Shifting the Weight of Inaccessibility: Access Intimacy as a Critical Phenomenological Ethos

Desiree Valentine


This paper offers a critical phenomenological view of the concept of access intimacy, a term coined by disability justice advocate Mia Mingus. Access intimacy refers to a mode of relation between disabled people or between disabled and non-disabled people that can be born of concerted cultivation or instantly intimated and centrally concerns the feeling of someone genuinely understanding and anticipating another’s access needs. Putting in conversation this notion of intimacy with Kym Maclaren’s critical phenomenological account of intimacy, I show how accessibility is not about what one person or institution can do for another but involves an ongoing, interpersonal process of relating and taking responsibility for our inevitable encroachment on one another in ways that enhance one another’s freedom.

Peer review process: Guest edited


disability justice; disability rights; access; intimacy; access intimacy


Beck, Julie. 2018. “The Concept Creep of ‘Emotional Labor.’” The Atlantic. Accessed September 20, 2020.

Berne, Patty. 2015. “Disability Justice—a Working Draft by Patty Berne.” Accessed June 9, 2020.

Downie, Jocelyn and Jennifer J. Llewellyn, eds. 2012. Being Relational: Reflections on Relational Theory and Health Law. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Guenther, Lisa. 2019. “Critical Phenomenology.” In 50 Concepts for a Critical Phenomenology. Edited by Gail Weiss, Ann V. Murphy, and Gayle Salamon, 11–16. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Hamington, Maurice. 2004. Embodied Care: Jane Addams, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Feminist Ethics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Harbin, Ami. 2016. Disorientation and Moral Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hochschild, Arlie. 1983. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah. 2018. Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. Vancouver, B.C.: Arsenal Pulp Press.

Levins-Morales, Aurora. 2019. Medicine Stories: Essays for Radicals. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lugones, María. 2003. Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes. New York: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Mackenzie, Catriona and Natalie Stoljar, eds. 2000. Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self. New York: Oxford University Press.

Maclaren, Kym. 2018. “Intimacy as Transgression and the Problem of Freedom.” Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology 1: 18–40.

Mingus, Mia. 2011. “Access Intimacy: The Missing Link.” Accessed May 5, 2020.

———. 2012. “Feeling the Weight: Some Notes on Disability, Access, and Love.” Accessed May 8, 2020.

———. 2017. “Access Intimacy, Interdependence, and Disability Justice.” Accessed April 12, 2020. macy-interdependence-and-disability-justice/.

Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah Lakshmi. 2018. Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. Vancouver, B.C.: Arsenal Pulp Press.

Schalk, Sami. 2018. Bodyminds Reimagined: Disability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Silvers, Anita. 1996. “(In) Equality, (Ab) Normality, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 21 (2): 209–24.

Sins Invalid. 2015. “10 Principles of Disability Justice.” Accessed March 15, 2020. blog/10-principles-of-disability-justice.

The Center for Universal Design. 2008. “About UD.” Accessed July 24, 2020.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Desiree Valentine

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.