From Intersectionality to Collective Liberation: Unpacking the Disability Justice Principles by Sins Invalid

My Personal Encounter with Discrimination and the Beacon of Hope: Disability Justice

As a visually impaired individual, my life has been a journey through a world not designed for me. From navigating the complexities of the education system to facing discrimination in the workplace, I’ve grappled with a multitude of barriers. Yet, amidst these trials, I’ve discovered a beacon of hope: the concept of disability justice.

Disability justice is a commitment to championing the rights and dignity of all individuals with disabilities, working to dismantle oppressive systems and create a more inclusive world. It’s a movement that understands our struggles not as individual failings, but as a reflection of systems built without considering our needs.

Introducing Sins Invalid: Pioneers of the Ten Principles of Disability Justice

I’d like to introduce you to a group that has been a personal source of inspiration and empowerment for me: Sins Invalid. This groundbreaking performance project is remarkable for its centering of artists who often find themselves at the margins of society. They amplify the voices of artists with disabilities, queer and gender-variant artists, and artists of color, creating a platform where their stories can be told and their talents celebrated.

But Sins Invalid is much more than a performance project. They are the pioneers of the ten principles of disability justice, principles that challenge us to reevaluate our understanding of disability and work towards an inclusive and equitable society.

These principles aren’t just theoretical constructs; they are lived experiences, distilled into a framework that can guide us in confronting and dismantling ableism. They offer a roadmap for change, for creating a society that values all bodies and minds, that recognizes the inherent dignity of every individual.

From advocating for the leadership of those most impacted to promoting a model of collective liberation, Sins Invalid’s ten principles serve as a beacon of hope. They illuminate the path towards disability justice, offering us the tools to fight discrimination, to challenge oppressive systems, and to build a world where everyone is included and valued.

So, let’s delve deeper into these principles, and explore how they can transform our understanding of disability, justice, and our role in creating a more equitable world.

Unraveling the Core Tenets of Disability Justice: The Transformative Principles by Sins Invalid

In the quest for disability justice, a guiding light has emerged in the form of ten principles. These tenets, created by the innovative performance project, Sins Invalid, serve as the bedrock of the disability justice movement.

Each principle addresses a unique facet of the disability experience, encapsulating the challenges, triumphs, and intricacies of life with a disability. Together, they offer a comprehensive framework for understanding ableism and provide a robust roadmap for its dismantling.

Before we delve into a detailed exploration of each principle, let’s take a moment to list them out. This will provide a helpful overview and serve as a reference as we unpack each one:

  1. Intersectionality
  2. Leadership of Those Most Impacted
  3. Anti-Capitalist Politic
  4. Commitment to Cross-Movement Organizing
  5. Recognizing Wholeness
  6. Sustainability
  7. Commitment to Cross-Disability Solidarity
  8. Interdependence
  9. Collective Access
  10. Collective Liberation

Now, equipped with an overview of these principles, let’s embark on an in-depth exploration. By unpacking the meaning and significance of each principle, we can better understand the transformative power of disability justice and our role in fostering it.

Breaking Down Walls: How Intersectionality Informs Our Struggle

The concept of intersectionality is foundational to understanding disability justice. It recognizes that our lives are not defined by a single aspect of our identity. As Audre Lorde eloquently stated, “We do not live single issue lives.”

In my own experience, my visual impairment does not exist in isolation. It intersects with my gender, my race, my socioeconomic status, and more. These intersecting identities often collide with ableism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy, rendering many of us “invalid.” Recognizing these intersections is the first step towards dismantling the systems that uphold these forms of discrimination.

Leading from Experience: The Power of Those Most Impacted

As Aurora Levins Morales aptly said, “We are led by those who most know these systems.” Who better to steer the ship of change than those who have sailed the rough seas of discrimination and marginalization?

In my life, I’ve found my experiences of visual impairment invaluable in understanding the nuances of ableism and advocating for change. Our lived experiences equip us with unique insights and perspectives, enabling us to lead the fight against oppressive systems effectively. Disability justice, thus, advocates for the leadership of those most impacted.

Challenging the Status Quo: The Role of Anti-Capitalist Politic in Disability Justice

Capitalism, a system that often reduces land and humans to components of profit, can be a harsh terrain for individuals with disabilities. The unspoken norm of valuing individuals based on their economic productivity can be deeply dehumanizing for those of us whose bodies and minds do not conform to the societal norms.

I’ve felt this sting of devaluation, the subtle suggestion that my worth is somehow less due to my visual impairment. Disability justice challenges this, emphasizing an anti-capitalist politic where our value is inherent and not tied to capitalist notions of productivity.

Strength in Unity: The Significance of Cross-Movement Organizing

The struggle for disability justice doesn’t exist in isolation. It is interconnected with other social justice movements, creating a rich tapestry of resistance against various forms of oppression.

I have come to understand ableism not as a standalone issue, but as a form of discrimination that intersects with, and often reinforces, other oppressive systems. By aligning with other movements and recognizing our shared goals, we can create a broader, more powerful front against oppression. Disability justice, thus, calls for a commitment to cross-movement organizing, contextualizing ableism within the broader landscape of social injustice.

Beyond Disabilities: Recognizing the Wholeness of Every Individual

As a visually impaired individual, I’ve often found myself reduced to my disability – my other experiences, skills, and aspects of my identity overlooked. Disability justice seeks to counteract this reductionist view by recognizing the wholeness of every individual.

We all have inherent worth, irrespective of our abilities or productivity. We are complete with our history, life experiences, dreams, and desires. We are more than our disabilities, more than capitalist notions of productivity. And acknowledging this wholeness is central to promoting dignity and respect for all individuals.

Pacing the Path to Justice: The Principle of Sustainability

Disability justice is a long-term commitment, a marathon rather than a sprint. As we strive for justice and liberation, it’s crucial to pace ourselves, to ensure our efforts are sustainable over the long haul. This isn’t just about avoiding burnout, but about honoring our bodies, our capacities, and our needs.

For me, as a visually impaired individual, this principle resonates deeply. My journey has taught me to listen to my body, to honor my unique needs and abilities, and to use these embodied experiences as a guide towards sustainable activism.

Bridging Differences: The Importance of Cross-Disability Solidarity

Disability is not a monolith – it encompasses a wide array of experiences, challenges, and abilities. In my journey, I’ve learned that solidarity across these differences is vital for our collective liberation.

Disability justice calls for this cross-disability solidarity, for a commitment to honor the insights and participation of all our community members. It’s a recognition that we are stronger together, that isolation only serves to undermine our collective efforts. By standing together, we can work towards a more inclusive, equitable world.

Building Bridges, Not Walls: The Principle of Interdependence

Disability justice recognizes that state solutions, while sometimes necessary, can lead to further control over our lives and perpetuate the very systems we’re working to dismantle. Instead, it promotes a model of interdependence where we meet each other’s needs as we build towards liberation.

Interdependence is not just about mutual aid or support, it’s about recognizing that we’re all interconnected, that my liberation is tied to yours. For me, as a visually impaired individual, interdependence has meant relying on community support and also offering support in return, fostering relationships that value every individual’s unique contributions.

Reimagining Accessibility: The Principle of Collective Access

In a world that often prioritizes the able-bodied/minded, we as individuals with disabilities bring a unique perspective. This perspective allows us to challenge norms, to reimagine what access might look like when centered around our collective needs rather than individual accommodations.

Collective access goes beyond the mere provision of ramps or Braille menus; it’s about creating spaces and systems where everyone’s needs are considered and met. It’s about valuing the flexibility and creative nuances we bring as brown, black, and queer-bodied disabled individuals.

Rising Up Together: The Call for Collective Liberation

At the heart of disability justice lies the belief that no body or mind can be left behind. It’s not enough for a few of us to overcome barriers; we must ensure that everyone is included in our march towards liberation.

Collective liberation recognizes that our struggles are interconnected, that we cannot achieve true liberation unless it is collective. As a visually impaired individual, I know that my liberation is tied to the liberation of all other disabled individuals, and indeed, to all other oppressed groups. Only by moving together, by ensuring that no one is left behind, can we achieve the revolution we seek.

A United Front: Our Collective Movement Toward Disability Justice

The journey towards disability justice is not an easy one, but it’s a path that we must tread together. The ten principles of disability justice created by Sins Invalid offer us a compass to navigate this journey, providing a framework for understanding and dismantling ableism, and championing the rights and dignity of all individuals with disabilities.

From intersectionality to collective liberation, these principles challenge us to examine our assumptions, to confront the systems of oppression that marginalize us, and to imagine a world that truly values every body and mind. As a visually impaired individual, I’ve found hope, guidance, and strength in these principles. They’ve empowered me to resist discrimination, to reclaim my inherent worth, and to work towards a more equitable world.

I invite you, reader, to engage with these principles. Learn from them, reflect on them, and incorporate them into your understanding of disability and justice. Let’s acknowledge the wholeness of every individual, honor the leadership of those most impacted, and work towards sustainable, collective liberation. Let’s challenge capitalism, foster cross-disability solidarity, and promote interdependence and collective access.

Disability justice is not just for individuals with disabilities – it’s a movement that benefits us all. By committing to these principles, we can collectively dismantle oppressive systems, create more inclusive communities, and move towards a world where no body or mind is left behind.

Remember, we’re in this together. Let’s learn, grow, and strive for disability justice, for ourselves and for future generations.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.

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