So I wanted to wait until after the big table meeting to write and post my blog.
The Big Table was a citywide event organized by the Columbus Foundation. Joining our discussion was Dana Charlton, Exec. Dir. from the Ohio Self Determination Assoc.; Derek Mortland, ADA & Community Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Disability Empowerment, Lisa Courtice, Exec. VP, The Columbus Foundation, Mark Tasse, Exec. Dir., Nisonger Center, Marcy Samuel from the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Adam Helbling, CL resident and Group Leader, Marly Saade, Joy Bechtol, Rana Yonker & Lora Stilke, CL residents, Marilyn Frank, CL Exec. Dir. and Margherita Finelli, CL Marketing Dir.
Our topic for the event was “Disability Awareness and Accessibility in Columbus” and discourse could not have been more positive and productive. We spoke of inaccessible public restrooms, transportation and parking difficulties, job placement discrimination as well as ways we could combat these social issues.
How to bridge the gap in understanding the quality of life between those living with a disability and those who are not disabled is a HUGE topic within our community. One idea discussed was to organize an event where key players in our community join us on manual wheelchairs and spend the day in one. Understand that, disabled life means, YOU ARE DISABLED FOR LIFE. However, I do believe that with education, exposure, awareness, and respecting the experiences of those with deviant bodies and minds we can begin to move in the right direction.
Too many people have felt dehumanized and devalued for reasons outside of their control. For change to happen, the able bodied community needs to work with us. For my part, I know on a personal level, I need to learn to toughen up. My journey has gradually been directed towards disability advocacy and that is scary. I have always felt judged, like I never quite belong anywhere. Putting myself out there like this is terrifying, but if I ask the able bodied community to work with me, then, I need to be willing to work with them. I am the one living with a deviant body and it is my job to normalize it.
The Big Table was definitely a wonderful experience for me. I met people who have been working within the fields of physical or intellectual advocacy for many years and I am excited to build a professional relationship with them and learn from them.
I have also decided to invite our readers to continue the discussion with us. If anyone has comments, questions, concerns, and/or ideas…regarding our topic, please feel free to add your input in the comment box. Though the Big Table is over, that doesn’t mean we cannot continue on with what it helped us start.
I can’t wait to hear what you all come up with!
Until next time, be safe!