Reflections

 

A recurring motif in almost all of these narratives is that becoming inclusive is a process.  As Billie Rain said, "…even if you don't have the mental ability to process a giant checklist, if you focus on each person as a human being and try to maximize access, minimize barriers… that can actually overcome… a lack of personal knowledge about a specific condition or disability."

 

That said, both Billie and ET Russian were eloquent about the need for having a checklist of essentials for making a space and/or event accessible, and Billie was especially evocative in painting a picture of how the struggle to find an accessible expressive outlet can be an overwhelming obstacle.

 

Especially vital unserved (or insufficiently served) needs in Seattle seem to be expressive arts spaces that are fully accessible to people with mobility or vision impairments, people with air quality needs (e.g. with multiple chemical sensitivity or severe asthma), people with extreme fatigue, and people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  For such endeavors to be fully inclusive, they also need to feature people with such disabilities in leadership and steering roles.

 

Striving to be inclusive also involves striving to be aware that there are people who are not able to (or are shamed away from being able to) articulate their needs, like the hypothetical Jack in Vanessa DeWolf's narrative, or those alluded to by ET's question of how to have consensual physical dance contact with someone who is not able to communicate in the same way you do.

 

Beverly Naidus, Billie,  ET, and Santiago Crosby-Vega all brought up the issue of how intersecting identities can create particular needs and contexts for inclusion-- especially when they involve specific types of oppression (ableism, racism, homophobia, cisgenderism, etc.)  Almost everyone celebrated how liberating it is to find a creative space where they can completely bring all of who they are into the conversation.   ET and Billie emphasized the accomplishments of Sins Invalid in this regard, and underscored the current need for something like that in Seattle.

 


Beverly, Michael Dobbie, and Carl Peterson all emphasized the value of social and politically active expressive art.  Beverly and Michael, in particular, highlight the way that grassroots political action can itself allow for a participant to be more inclusive of the entirety of themselves.  Michael points to the need for making political action itself accessible to citizens who need expressive physical embodiment in order to feel included.

  

An almost universal motif in the conversations was the question of safety.  Bri D Firf brought up a question of safety within contact improvisation jams; he was concerned about inexperienced people attempting to do something they see others do and getting hurt.  Offering warnings may help allay the situation-- however, if we get stuck in a narrative about  "protecting" those who are "vulnerable," are we reinforcing ableist oppression?

 

Joyce Liao, ET, Vanessa, myself (and, to a certain extent, my beloved Michael Dobbie),  all seem to have interweaving perspectives on how structure (or the lack thereof!) can involve contrasting (and at times conflicting) emotional safety needs.

 

A common thread in almost all these narratives is the value of creating space where people can feel safe enough to cultivate confidence in themselves as an artist.  From ET Russian: "And just being who you are can be exciting and beautiful.  Kind of tapping people on the shoulder… and being like, 'You are an artist.  You could be an artist.'

 


There seems to be a parallel between this type of encouragement and Simone LaDrumma's stimulation of Mikol S.' light-hearted self-epiphany ("Holy shit, I'm a musician!")  However, there is an important distinction between their narratives.   ET is talking specifically about the question of helping people with disabilities overcoming the shame of internalized ableism.

 

This points to an important question.  By including so many narratives from people who don't identify as having a disability, and don't seem to have an explicit connection with disability  community or ideology, am I watering this project down, and making it less  worthwhile for many people with disabilities?

 

There are important voices from Seattle disability arts culture who were not able to be fully involved with this project, like Light Motion's Charlene Curtiss and Joanne Petroff.  Curtiss and Petroff were interested in being interviewed, but were not able to, due to unexpected obstacles.  

 

Unexpected obstacles, of course, need to be expected in this kind of work.

 

And perhaps, the relationships we do cultivate having the conversations that we do have can help lay a foundation of mutual support that allows us to continue doing the work anyway.

 

As Billie said, "This is the cool thing about the disability justice movement… the recognition that just because everybody doesn't do everything, doesn't mean it sucks… we've learned how to appreciate and maximize everything that each other does have to offer."