Activism and Disability: Being Heard Through the Glass

About the Author: Jayda Read is an incredible activist and amazing visual storyteller. She uses her public platform to spread awareness of issues centering around disability, race, and sexuality. On her Instagram you can find resources to learn more about being an ally, and how disabled folks can be active in civil rights. To learn more about all of these issues and also see some adorable cat photos you can visit her Instagram here.

Like many other disabled people around the world right now, I find myself watching the masses going through significant social change from inside 4 walls. Although already a veteran of self-isolation, I find myself, as a gay, afro-latin woman further restricted and longing to be a part of fight against institutional racism and police violence. If I could protest, I would. If I could be on the front-lines with my people, I would, but over the years I have had many ‘if only I could’ moments, and dwelling on my restrictions has never served me, so I decided I would have to make my activism loud enough to be heard through the glass.

Social media is a tool that I have used more and more as my health has declined, and I know many other disabled people share in this experience; it amplifies our voices to more than just our inner circle, enables us to socialise with less fatigue, keeps us connected to a world that sometimes seems to be moving along without us. Knowing I wasn’t the only one using social media as a platform for my voice, I started the hashtag: #protestinplace hoping that it could be used by people in a similar situation to myself to make activism in times of change accessible. Almost immediately, disabled people from around the world began posting their protest signs, art, petitions, captioned videos and links to educational materials on racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement under the tag. Platforms with huge followings shared and reposted and we shared in our home-activism. 

For me, this little hashtag project highlighted what I already knew; disabled voices are passionate, valuable and necessary to the public narrative. Our absence on the front lines of protest and social justice should not and does not mean an absence of our knowledge, participation and capacity for social and political change. The disabled community has proved it time and time again. As time goes on, accessible activism needs to go beyond social media and the internet, governments need make it easier for disabled and chronically ill voices to be heard, panels, parliaments and congresses need to be diverse and representative and our voices and opinions need to be valued more equally in the mainstream media so that we can continue to contribute to a changing world. 

I hope we continue to post, write, paint, teach and amplify our activism, and that we will see more of us taking a stand against injustice in any way we can, because we deserve to be heard through the glass.