So what’s happening in the lives of people with disabilities twenty-five years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed? If one judges by memoirs, people with disabilities and their families are moving along in society, facing and sometimes prevailing against the architectural, communication and attitudinal barriers the ADA was passed to help ameliorate.
Life is Short; No Pun Intended by J. Arnold and B. Klein chronicles the life experiences of the stars of the “Little Couple”. They adopt children, deal with cancer, and strive to make the world a better place. In Tripping into the Light, Charlie Collins works to overcome the low self-esteem he’s had since childhood because of his blindness. His narrative talks freely about his drug and alcohol issues as well as his blindness. In Every Day You Fight, Stuart Scott and L. Platt chronicle Scott’s fight with cancer. This ESPN anchor believed you beat cancer by “how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live”.
Life in the balance: a physician’s memoir of life love, and loss with Parkinson’s disease and dementia by Thomas Graboys, with Peter Zheutliwas published in 2008 but speaks honestly of disabilities acquired later in life.
My favorite of the recent memoirs is Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back by Harilyn Rousso. For psychotherapist, painter, feminist, filmmaker, writer, and disability activist Harilyn Rousso, hearing well-intentioned people tell her, “You’re so inspirational” is patronizing, not complimentary. In her empowering and at times confrontational memoir, Don’t Call Me Inspirational, Rousso, who has cerebral palsy, describes overcoming the prejudice against disability– not overcoming disability.This book will probably go on my list of all-time favorites for disability memoirs along with works by Nancy Mairs.
Those of you who parent a child or adult with disabilities may like The Broken and the Whole by C. Sherman. The author is a rabbi and the father of a quadriplegic son who grapples honestly with the theological and practical issues caused by a disability in the family. Also be sure to read the beautiful poem “Stargazing” Johnson Cheu just posted about thoughts and feelings parents and adult children have: http://atticusreview.org/stargazing/.
Pick up a memoir and get some wonderful insights into the lives of the 19% of us living with disabilities. It’s a great way to celebrate the ADA’s 25th anniversary.