I don’t know if you remember that video that going viral earlier this year, with the boy with “special needs” who handed the basketball? I don’t know if you remember the uproar that came on its heels, and the blog post which flew through disability circuits with the clearest, strongest, most resonating message which represented the majority of the disability community? The post was called, “The Dignity of Loss” – and if you haven’t read it yet, just click on the link. It’s wonderful and powerful and rings true.
It took me a while to track down Cara Liebowitz as That Crazy Crippled Chick! I’m sure glad I was able to, though, so that I could introduce you to her and her most awesome blog.
Please meet Cara 🙂
Getting to Know You
Your name: Cara Liebowitz, known as Spaz Girl on my blog and in various other online circles.
What’s your connection with disability?
I’ve had cerebral palsy since birth (I was diagnosed around a year old), and I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder about two and a half years ago. So I spend my days navigating through the world of disability on a few levels.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
STAR TREK STAR TREK STAR TREK STAR TREK. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a HUGE Trekkie. I went to my first Star Trek convention back in April and I can’t wait til I can go again!
If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go?
Probably England. I have a lot of friends that are from there and it seems like a nice place to be. Plus the NHS pays for mobility aids and things.
What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck?
Uhhh, do I have to cook it? Cooking isn’t really CP friendly. Most kitchen appliances terrify me. Probably something dessert-y. I have a HUGE sweet tooth.
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
What do you do:
I’m a recent college graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education (somehow, without realizing it, I got done in three years). I aim to continue on to grad school and get my Master’s degree in Disability Studies. I am also a disability activist and blogger, active in a lot of different things both nationally and locally in the NYC area. Currently I’m a professional blogger for Teaching Tolerance (http://www.tolerance.org), a magazine and blog about diversity in the classroom. I also run the You Know You Have CP When group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/139973096090322/). Recently, I co-founded “Stomp Out Normalcy”, a satirical campaign aiming to make people think critically about the perceptions of disability that are put out there.
How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?
I was always an activist, from a young age. Part of that stems from the fact that my parents never tried to hide my disability from me. I could pronounce the words “cerebral palsy, spastic diplegia” at a very young age and my mother tells me she told me what my diagnosis was as soon as she knew, even though I was only a year old at the time and could not walk or talk yet.
As a child of the information age, I started posting on an online messageboard for kids with CP around the age of 8 and quickly discovered the joy of helping parents of children of CP understand what CP’s all about. I started Googling around, “leapfrogging” from website to website, blog to blog, soaking up all I could about disability culture, disability history. I’d spend hours on the computer just clicking around and reading. I learned about our pioneers in the movement – Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, Judy Heumann, Amanda Baggs….I learned about the concept of disability pride and the Chicago disability pride parade….I couldn’t get enough.
I started posting on the BBC Ouch disability messageboards, I was probably the youngest contributor on there for a long time and I learned a lot from the adults that posted on there, some of whom I’m still in touch with. At age 13 I started my own website dedicated to providing clear, understandable information about disabilities (you can still access it at http://www.abilities4u.com, though it’s no longer being updated and my politics surrounding disability have changed significantly). That led to an article in the newspaper, then a segment on News 12’s “Students Making a Difference”….and it just took off from there! My first national activism effort was a National Youth Inclusion Summit where we developed the I Am Norm campaign for inclusion (http://www.iamnorm.org).
Disability activism was, and still is, my drug. I’m addicted and I can’t think of anything I’d rather spend my life doing.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
I’d like to be working for some sort of disability organization or cause, hopefully still in the NY area (I’m a homebody). I’d also like to establish my own nonprofit mentoring program pairing up kids, teens and young adults with similar disabilities.
Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?
I want people to remember me as a leader and an activist. I want people to remember who I was and what I did and to look up to me the way I look up to leaders in the movement.
Who or what inspires you?
Leaders who have come before me in the disability rights movement inspire me. Not in the “inspiration porn” sort of way, but in the “Wow, I want to be like them” sort of way. Especially strong female disability leaders – I recently met Nadina LaSpina and was practically speechless, and I was the same way when I met Judy Heumann a few years ago.
If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?
There are other people like you out there. I promise. I know it doesn’t feel like it, because you’ve always gone to mainstream school and been surrounded by nondisabled kids, but there are other people like you and soon you’ll find so many of them.
What do you like about your particular disability?
About my CP? It’s wonderfully complicated. And that frustrates me sometimes, because people only see one part of it. But it also makes for a lot of humorous moments, like when I spill juice all over the table like a toddler because my hands aren’t coordinated. Or when I fall on my face in the airport. It gets to a point where you just have to laugh. My sense of humor is absolutely necessary for my survival.
As for my anxiety….nope, can’t think of anything I like about my anxiety. I guess if I had to pick something it’d be that it’s given me a new drive to speak out about mental illness, like I speak out about my CP, and advocate for psychiatric medication for those who want and need it.
Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?
Disability is a natural part of the human experience, like race, gender and sexuality. Most of us (not all of us by any means) consider our disabilities an irremovable part of ourselves and do not want to be cured. People don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to be cured, but what if we tried to “cure” race, because we believe that whiteness is the norm, for instance? It’s the same concept and just as offensive.
What single piece of technology makes your life easier?
My computer. I was taught to type at the age of eight by a savvy occupational therapist who realized that, as a disabled person who experiences pain and fatigue after writing even just a few sentences, typing would be crucial to my success in the world. If I hadn’t learned how to type, I don’t know if I would have made it through high school. Certainly not college. And since I don’t drive due to my disability (though I’m working on it), and public transportation is sometimes unreliable and costs money that I don’t have, I spend most of my days now home on my computer. My computer is how I make money, socialize with people, and keep up on what’s happening in the world (to an extent). If I didn’t have my computer, I would be lost.
Oh, all over.
We Are Like Your Child Collaborative Blog: wearelikeyourchild.blogspot.com
Stomp Out Normalcy website (you can access our Facebook page and Twitter feed from there): http://www.stompoutnormalcy.wordpress.com
Bubblews profile (a site that pays you to blog, 400 minimum character posts – it splits the ad revenue with you and you can cash out when you hit $25 – I highly, highly recommend it!): http://www.bubblews.com/account/43914-thatcrazycrippledchick
Bubblews referral link (people can sign up using my referral link and I get 20 cents when they blog for the first time): http://www.bubblews.com/?referral=51b5541d9d1cb0.25896264
Teaching Tolerance author page: http://www.tolerance.org/author/cara-liebowitz (My bio is a bit outdated on there.)
Did I miss anything? I don’t think I missed anything. It’s hard to keep track!
Website: My blog is called That Crazy Crippled Chick – http://www.thatcrazycrippledchick.blogspot.com
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.