Is there a cure for ableism?

ableism, Autism, Disability, Neurodiversity

[The following text is also a transcript for the featured image description]

Is there a cure for ableism?

Effective treatments for ableism include:

Education

Everyone must make an effort to learn about disability issues and to examine and confront ableist bias ourselves and our communities. We all have a duty to understand and combat ableism.

Accessibility

Inclusion and accessibility are civil rights, not special privileges. It is everyone’s obligation to find out how to make our communities and spaces more accessible, and endeavor to include disabled people.

Intersectionality

The rights of disabled people are intertwined with non disabled people’s civil rights; our political activism, our votes, and our policy making should always be inclusive and intersectional.

Center Disabled People

Disabled people must be centered in our own lives and in disability advocacy; this means we have autonomy in our personal lives and we take the lead in disability rights organizations. Non-disabled people should have supporting roles as needed.

Sidebar has an image of two pills and the text, “There’s no magic pill for prejudice.
Remember, bigotry is NOT actually a disease!”

Intro: Ableism Awareness Month

Part 1: What is ableism?

Part 2: How many people are affected by ableism?

Part 3: What causes ableism?

Part 5: Ableism Therapies

Ableism Awareness Wrapup Post

What causes ableism?

ableism, Autism, Disability, Education, Neurodiversity

[The following text is also a transcript for the featured image description]

What causes ableism? 

* There is no single cause of ableism; rather, it is a complex and interrelated set of attitudes, assumptions, and prejudicial biases. Ableism develops from a combination of individual prejudice and environmental factors, such as widespread normalization of ableism, misinformation by ableist institutions, and societal lack of inclusion for disabled people.

* Some important risk factors for ableism are unfamiliarity with disabled people and ignorance about disability issues and disability rights. Tragically, an ableist culture that fails to provide access and true inclusion for disabled people has a high risk of worsening the ableism epidemic.

* Vaccines do NOT cause ableism; on the contrary, a large scale program of inoculation against ableism, through the inclusion of disabled people and education for non-disabled people, may protect individual people and major societal institutions from falling victim to ableism.

[Image has a graphic image of a syringe at left, and “erinhuman.com” at bottom right]

Intro: Ableism Awareness Month

Part 1: What is ableism?

Part 2: How many people are affected by ableism?

Part 4: Is there a cure for ableism?

Part 5: Ableism Therapies

Ableism Awareness Wrapup Post

How many people are affected by ableism?

ableism, Autism, Disability, Neurodiversity

[The following text is also a transcript for the featured image description]

How many people are affected by ableism?

Everyone is affected by ableism.

* At any given time, about 1 in 5 people worldwide has a disability.

* People who were not born disabled, or aren’t currently disabled, may become disabled later in life.

* Some people who do not identify as disabled or recognize themselves as disabled are in fact disabled and directly affected by ableism; for example, people with psychiatric disabilities such as depression and anxiety.

* Disability Rights are highly intersectional; civil rights issues for women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people are intertwined with disability issues. Disability rights also overlap with issues such as healthcare, education, poverty, and more.

[sidebar has an image of a caution sign and the following text]

CAUTION

Descriptions of ableism as a disorder is this series are satirical and not to be taken literally.

Ableism is not a form of mental illness or psychiatric disability; in fact, blaming bigotry or prejudice on mental illness or any other disability… IS ABLEIST!

Intro: Ableism Awareness Month

Part 1: What is ableism?

Part 3: What causes ableism?

Part 4: Is there a cure for ableism?

Part 5: Ableism Therapies

Ableism Awareness Wrapup Post

What is Ableism?

ableism, Autism, Disability, Education

[The following text is also a transcript for the featured image description]

What is ableism?

Ableism is a cultural disorder that can affect people’s language and communication skills, social relationships, and other interpersonal behaviors.

Symptoms may include:

* Deficits in respectful, disability-inclusive communicate skills; may include the repetitive use of language that discriminated against or excludes disabled people, and a failure to provide communication access to disabled people.

* Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity with disabled people, ranging (for example) from lack of empathy toward disabled people to failure to include disabled people in social activities; in severe forms, may include abuse, homicide/filicide, and/or total apathy toward the abuse of disabled people.

* Restricted patterns of discriminatory behavior, for example: insistence on segregating, mocking, and/or abusing disabled people; unusual interest in “inspiration pornography” that objectifies and demeans disabled people, etc.

Ableism is any form of discrimination or negative bias toward disabled people or disability in general.

Intro: Ableism Awareness Month

Part 2: How many people are affected by ableism?

Part 3: What causes ableism?

Part 4: Is there a cure for ableism?

Part 5: Ableism Therapies

Ableism Awareness Wrapup Post

 

April is Ableism Awareness Month

ableism, Autism, Disability, Education, Neurodiversity

For several years, autism organizations led by non-autistic parents and professionals have focused on Autism Awareness in the month of April.

Autistic people have pushed back on the Awareness campaigns (and their usual pathologizing, othering frameworks) by asking for less talk of awareness and more acceptance for autistic people of all ages.

This year I was inspired to flip the old script with a new kind of Awareness campaign:

This April is Ableism Awareness Month

Join me in the coming weeks as I roll out some basic information and awareness of this epidemic of ableism, including examples and symptoms, treatments and alternatives, and more.

Part 1: What is ableism?

Part 2: How many people are affected by ableism?

Part 3: What causes ableism?

Part 4: Is there a cure for ableism?

Part 5: Ableism Therapies

Ableism Awareness Wrapup Post

We Are Violent People

Disability, Neurodiversity

TW: violence, murder, homophobia, transphobia, racism

No one is exempt, no one is free from this culture, because we are in it. It's the air we breathe.

Image has the text, “No one is exempt, no one is free from this culture, because we are in it. It’s the air we breathe. eisforerin.com” with a background photo of a dark cloudy sky.

There are so many moments when I wonder what the point of all of this is. There are times when the words pour out of me and times when I reach down inside and pull them up painstakingly, and sometimes there is wordlessness.

Yesterday I saw the news about Pulse Orlando in the morning on Facebook. I worked on a profile picture for Autism Women’s Network to honor the LGBTQ community on social media, and then I powered down inside. Late in the day I finally went through my Facebook feed to offer Likes and Loves to friends who are hurting.

I’m a bit baffled by all the calls for gun control today. I’m all for gun control – if I were Queen of America I would throw every single gun in the country into the ocean without batting an eyelash – but does anyone actually think that the mass murder at Pulse is going to change gun policy? Let’s get real. We didn’t care when 20 mostly white kindergarteners were killed in suburban Connecticut, does anyone seriously believe we’ll care more about 50 mostly non-white queer adults in a nightclub in Orlando?

You read that right, we didn’t care.

There’s always a convenient scapegoat to absolve us of our guilt. If the killer is white, it’s mental illness, and if the killer is brown, it’s terrorism. Sometimes we luck out and get both excuses, and sometimes we get a one-off scapegoat like video games or talk radio. Then we all agree that the rest of us are just fine and we move on to the next story and the next shooting, lather, rinse, repeat.

Why do we do this? We do it because we are all complicit, and we want nothing more than to make that nagging feeling of guilt go away as quickly as possible. Any time you see a group of people looking to pass the buck, you see a group of people committed to preserving the status quo.

Cain asked God with a shrug, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” while he had blood on his hands.

It’s appealing and easy for liberals to blame conservatives for issues of discrimination and hate, but as long as we keep doing that, nothing is going to change. No one is exempt, no one is free from this culture, because we are in it. It’s the air we breathe.

And America is a violent culture. I don’t like guns, but I think guns are just the roof tiles on top of this house we’ve built of hate, fear, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, classism, materialism, and elitism. We are merciless, stingy with our compassion, relentlessly driving marginalized people to assimilate or die. We are violent people. Even at our best we are often at our worst: using disabled or homeless or poor people as props to boost our egos as we dole out charity.

Our version of “acceptance” these days mostly consists of putting pressure on the Other to conform to the dominant culture: gay people, we grant you access to our patriarchal marriage system; autistic people, we grant you access to our therapies designed to make you act more like us; disabled people, we grant you access to technologies that will fix you; brown people, we grant you access to educational systems where you must prove your worth to us; immigrants, we grant you entry to the ranks of our working poor. Transgender people, we invite you in to (bizarrely enough) help reinforce our gender conformist and soul crushing beauty standards.

 

It is the drumbeat of America: Assimilate or die.

We believe that if disabled people can’t be cured, they’re better off dead. We believe that people who aren’t white should be invisible. We believe that gay and transgender people are fine as long as they look and act exactly like straight people. We believe that men have a right to do what they wish with women’s bodies. We believe people have to prove they are worthy of the most basic level of human dignity and respect. We believe that if you don’t have shelter, clothing, and enough to eat, you aren’t trying hard enough.

This isn’t the land of the free, it’s the law of the jungle. Kill or be killed.

One disastrous side effect of American Individualism is that we refuse to acknowledge the power, or even the existence, of systems; but systems don’t go away when you aren’t looking at them. You think you’ve done your part by not being racist or homophobic or ableist – you haven’t. Even if every person in America could magically be not-racist tomorrow (and that would be some magic trick), we would all still be living in a racist nation. Racism is a poisonous thread woven through every facet of American life, from housing to education to city planning to entertainment to law enforcement to the justice system and on and on. And this is true of all the systems that oppress marginalized people and grant ever more power to the people who’ve always had power here. They exist whether you believe in them or not.

At times like these, people ask “what can I do to help?” but what I hear is “what can I do to make this icky feeling go away?” That icky feeling is guilt, and what you can do to help is stop trying to wriggle away from it. I’m not telling you to fix systemic oppression, I’m telling you to acknowledge it. Look at it. Look at it, it’s so ugly. It’s so big. It’s so scary. It’s the monster that’s still there when you turn on the lights. In fact it’s bigger when you turn on the lights. Some people don’t ever get to ignore that monster, some people don’t ever get to stop feeling afraid. Why should you?

I don’t have any answers for you. That’s the point. There’s no happy ending here because it hasn’t been written yet. I’m tired of seeing people scribble “love wins, the end” and slam the book shut, because, sorry, it’s not that easy. It’s a horrible, heart wrenching, terrifying story, but you’re in it: keep reading.

#SayTheWord, Not “Special Needs”

Autism, Disability, Education, Neurodiversity

The deeper I go into autistic culture and autistic rights activism, the more I find myself pulled to align my goals, my activism, and my identity with the broader disability rights community.

There’s a social media campaign going on right now to #SayTheWord – it was started by Lawrence Carter-Long, the Public Affairs Manager for the National Council on Disability, and is an active Twitter hashtag. The word, of course, is disabled.

The importance of this campaign is driven home to me over and over again as I see people performing ludicrous and painful contortions to avoid saying it. Reminder that when I make a criticism the way well-meaning people interact with disability, I am not attacking the people (parenthetical reminder that I was immersed in ableism myself not long ago), but inviting people to think about things in a different way.

Instead of saying disabled, nice people say things like:

  • differently abled
  • handicapable (yes, really)
  • physically/mentally challenged
  • special needs

It’s that last one, special needs, that I really want to take aim at, because I believe that seemingly innocuous phrase does serious damage to disability rights.

Every time someone says “special needs,” they reinforce the false notion that disabled people are asking for “extras” when we require accommodations, modifications, and/or support to access the same things that non-disabled people are able to access, such as education, public spaces, community involvement, and so on.

That’s the first problem, because access is not “special” for disabled people. It’s our right. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects disabled Americans from discrimination, requires us to be accommodated in the workplace, and grants us equal access to public spaces and institutions. Other countries have laws in place to protect disability rights in similar ways.

The second problem is, the phrase “special needs” flies in the face of the social model of disability. The social model says, the disabled person’s inability to access things is due not to the disabled person’s failings, flaws, or deficits, but on the environment’s failure to provide access to the things. For example, a Blind person is not disabled because they can’t see, they are disabled because the world was set up by seeing people for seeing people and is made of many things that are inaccessible to non-seeing people.

To make a metaphor of it, imagine taking a brand new car and submerging it in a lake. The car is disabled; there’s nothing wrong with the car itself, it still does everything it’s designed to do, but it cannot operate in its current environment. If were in an environment well suited to its needs and purposes, like say a road, it would be able to do all the things a car does.

Or, take a look at this short (1 minute 26 second) animation explaining the social model – it has captions for those who have auditory processing or hearing disabilities.

So, when you say “special needs” instead of disabled, you are saying, this person needs all sorts of special things to help them do what we can do. We, the people who designed the buildings, the curriculum, the programs, the services, so that they are tailored to our needs – we don’t need anything special to access those things. Well of course!

Some people shy away from the word disabled because they feel that it’s stigmatizing. (Some people feel the same way about the word autistic.) But you don’t remove stigma by dancing around it and being coy and hush-hush about it. That actually increases stigma. Disabled is not a slur and never was; it’s a neutral description. I believe that the truth is people are not just uncomfortable with the word, they are uncomfortable with disability itself.

Disability is a normal part of human diversity; somewhere around 15-20% of the human population is disabled. Like other forms of diversity, the presence of disability in the world enriches humanity in ways that we probably can’t even imagine. Being disabled is not something to be ashamed of, and it’s not something to be scared of; it’s just a fact of life.

I #SayTheWord because I believe that only by saying it over and over again, with pride, with confidence, can we accept disability itself. Say it with me.

(Another great post on this topic is Disabled? I Am Legend! by unstrangemind. And if you are on Twitter, be sure to check out the #SayTheWord hashtag, which is full of excellent.)

buy me pizzaImage says “#saytheword / eisforerin.com / disabled not ‘special needs'” on a blue background.