Support Sara Willig for Graduate School and Assistive Tech

Listen to this post: 

If I had a dime for every time someone–liberal, progressive, conservative, or undecided–made comments about people with disabilities needing to be more productive, contribute more, and not be benefits moochers! I would divvy up a lotta dimes to a lot of people who could maybe claw their way out of the poverty most disabled people are forced into.

One time, someone else with TBI disabilities, apropos of absolutely nothing I could see, commented in the chat box during a live streaming call-in show I was on. The comment was, “I bet she’s on benefits.” I’m not sure why he felt that talking about the documentary film I was making put me in a position where I should be discredited. That’s mystery number one, although I’m no stranger to being discredited by virtue of being a woman. Mystery number two is specifically his choice of tactics meant to take me down a few notches. “I bet she’s on benefits.”

You know what benefits are for? They’re to assist you to attempt to be more productive and contribute more than if you didn’t get them. For some, it’s the difference between life and death. To want to discredit anyone for taking benefits feeds the stereotype that disabled people are naturally no more than a drain on society and shouldn’t be supported. And also the idea that the work is to get disabled people to push harder, adapt more, and get normaler. What about the idea that if we made society more accommodated and accessible and less hostile, people with disabilities would naturally be able to do more stuff? Take all those inspiring listicles and features on impressive people with disabilities who didn’t let their impairments stop them from achieving great things. Scan them closely for information about what kind of access, accommodations, compassion, and privilege they had as they reached these wonderful and inspirational achievements.

A white woman with short, graying hair stands outside on a sunny day near trees and smiles.All this to let you know about an online fundraiser right now for a friend of mine, Sara Willig. She’s seeking support to continue in a program called Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities through University of Massachusetts and Suffolk University. She’s started the courses and is receiving As and Bs in her first term. Here’s Sara in her own words from her fundraising page.

“Hey there. My name is Sara. I’m a multiply Disabled middle-aged woman. I carry a laundry list of invisible Disabilities with me every day. The past few years I’ve started doing Disability activism on a large, varied and very intentional scale. This past spring I did my first large scale civil disobedience in DC.

I want to shake up the way Disability and the way we Disabled are viewed and devalued in these United States. I want us to be included and to have input at all levels of the decisions made about us.

The LEND Program has a Masters element within it. In order to be listened to, to not be ignored when I try to alter the world, I need $10, 500 for the 3 classes not already funded through the stipend and the scholarship that came with my acceptance to LEND. Earning a Master in Public Administration (MPA) in Disability & Health Policy will really help me help others. I have learned a lot of practical skills in my lived experience. Earning this Masters will add sorely needed theoretical and systems knowledge to my toolbox.

I am asking for 12K because Go Fund Me has fees from the amount and I need some Assistive Technology as well; which is very difficult to get externally funded as an Adult. I will also be seeking other scholarships and will lower this amount should I qualify/receive any.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.”

I get the feeling it was difficult for Sara to openly ask for this financial support. The fundraiser was up for several months before she told me about it. Of course, when you’re shamed for asking for help and shamed for not having enough money to begin with, I can see it would be hard to advertise this. If you’re up for supporting a self-advocate, a woman, someone with multiple invisible disabilities, someone who requires assistive technology, someone who will add tremendously to policy decisions because of her lived experiences, this is a great fundraiser.