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Conference creates disability justice

“The Revolution Will Be Accessible,” hosted at the Lokey Graduate School of Business (GSB) on March 15, provided students at Mills a chance to educate themselves on the importance of disability justice in society.

The event was created to help shine light on the problem of discrimination and ableism against people with disabilities. India Harville, advocate and speaker for the Mills-based disability activism event, “The Revolution Will Be Accessible,” sat in her wheelchair behind a wooden podium watching attendees spread out within the Gathering Hall.

Harville educated attendees about the 10 Principles of Disability Justice. She first explained these principles, including recognizing the wholeness of every individual outside of capitalist notions of productivity, and then what they meant for the disability movement.

In correlation with these principles, Harville asked questions relating to disability justice to include the crowd in a dialogue.

“I felt like it was such a lovely place to be heard,” junior Michaela Payne said.

Payne, who transferred to Mills just this year, is a journalist who has been an activist of many different societal issues for much of her life already. As a new student, she wanted to get involved in the community at Mills and was intrigued by the event.

“The event is relevant to everything that I do and that I want to do. And also, learning more about disabilities helps me advocate for what I need,” Payne said.

The event resonated with students new to disability justice conversations as well.

First year Marisa Reilly (pronouns ze/zey/zem) was one of the attendees at “The Revolution Will Be Accessible.”

“[Harville] named specific people in the movement that I could connect to, and that I could research and learn more about the disability movement,” first year Marisa Reilly said.

Reilly decided to go to the event because ze “thought it was an important topic that I didn’t get very much exposure to and I wanted to become more educated in this area.”

Many attendees at the event shared their personal experiences with society and having to deal with discrimination in everyday life. Harville spoke a lot about a phrase called “disability porn,” which describes a kind of prejudice that the ‘abled’ community thinks is acceptable. Examples of “disability porn” include “idolizing” someone with disabilities, such as thinking that someone is “inspirational” just because they are a person with a disability living independently.

The dialogue was conversational, many attendees relating to one another through shared similar experiences. It turned emotional as many attendees related their struggles with social bias while trying to acquire the services they needed from government funded programs.

“I did appreciate the dialogue aspect of it. The event wasn’t just about the speaker; students and attendees were also explaining their experiences. I really valued the interaction,” Reilly said.

Harville spoke about the event in her own words, describing her goal as a speaker for the disability justice movement.

“I hope that the [disability justice] movement becomes mainstream and by that I mean, it becomes common conversation in popular society” Harville said. “I hope that we continue to expand our framework of disability justice so that it includes the needs of the vast array of people with disabilities more fully, because even within the disability justice movement there are ways we still need to grow.”

As the event closed, Harville explained her deep emotional investment in the kind of disability work done at the event, and the effectiveness of the dialogue.

“I had a feeling of resonance, like feeling like there are so many people in the room who had an understanding of what I was talking about. I also felt a deep love for the disabled community, and moments of sadness around the impact that ableism has had on our minds and our bodies,” Harville said.