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How to Access Access Intimacy

gcat's picture

I spoke last week on how lack of resources can limit a disabled person's knowledge about disability. From reading, "Access Intimacy: The Missing Link," I now feel that lack of resources, particularly in the form of relationships, can affect those without a disability as well. Almost instinctually, I understood the experience of access intimacy. In particular, I remembered how as a freshman, I joined a new club that requires many physical demands. It was not unusual for me for peers my age to often forget my needs, but one member quietly and politely would check in with me to make sure I felt safe and to get whatever I could not. As the blog states, they just "clicked with" me, in that they "got" my access needs without needing previous discussions. Indeed, the blog should emphasize how rare this feeling is outside of family and very close friends. 

I believe "access intimacy" can be accomplished by a person with a disability expressing their needs to a non-disabled person. It may require reminders and time, but eventually, the non-disabled person could learn how to put the disabled person at ease instinctually. However, I feel this process excludes the "organic" or "magical" qualities of access intimacy. My questions then concern how non-disabled people, like my peer, can instinctually recognize the needs of others without previous access to someone with a disability? Is it possible? For example, if a parent raises a child to be kind, is that enough to not only be respectful to those with disabilities but to understand how to assist them best? One could argue that disability studies could bring awareness, but would a student be able to apply that knowledge quickly enough to feel "organic"? How much of understanding comes from knowledge and how much from experience?


ceburdick's picture

I think you bring up a lot of interesting points, and I've been thinking about similar things since reading about access intimacy. I wonder if it's impossible to truly be able to understand a person with a disability's experience without getting to know them first, and then taking that experience and knowledge with them in the future. But I think that this could raise the issue of people with disabilities becoming/feeling like "learning experiences" for nondisabled people to learn from, which is othering and unfair. I'm interested in thinking about this/discussing it more, especially because knowing and understanding one disabled person's needs is completely different than knowing and understanding another's.

zoet's picture

Thank you for sharing! 

Your post made me realize that to strive for access intimacy, I should be more willing to reach out and check in with people with disabilities. In the past, I have been reluctant to do so because I was afraid of singling people out or coming off as paternalizing. But I realize now that this pretending-disability-doesn't-exist attitude runs similar dangers to being colorblind. The world is, by design, harder for people with disabilities and not acknowledging that does them a disservice. While I still need to be aware of the privileges I hold, checking in with people with disabilities can be a way of showing that I care about them. I realize this is important to do with people in my life, but is it the same for strangers?