Uniform: Mira Jacob (A Cup Of Jo)
1,268 Minutes With My New Fambly (The Cut)
The rest of the week’s reads (and conversations!) are below:
Thanks for hanging in there as I shared my thoughts on disability pride! If you want to hear more voices from the disability community, subscribe to my podcast, Down to the Struts (transcripts available). We love to hear from our listeners, so feel free to drop us a rating and review on your favorite podcast app. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and join our Facebook group. For monthly updates about the podcast and other disability news, you can subscribe to my newsletter, Getting Down to It!
Sending each of you lots of love,