It’s hard to know what to make of the UN-designated annual International Day of Disabled Persons (or, depending on your preferences, International Day of Persons with Disabilities). The UN and WHO seem to properly frame the focus on disability as a human rights (or civil rights) issue mediated by relative social disadvantage.
But what you’re more likely to see in any ‘celebration’ of today is a repetition of the same old popular narratives on disability – that disability is a personal tragedy which should evoke pity and inspire charity. Rather than discussion on how certain people are actively excluded from education, housing, employment, culture and recreation because of non-disabled people’s obliviousness or outright bias, you’re more likely to see inspiration porn and ‘teaching moments’ which perpetuate the tragedy-pity-charity model of disability.
If you don’t know what ‘inspiration porn’ is (and really, where have you been since 2014?) – and if you want to share something on social media today that’s actually relevant to persons with disabilities (*rolls eyes) – here’s Stella Young‘s now legendary 15-minute take-down of the inspiration trope.
And this classic is worth a re-watch for the cat masseuse alone:
And while we’re over-sharing, here’s one of my favourite episodes of the always mighty Disability Visibility podcast – this episode features philosopher Ashley Shew and poet/author/artist/activist The Cyborg Jillian Weise (along with host and stone-cold legend, Alice Wong), talking about cyborgs, tryborgs, and techno-ableism.
And look, techno-ableism makes a partial connection (hah!) to bumping this seminar on Disability, Personhood and Vulnerability by Jonathan Mitchell (University College Dublin) – the seminar is co-hosted by the multi-disciplinary project group Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures and The Nordic Network for Gender, Body and Health. I’m excited to hear about Jonathan’s research – go read that abstract and you should be excited too.
TLDR: Disabled people (aka ‘persons’ ‘with’ ‘disabilities’) don’t generally want pity or charity, today or any other day of the year. At least, not any more than anyone else does. Disabled people mostly want the world to stop treating them as tragedies, stop actively and aggressively excluding them from physical, social, professional and cultural spaces, and stop assuming it would be better if people with all those funky conditions and impairments just didn’t exist.