What Not To Say To Your Disabled Friends

And yes, it’s okay to call disabled people disabled lol

So I was going to write an angry screed in response to how many articles I’ve seen marveling, seemingly for the very first time in their entire adult lives, at how lonely and tech-dependent prolonged isolation is, but I decided to (plot twist) do something generative instead. Please clap! (The button below just feels very right.)

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Today, a very brief dip-of-the-toe into the incredibly deep and beautiful waters of disability justice and the nightmare that is American healthcare. I’ve pulled some passages that I feel are poignant, but the goal here is to give you a starting point and/or supplement. Enjoy! Also, my very wise friend also named Shelby just retweeted this (unfortunately I am back on Twitter do not ask) and it’s extremely relevant!

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Book: Capitalism and Disability

Lots of people don’t think about disability but personally I find it grates more when smart left-affiliated people forget entirely about disabled people, perhaps not realizing they likely have disabled friends/comrades watching. Yikes! On the other hand, I see a lot of super well intentioned people fail to connect disability to anything outside of personal experience. Perchance…we could all kiss. 

Very fittingly alt text and IDs will not pull up for me, so photo captions are gonna go here today! The above is a cartoon drawing of a Good Girl who has a speech bubble saying “I really think expanding your mind will help. My friend rungs a lodge where you take ‘medicine’ which is a potent blend of LSD, purified dog poop, some Molly, twigs, and egg.

So a potential intervention: you might have to tweak your thinking and outreach to include disabled people, but it’s vital for you to take seriously. (Irony poison? Lose it for a bit, I promise you’ll be okay with the #cringe of being earnest and making things easy to understand. Heroic!) 

Article: Disability Justice Is an Essential Part of Abolishing Police and Prisons by Talia “TL” Lewis 

“While it is well known that policing in the united states was originally developed and later honed to control Black and Indigenous people’s lives — our movement, labor, speech, ownership, family, and more — most are unaware that disabled people (and those labeled disabled) have always been primary among the carceral machine’s intended targets. In fact, there is evidence disabled people have the most frequent and catastrophic encounters with carceral systems, and ableism has long been central to the nation’s economic, political, legal, and social anatomy. Indeed, no social justice issue, including abolition, can be properly addressed without intentionally centering disability and ableism — and no social justice movement can be successful without disability justice at its heart.” 

Book: Health Justice Now by Timothy Faust 

“Today, among so called ‘developed countries,’ America is the most dangerous place to be sick...but a funny thing happens when you look at these statistics.When you study them closely you realize that all this danger only exists...if you’re poor. Because rich people have exempted themselves from these problems...this has not happened on accident. America has chosen to refuse to recognize the essential dignity of being human. And in this refusal it has caused mass suffering. This is the terrible secret of American healthcare. This is the fundamental American illness. They’re killing us and robbing our corpses to foot the bill. This is an act of war.”

This book also includes a comprehensive list of resources to learn more about American healthcare, which I’ll include below: 

  • Health Care at Risk by Timothy Jost 

  • Health Care for Some: Rights and Rationing in the United States Since 1930 by Beatrix Rebecca Hoffman 

  • Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians Are Paid, by Miriam Laugesen 

  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington 

  • Poverty and the Myths of Healthcare Reform by Richard Cooper 

  • Poor People’s Movements by Frances Fox Piven 

  • Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy E. Roberts 

Disability Visibility - collection of essays

A cartoon of a circular face with wide red mouth. She has a speech bubble which says “You’re going to want to become Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors and choose the route that leads to Goop.”

Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha 

“Crip emotional intelligence is understanding isolation. Deeply. We know what it’s like to be really, really alone. To be forgotten about, in that way where people just don’t remember you’ve ever been out, at meetings, and parties, in the social life of the world. How being isolated, being shunned, being cut off from the social world of community is terrifying because you know that it can literally kill you. And that being alone also does not always have to be killing; it can be an oasis of calm, quiet, low stimulation, and rest.” 

Also important is the distinction between sustained support and emergency response.

“These emergency-response care webs often really fall apart when and if the person they’re for becomes disabled in a long-term way, and their members realize that the ‘issue’ isn’t an individual problem that their buddy has—that beyond needing care, their friend is being impacted by the ableism of both the everyday world and much queer and activist space.” 

What Can a Body Do? How We Meet the Built World by Sara Hendren

“The cult of normalcy reached its ugliest expression in the eugenics movements of the early twentieth century, with an aggressive pursuit of normalcy that brought violent measures for disabled people: mass sterilization campaigns and euthanasia, to ensure that only the “right” kinds of individuals and family units would genetically flourish, in the hopes that nations might flourish as well.”

A cartoon of another good girl with wide red mouth and stringy hair who has a speech bubble saying “wow if I’m this scared I cannot fathom how you feel! You fragile, weak little toad!”

What are some of your favorite books / articles / resources? Feel free to share! 

Requisite photo of  my dog: 

An old picture of Clementine, she’s probably about 1 years old here! She’s very orange, not big or small but definitely not medium, has beautiful hazel colored eyes, orange-ish fur with a big white spot on her chest, paws, and nose. Her ears: also little.

Shelby and Clem