Friday, August 22, 2014

Disabled Culture

Disabled culture is not a myth, though people tell me it is.  These naysayers claim we are just a group within a group and, thus, need to focus on the group we reside in.
"Which group?" I often wonder.  I'm white, fat, female, heterosexual, artistic, Generation Y, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a Veil Theorist, etc.  Which group, then, should I direct my focus on?

We are all from multiple groups, organizations, classes.  We are all multifaceted.  Why is it that people with disabilities are told to guide our focus elsewhere?
Some people say disability cannot have a culture because we don't fit into a certain criteria.  We have no set religion or region so this is impossible.
If that's correct, movements for the expansion of homosexual literature (for example) would be moot because they come from all backgrounds with just ONE particular thing in common and yet, for them, that's enough.
I understand why some people believe there is no Disabled Culture.  We have a handful of literary magazines, a few arts organizations, one widely-recognized sports competition, and... not too much else.  And that's taking international resources into account though, admittedly, I don't know everything available.  

Some things to think about, though:

1.  Disabled characters on television are almost always played by able-bodied actors
2.  Organizations who claim to advocate for disabled, often do not have any on their board of directors (Autism Speaks, anyone?)
3.  There are no artist retreats or residencies for disabled
4.  Many wheelchair basketball teams are predominantly able-bodied sitting down (I couldn't believe that at first)
5.  Disabled who do show artistic leanings (or any other feat) are considered inspirational and, are therefore, rare
6.  Much of the writing in mainstream media about disabled people come from people without disabilities, despite the majority of us being able to (and do) write about ourselves

These points (and more like them) say a fair amount about what holds back attitudes from progressing towards the idea of Disabled Culture.  Disabled people know it exists but, at times, it is so buried and oppressed that we even have difficulty finding it.  I can't tell you the last time I read a novel written about a disabled person that made him/her seem like more than inspiration and a plot device (or a novel written by a disabled person, period).
The only time we won't be underground, I fear, is when inspiration or negativity wander into the spotlight and, though that sounds depressing, the world needs every unique perspective (on wheels or not) it can get.


  1. Interesting. I guess I never realized this. I'm thinking it's cuz the hope is to have all of society inclusive. Since there's a strict discrimination law I can't imagine disabled people being turned away from opportunities based on that alone. I have no idea tho. I imagine there are many challenges.
    I say you start a movement, Jennifer!

    1. There are movements all over. We are just too localized or marginalized for most non-disabled people to know or notice.
      Heck, some of the things happening in the disabled world I will never know about.

      So much good has been done; there is still so much good to do.

      And yes, discrimination happens all the time. The difficulty is finding enough proof that people who don't believe it, weren't there, and so on can see it, too. Burden of proof is a heavy one, indeed.
      No one walks around with a shirt that says, "I didn't hire Amy because she has Down Syndrome." If asked, the employer will state she couldn't work quickly enough, lacked a vital skill, etc. Who would test the claim?

      Having a highly sought-after writer's residency in a historical building with no wheelchair access (most likely) isn't intentional discrimination, but the fact that there is no way a wheelchair-user could attend still remains.