Disability Pride Month 2022: Rachel



Today, meet Rachel. I've seen her go through a lot in our three years of friendship, and I've been present in some of her harder medical situations as part of her support system. Knowing that the hospital isn't really a place people feel glamorous, I wasn't sure if she'd want to be photographed after getting a surgery. Ultimately, she decided it was important to have evidence of her experiences.

As the photographer, the above photo called to me because it shows evidence of Rachel's experience being witnessed because of my reflection being included. But at the same time, it shows evidence of the isolation one can experience in medical settings. Outside of this hospital is a beautiful forest that patients can only experience through windows.

Here is what Rachel has to say about being photographed and disability pride.

"I was really hesitant at first to have my photo taken while I was in the hospital. The hospital is a very traumatizing place for me, a place I almost died back in 2012 and 2020. At the same time, something I wished back in 2012 was that I had some photos of my experiences. It might have helped me come to terms with what had happened. I believe art is a form of witness and healing. Usually, I write and draw about my experiences going through hard things, but that can be challenging when so much is happening at once."

"I was recently hospitalized after surgery related to one of my chronic health conditions, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The hospitalization was challenging because I had to be catheterized, something that has happened to me many times before, but is very triggering as a CSA survivor. While the hospital is always a place that challenges my ability to cope, having my disabled and queer community there for me, providing support, helped keep me calm. July is Disability Pride Month, and for me that means honoring that my disabled, chronically ill body is not something I need to be ashamed of. I don’t need “thoughts and prayers.” Love and support from my disabled community and chosen family is what helps me get through hard things. I am proud of who my people are."

"In 2020, I ended up readmitted to the hospital after collapsing on the stairs following my first admission. My apartment didn’t have a fully working elevator, and my doctor did not listen to me when I said I felt too weak to get up several flights of stairs. As a formerly homeless, runaway youth without family support, it has been impossible for me to afford or find accessible housing in Madison. This is a risk to my health since I have a mobility related disability, recently requiring surgery. The lack of housing options for disabled individuals is something that makes me very angry, but it has encouraged me to push for change. I work now with the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County on a federal grant related to youth homelessness. I am advocating for agencies to build new housing programs that keep physical access in mind. Accessible housing is homelessness prevention. Housing justice cannot exist without disability justice."

I'm honored to have been able to help Rachel tell her story.