The Urgency of Now: Why We Gather
For most of the twentieth century, Black people were regarded as either racially inferior or invisible in medical and psychological literature related to the range of developmental disabilities and psychological conditions. The pseudoscientific theories profoundly impacted their access to proper medical diagnosis and care. Influenced by this void, many medical and social scientists excluded race as an essential category to consider in research and praxis. This exclusion and subsequent invisibility of the experiences of Black peoples when living with developmental disabilities and other co-occurring conditions has created a powerful set of challenges for individuals and their families. Consequently, the dawn of the twenty-first century is replete with barriers that still exist for Black disabled people and their families. These barriers include access to quality healthcare and treatment, appropriate education, adequate housing, and employment opportunities.
While most persons with developmental disabilities face multiple challenges and barriers to independent and fulfilling lives, Black people with disabilities face the dual challenge of race and disability discrimination that is often not considered or overlooked in the scholarship, within educational systems, and across systems of service that they seek to gain support. Convening a North Carolina Black Disabilities Conference aims to illuminate the intersections of race and disability that many do not realize. The conference seeks broad participation from the academic community, state and local government, educators, social service agencies, and individuals with disabilities.
The conference aims to amplify the voices and experiences of Black disabled communities living in North Carolina. Therefore, it will serve two purposes. First, it will bring three seemingly disparate groups – academics, service providers, and practitioners – together with Black disabled communities. Through a keynote address, various panel discussions, and networking opportunities, attendees will discuss the spectrum of disability issues and experiences and develop new strategies for eliminating barriers Black disabled populations and their caregivers face. Presentations will center race and disability as the lens through which we engage the disciplinary discourse. The second purpose of the conference is to share the vision of the newly established North Carolina Black Disabilities Network.