Voices from the Women's March: a Disability Perspective

[Image description: A small crowd in the ADA tent. A sign attached to the back of a power chair chair says "This is madness! No, this is history. This is the largest gathering of disabled people in American history." To the right, a golden retriever in a service dog jacket sits in front of a folding chair.]

[Image description: A small crowd in the ADA tent. A sign attached to the back of a power chair chair says "This is madness! No, this is history. This is the largest gathering of disabled people in American history." To the right, a golden retriever in a service dog jacket sits in front of a folding chair.]

This is the first of a two part piece about the Women’s March on Washington, which was anticipated to be the largest gathering of disabled people in American history. It features a series of portraits and interviews of marchers with disabilities. We started in the ADA seating area and eventually made our way to the ADA tent, speaking to a range of people we encountered along the way. We asked questions about why people had decided to attend, who or what they marched for, and their concerns about the current administration. Some marchers also discussed concerns about the accessibility of the Women’s March itself.  The second half of the series will focus on the Disability Caucus and discuss some of its struggles to make the March accessible and inclusive.

[Image description: Two white women, Sharen and Ulrike, pose in front of a crowd. Sharen uses a wheelchair and wears a leather jacket; Ulrike stands next to her in a blue scarf holding a pink sign that says "Real feminists reject abortion."]

[Image description: Two white women, Sharen and Ulrike, pose in front of a crowd. Sharen uses a wheelchair and wears a leather jacket; Ulrike stands next to her in a blue scarf holding a pink sign that says "Real feminists reject abortion."]

Sharen and Ulrike

Sharen: We're from northern Virginia. We decided to come to the march three days ago, but we'd been thinking about it for a while.

Ulrike: I’m a pro-lifer, and I’m a feminist. I believe the ultimate goal of feminism is to make abortion unnecessary. My activism work is all about creating support for families so that every child that comes into the world can be supported and loved. I have six kids including one from foster care; I’m not one of those pro-lifers who people say don’t care about life after birth.

Sharen: I’m here with my friend because this is a historic effort. In the blackest times of American history, it’s important to show that we’re here together, that people of all abilities think this is important.

[Image description: A bearded, long-haired Latino man, Rico, smiles and flashes a peace sign over the shoulder of a beaming red-haired woman, Lainie. She wears a brightly colored patchwork coat and holds a red thermos.]

[Image description: A bearded, long-haired Latino man, Rico, smiles and flashes a peace sign over the shoulder of a beaming red-haired woman, Lainie. She wears a brightly colored patchwork coat and holds a red thermos.]

Lainie Morales and her husband Rico

Lainie: I have a lot of Christian friends who don’t like what I’m doing. We live in DC. I have four children, all grown. Two are girls. I wanted to be here for their future. I have friends and family who are people of color, women, and people with disabilities. We’re all at risk with this administration. I wanted to come out here and make my voice be heard and say, "We will not take this. We will not back down. We will not be taken back to the '50s. We the people are more powerful than a single egomaniac predator."

I was at the protest yesterday when they set the limousine on fire. I had a bunch of Trump supporters tell me “Don’t worry, no one wants to grab your pussy, bitch.” They were elbowing people in the stomach, trying to incite them to violence. We remain calm because love trumps hate. We tolerate them, but they don’t tolerate us.

We are strong enough to rise up. We don’t accept your homophobia, racism, or ableism. We have to stand together.

[Image description: Alex, a blond trans* boy in glasses stands wearing a trans flag as a cape and carrying a pink sign with the words: "Trans Against Trump." In the background, a large crowd is facing a the stage, not pictured. Resting against a chair to the right is an ACLU "Dissent is Patriotic." sign]

[Image description: Alex, a blond trans* boy in glasses stands wearing a trans flag as a cape and carrying a pink sign with the words: "Trans Against Trump." In the background, a large crowd is facing a the stage, not pictured. Resting against a chair to the right is an ACLU "Dissent is Patriotic." sign]

Alex

I'm fifteen. I finally got permission from my parents a few weeks ago to come to the march. I came with my grandmother. I knew I had to come because I’m not going to live in a world where me and my friends and the people I love are kept down and stepped on. When it comes to this administration, a better question to ask would be "What am I not worried about?"

[Image description: Anne Marie, a white woman with blonde hair and a pink knitted headband sits in a mobility scooter, smiling at the camera. She holds a green sign with black writing that says "Make America Think Again!" and has a bouquet of flowers pinned to her jacket.]

[Image description: Anne Marie, a white woman with blonde hair and a pink knitted headband sits in a mobility scooter, smiling at the camera. She holds a green sign with black writing that says "Make America Think Again!" and has a bouquet of flowers pinned to her jacket.]

Anna Marie

Anna Marie: I traveled here from New Jersey. I’ve been working for and with Hillary since 2005, and I came here for her. I’m feeling frustrated though. The speeches are too long; they’re trying to fit everything in and trying too hard to appease different people. What we came for, it’s to march, to make our voices heard. When are we going to get to do that?

I think this march should have happened before the election. Where were all these women then?

[Image description: Sarah, a blonde white woman in a red scarf, stands next to Vanessa, a black woman wearing a hot pink hoodie and glasses. The two women smile broadly with their arms around each other. Sarah holds a pink balloon.]

[Image description: Sarah, a blonde white woman in a red scarf, stands next to Vanessa, a black woman wearing a hot pink hoodie and glasses. The two women smile broadly with their arms around each other. Sarah holds a pink balloon.]

Sarah and Vanessa

Vanessa: I live here in DC, and I think this is a really important moment in history. I came to show solidarity, and I’ve seen a lot of local activists and people from the community here today. My concern right now is the logistics of the march. It was already tough to get through the crowd to the ADA seating area, and I don’t know how we’re going to participate in the march.

Sarah: Vanessa and I are friends; we met up beforehand and came over together. I’m here because I'm worried about the foundations of democracy and about freedom of the press. 

[Image description: Virgil and Mary, an older black couple in winter coats stand holding a sign that says "Her resume against his. Hire Hillary." Virgil wears a cap and has his arm around the Mary's shoulder. They look into the camera with serious expressions.]

[Image description: Virgil and Mary, an older black couple in winter coats stand holding a sign that says "Her resume against his. Hire Hillary." Virgil wears a cap and has his arm around the Mary's shoulder. They look into the camera with serious expressions.]

Virgil and Mary Rowley

Mary: We’re from Indianapolis. We decided to come before the election even happened. We decided back in 2012 because we knew it was going to be a woman president. I’m marching for all of us: all the women and children, people in the criminal justice system, and children who won’t get education because of Trump. I’m marching for the elderly, for the LGBT community, and for everyone who can’t be here today. I’m marching for Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman.

[Image description: Two women in wheelchairs lean toward each other and smile for the camera. The woman on the left, Cathy, is an older white woman with curly hair, glasses, and a red scarf. The women on the right, Kim, has dark skin and wears glasses and a black and white checkered hijab. She holds a hot pretzel and is wearing a bright purple and pink jacket.]

[Image description: Two women in wheelchairs lean toward each other and smile for the camera. The woman on the left, Cathy, is an older white woman with curly hair, glasses, and a red scarf. The women on the right, Kim, has dark skin and wears glasses and a black and white checkered hijab. She holds a hot pretzel and is wearing a bright purple and pink jacket.]

Kim and Cathy

Kim: I didn’t know I was coming to the March until a week ago. I came with a friend whose husband couldn’t make it at the last minute, so I got to take his place and travel with all expenses paid, which was great because I wouldn’t have been able to afford to come otherwise. I’m not marching for a particular person; I’m here for an idea. I’m a woman of color, I’m disabled; I fit in a lot of categories that need to be represented. The ADA tent is great, but finding it was really difficult. I couldn’t get through for a while and I couldn’t get to ADA seating because they said it was gridlocked. Cathy and I just met here in the ADA tent after we both got separated from our friends.

Cathy: The same thing happened with me; I came with a friend from Montana after a different friend had to cancel. I found out about the march through a friend. I thought, “I really want to go, but I can’t walk.” I realized if I could get a wheelchair I would be able to come. So here I am. I’m marching for my sisters, my daughter in law, and my two little granddaughters.

 

Soph Bonde is President and Publisher at Argot. She is a professional photographer in Washington DC and awkward about it. She has been described as an 'administrative machine.' 

Helena Bonde is the Editor in Chief at Argot. She also writes the serial novel Sigrid Spearthrower at Tabulit. Follow her on Twitter or email her at helenabonde@argotmagazine.com.