How Dorothy Ellen Palmer wrote a memoir about being in love with herself and her abilities
This interview originally aired on March 14, 2020.
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a writer, educator, accessibility consultant and activist. In her memoir, Falling for Myself, Palmer makes a passionate case for disability justice. She was born with congenital anomalies in both feet.
In her book, she depicts her coming to terms with the past — and describes her discovery and embrace of activism.
A need for belonging
"I was born in 1955. I had six different foster homes and two long stints in the hospital before I was adopted when I was almost three. My parents did a relatively good job given that they had both come from somewhat wounded families themselves.
"But what was the most difficult was that I felt like a burden. I felt like a financial burden to them because I required more money being spent on my special orthopedic shoes.
"I felt like a burden to them because I wasn't really theirs. This notion of being a burden deeply shamed me. It was kind of a double whammy, if you will, because it was the shame of adoption and the shame of disability. It led me to behave quite badly as a young person because I didn't want to be seen as representing or belonging to anyone who was disabled."
Proud to be
"Eventually, I began to realize and discover the online disability community, particularly Stella Young, who was a comedian and activist who talked very specifically about how inaccessibility wasn't her problem, it was the world's problem.
I could come out of the closet and be proud of who I was.
"That was like a huge wonderful bursting of the dam for me because Stella made me proud. She made me realize that I wasn't the problem, ableism was the problem, inaccessibility was the problem and that I didn't have to be ashamed anymore, that I could come out of the closet and be proud of who I was."
Dorothy Ellen Palmer's comments have been edited for length and clarity.