- Your name: Cheryl Green
- What’s your connection with disability? I have mild disabilities from traumatic brain injury, a voice disorder, and something brewing in my knees that will catch up to me sooner or later. I’m also connected to disability through work in disability arts and justice activism that I started in way back in 1996 when I was non-disabled.
- Star Trek or Star Wars? Um. Milo and Otis?
- If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go? Brazil.
- What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck? Lentils and rice if I feel confident or probably just chips and hummus because my cooking can be so, shall we say, less than delectable.
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
- What do you do: I’m a media artist working in film, blogging, and podcasting. My focus is on disability identity and culture in my content and also on access. I incorporate access features to my media like transcribing my podcasts in screen reader-accessible formats, audio recording my blog, and Closed Captioning my films. I also make Closed Captions for lots of other presenters and performers, and I bug big-name stars and online news sites to caption their content in my spare time. I hire out for Audio Description for my film screenings and recorded media and always have ASL interpreting at screenings as well. (I’m going to start including CART to go along with ASL interpreting.) To me, the content is not more important than the access features that create the space for people to enjoy the content.
- How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?
Big props to VSA Texas and Terry Galloway who got me started in disability arts in 2002 with VSA work and “Actual Lives: Austin”. There, I first learned about disability culture and identity and the horribleness of inspiration porn.
It’s where I came to recognize that I had lived my entire life without examining why the disability community is so marginalized. Also, it was good old-fashioned fun, and as a non-disabled summer intern, I was at the bottom of the heap. That’s not what a lot of non-disabled people expect to hear when I tell them about the project. After that, I did a lot of mixed ability dance with groups in Austin, TX and Portland, OR for several years.
After acquiring TBI disabilities in 2010, I lost my job and turned back to the disability arts scene. This time, I was inside the community and had a ton to protest about the way that being a patient in TBI rehab felt very dehumanizing, demoralizing, and pretty much the opposite of what I’d learned disability culture can be from the Austin and Portland folks. I wrote a short comedy film about life with TBI (“Cooking with Brain Injury”) for Curtis Walker’s “No One Wants to See the Wires” performance project. I thought the film was a joke, but it ended up launching me into writing more short films, starting a web series, directing and producing a feature-length documentary, state and national presenting, and all the other media work I do now. Kind of amazing.
- Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years? Oh, getting paid for all this stuff I do. I love making Closed Captions and plan to grow that business as well as do a lot of community building, presenting, and direct action around my documentary, “Who Am I To Stop It.” I’ll still have my same Office Manager, Prince Hal, the black and brunette cat who rules my life. I hugely enjoy working one on one with people to create content, improve access, and become media-savvy activists.
- Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone? How much my love of cats powered my entire existence.
- Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by a lot of social justice and disability justice activists, especially ones working in the arts. I see their work and think yes, yes, yes, I need to add that to what I’m doing. I missed something else. Thank you!
- 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?
Go talk to someone else going through a similar situation to get some perspective. You don’t have to spend all your time being pissed off about acquiring a disability and self-righteous about how poorly people respond to you now that you’re disabled. This was when my vocal cords got destroyed, and I lost my voice physically and metaphorically. (It never occurred to me to find someone else who struggled to speak, and my speech therapists never suggested it either.) Go get some peer support right now, you! And yes, your rights were just violated under the ADA even though you don’t think you’re “disabled enough” to earn the right to do something about it.
- What do you like about your particular disability? I had any sense of introversion and shyness literally knocked out of me with a brain injury. I’m impulsive, excited, and am no longer scared of meeting new people. For many years, I’ve loved touching and smelling wonderful things, but now I get even more, deeper fantasticness by immersing myself in looking, touching, smelling, or being near great stuff.
- Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?
Hey! It’s not about you! If you’re non-disabled or interacting with someone with a different disability (and racial, ethnic, cultural, financial, gendered) experiences than your own, then your discomfort, wishes about how they’d identify, suggestions for fixes, and desire to show off what you think you know about impairments are not needed. Step back. There is no need for you to assume that a disabled person needs your suggestions, rules for living, or corrections to our views about our own lives.
- What single piece of technology makes your life easier?
My precious computer. Its name is Monster. It is great beyond description. I miss it when I’m out of town. In fact, I lose a good percentage of my creativity when we’re apart and no other type of computer monitor or keyboard wrenches ideas out of my head like Monster. I love you, Monster!
- Where else can we find you online?
I AM Disability from Cheryl Green on Vimeo [short satire! it’s SATIRE!]
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Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.
Cheryl Green is so awesome!
I’ve known Cheryl Green for just a short period of time and she has taught me so much!!! I can’t wait to meet her in person and I plan on cultivating a life long friendship, she has made me a better advocate and I hope to work with her in the future on projects or whatever the Universe brings for us to collaborate on!!! Great article!!