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Accessibility in Ableism

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The term “ableism” already has its own Wikipedia page which is broken up into sections detailing things such as the etymology and terminology of “ableism,” and providing information regarding legislation . I think a lot of what is talked about in this Wikipedia page is important and of value, however I also feel that there is not much discussion about accessibility and how that plays a crucial role in producing ableism in our society. What I know about the term from my own personal knowledge is that ableism is a form of discrimination which manifests itself in opposition to people who are not able-bodied. What I would add firstly to this entry is a history of the different models of disability to provide a better contextual understanding of how people have been dis-abled by our society which is inherently constructed in inaccessible ways . I would have added the multiple ways of defining and identifying disability which society relies on. These methods of proscribing disability are known as ‘models of disability.’ The most common model is the medical model which posits disability as a disease or condition that can be cured, and if not, treated to an acceptably mute state (Clare, 2000). Secondly, the charity model believes that disability is a tragedy that can be erased via generous charitable donations (2000). Thirdly, there is the supercrip model. This model looks at people with disabilities as awesome and heroic just for living their daily lives. People with disabilities are seen as inspirational to enabled people; opposite to dis-abled people (2000). Lastly, there is what is known as the moral model which is concerned with disability as a condition resulting from a moral weakness in the individual. It removes culpability away from the society which has been constructed with—and continues to reproduce—environments and cultural practices which make people disabled, and instead places the blame on the individual’s own presumed wrong doing (Clare, 2000, p. 360). Disability scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson proposes that feminist disability scholars adopt language and ways of speaking about people with disabilities which could be more in-line with the values of critical disability studies such as “bodies that violate the normative standards and expectations of bodily form and function,” “people who identify as disabled,” or also “people who are considered disabled” (Garland-Thomson, 2005, p. 1558). This form of discourse is especially important because it differs to and empowers the individual to self-define themselves. This idea of self-definition is very strong in anti-ableist communities, particularly because it means being able to reframe narratives being made about people with disabilities and being able to control how oneself is represented. Ashley McAskill discusses this in the context of performance, specifically centering her text on the relatively new emergence of “inspiration porn.” McAskill talks about a performance which has happened right here in Montreal with Concordia’s Critical Disability Studies Working Group (CDSWG) in response “to the inaccessibility of some of the Encuentro events” (McAskill, 2016, p. 210). The Encuentro was a conference and performance festival which was being held in Montreal but which had not made several of their events accessible to all performers. By responding to this inaccessibility with their own political performance of carrying up pieces of their wheelchair, members of the working group such as Lindsay Eales and Danielle Peers directly engaged with the term in discussion, ableism. Personally, I do not see any limitations in respect to the usefulness of examining performance for its ableism and its accessibility. In fact, I think it is crucial that we do not stop ourselves from being critical of performance. We may want to say that perhaps being so demanding of performances to maintain accessibility is a lot to ask, of course we cannot forget, some could argue, that not every artist has the resources to assure access to any and all of their works. But then I would like to ask, as Garland-Thomson pointed out in concert with McAskill, what do we say to the risk of and dangers of representational violence when people with disabilities do not get the right to re-present themselves? McAskill cites Arseli Dokumaci who said that the value of the performance done in conversation with Encuentro was that it began a discussion about “who gets to perform and represent others, or who gets to be represented?” (2016, p. 211).

References[edit | edit source]

Clare, E. (2000). Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness. Public Culture, 13(3), 359-365. Retrieved November 2016 Garland-Thomson, R. (2005). Feminist Disability Studies. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(2), 1557-1587. Retrieved November 2017 McAskill, A. (2016, Fall). "Come and see Our Art of Being Real": Disabling Inspirational Porn and Rearticulating Affective Productivities. Theatre Research in Canada, 37(2), 201-216. Retrieved March 2018


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