I have been trying so hard to get a handle on my thoughts about this day, and boil them down into something at least semi interesting and readable. But the more I thought, the more I realized it was no simpler to pack my thoughts about this day into a single post than it is to encompass everything there is to know about disability in a single awareness day. So instead of attempting a comprehensive overview of disability, something that I am woefully underqualified to do, here are a few things that, from my perspective, are worth sharing about disability, today and every day.
Firstly, disability is a natural part of life. It is no more unnatural than living or dying. Many disabled people have lived with their disability most of if not their entire lives. I am one such example, having been born with the neural tube defect Spina Bifida. I have only known life with my disability, so it is very much my normal. It’s the only way I know how to live.
Related to that, a lot of disabled people are proud of their disability. They like being disabled. Disabled people are the largest minority in the world and that minority is in a way its own community. We may not all share a common background, or identical shared experiences, but the experience we do share connects us. Disability has its own culture, its own history, and disabled people are proud of that.
Moving from the collective back to the individual, we want the exact same things from life that non disabled people do. We have goals and dreams and desires, same as anyone else. We want to get an education and work and be independent. We want to get married and have families. We want to enjoy the same freedom to live a normal life as non disabled people.
However, so many of these goals remain unattainable for many. Societal ableism, ableism being discrimination on the basis of disability, still creates so many barriers to disabled people. It bars us from attending the schools we want. It denies us jobs. It prohibits us from getting married through penalties attached to government benefits, penalties that also keep us in poverty.
There also exists the stigma attached to disability. This stigma says that disability is wrong and unnatural. It says that people who are disabled are less than, broken and deserving of pity. These pervasive attitudes are continually given space in media and spread from person to person. This is how they survive and until these stigmas and all ableism ends, disabled people will struggle to be fully realized members of society.
But that won’t happen today. That’s not what today is for. We can’t end discrimination against disabled people that quickly. But we can build toward that goal.
We can use every day to, each in our own way, dismantle the systems in place that allow ableism to prosper. We can lend support to disabled people and disabled movements that are working for that goal of social inclusion and equity. We can raise up the activists already doing the work. We can recognize the problematic language and behavior in our own lives. Today we can do that, then we’ll see about tomorrow.