BY YEN NGUYEN
For my first artifact, I decided to create an art piece that speaks to people with disabilities and the disabilities civil rights movement. While figuring out what to showcase for an artifact, I thought that art was the best way to reach any audience; I wanted the art piece to strike strong emotions and have those feelings resonate with the audience. Another goal of mine when creating this was that if I was successful in expressing the story of disabilities civil rights movements, people who look at my art could take those emotions with them to create change themselves.
To explain a bit of where I got my vision for this piece, in one of Mo’s PowerPoint’s, there was a logo of a wheelchair user who had chains around their wrists and the chains were broken. For me personally, art really speaks to me and I thought that logo was so powerful. To me, that logo demonstrated how people who are disabled feel chained to their disability and want to break the barriers of how the non-disabled perceive them. Also, not only do the disabled want to break the stereotypes of what it’s like to be disabled, I felt that the logo also demonstrated that the disabled do not want to be seen as “bound to a wheelchair” or bound to their disability.
I myself have not been born with a disability, but there were moments in my life that disability has touched me. At certain ages, I was in the hospital for a bit of time, for a head injury when I was 3, an issue with my cardiac sphincter in my stomach at age 8, and the last and final time around my junior year in high school for renal artery stenosis. At age 3 and 8, I never saw disability or understood that people have seen disability as a tragedy; I was too young to understand. In my junior year when I had to use a wheelchair for the first time in my life for a short time of a week because of the slightly invasive surgery I had done for the right renal (kidney) artery where doctors used a catheter and balloon to enlarge my artery to increase blood flow, it was the first time I felt outcast. Some of my friends thought I was too much of a burden and stopped talking to me, and students whom I didn’t know would stare and I could see them whisper to each other. I was and still am one of the nicest and understanding people and I could not understand why I was suddenly being treated different because I had to use a wheelchair. I felt so sad and misunderstood. When my good friends Nick, Harry, and Peter, all who were born with Autism have told me all throughout our high school career that sometimes it was difficult to go to school because the “normal” students would always manage to “other” them and exclude them from hangouts and events. I always invited them to come out and hang out at Red Robin or at school events, but I guess I never truly understood what they were facing on the daily until I experienced it firsthand.
After being in this class and learning about disability in different lenses besides the medical model, I realized that there was much more to disability than I ever knew about. For this piece, I felt that I demonstrated the social model and individual model. For the social model, I demonstrated this through the collage I made of the 1990 American Disabilities Act protest where the disabled and nondisabled fought for disability rights. As for the individual model, I captured this when I drew out the logo of a wheelchair user with chains around their wrists. The individual may internalize having a disability and other people seeing their disability as solely “their” problem. The breaking of the chains represents breaking that mentality.
After seeing that logo from the PowerPoint, like I mentioned earlier in the paper, I realized I could manifest how disability touched me and how it has touched others in the fight to break down barriers of understanding disability and to see disability not as a tragedy, but a gift and something that we should accept and embrace. I decided to showcase this by drawing that logo, but to fill it in with a collage of pictures taken from the protest and march to the White House to sign for the American Disabilities Act in 1990. A logo is only a logo, so I thought that by doing this and including real photos of the event in 1990 and how people actually fought for this civil right would make the message more powerful and strike home. I want to raise awareness in what people have done so far to push for disabilities civil rights movements and that there is still room for improvement in policies and legislature. The civil rights movement for disabilities should not stop with the American Disabilities Act. I want people to see this artwork and remind themselves that Disability Rights are Civil Rights.
If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com