When I wrote about my first visit to Occupy Austin, I mentioned in passing that I have the chronic illness fibromyalgia. My post in support of the global occupation as a person with an invisible disability seemed to really resonate with my readers and on Twitter, where my post got retweeted more than any other I’ve made. I knew I had struck a nerve and had to write more.
One of the common cries of the opposition is “Get a Job!” — McDonald’s applications were dumped on Occupy Chicago recently. Yet many disabled people would like nothing more than to find a way to support themselves, or get the social services they need to eat, live, and thrive. Our government has been systematically dismantling our social services that once protected the poor and the disabled– not just welfare but the services which help people get healthy, sane, and find ways to fend for themselves.
Here are three reasons the disabled should support their local Occupation:
1. Capitalism has failed the disabled. The contributions of the disabled are patronized, marginalized, or discredited in our society. We can have impeccable skills, yet we are not hired due to discrimination. According to the 2000 census, only 57% of the disabled are employed and I can’t imagine this improving under our current economy. Because of the pain, fatigue, and irregular sleep schedule my condition causes I am unable to hold down conventional jobs, yet…
2. We have no safety net. Fibromyalgia is not on a list of pre-approved conditions, so I would face years (up to 4 by some estimates) of difficult, time-consuming legal battles before getting even a small chance at social security. The picture isn’t any better for those who can receive government benefits. Far from the stereotype of the “lazy” recipient of social welfare, real world recipients must fill out endless forms and attend mandatory meetings that teach nothing but keep them “occupied” and out of the way. Each one dreads that letter that informs him he’s made some tiny mistake and might not eat or pay the rent this month because the government suspended his disability check or his foodstamps.
3. We have no voice. When disabled people stand up, the world pats us on the head and tells us how “brave” we are, then pushes us back into the corner. We can risk our lives and be injured in service to our country and still not receive adequate medical care when we return. The disabled are the 99%. The Occupy Wall Street movement not only feeds, clothes, and shelters some of us, it gives all of us a place to be heard. We are taken as seriously as anyone at general assembly or on the human mic. Our anger is important to the occupation, so important that we’re even willing to get tear-gassed for the movement. Some may consider the dreams of Occupy Wall Street idealistic, but in those dreams we have a place.
Even if you can’t spend the night at an Occupy camp, or march in a protest you can still help this movement. My condition prevents me from attending as much as I’d like, but I can blog and tweet, and use my social connections to get needed donations. Writing, art or graphic design, music, cooking, talking to friends, and volunteering for the webteam of the local Occupy are valuable contributions.
Sick or healthy, able-bodied or otherwise, we are the 99%. Won’t you join us?
3 Reasons the Disabled Support Occupy Wall Street by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
This license applies only to the text of this essay and not to the rest of this website, unless otherwise noted.
This post was originally published on Approximately 8,000 Words.
Photo: Dutch Occupier Julian Crabb. Photo by Donna Da Yettta.