What’s Up WID: The Role of Artists in Disability Activism

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Ashley Inkumsah:

Hello, everyone and welcome back to What’s Up WID, the World Institute on Disability podcast where we discuss what’s up in the disability community across the globe. I’m your host, Ashley Inkumsah, and today I honored to share with you my conversation with photo journalist and documentarian, Tom Olin. Tom started documenting the disability rights movement in the 1980’s with powerful thought provoking photographs, and since then, he has continued to use his photography to document historic disability rights events. It was such an honor to chat with him about the role that artists play in disability activism, and the importance of community organizing and I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Thank you so much for joining me, Tom to have this much needed conversation. My first question for all of our guests is always, how are you doing today?

Tom Olin:

I’m doing very well since you have called, and I am very much enchanted with WID and always have been. I mean, I have a little history with WID just because it was in the … It came about in the ’80’s at the time when disability was becoming something more than what it had been. More things were happening that we were doing things together. We were creating organizations. We were fighting on many different fronts, whether it be independent living, disability rights. Things were happening. There had always been history, but this was a time when a lot of people were doing different things in different areas, different parts of the country, and yet, we were kind of … It was kind of interesting, because back then, we had magazines, and we all actually … When things were happening, the magazines were actually telling us, the rest of the country, meaning that somebody, something happened in Berkeley, people in Michigan and Florida would know about it, which is a little different from today. Now, we have to go to people’s websites and figure out what is happening.

Ashley Inkumsah:

And social media, of course, yeah. That’s the new wave of the future, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

I am very happy to be here. That’s a long answer to say I am enjoying myself being with you.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yes. Well, I’m very happy that you are here, and WID is very enchanted with you, so very happy to be having this conversation, and I know that yeah, like you were mentioning, you’ve been involved with the disability rights movement since 1985. If you could share with us your background, how you got involved in the Disability Rights Movement, and disability activism, I would love to hear your story. Bring us back to 1985.

Tom Olin:

Well, you have to kind of go a little bit earlier. I grew up with dyslexia, which meant that I was a different … I was in a different category when … In school, if you had dyslexia, you were usually in a dummy class, slow learner class. I got a taste of what it felt like to be different. I got to hide that and I couldn’t hide that very well in grade school, but I got to figure out how to hide it in high school. I got to do oral reports and things like that to get my grade up. Then I went onto try to go to college. I ended up in college, but had to drop out after the first semester because I had to write. Oh, my God, I have to write? I can’t do it oral? Nope. They didn’t have any … We didn’t have any laws back then. ADA was very far in the future. Yeah, 20 years in the future.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

It ended up in that time period, Vietnam War was going on, and I was … Well, when I dropped out, I was eligible. I ended up not going to Vietnam, but I ended up doing community work, and I ended up in a rehab hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and that’s where I kind of, my soul and my what, my education of people with disabilities took a very sharp upward learning curve. I was in a place that had a lot of quadriplegics, paraplegics, people that need spinal work, people that didn’t have limbs.

Tom Olin:

It was a lot of different disabilities in a rehabilitation hospital where I met some good people that I’m … Some of them I’m still in touch with today, and some of them I’m actually working in a disability world with, and that’s when … Shoot, that’s what, 19- … I was 19 years old, and there was actually a person, Diane Coleman, who is a person that has a group called Not Dead yet, and she was 17 years old at the time, so but it was during that … That’s when I kind of skipped … I got to see people especially in traumatic injuries that would say almost a week after their accident, would be in a rehab facility, and it was like, okay, I’m going to live, or I’m going to die.

Tom Olin:

That was like … It was that black and white of … I was in a wing where the kids were my age that were … It was like, and then an orderly. I was an orderly at that time. It was high drama, real high drama. You got to skip it. That was about 10 years from that point, and I ended up in California, in Berkeley. Actually, I was at … Just before that, I was living in Brazil, on an island, and I said, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” I had nothing, nobody to talk me … Nobody who spoke English, and I could speak Portuguese, but not conversational wise. I ended up talking to myself and answering myself and I said, “Oh, okay, what do I want to do with the rest of my life?” It was a meditation life, and what it brought me back to is all the friends I had in the rehab hospital. I said, “Okay, that means I should get back into disability. Where should I go? If I can go anywhere in the world, where do I go?” Berkeley, of course.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, it’s natural. That’s where everything is happening.

Tom Olin:

There was that movement. There was all … Yep, yep, and so I went there … Went there with some friends, a family, and we … That was ’80 … It must have been ’80, I’m not sure, ’81, ’82.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

But what was interesting is by that time, Berkeley, the activism … That was after the 504 demonstrations. You still had the organization. You still had a Berkeley Cell. I became an attendant, and I worked at the Berkeley Cell. I also worked at the University, at the disabled citizens program, which I really loved, because it was one of the first programs, attendant programs around, run by people with disabilities, and that’s kind of where, at that point, I decided to get into media too, because I thought, okay, that’s what should be happening in the disability world. I should be doing something with media, and so I was doing a video, and at that point, I was in a video production company, and I was what they called a assistant director to all that meant was that you … Whenever someone didn’t show up, you went and you did their job. At times, at quite a few times, I was a camera person with this big video camera, and we took Contra Costa County, community college there.

Tom Olin:

The Apple Valley Community College it was, and took a course, a camera course, and then from there, I became a photographer. But, at that point, I had to still work, so I still was an attendant, and then did the photography on the side. Actually, my first series of photos were a person out of the Berkeley Cell that had a chemical sensitive disability. It was kind of interesting how to capture a person with chemical, with a chemical sensitivity. How do you do that?

Tom Olin:

It was kind of a interesting way to try to figure out how to show other people, because it took … I had a great time with the photos, and I was also … With disabilities, I was at … In the Bay Area, there’s the Bay Area Recreational Program, BORP, that I was involved in, so I had not only … As an attendant to people with disabilities, I was in different programs that had involved with disabilities. There was a state advocacy organization called … At that time it was called California Association of the Physically Handicapped, CAPH, and it was the largest state organization by people with disabilities in the country. Definitely and that became a board member out of, in Contra Costa County in our chapter.

Tom Olin:

In the meantime, one of my friends, from the rehab hospital, Diane Coleman, was in California, I mean, in Los Angeles. We had been spending summer vacations together, as we were living together, and I mean, I’ll throw some names out that might not make any sense to you. But the group that was starting was with Paul [Longmore 00:12:03], Carol Gill, Larry [Voss 00:12:05], Anne Finger, Barbara [Waxman 00:12:09]. I mean, there was just an amazing group of people that … That was back in the early ’80’s that were … Just really culture was just as aware that we were just forming. The culture in those … The culture makers were there.

Tom Olin:

I mean, Paul Longmore and Carol Gill. I call Carol Gill the mother of disability culture. It was just so much fun at that time. Around that time, in ’84, in ’84, at our state conference, ADAPT came to town, or came down and gave a lecture, and both Diane and I just said, “Uh-oh, this look like what we’ve been wanting for a long time,” and so that fall of ’84, I had my camera, one roll of film. We went to our first ADAPT demonstration, and on that 24 roll, I mean, some of my most iconic photos came out of that first roll. It was a roll of handcuffs behind a wheelchair, which was probably one of the first real, something that had never been done … I mean, it was so … I was just really lucky that no one else was taking photos at the time.

Ashley Inkumsah:

It wasn’t like now.

Tom Olin:

Especially at that kind of-

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah, it wasn’t like now where everyone’s always taking photos.

Tom Olin:

Yeah, we’re getting some good people though.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

I’m excited about what’s happening now also. But you’re right. Everyone with a phone can take a picture, and because a lot of times, it’s not being kept very technical. It’s what is happening in front of you that sometimes makes the news.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Exactly. Exactly.

Tom Olin:

I was really good at being at the right place at the right time.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

I don’t call myself a very technical photographer. I just, like I said, am there at the right time … If I let myself just be, I kind of knew where the flow of the energy was going to be, and I could go and be at that point, and wait for that action. I was lost in a world, and people could talk to me and I wouldn’t even hear them. I just was … I could find myself at the place where I should be. That’s kind of how I started doing … I mean, at first, it was just for our local California Association of the Handicapped newsletter, and for the newsletter. Then other people wanted to have photos, and so luckily Diane had a very good job. I could be in a dark room doing pictures, and I also … At that point, I was not an attendant, except for a friend.

Tom Olin:

Every once in a while, Carl Longmore would, “My attendant didn’t show up,” and so I’d run out to get him up or whatever was needed. That happened, but I was also … I was a temp in the [LA Unified 00:15:54] as a teacher’s assistant, and I could work any day I wanted to throughout the whole year, and then also say, if I didn’t want to, if I was going to on an action, if I was going to travel somewhere, then I would just tell them that I’m going to be gone for that. It worked out perfect for me to be able to really put my growing talent to work. After a while, after years, I can still remember the point where I said, “Oh, I don’t have to have another job. I’m doing okay,” which that was doing photography. That’s when I said, “Oop, I guess I can call it professional finally.

Ashley Inkumsah:

That’s amazing. That is amazing. What role did you feel like you were playing within the movement as an artist, as a photographer, and what role do you think that artists play now in the movement for disability rights, disability justice?

Tom Olin:

Okay, getting right down to it. I like that. Well the thing is, I got to see something that a lot of people nowadays don’t get to see is that, because I was the only one doing photos, especially in that kind of genre of action advocacy, what was really great about that time period is that we had magazines. Those magazines had photos in it so every one got to see what was happening. You don’t see that as much today, and so what that meant is that when there was an action, like in Chicago, people got to look at it and say, “Hey, we can do that in our city.”

Tom Olin:

In fact, it got so good, I mean, everybody was so good at it, that I remember it was either the … I think it was the [Disability Rags 00:18:07] that, a group in Brazil, they had a disability group, and they heard all … They would read about disability and things that were happening. But until they actually saw the pictures, it was then they could say I could do that. We can do that too. Because there’s a thing that happened with a visual thing that … With dyslexia, I’ve always been really lucky to have a writer with me, around me, or someone that could say, “Here, do a good capturing. Do a slow story from this.” I’ve always been able to find someone to do that, and so not only could the visual say something, but a good narrative is always really good. I mean we lack-

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely.

Tom Olin:

Today, we lack a lot of narratives that need to be out there today.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

I mean, today … I mean, let’s say, right now we have people and in the South, I mean, in the East, and the South, where we got people that have no electricity for their ventilators. We have a crisis, but we also have always … I mean, for a whole year, we’ve had a crisis. We’ve had more than … We had around 200,000 people with disabilities die from something, from the virus that they died in congregated settings.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yep.

Tom Olin:

That was rampant, and it still happened. In fact, it’s growing again, just like the [inaudible 00:20:03] is growing in a regular population, the disease is growing in the institutions and congregate settings. What I’m kind of saying of that, is that where is our narratives? Where is our visuals on that? Those things we don’t have out there anymore. If you don’t have those things, people of like mind can not say, “Okay, we should do something.” This is why they have that feeling. Back when we were doing it with the ADA, people could say, “Oh, gosh there’s a movement. I belong to it. I belong to this. I have this … I have other people that think like me, and are with me.” Nowadays, yes, you know that there are people that probably think like you, but you’re not together.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), absolutely.

Tom Olin:

You’re not working together.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah, you know what I think?

Tom Olin:

Yes, some people are … Yeah?

Ashley Inkumsah:

I think it’s maybe there’s an oversaturation because there’s so much multimedia out there. There’s so much, it’s hard to find your community when there’s so much multimedia, and also the 24 hour mews cycle, I think there’s only certain kinds of glamorous stories that are told, and people with disabilities are often left behind because the story isn’t glamorous for the mainstream media, so to speak. I think that has a lot to do with why nowadays these stories aren’t being told.

Tom Olin:

Yep, mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, it’s the visuals … Sometimes it’s not the narrative. Like I said, until people saw some photos and stuff like that, you tend to take that into … One visual can really unite some, a group of individuals, an organization, and we don’t have enough of that. That’s where the artists should be coming into play. I mean, what we … As artists, one of the things, what we try to do, we are trying to capture people’s experiences. Whether they are locked in a congregate setting, whether they’re being taken away in a guardianship, whether the access is so bad that they can’t even get downstairs, you have all those things, and what an artist … What I believe artists in our community, in a disability community should be doing, is they should be capturing the people’s experiences, with photos like art, so that one might value … You want to place a value on that person so that people can see what another, that person that is in another life is experiencing.

Tom Olin:

You can’t make that connection, then it’s just … It’s whatever you do might be nice looking, might be okay, but you’re not changing things. I mean, I want art to be something that we can change into for something. Artists can do that. There’s just too many … The Civil Rights Movement … When the Civil Rights Movement started with King, and [inaudible 00:23:51], they had great buttons, they had things that they kind of came on to, the artists. They had poets that came up and say something. They had some academics behind them. The AIDS Movement, we had really good artists that kind of said things to people, that brought people together, and were kind of … It’s kind of funny.

Tom Olin:

We had Crip Camp, which was an amazing film that brought us together for a bit, that we could have that familiarity of people coming together, and I mean, I’ve been in congregated settings where groups of people bonded together, because they were in congregate settings and camps, even if it’s a camp or if it’s a school that people are in. Places like that, even on a commune, people are together, and those … That was a really nice thing about Crip Camp. You felt like that communal experience of people with disabilities coming together, and loving each other, and all that. But yeah, at the same time that that was happening, COVID was happening.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tom Olin:

All that great experience of being together in that film, the other side of what was happening in reality is we were dying in these congregate settings that were the first thing, a lot of people dying were the nursing homes, up in the state of Washington. Then a lot of us said, “We should do something,” and it was like our big organization, APRIL, NCIL, and other organizations tried to get ahold of our representatives and Congress people, and it took weeks before they could come back to us. They had other priorities. People with disabilities were still at the bottom. Crip Camp, we thought we were … We went up to the top [inaudible 00:26:34] with everyone else, and then COVID hit, and we were realized that we were treated like we were people on the bottom, and that is still happening.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely.

Tom Olin:

Still happening.

Ashley Inkumsah:

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Ashley Inkumsah:

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Ashley Inkumsah:

Why do you think that organizing is a way for people to enact change especially in today’s day and age? How can people start to mobilize and organize to change the way that people with disabilities are viewed and neglected?

Tom Olin:

Well, it comes back to just old time organizing. That means, you get together with groups of people. You find it … It’s like if you wanted to … Let’s say something was happening in your neighborhood, in your community, which I want to use, because that’s … In your community is where your justice is going to happen nowadays, and so if that happens, and you talk to a friend, you talk to a friend and you say, “This is what I say.” If that friend says, “Oh, I agree with you. We should do something,” and you start with your friends. A lot of us have connections with other people in other organizations. Then once you have a couple of friends, you reach out to either other organizations, or other people. You keep close. You don’t want to give it all to an organization. You want to still keep it to yourselves and what you think is what is driving you at that point. If it is nothing, then it will turn out to be you’re the only one that wants it then.

Tom Olin:

But if you can get other people together, and that’s the whole thing is getting people together, and it’s not just … It’s easy to do a post, a Twitter, or something, Instapost, Instagram, and get a whole bunch of people behind that might say something, but have them come face-to-face to you, or a phone call that goes, that number comes down to something else. I think what’s really important for us now at this point, is to start, is just talk to each other again. We’ve forgotten how to talk to each other. Back in the movement when we were doing ADA, fighting for the ADA, we had phone trees. We would be talking to people. That is not happening, and I’ve seen people, good people post stuff on the internet, and that person … Because we’re talking right now. You notice my inflection. You know when I’m excited. You know when I’m not. You know when I’m even asking a question before it comes to you. That doesn’t happen on social media. That does not happen on the internet.

Tom Olin:

There are times when you will speak, and people will think that you’re saying something else, and if you say the wrong thing, that might be the last thing that you ever will hear from that person, or they will ever hear from you. I mean, it is just … There is something … If you talk to each other, that would probably never … You could have worked it out, or something. That’s where I think working … Organizing now is working with groups, working small, and finding people. I had a group that started with just myself and a person, but I said, “Hey, are you into this?” Let me see, it must be maybe three months ago.

Tom Olin:

Today, we have like 35 people. We have directors, and other people in independent living. We have three institutes on disability. We have economists. I mean, we have people that are just … We have a person in Canada. It’s all grown up just because we took a couple of us decided, okay, let’s do this. What can we do, and invite a couple of our friends, and it grew into something. But now we have something that we actually share with the White House, that we share with ACL. We share with FEMA. Things that it would have been hard to do with one person, and very important … Important enough that 35 other people say, “Hey, I want to be connected with this.” Organizing starts with just being in touch with another person.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I love that you mentioned it could be either in-person or over the phone, because of course, there’s people with disabilities who can’t be on the frontline, who can’t meet up in person, so I think having that phone conversation, hearing each other’s voices is so also equally important to organizing.

Tom Olin:

The internet is really good in the sense that when I talk to a non-verbal person, then that is … Then I do it one-on-one. Also in other groups, if you know … That’s what’s so nice about Zooming is that you can put it in the chat room or whatever. I mean, you have people with all different kinds of disabilities, but in the end, you have to make sure … I mean, one of the things about even having a group, is that you have to keep on talking with those people in your group. You just can’t leave it all up to, oh, we’re just going to put it on paper, da, da, da, and okay, you have a Zoom.

Tom Olin:

Even though you have a lot of people together, you still need to reach out because of those people that are on our Zoom, there are people that want to say something, but for one reasons or another, don’t say something. If you really want to get, have people involved, and you do need that one, that’s when you then either text that person, or call that person, and say, “Hey, I didn’t see you last week, or how did you think about that Zoom? What did you think about what we’re going to be doing?”

Tom Olin:

But, you really need to get out there, because some of the disabilities … I mean, I work in the area with a lot of people that have psychosocial issues, and sometimes, it comes out during a conversation, and sometimes it won’t come out … I mean, their disability is so that they have anxiety or something and you need to talk to them a different way to get their input into a group. We’re talking everything about, except for the art of that we’re talking about. But today, trying to get our images, our art out there, is still a one-to-one thing in a sense that we need an audience, and there are just really good artists out there that … I mean, I just got done finding a young photographer … I call him young, he’s 28 years old. He’s young to me. But, to me, it’s that generation that I can be … I’m 70, 71, what year … Yeah, 71 years old, yeah, 71, and so I don’t need to do everything that I want to do.

Tom Olin:

I want to be able to be there for the people that want to do something, and I have enough contacts, have been around a lot, so I can just be an old elder. That’s kind of what I want, and I get to show my love that way. One of the things … It’s kind of funny. One of the new photographers that I’m working with, he’s also very much like Miles Horton who was a person, a civil rights person, who started the Highlander Center, and one of the things he said is you can’t be a revolutionary. You can’t want to change society if you don’t love people, and that’s the basic of it.

Tom Olin:

When you talk to another person, it’s that love that you give that person, and I always try to give any one new person unconditional love, meaning that I don’t need to trust you. It might be three strikes later that I might say, “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t” … But right off the bat, I’ll trust you and I really do that all my life, and it has worked well for me. In this time when we’re all kind of secluded and whatever, we need to have that kind of trust when we talk to other people. If you don’t have that trust when you’re out talking to the other people, or trying to organize, if you don’t … If you can’t have that trust, it won’t go anywhere. It will end up in a different world down the line. The whole thing is, is that when … We change the game when we all work together. It’s so amazing what working together does for our community.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), I agree.

Tom Olin:

I’m really enjoying being able to work with all generations. I think that’s very, very important for just our generations, because they’re … No matter what happens, our being in a disability community is something that is going to keep on going.

Ashley Inkumsah:

What lessons have you learned over all of these years that you’ve been organizing, and also as a photographer fighting for disability rights? What lessons have you learned along the way?

Tom Olin:

When you treat people as persons, and they come to respect you, they come to know you, there’s … I have a lot of great friends all over the US that I get to not only be friends with and stay at their houses, but I get to cook with them. I get to break bread with them, and we get to pass on stories, which is really, really good that you can do that and be able to do that because one of the things about photos and organizing is that you need to … Photos, you need people to photograph. You need actions, so I get to be called to do things.

Tom Olin:

In the early days, I remember once, I was so sad that I was … I was traveling to the place that was going to take me two hours, and it took me three hours, and I thought, oh, my God, the march is going to start, and I’m going to have to figure out where they’re out, and so I get up to the place where they’re going to start, and they’re all there. I said, “Oh, God, great,” and so I get my camera stuff out. I go out and I said, “Ah, I’m glad you didn’t start.” They said, “We couldn’t start without you because if we started without you, and you didn’t take any pictures, then what we did doesn’t happen.” [crosstalk 00:40:49]-

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), they say … There’s a saying that people say, millennials say, pics or it didn’t happen. That’s a saying that’s very popular. There’s no pictures, it didn’t happen.

Tom Olin:

Exactly, exactly, and that was exactly what they, was in their minds. I felt really bad, but it worked out of course. But, it’s nice to be able to … I mean, right now, I’m working with people in Pennsylvania, and Colorado that I talk to every other day, or every day, every day. Yet, I’m in this broken down tour bus outside of Austin, Texas that doesn’t go anywhere. I don’t even have a vehicle to go anywhere. But, I’m all over the place, and being able to talk with friends, and do things with friends.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), what advice would you give to young people, the young people of today who are hoping to use art photography to enact change in the disability community? What would you tell them?

Tom Olin:

Find organizations that you can give your art to, and I say that almost … Art is something that in anything … Actually it’s just a personal thing that when you give something to another person, it does something. I used to give my photos free to organizations, and it has come back 10 fold just like the proverb. Now people, when they want to use my photos, they’ll call me and they want to pay me, because at times, I had given them something, and I still do. If an organization … It’s a big sliding scale.

Tom Olin:

If they can’t afford a photo on their walls, then shoot, for me, it’s better to have something there than not, and for those organizations that can not, that can afford, then they pay me a very nice price, and it’s … That means that I can give … If they give me a good price, I can give a good price to another person. It just works out really fine. I tell people, to artists, work with your friends. Work with the organizations. Become friends with those organizations. If they have something, be artsy with them, because at a time, they will hire you. It might be two years after they have some money, and they remember you. They remember how a nice person you were, and they will. It just comes back to you. You don’t have to plan on it. Just being nice has its rewards.

Ashley Inkumsah:

It sure does, absolutely.

Tom Olin:

I mean, and definitely, I mean, you have artists … Sometimes, you really have to get into where you’re at, and your art will reflect it. But as soon as you turn your art to try to help others, then it becomes something else. Then that’s where your art can really make a difference and look … I would tell anyone to look at the past artists. Look at the people that have changed the minds of people. Keith Haring, from the AIDS Movement is a wonderful example. There’s just some really good people out there, and I find it … Especially for the young. Push the artists. Push the older artists to start doing some art that makes a difference. Right now, there’s a lot of art out there with a lot of artists my age that I can’t understand that is what they’re seeing out there in the world, and they’re not trying to make a difference.

Tom Olin:

I don’t know what kind of difference they’re trying to make. Sometimes it works so academic in the world. I know WID right now, and some other organizations, were very much into what we can do with children, and it’s especially an institution that has … I say, “Hey, young artists, think about how you can display kids that have lost their lives behind locked doors, behind frosted windows. How can we show the rest of the world that they’re losing other people that could be friends of theirs behind locked doors?” I think the future is our young artists. I think they have, they can have, and they should have a lot of help from a lot of our organizations. Actually, anytime I sneak anywhere, I tell organizations to always have an art budget. In their annual budget, there should be a budget for art, so they can have it on their walls, so they can support artists, their cultural workers.

Tom Olin:

We should always support our cultural workers. It’s a very exciting time to be in right now. It always is because there is a lot of chaos out there, and it’s during those times of chaos, when not only we can grow, but society grows. We’re at that point, so what we do right now, is some … What we do individually, and what we do collectively, it’ll resound for years to come. This is the time. That’s why you hear people talking about infrastructure. It’s out there, but of course, the main society doesn’t think of infrastructure with us, but we need to have that input, and have that infrastructure to include us because we need to be included in the community, and that’s where we need to have that justice, disability justice to influence our community.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. The thing about art, like you said, it resounds forever. Even when we are all gone from the world, our art will still be here, so it’s powerful for sure. Mm-hmm (affirmative), absolutely. Well, thank you so much once again. I had so much fun chatting with you. I’m so happy that we finally got to connect.

Tom Olin:

Me too.

Ashley Inkumsah:

I had such an amazing time chatting with Tom. His photographs truly help tell the most powerful stories and galvanize the disability community. It was great to learn how his own lived experiences kind of set him on this path of fighting for disability rights, and Tom’s work really does serve as a reminder of the importance of art in activism, and it was such a pleasure to learn from him, and to have this fruitful conversation. Thank you to Tom for chatting with me, and thank you for listening, watching, or reading today’s episode. You can find transcripts and American sign language interpretations for each and every episode of What’s Up WID on our website at http://www.wid.org/whats-up-wid. As per usual, our famous last words here on What’s Up WID, paraphrasing the words of one of our founders, Ed Roberts, we need to get out there and change the attitudes so we can build forward better. Thank you so much once again, and I will talk to you next time.

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