By Grace Avila
Every person with a disability has a different lived experience than the next person. However, I think most of us in the disability community can agree on this: One of the best ways for an able-bodied person to show up and support people with disabilities is to educate themselves about disability and ableism.
Ableism, which is the discrimination of people with disabilities (and reversely, being in favor of able-bodied people) is deeply ingrained into our society. It is extremely important for people to 1.) understand ableism 2.) unlearn their own ableism so that things can change. According to Colin Barnes and Mike Oliver, authors of the 1993 article “Disability: A Sociological Phenomenon Ignored by Sociologists”, disability is a central issue much like race, gender, and class.
An entry point to become informed about disability and ableism is through reading about first hand experiences from disabled people themselves! A book I always recommend is Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, which is a compilation of stories by disabled people. As someone who is disabled, it was empowering for me to read stories written by people who could put my thoughts and feelings into words; I loved reading stories written by people I could learn from.
Access issues, (un)intentional discrimination from friends, family, and strangers, and trouble getting medical equipment and procedures are just some of the challenges and frustrations that disabled people may encounter on a daily basis. Educating yourself and others goes a long way.
There are many disabled content creators on social media platforms who are more than happy to share their own experiences.
To my non-disabled friends: It’s up to you to choose to absorb what you learn and put it into practice. Change how you view people with disabilities, ask what accommodations will be available at an event for your disabled friend, learn sign language because it’s cool to know another language and one day you might need to know it, caption your videos and put image descriptions on your photos because you never know who's going to be viewing your content. All of these things go a long way. Show up for disabled people. Not only is it encouraging for people with disabilities to feel seen, but doing these things can also impact the other people around you. In fact, I think it’s really true when people say “you lead by example.”
Now let’s do the work and continue to show up for the disability community.