How People With Disabilities Joined the Women’s March in Spirit and in Force
Making activism accessible for all.
At least 3.3 million people are estimated to have taken part in Women's Marches across the US on Saturday — potentially the biggest demonstration in the nation’s history. Hundreds of “sister marches” took place around the world, championing the rights of women and minorities in the wake of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
But the demonstrations were still inaccessible to some determined to raise their voices. The Women's March highlighted "Disability Rights" as a key unifying principle, but not all disabled activists were able to attend the marches in person. For people living with a disability or a chronic illness, the innovative platform Disability March created an opportunity to participate.
“I started the march as a small thing (I thought!) because I have rheumatoid disease and it would be hard to go to DC and back,” Sonya Huber, a creative writing professor and founder of Disability March, told Dazed. “Little did I know that there would be so much interest – but I guess it does make sense because everyone here in the US is so frightened about what is going to happen to our healthcare and what’s left of our safety net.”
While footage of Trump notoriously mocking a disabled reporter scandalized many, this is not the only reason why people living with disabilities fear the impact his administration will have on their rights. The Republican Party’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) could significantly damage disabled people's access to essential healthcare at affordable rates.
Trump’s policies could be life-threatening for citizens around America — so Disability March gave those with disabilities the chance to be seen and heard. The organizers invited people who could not attend the march in person to submit a photo, their names, and a statement on why they decided to march. On the day of the march, activists also took to Twitter and Facebook to share their demands:
Read More: 17 Must-See Signs From the Women's March
In a powerful statement on the Disability March website, Huber shared her own personal story of coming to terms with a disability and developing a more inclusive form of activism.
“To be honest, when I was at the age of my first marches and even in the decades since then, I have not been great at all about including disabled people in my list of groups that needed demands met until I landed in this category," she wrote. "And I struggled for a long time with putting myself in that category because social stigma and fear makes that category seem something separate and very hard. Hello, ableism and internalized ableism.”
“We need to orient our movements toward the needs and agendas of the most vulnerable," Huber wrote. "People who are disabled are here and we can help in a million ways, especially with Internet access. Do not write us off as less-than or incapable. We are a huge slice of your movements.”
Huber's stirring words sum up how necessary it is to build more inclusive movements — not only because the targets of prejudice and structural discrimination are manifold and varied, but because all citizens have the power to make change happen.