Audrey T. Carroll

A system of compulsory able-bodiedness repeatedly demands that people with disabilities embody for others an affirmative answer to the unspoken question, Yes, but in the end, wouldn’t you rather be more like me?¹

I have so many stories in my head of times when practitioners from community acupuncturists to rheumatologists reacted with shock and barely concealed disgust when they noticed my cane.²

My disability is no longer static, it’s dynamic. My needs and abilities are different from day to day.³

Most profoundly, feminist disability studies can make us all reimagine more deeply what it means to have a dynamic and distinct body that witnesses its own perpetual interaction with the social and material environment.

Cultural perceptions of disability do not emerge in a vacuum; they accrue slowly and over time, informed by normalizing discourses in medicine and psychology and reinforced by institutions and unchallenged beliefs of deficiency and need.

We identified three significant factors impacting participants’ higher education experiences: the chronically ill body as a barrier around which life had to be reshaped, institutional support for unpredictable bodies, and the lack of awareness of chronic illness.⁶

Through this complex cultural shift in the cultural meaning of disability, Stiker insists that the “incorporation” of some has always relied on the sociopolitical banishment of others deemed “maladjusted” (i.e., unrehabilitatable) (2000, 160).⁷

In this way I learned early and quickly that there is no separation between theory and art, that ideas are everything we have…⁸

    1. McRuer, Robert. “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence.Crip Theory : Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. NYU Press, 2006.
    2.  Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah Lakshmi. The Future Is Disabled. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022.
    3.  Benness, Brianne. “My Disability Is Dynamic.” Medium, 8 Dec. 2019.
    4.  Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Feminist Disability Studies.” SIGNS, 2005.
    5. Ware, Linda. “Writing, Identity, and the Other: Dare We Do Disability Studies?” Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 52, no. 2, 2001.
    6.  Toller, Louise. “The Unpredictable Body, Identity, and Disclosure: Identifying the Strategies of Chronically Ill Students at University.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 2, 2021.
    7.  Elman, Julie Passanante and Robert McRuer. “‘The Gift of Mobility:’ Disability, Queerness, and the Cultural Politics of Rehabilitation.” Feminist Formations, vol. 32, no. 2, 2020.
    8.  Ali, Kazim. “Genre-Queer: Notes Against Generic Binaries.” Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction. Margot Singer and Nicole Walker, editors. Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

About the Author

Audrey T. Carroll is the author of What Blooms in the Dark (ELJ Editions, 2024), Parts of Speech: A Disabled Dictionary (Alien Buddha Press, 2023), and In My Next Queer Life, I Want to Be (kith books, 2023). Her writing has appeared in Lost Balloon, CRAFT, JMWW, Bending Genres, and others. She is a bi/queer/genderqueer and disabled/chronically ill writer. She serves as a Fiction Editor for Chaotic Merge Magazine. She can be found at and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter/Instagram.