Over a year ago you may recall I did a “Personality Profile” post featuring disability advocate Anita Cameron. Recently I received the opportunity to interview Anita for The Mobility Resource (TMR), the resulting article you can read “Understanding the Disability Advocacy Movement, Why We Shouldn’t Take Things for Granted.”
Unfortunately a word count limit left me facing many tough decisions on what insights to incorporate into my piece and which to cut. Following previous precedent though, I decided to take these unpublished comments and share them with you my blog readers. 🙂
Certainly an interesting fact about Anita revolves around the attitude her parents held towards her disabilities (including retinopathy of prematurity, epilepsy, and congenital cerebellar ataxia). “I grew up in this Catholic family, old fashion so my parents had this guilt thing. You know
‘How have they sinned to have a disabled child?’ My parents’ attitude was they simply didn’t talk about it. They were in denial. They would tell me all the time ‘You’re not handicapped.’”
Thankfully Anita’s teachers saw potential in her and made sure to advocate on her behalf. Given she went to school prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) she relied on school officials to naturally do the right thing. When they didn’t, she didn’t possess many options. “Kids going to school today if the school isn’t doing what needs to be done, isn’t following a 504 plan, isn’t following an IEP, it’s a struggle but there are remedies for that. When I was going to school if I had a complaint, they would’ve looked at me like ‘And? We’re not doing anything illegal.’”
The final comments I want to highlight deal with Anita’s insights on subgroups within the disability community. “There are some disability organizations that don’t want to deal with you if you don’t have that particular disability, or if you are not a person with a disability.” She mentions the deaf community as an example.
“Among some deaf folks, a lot of them, there are issues with the hearing community. I think because deaf people have suffered often at the hands of hearing people.” She adds “It’s the whole nature of when you are deaf the language of your country is not your first language. So if you’re deaf, English is not your first language. It’s going to be ASL or whatever it is that you’re learning in your household, if indeed you are.”
*Did you enjoy the above? Consider visiting The Mobility Resource website regularly. I’m happy to report the TMR powers to be and Anita came to an agreement. She will become a regular TMR columnist.