- By Keith Hosey –
Washington DC: National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) 2011 Conference.
This is my second year in a row at the NCIL conference. It’s invigorating and energizing to be around so many advocates who have literally changed the course of civil rights and inclusion for people with disabilities in America. It’s empowering to see so many people with disabilities gather and organize to advocate in our Nation’s Capital. Revolutionaries, radicals & general rabble rousers from all over the country who are fighting for the same thing that we are in Kentucky: independence, choice, equality, our fair share of the American dream.
It’s a reminder for me. It’s a reminder that we are in a fight, a fight against ignorance, intolerance and indifference towards people with disabilities. It’s also a wonderful reminder of what we’re fighting for, of what’s at stake, of what’s possible. Throughout the year, we in the movement – I – sometimes forget what it’s all about. I forget the big picture: there’s a nationwide independent living movement out there, a civil rights movement for people with disabilities, “nothing about us without us”, “free our people”, “our home our choice”.
Then I get here. The energy is palpable and everyone feeds off of each other’s excitement. We take over a hotel, a multi-block radius, with wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, crutches, white canes, service animals. There are little people, amputees, people who limp, stutter, stagger, swagger, and move in mannerisms that are different, people who talk with their hands and fingers. I often wonder what other guests and people on the streets think about us. But by the 2nd day, we’re part of the natural mosaic, people don’t give second looks, they don’t stare, they don’t bat an eye. The other guests stand in the lobby with us like it’s any other Thursday. To me, that’s what we’re fighting for, what’s at stake, what’s possible. It’s an amazing conference and I wish everyone with a disability could experience it once to experience the energy.
Image Property of Independence First of Milwaukee, WI.