Claiming Identity and the Disability Rain Check

I claim my disability identity. I’m proud to be disabled. Out of my way you! I’ll whack you with my cane! (I’ve done so, poking dopey dudes with my stick.) What else? I claimed my difference but I’m still damaged goods on the customary street; in the ordinary shop; the classroom; airport…

My “claim” is like a rain check. I went to the ball game but the game didn’t happen. Pride at being disabled is critically important to my self esteem. But the game, that inclusive, engaging, pastime—the American pastime—it doesn’t get played. I have a ticket. That’s all.

The ADA is my ticket. It is a beautiful ticket. I carry it with me like the letter from the eye doctor when I was in graduate school—the one that said I needed extra time for reading. Some people read that letter and understood it. Others were dismissive. Sherman Paul, a once upon a time famous professor of avant garde poetry at the University of Iowa told me I shouldn’t be in his class if I took longer to read.

I claim my disability identity. There’s always a Sherman Paul just waiting to tell me to screw myself. I wave my ADA ticket. But the ballgame doesn’t happen.

I long for something greater than my identity vs. yours. I want a collective push for human rights. What a Marxist nostalgia I have!

Identity claim check in hand I wait for the other identity groups to say I belong.

As I get older I realize I won’t live to see the progressive coalition I imagined.

But the day I claimed my identity was a beautiful one. The wine was good. The music was loud. The weather was very fine.

At least I was on the street.

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