Affirmations is offering a new support group for people with disabilities. Called Disability and Discussion, the group was co-founded by Affirmations volunteer Rachel Zaback. Zaback has been a volunteer with the center since 2018 but left an existing group with a few others to start a new one.
“All of our founding members were previously involved with a different group at Affirmations, some of us for a year or more,” Zaback explained. “That group passed some very ableist policies that made it difficult for us to exist there as disabled people. That’s when we decided to found [a new group].”
Disabilities and Discussion, said Zaback, is “an egalitarian space for LGBTQ disabled people.”
“I see it as a safe space, a brave space, where we can talk about things that are going on in our lives and have that sort of mutual commiseration. We also talk about LGBTQ and disabled issues that are going on in real life that directly impacts our intersectional community.,” Zaback said. “While we follow Affirmations guidelines and don’t promote any specific political party or candidate, we feel that as queer disabled people, our existences are inherently political. Because of that, the discussion of relevant issues is pretty instrumental to our meetings.”
Zaback said the group helps its members in a two-prong fashion.
“The first prong is that we provide a space and a platform for people to talk about the struggles going on in their daily lives, which tend to be more disability-based than anything else. As they share that information, often there is discussion around it and people can pose questions to other members. So, in one sense, Disability and Discussion is helpful in that we provide that support network for our members to share and to get advice.”
The second prong is education.
“There are a lot of different identities under the umbrella of queer disability that are represented within our group,” Zaback continued. “That means a lot of different perspectives. Every week we initiate a discussion on a different issue impacting disabled folks, and sometimes LGBTQ disabled folks, around the world. … This provides a space for those of us with experience on a certain topic to speak out about it and those of us who don’t have experience in that topic to learn about it.”
Frank about her motives for developing such a group, Zaback identifies at autistic.
“I spent a long time without any community resources to help me,” she said. “I got into the whole idea of disability pride in college, and this idea that you can take pride in your differences and that everyone is entitled to accommodations for their respective challenges be they disability-related or otherwise. The passion became incandescent when we all collectively decided to leave our old group. Our various coping methods were being banned and described as disrespectful, and we were implicitly labeled as antisocial. That when we became passionate about providing a space that was open and welcoming toward disabled queer people in our community.”
Zaback said that support can be shown by those who are not interested in joining, too.
“We have a Facebook and a Discord,” Zaback said. “Both are places where we post interesting articles and resources on disability support and also places where even if someone is not regularly coming to meetings, they can post disability-related questions to the community and start a discussion around those questions. And if you aren’t interested in joining our group but have people in your life that would benefit from joining, you can help us to spread the word.”
For more information about Disability and Discussion, its meeting place and times, visit the group’s Facebook page.