The “Look” of Disability
The word disability inspires a wide variety of images. Wheelchairs. Prosthetics. White-tipped canes. The problem with these images, however, is that they only represent a fraction of this diverse and nuanced concept. So, what’s the alternative? There are plenty of symbols and identifiers out there in the world: Though, these icons don’t feel right either as they still limit our understanding of disability. They all contribute to the idea that disability should “look like something” when, in reality, disability can manifest in so many different forms.
It’s Time for Something Different
Here at Easterseals, we’re going to propose something a little radical. In place of trying to conjure up an image that represents disability, we are instead going to reject the idea that such an image exists. We propose that disability is not limited to its visual identification, but should be thought of as a concept; an idea. Something that isn’t only represented by physical labels, but is represented by the multitude of perceptions, ideas, and needs that surround this subject. When you think of terms such as good, evil, biology, or philosophy, it’s very difficult to set down an image that is universally understood, and yet we understand them. We are choosing to identify disability as a barrier that includes both visible and invisible disabilities. These barriers affect us all and as long as we are working together to address them, nothing can hold us back.
What Does Change Look Like?
Labels keep the world organized, it’s true. It feels good to put things in their place. The only thing we ask is that you don’t do the same for people with disabilities. Should we do away with the labels that help identify where it’s best for people to park or how to know whether or not a video will contain closed captioning? Of course not! These are useful identifiers for a SOLUTION and NOT of disability. However, we should never let these labels limit our understanding of this diverse topic. If we put on blinders and refuse to understand the wide range of cultural, physical, and societal implications that surround “disability,” we run the risk of leaving someone behind. Changing our old ways of thinking can be difficult, but it’s worth the effort. By shifting our way of thinking, we become more inclusive as our thoughts become our deeds. Thank you for working with us to eliminate the labels and helping us take on disability together.