Recently disabled social media activists created a campaign using the hashtag #TheAbleistScript to shed light on the everyday ableism that is pervasive in our culture. There are so many words and ideas, scripts written by society, that reinforce the oppressive system of ignorance, hostility, erasure and discrimination towards disabled individuals. The Twitter based discussion has allowed disabled people of diverse impairments and backgrounds to share their experiences and voice their frustrations. Personally, being fully aware of the trials and tribulations of being disabled in an ableist world I was eager to put in my two cents, so to speak. While I felt strongly compelled to contribute, I also was equally interested in learning a few things.
Some of the biggest lessons I believe we should take away from this campaign are…
Ableism is a massively intersectional issue
The poor treatment and misunderstanding of disabled people is not a singular isolated problem it is deeply intertwined with almost all other forms of oppression. Things like police brutality, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and poverty, all overlap with ableism. Disability transcends race, religion, gender, economic status and age; any person can become disabled at any point in life.
Words have a major impact
The negative things that are often said to disabled people have a damaging effect on self-worth and confidence. The vast majority of the disabled population encounters microaggression, ableist language and hate speech throughout our lives. The words and phrases that abled people use, many times unintentionally, send harmful messages and reflect a deep-seated ableist narrative.
Representation is a necessity
Disabled people must overcome a myriad of false perceptions and stereotypes, one of the most effective methods of rooting out these views is positive representation. How disabled individuals are portrayed in film, television, literature, news media, etc. alter the way people think about disability. When it comes to representation, the younger that people are exposed, the easier it becomes for abled people to be understanding and for disabled people to love themselves.
The need for disabled allies
Much of the time there is great discussion within the disabled community, which is extremely important, but more people who are not disabled should be aware and supportive of the cause. The fight for disabled equality and perception unfortunately is not as well-known as some other social justice movements and even some of the most progressive seeming activists remain ableist. For example, mainstream feminism can sometimes fail to effectively include the struggles of disabled women along with the larger narrative of inequality.
Disabled people do not exist for inspiration
Inspiration porn and hero worship is a constant problem that so many disabled individuals to have to deal with. The extremely othering feeling of being put on a pedestal for simply existing creates barriers between abled and disabled people. Pity often goes hand-in-hand with the idea that impairments automatically make someone inspirational.
For disabled people, I feel that it is extremely important that we continue to have a voice on social media and in general. #TheAbleistScript is certainly not the first campaign regarding disability on Twitter and it certainly will not be the last, it serves to remind us how much work needs to be done in order to rid the world of ableism. This reminder also comes with hope that things will continue to change, that progress is always within reach. As Margret Mead once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”