The Internet is a Wonderful Place: Educating Yourself

This wasn’t going to be the title of today’s post … the title was going to be “Ableism: what it is and why it matters” (and then be described as a very very basic, rough, 101 kind of article with lots of links for more nuanced views). And then … I realised that I didn’t have any idea about how to properly pull together a post on ableism. I still consider myself very much in the baby stages of identifying it (within myself and in the everyday circumstances I find myself in), and really … still have a long way to go before I have a clue about how I might write about it.

And then I realised, hell, who am I to write about it? The most important thing that I have learned so far about ableism is this: people with disabilities are PEOPLE, you can talk to them / ask them how they want to be addressed / ask them what accommodations they need – THEY know what THEY need and what THEY experience. You don’t need some person without disability to ‘translate’ for you or to advocate on their behalf … in fact, that’s really astonishingly patronising.

So I decided to write a post about educating oneself, instead.

But before I begin, as it was going to be my original topic, here’s what Google gives for definitions of ableism:

3 definitions for 'ableism', found by Google

(captioning: the 3 definitions given are “discrimination in favour of the able-bodied”, “Ableism is a neologism of United States coinage used to describe effective discrimination against people with disabilities in favour of people who are not disabled …” and “noun: discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities”)

as I understand things, people could well have problems with the first definition, and might have problems with the second, although so far as I know, not the third.

The problem with the first definition is that disability is not just about the body; it’s not hard to see that you can be a person with a disability who is also able-bodied. The (smaller?) problem with the second is that saying “people who are not disabled” naturally brings to mind “people who are disabled” which sounds like they can’t do anything, which is not at all true, “people with disabilities” would be a better way to term it from the blogs and websites I’ve read – although this may not be universally true.

Those are points I wouldn’t have thought much about, say, 6 months to a year ago … now they jump out at me. It’s interesting what a bit of time and reading can do. I’ve been lurking on disabledfeminists.com off and on for a long while now, and often following links offsite to other feminist / anti-racist blogs, and … it’s really interesting.

I’m lurking for a reason, and one which I’ve read many times is important: it is not their job to educate me.

From how they write about it, this is something that people with disabilities and people of colour come across extremely often – the sort of “but I WANT to be on your side, you just won’t LET me because you won’t drop everything to TEACH me things! And hey, if you weren’t so whiny/assertive/aggressive about it, people would like you more, and then you would teach more people things!” response. And underlying that is the “hey, minority group, serve my needs!” mentality.

But how to learn about such things if one cannot interrogate passers-by or chance acquaintances and force them to give you a complete 101 lesson on the spot (no matter how busy / tired / otherwise occupied they are)? The awesome thing is, these days, it’s easy.

We have the internet.

The internet is a wonderful thing for many, many reasons. One of them is this: there is enough space for very many people, and very many people can, and do, put information up on it. (I originally wrote ‘everybody’, but then realised that that meant my definition of a person was someone with an internet connection which is clearly wrong, I suspect half the world’s population can’t access the internet) After all, there’s Rule 34. A slightly more useful version of rule 34: if it’s a question about disability / feminism / racism you have? It will be on the internet. It will be on the internet, and some people will have spent time and effort explaining the answer to it. All you have to do is go and look at it.

So here are some links to get started, if you’re interested:

a post about defining disability
talking about talking about language surrounding disability

another post about language
on why people should educate themselves (contains almost-lolcat*)

(*the spelling’s too good for it to be a real lolcat)

I really, really think that that is a wonderful thing. All that knowledge! All that potential understanding! All at your fingertips. All you have to do is bother to look.

(And by the way, unlike most of the internet, you totally should read the comments. The comments are amazing.)

Had a similar experience yourself? Have some other resources – blogs, sites, books, whatever – to recommend? Just want to talk? Leave me a comment 🙂

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