Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Cynthia Jones

Audio transcript: On Mainstream Magazine’s intended audience
Date: March 14, 1999
Interviewer: Mary Lou Breslin

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

Let me ask you about your notion about the magazine. Who were you writing for during this late-eighties period?

We're never really writing for the very elite leadership. The magazine was always meant to be for the people that were behind the leadership, because in order to have a followership you can't be so far in front of the crowd that they can't see your dust. So we were always writing for that. What we perceive and still is a huge market that is in significant ways behind the leadership. I think we feel that now with the ADA stuff. We were always hoping that we could translate where the people were that were way out in front, and translate that into a position that would bring people along that weren't connected with the movement in any way.

The magazine was never crazy, crazy radical out-front leadership, because we knew that we would lose the people behind the movement if we were too far in front of them. So we would always put stuff in the magazine to put them in touch with people—not necessarily names and addresses—but groups that were doing things. We'd give them information that would bring them along. Kind of lead them. Like The Rag. Obviously, I like The Rag. But if you gave The Rag to most of the people who are disabled in America they would think you're crazy. You can't do that. It's like teaching: you have to take them where they are and you try to lead them to the next step, and the next step, and you try to get them involved. So that's who we were writing for. We were writing for people that were out there, maybe parents who had disabled children and they were frustrated with the whole school system stuff.

We got wonderful letters from people. God, this one said, "You saved my life. I was at the end of my rope. I had been to every meeting for my daughter, and I was stark raving angry." I had written an editorial about how I was angry. She said, "You know, you gave me permission to be angry." She said, "The next day I called up the administrator," and basically she got it done, because it gave her a breather to take a breath and be angry about it and then take the next step. We got lots of letters like that that were just really powerful. People were not connected in any way, like this woman whose daughter was disabled.

End of transcript

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