From My Bookshelf: Being Heumann

I am not a political person. At least in the sense that I don’t go marching on capitol steps or join lobbying groups. However, it seems that my very existence with deafness in my everyday life can become a “political act” as I battle for my rights or sense of belonging in small doses. Indeed, some people have accused me of being all “political.” If not “political,” then salty, ditzy, or whiny no matter how firmly, gently, or humorously I try to advocate for myself. But I didn’t ask for my deafness. I was not put here on this earth just to annoy people.

Paperback book with yellow cover and photo of Heumann seated in wheelchair. The book is propped up on a stained glass (mostly golden) bankers lamp with a small box of blank notepaper next to it.

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann was the chosen book for Washtenaw Reads this year. At the risk of inspiration porn, I did admire Heumann’s tenacity, perseverance, and spunk as she fought along with other people for disability rights. But at the same time, knowing that while much progress had been made even over my lifetime, I often think it sad that our society did not and still does not quite have a clear sense of social justice and equity. Especially when all of us are bound to face disability or illness, temporary or not, at some point in our lives. For example, universal design such as ramps, large print and audio, and captions are often erroneously considered as “privileges” without recognizing that such “accommodations” are actually to level the playing field, to allow all people to partake, and most of all, to belong. Universal design are not privileges to “get ahead” but to “catch up” in order to be viable members of our society. We are still learning to distinguish between equality and equity, much of which is getting pushback today.

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