If you’ve been on social media at all the past few years, you’ll notice people becoming more vocal about social justice issues, including gender, sexuality, and racial issues. I’m friends with both liberals and conservatives and have seen the posts intensify in number and content since this past election. Truthfully, social media has been an asset in many movements, one of which being Black Lives Matter. BLM originated on the internet and through it, supporters have held rallies and protests in thousands of major cities across the nation and have gained international press coverage. Whether or not one stands with BLM, everyone can agree that their support base has expanded exponentially through Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth.
While I’m not going to express my individual political stances, there’s one thing that has gotten me fired up within the past year: the lacking disability rights presence virtually anywhere. Neither major political party ever mentions rights for the disabled. The Democratic Party used a woman with CP in the Democratic National Convention last July, but never mentioned disability rights thereafter. The Republican Party is equally guilty, rarely giving mention to our fellow citizens with disabilities, and bragging to defund prime disability resources like Social Security, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, the IDEA Act for Education, etc. In both situations, we people with disabilities are not seen as equal citizens: we’re either a crutch to use to bring “inspiration” when it’s politically convenient, or an inconvenience to society.
I will say I’m finally beginning to see more disability-pride marches, more by the American Association for People with Disabilities, and more social media representation by persons with disabilities, but I’m still dissatisfied. It’s the very fundamental perception of disability in culture that is woven so tightly that it’ll take extremely strong efforts to shatter. Ableist language is still incredibly pervasive, and like the linked article states, people become defensive of saying ableist things while they would likely back down if it was racist/sexist/etc. On the other hand, we’re seen as “inspirations” to society merely because we chose to wear clothes or do a basic task. I’ve been called an inspiration while riding the bus, at a party, studying in the library, walking to class, and in many instances where I obviously did nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary to merit it. While I can’t speak on behalf of every disabled person, I and others that are also dissatisfied with our unequal representation can say with confidence that we just want to be as normal as diversity allows.
This rant isn’t necessarily directed anger as much as it is just my disappointed take on national politics since I don’t feel included anywhere. However, as long as I can’t attend a specific disability rights march or public display, I’m passionately educating the world around me that is willing to learn and continue to broaden what true diversity is. If you want to be part of the very young movement, start by treating people with disabilities like humans! Seems simple, but it really does go a long way. Until then, keep smiling, and go shatter some stereotypes.
Have a sunshiny day!