The Mighty website, www.themighty.com has received some negative press from within the disability community in the last few months. The website describes itself as “Real People, Real Stories We Face Disability, Disease and Mental Illness Together.” It’s been critiqued for parents oversharing about their kids with disabilities (photo of a teen in diapers, etc.) and some posts painting parents as heroic and people with disabilities as cloyingly inspirational. Also bloggers who have disabilities have reported having their posts removed or not used. On the other side, parent posters have felt scolded by people with disabilities. If you’ve missed this tempest, a good post to read about it is “Who Should Speak for the Disability Community?” at http://wordsiwheelby.us3.list-manage.com/track/click?u=9334e4131b35335c80067007d&id=fa86b62a58&e=90b8279ff5.
I’m troubled! It reminds me too much of Congress; groups of people fighting each other and ending up in gridlock instead of working together on things they can agree on. To me, the answer to “Who should speak for the disability community?” is each of us who is touched by disability, whether it is ours, a family member’s, a friend’s, etc. Since one out of five people has a disability and one out of four families has a family member with one, there are a lot of voices.
I hope it’s a chorus where all are welcome. Having lived through fourth grade music where the teacher told me not to sing, I don’t wish to silence anybody! You might sing in a different key than I do—go for it.
The hardest part of this “all are welcome” approach is when people try to say one writer is righter than another. I’ve seen this argued in the blindness community with regard to dog vs. cane, braille vs. large print for partially-sighted, two competing consumer organizations, etc. My usual answer is “both and” or “it depends.”
I hope the editors of The Mighty are big enough to publish many viewpoints, some of which may conflict. I hope those of us in the disability community can disagree with each other respectfully, assuming the other person’s view is right for them, even if not right for us. I hope we can ask each other questions to better understand each other’s view, without having it perceived as arguing or judging. Let’s work together for better services, more public understanding and fuller inclusion of people with disabilities in the good life. Congress, watch us!