This is a non-exhaustive list for concerned folks to begin some critical reads into the heart and core and reimaginings of disability justice, from disabled authors and creators of color and co-conspirators. Below are current event articles, blog posts, zines, manifestos, guidelines, handbooks, and podcasts on issues of care, permeated with intersectional wisdom. Texts are linked to free online PDFs/versions available, and if applicable, followed up by options to financially support the creators, independent bookstores, and/or social justice causes (if you are able to purchase.) We center disabled multi-Asian and BIPOC work and narratives. This compilation is not in chronological or hierarchical order, but webbed and interconnected. Feel free to navigate from reading to reading, essential narrative to narrative, from people to people. These readings venture into and/or discuss compounded and complex trauma/lived experiences that are interlocked with structural violence and everyday systemic conditions. For our BIPoC and QTBIPoC readers, please safeguard your peace of mind and take care as you go through these resources. If you encounter triggering content, stop reading and exit immediately.

Disability is a multifaceted word that covers seas of ground, branching into many different ways of living and existing and surviving and resisting. Disability is not a death sentence, nor is it alien or unknown or as unique as people assume. It is, however, greatly (and traumatically) stigmatized—often to the point of death. Ableism is as pervasive as bedrock in today’s world: the idea of who is worthwhile, what kinds of bodies and thought and movement and existence are valid and okay, are embedded in every turn of U.S. society and its brand of capitalism. So I ask that you come here with the basic acknowledgment that people with disabilities are largely made invisible—disabled people of color far more so—and that we have all greatly internalized ableism in the most minute and mundane of ways. For example, there is an obsession with returning to a pre-pandemic world where things were “normal” or reimagining a post-pandemic world of a similar brand of normality. But should we take a long moment to examine what that “normal” refers to—that “normal” is for folks who are systemically welcome to live with their dignities intact and ability to be careless with their bodies—we can come to realize that human rights crises have always existed, been neglected & proactively worsened before the Covid-19 virus even showed up. It is vital to remember that more people will navigate the (ongoing) pandemic with disabilities—people who haven’t experienced chronic or long-term or permanent disabilities and/or who now have multiple disabilities and/or worsened disability directly because of contracting the virus and/or indirectly because of all the systems continually working against us before, during, and beyond this pandemic. This is a reminder that care must be valued and practiced. Caretaking across all arenas must continue.

Many of these texts are U.S.-centric and U.S.-based, and thus much of the cultural/social/structural conditions, conditioning, and analysis discussed will derive from this occupied territory called the United States. Actively seek out work put forth by disabled people of color, by black and indigenous peoples, and by queer and trans people of color in your region. To find out whose land you occupy, utilize this app: Native-Land.ca | Our home on native land. Take your time thinking in the specific, everyday dimensions of your life and ponder about, for example, how you may make your words, skills, passions, and resources more accessible. We invite you to do more research on your own time and hope these resources can allow you to get started or help you along in your work—to strike you, stay with you, and mobilize you, if you will.

For more updates on disability pride flag iterations and community dialogue that has happened over the course of the month of July 2021 and is continuing to happen, follow Ann Magil on Tumblr:  From the Edge of the Map.

On the severe inadequacies of the current Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

“The income support that SSI provides is nothing short of critical for the roughly 8 million disabled and older Americans currently receiving benefits, who are disproportionately Black, Latinx, and people of color. But due to decades of federal neglect, SSI’s income protections have withered over time — and the program now consigns millions of disabled people and older adults to deep and enduring poverty, despite the fact that it was enacted to give them a lifeline out of it. Benefits top out at just three-quarters of the federal poverty line, and the program’s rigid income and asset limits have not been updated for inflation for more than 30 years, penalizing savings and work.”

“Building Back Better” for Older and Disabled Americans Requires Bringing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) into the 21st Century – National Academy of Social Insurance

“Other recipients say they cannot pursue meaningful work because it could cost them their SSI and accompanying Medicaid coverage without providing enough income or insurance to compensate. Some want to test their ability to hold a job but do not want to risk having nothing to fall back on if they cannot.”

“It can be very hard to get your SSI or your Medicaid back once you do lose those benefits,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, who uses a wheelchair and relied on SSI in college. “There’s a real trap of having to balance your health needs versus your willingness and ability to work.”

“The amount of benefits that we lose is thousands; it’s not anything that a normal spouse can afford,” said a disabled SSI recipient who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she fears retaliation for speaking against the rules of the program she relies on. “Most of us, myself included, are not getting married because I literally would die. I would lose everything.”

“Once, that recipient said, she was too sick to leave her home for two months, and because her daily expenses fell, her bank account balance increased to $2,135 from just under $2,000 without her noticing. When the Social Security Administration found out, she had to repay her entire SSI benefit for those months, which took two years.”

How Disabled Americans Are Pushing to Overhaul a Key Benefits Program (Originally posted on the New York Times)

Take Action

Sample template for calling your local representatives:

Hello, my name is [INSERT NAME] calling from the zip code [INSERT ZIP CODE]. Almost 8 million Americans rely on the SSI to meet their basic needs, and it is the very same punitive policy that forces seniors and disabled Americans to live in poverty and unjust conditions. I’m calling to say [INSERT LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE] must act now to increase payments to at least 100% of the federal poverty line and get rid of the marriage ban, the “in support and maintenance” rule, and other penalties. “Build back better” and don’t leave disabled people behind this time. Thanks.

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