From the desk of Rebecca Fortelka, Guest Editor and AXIS Board Member.
Caitlin Wood is a blogger, activist and talented performer in the disability world. She is a strong, empowering voice to the disabled community through her work in non-profits and as the editor of several blogs, such as Criptiques. We at AXIS are excited to share her work with you. Bloggers are an excellent resource and voice for the disabled community.
AXIS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection with disability?
Caitlin: I'm a disabled activist, writer, and performer who also works at a disability nonprofit, so my connection to disability is pretty strong! I edited the cross-disability anthology Criptiques, which evolved into a multimedia project including blogs, podcasts, and the web series Criptiques on Film: Very Special Episodes that I did with the amazing Cheryl Green. I had a blog series for Bitch Magazine called "Tales From the Crip," where I tried to highlight the incredible activists and artists in our community. Before that I co-founded the disability arts and culture blog Where's Lulu with my platonic soulmate (and incredible journalist) Toshio Meronek.
What inspired you to become a blogger and filmmaker?
I enjoy writing, and there's so much education to do around disability that it was a natural fit. Of course, I don't always want to be in the position of educator and in fact often resent it, so blogging can be a healthy way to vent. I wouldn't call myself a filmmaker, that's definitely my collaborator Cheryl Green's forte. She's working on a documentary called "Who Am I to Stop It," which should be finished soon. We did a tongue in cheek PSA on inspiration porn called "Your Daily Dosage of Inspiration," that sparked our film work together. We eventually applied for an arts grant to make Very Special Episodes that was a lot of fun to make (and a lot of very hard work). I consider myself more of a writer and performer though I'd love to learn filmmaking one day.
Since you travel so much, can you provide some travel tips for those of us with disabilities?
Yes- become nondisabled. Sorry, I can't help being snarky. Traveling while disabled is an anxiety-inducing nightmare for me, pretty much all of the time. I can't use the bathroom on airplanes, aisle chairs are terribly uncomfortable, airport staff can be tremendously incompetent and rude, airlines break your wheelchair... I basically have a meltdown whenever I have to fly. I can't fly alone- it's generally traumatic for me. My friend Carole Zoom is a much more experienced traveler than I am and was recently interviewed by NPR about it, with some tips. My advice is: be prepared to advocate firmly for your needs well in advance, know you can ask for a CRO (complaint resolution officials) at any airport, don't be afraid to express your needs to as many people as possible, and get a prescription for Klonopin.
How has ableism impacted your life?
There isn't enough time in the day to list all the ways ableism has impacted my life. It's affected essentially every aspect of my life, and it's everywhere. It's in the societal stigma against being disabled, it's employers not wanting to hire you or provide reasonable accommodations, it's strangers feeling entitled to ask intrusive questions, the list goes on and on. My junior high school teachers didn't think I could graduate 8th grade because I walked with a limp. I was bullied mercilessly as a teen and also as an adult when I was working a job at a disability rights agency. Ableism is everywhere, it's systemic and infuriating. It also intersects with every single oppression out there and yet goes ignored even in progressive, social justice circles.
Lastly, a fun question, if you were stranded on desert island and could only take 3 things with you what would they be and why?
My dog Archie, because I'd need some company to make me laugh and wouldn't want to turn into Tom Hanks in Castaway; My tempurpedic bed because I can't sleep without it; and a lifetime supply of gigantic burritos (coconuts are too hard to open).