Salt Lake Community College recently concluded its annual celebration of people with disabilities.
DiversAbility Week, which ended Jan. 29, featured several guest speakers highlighting people with disabilities and their experiences. The Disability Resource Center renamed the event previously known as Disability Awareness Week.
“‘DiversAbility’ is a buzzword that is becoming more and more common,” said Jamie Bird, assistant technology coordinator for the Disability Resource Center. “The word focuses more on ability, rather than the lack thereof.”
This year’s theme was “Intersectionality,” the term coined by civil rights lawyer, advocate, and philosopher Kimberle Crenshaw to describe how our multiple identities — like race, gender, or ability — make up who we are.
Five adults with disabilities talked about their challenges and how their disabilities have become part of their individual identities during the virtual Ability and Intersectionality Panel.
Brett Campbell, whose dedication to social well-being earned him a master’s degree in social work from the University of Utah, was part of that panel. Campbell described his experience in discovering his own intersectionality as a blind individual and trying to fit in with everybody else early in his life.
“I planned on driving a car, no matter what other people told me,” Campbell said. “That was it; trying not to have a disability and trying not to have a visible disability.”
Campbell could still see out of his left eye, but in his mid-twenties, that retina went out as well.
“My identity was ‘a blind person,’” Campbell described. “And I wasn’t happy being that way.”
Campbell realized there was more to his identity.
“I began digging into the different parts of myself: my relationship, my children. I’ve dabbled in several jobs, and each was gratifying in its own way and makes another piece of me. Then, just my hobbies: loving to read, loving to shop, loving to travel,” he reflected.
Not all of this was realized overnight. Finding himself and his own intersectionality has been something Campbell has had to work for his entire life, and something he will continue working on.
“It has been a journey,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of different pieces, but it all just makes up me. I’m Brett. I was different yesterday, and I’m going to be different tomorrow than I am today.”
Bird echoed Campbell’s message in living with a disability. She said when people first learn of their disability, they’re still trying to adjust until they find a way to live their lives again. Once they find it, they see there’s more to their identity than being disabled.
“It really just depends on the way the person adapts to this new way of living,” Bird said. “Eventually they come up with things that work for them, like technology or equipment. Then they’re able to do all the stuff they used to do, almost exactly the way they used to do it. It’s an ingenious way to live.”
In addition to watching the videos posted by the Disability Resource Center, students can show further support by purchasing digital posters, chronicling the history of people with disabilities and their fight for equal access.