Celebrating Scuffed Shoes and Commemorating the Capitol Crawl
On March 12, 1990 a group of activists with disabilities engaged in direct action to accelerate the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and attain greater civil rights for people with disabilities. Many of the activists left behind their mobility aids and crawled up the steps to the US Capital and obstructed the entrance to the Capitol, demonstrating to members of Congress the physical barriers they encounter on a regular basis. The ADA passed in July of 1990, and the Capitol Crawl is often credited as increasing Congress’ motivation to pass the civil rights legislation.
Among the activists was seven-year-old Jennifer Keller who has cerebral palsy. In the video above, she is seen telling reporters, “I’ll take all night if I have to!” If you’re curious about what Jennifer is like today, here is a video of her from 2010 reflecting on her experience at the Capitol Crawl.
I have watched the video of the Capitol Crawl many times, and every time I watch Jennifer, I think about how scuffed and busted up her shoes must have been by the time she reached the top of the steps. And, then I am grateful for every single smudge, scuff, scratch, and hole in my own shoes.
As much as the rapid deterioration of my shoes frustrates me, all of the wear and tear on them is as much a result of my hard, spazzy gait as it is Jennifer’s activism that day and the efforts of so many others who have dedicated their time, energy, and bodies to the advancement of disability rights. The scuffs on my shoes signify that I am living and working in my community, and I am intensely grateful for this opportunity and privilege. If my shoes have to suffer in the process of my own community inclusion, so be it. I will frustratedly celebrate every scratch.