Hannah Michelle Bussa
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated annually on Dec. 3.
Artie Mack, a Black, deaf/hard of hearing, Queer Artist & Scholar, was featured in Google Accessibility’s “Creativity Starts from Within: Accessibility for a More Innovative World” event on the evening of Dec. 2, which can be watched here.
“‘Creativity’ is a campaign launched by Google to explore the ways technology is making the world more accessible and connective for disabled peoples,” Mack said. “The way this virtual event was organized is unique, because it has a panel featuring prominent disabled activists and creatives such as Aubrie Lee, Stephanie Thomas, Emily Ladau, ARC, and James Rath talking about issues and ideas that feel like, ‘Yes, finally, these voices are being put out there!’ The campaign highlights the importance of innovation and in today’s world we need that now more than ever, especially in a pandemic. I was lucky to get involved.”
Mack said they were contacted by the Soze Agency due to their social media presence, artwork and commentary on disability justice and social issues. The team was drawn to his commitment of using art as a visual representation of the disabled experience. He offered to design an imaginary comic book cover featuring disabled superheroes.
“As part of the ‘Creativity’ campaign, I shot a series of time lapse videos creating said cover,” Mack said. “Until then I’d never shot time lapse videos or had much experience with a tripod, so that was a fun experience. It’s pretty mind-blowing being recognized by Google, so this whole experience is still settling in for me. I’m thrilled to be featured alongside some amazing people like Raul Pizzaro and Jessica Oddi.”
Mack said they didn’t realize International Day of Persons with Disabilities existed until they were asked to do this collaboration.
“I’m sure I’ve scrolled past social media posts in the past, but when I stopped and researched it, I realized there’s a lot to catch up on,” he said. “I think that it’s incredible there’s a potential platform where disabled peoples of all spectrums can reach each other and connect internationally, because it just goes to show how disability really is the unifier of civil rights issues as well as the key to creating a more humane planet.”
Mack said with technology creating a more accessible world, it makes the possibilities endless. While the day is supposed to be about awareness for neurotypical, able-bodied hearing people, he feels it’s about the future of humanity.
“Playing off the word ‘International,’ it stirs up thoughts and images of ‘intersectionality,’ and Disability Justice is constantly reminding us of the importance of understanding how intertwining systems of oppression are complex, weaving in and out of each other, and occurring simultaneously on the same intricate level that the DNA in each of our constantly changing bodies and our individual experiences are complex, weaving in and out of each other, and occurring simultaneously,” Mack said. “To me, International Day of Persons with Disabilities declares that all body-minds are valid and that we all lie on a spectrum somewhere, so it’s time to start thinking that way if we’re serious about humanitarianism.”
Mack said along with raising awareness about the existence of disabled people, which is still needed today, International Day of Persons with Disabilities also highlights the numerous and complex issues faced by people with disabilities in efforts to mobilize support and expand the concept of human rights.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992 in hopes of leading to a more equitable world. Mack said this happens by raising awareness of how society benefits from the integration of disabled people and narratives.
“This day is to raise awareness about the disabled experience in every area imaginable: the political sphere, the social sphere, the economic realities and inequitable resources, innovations and creativity, potential markets, and the culture of disability, which is ever expansive,” Mack said.
Mack said they feel many disabled people are starting to become wearisome of explaining the basic tenets of human rights to non-disabled people.
“The time has come for people with disabilities to be seen and embraced in their culture however it manifests,” he said.
Mack said he wants non-disabled people to confront all the ways they’ve been manipulated and lied to about disabled people — by the medical-industrial complex, scientific bias, the government, media, books, movies and the church, even.
“If your understanding of ‘disabilities’ are not coming from disabled people themselves, you don’t have an understanding of disability,” they said. “The mantra always stands: ‘Nothing About Us Without Us.’”
Mack said ableism thrives because there are ideas or bias in each of those parts of society preventing disabled people from thriving: discriminatory laws, lack of employment opportunities, inaccessibility and lack of media representation.
“Disability isn’t a ‘thing; that occurs to someone,” Mack said. “Disability is the experience of being human. The obstacles a person faces is when another person or society punishes them or denies them access for being human. There’s no standard body or one way to be human. These acts are deliberate and almost always violent and manifest in not only how people treat one another, but how spaces are designed, who gets to be in those spaces, who gets to be heard, and how they get to be treated in those spaces.”
Mack said disability, deafness, neurodivergence and chronic illness are all biological occurrences that come with being human. They can occur on any level — temporarily or permanently, visibly or invisibly — at any time. He said he is confused as to why a lot of non-disabled people think accessibility is a chore, when disabled people need a lot of the same resources everyone else does.
“Ponder what comes to mind when you experience the world ‘disability’ and try to pinpoint where these ideas, thoughts, and feelings come from,” Mack said. “Is ‘a fulfilling life’ one of the things that comes to mind? If not, what makes that so?”