Category Archives: Ableism

My Color is F-You Fuchsia, or, Why I Decided to Leave Women’s Studies and Academia

[Note: All names and identifying characteristics have been changed.]

The exact moment that I knew I was finished with academia–and, more specifically, Women’s and Gender Studies, which I had once adored and wanted to pursue a PhD in–was in 2010, during a graduate Women’s Studies seminar at a rather middling-tier state university where I was enrolled as an M.A. student. I distinctly remember shoving my sunglasses on my cried-out, red eyes before going to class, sitting down, and then hunching over to make myself appear smaller. It was a month before the end of the semester. Right before class, the instructor–also the head of the department at that time–had called me in for a meeting because she was “concerned” about my attendance. The first week of the term, I had met with her to discuss my accessibility needs, and give her advance notice that my ongoing chronic pain and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia would sometimes prevent me from making it to class.

She seemed okay with this in the abstract, and mentioned that she’d worked with several students with special accommodation needs. Until this health issue actually (SHOCK/HORROR) got in the way of my making it to her class three times in a 16-week semester, I figured we were okay. There was even an accessibility statement on her syllabus!

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Access Denied: Crisis Centers and Disabled People

You’ve just been severely beaten by your partner, and you want to call the local crisis line for help; you’ve seen their number around town, so you dial it, only to discover that they don’t support TTY. Your caregiver has been subjecting you to recurrent sexual assaults, but when you roll up to the women’s centre to ask for counseling and help, their front door is up a flight of stairs, and the counselor who comes out to the sidewalk says they don’t have services for ‘people like you.’ Your partner, who is also your caregiver, is depriving you of medication and necessary care, but when you try to ask for help, people say they don’t know what to do. You want to learn more about your options for finding a shelter, but none of the materials are available in audio or Braille.

Welcome to the world of being disabled and in need. Domestic violence and sexual assault services around the world are supposed to be available to assist people in crisis as well as those who are undergoing long term abuse and are ready to seek help. Yet, all facilities are not created equal, and the amount of help available to you very much depends on who you are; discrimination against trans women, for example, is a recurring problem, but so is discrimination against disabled people, who may find services inaccessible or actively hostile.

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