“Help the Handicapped”: Cure Ableism

1 in 5. That’s how many people nationally and globally have disabilities. Why should we care?

Because “they” are us — you, me, our family, our friends, our colleagues, our classmates, our neighbors, our leaders. So how we think about, talk about and act around issues of disability matters.

More than how we understand disability, how — or if at all — we understand disability marginalization matters even more. Most people in our culture recognize the phenomena of racism, of sexism, of classism, of homophobia — at least as terms, if not as realities.

But mention ableism, and mostly you get blank looks. Or a slight frown of recognition that maybe this is the latest progressive keyword du jour. And audism? It took decades for me as a disabled person before even I learned that one. Neurodivergence? Most people might guess that it’s the working title for an upcoming sci-fi blockbuster.

Twenty five years after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many entities still behave as though its regulations are stamped “Compliance Optional.” Many news outlets cover stories involving disability only as “inspiration porn.” The medical model and charity models of disability still eclipse the social and civil rights models of disability.

Disability rights are civil rights. Disability rights are human rights. Disability is part of human diversity. Always has been, always will be.

So let’s play where disability still mostly lives — simultaneously in the midst of us and at the margins. Let this be a space where we — the 1 in 5 with the 4 in 5 — explore realities and possibilities of disability experiences, including the marginalizations caused by ableism, audism, neurotypicality. Let’s move beyond the cultural mandate to “help the handicapped” as objects of charity, pity or segreagation.

“Help the handicapped”: cure ableism.