Talk to the disabled people in your life. Ask them what it is like to be blind or lame or to have a chronic disease. Chances are they will move very quickly from talking about the disability to the disability’s effects on the way they are perceived and the way they are treated. We are enormously adaptable creatures, and our strengths readily expand to compensate for our weaknesses. But social oppressions are far more more corrosive, demoralizing, and ultimately more limiting.
Spend an afternoon in a wheelchair, or walk into a store with dark glasses and a guide dog. Experience invisibility. People look right past you, pretend you're not there. They'll take the next person in line behind you, just as if you didn't exist. They'll address you by talking to your companion. Imagine what it is like to make human contact through this veil of invisibility.
Marsha Saxton is a lifelong advocate for disabled people. She helps us turn our attitudes around so we can enjoy disabled people as colleagues and friends, rather than trying to help them. Her power is greatest working directly with the victims of ‘able-bodyism’, who become their own advocates and their own community organizers.
Saxton’s new book, called Sticks and Stones is a collection of over fifty stories about facing abuse and violence. The compelling stories are told by a diverse group of people with disabilities, as well as family members, services providers, and other allies, and cover a wide range of mistreatment and recovery experiences.
Studies show that abuse and violence are high-priority concerns for disabled people; rates of abuse are shockingly high. Women and children with disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate that is three times higher than the one for those without disabilities. Disabled men also experience high rates of abuse.
The goals of this book include giving voice to people with disabilities who have confronted abusive situations, breaking their isolation, and revealing the complex issues of abuse and violence, particularly the ones faced by those who depend on help from family or paid assistance.
Saxton’s introductory comments frame complex abuse issues as part of the larger picture of societal mistreatment of people with disabilities, going far back in history.
While domestic violence organizations are making their services more accessible to women with disabilities, this volume should help these organizations better understand the issues underlying the high rates of abuse of disabled women and the desperate need to provide better, more welcoming, and accessible services for them.
The stories featured in Sticks and Stones are wrenching; the authors’ voices are strong. Yet the reader is left with a sense of hope and encouragement that mistreatment can be challenged and empowered disabled people can end abuse in their lives.