It’s 2020 and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We were supposed to have flying cars by now, but I’ll settle for less ableism. 2019 saw the greater inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas. Still, industries seemed to be confronted with the existence of disabled people like it was a new development, not as though we had been there all along.
I can feel that 2020 will be a big year for disabled folk, so here are some realizations you should have made in 2019 (and to be honest, well before) that you can pretend you knew all along.
- Black, Indigenous, and Disabled People of Color Exist: You shouldn’t be so fragile that this is an affront to your existence. Whether you’re a white disabled person or a nondisabled person part of a marginalized racial group, this should not feel like a threat to you. We just want to live. Literally. That’s it. Each time you co-opt the work of a BIPOC disabled person or “tsk, tsk” to yourself because a disabled person of color has decided to dare to be visible that is not your time to ask, “what about white disabled people?” or “why do they only show what’s wrong with us?” Being ignored is getting us killed, and our lack of representation isn’t helping. So, we’ve decided to create it for ourselves. Don’t like it, keep scrolling.
- Disabled Queer People Exist: Disabled people are like…the rest of society and as such, reflect many of the same diverse sexualities and genders. It’s fundamentally strange that disabled people are automatically thought to be asexual and agender (though some are). Disabled sexualities and genders should be celebrated and explored, and disability and accessible consent should be covered in sexual education in schools around the world.
- Not Every Disabled Person is a Saint: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: disability is not a personality. Sure, our experiences can inform who we are, but the existence of disability in someone’s life doesn’t mean they can’t be a complete jerk if given a chance. We can be anything we want to be, even assholes. Give disabled people the opportunity for their actions to speak for them. They might (not) surprise you.
- Migrants are NOT Stealing Resources Meant for Disabled People: Many authoritarian governments cycle through narratives of scarcity to put minority groups in direct competition with one another. There are enough resources to go around. Attention on migrants does not take anything away from the disability community, and disabled migrants exist and are fighting for their lives. If inclusion is your actual aim, then include disabled migrants in the conversation.
- Proximity to disabled people does not mean knowledge of, or authority over, the community: A lot of political real estate is given to parents, teachers, and allies familiar with the disability community. Many find them a more tolerable entrée into this advocacy rather than speaking with disabled people themselves. Whatever the reason, in relation to the disability community, should not be thought of as representative of the community as a whole. Listen to disabled people, it will get you farther.