Currently, I am finishing the book Haben, by Haben Girma. She is the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law. The book ties her story growing up deaf-blind in the US with the heritage and struggles of her parents coming from Eritrea, in eastern Africa. For me, this work merges with several other works I’ve read this year on empires, oppression, race in America, religion in America, and several LGBTQ biographies. And the theme that emerges from these works is weariness.
Weariness, really? Yes, weariness. Imagine, that on a daily basis you were judged not by the content of your character, but by the color of your skin, the way you practiced religion, the person you were attracted to, or your physical abilities. Because of this you had to constantly be on guard, to watch how you acted in case you were judged more harshly than others. And frequently you were asked to share your experiences with others, to explain how you felt, so they might be able to get a sense of what you experience. But too often your own experiences were questioned, discounted, deemed invalid. With all of that you still need to go to school, work, be involved in family and organizations. That is the level of weariness which I see.
So for 2020, I’d like to think about reducing this weariness. I encourage people to read books on similar topics, and believe the author’s experiences. Do your own research to determine the struggles others have. And from an accessibility standpoint think about the power you have to make your corner of the world more accessible. Use Word documents instead of PDFs. Run the accessibility checker within Word. Run the accessibility checker in PowerPoint. Provide captions and transcripts for your videos. Think about how you can leverage your position to make a larger corner of your world accessible. Can you contact the textbook publishers, and check on the accessibility of their software? Can you ask for help in determining whether websites are accessible? Can you contact people to make the websites accessible? Do you know what software you use on a daily basis, and is it accessible? Are you in a position to question people about improving the accessibility of that software, or finding accessible software?