UHCL The Signal
Student Publications Office
University of Houston-Clear Lake
2700 Bay Area Blvd., Box 456
Houston, TX 77058
Among the speakers was Maria Palacios, a Latin American, disabled activist who was diagnosed with Polio when she was nine months old. Palacios focused on the inclusion and accessibility of and for disabled people as well as “ableism.”
Ableism is the oppression of a disabled person based on his/her disability and favors able-bodied people. Palacios touched on many issues disabled people face daily but emphasized on sexual assault. Palacios stated that almost 90 percent of disabled women are abused by the age of 18 because as they are not taught sex education.
Many people view disabled individuals as nonsexual beings and believe that they will never experience any type of sexual conduct; therefore they have no need for sex education. Because of this common misconception, many disabled women are not aware they are being sexually assaulted and remain silent, causing long-term psychological, emotional and physical effects.
With the increasing amount of women sexually assaulted every year, it is important to remember that this is happening to all women. Although there has been an increase in women speaking out about abuse, many women are still silent. Palacios emphasized the importance of inclusion and encouraged women to become allies with disabled women.
“The first thing you have to recognize is that we are your sisters,” said Palacios. “And we are still fighting for basic access.”
Palacios’ speech touched many women in the audience and shut down many misconceptions about disabilities. Her story was inspiring and impacted the way the audience viewed women’s rights. As a feminist, it’s important to include all women and understand the different struggles that each one faces regardless of disabilities or race. Her words were captivating and she left the audience with a quote many could never forget: “I am only powerless when I see myself as such.”