Episode 34: Jim Ferris

Disabled activist, academic, and poet Jim Ferris joins Jill and Chris in this episode of the My Dearest Friends Project.

Interview Date | April 10, 2020

JILL: Welcome to the DisTopia podcast, where we look at disability from the inside out. [peaceful music fades in] My name is Jill Vyn, and I’m the cohost of this podcast with my friend and colleague, Chris Smit. 

What you are listening to now is the first of two interrelated components of our My Dearest Friends project, both of which have been generously underwritten by the Ford Foundation. The My Dearest Friends podcast, which is produced by DisTopia, is a series of recorded conversations with disabled people about their individual experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the personal, cultural, and political alterations it has triggered. These informal conversations give our guests the opportunity to share personal experiences of sheltering in place and to engage in conversations around deeper questions raised about the value of disabled people, the core values of the disability culture, as well as our hopes, fears, and strategies for living an authentic and pride-filled disabled life.

The second component of the My Dearest Friends project is created in partnership with disabled artist Oaklee Thiele, who is creating black and white illustrations that represent our collective response to our new and uncertain realities as a disabled community. Designed as an open invitation to the disabled community around the world, we invite all of you to participate. More information can be found on Instagram @MyDearestFriendsProject, Facebook, and on our website, DisArtNow.org.

As is true for many of you, our desire for this project is to share our experiences as a disabled community, to disrupt ableist beliefs, to celebrate a culture whose lived experience of disability necessitates flexibility and creativity, and to validate disabled voices and perspectives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[peaceful music slowly fades into super mellow music that plays through Jim’s poem]

JIM: My dearest friends, perched precariously, but perched for now, a time for singing

Now is why we sing the songs we sing

This is not a drill or practice



Help each other


My name is Jim Ferris. I’m a poet and performance artist, and I teach Disability Studies at the University of Toledo.

CHRIS: Ah! So, are you teaching, or are you done?

JIM: I’m teaching online classes. We had our Spring Break, and at the end of Spring Break, we went to online teaching. You know, transitioning classes from face-to-face into the online environment has been a challenge for all of our students and all of us who are teaching them. It’s not what we anticipated. It’s not what we expected or what we planned, you know, but we’re doing OK. You know, we’re doing all right. It will be a different experience. And I tell you, I mean, the pandemic is giving us a lot of stuff to talk and think about. One of the things I told them when I said, here’s how we’re gonna do our transition to online, I said, “This is not a drill. This is real stuff, and it’s gonna affect us and people that we know and love.”

I’m teaching a class on Autism and Culture this semester, which I love this class. I started teaching in 10 years ago, and it’s so interesting. And there is so much, so much stuff for us to be digging into, you know? Basically, many of the students in the class, probably a good half or more of them either have an autistic sibling or child, or they may be a direct care provider to people on the spectrum. And so, I ask them to write a short paper and share it with everybody about how the pandemic and the responses to it is affecting people on the spectrum. And they come in with these wonderful stories. And it’s just been a really great way to do what one of the main goals of the class is anyway, is to take the critical ideas that we use to think with in Disability Studies and apply them to the world around you right here, right now to people you know. And so, yeah, it’s just it’s been really a great way for us to use the ideas that we’re working with.

[super mellow music break]

JILL: What do you find are the greatest insights or the takeaways for your students?

JIM: It’s not a surprise for them that this stuff means business, that this virus is a threat. I mean, one of my students has lost a friend. She was a nurse, and….. You know, there are ways in which, for some students, helping them to recognize that the issues that we talk about and think about in our classes, that these are real things that affect real people’s lives. I think for some of them, you know, you’re 19 years old and you think you’re invincible, and you may not realize all of the ways that being disabled puts a target on your back in contemporary society. Boy, this makes it really clear. You know, one of the questions that we’ve been wrestling with for weeks now is that question about the setting of priorities. I mean, so, you’re down to your last ventilator. How do you decide who gets it? And one of the things that I keep bringing up with them has to do with the impacts of the pre-existing kinds of biases that are endemic in society, that the ways that those seem to provide a quote-unquote “natural” basis for making these decisions, you know. And so, helping our students to challenge those is, I think, really important.

And I have to tell you, it is enormously gratifying to be doing this. When I’m leading discussion, I try to do this in the classroom, and it’s different, but in some ways similar online, that I try to kind of set things up. I try to set the table and then get the heck out of the way and let them pick things up and talk about stuff. And I will kinda reach in there and try to steer sometimes or throw in a zinger, but mostly, I want them to carry the ball. And in this Autism and Culture class, they have done that marvelously well, talking about the ways that readings from two months ago are reflecting on the current situation and saying, “Oh, and by the way, there’s this video that I ran into on YouTube, and this person that I follow on Instagram,” or something like that. That is just fabulous.

You know, we have a final exam scheduled. And what I’ve taken to doing, I really started doing this when there was a growing number of students who needed additional time. They had an additional time for exams accommodation, you know, for usually a learning disability of some sort. And so, I figured, how can we make this not an issue. Is a time limit, does it really matter for what we’re doing? I mean, quickly, I realized it doesn’t make any difference at all. So, what I started doing was giving them take-home exams, online exams, open books, open notes. And I’m gonna ask questions that are geared with that in mind. You know, you can have 24 hours. You can have 48 hours. If you need more, just call me or just send me an email. What I’m thinking about doing this time is to ask them to recommend, say, five videos or other sources that are particular to this time and place to use the next time that I teach this class, ’cause it comes up every couple of years on our rotation. And I think one of the questions for the exam will be, “Tell me what’s there. Tell me why this works. Tell me where it fits in the kind of topics and issues that we work with in the class.” I just think it will reward them for things that many of them are doing anyway. It will ask them to exercise the kinds of thinking that we’re hoping to foster in class. Plus bonus, it will benefit my students in the future, you know, and not to mention me too. So, I think win, win, win, you know.

CHRIS: Are those with undergrad students?

JIM: Yeah.

[super mellow music break]

CHRIS: So, what’s the dialogue happening right now with your grad students? And what are people talking about in terms of the virus?

JIM: You know, given the student population that we have at the University of Toledo, many of our students are first-generation college students. Many of them are kind of on the middle to lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. And so, it’s not a surprise to them to recognize the ways that class has powerful impacts on everything related to disability, which is everything in the world, essentially. We get to talk and think in some, I think, really nuanced way about how class and race factor in here. And so, that’s something that they’re very aware of. And I guess I would say kind of the responsibility that knowledge brings with it, that there’s a way in which now that you know these things, now that you are able to see this stuff, what are you gonna do about it? What can you do with it?

This is one of the most wonderful things about what I get to do at work is that we’re in a process of building a cohort that is gonna change the next generation of healthcare administration, of healthcare provision, of social service provision. One of our graduates is in Washington, D.C. now playing a leading role in developing the disability rights, disability culture movements’ responses to the pandemic. She was brilliant when she got to us. I don’t feel like we wanna even try to take credit or anything. But the work that we are doing, I mean, we are seeing already, some of the effects of it in the world around us, and that will continue. I feel confident in that. That’s enormously gratifying.

You know, one of the things that I’m really aware of, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit. My older brother, he was not quite a year and a half older than me, he died of leukemia a year and some ago. And as a matter of fact, it was just the day before yesterday that I reached the age that he was when he died. And so, now I have outlived his life span. You know, I’m just finishing a poem that looks at, it looks at the end of his life. It looks at the end of our mother’s life—she died seven or eight years ago—in relation to the end of my marriage and thinking about the ways in which we are all contingent beings on this planet, you know, in this thin atmosphere that we occupy, that we use and we hope contribute to. And that at some point, we will all be forgotten. We’re not just all going to leave this plane, but at some point, the people that we knew will leave this plane and the people that they knew. And that at some point, you know, we will be forgotten. And that’s OK.

I mean, there’s a real way in which everybody gets forgotten. Shakespeare is forgotten. He’s probably still the most famous literary figure in Western civilization, but nobody knows who Shakespeare really was right? It’s like the real Shakespeare, what we remember is what people remember of him and were able to write down. So, that kind of consciousness of our temporality and our contingency, see, it’s an essential part of what it means to be human in the world, right? This is what it means to be human in the world. And there’s a way in which the usual kinds of illusions that we get to put in front of us so that we don’t, that we stop being aware of it, those are being stripped away. And it’s funny. I mean, I haven’t thought this before, but there’s a way in which that’s, I mean, the process is horrible and the impacts that it’s having on people’s lives are profound, and the shedding of illusion is a value still.

I remember hearing a Zen practitioner, somebody said once, “Oh, gosh. I’m just I’m feeling so disillusioned.” [chuckles] The Zen practitioner said, “Oh! Good!” [laughs] I think it’s helpful to remember that we, none of us, get a lot of control in this life. We do have the capacity to exercise a certain amount of influence, but much of what we get to do or how we can do that exercising of influence is really, in the immediate world around us, you know, with the folks that we are closest to and the people that they’re closest to, you know. So, when I write something and send it out into the world, that’s an invitation to others that some people may take up, I hope, and others won’t. And that’s an influence for us to have some mutual engagements, some mutual possibility for influence, you know, to help to, I don’t know, this sounds grandiose, but in some small way, to make the world a little bit better, you know. And so, it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of that, to be aware of that.

[super mellow music break]

CHRIS: I love this idea that stripping away some of those mythologies is actually good, you know, and might be a good thing for us. What are the mythologies of disability that you think might get stripped away or challenged or pushed in this crisis that we’re in?

JIM: You know, one thing that I hope is going to change is a recognition of…of the value that disabled people bring to this complex and many-layered, multi-nuanced world. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about and talking with my students a good bit about is the ways that the core values of disability culture are necessary and really helpful for the whole world right now and always, but especially right now. You know, I think about the ways that disabled people live their lives and that we have to be creative, adaptable, flexible in order to continue to live in this world, right? And those are the most fundamental human qualities: creativity, flexibility, adaptability. What in common, everyday life, non-disabled people who demonstrate those capabilities are rewarded for them. For disabled people, for many of us, if we don’t demonstrate those capabilities every day, we don’t have another day. You know, that could be our lives right there. And there’s a real way in which the imagination as well as the persistence, the commitment, the wit, that those paths to find solutions to immediate problems are great contributions that we can be making to the wider world if the wider world will pay attention. Yeah, I mean, so, there’s a real way in which we keep on keeping on. That that’s one of the most important things that we have to offer.

I was talking with Riva Lehrer a couple of days ago, and I told her that I just found in the garage an N-95 mask. You know, I had brought a couple of them for some project I was working on a while back. And I couldn’t remember if I’d used them all up and throw them away or whatever happened. Well, I found one. And then I had this moment of thinking gosh, should I donate it to the hospital? And she said, “No, disabled people need to hold onto protective equipment like that so that they can play an important role in not spreading this virus.” That, “People with disabilities are at greater risk than the general population from this virus. And no, keep your mask. You’re doing the world a service by keeping it and using it.” And she’s right. You know, she was right. And so, I did.

You know, I was very aware about the kind of precarious quality of our existence, but also the profoundly moving, deeply important ways that disability community gives me, and I think, gives the large us models for how to move forward. I mean, just for example, talking about that question of what is the best way to be a member of my community with this mask with a fellow disabled person, helped me to come to what I think was the best solution and the one that I secretly wanted anyway, you know. There are all kinds of ways that I think that we have available to support each other. But I think it’s really crucial that we recognize the precarity of our situation. That we, none of us, I mean, even the fattest of fat cats, you know, in their fancy homes, etc. live contingent lives. And that knowing that is one of the most crucial, I think, foundations from which we can then build a world that is more capacious, that facilitates the engagement and full participation of all of us. I don’t think we get there without that.

So, I’m thinking about another poem that I’ve been working on. Can I share this with you?

I’m far from alone in this, but, you know, thinking about the ways in which when there are disabled characters in mainstream kind of productions, whether it’s on the stage, on the screen, etc., so often, they are portrayed by non-disabled people, by people who do not have lived experience of disability. I had a phrase jump into my mind a couple of months ago that I finally came back to and started playing with that led to something that I think is kind of an interesting poem. So, in the first stanza, it mentions some of Shakespeare’s more noted characters who were sort of social outcasts or social outliers. Othello is one of them. King Lear is another. But it also mentions a quite minor character from The Merchant of Venice called Old Gobbo, who was blind or had a significant visual impairment. And also the actress Sarah Bernhardt, who may have been the most famous actress, at least in what we think of as the West, of her day, who toward the end of her career, after she had lost a leg, had a leg amputated, continue to act and play the roles that she had made famous onstage, including Hamlet by the way. So, this is called On Finally playing Richard the Third.

On finally playing Richard the Third

because, you know, Othello, Old Gobbo, Gloucester, Lear, Sarah Bernhardt, late in her career.

I put on my hoodie backwards in the dark.

The difference is stark.

No one knows who I really am.

Not the actors nor detractors, least of all do I know myself.

A horse. A horse. This kingdom for a horse, or at least a mirror.

See this cloaked and weathered visage clearer.

Can I see and know by stealth?

Can I be more obsessed with my failed health?

Not failed but failing before my bleary eyes.

Before I stride or limp offstage, please, God, to realize a man dispossessed is most a man. 

When I limp, I’m close to understanding why the gods and non-disabled fear me so.

It’s what they fear.

They fear, I know.

Of course, they’ll never cast me as King Lear.

My backwards hoodie makes it hard to see the mirror, let alone to see our way clear off the stage.

And now I am beyond that fear and rage.

This form betrays the paths I’ve taken prior.

The test now is leaving old desire for something new yet old and always less than clear. 

For something now, for something here.

The line that is, I think in some ways, the starkest is “a man dispossessed is most a man.” King Lear shows us that, amongst other of Shakespeare’s works. But when we wind up having to put down all of the things that we distract ourselves with, that we hide with, you know, that we hide behind, I think that then we have the capacity to most fully inhabit and exercise our humanity. [pause] Yeah. And getting to say “Old Gobbo” in a poem, [laughing] what could be more fun? I always kind of wanna, you know, spit after that.

[super mellow music break]

JILL: Thank you for sharing that. A few things come to mind, and I just wrote down words. Assimilation seems to be something. An individual’s authenticity and identity also come to mind strongly when I listen to that. And I’m wondering if you can speak to any or all of those.

JIM: So, I have been listening to the audiobook of Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-racist that Kendi reads. He’s given me some sharper tools to think with that I find really quite valuable, I mean, particularly around that question of assimilation and integration as opposed to…. You know, there’s a difference between segregation and something else that we may not have the best words for yet about the opportunities to be community together without having to do that kind of work of translation. I mean, that’s one of the great things about being together with our crip community is that there’s so much we don’t have to explain. We don’t have to even think about explaining it, you know?

What I hope that I am doing in my work now is, at least to some extent, moving beyond that constant demand of the larger non-disabled world to continue to play that kind of translation role to just say, [sighs] “Here’s what we’re thinking about. Here’s what I’m thinking about. Here’s some of my work. If you need antecedents,” I mean, I kind of wanna say, “Catch yourself up.” That’s really what I wanna tell the non-disabled folks who want me to teach them Disability 101 again and again, is to say, “Catch yourself up. I’m even willing to provide a reading list. But after that, just catch you up. Come and join us. It’s fun to be doing this stuff. We’re doing interesting and challenging and useful work. Come join us. But don’t expect us to carry you. Carry yourself.” You know, that’s why I think the work that so many of our outstanding artists are doing is pushing the envelope. I mean, we don’t have time to go kind of bring up the stragglers. You know, I want the stragglers to come with us, but I want to pay them the respect of letting them do the work to catch up. I mean, I feel like that’s the most profound mark of respect. I have confidence that you can catch up. You don’t need me to carry you. You can carry yourself. I can give you some ideas. I can tell you some of the things that you’ll need to know in order to do that. But we’re over here. We’re working here. I have, on occasion, told people, you know, recommended that they take my Intro to Disability Studies class. That’s a way to do it, you know. And by the way, I have a class starting in the middle of May [chuckles] if anybody. We’re a little bit shy of the number for it to run right now. There are ways to do it.

And I think that, I mean, I’ve talked with you some about my current project that’s looking at intersections of race and disability, particularly in my own family history. One of the critiques that I received from a performance last year that I did had to do with bringing together racism and ableism in the same place and letting the…. OK, so, I’m a little bit at a loss for language, because on the one hand, I think that the discourse of intersectionality that Kimberlé Crenshaw brought to us has been really enormously insightful and useful. But there’s a way in which, if we think about it geometrically, intersections meet for one point, right? So, to talk about intersections and parallels, they throw the high school geometer in my mind a bit of a curve that I haven’t quite figured out. But I think that bringing those two concepts together was really difficult for many folks in the audience. I tried to be careful to say that I don’t think that ableism and racism are the same thing at all. I think there’s a way in which they depend upon each other, that they interrelate. But I think that that was a bridge too far for a number of folks in the audience. And so, that’s useful feedback to be thinking about how I can not quit the project or not keep trying to work through the questions that it brings up, you know. But to find ways to do it that can be productive for a larger audience.

I mean, this is that balancing act, right? There is a way in which I recognize that I need to do some teaching. I need to teach people how to read my work to some extent, right? But if the emphasis is too much on that teaching, then it becomes kind of remedial and not particularly useful and not particularly artistically engaging. If I err too much on the side of not kind of teaching the audience, you know, positioning the audience to get the work, then I open a different can of worms, I guess, is a way to say it. And so, that’s a really interesting balancing act. It’s like balance in general, you know. It is something that is constantly ongoing. And most of the time, you know, for those of us who walk, for example, we need to keep our balance all the time. Most of the time we don’t have to think about it, but we still have to do it. Otherwise, we’re gonna land on our ass, right? Yeah. So, this is another balancing act.

JILL: We can definitely relate to that balancing act. Earlier on, you talked about your pre-existing biases that you talk about with your students.

JIM: Yeah.

JILL: And so, when there is that pushback or that tension, are any of those pre-existing biases coming into play? And if so, let’s talk about them. Let’s identify them.

JIM: Yeah, exactly.

JILL: And I think the power and the impact is so much greater in the long run because of that, because it’s such a visceral experience that we don’t always understand where they’re coming from.

JIM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And our society has not prepared us to ask these kinda questions and figure out how to wrestle with these feelings. I mean, I think that in some ways, that’s some of the work that Kendi, just as one example, is doing. And I hope in some small way to be contributing myself to that. I mean, in this performance piece, it’s called Is Your Mom White? Which is a question that one of Charlene’s nieces asked me some years back. Because I was clearly the whitest face in the whole family group by a long shot, and she was trying to figure out how I fit. One of the things that I try to do in that performance is to recognize and acknowledge the racism and the ableism that I was steeped in growing up and that I continue to deal with. One of the things that I tell people is that I was born in a racist country. I grew up in a racist country. I live in one now. It is inevitable that I have inhaled racism with the air. I have drunk it in with the water. And one of my projects is to identify where that racism is still alive in me and root it out. ‘Cause you aren’t gonna get rid of it if you don’t recognize that it’s there, you know? I don’t generally have to talk about ableism in those ways around that performance as well. Although as I’m talking about it now, I think maybe that would be a useful thing to do too. I think that it’s another one of those -isms that we just inhale with the air. We can’t get herd immunity from it if we don’t know it’s out there first.

JILL: These conversations, I think they’re helpful for everybody, whether you identify as disabled or not disabled. You can be disabled and express ableist views.

JIM: Oh, yeah.

JILL: And I think that’s just a real important thing for all of us to be aware of, that it doesn’t matter who we are or how we define ourselves or other people define ourselves, that we still gotta pick apart where that discomfort is coming from and what to do with it when it’s there.

JIM: Yeah, exactly. I mean, we can see it in our own community: who winds up kind of assuming positions of leadership or spokesperson-ship or something like that, you know, that we wind up reflecting so many of the biases of the larger society, and too often, re-inscribing a kind of hierarchy ourselves. That’s one of the things that’s interesting to me about the Disability Justice movement and the ways that people are trying to call that out, to call attention to it. ‘Cause, again, it’s not a course correction that we can figure out how to make without knowing we need to make a course correction. We have work to do. We have lots to learn, and I hope that I am able to stay open to and continue to do that learning. I think so. I hope so.

[super mellow music break]

CHRIS: It’s been a long time since we’ve all been together with our national organization, but as someone who is leading that field of study, what’s the role of Disability Studies now?

JIM: Well, first, I would wanna back away from the suggestion that I’m particularly playing a leadership role. And in some ways, that’s a credit to the movement. You know, I think about Justin Dart talking about everybody being a leader, you know? I think that SDS having to go through a long period of retrenchment was a great calamity in Disability Studies. It’s not that people didn’t keep doing the work, but we lost one of our principal venues for getting together, for sharing, and for challenging each other and sharing what we’re working with, and doing that work of supporting while pushing each other along. That I think that that’s a drawback, a real problem. At the same time, there have been lots of different kind of blossoming in different locations, and there’s a way in which, I don’t know, I’m just thinking about whether this is an accurate way to say it. I find myself thinking that maybe the field has had to become more organic in some ways. That we’re doing the work where we are, at least I hope, you know.

Here’s another thing, and this is something that I have been thinking quite a bit about with regard to academics in the field. So, our program at the University of Toledo, we did a search during the Fall semester and hired a new professor to start next Fall. And I got my fingers crossed that that’s gonna come through. The university system here in Ohio is anticipating some budget issues, understandably. But we have commitments from the highest levels of the administration that our hire is secure and will happen. But doing that process, I was enormously encouraged about the state of the field. And I’ll tell you why. You know, 10 years ago, when we were doing a search, if people who applied, if I didn’t know them, they weren’t doing Disability Studies. They were doing something else, you know. And today, that is in no way true that at all. I mean, the field has, I think, grown and spread in the ways that none of us could’ve predicted, that our reassurance is that the field is growing. I mean, it’s spreading. I think of the sort of the rhizome metaphor: that it’s springing up in lots of different places in ways that we would not have anticipated by any means.

The last couple of weeks, the Paul Longmore Institute at San Francisco State has held a couple of streaming screenings of some of the films from the Superfest catalog, films that had shown at Superfest. In the intro to the second set of screenings, I think this is the gratis system for the Longmore Institute, was talking about what Longmore was doing. And of course, my first thought was my old friend, Paul Longmore. And then I realized, wait a minute. He probably never even knew Paul Longmore. He’s thinking about this Longmore as this institution, right? And there’s a way in which I think that we continue to strengthen some of that institutional standing at various locations around. There’s a growing number of programs and minors, graduate opportunities for students.

I continue to think that one of the most important things that the field has to do is that kind of seeding generations of folks who are coming behind us that I was talking about before. I really do think that the work that we’re doing, the ways of thinking about, of understanding, perceiving, and engaging with the world around us that our students are learning have the power to be profoundly transformative. I don’t know enough to have sort of a timeframe for that. And so, I just, I expect a transformation. And I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime or not, but I expect it. And so, that we haven’t had this sort of as much of the institutional structure of the field available to us in the same ways is both a concern and maybe a little bit less of a concern. And whether a particular organization survives is not nearly as important as whether the ideas, the perspectives, the insights continue to take root and grow. So, on the one hand, I miss that we don’t get to come together and have our dance and hang out and all that, you know, and share ideas, and like I said, and push each other’s ideas, push each other’s thinking. But at the same time, I feel remarkably encouraged by the future of the field.

JILL: You seem to have a good outlook about where we are today and where we’re headed as a culture, and not everybody shares that. So, I really do appreciate that, and I think it’s refreshing. And maybe it’s because you have so much contact with the next generation of leaders, and you see what they’re taking in.

JIM: I think that helps a lot. I really do. Yeah. And the ways that they are finding to use these ideas and these perspectives that I didn’t anticipate, you know. This is not to say that I don’t have my dour moments, you know, but, yeah. But I feel like, our work is gonna continue along with the vast need for it.

JILL: So, one of the things that we think about and talk a lot about is within the disabled community, whose voices are missing right now?

JILL: I think that one group of folks that we need to hear from a whole lot more—and this is gonna seem kind of contradictory—is folks who may not be able to speak, who may be unvoiced in that sort of traditional way. A part of what’s been really exciting about teaching the Autism and Culture class is that there’s been just a real blossoming of work broadly available by people on the spectrum, including people who may use assistive or augmented communication devices. Yeah, there are lots of people and lots of perspectives that it would be of great benefit for us to be listening to and hearing from, you know, both listening and hearing kind of metaphorically as well as literally.

Do you know Mel Baggs? AM Baggs. So, they’re a, I find, a real provocative, interesting thinker on the spectrum. They produced a video that’s on YouTube that you can find—it’s called In My Language—that I always show when I teach the Autism and Culture class. That’s one of the first things we do is to watch that video, which is about them interacting with their environment and having a form of communication with parts of their environment that neurotypical people are trained to think of as non-communicative, flowing water, for example. The second half of the video is a kind of English language translation, if you will, that I think is just really quite fascinating. I just I love that video. A part of what it reminds us is the many different ways of not just being and interacting in the world, but of communicating within the world.

So, I teach a class. In fact, I’m gonna be teaching it again this coming Fall on disability and communication. And where we start in that class is with the recognition that so many of the qualities of being human that are the things that we have learned to value, that they rest fundamentally on the capacity to communicate, right? You know, we value intelligence. How do we know if someone is intelligent or not? We know it by how they communicate. And so, the Baggs video is a really powerful reminder that communication is a broader and a much more, I don’t know—I mean, this sounds so comm theory—sort of multi-channel but also intensely nuanced what’s the word? Experience. Experience we’ll go on for the moment. Yeah. So, there are so many different ways of being in the world. And I think that one of the possibilities that our movement has to offer is opening the awareness of the larger society to more of them. [super mellow music plays through the next few sentences]

You know, because I think that that’s a step toward facilitating the greater engagement with everybody.

This has been great fun talking with you.

JILL: Yeah.

CHRIS: Aw, it’s been good to listen.

JILL: Thanks for listening. Be well, keep your distance, send us your comments, questions, and your submissions for Oaklee Thiele to hello@DisArtNow.org. Please make sure to follow the My Dearest Friends project on Instagram, Facebook, and DisArtNow.org. And thanks again to the Ford Foundation for their support of this work and to cat enthusiast Cheryl Green for the transcription of this podcast episode.

Music: Silver Blue Light by Kevin MacLeod. Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4361-silver-blue-light. License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.