The brilliant way this woman brought the Women's March to the disabled community.

'People who are disabled are here and we can help in a million ways, especially with Internet access. Do not write us off as less-than or incapable.'

Sonya Huber, a professor at Fairfield University, very much wanted to attend the Women's March in Washington, D.C., on January 21. Her autoimmune diseases, however, posed a problem.

While she can walk, the diseases take a toll on her energy, and she fears exhaustion after extensive mobility would overtake her. And she's not alone. 22% of American adults are living with a disability, and 13% of adults have trouble with mobility.

Even though a record-shattering number of people with a disability are expected to attend the Women's March (perhaps the most in United States history), that shouldn't prevent the countless others who want to show their support, but physically can't make it happen.


So Huber, along with a few like-minded individuals, decided to create a virtual march for activists for whom the Women's March proved inaccessible.

Image via Disability March.

"I think that especially with big marches, the logistics of getting in and out of a city can be prohibitive," writes Huber in an email, although she believes the Women's March has been very active and responsive in terms of marchers' needs.

Their mission is the same as the Women's March, part of which states "in the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore."

Participants are signing up on the Disability March website by entering their names, a photo, and a short explanation of why they're marching.

When she was younger and had more mobility, Huber admits she didn't always give the disabled community the consideration it deserves. Of course that changed when she herself became disabled.

Image via Sonya Huber.

"I struggled for a long time with putting myself in that category because social stigma and fear makes that category seem something separate and very hard," Huber wrote in her Disability March bio. "Hello, ableism and internalized ableism."

Today, she knows all too well how much that stigma negatively affects the disabled community and has thus made it her mission to turn it around.

"People who are disabled are here and we can help in a million ways, especially with Internet access," wrote Huber. "Do not write us off as less-than or incapable."

The response they've received from the disabled community has been overwhelming, which proves people were indeed looking for an accessible activist outlet.

Participants have been asked to tweet messages of solidarity using the hashtag #DisabilityMarch and direct tweets at elected officials explaining why better health care matters to them. Their goal is to make themselves as visible as possible — virtually speaking.

in solidarity from the global south, #WomensMarch #MarchingForward #DisabilityMarch

A photo posted by Shahana Hanif🍌🍌🍌 (@sha.banana) on

The Disability March is a reminder to allies as well as elected officials that the disabled community has a voice and deserves a space in protest movements.

In the next four years, there will likely be many more calls to action and moments of protest, and accessibility should be a key consideration of those organizing.

As is evident by the Disability March, and the many other disabled activist movements currently taking shape around the country, people living with disabilities are just as capable of fighting for their rights as anyone else. Just because some of them may need to do it from home doesn't mean their action will be any less effective or should be taken any less seriously.

Sometimes, in the rush to get a movement organized, the disabled community gets left out or tacked on at the end as an afterthought. At a time when their rights may be among those most threatened, they should be at the center of activist agendas, not the outskirts.

As the conclusion of the Women's March mission states, "We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us."

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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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