When Disability Is a Toxic Legacy
Disability is not wrong or tragic or bad, but sometimes it is a symptom of a grave injustice.
ThisisAn Unquiet Mind, a monthly column by s.e. smith that explores disability identity and its interaction with the world at large.
One of my earliest memories involves sitting under the massive, whirling arms of a Heidelberg Windmill, listening to the kiss/thunk of the press, beating in a steady, familiar, comforting rhythm that matched the beat of my own small heart. It was a foil run that day, and the light glittered off the foil, a forbidden banner of gold, as it jerked through the feeder. Someone must have been operating the press but in my memory I am alone, looking up through the forest of machinery, feeling the throb of the press across my whole body.
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When you attribute someone’s evil actions to their mental health status rather than their actual root cause—like white supremacy—then that evil is no longer presented as a choice.
Disability ruins everything, these stories tell us: disability itself is tragedy. These people’s lives are over, apparently, even though they are palpably still here.
More in this series
I want to surround myself with people who argue with me, for I learn so much more from these conversations.
“Accommodations are things that we need, and deserve, in order to lead our lives. But they’re treated—we are treated—like we’re trying to pull one over on the rest of society.”