Advocates say the persistent dusting of self-described Vice President Kamala Harris during a meeting with disability rights leaders this week is a buzz around an increasingly common practice and a distraction from the core of the rally.
On Tuesday, Harris kicked off the meeting marking the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, describing herself: “I’m Kamala Harris. My consciences are ‘she’ and ‘she’, and I’m a woman sitting at the table in a blue suit.”
This brief moment was heavily criticized by political opponents and the right-wing media.
Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois chirpIf you’ve ever wondered why the left couldn’t win the election despite the craziness of Trumpism, save things like this for later reference. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Rep. Lauren Poubert of Colorado and a slew of other Republican politicians also hit social media. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida went to Fox Business and jokingly described himself as an “on-screen guy in a gray suit” and was greeted with laughter from the host.
in Atlantic OceanStaff writer Graeme Wood said Harris was “hopelessly liberal or simply out of her mind”. For Wood, “Voice[ed] Pretty much as if they were from outer space.”
But for blind and visually impaired viewers, the vice president was simply doing a visual self-description, a practice meant to better engage them in meetings. People who participate in the visual self-description provide a brief glimpse of what they look like and what they are wearing—any details they feel may be important to blind and partially sighted participants.
“It’s just access to the information that a sighted person can have,” he explained. Thomas Readblind audio producer and podcaster who has worked with companies like Netflix and HBO to expand audio descriptions for blind audiences.
“Kamala Harris said she was wearing a blue suit. Well, now I know how she dressed for the occasion. That means it was a very professional thing. It makes this information accessible to blind people,” Reed said.
Visual self-description is relatively new, and the exact origin of this practice is unclear.
“It definitely started in the last few years, but I don’t know exactly who started it,” Reed said.
“It’s not from the National Federation of the Blind. It’s not something we created, and it’s not something we prioritized,” said Chris Danielson, the organization’s director of public relations. National Federation of the Blind It is one of the oldest and largest blind-led organizations in the United States.
According to Danielson, the Federation does not have an official position for or against visual self-description.
Vice President Harris was acting with the intent to be more inclusive. We fully respect that intent,” Danielson said.
Jasmine BaileyDirector of Business Operations at American Association of People with DisabilitiesLater in life, he became blind. I found the visual self-description useful and introduced this practice to the organization. It is now a normal part of meetings and other programs.
“When I’m in a meeting, I’m always curious: What is the speaker wearing? What do they look like? This is the information that sighted people have. It’s information I’d like to have, too,” Bailey said.
The American Association of Persons with Disabilities was one of the organizations that attended the meeting with Harris. Although Bailey herself was not in the room, she praised Harris for engaging in visual self-description.
“[Using visual self-description] Shows [Harris] He was thinking of integrating all the people. Bailey said I applaud Vice President Harris for being a leader and for making sure she was able to engage all the people who attended the meeting.
Although this practice is growing, not everyone agrees that it is beneficial.
“People have different opinions based on their living experiences. I am a completely blind person. I was born completely blind. It’s just me personally, but I don’t necessarily find it helpful to be told what people look like,” Danielsen said.
Lydia XZ BrownOne of the advocates at the table during the meeting with Harris, MD, director of policy, advocacy, and foreign affairs for the Unified and Non-Binary Women’s Network. Brown believes that the reaction to Harris’ visual self-description is rooted primarily in anti-trans sentiment, noting that Harris identified herself as a woman.
“Just stating what a person’s pronouns are incredibly excites a lot of people who would prefer that trans people not exist, or if we do exist, we are silent about our existence,” Brown said.
Brown is non-binary and was glad Harris used a visual self-description and shared her pronouns with the table.
“It is disappointing and disturbing that the vice president’s attempt to be more inclusive and accessible has been met with such vitriol and hostility,” Brown said.
Race also plays a role in the debate over visual self-description. Habin Germa, the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, endorses visual self-description because he mistook her for being white in blind community settings. germa black.
“It happens a lot in the blind community, where they listen to my voice and assume I sound a certain way,” she said in video On her YouTube channel last year.
Girma believes that opposition to visual self-description is based on a desire to avoid acknowledgment of uncomfortable truths.
“Many blind people who don’t want visual descriptions live with many privileges. Asking about your own privilege can feel uncomfortable,” she said via email.
“Our skin has a lot of meaning in our society, in terms of the way we have historically been treated in this country,” Reed said. Whether people want to admit it or not, race affects how people treat each other, according to Reed.
“Whites are not used to describing themselves. They never have to. Whiteness is treated as if it were not a distinguishing factor,” he said.
While Harris shared her gender during her visual self-description, she did not share her ethnicity. Read doesn’t think this poses a problem, although it’s information he usually recommends people share if they feel comfortable doing so.
“Everyone now knows that Kamala Harris is black,” he said.
Advocates at the meeting, including Brown, expressed frustration with the amount of attention being given to Harris’ brief visual self-description rather than the content of the meeting. Discuss the leaders Specific issues facing persons with disabilities In the post-ru world, including Higher rates of sexual assault And the Forced sterilization.
“Why aren’t journalists covering the gist of our meeting yesterday? The discussion we had was about inequalities and access to health care. It was about higher rates of disabled people than pregnancy complications. It was about the experiences of people of color, people with disabilities who don’t speak English, and people with disabilities who don’t speak English. They’re trying to raise kids,” Brown said. “No journalist has contacted us to ask about these issues.”
In particular, Brown highlighted the Parental rights of persons with disabilities. They recounted that they were summoned late at night because a newborn baby of a disabled woman was taken after she was deemed unfit simply because of her disability.
“Instead of the real issues, there are dozens and dozens of articles about the swearing tantrum because Kamala Harris described herself and stated her conscience,” Brown said.