More Than Enabled, Empowered

Feisty magazines about disabled people

| March/April 2002

A former co-worker of mine saved someone’s life. After hearing a splash from the pond outside his house one day, Paul realized that a neighbor had plunged into deep water. Clambering down a bank, he swam out and hauled the man to safety. According to common parlance, this was impossible. After all, Paul is "wheelchair-bound."

That term is patently absurd. For Paul, whose legs were crippled by polio, a wheelchair enables mobility. It’s not a torture device, nor something he can’t get into–and out of–by himself. Whether or not you’ve pondered this sort of stereotyping before, considered the need for ramps at curbs, or thought being disabled means getting really good parking spots, here are some publications worth reading.

The feisty Ragged Edge magazine, formerly Disability Rag & Resource, has been raising a ruckus about disabled people’s rights for more than 20 years. Cogent, outspoken, and joyfully resistant to stereotyping, its pages feature scathing satire and clearheaded thinking about everything from design and access issues (lifts on public buses, for example), to enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ragged Edge also dares touch upon bleaker aspects of disabilities such as depression, suicide, and medical testing without informed consent. Subscriptions: $17.50 (6 issues) from Box 145, Louisville, KY 40201;  

Mouth, self-proclaimed "Voice of the Disability Nation," has confronted discrimination fearlessly since 1990. Unafraid of ruffling feathers (they’d rather be effective than polite) they lambaste Jerry Lewis and "serial killer" Jack Kevorkian alike, and suggest political organizing tactics that are sometimes over the top. Subscriptions: $32, $16 for disabled people and their families(6 issues) from 4201 SW 30th St., Topeka, KS 66614;  

Unlike Ragged Edge and Mouth, New Mobility is a glossy monthly full of ads for high-tech catheters, power wheelchairs, and cars modified for use by physically disabled people. While its articles are generally upbeat, sometimes relentlessly so ("What’s sexy about your disability?"), the magazine doesn’t ignore advocacy and politics. Its stories about people who deal with adjustment and pain exclude no one, really. Subscriptions: $27.95 (12 issues) from Box 220, Horsham, PA 19044; 

Similarly, WeMedia is full of stories in which disabled people dress beautifully and do cool things. Problematically, its bright profiles of Paralympics athletes and cane-using skateboarder performance artists make being disabled seem fun. At its best, though, WeMedia informs and inspires, with articles about accessible travel and assistive technology, impish cartoons by John Callahan, and reviews of books, films, and plays. Subscriptions: $12.95 (6 issues) from 130 William St., New York, NY 10038;