Dismantling disableism – Three powerful tools

This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disableism Day.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of it about. Disableism diminishes both the disabled person and the perpetrator. It is a clumsy made up word to describe something particularly unlovely so it is appropriate that it is an ugly word.

Disableism diminishes both the disabled person
- and the perpetrator.

Wikipedia describes “disableism,” or “ableism” as it also calls it as “a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities.”  I am not going to describe it any further, in case I descend into what a good friend of mine describes as the “aint it awful” stuff.

Instead I want to identify three (non-violent) weapons which can be used against it.

1. Humour

A light heart and a witty one liner go a long way. It takes a bit of practice but there is plenty of help out there, especially on the Internet. One of my favourite sources of humour is Crippen, disabled UK cartoonist.  So much that happens to us is funny, sometimes only in hindsight, admittedly, but developing a robust and “out there” sense of humour can help enormously when the going gets tough. Mocking prejudice can be fun! Disability humour is part of disability culture.

2.  Be loud proud and passionate

Being “out” and proud as a disabled person is powerful. And when a bit of action is required there’s nothing like some good old fashioned activism with other like-minded people. There’s safety in numbers and solidarity with other disabled people is personally powerful and takes away the feeling that everything bad is centred on me. Every little thing contributes to change, and taking action is very satisfying, and can be fun. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs are useful tools. Know your rights, use them and learn from each other’s experience, A man who inspires me was brought up in an institution and began by leading action for better pay in a sheltered workshop. Now he is an international leader and has spoken at the UN.

3. Form strong alliances

Finding others who may not be disabled but who may share similar world views can be rewarding. Supporting each other on issues of mutual interest, forging strong and respectful relationships to create change may be hard work, but the results can really make a difference. Disabled people and the gay community teamed up in the early 90’s to make sure sexual orientation and disability in its widest sense were both included in the New Zealand Human Rights Act. Our hard work paid off and the new Act  was inclusive.

Call me Pollyanna, although I prefer a “cock-eyed optimist” as the song says – sorry about the pun, but if we don’t tackle disableism from a glass half full perspective it will just be too overwhelmingly hard.


Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion

3 Responses to Dismantling disableism – Three powerful tools

  1. Hi Robyn, told you I’d stop by!

    Great article for BADD 2012!

    OK, Pollyanna – or should that be “cock-eyed optimist” – you’ve hit the nail, or 3 nails, on the head, or should that be heads?

    Sorry, but it’s 01.21 AM here and I’m getting blurry-eyed and blurry-brained.

    Seriously, I couldn’t agree with you more. I love the witty one-liner put-downs. Trouble is, I usually think of them after the event.

    Reading your article, it occurred to me that, in my own BADD 2012 post, for the very first time I’ve actually really acknowledged that I have a disability. Not just a crook leg or a limp, but a real disability with real consequences.

    So I also agree with you on being “out and loud”.

    I’ve yet to join a disability rally or march but, with my involvement in web accessibility, I guess you could say I’m looking for safety in numbers also.

    Great post for a great occasion. Thank you very much for sharing.


  2. Hi Gary,
    Great to hear from you. Action as you say isn’t always about marches. I find you blog more accessible than man BADD blogs, ironically. Good on you for being out and proud. And as for those one liners, keep them at hand. Usually those who need the put downs aren’t all that original!
    Sleep well

  3. Great post! I like that you brought up humour as a way to respond to ablism…not only does mocking prejudicial thought shock the people who are expressing it (and sometimes expose their sentiments for the foolishness that they are), it does take away the sting a little bit. I think it’s partly why satirical “news programs” like “The Daily Show” have become so popular – at its best, that show is screamingly funny, but its humour is also a *weapon*.

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