Disability, the Board Game…

Stephen Kuusisto, Letters to Borges

If you’re disabled you’re used to the digs. The current term is micro-aggression—you know, the non-disabled administrator who says, “I had a disabled friend so I know all about it,” or the human resources officer who says, “we’re doing our best and I think you disabled people are just whiners.”

These digs place the disabled in a template. We become objectified and thoroughly reduced. This process is enacted and reenacted daily. Moreover the intersection between disability and other diverse groups is seldom explored. At Syracuse University where I teach the LGBTQ Resource Center has no wheelchair ramp. If the disabled complain we’re seen as a nuisance. Sometimes you have to laugh. We’re viewed by others as an inconvenient truth, to borrow Al Gore’s phrase.

As a blind faculty member I’m fantastically inconvenient. Some days I think I should wear a tee shirt that just says “universal problem” or something equivalent. Imagine you’re a problem all day long. The digs are relentless.

When outside consultants are hired by my university to assess everything from the workplace climate to the future of infrastructure you can bet their surveys will be inaccessible. One complains. Not much happens. The “system” just stores up more evidence that you’re a problem. You see how it works.

I am on the street in a conditional way: allowed or not allowed, accepted or not accepted according to the prejudices and educational attainments of others. And because I’ve been disabled since childhood I’ve lived with this dance of provisional life ever since I was small. In effect, if you have a disability, every location is a gated community.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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