Accessibility and Ableism.
It took me a really long time to see the ways in which many spaces (including activist and feminist spaces) aren’t always the most accessible in different ways and how accessibility has to mean more than just talking the talk. And accessibility can be more than just about disabilities (although that’s a huge factor) because issues like class also matter.
I wrote several months back about how activism has changed in the technological age and how every person’s activism differs. Not everyone has the same abilities; not everyone is able to walk in marches, to attend protests, or the like. And that can be for a plethora of different reasons – physical disabilities, economic barriers, etc. Kai Cheng Thom wrote about some of the ways in which we can make social justice movements less elitist and more accessible because so many spaces are often inaccessible and very elitist.
Feminist spaces, like many spaces within society, have unfortunately been home to everyday ableist encounters and language. There are so many ways in which ableist language is normalized within society but the fact of the matter is, there are so many alternatives to what we’re trying to communicate. Sara Whitestone wrote about how mainstream feminism continues to perpetuate ableism (including the usage of ableist language) and how we can change that to make our communities more inclusive.
It’s also important to remember that not all disabilities are going to look the way that able bodied people want them to. Sara Whitestone also wrote about being an ally to people with invisible disabilities and opens up about her experiences with one:
My condition reacts to a variety of factors, so my symptoms vary on any given day. Some days, I have to use a wheelchair with powerful motorized wheels for mobility. Other days, I can walk with ease and agility. There are also days when I can’t get out of bed at all.
So when we talk about accessibility, we need to understand the different ways in which people come to the table and make social movements more inclusive, including for those who are neurodivergent. We have to realize that ableism is ingrained within society and that accessibility means more than just lip service about disabilities. It’s providing child care or transportation, it’s realizing the roles of service dogs to their owners, it’s celebrating age diversity within communities, it’s not participating in ‘inspiration porn’, it’s realizing that not all disabilities look the same and that every person is differently abled and contributes to the movement in different ways.