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Access intimacy and language

ceburdick's picture

Last week in class I was thinking about how phrases like "differently abled" and "physically challenged" work to dismiss the experiences of people with disabilities. I think they fail to acknowledge that the world is not constructed for people with disabilities and limit the types of disabilities that a person is addressing. Reading Mia Mingus's "Access Intimacy: The Missing Link" made me think further about how this type of language (and other types of language) from nondisabled people may affect the experiences of people with disabilities. I really related to Mingus's points as a disabled person and they made me think a lot about my relationships with others and how feeling a sense of access intimacy can completely redefine my relationship with someone. Using language that is dismissive of any part of a disabled person's experience makes it extremely difficult (or maybe impossible?) for this type of intimacy to be experienced. I've been thinking a lot about how language surrounding disability not only affects how nondisabled individuals view disability, but how it shapes how people with disabilities view themselves. When people use that type of language about me or try to reassure me that nothing is wrong with me or that I'm not actually disabled, it's really frustrating for me. Mingus put words to the feeling that I share with people who don't dismiss me in this way (consciously or not) and I am looking forward to thinking more about access intimacy and how it relates to a huge number of other parts of life. We've been talking a lot about how simple shifts in language could have a significant impact on an individual level as well as a societal/cultural level, and it would be interesting to think about whether access intimacy can move beyond the individual level that Mingus discusses in her blog post and what that would mean and look like on a larger scale. 


helenaff's picture

I think that large scale access intimacy might be a community which is fully accepting of all identities and free of internalized prejudices. When I experience access intimacy with someone, it usually comes down to I have X part of my identity that is marginalized, and there are people who understand my identity, my hurt related to X, and what needs to change about the environment around me for X to not be an issue anymore - all without needing to explain much of anything. I'd imagine that if I were to have access intimacy, or reasonable potential for it, with nearly everyone I meet, it would only be achieveble in a bias-free environment. I also think there would need to be great shifts towards dismantling all of the ablist, racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc modes of thinking currently built into our society in government and education.