Activism isn’t always accessible and the Women’s March on Washington is no exception.
For people who might not have the physical ability or stamina to join Saturday’s massive public protest, disability activists created the Disability March an online movement that allows people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to participate virtually in the event.
The Disability March organizers invite people living with disabilities to submit their names, photos and a statement on why they want to “march.” The images and text will be uploaded to the website in time for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, creating a virtual archive of people showing solidarity with the main event in Washington, D.C.
“I began to wonder about other ways to be visible, especially for our community, besides marching”
Sonya Huber, one of the organizers, was inspired to create the online movement after she realized attending the Women’s March wouldn’t be the best idea for her health. A disability rights activist and professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, Huber lives with a few autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid disease and Hashimoto’s disease. She also experiences some mobility problems.
“The march, combined with the drive, would have done a number on my immune system at the beginning of a busy semester,” she told Mashable.
But Huber knew she wasn’t alone, and she wanted to do something to help broaden access to the march for her community.
“I began to wonder about other ways to be visible, especially for our community, besides marching even though the march will of course include many disabled people,” she said. “Since the disabled community is going to be so impacted by the Republican agenda, it seemed that giving people a platform to tell their individual stories was most appropriate.”
The Disability March is an all-volunteer effort, made for the disability community, by the disability community. It’s also an official co-sponsor of the Women’s March on Washington.
Huber said about 50 online “marchers” have signed up to participate in the virtual march so far, and she expects more people to submit their stories throughout the week.
Some images and testimonies of Disability March participants are already live on the movement’s website, but the bulk of photos and statements will be uploaded Friday and Saturday to coincide with the main march.
Disability March organizers are also coming up with activist-oriented tasks for participants, designed with various levels of ability and comfort in mind. While still in planning stages, the goal is to offer tangible actions for people to still make an impact.
“In keeping our whole community in mind, our vision for a just society will be more inclusive and our activism will be more effective.”
Huber hopes the online march will draw attention to the faces and stories of people who will be heavily affected by the Trump administration, especially the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and attacks on Medicaid.
“I hope that this small effort which rides the wave of so much other disability activism can help get the word out about the large number of people with invisible and visible disabilities who need an outlet for sharing their stories and who want to be active,” she said.
The Disability March also challenges other activist efforts to take inclusivity and different types of participation in social movements seriously.
“We are not a peripheral community,” Huber said. “In keeping our whole community in mind, our vision for a just society will be more inclusive and our activism will be more effective.”
If you want to join the Disability March, you can fill out the short online form here. The deadline for submissions is Friday, Jan. 20.