BADD 2014 – Nothing About Us Without Us?
It’s Blogging Against Disablisim Day!
There are loads of topics I could talk about today to illustrate disablisim, from the day to day grind of small & institutionalised oppressions to the cases where disablism ends lives. This year however I want to talk a little bit about internalised disablism that exisits within many, if not most disabled people. This is only a very quick post on a subject that could easily become a 10,000 word essay but hopefully it will give a few people something to think about.
When we think institutional disablism we think of classic cases which involve non-disabled people not thinking about/not caring about whether or not something is accessible. Be it because of steps, lack of suitable communication or allowing a atmosphere of exclusion to exist.
We don’t tend to spend much time looking at disablism many of us have picked up over the years and how it can effect our interactions with other disabled people – and it can effect those interactions. We really can be part of the problem.
I’m not saying it’s intentional, or that we are morally vacant monsters. As we are growing up we learn how to relate to different people by watching how others do it in the world around us and then we start to mimic the socially acceptable ones. We too are fed the same steady diet of media-bias, mis-information and unhelpful stereotypes as non-disabled people. We’ve all grown up in a disablist society. It’s hardly surprising then that some of them stick with us! I think it’s no great surprise that some of the best heard/most listened to voices in disability activism come from wheelchair users rather than people with cognitive or learning disabilities.
Certain kinds of disability are frequently left out of or marginalised within the conversation:
- Severe Learning Disabilities
- Developmental Disabilities
- Congenital Disabilities
- Cognitive Disabilities (including Dementia, one of the fast growing causes of disability in the UK)
It’s no coincidence that one of the most disabling aspects of these conditions is the ability to communicate the way that non-disabled people do. It makes it even more vital that we work to include these voices in our work if we want to make it stronger. I hear and read comments from wheelchair users about how they don’t want to be confused for wheelchair users with cognitive disabilities because it’s insulting. Isn’t it a sure fire sign that disablism is alive and well when we don’t want to be thought of as a disabled person? I watch as bright, interesting people who use communication aids are sidelined “because no one wants to listen to a computer”. We (disabled people) are not immune to taking the “easier” option of talking to a PA instead or talking in a patronising manner, straight away assuming a lack of mental capacity, something we’d hate to have done to ourselves. Being disabled does not make us immune to treating other disabled people in a paternalistic manner. It’s easy to think that you know better what someone needs than they do but that doesn’t make it right. Of course it’s not just individuals; far too often do I watch councils and organisations choose to talk to carers or people with physical/sensory disabilities about how to cater best for a clientele consisting mainly of people with cognitive disabilities. Shouldn’t they include the people they are supposed to be serving? Is this assumption that they “wouldn’t get anything useful from them” not just another way of propping up the disablist status-quo?
For years disability rights activists have clustered around the banner “Nothing About Us Without Us”. I think today is a good time to take a few moments to have a think about the inclusive meaning behind that statement and how we can best work to make it a reality.
You can read all of this years BADD posts by heading over here!