Saturday, May 01, 2010

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010: It's Everywhere

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010

Well, it is still May 1st where I live!

When I was a kid my family read out loud together after supper (yes, we did have a TV, I am not THAT old!) At one point we read a Hardy Boys book that had peregrine falcons in it. We had never heard of them so we looked them up in the encyclopedia (Google for the 1970s.)  After that we all ran into peregrine falcons everywhere--in the newspaper, on TV, in stories and more. I can remember my mother saying, "And to think we had never even heard of them a month ago!"

Well, disablism--prejudice against people with disabilities--is like that.

Once you know what it is it's astounding how pervasive it is.

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. For 4 years now, all around the world, disability bloggists have been writing about disablism on May 1 and posting it with Goldfish. I was regretting that I had posted my disability rights "manifesto" earlier in the week thinking I should have saved it for today, but I should not have worried. In the past 2 days I have run across plenty of 'inspiration' without even looking.

Here is what I have seen:

Sometimes disablism is exploitive and screams at you in the check-out line. Today's headline of the National Enquirer blared, "Brad and Angelina: TWINS HEALTH SHOCKER! Tragic DOWN SYNDROME reports surrounding Vivienne and Knox.

The article was titled NEW FAMILY HEARTBREAK and the first paragraph went on to say blah, blah, blah, suffers with Down syndrome, blah, blah, blah.

The rest of the article mostly said Brad and Angie would be fine if their kids did have Down syndrome, but don't like all the attention...

Because, of course, Down syndrome isn't tragedy and suffering. But disablism is selling the papers...and selling those papers is reinforcing the disablism--the negative stereotypes about Down syndrome.

Sometimes disablism is utterly horrifying as in this article from a commenter's blog. I am having trouble with the statement that to be called a hate crime someone has to die... certainly this pervasive, perpetual terrorizing is not motivated by high esteem...

Sometimes disablism is unconsciousThis video was showcased on another blog I enjoy. It is about what it takes to make an award-winning movie. The blogger who posted it wouldn't have if they had noticed. The video is lighthearted and not intended to offend. Yet it does. (The intro picture looks like the video will be sexual, it isn't.)

Sometimes disablism is institutional and even people within the disability world don't recognize it as this article illustrates.

So what's the answer? There are many of course, but here are a few of my favorites:

Presence: Be there. Part of the reason disablism is so common is because people with disabilities have lived lives separate from their communities until recently. The more people live together, the more relationships will be built.

Protest: Speak up and speak out. Assert the rights of people with disabilities, when you are hurt or treated disrespectfully find a way to say so.

Persist: Expect that you will confront disablism in some form many days and in many ways. Stick with it again and again and again...

Participate: None of us can--or should--join in every battle, but where you can, do. In the past year there have been many distressing disablism incidents and every one of them has led to increased awareness in our communities because people with disabilities and their allies have been there to identify the problem, shine light on it and ask for something else.

Pay attention: learn from each other, read each others' ideas, adopt each others' strategies and enjoy each others' company.

Perhaps something like reading or writing for a blogswarm....

BADD is good! Check it out! (Thank you Goldfish!)


Anonymous said...

Good one! All great points- couldn't agree more!

Never That Easy said...

What an excellent post...So Many Great Points! When I saw that headline (through another blog), I didn't dare to click through to read the article, imagining it must all be as horrible as that. While I'm glad it isn't, it still doesn't make that headline any better.

Terri said...

Thank you for your comments! When you join something "in the world" it feels good to hear a response!!

And starrlife and NTE, I enjoyed both of your posts as well!

BADD is good!

Matthew Smith said...

Hi there,

I didn't mean to imply that only murders were hate crimes, although those are the ones that spring most readily to mind (as well as there having been a spate of incidents in which mentally disabled people in the UK actually have been murdered).

However, I'm not comfortable with the drive towards classifying these attacks as "hate crimes" because it seems more like vulnerable people being bullied or attacked for fun, and I think there is a big difference. Also, if we pass a "hate crime" law which takes in the disabled, prosecutors would have to prove that any incident was motivated by hate and not just amusement. I suspect that a lot of attackers would get lesser sentences because of that.

I would prefer to see it made an aggravating factor in any assault or harassment charge if the victim had any kind of disability that was obvious or was known to the attacker.