Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Carol Gill

Audio transcript: On definition of disability culture
Date: August 8, 2002
Interviewer: Kathy Cowan

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.

And what do you mean by disability culture?

I think shared worldview is mostly what it is, and also some elements of understanding and communication, such as humor. I think that there's a particular type of humor that people with disabilities tend to develop with each other when they're in each other's presence, that is pretty irreverent about authority and about standards that are handed down to us. I think that we develop humor that is turned at ourselves and our own struggles and limitations, and I think that we face some of the darkest—or what others who don't have disabilities would consider pretty dark and horrible realities, and we laugh at them. I think there is great power in being able to put the laugh to something that scares the shit out of other people.

I think there was that and certainly a way of looking at life through very different values than the majority culture had that resulted in our being shut away from mainstream society; we didn't embrace those values and we shared that with each other. That was the beginnings of my appreciation for being part of a minority culture and having a minority worldview. I think the affective or the emotional component of it is that I really learned to love other disabled people during that period, and I loved the community and I loved it before I was even aware that I loved it. I had this strong sense of community that I took comfort from, that I learned self-validation from. My girlfriends relied on me just like I did them. They sought me out; they complimented me; I complimented them; we affirmed each other.

I drew on that when I began to think about what it is that has been rich about my life as a disabled person and what it is that made me realize that the cultural bigotry, the general cultural bigotry against disability, is a big lie; I knew it from that. I knew that if I felt so affirmed and so appreciative of other disabled people, affirmed by and appreciative of other disabled people, if I felt such a strong bond of connection and attraction, and that's important, that I actually relearned aesthetics, human aesthetics. I learned to value what others had been told is horrible. I knew that if I could do that, then there was something about this cultural difference that was valid.

End of transcript

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