Sunday, July 16, 2017

Disability Pride Questions and Answers: An Interview of Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

The questions were provided by disability rights advocate Kings Floyd. 
With the main character’s wheelchair from the movie Avatar.
  • Name: Alexander Fuld Frazier. Call me Alec.
  • Age: 31
  • Pronouns: He/Him/His
  • Disability (if comfortable sharing): autism, ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, digital atonia, dysgraphia, facial atonia, HHT, born without hip joints which were later grown, possibly also PTSD and dyscalcula
  • How did you learn about your disability? At what age?
I have always known that I was different. I never once thought that I was less because of these differences, although I sometimes felt sad about a lack of inclusion as a child. As soon as I became able to understand, which was around later elementary school and middle school, my parents taught me about my diagnoses, while being careful to impart the knowledge that I am different, and definitely not less. As my diagnosis took place in the early 1990s, I was the first person with a higher functioning autism diagnosis and most of the communities I lived in. As such, my self-identity as an autistic individual predates much of the current autism politicking. For example, I fail to see a reason to choose either identity-first or person-first terminology, and I do not see what the fuss is about between the two options. I believe that we have become overly obsessed with language and terminology, and that it hinders our ability to properly represent ourselves. As such, I also believe that usage of slang can be very healthy. We often talk about fitting in with the rest of the world, and we won’t be able to fit in if we use cold, clinical terminology all the time.
  • How much are you involved in the disability community? When and how did you become involved?
Speaking at the US Capitol.
I am extremely involved in the disability community, although not in the ways in which you may think. I first was involved in advocacy in third grade, when I gave a speech to the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. In eighth grade, I helped get a state constitutional amendment passed in that state raising funds for special education. In high school, I supported my first political candidate. In 2011, I was an intern for the American Association of People with Disabilities. It was there that I learned more about the national disability community. Since then, I have been involved in a great many ways, including but not limited to peer advocacy, public speaking, writing and selling my book, lobbying, attending conferences, and a great deal of other activities. I have spoken to schools and independent living networks, I have worked with parents, educators, politicians, and individuals with disabilities. I believe that every single voice has a right to be heard, although the voice of those with disabilities ourselves is most important. I tend to shy away from both extremes in the disability rights movement. For example, I shy away from Autism Speaks because they tend to believe that those without disabilities should not have self-determination. On the other hand, I tend to shy away from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network because they are disability supremacists who believe in segregating themselves from the rest of society and bullying anyone who does not fit their myopic worldview. I believe in the work of the Autism Society, and of course the work of my own firm, Autistic Reality.
  • Do you have a sense of disability pride? Why or why not?
My hand above the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,
I definitely have a sense of disability pride. However, I do not believe in disability supremacy. I very involved in advocacy, but not activism. For the definitions of those two words, I use them as defined by the Google dictionary. An advocate is someone who campaigns for various causes. An activist is a protester, a demonstrator, a zealot. These are Google’s words, not mine. I believe strongly in negotiation and peaceful means to end oppression. Although I see a valuable role to staging protests and demonstrations, I prefer not to do it myself. I believe that the best way to manifest my disability pride is to live a productive, happy life whether or not I have a disability. Disability should not get in the way of living such a life. For the past approximately five years, I have been an incredible optimist. As someone with bipolar disorder, I used to get quite unhappy, and often. Then one day, I made a decision not to get depressed or seriously sad or angry anymore. The amazing thing is that it worked! I have not been depressed or seriously sad or angry in five years.
  • What other identities are you proud of? Do they intersect?
Fan Art of the second Daredevil, Tim Urich, who I review in my book.
I am proud to be disabled, and I am also proud to be a homosexual individual. Just as I attend disability pride events, I also sometimes attend gay pride events, although I find that they can be bogged down by showboating, rather than identity pride. For example, the pride celebrations in Buffalo, New York are more oriented towards causing a scene then fighting for equality. The ones in Washington, DC are awesome, though. In addition, I have many less life-altering identities. For example, I am a fan of James Cameron’s Avatar, Twilight, Star Trek, comic books, and an aficionado of architecture, history, governmental theory, and many other disciplines. These have intersected into disability pride in many ways. For example, as a fan of James Cameron’s avatar, I have lobbied the producers in person for disability inclusion in future films, and talked with them about disability and other identities in the arts. As a fan of Twilight, I have served as a consultant on the number of fan works, some of which have become original works and been published as books. I have also written some disability fanfiction myself. As a fan of comic books, I have written and copyrighted a literature review of a Marvel comics character who happens to be the first autistic superhero. The book is called Without Fear: The First Autistic Superhero, and I have sold it and spoken on it at several venues. I have also spoken with a few executives at Marvel comics, and am working on hopefully writing or consulting on a comic for them.
  • What does disability pride mean to you?
With Friends before the Women’s March
Disability pride means living your life to the best of your ability with proper accommodations and services to the point that you can be empowered, content, independent, and happy on a day-to-day basis. To me, any kind of pride involves living life in this way regardless or perhaps because of the identity in question. As far as I’m concerned, one does not need to march, protest, or raise any kind of ruckus to be proud. One must live their life with dignity, satisfaction, and fulfillment. I take this definition of pride very seriously. It comes from my grandfather, Arthur Jacob Fuld, who was a Holocaust survivor and liberator. He believed that the best way to both commemorate fallen populations and be proud of your life was productive acts and a satisfying life.
  • Are there any images/quotes that represent pride or disability pride to you?
There are several images that represent disability pride to me. One of them is some fan art of the autistic comic book character I cover in my literature review. Another one is a photo of me standing with the wheelchair used for the main character in James Cameron’s avatar. Another one is a photo of me speaking in front of the US Capitol building. Another one is me with a group of friends before the Women’s March earlier this year. Another image is my hand with the original Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These images are spread throughout this blog post.
  • Are there any disabled role models you look up to?
With Andy Imperato.
I have had many role models and mentors. Mathew McCullough, Director of the District of Columbia’s Office on Disability, has been a mentor since I met him during my 2011 AAPD internship. I consult with him often about my future, and while he provides advice, I also tell him of what I am doing. In addition, he is an amazing friend. Somewhat more professional is my relationship with Joyce Bender, CEO and Founder of Bender Consulting, whom I also met during my 2011 internship. She is immensely successful professionally, and provides professional advice. I have also developed a friendly relationship with Andy Imperato, who has held many roles in the disability community over the years. I often bounce ideas off him, and ask him for his advice on disability-related matters. I appreciate these folks because they are moderates in the disability rights field, just like me. There are others I have looked up to, of course, but not to the extent that I look up to these folks. In addition, I have done some mentoring of my own in recent years. Due to my tendency to work with parents as well as individuals with disabilities, there are many parents of those with disabilities who also look to me for guidance. It is an absolute honor and a privilege to be a source of guidance for anyone, and it is a trust that I will never abuse.
  • Anything else you’d like to add or questions I should ask?

I have done an It Gets Better video that is aimed towards anyone with social awkwardness, in addition to the autistic and LGBTQ populations. In it, I briefly tell my uplifting story, and provide tips that I believe anyone can use to make better friends.
As mentioned, I am the Director of a firm called Autistic Reality.
You can find my firm’s website at www.nothingaboutuswithoutus.net
You can find my firm’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/autisticreality
You can find my book’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/withoutfearautism
You can find my Flickr page at which I post both business and fun photos at www.flickr.com/photos/autisticreality/collections
You can find my LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/in/autisticreality/
You can find my blog, Always Intrepid, in which I discuss both fun and disability related items at www.ithacan-alwaysintrepid.blogspot.com/
You can find my YouTube channel, in which I post fun videos and professional videos at www.youtube.com/channel/UCFOHKZumtHlK81Iqjf3B2lA
This blog posting is the personal opinion of Alec Frazier and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

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