[SPOKANE, Wash.] For Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Alex Locust wants to shed light on disability discrimination rampant in our society – and how to change that.
Locust had his left leg amputated as a baby after it never developed. He spent his childhood going to numerous doctors and enduring the glaring stares of other people. If there was normalization and education around disabilities and body expectations, he said he would not have had to endure that trauma.
As a result, Locust is now a public speaker – who refers to himself as a “glamputee” – and uses his experiences to teach others about disability justice and equity. He will be giving a public presentation, Spill the Disabili-Tea, at Spokane Community College on March 8 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Building 6, Rm. 135.
Models for understanding and classifying developmental disability can differ, but, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities are a “group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language or behavior areas.” Some examples of developmental disabilities include Down’s syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. While Locust isn’t considered developmentally disabled due to his physical disability, he chooses to advocate for disabled people across all spectrums.
“Disability justice benefits everyone, regardless of how you identify or how your body or mind moves through the world,” he said. “I’m centering the perspectives of disabled people, the most marginalized in our community, so we can liberate all of us from these systems. I want to ensure that people can get booked on panels and have access to the mic.”
One in 4 adults in the US have a disability, according to the (CDC). Given those numbers, Locust said, schools should be accommodating 20-25 percent of their population.
“It’s a very clear norm, and schools should be trying to support their community,” he said. “But that’s not a reality of how schooling and childcare currently works.”
By bringing in Locust to educate the public – whether they identify as disabled or not – SCC administration is trying to bring inclusivity and awareness to the college.
“The disability community intersects all other marginalized groups, and that intersection creates an environment where each person should be valued and seen,” said Guillermo Espinosa, SCC’s Associate Dean of K-12 Partnerships & Outreach. “In order to make that happen, we need to invite awareness of others and learn from experts and others’ experiences. (Locust’s) presentation will allow us to explore those areas and invite us to show up for all our students.”
The college’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity teamed up with Jason Stariwat, the Director of Disability Access Services, to bring in Locust because they believe he is a dynamic speaker whose background of being disabled, queer and biracial puts him in the unique position of being able to speak to a broad range of students and staff at the college.
“I think that having a speaker who represents so many marginalized identities and does so fearlessly and with humor and flair would connect with the students in a way that’s really powerful,” Stariwat said. “A lot of our students struggle with finding their identity in college and even in their lives. We really are trying to represent our students and how diverse SCC and the community can be. Watching (Locust’s) video, you just feel like you can be who you want to be.”
Currently, Washington State has a mandate that says public schools, including colleges, must recognize Disability Awareness Month in October. But Stariwat and Sandra Zamora, the Retention Specialist for the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, believe that Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March should also have the spotlight.
“Being able to bring someone out during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is really powerful and speaks to the college having more of a push towards representation,” Stariwat said.
During the program, Locust will focus on society’s perceptions of disability and how it’s connected to other systems of oppression. He said that he will explore how these concepts relate to campus life and how people with disabilities can feel affirmed that micro-aggressions are happening. He stressed the importance that people know it’s not in their heads.
“These are constant and pervasive experiences,” Locust said. “Why do people treat disability like it isn’t a cultural experience? People are missing out on the reality of the experiences of the people around them. We need to shift out of that mindset.”
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Rachel Román at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org, Jason Stariwat at Jason.email@example.com or Sandra Zamora at Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCS provides education and services in a six-county region of Eastern Washington, operates Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College and is the largest provider of Head Start and Early Childhood Education in the region. Each year, nearly 30,000 people – from infants to senior citizens – are provided educational services by CCS.