Hey, everyone. As some of you may know from Episode’s shelf this week, today is International Day of People with Disabilities In order to spread some awareness about this day, I figured I’d make this post. (Hopefully I’m posting in the right section, if not, please let me know.)
What is a disability?
According to the ADA’s website, “ The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.”
So, what is the purpose of this day?
International Day of People with Disabilities was first proclaimed in 1992 with the goal of promoting the well-being and equal rights of people with disabilities in all areas of life. Its aim is also to spread awareness of the challenges persons with disabilities face in social, economic, political, cultural, and educational life.
What does this day mean for disabled people?
Speaking from personal experience, this day is an important one for me to express my opinions, struggles, and hope as a person with a disability. It gives me a way to share some information about the things I go through and to connect with other people in similar situations. For a community that is so often ignored in discussions about diversity, this day provides an important outlet for expressing our perspectives and promoting visibility and acceptance.
What are some areas of life where people with disabilities are still working to achieve equality?
People with disabilities face challenges in terms of employment, pay, education, health care, housing, and many other aspects of life. Society was, ultimately, built with the able-bodied in mind. Only through the implementation of a more universal design will people with disabilities be able to access more of the same resources as able-bodied people.
If I don’t have a disability, why should this day matter to me?
This day should matter to both disabled and non-disabled people alike. If you do not have a disability, this day is a little bit of a call to action. If you notice someone with a disability struggling, ask them if they need help (if they decline, however, please accept their wishes). If you notice that a business you work in or an establishment you visit is inaccessible in any way, let someone know. If you notice someone with a disability eating alone at lunch in the cafeteria, don’t be afraid to go say “hello” to them. Just simple little gestures like these go a long way.
If I want to write a character with a disability, what should I do?
If you wish to write a character with a disability in your Episode story, I would strongly recommend reaching out to members of the community who have disabilities first. They can always tell you best what is considered offensive or incorrect. If you do need someone to reach out to, I am always here to answer questions.
I would also recommend avoiding these common but offensive themes:
- Having the disabled character be considered an inspiration simply for going about their daily life.
- Having the disabled character’s sole purpose in the story be to watch them get cured. Most people with disabilities do not feel that they need to be “cured” of anything.
- Having the disabled character wishing to die because they can’t fathom life with a disability. This storyline is extremely damaging for people with disabilities to watch because it ultimately conveys the point that our lives do not have value.
- Having the disabled character have no personality outside of being disabled. This is inaccurate as we have likes, dislikes, attitudes, and opinions just like anyone else. Minimizing us to just our disabled identity makes for very one dimensional and fake characters.
- Having the disabled character only exist for the betterment of other characters. For instance, do not have any of your characters say, “I appreciate my life more looking at what their (disabled character) life is like.”
- Do not have your characters infantilize your disabled character. This includes any times where they might treat the disabled character as if they do not understand what is happening (like they’re a child) instead of addressing them as they would any other person.
- If you are using overlays to represent certain mobility aids in your stories, please do some research on how exactly these should look. For instance, some types of wheelchairs are solely meant for medical usage in hospitals and such while others are meant for daily living in a wheelchair.
- Addition from @janebelrose - “Another thing I’d add is don’t be afraid to use the term “disabled” or “disability.” Some people, I feel, assume it’s offensive and tend to use “differently abled” or “all-abled” or any similar term, which is awful because that terminology it detracts from the disability! Basically, don’t get cute with the names. Treat it how it is. Treat us how it is.”
- Please do not use the r-word in your stories. This is an extremely offensive term.
- If someone with a disability says something you wrote or did is offensive, please listen to them. They are the ones who define their identity and claiming that you know everything on the topic is harmful and demeaning.
Anyways, I think that’s about it for now. I don’t want to make this thread so long that no one stops to read it
I hope that this thread has helped you all learn about what International Day of Persons with Disabilities means. If anyone has anything to add in the comments, please do! I might even add more to this later as I think of it Also, if you want to ask questions about representing disabilities in your stories, feel free to do that as well. Last, if you have a disability and you want to find support from others with disabilities going through similar experiences (in real life or on Episode) please feel free to reach out in the comments. I want this thread to provide a comfortable place for open discussion about this topic
Here are some links you might want to look at: