popular culture

Go Watch Crip Camp

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So I just recently watched Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution on Netflix. I know, I know, I’m late to the party. Better late than never, right? I hope?

The documentary begins by introducing Camp Jened, a New York based camp for disabled teens that operated back in the 1970s and 1980s. I’ll openly admit I didn’t know about Camp Jened until I watched the documentary. The camp seemed like such an awesome place, a place I wish existed when I was growing up with cerebral palsy. It might’ve made my adolescence easier to deal with.

I was thrilled to see many disabled teens, some of them emerging activists (notably Judy Heumann and James LeBrecht) thrive in a place where they felt comfortable, where their disabilities felt seen and acknowledged and not as a barrier or a burden, where they could all bond and share their lived experiences. Some of them even had their first girlfriends or boyfriends while at the camp. I was thrilled to see that too, obviously. I’ve written about being disabled and experiencing romance and love. Many thoughts on that. So you bet…I was cheering those Camp Jened couples on!

The documentary links Camp Jened to the Disability Rights Movement, as camp attendees and counselors like Heumann emerged as both strong voices and leaders of the movement. The film follows the protests, sit-ins and the fight for accessibility legislation. Achievements and struggles and all. It’s both joyous and gritty, necessarily so. It wasn’t an easy road for the activists but was well worth it.

I kept thinking that their work and perseverance and passion made it possible for me to go to college with the proper accommodations and assistance I needed to not only succeed but also be independent. I had an accessible shower, a dorm with an elevator and within close proximity to the main dining hall….the list goes on. I don’t even want to imagine how much harder it would’ve been without those accommodations as mandated by the ADA. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to go away to college, feel what it would be like to live on my own, see what I could accomplish, maximize my full potential. My possibilities and opportunities would’ve really shrunk. Crazy to think about, isn’t it? I’m so grateful to these amazing activists and what they accomplished.

I’m so pleased by a film that made me feel seen and acknowledged. Disabled people are here and here to stay! I’m also glad to have learned so much along the way. I don’t know all there is to know about disability, even when it’s a huge part of me and my life story. I’m not going to lie and boast and say that I do. Far from it. I’m always open to learning more while (of course) challenging ableist views. Ableism is trash and you should know that by now.

I want to quickly shout out my boyfriend, who is a big film buff and sent me the review of Crip Camp by Rolling Stone, accompanied by the text, I want to watch this with you. He is non-disabled and it meant so much to me that we watched it together (love you sweetie!). We really bonded and it was wonderful that he learned more about disability and disability rights alongside me.

We both thought it was an amazing film. More people should know about and watch this documentary. If you haven’t watched it yet, do so. It’s well worth your time, I promise!