Palanaeum

Rysn and disability in Dawnshard

3 posts in this topic

Throughout almost all books about disabled people written by abled authors, I've never seen a portrayal of the disability community.  They'll write about the *struggle* or the depression or the isolation and they even sometimes write about moving on and finding the happiness in life, but something abled people never seem to think about or understand is the absolute joy and solidarity found in talking to other disabled people.  Before I read the acknowledgements, I could tell with absolute certainty Brandon had worked with actual disabled people (not just able-bodied "experts" or those with disabled family members).

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Instead she reached for some spanreed communications that had come in recently—from women around the world who, like her, had lost the use of their legs.

Talking with them was exciting and invigorating.  They felt so many of her own emotions, and were eager to share with her things they’d learned.

When I read this part, I laughed out loud from happiness.  Disabled people coming together and creating a community is a detail that seems obvious when you hear about it, but able-bodied people hardly ever consider it.  This stems partly from how disabled people are treated in real life.  Historically, disabled people who need primary caregivers are purposefully isolated from other disabled people.  This goes double for disabled children in schools.  Now, there are more and more special education classes where disabled kids interact with one another, but there is also a disconnect between SpEd kids and mainstreamed disabled kids fostered by both SpEd and mainstream teachers.  Similarly to how the ardents considered it a bad idea to have mentally ill patients interact with each other, caregivers and experts throughout history have separated disabled people (by forbidding them to play with each other as kids, discouraging support groups, and drawing arbitrary lines between "real" or "tragic" disabled people and "basically normal" disabled people).

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Talking with them was exciting and invigorating. They felt so many of her own emotions, and were eager to share with her things they’d learned. Mura, an Azish woman, had designed several interesting devices to help in daily life, demonstrating marvelous creativity. Hooks and rings—with items hanging on pegs—to allow for ready access. Specialized hoops, wires, and curved rods to aid in dressing herself.
Reading through the latest letters, she couldn’t help but be encouraged. She had once felt so isolated. Now she realized there were many people who—despite being strangely invisible to the world at large—faced her same challenges. Their stories invigorated her, and with their suggestions in hand, Rysn had ordered changes to her ship.

THIS!  There is something about struggling alone your whole life, thinking that you're always going to be a disabled person struggling in an abled world, and then finding a community full of people just like you.  Finding out that there is a disabled world, and that you truly belong somewhere for the first time.  There is a space for everyone, and you will find someone who is just like you.  People of all backgrounds and beliefs are a part of the community, as anyone can become disabled at any point in their life and personal development.  It seems obvious, but there is something profound about realizing that you don't have to do things the abled way.  You don't have to dress yourself typically, you don't have to tie your shoes if you have velcro, you don't have to put all your clothes in drawers, you don't have to drink from cups, and so many more other little things everyone takes for granted.

Also, the point about how disabled people are invisible is a detail that I love. How often do abled people on earth think about disabled people and how small things pertain to us?  How often do they think about the possibility of a disabled person interacting with their world?  If you don't use a wheelchair, think about what it would take for a wheelchair user to visit your house/apartment for a week.  Do you have front steps?  Is there a slight drop-off at your front door?  Do you have thick rugs or deep carpet?  How high are your kitchen and bathroom counters?  Do you have a top-loading washing machine or dryer?  How wide are your bathroom doorways?

Of course, none of these things makes you a bad person or prohibits disabled people from becoming friends with you or visiting.  I just think it's interesting and important for abled people to think about how much the world around us is only designed for abled people.  It's also good to think about what kinds of adaptive devices and changes to the environment it would take to accommodate someone who is not completely able-bodied.

Rysn probably never really thought about disabled people before she became disabled herself.  She's really had such a compelling character arc through these books, and with so little screen time.  I personally disliked her when I read her first interlude, but she has grown and changed in a way that had me cheering for her even before reading these parts of Dawnshard.  I can't wait to see where she goes from here, not even considering that fact that she is (has?) a freaking Dawnshard.

(sorry this is so long lol)

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18 hours ago, Palanaeum said:

Of course, none of these things makes you a bad person or prohibits disabled people from becoming friends with you or visiting.  I just think it's interesting and important for abled people to think about how much the world around us is only designed for abled people.  It's also good to think about what kinds of adaptive devices and changes to the environment it would take to accommodate someone who is not completely able-bodied.

 

I'm so glad you posted about this! That was one of the main things that stood out to me--it was almost like the early discussions of Universal Design! Teaching that is always an eye-opener for my students, when they start thinking about creating a world, or a workplace, that is universally accessible instead of designing for themselves and making accommodation. Rysn made her world accessible, but not just for herself, it was accessible for everyone, and that's an incredible moment to see on the page. 

I also think it's a reminder to us about, as you said, *who* often gets the opportunity to write the stories. People like Rysn have existed since the beginning of time--the same ingenuity, fears, hopes, and desires  for community. We just so rarely hear their stories.  I am  glad that Brandon uses these novellas to show us  how other characters navigate the worlds he's built.

I also agree--Rysn's arc has truly been amazing. In such short screen time, she's captured me.

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Yes yes yes!! I'm not 

On 12/1/2020 at 2:05 PM, Palanaeum said:

Throughout almost all books about disabled people written by abled authors, I've never seen a portrayal of the disability community.  They'll write about the *struggle* or the depression or the isolation and they even sometimes write about moving on and finding the happiness in life, but something abled people never seem to think about or understand is the absolute joy and solidarity found in talking to other disabled people.  Before I read the acknowledgements, I could tell with absolute certainty Brandon had worked with actual disabled people (not just able-bodied "experts" or those with disabled family members).

Yes yes yes! I absolutely loved how this book portrayed disability. I've been working on a research project about blind characters in fiction, and it's so hard to find books that handle both the disability and the disability community well. This book was so good in that respect and you put it into words so well! :D

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