For one Rochesterian, living with a disability as a queer black woman means navigating not only racism and sexism, but also ableism.
Since she was a toddler, Luticha Andre Doucette has been living with incomplete quadriplegia and chronic pain. This, she says, has had a tremendous impact on her experience not because she uses a wheelchair, but because of how people view her and how inaccessible many environments are.
“I have really bad chronic pain days that cause a struggle, but at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be as bad if the built environment was also inclusive,” Doucette says.
Doucette is the equity coordinator at Rochester City Hall. Currently, she’s working on the Race Equity and Leadership Initiative (REAL) for city government. REAL is part of a program with the National League of Cities aimed to address structural racism through policy and civic engagement.
She says that while there are conversations in Rochester around racial equity, like REAL, there isn’t as much visibility for disabilities.
“Disability is often put to the wayside. And you can’t separate the two. I’m not disabled on a Sunday, right? I’m disabled 24/7 just like I’m black 24/7,” she says.
For Doucette, she says a mix of sexism, racism, and ableism -- which is discrimination against those with disabilities -- put her in a life-threatening situation a few years ago when she was having health complications.
“I’ve had scoliosis that was corrected multiple times with these rods," she says. "And for some reason, these rods broke."
She says she was in agonizing pain, bounced from doctor to doctor, and told that it was normal for the rods to break.
Eventually, another doctor took her seriously and referred her to surgery. She says the whole process took about a year and was punctuated by ableist views.
“People not believing me," she says. "People saying, ‘Well, you’re disabled, so this is just how it is,’ and just feeling like I was not being listened to and valued.”
This disheartening experience was one of so many, she says, and it’s not always clear why people are discriminating against her.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to identify, well is it because I’m black? Is it because I’m disabled? Is it because I’m female-presenting? Like, what is the the thing that’s happening right now?" she says. "So, that ends up being a weird headspace to be in.”
She says going forward, her work focuses on shining a light on what societal issues exist and training community members to work together and think differently about others who are not like themselves.
“I’ll get over not having hovercrafts and, you know, a replicator," she says, "but basic human decency and rights is something that I will continue to be salty about until we get those.”
This story is part of Dialogue on Disability week -- a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies -- in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series.