According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in 7 people worldwide live with a disability – that’s over 1 billion people. Contrary to popular belief, however, a disability isn’t just a descriptor of someone’s mental or physical condition; it is, above all else, a result of systemic exclusion. The social model of disability explains this very well, drawing a distinction between “impairment” and “disability.” An “impairment” describes a particular mental or physical condition someone has. By itself, an impairment doesn’t create most of the difficulties those with disabilities face. Instead, “much and sometimes all of what is disabling for individuals who have impaired bodies has to do with physical and/or social arrangements and institutional norms” (Goering, 2015).
We can see these social arrangements in the forms of buildings that don’t include ramps or signs without braille, for example. Systemic exclusion also takes the form of ableism, a set of attitudes that sees people with disabilities as lesser simply because they are not able-bodied. Ableism can be overtly malicious, but it can also arise out of lack of awareness or neglect to confront ingrained biases (see, for example, the problem of inspiration porn).
People with disabilities come from every walk of life. Disabilities may or may not be visible, and the same disability may affect two different people very differently. Disability is a function of a society that was not built to include certain people. Yet, society is malleable, and all of us have a responsibility to shape a more inclusive one through our vote, occupations, and everyday actions. In this blog post, I’ve compiled three resources you can use to begin unlearning the ableist attitudes we were conditioned with, further explore what it means to live with a disability, and reflect on what we can do to continually create more inclusive spaces.
Anti-Ableism Guide from Simmons University
This is an introductory guide about anti-ableism.
Things People With Disabilities Wish You Knew
Four people with disabilities share some of what they wish others knew about disability.
The Disability Visibility Project Podcast
Ableism 101 – What is Ableism? What Does it Look Like? (2019, December 12). Access Living. https://www.accessliving.org/newsroom/blog/ableism-101/
BuzzFeedVideo. (2018). Things People With Disabilities Wish You Knew [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b7k6pEnyQ4
CASE | DEAM | Disablity Employment Awareness Month. (2020). CASE. https://www.supportedemployment.ca/deam#:~:text=Disability%20Employment%20Awareness%20Month%20(DEAM,contributions%20of%20workers%20with%20disabilities.)
Goering, S. (2015). Rethinking disability: the social model of disability and chronic disease. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 8(2), 134–138. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12178-015-9273-z
LibGuides: Anti-Oppression: Anti-Ableism. (2016). Libguides.Com. https://simmons.libguides.com/anti-oppression/anti-ableism#Allies
National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2020 | U.S. Department of Labor. (2020). Dol.Gov. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/ndeam
TED. (2014). I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much | Stella Young [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K9Gg164Bsw
What is the Centre for Disability Studies (CDS)? : Centre for Disability Studies. (2019). Leeds.Ac.Uk. https://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/about/
World Health Organization: WHO. (2020, January 27). Disability. Who.Int; World Health Organization: WHO. https://www.who.int/health-topics/disability#tab=tab_1
[Digital Image]. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.bwcumc.org/event/2017-02-05-disability-awareness-sunday/