I don’t think Andrew Pulrang could have posted this recent article on young people with disabilities at a better time, as I have recently been having similar thoughts on what the future holds for disabled children & youth and, much like Pulrang, I honestly feel really optimistic.
Yes, there are still huge barriers facing disabled people of all stripes and the pernicious effects of ableism are experienced in tangible and intangible ways on a daily basis. But if I consider how things were when I was a kid compared to how things are now, how can we not be excited? Provincial and National accessibility laws are (slowly) moving forward. Public and private spaces are becoming more accessible—sometimes even by choice and not because of a fear of punishment. More disabled students than ever before are entering post-secondary education, which points toward a promising future of employment and financial independence for these young ones.
But the reason I am MOST excited is not because of the work happening external to the disabled community, but the work happening within. When I was younger, I struggled to integrate within the disabled community of my peers. I was frustrated by the amount of self pity and self loathing. I was saddened by how many were already defeated, even with their lives just beginning. I didn’t understand why everyone just wanted to talk about their most recent surgery or the latest ‘miracle cure’ or the latest fundraising award they had won. Couldn’t we just talk about sports, music and dating like other teens?
Young disabled people I am meeting now are different than when I was young. Many of them have this sassy fire, brimming with self confidence in their right to be a part of this world. Many of them are organizing, online and offline, to fight for the things they and their peers need now and in the future. Some are even dreaming of (and achieving) adult lives that don’t (only) revolve around disability—choosing to just live life on their own terms and not “being” disabled all the time.
In my experience, young disabled people are dreaming a big, spectacular future of disability justice, inclusion and acceptance. Now the rest of us need to buckle up, join them and support them in making their vision come to fruition.