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The Importance of Language: What is Inclusive Language?

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Investigating the words we use is really important in making the way we speak more inclusive. Words and phrases that we use are often ableist and we don’t even realize that they are. In order to be more inclusive we should consider using different words and phrases in place of those ableist ones we are already using (if we have the capacity to do so). 

Learning how to use inclusive language allows us to create more inclusive spaces for those with disabilities. Much too often, we see the use of non-inclusive, ableist language in educational settings, work environments, and other social environments. This can cause the disabled community to feel as though they are being “othered,” and as if they are being segregated from society. By using inclusive language, we can ensure that everyone feels safe and welcomed in multiple spaces. 

A good place to start investigating the language we use is with Lydia X. Z. Brown. She has a blog with an extensive list of ableist words, phrases and slurs that we may not even know we are using (See: Autistic Hoya – A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown – Ableism/Language). Some of these phrases include: Bonkers, Bound to a wheelchair, crazy, crippled, etc. 

These terms are often seen as derogatory and insensitive. Therefore, we should avoid using these phrases if we can. 

Another important note about making the language we use more inclusive is to never assume. Different people have different ways they identify, but we must consider people’s personal preferences. We may have been taught that a certain word or phrasing is okay or even more respectful but that is not always the case. This blog post invites you to investigate the language you use and as Brown has stated “Ableism is not a list of bad words. Language is *one* tool of an oppressive system. Being aware of language — for those of us who have the privilege of being able to change our language — can help us understand how pervasive ableism is.” 

Inspiration Porn – What It Is And What It Looks Like

The Importance of The Stella Young TedTalk

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Oftentimes when we encounter people with disabilities we experience them as “objects of Inspiration,” meaning that disabled people are seen as people that are there to inspire (See: Stella Young Ted Talk). Social media and other platforms have played a large role in encouraging the idea that disabled people should be viewed as objects of inspiration. 

The images that we consume portraying disabled people as objects of inspiration are what we sometimes call “Inspiration Porn.” A good place to start in understanding inspiration porn is with the Stella Young Ted Talk, where she coined the term and gives examples of what inspiration porn looks like (See: Stella Young Ted Talk). The examples that Stella Young provides are important because they help us to understand why these well-intended messages are actually harmful/problematic.

Inspiration porn is problematic in the sense that it objectifies disabled people. When non-disabled people consume images which portray disabled people as inspiration, they are objectifying them. As Young mentioned, these “positive” images/messages that we consume in the media have underlying assumptions that disability is tragic by default. Portraying disability as tragic by default is what causes inspiration porn to be regarded as uplifting and receive positive feedback from those who are not disabled.

There is a lot to be learned from both Stella Young and Inspiration Porn. A couple key takeaways are: 

1.We must always include disabled people’s voices. 
This means listening and centering disabled voices and experiences and allowing them to represent themselves and tell their own stories within the media.

2.We must ask for consent when posting pictures of someone or creating content about them.
We must stop using images of disabled folks for social media content without their permission. As well, when deciding to tell the story of a disabled person online, make sure that you have their consent and that they are a part of the creation process.

These are just a few things we can do together! There are many more ways for us to avoid and challenge inspiration porn. 

Disability, Accessibility and Allyship: How to be a Supportive Ally to the Disabled Community on Campus

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 

Many social justice movements have emphasized the importance of allyship when it comes to fighting for the rights of marginalized communities. So, what does it take to be a true ally when it comes to activism? Being an ally means committing to “building lifelong relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability.” (See: Allyship – The Key to Unlocking The Power of Diversity) With that being said, what does allyship look like when it comes to the disabled community, or more specifically, disabled communities on University campuses?

Many disabled students face barriers, and experience ableism throughout their University careers. Some disabled students have experienced physical or mental barriers, difficulties accessing accommodations & support, or exclusion from extracurriculars and campus life. In order to ensure that the disabled community feels safe and included on campus, here are some tips for when it comes to advocating for the disabled community:

1. LISTEN to your fellow disabled students about their concerns when it comes to accessibility on campus.
For Example: If one of your peers expresses their frustration with the lack of accessibility on campus, do not be dismissive, and make sure that you are being an active listener. If a friend or peer asks for your supporting advocating for accessibility needs on campus, show them your support and become an advocate yourself!

2. ADVOCATE for inclusivity and accessibility on campus.
For Example: If you are part of a student group or club, speak up and emphasize the importance of accessibility. This could mean creating image descriptions and trigger warnings for social media posts, captioning instagram stories, and ensuring that events are located in places that are accessible to everyone.

3. ACKNOWLEDGE  the needs of disabled students within social justice initiatives on campus.
For Example: Much too often, social justice movements don’t take intersectionality into account. Disabled folks have different needs and perspectives, therefore it is important for them to have a voice at the table when it comes to the fight for social justice within educational institutions. Intersectionality understands that each person has a unique experience based on their social location, race, class, etc. 

4. UPLIFT disabled voices and supports disability projects. Whether that be academic work, or campus initiatives.
For Example: Notice disability artwork on campus? Encourage your friends and peers to check out their creations, in order to support the artist!

5. When it comes to student groups or projects, listen to the concerns of your peers who express that they have accessibility concerns.
For Example: This could mean changing the location of a group meeting so that it is accessible to everyone, or assigning roles to group members based on their accessibility/accommodation needs.

6. ASK: make sure we are asking people what they need and not assuming.
For example: Disability is unique to a person and everyone’s needs vary so asking is important. An example would be: you’re meeting up for a group meeting, make sure to check in with everyone and ask if there are any accommodation needs.  

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