Sunday, May 13, 2012

how i got into this

language, originally uploaded by Edu-Tourist.

In the early 1990s while a graduate student at Penn State in the beginning stages of conducting research on and with the local disability community, I discovered The Disability Rag. A monthly news magazine edited by Mary Johnson and published by Advocado Press in Louisville, Kentucky, the "Rag" as it was affectionately known, would be sitting in the waiting area while I was visiting various Pennsylvania CILs. Once the magazine had me in its grips I found myself seeking out old copies like it was manna from heaven. Disability Rag was funny (in a sarcastic sort of way) and provocative.

While perusing its pages, I was learning a new language. The Disability Rag offered a broad perspective on the activist disability rights community and was only matched in its power by the similarly provocative Mouth. Shorted from the original title 'This Brain has a Mouth,' it was another snarky newsy that wore its message on its sleeve. Mouth's principal aim was to provoke so-called liberal-minded health and social services professionals. Disability Rag's audience was broader - it included government bureaucrats as well as budding academics such as myself.

These publications gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I wasn't entirely off base (or on remote earth orbit). Rather was the world around me that was spinning further and further off its axis.


Dave Hingsburger said...

Mike, I loved Mouth as well. I lost touch with it for a few years - years of wild activity - and then went to find it and found it gone. I had such a sense of sadness. These were great publications that served such a need.

william Peace said...

The Rag and MOUTH were without question the best disability related publications. They reached a wide and diverse audience. Reading the Rag and MOUTH empowered and inspired me. As this post reveals I was hardly alone--indeed I was just one of many profoundly touched.

ChasingPatterns said...

Yes, these publications played a strong role in the development of my consciousness, as well. I hope this work will continue online or in other ways.

health and wellbeing said...

You do get some ignorant tits, but the majority of fellow travellers are happy to help out.

Anonymous said...

Any one here have any idea what kind of activities the old editors of Mouth and Ragged Edge have gotten into since those years?

I hope that someone like them will eventually try to re-start some kind of similar initiative. Given modern times, maybe in the form of a blog (though possibly also with a print counter part). This might seem odd to say, but I think there is sometimes a need for a more snarky approach to talking about disablism. So many people with disabilities, but especially young people who may not know many people outside their own family and the peers at the school they go to (which these days in many countries will tend to be a mainstream school with only a few other visibly disabled students), are often surrounded by people who view disability as strictly a personal issue, with no environmental or social component worth considering. Partly because that's the framework of disability that most people in most countries grow up with. But also because people who do not themselves have disabilities are usually not in a position to see patterns in the daily life experiences of people with disabilities. For example, they are not in a position to observe that some people behave one way (nicely) to non-disabled people but may behave very very differently with a disabled person, especially if there are no non-disabled witnesses. But some non-disabled people, even those who would be horrified if they realized how some people respond to disabled people, don't want to believe it. When you are surrounded by all this ongoing invalidation and then you come across something that finally tells you that all the five million little things you have noticed all your life, all the five million little things that others have always dismissed or trivilized or told you should not matter or are only happening in your imagination, really ARE happening and ARE important, and others DO notice the same patterns ... that can be a very powerful experience. And adding snark to all that ... I admit I'm not sure myself why, but for some reason it seems all the more cathartic to read something that not only validates my own observed experiences but also snarks about it. Perhaps because snark can be a way of taking real-life experiences that have been so tremendously draining and demoralizing and twisting them around so that they become darkly humorous instead of just plain depressing. It can be an important coping mechanism, perhaps particularly for advocates who need ways to keep up their spirits in the face of obstinate discrimination and entrenched accessibility barriers so that they can find the strength to fight back Yet. One. More. Time. Instead of simply giving up.

Andrea S.

Dave said...

You can actually buy an entire archive of the "The Disability Rag" for $299 I discovered. Check out the work over here - I also will contact you separately about a business matter.