We Need More Stories From Writers With Disabilities

Two open books in a libraryMy Seeing Eye dog and I are heading to California this afternoon — I was awarded a grant to attend the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference from August 2 to August 5, 2018.

I was flattered – and surprised – to receive the grant. Flattered, since it means I will be in the midst of so many talented writers there. Surprised, because the grant I received is a “Voices of Diversity” grant, and having a disability is not always regarded as “diverse.”

These days most people determine diversity by a person’s race, religion, gender and/or sexual orientation. But hey — shouldn’t disability be on that list? I think so.

A 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that roughly 13% of Americans have a disability. The 2015 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey defined disability status through a number of questions measuring serious difficulty with any of the following:

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Cognition
  • Walking or climbing stairs
  • Self-care
  • Independent living

People with disabilities are definitely in the minority. Being around people from different backgrounds exposes us all to new viewpoints and perspectives, and in the case of a conference for writers, being around people with different sorts of identities impacts how you see the world and what stories you are able to tell. It’s important for fiction writers, non-fiction writers, poets, playwrights and script writers to tell everyone’s story.

Disability needs to be a part of this larger fabric of stories, too. I commend the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference for including us in the discussion – their Voices of Diversity grant is awarded once a year to “writers from an underrepresented group on the basis of age, ethnicity, sexual identity, disability, social or cultural background.” Thank you for the honor, Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference. And now…off to the airport!


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