The Dis/Rep project is a yearly series of virtual engagements focused on disability representation and accessibility that began in 2020. It utilizes a variety of formats, including book club-style discussions, a Discord server for asynchronous participation, web content, and remote engagement activities. The project is designed to be an anti-ableist, anti-racist, queer, and trans-positive space, centering the needs and voices of the disability community.
Dis/Rep 2020 was produced by The Curiosity Paradox and Calling Up Justice in 2020. Over the course of the project, the Dis/Rep team covered a range of topics. In 2020, we explored the Sins Invalid Statement on Police Violence, the Principles of Mixed Ability Organizing, Disability Liberated, and Disability Justice Timelines.
In 2020, Curiosity Paradox was invited to take over the programming for the Disability Awareness and Community Program (DACP) after the executive director passed away. The DACP program, called “Cool and Collective Conversations About Disability,” served the public and employees of the city of Portland and was taught by the executive director. One of the programs within the DACP was called Dis/Rep, which was a panel of disabled artists speaking to able-bodied producers and presenters. Curiosity Paradox was given freedom to redesign.
When Curiosity Paradox took over the programming, they decided to use the name Dis/Rep and retain the educational aspects, but center the disabled community. They invited Claudia Alick from Calling Up Justice to consult on the design of the program. Together, they brainstormed a book club-style engagement with “Skin Tooth and Blood: The Basis of Movement is Our People,” which aimed to empower the disabled community to process and respond to contemporary public events in a healthy manner. This was particularly relevant at the time, as George Floyd had been murdered and the entire country was reacting to the incident and the widespread protests that followed.
The accessible sessions were attended by Oregonians and disabled participants from around the country. There was also a Discord channel available for further conversation and to see recordings of past sessions. The sessions covered a range of topics, including the Sins Invalid Statement on Police Violence, the Principles of Mixed Ability Organizing, Disability Liberated, and Disability Justice Timelines.
The Dis/Rep project was a valuable resource for disabled individuals and provided a space for them to engage with contemporary events and issues in a way that was centered on their experiences and perspectives. The success of the program was reflected in the fact that it received funding for 2021.
In Dis/Rep 2021 we discussed Access is Love, with concepts such as valuing disabled expertise and expanding what “access” means, intersectionality, cross-movement solidarity, interdependence, accessibility, culture, and liberation. In 2021, creative access consultant Deanna Yadollahi joined with facilitators Jennifer Kemp and Rebel Black. Embodiment artists Maya Johnson, Paula Rupert, Yulia Arakelyan, Sidoney O’Neal, Matthew Reynolds, and Scott Selby led an exercise in the 2021 sessions.
Dis/Rep 2022 had everyone exploring ideas from National Disability Theater, Sound Theater, Claudia Alick, Grant Miller, Jonathon Paradox, Sins Invalid, TL Lewis, Sunaura Taylor, Kimberly Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, Keri Gray, Imani Barbarin, Stacey Milbern, Dustin Gibson, Unsettling Dramaturgy, The Crip and Indigenous Process Design Research Colloquium, Aurora Levins Morales, Rebel Sidney Black, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Mia Mingus, John Lee Clark, and Luticha Doucette on Philosopher Éduoard Glissant. All our sessions were facilitated by experienced professionals and featured readings, embodiment exercises, group discussions, and other interactive elements. Leaping Water Consulting joined the producing team and disabled embodiment artists Anita Hollender, Luticha Doucette, Monetta Wilson, India Harville, Carmen Papalia, and Toby McNutt led exercises in the 2022 sessions. Luticha also joined as a guest facilitator. Dis/Rep is continuing in 2023 with Catalyst Consulting, The Curiosity Paradox and Calling Up Justice.
The Dis/Rep project is funded until 2024 by the City of Portland Office of Community and Civic Life. While any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the project do not necessarily represent those of the City of Portland, the continued support is an example of their investment in accessibility and Disability Justice. Dis/Rep is providing a valuable resource for disabled individuals, empowering them to engage with contemporary issues and be heard and understood. It is a testament to the importance of centering disabled voices in contemporary discussions and events and works to create a more inclusive and accessible world for all.