At the bottom of a friend’s email under her name it reads, “Adapt and Overcome.” She says that statement a lot, and I had come to adopt it as a personal mantra, After all, people with disabilities, such as myself, spend their lives adapting and overcoming. It’s a matter of survival more than choice. I suppose we could choose instead to sit in institutions, collect SSI nd die; but I can promise you a majority of us that can make the cognitive choice don’t want this kind of existence.
After the “Die-in” at Senator McConnell’s office on Thursday, June 22, 2017, I realized that the mantra od “adapt and overcome is not only unrealistic but very limiting as well. Mantras aren’t supposed to limit a person–they are meant to propel you forward into the limitless. Life and society have trained me to “adapt and overcome” but I think a much better mantra for me is “adapt and resist.”
I have been trying to adapt and overcome since the day I was born. Sure, It’s gotten me further than anyone expected. I could sit here and list the ways I have adapted and overcome. That would fill you with nice, warm, inspirational feelings. But, I hate to tell you–I am not here ti be anyone’s “inspiration.” I am here to live the life I was created to live and be an active member of society (yes, that very society that wants to leave me on the sidelines). Adapting and overcoming has directly made me an inspirational chess piece in society’s game of “good feelings.” I’m done playing the adapt and overcome game. That game is for society’s momentary benefit not their long term benefit or for my benefit at all. It’s time for me to “adapt and resist.”
For those of you who don’t know, which is probably many, if not the majority; “Adapt and Resist” is the call of ADAPT. ADAPT is an active, in-your-face, non-violent disability rights group who has forged inroads for the disability community here in America and overseas for generations. Here in America, the actions led by this group got people with disabilities access to busses and other forms of public transit, this group got individuals with disabilities access to buildings and education as well. It was because of their actions that Independent Living Centers were formed and major pieces of Legislation pushed into the forefront of the American awareness. People in ADAPT didn’t just try to hop up on sidewalks with their wheelchairs they took sledgehammers to the sidewalks and made curb cuts.
I am no longer going to play the part of someone who has managed to “hop up on a sidewalk.” I now have my sledgehammer in hand. My work ethic is outstanding; I go above and beyond in my job every day, yet the woman who everyone knows shops all day is treated with more respect? “Hop up on the sidewalk” would have told me to keep working hard–they will respect you–things will get better. The sledgehammer in my hand says to me, moonlight with an online health company and search for another job where I will be seen for my skills and abilities. I have two masters degrees, published journal articles on hiring practices and over five years of work experience and here I sit as a receptionist being paid below the poverty line for where I live. “Hop on the sidewalk,” tells me don’t worry, things will get better, you may even get a license and be able to afford a car. The sledgehammer in my hand screams, “get the hell out of here! Why live somewhere where people with disabilities aren’t actively in the community? Why stay somewhere where constant inaccessibility screams rejection?”
I’ve been foolishly living a disillusioned life that says if I adapt and overcome things will change. No, they won’t. If I want a better life, I need to “Adapt and Resist” one sledgehammer swing at a time.