Today I have been rereading Bill Peace’s excellent blog posts over at Bad Cripple. I am very sad to learn of his death. I didn’t know him but his work was such a balm to me when I first began using a wheelchair. It feels strange to describe such fierce writings as a ‘balm’ but I needed that fierceness more than anything.

Academia is inaccessible by design – not just to disabled people but to many other marginalised groups. But none of my other marginalities have affected me to the extent that ableism does. Becoming a cripple fundamentally changed my relationship with the world and everyone in it. It is hard not to be cynical in such a hostile world. Everything is a fight. But there are such joys to be found along the way, and Dr Peace’s work helped me to figure that out.

I’ve been neglecting my own blog lately but I’m going to try to write more amidst all the PhD chaos. We have lost a powerful voice, but if many more voices can rise up to fill the void then I like to think Dr Peace would get some satisfaction out of that.

I’m leaving some of his words here as a reminder, and a call to action.

“The advance of disability rights is taking place but at a glacial pace. For my fellow cripples, hang in there. Tomorrow will be a better day. Don’t give bipedal bastards the satisfaction of giving in. Get outside. Live life to the fullest.”

“I do not like to upset people. I wish I did not have to fight a battle every time I try to attend an academic meeting or teach on campus. But battle I do. And yes I upset a lot of people. In fact, it seems to me the only way to make change is to upset others… If people are uncomfortable with this I am sorry but I will not be silent. Silence leads to isolation and exclusion. I will not let that happen.”

“Suddenly a strong gust of wind hit us from behind. I started to fly forward. I could feel the wind blowing me in a way I have never felt before. I started to go fast–I mean really fast. I started to hold on the push rims to slow my momentum and thought to myself why? Why am I slowing down? Well, I was trying to be polite. The poor biped with me felt no such joy. I thought screw it, laughed loudly, held my arms out to catch more wind and let myself go. Without pushing the wind started to propel me forward. It was the best sensation I have felt in years! I once again felt one with my wheelchair…

Imagine if we as a society valued those that use wheelchairs and acknowledged how empowering a wheelchair is. Imagine if we valued the inclusion of those that use wheelchairs. Imagine if we forcefully rejected the notion people with a disability were special. Imagine if all public venues were accessible–and I do not mean an abscure rear entrance no one knows how to locate. Imagine if wheelchair users could get in the front door of all buildings and all hotels, motels, trains, planes, and buses. This sort of utopia does not exist. Unfortunately I doubt I will live long enough for such a utopia to emerge… What we need however is much more fundamental. We need the social mandate and will to demand society be made accessible to all.”

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