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Disability Awareness Week

Disability is not a 'brave struggle' or ‘courage in the face of adversity’. Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.

We hear from the summit that the world is grand from up there, that we live down here at the bottom because we are lazy, stupid, weak, and ugly. We decide to climb that mountain, or make a pact that our children will climb it. The climbing turns out to be unimaginably difficult. We are afraid; every time we look ahead we can find nothing remotely familiar or comfortable. We lose the trail. Our wheelchairs get stuck. We speak the wrong languages with the wrong accents, wear the wrong clothes, carry our bodies the wrong ways, ask the wrong questions, love the wrong people. And it’s goddamn lonely up there on the mountain. We decide to stop climbing and build a new house right where we are. Or we decide to climb back down to the people we love, where the food, the clothes, the dirt, the sidewalk, the steaming asphalt under our feet, our crutches, all feel right. Or we find the path again, decide to continue climbing only to have the very people who told us how wonderful life is at the summit booby ­trap the trail. They bum the bridge over the impassable canyon. They redraw our topo­-maps so that we end up walking in circles. They send their goons­ those working­ class and poor people they employ as their official brutes­ to push us over the edge. Maybe we get to the summit, but probably not. And the price we pay is huge.

by Eli Clare

Portrait of Eli Clare (

Portrait by Riva Lehrer

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