5 Inspiring Writers Advocating For Those With Disabilities
It's not easy living with a disability, whether it's a physical impairment or a mental health condition. Fortunately, there are numerous and diverse advocates who are striving to make a difference. The writers included here are among them, using their own disabilities as inspiration for books, blogs, lectures, performances, and advocacy focused on social awareness and justice. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
5 Writers Providing Disability Advocacy and Inspiration
|Zachary Fenell||Self-described "Cerebral Palsy Vigilante," who uses writing and public speaking to illuminate his own experiences with CP, empower others in the community, and dispel popular misconceptions about the condition|
|Khairani Barokka||Indonesian author, poet, and interdisciplinary artist who shows how storytelling innovation can bolster inclusion and access for those with disabilities|
|Lydia X. Z. Brown||Autistic and genderqueer disability justice organizer, educator, and attorney who works to address violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people|
|Katie Rose Guest Pryal||Author, essayist, and sometime law professor who writes about mental health and disability, creative writing, academia, and women's experiences|
|Emily Davison||Runs the blog Fashioneyesta to challenge misconceptions and stigmas around sight loss, using her love of fashion, beauty, and style to inspire others with visual disabilities|
Lydia X. Z. Brown on Fighting Oppression
Facts About Disabilities in America
- 1 in 4 adults in the United States have some type of disability
- The total civilian non-institutionalized population with a disability in the United States is 40,678,654
- 2 in 5 adults age 65 years and older have a disability
- 1 in 3 adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 44 had a health care need that went unmet within the past year because of the cost
- 37% of U.S. civilians with disabilities aged 18 to 64 have a job, compared to 77.2% for people without disabilities
- The median earnings over a 12-month period for the civilian non-institutionalized population aged 16 and over with earnings and a disability is $23,006
- 15% of school-age children have some degree of hearing loss
- Roughly 8 million people in the US have an intellectual disability, including 425,000 children
- There are more than 4 million veterans living with a service-connected disability
- Workers with a disability are more concentrated in service occupations (19%) than those with no disability (17.2%)
Changing How We Talk About Disability
Living with a physical or mental handicap can be a challenge, from navigating everyday demands to dealing with the social stigmas that often come along with certain conditions. Thankfully, there are a number of writers with disabilities of their own who are using their platforms to make life easier for others. Providing empowerment and raising awareness, here are, in no particular order, five such writers advocating for disabled people around the world.
Showing up at #1 is Zachary Fenell. Giving himself the moniker the Cerebral Palsy Vigilante, Fenell uses his writing and public speaking to illuminate his own experiences with CP, empower others in the community, and dispel popular misconceptions about the condition. His advocacy career kicked into high gear when he published his memoir, "Off Balanced," which recounts his adolescent journey from CP-related shame to acceptance and self-love. Proving how far he's come since then, the author completed two full marathons in 2017 and 2018.
Fenell maintains a presence through his blog, where he writes about issues pertaining to accessibility, stigma, and disability awareness, and also posts book and consumer reviews. His community presentations, give audiences insight into living with CP, and offer practical tips for overcoming its challenges and building self-confidence. Fenell also writes on subjects not related to his disability, as in his book "Rock Realities," which is comprised of interviews he conducted with various musicians.
His community presentations, give audiences insight into living with CP, and offer practical tips for overcoming its challenges and building self-confidence.
For #2 we get Khairani Barokka, an Indonesian author, poet, and interdisciplinary artist based in London. Globally renowned, she uses her myriad creative practices to demonstrate how storytelling innovation can bolster inclusion and access for those with disabilities. "Indigenous Species," her first book as a solo author, is a poetry-art production published with Braille and embossed imagery for sight-impaired readers. She followed this with her first full-length poetry collection, "Rope," which explores issues of ecology, sexuality, and desire.
Barokka is dedicated to projects and events that are as accessible as possible, at both venue and presentation levels. This is evident in her solo performance "Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee," a deaf-accessible show in which she remains seated for 98% of the time, raising questions about what it means to be able-bodied. Additionally, Barokka collaborates with a diversity of institutions to develop workshops, lectures, and curricula in the areas of arts education, disability activism, women's rights, and much more.
At #3 is Lydia X. Z. Brown, an autistic and genderqueer disability justice organizer, educator, and attorney who works to address violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially in cases of institutionalization. Through grassroots organizing, legislation writing, workshops, and more, they have spurred changes everywhere from universities to state agencies. Among their many illustrious positions, Brown teaches and spearheads initiatives at Georgetown University, and is crucially involved on various advisory boards.
Among their many illustrious positions, Brown teaches and spearheads initiatives at Georgetown University, and is crucially involved on various advisory boards.
In addition to being the author of articles, op-eds, book chapters, and public testimonies, Brown is the co-editor of "All the Weight of Our Dreams," the first-ever anthology of writing and artwork by autistic people of color. Produced in partnership with the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, it features works from sixty-one contributors across seven nations, who provide stories about ableism and racism, police brutality, and community survival. Brown further tackles these and other topics through their keynote speeches, guest lectures, and professional development trainings.
For #4 we come to Katie Rose Guest Pryal. Located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this bestselling author, essayist, and sometime law professor produces works about mental health and disability, creative writing, and women's experiences. Among her output is the fiction series "Hollywood Lights," which tracks various female characters as they navigate difficult relationships. Her nonfiction books, meanwhile, cover everything from sexual violence to law and academia. Belonging to the latter category is "Life of the Mind Interrupted," an essay collection that examines issues of disability in higher education.
Pryal also shares her perspective through columns for multiple publications. For "Catapult," she writes the popular "Mom, Interrupted" column, in which she talks about raising disabled kids as a disabled parent. In "The Chronicle of Higher Education," she offers writing advice for academics, while her pieces for "Women in Higher Education" focus on issues such as sexual assault, mental illness, and activism on campuses. Pryal regularly delivers talks and workshops at schools, businesses, nonprofits, and conferences, and offers consultation on writing and editing.
Pryal also shares her perspective through columns for multiple publications.
Finally, landing at #5 is Emily Davison, who was born with a rare condition that severely impairs her vision. She founded her blog Fashioneyesta with the aim of challenging misconceptions and stigmas around sight loss, using her love of fashion, beauty, and style to inspire others with visual disabilities. Understanding how vital fashion can be to one's self-esteem, Davison shows how a physical handicap doesn't have to be a barrier to looking and feeling your best.
Davis has a strong public presence, having written for "The Guardian" and "Cosmopolitan UK," and appearing on TV programs such as Channel 4 News and BBC News. On her blog, she conducts interviews with people in the fashion business, and posts articles that range from style advice to consumer reviews and tips for traveling with a disability. Her popular YouTube channel offers vlogs, tutorials, and informational videos, while offline, she works with numerous organizations and charities to raise awareness and support those with visual impairments.