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Thoughts on writing, disabilities, and telling stories.

Sometimes, I don't think about certain things.  

It's not that I don't think they're important. 

It's just that there's only so much room up there. 

And like everyone else, I'm juggling a couple of things at the same time.

So, when my friend, Suela Lala, executive director at the Together Foundation in Tirana, asked me to present at a conference on how the US writing community is inclusive of people with disabilities, I have to admit that I felt unprepared. 

I mean, I am aware of inclusivity, but as a writer, I tend to be an introvert and off doing my own thing.  

So, the first thought that came to mind was, " How easy is it for someone with a disability to get to a writer's workshop?"

Since I've been in Tirana, my experience is that accessibility is tricky at times. 

For example, sidewalks are not easy to use.

Many times I have to navigate through a changing landscape of uneven, narrow surfaces, steep drops for stairs, and a lack of curb cuts. 

So I can only imagine for people who use wheelchairs or have a limited ability to get around, it might be almost impossible. 

Sometimes the sidewalk is just two feet, with a utility or light pole smacked in the middle of it.

But when it comes to writing, I just figure that people, regardless of who they are, just write. 

It seems pretty simple.

But given my lack of knowledge, I wanted to make sure I was providing valuable information. 

So my task was to find writers and writing organizations who could share their thoughts.

And the more I asked questions and learned about the challenges of attending a workshop or even writing, I realized how lucky I was as a writer.

I never doubted that I could pick up a pen and paper, or get my laptop out and start typing. 

I learned that for others without the use of hands or the ability to speak, it took much more time and energy to complete these tasks. 

And if a person with disabilities could make it to a writing class, would it be possible for them to share their story in a workshop? Would it be a safe space? 

And what about people who are neurodivergent?

Seriously, I had never heard of this term until now.  

And yes, I am that guy.  

I'm a Gen Xer who is baffled by people using their mobile phones to take pictures of their food. (It's getting cold, by the way.)

Learning about the challenges of people with disabilities reminded me of the need to continue telling stories.

We've been fed an illusion of what life is supposed to look like. 

And this story gets told in the same way over and over and over. 

It's the same romance stories, the same heroes, and the same type of person trying to find themselves, etc. 

Seriously, life can't be this boring and one-dimensional.  And it isn't. 

There are millions of stories out there from people with disabilities who fall in love, have adventures, and find themselves.

And we miss out on reading these stories because the "industry" does not think there is a market for them. 

I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that when we miss the opportunity to work with other writers, we lose their insight and their contributions to the discussion on how we can all improve our craft. 

And we miss out on stories that connect with us, that enrich our lives, and offer new opportunities for reflection.   

 Tirana Conference on People with Disabilities 

                         September 29, 2022

Photo Credit: Voice of America