Learning About Ableism
June 12, 2014 10:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in knowing more about ableism (its central theories, history, politics, etc). Frankly, I'm very ignorant of the subject at present. I've tried researching on my own, but have come up nearly empty in terms of finding thorough sites, blogs, books -- anything, really. Disability rights is also something I'd like to learn about, though I'm so ignorant of that subject as well that I'm not sure of the overlap between that and ableism.

What I'm looking for is a primer or (better yet) a central cannon, but I'd also be interested in resources beyond that (organizations, podcasts, tumblr blogs, libraries/museums/sights, anything). If there's anything that I could read up on about the intersection between housing/construction and/or emergency preparedness and ableism or disability rights, that would be of special interest to me. However, like I said, I'm still basically ignorant of the theories or history or politics of ableism (and/or of disability rights) altogether, so much more general stuff is perfectly fine, and mostly what I'm looking for in the first place. Also, if you're so inclined, please feel free to educate me right here on the green!
posted by rue72 to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is a great place to start - http://ablersite.org/
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:23 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't have anything useful to add, other than my enthusiasm for this question. I'll be watching the responses! Thanks for asking this!
posted by JuliaIglesias at 10:41 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Listen to the back catalogue of the BBC's Ouch! Disability Talk Show. I listened to every single episode up until the original hosts (Mat Fraser and Liz Carr) left permanently. It's UK focused, but the themes are internationally applicable. It's an entertaining, informative show and I learned so much about disability rights issues from listening to it. Plus the original hosts had amazing chemistry and razor sharp, perfectly dry senses of humour.

(The new hosts aren't bad or anything! In fact one of them used to do a news segment on the original show with Mat and Liz. It's just that I missed the original two hosts and got out of the habit of listening when they left.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:48 PM on June 12, 2014

Best answer: Disability rights is also something I'd like to learn about, though I'm so ignorant of that subject as well that I'm not sure of the overlap between that and ableism.

I think of them as broadly overlapping, in that I feel that a lot of disability rights stuff is the other side of the coin from ableism? But maybe that's because most of the resources I know of come from a rights-based focus, who knows!

This brief (20-minute) documentary talks about the early disability rights movement in the US which was focused on independent living for people with physical disabilities.

I highly recommend DREDF's website in general. They have a series of videos called "Healthcare Stories" in which people with disabilities talk about trying to access medical care. They all have transcripts, too. You can poke around their website and learn more about disability rights in relation to transportation, housing, applying for public benefits, even watching streaming media.

FWD (feminists with disabilities for a way forward) doesn't update any longer, but they have a great body of work, including a tag for ableism.

Eva Sweeney, who now mostly writes at a collective blog for women with disabilities, kept a personal blog for a long time called The Deal With Disability that was specifically about how non-disabled people reacted to her in public.

You might be interested in books like What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement (available for Kindle!) and "No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement."

If I had to come up with a personal definition, I would say that ableism is the belief that being non-disabled is normal, average, and desirable, and that being disabled is strange, aberrational, and undesirable, and should be corrected if possible and ignored if not. Man, the assumption that all disabled people want to be "cured" is probably the biggest example of ableism I can think of.

Oh, on preview, seconding Ouch! YOU WILL LAUGH AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:11 PM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you're interested in the way disability (and sometimes ableism) is portrayed in movies, you might want to check out my Disability Movies site. (Self link.)
posted by Soliloquy at 11:41 PM on June 12, 2014

I was also going to recommend FWD. I'm very sad they're defunct; it's a great blog.
posted by jaguar at 11:48 PM on June 12, 2014

You might enjoy this video of Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor going for a walk around San Francisco.
posted by flora at 2:25 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I randomly stumbled across this blog you may like: BadCripple
It's written by a disabled man with a focus on disability rights and the issues he faces.
posted by catatethebird at 3:58 AM on June 13, 2014

Robert McRuer's Crip Theory is a cracking read.
posted by nerdfish at 6:38 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Andrew Morrison-Gurza's The Truth About Being Crippled blog is a great read. He also blogs for HuffPo about the lived experience of being queer and in a chair.
posted by custard heart at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have really enjoyed, as a jumping off point, Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability by Paul Longmore. Longmore was a disabled professor and the title essay in the book was about how, in his quest to be independent it became very difficult for him to both receive the education he wanted (along with graduate level jobs) without disqualifying himself for the required medical assistance he needed to be able to be independent. For many disabled people who could be independent with the right assistive technology or human assistance, this is a central issue because it varies on a state to state basis in the US and affects other things like mental health care for the physically disabled, the euthanasia movement (which he touches on in a very thought provoking piece) and the general social model of disability and how it's broken. A sentence that was useful from an Amazon review

"Longmore writes about the way that social assistance in the US has been divided into programs for "deserving" workers and for the "needy," both of whom are stigmatized and used to police the bounds of acceptability. Being in need is defined as being deficient, contrary to the realities of human existence."

Longmore also writes about the history of disability activism in the US which is something I've been unable to find a good resource for elsewhere. The Paul K Longmore Institute on disability is also a good starting point for this topic.

Along similar lines, the combined topic of Sex and Disability is one where there is a lot written but not a lot of public discussion outside of the circles of people within it and it's a rich and interesting topic. This ranges from Mark O'Brien's essay about seeing a sex surrogate to first person accounts of being a sex surrogate for disabled people (either to have sex with them or facilitate their sex lives with their partners, another link from MeFi). This list: Disabled and Horny is probably all you need along these lines and The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability is a great book and one you might even find in your library. Ouch! is also a great podcast.
posted by jessamyn at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dave Hingsburger's blog Rolling Around in My Head is excellent. He's a disability educator and disabled himself, and a really insightful and thoughtful blogger.
posted by Lexica at 10:11 AM on June 13, 2014

There's some great articles on Ramp Up Unfortunately the arsehole government has cut their funding so there will be no new content past 30 June 2014.
posted by goshling at 1:29 AM on June 19, 2014

Best answer: The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and its improvement Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (2008) is challenging to navigate: responsibility for enforcement is scattered among different agencies, and someone decided that renumbering everything between the initial and revised versions would be helpful. The DOJ funds ten regional technical assistance centers, who answer the phone and can help you decode things

But if you're up for it, here's the law's index from the ADA.gov site.

So far, nobody has solved the "how to ensure people with disabilities are equitably treated in emergency situations" issue, but not for lack of discussing it, and the Federal Dept of Justice has been pressuring municipalities to keep the issue lively. DOJ resources on ADA-related emergency management topics

Regarding Design Issues
Brief exploration of 'Universal Design' vs 'Accommodations' this is a crucial distinction. Even in the best universally designed environments, accommodations will still be needed (and required by the ADA).
Designers with Disabilities at Work profiles 21 architects, engineers and designers.
Indiana U Resources on Universal Design

This classic made it possible
Stigma: Notes on the Management of a Spoiled Identity by Irving Goffman: sixty years on, this still says a hell of a lot, in wildly out of date language.

The academic disciplines undertaken under the umbrella "Disability Studies" range broadly: from physiotherapy to medical ethics, from medical sociology to narrative medicine, from Foucaldian literary analysis to history, from rhetorics to "universal design for learning," from rehab engineering to universal architectural design. The U.S. version has been housed in the humanities, while the U.K. variety began in sociology.

Two of the U.S. journals are available at no charge:
- the original Disability Studies Quarterly (first issues were produced on mimeograph!)
- newer Review of Disability Studies
The oldest UK journal is
Disability and Society
and requires a university library logon.

There are thousands of "this is my story, these are my thoughts" blogs by people with disabilities. It's hard to understand how powerful it is when someone who shares your experience talks about it without shame. The Livejournal fork, Dreamwidth.org hosts quite a few, since accessibility in journal writing and reading is valued by the (disabled) founder. For instance, mine:
Mel Bagg's blog addresses a cross-disability audience from her autistic perspective:

I often reread Cal Montgomery's excellent meditation on the ethics of care:
The Critic of the Dawn
That's at the archive for a fabulous movement publication with various names. Started in 1986 as the "The Ragged Edge," which jumped to the web 11 years later as "The Electric Edge," and ended life as
Ragged Edge Online
No new content in seven years but there's a ton to learn there, including how we organized to make the ADA happen and what the devil ADAPT is about.

LITERATURE: print or ebooks
These are well-written, informed by years of activism, and interactions with thousands of disabled people:
Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum: Novel about disabled teens in a "congregate care facility" e.g., nursing home. Grim and true and very funny.
Too Old to Die Young by Harriet McBryde Johnson: Essays on politics (plus one on love)
The Rejected Body by Susan Wendell: One bulwark of second wave feminism was the strong, empowered, capable feminist body. This book explores life when one's body is weak, unreliable, and stigmatized.
Exile & Pride by Eli Clare: His working-class, tremoring hands hold poems and political polemic. He's a charismatic figure because he intuits the connections between humans, even when we can't imagine that possibility.

Sorry this list is so long but I didn't have time to make it shorter :,)
posted by Jesse the K at 8:38 PM on June 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

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