I spoke at the 2020 Sacramento Women’s March about disability justice.
Below is video (by Denice Ristau) and the transcript.
Is there power in standing up?
That was a trick question.
Is there power in sitting down?
I’m disabled whether I’m standing or sitting. And I’m powerful both ways!
So, let’s change this phrasing: is there power in showing up?
Let me tell you about Rosa.
Rosa May Billinghurst would ram her wheelchair into police during protests in the early 1900s. She continued using her wheelchair to make a path for herself even after being violently thrown out of her chair intentionally damaged by police.
Rosa was called “the cripple suffragette.”
Rosa claimed her space and she made it known she would be counted as a disabled woman and nothing less.
So I’m here to tell you:
My name is Charis Hill. I’m transgender and I’m an openly, proudly, professionally disabled suffragette. And I will be counted.
Perspectives haven’t really changed that much since Rosa’s days. Even in recent years, disability sit-ins have resulted in damaged mobility aids and poor treatment by police.
Disabled women currently have the legal right to vote, yet many polling places remain inaccessible. We with disabilities make up 25% of the USA, yet our suffrage is yet to be fully realized.
Is that ok?
We’re still fighting for basic human rights, like access to healthcare, housing, jobs, education, marches –
You see there’s no ramp on this stage. That’s not my fault.
It’s not my job to walk on this stage, it’s the organizers’ job to get a ramp.
As I speak, 2.6 million people are at risk of losing disability benefits because of proposed disability reviews every two or three years that only exist to tell people “you’re no longer disabled, we’re taking your benefits away.”
The vast majority who apply for disability do it as a last resort, like I did. It took over two years to win my case, and I will still live in poverty for the rest of my life because disability wages are non-living wages.
On top of that, Social Security Disability is calculated based on the amount you earned before you became disabled. Because women earn less than men, they also make less on disability. Disabled black trans women make even less.
Is that ok?
What can you do about these proposed disability cuts? Follow the hashtag on twitter or search: #NoSocialSecurityCuts. You’ll learn what to do from there.
I have two more questions.
How many of you preach diversity?
Does your diversity include disabled people?
If not, then commit to learning and changing. Join us. Learn about disability issues using the hashtag #CripTheVote. I said that right: #CripTheVote.
Listen to us. Support our stories and voices. Put us front and center and let us lead the way to true disability justice.
A note: after delivering my speech, I learned more about the word suffragette. While I understand more details now about suffragette vs suffragist, I feel I may continue to use “suffragette” as a way to claim my own identity within the definitive word. I am small, but I am mighty.
I have previously written about disability and the Women’s March.
Read more here:
If you learned something about disability justice by reading this, or appreciate this writing, please consider supporting my work with a $3 tip at ko-fi.com/beingcharis. Your support will help pay my internet bill so I can continue my advocacy.