The more we know, the better chance we have for making change.
Parenting a disabled child has forced me to come to terms with my own internalized ablesim – and I was surprised with what I found. Even though I was diagnosed with two relatively “invisible” disabilities in my late teens and early twenties, I had never thought about what that meant to me. Instead, I did all the things you’d expect a person to do in order to “get better” and forget about them.
My child changed all of that. Her disabilities are less invisible – “getting better” isn’t an option. And so I started listening to disabled adults, because who better than they to tell us what it meant to claim “disability” as part of our identities.
As I began to change the way I looked at my differences, I also began to see the reason why my younger self was so eager to “get better and forget.” I had built my identity on a quarter of a century of my own internalized ableism. Seeing that, along with the work I have ahead of me to tear it down, I knew that I could not leave my daughter to do the same.
The materials on this website are the result of a multi-year research project on ableism. To construct them, I have looked at scholarly writing, listened to disabled adults, collaborated with my peers, and done my own internal “work.”
I see this site as a work-in-process and hope that it will continue to evolve through conversations with others whose lives have been impacted by ableism. Disability is probably the most diverse identity on the planet, and I cannot hope to capture each person’s unique experience. Yet through this site, I have begin to understand how ableism impacts us all and strive toward change. My hope is that this work will give others who are just starting on their own journeys a jumping off point.
Karla Fitch (LinkedIn)
Karla is the principle author of this content. She holds a Masters in Technical and Scientific Communication (MTSC) from Miami University and is in the process of completing a Masters in Social Work (MSW) with Cleveland State University. Karla was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her teens and identifies as neurodivergent. She was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her twenties and has spent the last two decades learning to navigate autoimmune life.
Nikki (Charisse) Montgomery, MA, MEd, GPAC (LinkedIn)
Nikki (Charisse) Montgomery, MA, MEd, GPAC is the ACL Healthcare Transition Project Director for Family Voices and Executive Director of Madvocator Educational & Healthcare Advocacy Training. Her experiences as a former teacher, a patient advocate, and the parent of a child with complex healthcare and educational needs led her to create Madvocator. In addition to a graduate certificate in Patient Advocacy, Ms. Montgomery has a master’s degree in Educational Psychology with thesis research on critical thinking and engagement for parents of medically fragile children.
Sarah Rintamaki (LinkedIn)
Sarah is the founder and Executive Director of Connecting for Kids. She has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in Finance and Strategic management from University of Chicago. Prior to founding Connecting for Kids, Sarah was a management consultant for The Boston Consulting Group and a Product Manager for Progressive Insurance Company.
Lisa Ruman, MSSA, LISW, CHt (LinkedIn)
Lisa is the President and Founder of the Child and Family Counseling Center of Westlake. She has over 20 years of combined experience working in the areas of foster care, mental health, and acute psychiatric care. She has held positions as a foster care case manager and supervisor, director of a community mental health program, director of child/adolescent acute psychiatric services, and as a psychotherapist and business owner.