Monthly Archives: August 2018
Seattle Punishes A Disability Activist For Doing Their Job
The mayor of Seattle has removed an autistic activist for disability civil rights from their Commission for People With DisAbilities for being an activist and advocating for disability civil rights. Allegedly, disability rights work is the job they were chosen to do but unfortunately it seems that the Commission only wants disabled people to be compliant and wait politely for abled people to pretend that they actually care about what we are saying and fighting for.
Shaun Bickley was instrumental in getting the city of Seattle to end subminimum wage for disabled workers and has led an effort for a statewide end to this practice in Washington state. They have also worked tirelessly to bring attention to the ableist #strawban in Seattle and alerting people to how it hurts disabled people who rely on single use plastic straws for access, independence and to stay hydrated and to live. In addition to this, they have organized an event that helped to amplify the voices of disabled women of color, have advised various agencies on accessible and inclusive practices and have successfully advocated against the court system expanding the ability to sterilize disabled people without their consent (literal eugenics). Shaun has faced considerable harassment and worse from people opposed to the equality of disabled folks, but has continued to do their job effectively in spite of this.
The reasons given for Shaun’s removal (which you can read more about here on their facebook post, because there is a lot more that I didn’t even get into here including being punished for communicating as an autistic person, not being nice to a parent who was relentlessly harassing and stalking them, and the fact that the city was okay with sexism, racism and more for a lot longer than they were okay with a disabled person disagreeing with them) seem to be more about their prioritizing the rights of disabled people over pretending that the city of Seattle is always right on disability issues. Why have a Commission for disabled people to advise the city if you are not willing to support them effectively, are going to ignore what they say and remove them from office unless they agree with you?
On issues of civil rights, there should be no middle ground, so why is the city of Seattle punishing an activist who refuses to compromise on the rights of disabled people? Do we want people fighting for us who are willing to throw some of us under the bus just to have a seat at the table? Or do disabled people deserve representation that is fair, inclusive and unwilling to allow the most vulnerable among us to be left behind? The city of Seattle is often seen as “progressive” but those of us living in the margins know that this version of “progress” means nothing because it’s only for some people while the rest of us, like Shaun, are punished for not joyously accepting crumbs thrown at us when we are deserving of so much more.
To support Shaun, you can help by doing the following (taken from their own words on their facebook post):
“I think it’s important that we use our voices to uplift members of our community and pushback against the ableist tendency to treat disabled people as disposable commodities. If my work, and Meg’s work, is of value, then I would encourage you to contact CM Lisa Herbold and ask her to appoint us to Council seats, and to fulfill the additional asks from the Commission–a replacement for Marta Idowu as Commission liaison, written notice of how much personal information (such as addresses and phone numbers) of Commissioners will be distributed to the public on demand, and support in dealing with the ongoing toxic issues surrounding Commission support.
CM Herbold can be reached at 206-684-8803 or Lisa.Herbold@seattle.gov. Her office isn’t responsible for this mess but she does oversee the Office of Civil Rights.
The Mayor’s office isn’t going to appoint either myself or Meg and have apparently already filled the seats, but if you feel it’s important to let them know what you think about how this situation was handled, Evan Philip can be reached at 206-684-8986 and his email is Evan.Philip@seattle.gov”