Interview with Nathan French, July 5, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
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00:00:00 - Introductions / Living with CMT disease

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Partial Transcript: Hello, my name is Mack Thompson, and today I'm interviewing Nathan French for the disabled in Kentucky oral history project.

Segment Synopsis: Nathan French introduces himself and talks about the several disabilities he has that stem from having Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary disorder that damages the nervous system and impairs motor functions. He describes the way he chooses to identify as a disabled person, and his relationship with the disability community.

Keywords: CMT; Charcot Marie Tooth; Charcot-Marie-Tooth; Deaf; Deafness; Disability; Disabled people; Diseases; Disorders; Identity; Neuropathies; Wheelchairs; Disabilities

00:03:00 - Support from the disability community

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned that the disability community has helped you on this journey, and I was wondering would you feel comfortable elaborating a bit more on that?

Segment Synopsis: French talks about the emotional struggles he went through as an adolescent, coming to terms with his disabilities and often being mistreated by his doctors. He explains how reaching out to fellow members of the disability community, both online and in person, helped him mentally and gave him a newfound sense of pride in his identity.

Keywords: Communities; Disability; Disability community; Disabled people; Doctors; Identity; Mental health; Mistreatment; People with disabilities; Social media; Support groups; Support networks; Disabilities

00:05:20 - Social working with disabled people

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Partial Transcript: So I know that you're, uh, a graduate student in social work now, and I'd love to hear more about like your studies into disability and also your work with it, if you feel comfortable sharing.

Segment Synopsis: French describes his time as a social worker for the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky, which has allowed him to work with other disabled people. He explains how the educational resources at HDI helped to further his knowledge of disabilities, and changed his perspective towards societal issues surrounding the disability community.

Keywords: Communities; Disabilities; Disability; Disabled people; HDI; Human Development Institute; Identity; University of Kentucky; Social workers

00:08:21 - Disability and the LGBTQ+ community

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Partial Transcript: I guess, would you say that other social identities and experiences have intersected with and maybe impacted or been impacted by your disability?

Segment Synopsis: French explains how due to its historical use of slandering homosexuality, disability is often an avoided topic within the current LGBTQ+ community. He describes how this affects him as both a queer man and a person with disabilities, and it how it can similarly affect others like him.

Keywords: Disabilities; Disability; Disabled people; Identity; LGBTQ; People with disabilities; Queer people; Sexual orientation; Sexuality; LGBTQ+

00:11:47 - Memories of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Would you be comfortable talking a bit more about the COVID-19 pandemic and how that might have impacted you?

Segment Synopsis: French talks about his experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, and his work throughout to ensure the wellbeing and safety of the disability community. He describes the heavy isolation he felt throughout the pandemic, and the number of people he knew within the community who lost their lives due to COVID-19.

Keywords: Communities; Coronavirus; Disabilities; Disability; Disabled people; Diseases; Isolation; Pandemics; People with disabilities; Quarantine; Social workers; Vaccines; Viruses; COVID-19 (disease)

00:16:31 - Mask safety during the pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Would you say like-- I know a lot of people especially at the beginning were trying to, were, were using like deafness as an ex- like a reasoning to like not like mask.

Segment Synopsis: French addresses the issue of people who avoid wearing masks in public during the COVID-19 pandemic, and explains why masking is important for the health of disabled people and able-bodied people alike.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Disabilities; Disability; Disabled people; Diseases; Mandates; Mask mandates; Masks; Pandemics; Pandemics; Policies; Viruses; COVID-19 (disease)

00:20:57 - How poverty targets disabled people

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned like, the cycle of disability and poverty and financial struggles.

Segment Synopsis: French talks about his financial struggles throughout his life as a person with disabilities, as well as his distaste towards Medicaid for disallowing his adequate health coverage. He explains how poverty is a common issue among the disability community, and describes the negative impacts that have arisen from it.

Keywords: Communities; Deaf; Deafness; Disability; Disabled people; Diseases; Healthcare; Medicaid; Neuromuscular; Poverty; Prisons; Wheelchairs; Disabilities

00:27:50 - Accessibility services in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: How would you characterize, uh, accessibility in Lexington?

Segment Synopsis: French talks about the quality of accessibility in Lexington, KY, and addresses some of the ways it can be improved. He explains how many in Lexington's homeless population are disabled, and how remodeling streets could help them with ease of transportation.

Keywords: Accessibility; Accessibility services; Disabilities; Disability; Disabled people; Homeless people; Louisville (Ky.); Transportation; Lexington (Ky.)

GPS: Lexington, KY (USA)
Map Coordinates: 38.041, -84.503
00:31:16 - Accessibility at Transylvania University

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Partial Transcript: So you talked some about the University of Kentucky, but I'd love to hear more about like, accessibility specifically at, um, Transylvania University and University of Kentucky and your experience with that.

Segment Synopsis: French talks about the accessibility services he received during his time at Transylvania University, and how the college has continued to improve the quality of life for disabled students since his graduation.

Keywords: Accessibility; Accessibility services; Colleges; Disabilities; Disability; Disabled people; Universities; University of Kentucky; Transylvania University

GPS: Transylvania University - Lexington, KY (USA)
Map Coordinates: 38.051, -84.493
00:35:48 - Humanizing the disability community

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Partial Transcript: Um, this is like a broader question, but I was wondering like, what you would like people to know about, um, disability?

Segment Synopsis: French addresses the negative perceptions towards disability and challenges them by explaining how disability plays an important part in both society and human history. He says that disabled people have their own passions, struggles, and talents just as able-bodied people do, and that they should be treated fairly as fellow human beings.

Keywords: Communities; Disabilities; Disabled people; Identity; LGBTQ; LGBTQ+; Disability

00:40:49 - Encouraging others with disabilities

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Partial Transcript: So what advice might you have to someone that recently either became disabled or got diagnosed with a disability?

Segment Synopsis: French explains how people with disabilities should never have to make compromises about who they are, and encourages them to seek out support networks and be proud of their identity.

Keywords: Disability; Disabled people; Identity; People with disabilities; Social media; Support groups; Support networks; Disabilities