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Category: ableism

July is Disability Pride Month

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This was decades in the making. For those unfamiliar with the history, one great starting point is the 2020 documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Growing up, I didn’t have any summer camp experiences (we were too poor). But I sent my son to a summer camp with an autism inclusion program. He wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. This program was in place thanks to the work of those who came before us. Disability Pride Month has been celebrated in July since 1990, along with the ADA victory. The disabled community isn’t a monolith. But members come together to support one another. Disability justice movements advocate for intersectional approaches to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The “nothing about us without us” mantra was born from this movement, expressing the conviction of people with disabilities that we know what is best for us.

Disability Pride Month looks to celebrate disability as an identity by sharing the experiences of the disabled community. The reason behind the month is a chance to share the joy and pride that disabled people can bring to their local and global communities. The disabled community is a vibrant part of society and makes up 15% of the population, and we are proud of that.

Caroline Casey for Forbes

This is the perfect time to remind folks about the anthology, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alice Wong.

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Now, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people.

From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love.

Disability Visibility at Penguin Randomhouse

And Alice Wong is at it, again. This time with a memoir! I’ve pre-ordered my copy from my favorite local bookstore, Moon Palace. You can support local bookstores too!

Book cover for Year of the Tiger An Activist's Life by Alice Wong depicting a red tiger on a yellow background

This groundbreaking memoir offers a glimpse into an activist’s journey to finding and cultivating community and the continued fight for disability justice, from the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project

In Chinese culture, the tiger is deeply revered for its confidence, passion, ambition, and ferocity. That same fighting spirit resides in Alice Wong.
Drawing on a collection of original essays, previously published work, conversations, graphics, photos, commissioned art by disabled and Asian American artists, and more, Alice uses her unique talent to share an impressionistic scrapbook of her life as an Asian American disabled activist, community organizer, media maker, and dreamer. From her love of food and pop culture to her unwavering commitment to dismantling systemic ableism, Alice shares her thoughts on creativity, access, power, care, the pandemic, mortality, and the future. As a self-described disabled oracle, Alice traces her origins, tells her story, and creates a space for disabled people to be in conversation with one another and the world. Filled with incisive wit, joy, and rage, Wong’s Year of the Tiger will galvanize readers with big cat energy.

Year of the Tiger at Penguin Randomhouse
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Hold My Bag

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, my childhood was chock full of microaggressions and microinvalidations. At school and at home. Most often related to my ethnicity, gender, intelligence, physical appearance, etc. Some classmates called me “Qaddafi’s daughter” for years, despite my family coming from a completely different country — Lebanon — a continent away from Libya. Often there were outright slurs too. Directed at me, but also bandied about so casually in day-to-day life and in pop culture. It’s appalling. I cringe when I attempt to rewatch many movies and television shows from my youth. We have come a long way but there is still so much work to do. We can and should strive to learn and grow. Which Lizzo has done recently and done well.

Following criticism that her new single, “Grrrls,” included the word spaz, Lizzo announced on Monday that she has released another version of the track with the offending lyric removed. “It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song,” Lizzo wrote in a statement accompanying the rerelease. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally).”

Lizzo Releases a New Version of ‘Grrrls’
Photo of Lizzo by Arturo Holmes at the Met Gala

Nothing About Us Without Us

When situations like this come up, as they often do, I share one of my favorite resources.

What is self-defined?

A modern dictionary about us.
We define our words, but they don’t define us.

Self-Defined seeks to provide more inclusive, holistic, and fluid definitions to reflect the diverse perspectives of the modern world.

With the foundation of vocabulary, we can begin to understand lived experiences of people different than us. Words can provide us with a sense of identity and allow us to find kinship through common experiences.

Ableism and Implicit Bias

Unfortunately, ableism continues to go unaddressed in too many diversity initiatives. Kelsey Lindell has some excellent suggestions on how to avoid situations like these in the future:

  1. Take personal responsibility for your own growth
  2. Educate your teams  
  3. Hire Disabled People (For more information: It’s time for a culture shift where disability inclusion is concerned)

Read Kelsey’s entire post for more.

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Ableism in the Gun Violence Debate

Mass shootings have become commonplace in this country. Many of us have been impacted by them. My brother-in-law was murdered in a workplace shooting in Minneapolis in 2012. After each of these tragic events, we hear unhelpful platitudes like “thoughts and prayers” and “never again” statements from politicians. Along with more dangerous rhetoric, pinning the blame on mental health instead of our country’s pervasive gun culture and the powerful and effective lobbying efforts of the NRA. I’ve always been bothered by that. But disability advocate Kelsey Lindell broke it down in a way that resonated with me:

Whenever something horrific happens we hear politicians opposing gun laws spew lines that lobbyists wrote for them:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
“We don’t have a gun problem we have a mental health problem”

When people who oppose gun control use statements that blame mental illness rather than our gun violence epidemic for horrific murders two things happen:

Mental health, or any neurodivergency, is further stigmatized and politicians push blame off of themselves and onto people who’s brain works differently than theirs.

Ableism works alongside other forms of systemic bias or oppression because it is a part of what co-creates the idea of an “ideal” expectation of body and mind: a non-disabled body and mind. These forms of systemic oppression combine with an implicit bias to label any body or mind form that is “other”than that “ideal” as “less than.” Politicians push the blame off of themselves and ONTO individuals who have mental illness. This increases the fear and stigma that people with mental illness deal with AND gets people to stop talking about gun control and start talking about mental illness instead.

So next time you hear someone saying we don’t have a gun problem, that this is a mental health issue: tell them two things.

1. Reality check: the USA isn’t the only country in the world where people are mentally ill. We ARE the only country that has 12 children die from gun violence and another 32 shot and injured EVERY DAY. Plus, studies show that mental illness contributes to only 4% of all violence, and the amount to gun violence is even smaller.

2. That’s ableist. We need gun control now.

Disability Advocate Kelsey Lindell
Graphic with the text reading "of all children ages 5 to 14 killed by guns in wealthy countries, 92% are US children."
From Vox’s article America’s unique, enduring gun problem, explained
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