One the arguments about why it is difficult to center the voices of women with disabilities seems to be that there just aren’t that many of us writing. Or maybe we don’t write in an easy-to-understand way. Or maybe we don’t write in a way that’s clear to people are currently non-disabled. Or maybe there just aren’t that many of us writing, so finding a good example of writing by women with disabilities to highlight is just very difficult.
Or so I’ve been told.
Certainly it’s something we at FWD have run into in argument after discussion. Reaching out to those with disability and inviting them to speak for themselves is hard. Our response has been, of course, to start this blog, but also to try and highlight the voices and experiences of others. We’ve had guest posters, of course, and have a weekday “recommended reading” selections that seeks out posts about disability written mostly by people with disabilities in their own voices. We have a lengthy blog roll that is just a tiny sliver of the disability-focused blogosphere. And by no means are any of these comprehensive. Every year I read Blog Against Disablism Day and am taken aback by the depth and breadth and variety of posts on the topic. We write, we talk, we sing, we sign, we compose poetry, we dance, and we express ourselves, all there in our own voices.
I mention all this because I was surprised to read “Invisible Women” at the Human Rights Watch blog, originally published at the Huffington Post. It was written by Joseph Amon, who is the director of the health division at Human Rights Watch.
It’s an interesting article, and I do recommend reading it all. Here is the part of it that made me think, today, of the number of times people with disabilities are rendered invisible by social justice movements:
Women with disabilities are made further invisible because few statistics are collected that describe their numbers, and decision-making bodies in both the public and private sectors rarely include women with disabilities or consult with them. This makes it difficult to identify the key challenges women with disabilities face, or to advocate for targeted programs to address those challenges. Even when data about disability are collected, these figures are often not disaggregated by gender. Without a place at the table, women with disabilities cannot make their voices heard or their concerns addressed.
Until recently, women and girls with disabilities have largely been invisible even within the disability movement and women’s movement. The issues facing women with disabilities have not been priorities for either community. But that is starting to change.
You know what also renders us invisible?
Not allowing or inviting us to speak about our own oppression.
So many opportunities to allow women with disabilities – these invisible women – to talk about their experiences.
So many opportunities squandered.
Related: My experience at a disability-focused all-candidate’s debate during the provincial elections where the organizers refused to allow people with disabilities to ask questions because it would be “too difficult” for the candidates. The candidates were there to highlight their Party’s concerns and plans for people with disabilities.