One topic I discuss a lot in my work is the importance of having a disabled village.
A “disabled village” is the phrase I use to describe the support system of disabled people I have in my circle.
Having a disabled village is a priority to me because it provides a space where I do not have to explain why I am frustrated when an incident of ableism or microggression occurs – these individuals automatically get it.
My disabled village validates my experiences as a marginalized person, and uplifts me when I am in need of support and love. This village is made up of primarily women, many of them women of color. Having shared identities outside of disability (race and/or gender) is critical when racial or sexist incidences may be felt. Knowing individuals who may have endured similar transgressions and can provide advice or console me are lesser known benefits to this village.
My disabled village affirms and confirms who I am and why my voice matters. It was the lack of a disabled village that pushed me to become an advocate; I knew how vital this support system was to my very existence. In a world that seems to desire to demean and discount our lives, surrounding oneself with persons that look like you acts as a reminder that you do matter. For those of us multiple-marginalized, the need is even greater, particularly when the very visibility of your experience can be hard to find in our community and the broader society.
One’s disabled village can be composed of anyone you deem is accepting and loving of who you are as a person. It can be as small or as large as you want it to be. The main thing is for those in your village to see you holistically. This means that these individuals see you for what makes you unique – your gifts, talents, flaws, dreams, good days and bad. When you encounter people that sees you and your shiny and not so shiny parts, and still embraces you, those are individuals to place in your village. I cannot count how many times I have leaned on those in my village during moments when I needed counsel or to know that I am not alone in a particular situation. These people value me, and do not judge when I am not at my best – they respect that I am simply human.
A disabled village is a crucial way of meeting other disabled people who value what you do and your passions, especially if you are an advocate. My village supports my work and provide ideas and connections that are invaluable. Just as much I am appreciative of having them in my circle, I do my best to return the favors bestowed upon me by them.
A disabled village is a lifeline that cannot be overlooked. It is my sincere hope that every disabled person creates their own version of a village of supportive disabled people, which is very poignant to have during these times we are living in.