Blogging Against Disableism Day: BADD

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Today is annual Blogging Against Disableism Day! I’m not a fan of awareness days and awareness months because there’s something so passive sounding about awareness. There. I’m aware. Now what? But this particular day has a call to action: to blog. So here I am, blogging. I’ve written about ableism and disableism around this blog in the past. Today I’ll manage to both invite you to a great media event and call out for more people to topple the structures that keep ableism and disableism in place.

First off, what? There are lots of ways to define these two terms. Some people use them completely interchangeably. Here are several different ways to describe ableism on the Feminists with disabilities for a way forward website. You can also check out this post on the pseudo-living blog about the author’s opinion on the difference between them, and the important parts we need to understand about how they’re used. Ableism and disableism show up in attitudes of thinking disabled people are broken and have to be fixed to be valuable because “normal” people are inherently valuable. They show up in denying access like making films without accommodations such as captions or audio description and pretty much not caring because “those people” aren’t movie audiences anyway. (Hint:  yes we are.) I could go on. In fact, I have many times on this blog. Have a look! And grab your favorite search engine and look up “Blogging Against Disableism Day” to see how others in many countries are addressing these topics.

You can’t dismantle ableism if you don’t know it’s there. So that’s why I recommend you check out other posts and sources to see examples of how these kinds of oppression play out to privilege some and deny others. I recently asked some friends of mine to please stop describing things they hate as “crazy.” As in, “That corporation is so underhanded, it’s just crazy!” No, that’s not crazy. That’s underhanded.

When we use labels that are insulting to a disabled person or a certain impairment, we’re being ableist. You could defend yourself by saying that we’re so used to that type of language that we’ve lost track of the words’ origins. But I don’t really buy that. After all, when someone describes why they call something (or someone) they don’t like by words like crazy, insane, the R-word, idiot, etc. they’ll likely give you reasons that go right back to the origin. Ask yourself the next time you use those words or hear someone else use them did the speaker mean that something is hard to understand, unreasonable, out of control, wild, horrible, lazy, dumb, or something of the like? If so, then no, they haven’t lost sight of the origin. They’ve lost sight that it’s oppressive to keep using this language and keep saying it’s OK to equate impairments with awfulness. It’s ableist.

And so I jump to the media invitation! I have just completed another class in documentary filmmaking at NW Documentary. Two classes will be screening our student films on May 9th at 7:00 pm in this Spring’s Homegrown DocFest at the Mission Theatre.  My offering for this year’s festival is called “Making ‘The Gab’.” Someone wrote this great description of the film. It’s a humorous look behind the scenes of local disabled artists creating and rehearsing for an upcoming web and cable access series, “The Gab.” The stakes are high to create a show that has integrity for the artists and meets the requirements of a grant funding the show’s creation. Well, I wrote that.

My film has captions burned right into the video so they can’t be turned off. I think of it as part of Universal Design. Maybe no one in that room that night will need captions. But they won’t hurt anyone. And if even one person does want or need them, they’re already there. You don’t have to make a stink or out yourself as having access needs. Your captions are ready and waiting for you as a matter of course because people who needs captions are still valued audience members to me. And so I also think of this as part of dismantling ableism. When I make a film, even some 7 second films I’ve put on Facebook, they have captions.

“The Gab” is a satire. It tackles ableism and disableism in a variety of ways, including the fact that sometimes we don’t even talk about disability. Can you imagine? Disabled people talking about something else! It shouldn’t be surprising that we’d want to talk about whatever we want, as we’re just people.

You can see “Making ‘The Gab'” on my YouTube and Vimeo pages after May 10th. And then please follow along and stay tuned as Caitlin Wood, Lavaun Heaster and I move forward to finish making “The Gab” this summer.