On Valentine’s Day, Let’s Recognize Why #AccessIsLove

Photo of 3 disabled Asian American women, Mia Mingus, Alice Wong and Sandy Ho (from left to right). Mia is wearing glasses and large hoop earrings. Alice is wearing a brightly colored scarf and an army-camouflage-print jacket. She is wearing a mask over her nose with a tube for her Bi-Pap machine. Sandy has wavy short hair and is wearing a black sweater. Behind them is a concrete wall with a door.

Roses, chocolates, galentines…there is a lot of emphasis on love for people in our personal lives this time of year. I could cry into my glass of rosé over the lack of romance in my life but instead, I’m going to send this valentine to the communities I’m a part of and share how their love sustains me.

I spent much of my childhood and young adulthood finding myself and community. I didn’t have the words or concepts such as “ableism” or “intersectionality” that helped shape me into who I am today. Disability pride and identity took a long time for me to develop and the process accelerated once I started reaching out to other disabled people. They didn’t have to look exactly like me or become my best friend, but I received a glimmer of recognition, the ‘Yeah, I got you’ understanding of our lived experiences that kept me going.

When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area 22 years ago, I felt like a Midwestern suburban mouse arriving at the epicenter of crip culture. Disabled women and disabled people of color in particular embraced me, sharing their lives, time, and culture with me. My self-education grew as I learned about disability justice and connected with people online beyond the Bay Area bubble.

As I began to embrace and accept myself, I had to acknowledge the messiness, shame, and internalized ableism that will always be a part of me. It is thanks to the love and generosity of disabled people that I have opened up to new ways of being, thinking, and moving in the world. Individual acts of love and kindness became part of a larger collective force holding everyone together with bonds of interdependence.

Every community, big or small, has conflict, drama, and a whole lot of dysfunction. Every community also has a reservoir of intergenerational wisdom, energy, and love that has the power to build, create, and mobilize for change. As a member of multiple communities, I love them all because they anchor me while providing freedom to splash around with joy unapologetically, grow, and carve out new spaces in collaboration with others.

Last fall, after years of friendship, I got to spend time in person with two friends of mine, Mia Mingus and Sandy Ho. We talked about Mia’s keynote address at the 2018 Disability Intersectionality Summit (an event led and organized by Sandy) called “Disability Justice is Simply Another Term for Love.” This quote from Mia resonated with me deeply:

“I would argue that ‘disability justice’ is simply another term for love. And so is ‘solidarity,’ ‘access,’ and ‘access intimacy.’ I would argue that our work for liberation is simply a practice of love—one of the deepest and most profound there is. And the creation of this space is an act of love.”

Magic happens when you get brilliant disabled people together. During our conversation about how we can advance these ideas in a creative and fun way, a new project was born: #AccessIsLove. Created by Mia, Sandy, and myself, we launched a campaign with the following goals:

  • Expand the idea of access beyond compliance and the disability rights framework
  • Encourage people to incorporate accessibility in their everyday practices and lives
  • Show solidarity and give support to activists across movements outside and within the disability community

We created a list of resources on accessibility and disability justice and 10 steps people can take to start thinking and acting intentionally about access. We also designed some merchandise to raise money for a different advocacy group every two months to give material support and show solidarity. From now until the end of March 2019, all proceeds from our online store will go to the House of GG, the first national retreat site, educational, and historical center solely dedicated to transgender and gender nonconforming people in the US.

With all of this in mind, on this Valentine’s Day I invite you to think about these questions:

  • Who do you love? Who are your people?
  • How do you show love for your communities?
  • What does it mean to show up for others?
  • In what ways is access, solidarity, and disability justice a form of love?

Who we love and how we love is inherently political. We declare our kinship through our actions and words in both explicit and subtle ways. It’s not easy or simple, but I hope everyone will find their people and ways to express love for their communities each and every day.

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Rooted in Rights exists to amplify the perspectives of the disability community. Blog posts and storyteller videos that we publish and content we re-share on social media do not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of Rooted in Rights nor indicate an endorsement of a program or service by Rooted in Rights. We respect and aim to reflect the diversity of opinions and experiences of the disability community. Rooted in Rights seeks to highlight discussions, not direct them. Learn more about Rooted In Rights

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Engaging in Politics as a Disabled Person: an Interview with Carrie Ann Lucas

Photo of Carrie Ann Lucas Carrie wearing blue and teal cat eye glasses, curly hair, a blue dress, long necklace, and a multicolored blue and teal jacket. Carrie's trach and ventilator tubing is pictured, along with portions of her wheelchair controller.
Photo Credit: Nicole Montoya

Across the country, people are energized and politically engaged in response to the current political climate. Before you know it, midterm elections will take place next year across the United States. During these elections, it’s important to remember that local politics is just as important as anything at the state and federal level. In my work as a co-partner in #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online movement encouraging political participation of disabled people, I recognize that public service means more than just running for office. However, it’s a visible and needed sign of involvement and representation.

In that light, I recently interviewed lawyer and disability rights activist Carrie Ann Lucas, who announced in early August 2017 her bid to serve on the Town Board of Windsor, Colorado. Our interview has been condensed and edited for length.

Alice: Tell me a little about yourself!

Carrie Ann: Where to start?  I am an intersectional person, I am a single parent, disabled, lesbian, Latina (with an overabundance of white privilege).  I am an attorney and work for a state agency supporting and training lawyers to effectively parents (most of whom are disabled) in child protection cases. I am also active in my community, volunteering for several disability rights organization, serving on a town commission, and being an activist.

Alice: I know you primarily on social media for your posts/tweets on activism, disability rights, parenting, and your advocacy for the parental rights of disabled people. What led to your decision to run for the Town Board of Windsor, Colorado?

Carrie Ann: When I was sixteen, my mom was driving the car, and we were behind a gravel semi-truck. My mom told me I always needed to stay back from the gravel trucks when behind them, so we didn’t get our windshield broken. I asked my mom, why wasn’t there a law requiring the trucks to have a cover, to prevent flying rocks. My mom told me the lobbyists for the trucking industry had the power, and ordinary people couldn’t get a law passed that would help us.  At that moment, I knew someday I would run for office, and I wanted to be the kind of elected official that would make sure the power remained with my constituents. I have thought about running for office for the past 10 years or so, but as a single parent of four kids, I needed to focus on my family.  Now my kids are all adults, so I can devote the time necessary to running and serving my community.

Alice: Since this is your first time running for public office, what concerns did you have, if any, in launching a campaign? What are you most looking forward to during the election?

Carrie Ann: By nature I am a problem solver, so I am looking forward to hearing from my community about the problems they face, and helping solve those problems. I was concerned with some of the accessibility issues with campaigning, such as door knocking, because most houses don’t have wheelchair access. I have a good network of campaign volunteers that will help me with that process.

Alice: Tell me what you love about living in Windsor and why you want to represent the people of Ward 5.

Carrie Ann: I grew up in Windsor, moved away for college, grad school, and law school. I moved back a couple of years after graduating from law school. I wanted my kids to be in a safe and supportive community with good schools.  Additionally, my family lives here. My kids had opportunities here that they would have never had in the large urban school districts in Denver. The community is growing by leaps and bounds. The population is doubling every ten years.  We have moved from a small rural, agriculture based community to a suburban community.  I live in the older (and more affordable) central core part of town. My district includes the large town parks, many outdoor recreation facilities, and the downtown district. I want to help ensure those services don’t migrate to newer developments in the community, support economic development and continued revitalization of our historic downtown, and work to solve the traffic congestion problems we have here in town.  

Alice: One issue that’s part of your campaign is: “Prioritize engagement with residents and businesses.” What does effective and authentic engagement of constituents look like to you? How do you plan on engaging with your constituents if you become a member of the Town Board?

Carrie Ann: Elected officials must be physically available to their constituents. Authentic engagement is not simply delivering a message, but rather listen to constituents, and act on their concerns. Not only do I plan to have regular open listening sessions in the community, but to also engage in active recruitment to bring new voices forward. I also want to be available for my constituents to be able to contact me easily.  I have published my cell phone, my address, and my regular email, as well as social media.

Alice: Have you encountered any accessibility issues while campaigning?

Carrie Ann: At this point I have not.  As I mentioned before, door knocking is not easy for wheelchair users. However, when my volunteers are door knocking for me, I am available, and have a driver to get me to the location where a voter has a question or concern right away to  help mitigate my inability to physically get from door to door. I am also relying on phone lists more. The other place accessibility is problematic is with fundraising.  Candidates use house parties to raise funds, but I cannot participate in most locations.

Alice: Is there anything unexpected or surprising that you discovered as you are running for office?

Carrie Ann: I have been very pleased at the community financial support I have received in the first days of my campaign.  Financially supporting candidates, even in small amounts is critically important. While money should not equate to a voice, money is speech in this country. Until serious campaign finance reform occurs, money speaks. My town has no limits on campaign contributions, but I am voluntarily limiting contributions to $250 or less per individual because I strongly support campaign finance reform. Marginalized communities will never have equality without campaign finance reform.

Alice: What’s your advice to disabled people who are curious about running for office in local government but hesitant or concerned?

Carrie Ann: Our community is great at advocacy, but as Lin Manuel Miranda said, we need to “be in the room where it happens.” Until we are seated at the table, our power and influence is limited.  Our community is a force, and we need to also be a force in elected bodies. We are woefully underrepresented at every level of government. Even ostensibly small decisions have big impacts on our community. While people often think of influence in bigger offices such as state houses and Congress, we need our voices at every level of government. We need people to fill these offices in order to show our people can run, win, lead and move into higher offices. If folks are hesitant to run, I encourage people to connect with candidates, but also to research options for training programs that will equip you to run, and to win.

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Rooted in Rights exists to amplify the perspectives of the disability community. Blog posts and storyteller videos that we publish and content we re-share on social media do not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of Rooted in Rights nor indicate an endorsement of a program or service by Rooted in Rights. We respect and aim to reflect the diversity of opinions and experiences of the disability community. Rooted in Rights seeks to highlight discussions, not direct them. Learn more about Rooted In Rights

Click here to pitch a blog post to Rooted in Rights.

Valuing Activism of All Kinds

Close-up photo of a small section of a compute keyboard. There is a bright red button that reads "Time for Action." A person's finger hovers over this key, as if about to press it.

Recently, disabled activists from ADAPT protested in Washington, DC as the House debated the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Fifty-four badass disabled people put their bodies on the line, chanting and drawing media attention on what is at stake if the AHCA passes. They were arrested inside the Capitol Rotunda for obstructing passage in a public building. They made, in the words of Rep. John Lewis, good trouble.

I felt immense pride seeing disabled people practice civil disobedience and defend the right of all people to basic health coverage. In the back of my mind, I also felt a twinge of envy. I miss the camaraderie of being in a large group of disabled people fighting the system.  It was an immature case of Activism FOMO (fear of missing out).

As I questioned my feelings, I realized I still wrestle with mainstream notions of what it means to be an “activist” and the centering of non-disabled constructs of what it means to “show up” in rallies, town halls, marches, or protests. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I do prefer to stay home–I don’t need to worry about weather, transportation, attendants’ schedules, or the lack of accessible bathrooms in public spaces. This is why I am grateful for the privilege of having a fast broadband connection, laptop, and love of social media.  While it can feel lonely organizing from home, I have to remind myself that the activism I am involved with now is both complementary to and as legitimate as other traditional forms. Different modes, same goals.

For instance, last year Gregg Beratan, Andrew Pulrang, and I created #CripTheVote, an online movement encouraging the political participation of people with disabilities. The three of us use Twitter to keep the movement going and with our hashtag we’ve seen the disability community come together in powerful ways. Last year, Rooted in Rights gathered #CripTheVote stories from disability activists around the country.

#CripTheVote recently hosted a chat on the American Health Care Act and its impact on disabled people. Here’s a brief snapshot of the main themes from the online discussion:

Healthcare is more than just medical services for people with disabilities.

Block grants and other efforts to cut Medicaid will have disastrous repercussions for disabled people.

Healthcare is a right, not a luxury.

Attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act will unravel the decades of activism by the disability community.

People with disabilities are scared – for many good reasons.

Participants gave real-life examples of the importance of healthcare on their lives, ideas for improving policies and services for people with disabilities, and actions people can take to become politically engaged.

Looking ahead, I know that activism in all of its forms (e.g., letter writing, making phone calls, protesting, Twitter chats, storytelling) will be needed in order to mobilize and organize a coalition of diverse communities with common political goals and that each kind of activism has a unique purpose and power.

The next time I develop symptoms of Activism FOMO, I’m going to tell myself: “Do what you can, however you can. All efforts are valuable. And get over yourself!”



Rooted in Rights exists to amplify the perspectives of the disability community. Blog posts and storyteller videos that we publish and content we re-share on social media do not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of Rooted in Rights nor indicate an endorsement of a program or service by Rooted in Rights. We respect and aim to reflect the diversity of opinions and experiences of the disability community. Rooted in Rights seeks to highlight discussions, not direct them. Learn more about Rooted In Rights

Click here to pitch a blog post to Rooted in Rights.