How should people without disabilities who care about the welfare of people with disabilities react when they see blatant disability discrimination?
short video Shared on Twitter Dec 25, 2022 shows an elementary school girl in a wheelchair at a school assembly. She seems intentionally or inadvertently left out of the circle of classmates who hold her hands and sing in front of a gathering audience. An adult, who may be a teacher, is also visible, and is certainly in charge of the event in some way. standing, enhancing the impression of deliberate exclusion.
(Note: The tweeted video is linked here, but not embedded. This is explained below about the relative advantages and disadvantages of sensationalizing disability cases in this particular way. (because of concerns about
The tweet was shared as a decidedly overt, heartbreaking, and arguably unforgivable example of disability discrimination. I will follow up.
Sharing photos and videos of real-life canism on social media is a fairly new response to canism. An option that was almost non-existent until about 15 years ago and has only become widely used in the last 8-10 years. On the surface, posts like this help combat disabilityism by making it more real and emotionally relatable to millions of people who know nothing about it. In theory, such social media posts can help reinforce the idea that disability discrimination is avoidable, painful, and unacceptable.
However, viral videos like this about disability discrimination and disability are not only about how non-disabled people can genuinely and effectively respond when they see what they believe is disability discrimination, but also how they can respond. It also raises the important question of whether to do so. Is it always helpful to speak up, dramatize the incident, or encourage others to join your anger, or do you need a more deliberate and thoughtful approach?
Below are three steps people with disabilities can take before talking about disability discrimination.
1. Believe what people with disabilities say and take their interpretations seriously.
Especially when people’s reputations can be quickly destroyed by social media piles. On the other hand, people with disabilities are too often suspected, criticized and speculated when speaking about cases of disability discrimination and discrimination. Stories and depictions of ableism should not be automatically distrusted or disrespected simply because they may appear to be literally unbelievable.
One of the most enduring types of disability discrimination itself is the idea that people with disabilities are unreliable narrators of their own experiences. This is most often the case when the disability discrimination in question is particularly blatant and cruel. For example, someone with little experience with disability issues might find it hard to imagine elementary school teachers being allowed to exclude sweet disabled children, as happens in the video. You’re not right, there must be some misunderstanding” is as common a response as “Terrible!”
But disability discrimination is often far worse than people without disabilities think. Even the stories of people themselves can be most difficult to believe. However, disability discrimination still persists. And many people’s beliefs about disability are far less advanced than those of people in the 1930s and even 1830s.
The same may be true of some people with disabilities who may themselves be very skeptical about the disability claims of their fellow disabled people for various complex reasons. People with disabilities believe that being disabled gives them special insight and that they have a duty to monitor others in the disabled community.
Therefore, an important first step in responding to the news of disability discrimination is listening to people with disabilities and believing what they say about it. At least until you have a really compelling reason not to.
2. First, consider how your response affects people with disabilities, both participants and observers.
Many people with disabilities want cases of disability discrimination to be made public and appreciate it when they go viral and provoke justifiable and productive outrage. But viral videos and news stories about the most painful forms of disability discrimination can be traumatic as people with disabilities are stabbed in the face over and over and over again.
Many disabled people who responded to the video of the school assembly did not speak of the disability of the incident itself, but of their anguish over such harrowing scenes being widely shared by other disabled people. said he had been treated in this way as a child and that watching the video made him feel very uncomfortable. may be amplified. Even if a story or video featuring a real person with a disability is created and distributed without the knowledge, opinion, or permission of the person with a disability, no matter how well-meaning the intent is or how good it is perceived to be. Regardless, it tends to exploit people with disabilities.
The whole spectacle and how it is presented can take away much of the support and goodwill these stories are supposed to bring to people with disabilities.
It is clearly important to expose disability discrimination. Especially when it is very easily understood and helps build consensus on the conventions and ideas of people with disabilities. However, in combating disability stigma, it is important to be careful not to inadvertently hurt, talk to, or exploit people with real disabilities.
3. Whenever possible, amplify the voice of the disabled person and then add your own voice.
The best way to prevent non-disabled allies from exploiting and crushing people with disabilities in the fight against disability discrimination is to put people with disabilities at the center, not themselves. It may sound obvious. But it’s not easy.
The urge to speak up about these incidents and be heard first and loudest can certainly be overwhelming to the dissenters and the vain, but the progressive and supportive disability The disabled population is much larger than most people think, but non-disabled voices are almost always at risk of drowning disabled people in disabled discussions. And hearing from people with disabilities is not only fairer. This helps avoid serious mistakes in disability advocacy.
The wheelchair girl wasn’t just unable to bond with her non-disabled classmates. At least I’m not sure she had her say. In other words, she cannot know the full story unless she somehow hears from the girl herself, or at least from a disabled person who has been in a similar situation. You may have your own explanation. Either way, what the episode lacks, at least at first, is the voice of an actual disabled person.
People without disabilities should at least try to find out what other people with disabilities think about it before they state their opinion on an incident of apparent disability discrimination. their instead of adding your own words. Of course, it is important for able-bodied people to step in to help people with disabilities. But we should always be aware that even the most involved and dedicated advocates can hijack and derail the disability debate in ways that may do more harm than good.
The most famous part of the ethical tradition of the medical profession applies. “Do no harm first.”People without disabilities should base their responses to disability discrimination on what they want, not on what they want theybut about disabled people actually involved, and what helps people with disabilities in general.