Micah Fialka-Feldman, advocate and TASH Board member, shares some thoughts on youth, disability and advocacy stemming from his recent attendance at the disAbled and Proud conference in Syracuse, N.Y.
PRIDE in Syracuse!
By Micah Fialka-Feldman with Alex Cherup
On August 5-7, 2011, at Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York, we had the privilege of attending the “disAbled and Proud” conference. The Taishoff Center and the education department at the university hosted the event for 120 college students with every type of disability. Advocates came from around the country. We had panel discussions, small group projects, and great keynote speakers, including Ari Ne’eman, the president of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and member of the National Council on Disability (NCD), and Judy Heumann, the historic disability rights activist. Poet LeDerick Horne visited Saturday night to give a powerful spoken word performance. Micah was very grateful and honored that he was asked to sit on a panel and share the story of his struggle to live in the dorms at Oakland University.
It was great to have the chance to meet with people who are in college who have different disabilities. We were inspired with how so many students are committed to the disability rights movement. Many students spoke about the challenges they faced in their schools. During the entire conference, we had the unique opportunity to voice our needs and suggestions about attending college with a disability. Some of our work will even be used in the future to improve the college experience for students with disabilities. Also, we got to connect with other people in a way that will build relationships for the future. Several advocates, including us, hope to remain in contact once the conference is done.
We had the opportunity to interview several students at the conference. Here are some of their responses to our questions:
Why did you come to the “disAbled and Proud” conference?
“I was excited to connect with students who are disabled and looking to organize!” – Allegra
“I [came to the conference because] work for the campus Diversity and Inclusion office, and I work on disability awareness issues and I have a club that is trying to create a safe space for people with disabilities on campus. If the LGBT community can have a safe space, and the women’s center has a safe space, then the disabled students should have that as well.” – Cambria
What have you learned?
“That there are so many people in so many places who are disabled and want to talk about it.” – Allegra
What does disability pride mean to you?
“Acceptance of ourselves and who we are as human beings.”– Scott
“Accepting that disability is part of your identity and not [being] ashamed to say it” – Cambria
What is your vision for the future of the disability movement?
“We can rekindle some of the fire…I feel we lost some of the energy the disability movement had…some is complacency because the laws have been passed…we still need an acceptance of people with disabilities…” – Scott
“A fully acceptable and inclusion world where everyone is valuable…fully integrated, but also with our own space to be disabled people together” – Allegra
Visit Micah’s website at https://www.throughthesamedoor.com/