Many years ago, I worked at an independent living center. These are places that advocate for disability rights, and the leader of our organization was named Max Starkloff. One of the first Disabled Advocates in the US, and a key person in the passing of the Americans with Disability Act, Mr. Starkloff was a storyteller as well as a fierce advocate.
He told us of a plane ride that he took where, after seeing him in his chair, the flight attendant sighed and said, “Well, can’t you just stand up this once?”
Max Starkloff was quadriplegic, and I’m certain would have chosen any other time in his life than just then to stand. Just once.
Max was on my mind when I read Ms. Taussig’s books. Both of us from Kansas, both having experience working in the disabled community. My experience as an ally, and hers as a person who uses a chair and just wants to get her groceries without someone trying to save her, or pray on her.
The intrusion of ableist bullshit on those with disabilities is never-ending, and would have been hard to read if not for the introspection and humor with which Taussig takes us through her story. Not a hero, not a hashtag. Just a person who is navigating the world along with all of us.
When I worked at the independent living center, the sentiment I heard most often is “We don’t want special treatment. We just want things to be fair.”
The list of things that would make our world fair is long, but with folks like Taussig carrying the torch that Starkloff and others lit, I feel hopeful that we can get there. | Melissa Cynova