On this episode, Roqayah and Kumars interviewed DC-based DSA organizers and accessibility advocates Conor Arpwel and Matthew Sampson. Conor is autistic and is a writer and law student doing internal accessibility advocacy for Metro DC DSA, and is a member of the steering committee for DSA’s Disability Working Group. Matthew is a deaf graduate student at the Urban and Regional Planning program at Georgetown University and also the founder of a group called Deaf Urbanists, which aims to educate the Deaf community about modern urban planning, and encourage the community to be involved with the city’s planning and growth. He is active in local government in DC, and is involved with the Transportation and Public Infrastructure committee for his neighborhood. Matthew was also joined by Claire who assisted with interpreting the conversation. We learn how Conor and Matthew found themselves organizing with DSA, and what accessibility means to them in the context of left organizing spaces. We discuss the challenges associated with surviving in a world that is hostile to disabled people, as well as serious impediments toward reaching universal accessibility under capitalism, even in the most well-meaning of leftist spaces. Conor and Matthew explain that accessibility isn't a thing that can be given all at once, but instead a gradual process of doing better, with the responsibility being collectivized to the greatest extent possible. We explore how some of the ways the framing of socialist organizing as a project of appealing to "normal people" often implicitly, sometimes deliberately, marginalizes the concerns of disabled people and and other minority groups on the left. We also talk about an essay Conor wrote about passing in the context of disability, and an essay by Sara Nović about the desire of many deaf people to resist assimilation into mainstream culture. Finally, Matthew talks about how the lives of deaf people in Russia were radically transformed by the 1917 revolution, with deaf people living and working together, controlling their own communities, factories, culture and destiny in a way that is hard to imagine under modern capitalism.
A transcript for this episode will be provided upon request. Please send an email to deleteuracct @ gmail to get a copy sent to you when it is completed.