Recently I read a blog by a prominent SFF personality congratulating the SFF able-bodied community for being inclusive of people with disabilities. I responded to that blog, citing my personal experiences at conventions.
My comment was ignored by said personality. One person responded to my comment, criticising me for not being sufficiently expansive in my recognition of the multitudes of varying disabilities, thereby justifying people on two feet consistently pushing their way into elevators so people in wheelchairs couldn’t get to panels on time and thus missed out. The SFF personality thanked the person who criticised my comment.
My critic’s comment was, to a point, justified but it was also a “not all men” comment. That is, when someone points out that a man has abused a woman, the response is “not all men”, thereby undermining the legitimacy of claims and, worse still, undermining the legitimacy of feminist movement aimed at equity and freeing women from abuse. This person effectively said “not everyone who can walk can manage stairs so it’s ok that people in wheelchairs could not access lifts that were full of people who could walk, thereby preventing people in wheelchairs from attending panels”.
No-one acknowledged the point I tried to make: that ableist self-congratulations are premature and highly destructive. With such a prominent SFF personality congratulating everyone on being so inclusive, she’s giving a free pass, allowing everyone to think “we’ve arrived” when there is such a long way to go.
If you think my experiences — including my experiences of exclusion on the basis of failure to provide disability access year after year during conventions until, in 2013 organisers instructed me to provide my own disability access — are unique, if you think I’m just a whinger or malcontent, you should look at these blogs.
- Dear Disabled Person, We’re Sorry but You’re a Real Inconvenience, Signed, (Insert Conference Name Here)
- Bad Cripple
These guys don’t seem to be involved in the SFF community but the SFF community is harsh, effective at excommunicating those it does not like or accept. I doubt many in my position have a voice enabling them to be heard. My skill in making myself heard is, after all, the reason I managed to complete my degree in Professional Writing and Editing after my university refused reasonable access in 2013: staff refused large print photocopies thereby preventing me from participating in editing classes. They forced me to sit in class and watch everyone else do editing exercises and learn editing shorthand while excluding me. Thanks to my skills at making myself heard, I finished my degree and I’m still talking.
Try listening to people with disabilities and find out if WE think we’re being included, if WE think disability access is adequate, before you start congratulating yourselves.