I see myself as a proud disabled Asian-American woman. Note, I added the word ‘proud’ because I believe that there are many people who may have a disability (invisible or visible) who do not claim this identity at all.
Like the LGBTQ community and many other communities, being open about who you are sends a message that it’s not something to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Language matters. I used to use ‘person-first’ language when describing myself, (e.g., person with a disability), because it was a response to historic dehumanizing labels such as ‘the handicapped,’ ‘the disabled,’ and ‘the feeble-minded.’ There’s a growing usage of ‘disabled person’ by many people to indicate that one cannot separate one’s disability from one’s socio-cultural identity. It would be impossible to separate my race from my identity and shouldn’t it be the same for my disability?
Asian & Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC) has roots as a grassroots California advocacy group that received federal non-profit status in 2008, and it remains the country’s only disability rights and education non-profit focused on the Asian American disabled community. According to Jean Lin, Outreach Coordinator for APIDC, APIDC originated in 1998 through the work of community activist and employment attorney Patty Kanaga. According to Lin, Kanaga, who was serving at the time on a committee appointed by the California Governor’s committee to address the employment of disabled persons, organized the state’s first conference to address the AAPI community with disabilities “after she realized that AAPI with disabilities are not addressed in any way”.