“A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you”.
I am infuriated with the pure ignorance of people, their unwillingness to learn or realize what they are believing and claim to know about disability, as non-disabled people are narratives created by those, like themselves, who are not in any way disabled. Without interacting with the community of disabled people directly and without acknowledging or realizing you are on the outside edges of it as professionals, caregivers, other support people, teachers, parents, siblings, extended family, and other community members, the only purpose you are serving is to harm! This may not be the intention or done as a way cause to harm disabled people, but that does not change the reality that it is harmful. To quote Anurag Shourie, who does work in the medical field, from his book Half A Shadow comes “A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you”.
Over the last several years during the pandemic, many messages and narratives have come from it as a way or means of protecting or supporting disabled people, but are truly harmful, even damaging. I was left feeling extremely fearful of non-disabled people. But equally as fearful of being present in and taking up space within the community where I belong. I understand that it is a hard concept for people to grasp when disabled people state that we are the largest marginalized minority and how that might be painful for other marginalized minorities. How difficult is it to realize that when you add a disability to something it makes things different in comparison to the abled experience? It is a double form of being a minority and marginalized when there is another aspect of the individual that belongs to another marginalized and/or minority group. It doesn’t matter how much you don’t understand it the reality doesn’t change! If you really think about it within schools, grocery stores, churches, other places of worship, in movies, and on television, as non-disabled people, you know you don’t see as many people with disabilities as you do abled people. Plus, there is the reality that this is based on aspects of disability that are visible, and you aren’t counting people with invisible disabilities, even accepting them more so as part of your population than you do people with disabilities that have visible aspects to them!
Living in a world where everyone has been thrown online as a result of the pandemic has been one of the most difficult challenges
Living in a world where everyone has been thrown online as a result of the pandemic has been one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced. Instead of abled people embracing the opportunity they had to engage and learn from disabled individuals, many clung to their beliefs about disability that a society that doesn’t, and frankly doesn’t want to, include us create. They may have unknowingly followed or been followed by an individual with a disability who shares similar thoughts, opinions, and perspectives to their own while completely ignoring the reality that it is due to the fact that, regardless of a disability, we are all still humans and as humans, we are all different. Without this realization, when fighting for social justice and human rights issues people indirectly caused harm and pain to disabled people by not considering or discussing aspects of disability with the larger contexts of human rights and social justice. In turn, this created further separation and othering of disabled individuals from all other people. Every time a new hashtag came up for a minority and marginalized group right behind it came one that was specific to and created by those with disabilities. Disabled people doing this resulted in attacks by abled individuals as if disabled people were minimizing their efforts when disabled people, and the specifics in relation to themselves, were being ignored. Occasionally, some things that disabled people were saying online were noticed by abled people. Instead of being looked into and studied these things were being twisted to fit a narrative that they created to align with what society has always taught them about disability.
Advocacy online is an accessible and important way for disabled people to connect. Social media spaces make our voices louder about issues that concern and impact us, whether or not they are the same ones that impact everyone else or are specific to ourselves due to our disabilities. It’s always been done and isn’t anything new for those of us with disabilities. That is not the same reality that is experienced by those who are not disabled, who were thrust into doing advocacy and other work online as a result of the pandemic. One truth remains unchanged, and that is living in a disabled body in a world not designed for you, regardless of the color of one’s skin or any other factor, is a challenge. A challenge that is not faced or experienced by those who are not disabled. The U.S. is known for being a melting pot of people, cultures, spiritual and religious backgrounds, self-expression, and identities. In and of itself, the disability community is that same melting pot but expands beyond the U.S.. We fight for what is right and just, and all have varying views on what is right or just based on many different factors. Just like any other human, disabled people also forget that because of such borders, all things don’t work the same for all disabled people. The one thing we don’t do is stop the fight because it’s outside of our borders. The U.S. is such a powerful country that disabled people can’t afford to step back waiting to see how it plays out because we are painfully aware that any injustice toward disabled people that is normalized or accepted in the U.S. is soon likely to be adopted by the countries we live in.
Over the last several years, mainstream media has torn apart and made stories out of disability-related hashtags. In the process, mainstream media have taken it as far as to tear many disabled people to shreds by attacking their personal social media accounts, where these people are choosing to share their lived experiences to educate and support others like themselves. Its been a long, and continued fight for disabled people, in the area of representation and inclusion, in the media. Many have gotten to the point where they feel any representation is better than none at all. Some have chosen to fight for the inclusion of disabled people to be represented in a way that doesn’t center around their disability. Others choose to highlight the issues of tokenism and inaccurate representations of disability in media. All of those aspects of the same thing are very valid! A problem arises when non-disabled people insert themselves, especially when they are public figures, who fail to realize they are misinformed. They fail to realize that they are not getting the full picture of a situation when they pull something said by a disabled person or group online. It becomes an even bigger issue when choosing to speak on or challenge it, or people who they feel they have an influence on.
Last night a YouTuber with a disability, who I frequently watch and enjoy, uploaded a response video to another video they had seen of a non-disabled person totally degrading disabled people. To make it all go better the individual who was doing this is also part of a minority group that often faces oppression and discrimination. It was evident to me that what the person was trying to do was highlight tokenism but it was clear that as a non-disabled individual, they didn’t understand what tokenism even was. It was also evident from a few choice words that she decided to spew out of her mouth that she, like many abled individuals, has no time for or interest in seeing disabled people alongside non-disabled people participating in the same way as their peers. She very clearly sent a message that disabled people should be hidden and only belong in certain spaces. Evidently, she has seen, an ad campaign somewhere of a person in a wheelchair modeling an underwear and bra set, for a website that sells such items. This image repulsed her and she felt that she shouldn’t have seen it. She then continued to try and prove her point that it wasn’t representation claiming that representation shouldn’t be that important. Clearly, any disabled person listening to her knows that she doesn’t see disabled people as attractive and sexual beings but merely sees their need for a bra and panties the same as anyone else’s.
PSA: Trying to do good for the disabled community as a non-disabled person can do more harm than it does good to the community as a whole! Please understand that many mainstream narratives were never developed by individuals with disabilities and many of us have to fight them regularly.
While nobody with a disability can or should be denying the reality that tokenism is a problem and does exist this individual’s whole point derailed because the items that were being modeled by an individual in a wheelchair were adaptive clothing meant for those with disabilities. To make it all go better they were on a website that mainly had models who were of the same minority group as this person.
NEWSFLASH: DISABLED PEOPLE COME IN ALL SHAPES, SIZES, SKIN TONES, GENDER IDENTITIES & EXPRESSIONS, AND BELIEF SYSTEMS AS NON-DISABLED PEOPLE DO.
While the YouTuber who put out the response video suggested that people look into the content that her response was in reference to after seeing the clips that I did I had no desire to give this individual views and thus support for what she put into the world. What I did want to do was check out the clothing line and the website that was mentioned. I searched Google for the line and the brand and saw the exact same ad that was featured in the segment piece. Upon clicking on it I was directed to the website and was pleased to see that in comparison to the pricing of the other items these were at a reduced price. Rather than returning to Google to find the rest of the items, as anyone would, I went to the search menu to see if there was a section for the adaptive items, and there wasn’t which at first made me feel good as it came across as being inclusive. I was saddened to discover that not only was there not a section in the main menu for the adaptive collection, but the clothing items intended for those with disabilities were not included in the sections where similar items appeared. That is indeed an example of tokenism. Tokenism isn’t something that is an obvious form of oppression or discrimination from the perspective of a non-disabled person. Overall the site didn’t appear to be accessible. Without the direct website links to the adaptive wear, it’s not likely to be found by people who would be looking for it. Many people would conclude from my previous statement this person was indeed correct and in fact RIGHT, in her viewpoint. Unfortunately, because of several statements, she made she proved herself to be ableist and dared to push back against it when disabled people brought this to her attention.
I’ve long seen the issue coming where non-disabled people would end up attacking disabled people from sheer ignorance of not understanding disability. I refuse to accept the way non-disabled go about seeing those with a disability the same as them because they are the same color, religion, physical location, share an aspect of themselves not specific to disability, or any other factor they choose to see as making us the same. That mindset can only serve to harm us through spreading misinformation, neglect, and even abuse. I’ve said something more than a few times over the last few years, but I see the need to say it again. Being disabled is a completely different lived experience from being able-bodied. None of the external factors people like to use to counteract that will ever change it. If you are someone with a desire to truly support and advocate for disabled people, whether or not you are disabled or abled, it is important for you to educate yourself on issues that are specific to disabled people and to realize that a lot of things only apply to certain parts of, or disabled people, and don’t to non-disabled people.
Hi, my name is Destiny and I am a Certified Tauma Recovery Coach. I have a disability called Spina Bifida and I am also a trauma survivor. As I am not a person who particularly likes face to face interaction my writing is a vital part of what I do for my own mental health as well as professionally. Being a person with a disability has developed into coaching those who are also survivors of trauma and are disabled similar to myself. I do this using a virtual reality platform called Second Life. I also own a website and blog to help advocate, education, and rise awareness about disability, mental health, and trauma within the context of disability.