Incluse This! Episode 1: Am I Disabled Enough?

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Episode 1: Am I Disabled Enough?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

An introduction to Incluse This! with host Sarah Kirwan and special guest Molly Bloom.

In this episode, host Sarah Kirwan and special guest Molly Bloom, dive into the question of being disabled enough. With lively discussion, the duo addresses this very real question in the context of identity, community, rights, culture, responsibility, empathy, care work, and legal structure. Am I Disabled Enough? gives listeners a glimpse into the very real personal struggle that people face when they try to answer this question.

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QUICK LINKS

As language, perceptions and social mores change at a seemingly faster and faster rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for communicators to figure out how to refer to people with disabilities. This style guide, developed by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, is intended to help. It covers almost 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to disability.

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OUR GUEST: Molly J Bloom, PhD

Photo: Molly Bloom

Molly has felt an affinity for and responsibility to the disability community since sustaining a life-changing injury as a teenager in 2006. Since then, she has co-founded the only women’s wheelchair basketball team in California, completed a PhD drawing on anthropology and disability studies, and learned from her friends and peers that disability community always involves sharing knowledge, advocacy, and living joyfully. In her doctoral studies at UCLA, Molly brought together critical perspectives on race, class, and disability community.

Her research, funded by the National Science Foundation among other organizations, was recognized for its commitment to diversity when she was inducted into the Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society in 2018. She has authored publications on topics ranging from adaptive athletics, to disability in the Middle East, to Brazilian Sign Language. Recently, Molly has relocated to home of the American Disability Rights Movement, the Bay Area, where she is busy working as an Inclusive Design Researcher for Adobe and soaking in the activist milieu. She thrives on connection and collective growth and longs for the day when she can build joy in-person with her disabled kin.

TRANSCRIPT

Sarah Kirwan:

Hi, and welcome to Incluse This! I'm your host, Sarah Kirwan. And this is a movement for disability equity. Today, we're talking with Dr. Molly Bloom. A woman who wears many hats on this podcast, including contributor, producer, special guest, friend, and colleague. And we're talking about being disabled enough.

Sarah Kirwan:

Dr. Molly Bloom has felt an affinity for and responsibility to the disability community since she sustained a life-changing injury as a teenager in 2006. Since then, she has co-founded the only women's wheelchair basketball team in California, completed a PhD drawing on anthropology and disability studies, and learned from her friends and peers that disability community always involves sharing knowledge, advocacy, and living joyfully.

Sarah Kirwan:

In her doctoral studies at UCLA, Dr. Bloom brought together critical perspectives on race, class, and disability community. Her research funded by the National Science Foundation among other organizations was recognized for its commitment to diversity when she was included into the Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society in 2018.

Sarah Kirwan:

Dr. Bloom has authored publications on topics ranging from adaptive athletics, to disability in the Middle East, to Brazilian sign language. She recently relocated to the home of the American disability rights movement, the Bay Area, where she is busy working as an inclusive design researcher for Adobe. And also soaking in the activist milieu. Dr. Bloom thrives on connection and collective growth. And she longs for the day when she can build joy in person with her disabled kin. And just so no one gets confused, I'll be calling her Molly throughout the remainder of this episode, because I'm still getting used to calling her Dr. Bloom.

Sarah Kirwan:

Molly has been instrumental in helping me shape and focus this podcast. And we've talked for countless hours over the past few months about disability identity, intersectionality, rights, culture, environment, and so much more. Molly and I met almost eight years ago playing wheelchair basketball, and we've grown to be very close friends and trusted colleagues. Our journey to change perceptions and attitudes about disability and move the needle on bringing disability to the forefront of the greater diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation has only just begun. And with that, am I disabled enough? Hi, Molly. And welcome.

Molly Bloom:

Hi, thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be on this podcast for the first time.

Sarah Kirwan:

And I'm extremely excited to finally be here recording with you today. Molly won't share this with you, but I will. This is actually take three of recording this. And I just want to thank you for all of your support and your determination alongside me to put our voices out there.

Molly Bloom:

Yeah, absolutely. I'm just silently laughing to myself. And I'm ready. Let's do it.

Sarah Kirwan:

So Molly, will you please share with our listeners what our journey over this past year has meant for you, and why you're also passionate about Incluse This, and the movement that we're trying to build, and the work that we're doing?

Molly Bloom:

Absolutely. This past year has been, it's been a dumpster fire. 2020 has been an incredibly tumultuous year, and it's forced all of us to rethink so much about our life. What we want as humans and what we want in our world. You and I have had many, many conversations about this move towards a different world. It feels like the world has fallen apart, particularly with the pandemic as well as rising discourse around Black Lives Matter and general racial equity. And it also feels like this is a point at which we can think about how we might rebuild that world. So since the two of us have shared identity as people with disabilities, we've thought a lot about what a world could look like that includes disabled people, and that serves the needs of disabled people, and fully incorporates them into the fabric of society. We've talked about the podcast, we've talked about our lives and our journeys. We've talked about many things. And it's been really important to have these conversations with you.

Sarah Kirwan:

I feel exactly the same. And I just appreciate your personal efforts that have helped me to bring this podcast vision to life. I want to turn to our topic at hand, the question of being disabled enough. Which really actually we'll tie into disability identity as well. And we'll get to that in a second. But I want to just share some questions that often come up when we think about am I disabled enough? That could be am I disabled enough to use a service animal, request a medical pre-boarding card, use the wheelchair accessible restroom, use the disabled check-in counter at the airport? Am I disabled enough to ask for a reasonable accommodation, to be worthy of asking for what I need? To play adaptive athletics, to coach adaptive athletics, to speak to disability in this podcast, to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, and to be fully accepted in the disability community.

Sarah Kirwan:

And this list really goes on and on, and there's no easy answer to any of these when you're living with an invisible or non-evidence illness or disability. And in my personal experience, I think we're never disabled enough when people can't see our disabilities.

Sarah Kirwan:

So I should explain here that I live with non-evident illnesses that are categorized as disabilities, which is multiple sclerosis and superior semicircular canal, dehiscence. Molly lives with an evident disability, which she'll share a little bit more with you as we get into disability identity. Although our experiences have been different, we have shared experiences that have brought us together and continue to strengthen this bond that we have, that helps us to overcome this kind of odd divide that's at play within our disability community. And it comes into play when illnesses aren't identified as a disability by the people who experience them or by our larger communities that we live in. And it usually has to do with the fact that it's invisible or non-evident. So I want to talk a little bit more about disability identity. Molly, can you explain what disability identity is, what that means?

Molly Bloom:

Absolutely. When I said I identified as a person with a disability, what I meant to say was I identify as a disabled person. And I make that shift with a very political mindset, because I don't want my disability to necessarily be viewed as some sort of characteristic about me, like the fact that I have brown hair, and the fact that I have brown eyes, and the fact that I'm white, right? I want my disability to be understood as being an absolutely integral part of who I am and how I move around my world. So when I say I'm a disabled person, I use identity first language, as opposed to person-first language, which would be person with a disability. Because disability shapes everything I do. It shapes the connections that I make with people. It shapes the communities that I want to participate in and contribute to. It shapes a lot of the passions that I have in life. And this is not necessarily the case for every person with a disability.

Everybody has a completely unique relationship to their own disability.

Molly Bloom:

When you think about disability as being part of your identity, it's quite similar to the way people in other underserved groups, like in the LGBTQ group, or black people, or Asian people, or Asian Americans think about their identities as an inherent part of who they are. So the disability community has moved towards this acceptance of identity as a way to sort of get people on board with the idea that disability is not a negative part. It's not necessarily a medical pathology. It's not something that takes away from who you are, it's something that enriches who you are.

Sarah Kirwan:

When you and I have talked about disabled person, so identity first versus the person-first language, person with disabilities. I don't know. It's part of my identity and I identify as a woman with disabilities, but I'm still putting my person-first. So that kind of leads me to if we're not using that identity first language, I guess how important is it for people who live with non-evident disabilities to identify and to use that person-first language in this movement?

Molly Bloom:

That's a question that I am not necessarily able to answer for somebody else because I have a very evident disability. I am an amputee, and I have a high amputation. So I have an amputation on my left leg that goes up all the way to my hip and even to my pelvis on the left side. So when I'm moving around the world, it's quite obvious to people that I'm a disabled person. I also use a wheelchair to get through the world. So all of my understanding about the negative attitudes I've experienced and the way that I can be most empowered to sort of shift those attitudes for myself, and hopefully for the people with whom I come into contact, is to think about disability as core to who I am and central to who I am.

Molly Bloom:

But disability is a huge spectrum. And in fact, people don't even necessarily identify as disabled, right? So people who are chronically ill might or might not identify as disabled. But that community might share a lot in common with people who are disabled in terms of needing accommodations, needing flexibility. People who are deaf might not identify as disabled, because the deaf culture has really embraced this notion of identity and sort of pushes away from the sense that disability is something that applies to them because deafness is just part of who they are and how they communicate.

Molly Bloom:

So it's actually really complicated. And I think that just because a person uses person-first language and says, "I'm a person with a disability," doesn't mean that they don't have a right to think that disability is also part of their identity. Language is complicated, and you build your relationship to disability and identity with your actions. In addition to your words, but I'd say more importantly with your action. So yeah, the question of how much people need to embrace disability identity, people with non-apparent disabilities, not evident disabilities in order to make change in the world is incredibly complicated. And I think that we can only reach a consensus on that, which really open debate about how disability communities might not be bases that are necessarily built to consider people with non-apparent disabilities, right?

Molly Bloom:

This might be a part of our community that has been alienated from something that could actually be a wider community. And several people have talked about this, right? There's scholars like Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. I'm sure I'm saying her name wrong, but she has a book called Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. And she has absolutely beautifully articulated this stance. There's there's a lot of folks who have thought about this, about how mainstream disability culture has been white. And it's also been based on people with evident physical disabilities. So I think we're in a space now where we actually have time to shift that in really empowering ways.

Sarah Kirwan:

I love that. And that actually leads right into my next question for you. Do you think that there's a hierarchy of disability within the disability community and the larger communities we live in? And I mean by that, is there some sort of calculation that puts people with evident disabilities at the top of that hierarchy, and people with non-evident disabilities at the bottom?

Molly Bloom:

I think that that is so context dependent. I think about in wheelchair basketball, how people with very apparent disabilities don't have to work really hard to prove that they belong in that space. I don't need a doctor's note in order to play wheelchair basketball, because somebody can look at me and they can know that I need a wheelchair to get around. And therefore, I have a qualifying disability. Somebody who wants to play wheelchair basketball with a non-apparent disability will need a doctor's note to prove that they have the right to be in that space. Right? So in that context, there might be this hierarchy in terms of who is believed, right? What is the evidence that you deserve to receive this treatment that not everybody in the general population is allowed to receive?

Molly Bloom:

At the same time, somebody who plays wheelchair basketball might think that a person with minimal disabilities that look non-apparent, so maybe a person who has an injury in their leg for which they can't run. So they qualify for wheelchair basketball. They might feel like that person who is more able-bodied if we like to think about disability and able bodied-ness as being on the spectrum, which is actually I think problematic to think about it linearly. But a person might see that person with his non-apparent ability as taking something away from them as taking playing time away from them because their sport was made for real disabled people. Right?

Molly Bloom:

So I think in that context, that's one example of how hierarchy might come into play. And it really depends on the context. I think our entire world is structured by hierarchy. So absolutely, there are hierarchies everywhere we go. I also think that though I don't have an invisible or non-apparent disability, I have this sense that people who don't look, don't appear to be disabled enough probably have really a harder time explaining when they need accommodations, right? When they need time to rest, when they have the [inaudible 00:15:52]. It's my sense that in spaces like doctor's offices or in work, or in friend groups, those folks might not be as easily believed as somebody whose disability is more apparent.

Sarah Kirwan:

And that's a really great point. And I think it will lead into something that we'll talk about it a little bit later. But the demand for people with disabilities, disabled people to fight for, prove that they have a right to show evidence to get access to the things that they need to live and enjoy their daily lives in the communities that we live in. And within a physical structure that doesn't actually support easily maneuvering around it for people with disabilities. You know a lot of Liz Jackson's work. And she is I want to say UX research designer. Correct?

Molly Bloom:

Yes. She's many things. I'd say she's a designer. And as a designer, she cares a lot about research. So she's both designer and researcher.

Sarah Kirwan:

And she says that disabled people are the original life hackers. I think that's one of your favorite. So the life hacker is really because daily, when we go out, we interact with the world around us, the physical world around us. We're always making hacks, right? Trying to figure out and problem solve. Can you under or explain a little bit more about what she means by people with disabilities being the original life hackers?

Molly Bloom:

Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the quotes that I use in almost every talk I give in my work. And when Liz Jackson says that disabled people are the original life hackers, she means that disabled folks embody a world that is often not designed for them. So a wheelchair user has to figure out how to navigate spaces with really steep hills and stairs. A person with a disability that affects their hands has to figure out how to do all of these things with their hands in ways that they have not been incorporated in the design. Like cutting, opening cans, stuff like that.

Molly Bloom:

And because of that, it's just part of living with a disability that life forces you to be flexible, and to be creative, and to be problem-solving. So disabled folks actually have this wealth of knowledge. And when I say disabled folks, this absolutely applies to people with apparent disabilities, non-apparent disabilities. But disability absolutely forces the person to be creative in the ways that they approach things that aren't built for them. So we have as a community this wonderfully rich wealth of knowledge that is often under-recognized and underappreciated.

Sarah Kirwan:

We talked a little bit about the disability culture. And that was something that I had never really thought about in terms of education and awareness, but there's a rich history and a rich culture of the disability community that I think we need to start talking about and we need to start sharing with other people.

Sarah Kirwan:

When we think about where we fit, life hackers, the physical world that we live in. People who may appear to be disabled, people who don't appear to be disabled. For someone living with an invisible illness, excuse me, I have this ability to kind of shift between the non-disabled and disabled world, right? So some days I'm not disabled enough to be part of the disabled community because maybe I feel really well that day. And then other days, I'm not well enough to be part of the non-disabled community because I don't have the energy or the strength to actually put on that fake face for the day. So it's this kind of going back and forth between these two different worlds.

Sarah Kirwan:

And then also, I'm not really always what people want or expect, right? They're expecting someone with an apparent disability. When you go back to the norm for disability, it's white and wheelchair use. So you and I, I've had a lot of experiences. I remember one time you came to my apartment and I was living in Playa del Rey. And it was so difficult to get you from your car into the apartment. I mean, it took us probably 30 minutes to figure out how to get you from point A to point B. Those are the types of things that we're talking about with life hacking.

Sarah Kirwan:

The other thing about that hierarchy that you were talking about within wheelchair basketball, I have a funny story. And I'm sure that you remember this. The first time we traveled as a team, everyone on the team said, "Hey Sarah, don't get out of your chair." Or when they were going to actually give me a classification number, adaptive athletics for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, they're at classification levels, based on your ability level. How much muscle control you have in your stomach, how much arm control you have, how much leg control you have.

Sarah Kirwan:

I remember sitting there and I was about to get classified for the first time. And everybody said, "Just pretend that you have less ability than you have." And I remember thinking wait, I don't get it. I don't understand why I have to fake having more of a disability than I already have. Then we got back to the airport, and I was very uncomfortable about if I get out of my chair and stand up, then everyone's going to stare at me because why am I sitting in a chair if I can walk? Would you share one of our experiences that stands out most to you. And also that you could relate to the most.

Molly Bloom:

Yeah, I'm going back to the airport. And when our wheelchair basketball team travels, we have almost twice as many chairs as we have people. Because those of us who use manual wheelchairs to get around every day have our manual chairs in addition to our basketball chairs. So we're a little bit of a shitshow when we travel. And we've got a lot of chairs, we've got a lot of equipment. And we just draw tons of attention as we are moving through the airport.

Molly Bloom:

So we go through the process of checking in our bags. And Sarah, and you ended up being last in line, which is quite funny because often if you're standing with us, I feel like people sort of read you as maybe our caretaker. Or maybe the person, our manager is sort of in charge of us. Because you're the able-bodied one apparently. So we have gone through the process, and we have deep knowledge about the ways that we can get through the airport. So as we checked our bags, we made sure to explain that we were checking bags with medical equipment, and therefore we didn't have to pay the bag check fees. So we went through that process, and then we were waiting for you before we could go through security. And you went through and you tried to explain, "I'm checking my bag if it's medical equipment in it," which was true. But of course, you were met with deep suspicion and just absolutely bafflement really by the person who was checking you in, who could not understand why this person who was walking were trying to check medical equipment.

Molly Bloom:

And I remember you getting so frustrated, and I don't remember whether or not you actually had to pay to check the bag. But when you came back to us, we absolutely understood what was going on because we are so conscious of how people are reading us all the time. Because we are frequently the gaze of people. We draw a lot of attention, especially when there's a group of very visibly disabled people, we just draw a lot of attention. So we were understanding, we knew exactly what was happening. And while we didn't share the experience of being met with suspicion, we absolutely shared the experience of understanding that when you have to go through bureaucratic processes like this and you're disabled, you are clearly going through a process that is not designed to incorporate you. So either there has to be some side process, you have to do something differently. You have extra steps that you have to take.

And it is frustrating, and it wears on you. And you just understand that this world was not designed for your needs. So we all understood exactly the frustration you were having, because we got it.

Sarah Kirwan:

That takes us back to what we were talking about. A doctor's note to play wheelchair basketball. As people living with disabilities, I feel like it is often our responsibility to educate others about disabilities. Our responsibility to defend our own illness or disability. And I find that this is in a lot of relationships, even with provider relationships. We're still defending how we're feeling, even though we know our bodies so well. My question is where does our responsibility as disabled people end, and where does a societal responsibility begin?

Molly Bloom:

That's such a good question. That's such a good question. The fact that it is on our shoulders as disabled people to demand and advocate for our rights at each step of our lives is a clear example that this society is structured for people not like us, and we are seen as people on the margins, right? So it's actually a very marginalizing experience to have to demand that you belong in society and to have the legal structure such that as we live in the United States right now, and with the laws, with the legal ecosystem that we're navigating. When something goes wrong, it is up to us to defend ourselves, as you said.

Molly Bloom:

So we carry all of this responsibility with us. And that responsibility is really a symptom of an inequitable society. I don't know quite how to answer the question, because what I want to say is it absolutely should not be up to us to need to educate people. And it should not be up to us to need to demand our right. But that is the structure in which we are working.

Molly Bloom:

I've been reading a lot about the ways that people can really burn out from all of the advocacy work and all of the work that people who are underserved and underrepresented, all of the work that they put into just existing and just experiencing a life that is free of unhappiness and stress, right? There's so much work that goes into that. And there's a lot of burnout that can come with that.

Molly Bloom:

So for people who are disabled and say, "I just don't have the energy to educate people, and I don't have the energy to sort of push the needle on how we think about disability." I do not think there is anything wrong with that. And I think that we should embrace the society of risk, and we need to move towards deeper understandings of sustainable care, which I'm also getting from the book Care Work. And I think that it has to be a balance of understanding that yes, the system in which we operate is inequitable. And it's not fair that disabled people need to be the ones ensuring that people with disabilities actually have the rights that they deserve. At the same time, we've got to make sure we don't burn ourselves out.

Sarah Kirwan:

You and I, you've experienced my burnout. There was one point where I got extremely burned out in the work that I was doing, putting together the podcast, and my business. And my passion as you and I spoke about it, my passion really became a burden at that time. And you had done a tarot card reading for me. And I just remember sitting there just tearing up that yes, I'm exhausted. It's work just to exist on a daily basis. Right?

Sarah Kirwan:

We don't always have that energy to educate. And I think that I would like for you to talk a little bit about the rest and the sustainable care for people. Because when I felt that way, and this was a conscious decision although I don't really think that I said, "Okay, I'm going to do some sustainable care right now. I'm doing some rest work right now." I just said, "Okay, I'm extremely exhausted. This is not inspiring to me anymore. My passion is burning me out, and I'm going to set it down." And I really set it down for two weeks and I didn't look at it. I didn't think about it. I think we talked during that time as well. And I was like, "I just can't look at it or do anything with it." And then one day I woke up two weeks later, and I was super excited, and I was interested again, and I rewrote the entire podcast schedule, and got back to work. So could you talk to us a little bit more about what you're speaking of when you refer to rest and sustainable care?

Molly Bloom:

Yeah. I think you just gave such a really wonderful example of that. I mean the way that I approach my rest practice, it's rooted in meditation. And I've found these [inaudible 00:29:04], which are Buddhist communities of practice and meditation that serve people with disabilities in particular. And they have been such a wonderful haven for me. So when I think about what it means for me to rest, it is giving myself time and permission to engage with something that is not productive in the capitalist sense of the word productivity. Right? So it has meant for me journaling, and taking a stab at writing a crappy novel, which I didn't actually get to. And I was not disappointed with myself for only writing I don't know, less than a chapter about that. Because I was just spending my time doing something that helped me feel restored. And for me, I'm sure this is different for everybody, but it's a practice of checking in with myself, and understanding when I'm saying yes to things that are too tiring for me, and understanding why I need to say yes, why I feel compelled to say yes. And then of course, rethinking those things.

Molly Bloom:

So I think disabled folks eventually in their lives probably develop a deeper relationship to this. Even if they're not engaged in social activism and feeling burnout from social activism, I think that people who live their lives with disabilities just understand that sometimes, our bodies and our minds run up against their limits. Sometimes, I just have to get out of my wheelchair. I mean, that has not been an issue since COVID because I've been lounging on my couch. And by lounging, I mean I've been working and doing everything on my couch. But sometimes, I just can't pull myself out of bed. My body hurts. Sometimes, people get brain fog and they're just like, "I'm in this brain fog for a few days. And I don't know when it's going to go away." Right?

Molly Bloom:

So we have to already be mindful as people with disabilities and disabled people about understanding where the limits of our bodies lie and making sure we honor them, the limits of our bodies and our minds. So the way that I think about care work is kind of an extension of the way disabled people have actually already pushed back against systems of endless productivity, right? There's been great critiques in academia by people with mental illness, right? And people with invisible disabilities about the demands of that practice that makes people just think all day and expects people to just be continually tired. And some people just cannot do that.

Molly Bloom:

So the care work that I am trying to instill is something that gives me spaciousness and that give me freedom to not feel productive. And I find that when I do that, I have so much more energy. I have this creative energy that can be applied to whether it's communities, or writing a story. And it's been really transformative for me.

Sarah Kirwan:

Yeah. I feel like you tried to help me with something like that. The freedom to not feel productive, feel like we had a conversation about that. I want to go back a little bit to the understanding that comes from having a disability. So when someone comes to you and says, "Listen, I'm just really fatigued." Or, "I have brain fog." One day we were going to record, and I had a horrible migraine. There was just no way we were going to be able to record. So we needed to reschedule. But I want to share with you an example of when even those of us who think we're super mindful all the time, as I've been planning this podcast, I have a guest who may no longer be able to participate due to health issues.

Sarah Kirwan:

Well, my first reaction is to think about the podcast, right? I'm thinking oh my gosh, now I'm going to have this. And then I stopped myself mid thought and I'm like, "Oh my God, obviously. Yes, we need to be more conscientious of that, and understanding of that, and work with people." So I think it really is about shifting our mindset.

Sarah Kirwan:

Again, going back to kind of what you've taught me is put that disability lens on when I take a look at the world. And it's not always easy, and it doesn't come easy to me all the time because of my experiences as well. As a white woman of privilege with invisible disabilities. Right?

Sarah Kirwan:

One thing that you and I have spoken a lot about is the intersectionality that exists for people with disabilities, and how that's a natural existence. When we first started working on this podcast, I really wanted to highlight, right? I wanted to highlight that intersectionality, and I wanted to put it in red blinking lights and say at the intersection, Black Lives Matter and disability, or something along those lines. And I remember you coming to me and saying, "Sarah, that's really, when you look at it," and this kind of goes back to putting the disability lens on as we look at the world. "When you look at that, you're calling it out as opposed to really understanding that that's a natural intersection with race, gender, sexual orientation, and identity, all different social categorizations." Why is it that our society has such a difficult time understanding the multifaceted beings that are people with disabilities? Why is it there's such a push to put people into some type of box without understanding all the layers that go into their identities?

Molly Bloom:

That's a good question. And just to give a little bit of context, intersectionality is a topic that emerged particularly from black feminism, and it was claimed by Kimberle Crenshaw. And intersectionality describes the way that people experience intersections of identities. So I experience an identity that is an intersection of whiteness. I'm a cis woman, right? So femininity, disability, middle-class, working-class identity. So these things come together in my own experience, right?

Molly Bloom:

And intersectionality is a wonderful way to view the world because it helps us understand that we all have these multiple intersecting identities. That nothing is simplistic, right? A person who's black is not just a black person. They might experience a relationship to gender. They might experience a relationship to ability, to class. There's all of these things that make a person who they are in this very rich, unique way. And I think that one of the things that we need to be aware of as we've had these growing conversation about diversity and intersectionality, one thing that we need to be aware of particularly as white people is that when we are calling something out at nonwhite as intersectional or diverse, we are still validating the white experience as the sort of true baseline experience. But anything but divergence from that is not standard and is best called out. Right?

Molly Bloom:

So I think that in conversations on intersectionality, it's also important to talk about the way whiteness is part of intersectionality as well. And I think that in particular with disability, there is this sort of history in the United States of disability, right? Emerging a little bit. I mean, The Disability Rights Movement sort of follows in the footsteps of the black rights movement, right? This really paved the way for the disability rights movement. However, it has tended to center the voices of white people. It doesn't mean that all of the disability activists have been white. I think if you've seen the movie Crip Camp, which is a wonderful movie, you might observe that that was this really multi-ethnic and quite diverse sort of movement that came together in the '60s.

Molly Bloom:

However, disability as it's understood in popular culture has really been white disability, right? And there's been again, critique from in academia. A lot of people have critiqued disability studies for being white disability studies. And there's really wonderful ways that people are re-imagining disability rights in a way that incorporates disabled people who are indigenous, disabled people who are black, [inaudible 00:38:14] disability studies as understanding the importance of black people with disabilities and everything that they have to contribute that has not been incorporated into the canon of disability studies yet. So I think the tension has been around understanding disability as something that has privileged the voices of white disabled people.

Sarah Kirwan:

And on the next episode, I actually talked with Leroy Moore, the founder of Krip-Hop nation. And he was sharing with me that after they signed the ADA, that they had another protest that was the other side of the ADA. Because black folk were completely not included in the materials, didn't have a place at the table.

Sarah Kirwan:

So I have a question. It's a question that actually was posed to readers by S.E. Smith. And he's a National Magazine Award winning Northern California based writer. And his work has appeared in The Guardian and Rolling Stone, and so many other publications. And the question that he posed is what might the world be like I wonder, if we could stop judging everyone for asking for accommodations? If we could silently build a place that is welcoming and inclusive for all bodies. If we could stop treating accommodation and respect finite resources that will run out if we don't hoard them. Be kind, says an often misattributed quote that seems to have arisen from the zeitgeist, for everyone around you is fighting a hard battle. And I think that when we take this into consideration, we have a lot of work cut out for us.

Molly Bloom:

Yeah. That quote made me think of all of the talk that I hear lately about scarcity. So Sonya Renee Taylor talks about scarcity. Brene Brown talks about how we live in this mindset of scarcity. And I think the tension of accommodation is that we have to ask people for help and we have to ask people to change the ways that they do things. And that's really hard in a setting in which we live in a scarcity mindset in which we think that making adjustments and shifting things will take time away from something else that we need to be spending our time on, or will take resources away from something else that we need to be spending our resources on. And until we get to a point in which we understand that actually the entire world is enriched when more people can participate, we're going to be stuck in this tension of accommodations. And it's not a good world for people on either side.

Sarah Kirwan:

I agree. I completely agree. Molly, thank you once again for having, not only this conversation with me here today. But also, the many conversations we've had over the past few months. I'm thankful for your time and energy. For our listeners, if you'd like to know more about the work Molly has done and is currently doing in the disability equity and inclusion space, please check out her LinkedIn profile at Molly-Bloom.

Sarah Kirwan:

And once again to our listeners, thank you for spending your time with us and joining the Incluse This conversation and movement. Incluse This is brought to you by Eye Level Communications, LLC. Eye Level is a California based woman and disability owned small business committed to having critical conversations at eye level that are necessary to move disability to the forefront of the greater diversity conversation. If you'd like to learn more about the work we're doing, please visit the website at www.eyelevel.works. You can also email me directly with any podcast episode ideas or questions and comments at sarah@eyelevel.works. Remember to put your disability lens on when you look at the world, and tune in next week for another stimulating conversation on Incluse This, the podcast that's really a movement. Take care and be well.

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