Disability is not Sexy
Perhaps we are exhausted, bored, stifled by months of little to no interaction with people. But this summer seems to have brought an air of change. People seem more inclined to listen and acknowledge that inequality and injustice exist for millions of Americans. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and countless more unarmed black people killed by police finally shed light on systemic racism and how deeply ingrained it is in our society.
Diversity and inclusion is a bigger topic of conversation than it ever has been. Entities and companies have professed solidarity and pushed forth inclusive practices. Amazon, Apple, Walmart, Target HM, even McDonald’s and Wendy’s have pledged to expand inclusive hiring and marketing practices, and also financially support causes fighting racism.
The world is suspended, teetering side-to-side. We stand in a moment, waivering between unity and reconciliation or division and inequality. What boggles the mind is that people have to pause and think twice.
But where does disability fit in?
Disability is not quite sexy enough to mobilize celebrities and politicians, or encourage neighbors to plant disability pride signs in their front yards.
Disabled people are not attempting to co-op this moment. We are not trying to sneak away with the limelight. But if diversity and inclusion is the topic at hand, it has to include disability. Disability is the largest and most diverse minority group. We encompass all ages, genders, identities, religions, races, sexual orientations. We make up 25% of the population but only have a 11% employment rate among disabled adults. We are denied autonomy; we are denied access; we are denied accomodations; we are feared, mocked and misunderstood.
We do not intend to shove Black Lives Matter or any other group off into the wings. We simply are asking to be included. And included with equal access. We do not want to shift the national conversation but expand it. We agree it’s time and vital to discuss and acknowledge systemic racism and how institutionalized it has become. We also need to incorporate ablism and how it impacts our culture.
Ablism is frequently excluded from the conversation, but as disability intersects with every other group, it’s crucial ablism be a pillar of social justice. We need to define it, learn about it, recognize it and include it in our national discourse on equity and inclusion.