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May 16 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Guest-written by ParriagGroup Associate, Ren McFadyen


The10 Principles of Disability Justice arranged in a word cloud on a pink & black square: Intersectionality, Leadership of those most impacted, Anti-capitalism, Cross-movement organizing, Wholeness, Sustainability, Cross-disability organizing, Interdependence, Collective Access & Collective Liberation.
The 10 Principles of Disability Justice arranged in a word cloud on a pink & black square: Intersectionality, Leadership of those most impacted, Anti-capitalism, Cross-movement organizing, Wholeness, Sustainability, Cross-disability organizing, Interdependence, Collective Access & Collective Liberation.

Accessibility is the practice of honouring varying and different needs. It undoes the myths of ableism the messages that say all we must do is work “harder” and “smarter”; the messages that impose and reinforce oppressive hierarchies, that define worth and value as dependent on a person’s productivity under capitalism, and that fail to recognize the power of human diversity in both our needs and our capacities. Accessibility seeks to see and honour our unique disabilities and abilities and the intersections of our many identities.


A single-issue civil rights framework is inadequate to explain the full picture of discrimination against persons with disabilities and how it works in society. Discrimination against persons with disabilities can only be truly understood by tracing the relationship with discrimination against persons with disabilities, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism.


The term disability justice was coined out of conversations between disabled queer women of colour activists in 2005 including Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, and Stacy Milbern of the Sins Invalid, who eventually united with other activists seeking to challenge radical and progressive movements to more fully address ableism.


Disability Justice was built because the Disability Rights Movement and Disability Studies do not inherently centralize the needs and experiences of folks experiencing intersectional oppression, such as disabled people of colour, immigrants with disabilities, queers with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are houseless, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen, amongst others.


Disability justice recognizes the intersecting legacies of white supremacy, colonial capitalism, gendered oppression and ableism in understanding how peoples’ bodies and minds are labelled ‘deviant’, ‘unproductive’, ‘disposable’ and/or ‘invalid’.


For disability justice activists, the answer lies in structural change, not just better enforcement mechanisms, or anti-discriminatory practices. Activists, organizers, and cultural workers working in the field of disability justice recognize that able-bodied supremacy has evolved in connection to various systems of dominance and exploitation. White supremacy and ableism are inherently connected histories, both of which emerged in the context of colonialism and capitalist dominance. White supremacy uses ableism to create an inadequate/”other” group of people who are deemed less worthy/abled.


In her keynote presentation at the 2018 Disability Intersectionality Summit, Mia Mingus reflected:

I want us to think beyond just knowing the “right things to say” and be able to truly engage. I want us to not only make sure things are accessible, but also work to transform the conditions that created that inaccessibility in the first place. To not only meet the immediate needs of access—whether that is access to spaces, or access to education and resources, or access to dignity and agency — but also work to make sure that the inaccessibility doesn’t happen again.
When I say “liberatory access,” I mean access that is more than simply having a ramp or being scent free or providing captions. Access for the sake of access or inclusion is not necessarily liberatory, but access done in the service of love, justice, connection and community is liberatory and has the power to transform.”  -  Mia Mingus (2018)

 

Today, we hope that you will make time to explore further resources, concepts, and figures in the space of disability justice and accessibility. There is much to be learned, and so many places to start:


More to Explore:


Media:          


Disability Justice & Disability Rights – some key activists:

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