Human rights video on ableism

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities embraces human differences and disability as part of human diversity. People with disability have rights which must be respected, protected and fulfilled, just like everyone else. The UN human rights video on ableism explains succinctly.

screenshot from the video on Human rights video on ableism.

Ableism is based on a value system that assumes people with certain body and mind characteristics must have a quality of life that is very low.

The short video animation below aims to raise awareness of the barriers faced by people with disabilities in everyday life. The video is intended for the general public, advocacy organizations, policymakers, human rights defenders, and educators.

Other human rights videos in the United Nations series.

Legal capacity for all explains how people with disability are denied their rights because they don’t have supported decision-making available.

Participation of people with disabilities benefits all makes the case for involving people with disability in making decisions about their lives.

Sexual and reproductive rights of girls and young women with disabilities discusses abuse and neglect and harmful practices and forced sterilisations.

Diversity and inclusion: not the same thing

The feet of two dancers. The woman is wearing red and white shoes and the man regular black shoes“Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” This is a great quote from Verna Myers. She is referring to the workplace and the employment and advancement of women and people of colour. It is relevant to all other groups because diversity and inclusion are both part of the movement for more inclusive and equitable societies.

The Harvard Business Review discusses this issue in Diversity doesn’t stick without inclusion. It is one thing to have a diverse population, but that doesn’t mean equity or inclusion will automatically follow. Diversity and inclusion are often lumped together in the employment context. They are assumed to be the same thing. But this is not the case.

In the workplace, diversity equals representation. Attracting diverse talent requires full participation to foster innovation and growth. This is inclusion. Getting diverse talent is one thing, including them fully is another. 

Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here

A hand-drawn graphic with faces of bright colours with big eyes. They are grouped in a bunch.

The Commons Social Change Library is about social change and driving social movements in Australia. While the context of their guide is about driving social change, most of the information is applicable in any situation. 

The Diversity & Inclusion: Start Here guide introduces key concepts and links to other resources. The key point is that inclusion is a social change movement and we can all do our part by including marginalised people in our ranks. That’s whether it’s the workforce, our local sporting team or our social change campaigns.

Carly Findlay is a disability activist who reminds us that disability is part of diversity. Carly’s video explains her experience. Judy Heumann’s TED talk is also worth a look. 

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk, The urgency of intersectionality is about race and gender bias. 

Kaytee Ray-Riek discusses marginalisation across the spectrum and ways of building trust and encouraging inclusive practice.  

Organisers of social justice events sometimes forget the basics of inclusion. Make your social justice event accessible spells out how to do it. 

Before people can get to an event they usually need information. The Internet is usually the first stop. So it’s important to Improve your website accessibility

There are many more resources on this website – you don’t need to be a campaigner to benefit from them. 

Brightly coloured books on a bookshelf with titles that represent social change.

The Commons Social Change Library is a not for profit organisation committed to educating for community action. They collect, curate and distribute the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe.

Editor’s note: I co-wrote a paper on inclusion being something where you have to wait for the “mainstream” group to invite you in. Inclusiveness is something that is present, it is happening now. You can see the slideshow version too which has some explanatory graphics.

Ableism and urban planning

long view of a Perth city mall with shops and cafes under awnings and trees for shade. Tall buildings are in the background. Urban planning.The COVID pandemic lockdowns have shown more people what it’s like not to be able to get out and about when you want to. But do the calls for “not going back to the way things were” include everyone? Lisa Stafford says that the planning profession and society have learned little. Planners, perhaps unwittingly, are still favouring the idealistic view of the “able body”. So we need to discuss ableism and urban planning.

In her article, Lisa Stafford explains how ableism is inherent in urban and regional planning. Planning is not neutral – it’s not value-free. Planners make decisions on what and who to plan for.  

“Time and again I have heard universal design omitted in the provision of social infrastructure…” Stafford writes. Excuses are budget shortfalls, and it’s “too hard” (read too costly) contribute to this lack. 

Talking about ableism

Where to start? Where you are now. Share and discuss readings with colleagues – look up “ableism” in Google. Low hanging fruit is checking your own ableism by asking “for whom are we planning?” Ableism intersects with other identities and experiences. Planners must think more deeply about the connection between planning, design and society.

Stafford advises we look to the work of the American Planning Association and their universal design approach. They promote intergenerational neighbourhoods and smart growth. Norway’s leadership in universal design is also mentioned. 

The chapter concludes with a short discussion on transport and active transport. 

The title of the article is, Planners, We Need to Talk about Ableism. The title of the open access special edition is Disability Justice and Urban Planning

Other articles cover bathrooms, physical access, disability and climate justice and an artist view of disability justice and planning.

There are several posts on the work of the Norwegian Government on this website that link to Stafford’s references.

QDN’s Co-design principles

Front cover of QDN Co-design priniciples.Co-design is the new buzzword in the field of disability. But co-design isn’t only about disability inclusion. It’s a design process that seeks the best design for the intended users. Including people from a diversity of backgrounds, ages, levels of capability and experience is good practice. It’s how you do universal design. But what is it exactly and how does it work? 

The ultimate in co-design is to include users from design concept stage. The next best thing is to include users in testing the first prototype. Many design firms say budget and time constraints prevent them from implementing this highly iterative method. But how much does it cost to remedy poor design and lack of compliance? 

Co-design should not be confused with community consultation which seeks opinions about a design. User testing is not a form of co-design either. Co-design is where designers and users share the power of designing together. Co-design can be used for developing products, buildings, websites, services, policies and guidelines.

Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) have published their Co-Design Principles. This document obviously focuses on people with disability and the Queensland context. Regulation, legislation and policies such as the state disability plan fill most pages. 

 Five values underpin QDN’s co-design principles and processes:

      • Authentic Voice – We ensure those with limited or no voice are heard and valued
      • Collaborative Action – We learn from collective experiences, values, and wisdom 
      • Rights – We believe in a human rights approach 
      • Respect – We value human difference and diversity 
      • Resilience – We are here for the long term.

Co-design processes

A three page summary has the key points above and the co-design processes. 

The starting place – Craft the question that reflects intent/purpose and invites inquiry. 
Build the team – Get diversity and support inclusion
Discovery Phase – See the issue from different viewpoints, and perspectives. Hear from others including those who disagree
Pause and Reflect – Take time to pause and reflect on what you have learnt in the discovery phase and what you still don’t know before jumping to solutions
Sense-making – Look at the data, story, research, and evidence in their raw form and work together to make sense and meaning of what has been gathered
Generate options – Stage where sense-making starts to yield conclusions, ideas
and possibilities, and people get in the creative zone
Developing Prototypes – Generate as many ideas as possible and develop a working example of the policy, service, program, product, or scenario-based solution
Learning, reworking, and refining – Part of the learning cycle and reworks can produce ‘prototype’ – the solution for testing, piloting, or putting into action
Embed what works – Turn it into action and make it real. Keep people engaged and stay accountable.

The QDN website has more information about the organisation and their activities.

See other articles on co-design: The right to participate in co-design, and What does co-design mean? How does it work? 

 

What do Ableism and Ableist mean?

A man in a wheelchair is separated from the crowd by a low concrete barrier. Ableism and ableist.Disability rights, accessibility and inclusion have come a long way. But we are not there yet. Despite legislation, public policy statements, and access standards, it’s taken more than 50 years to get to this point. Ableism and ableist attitudes are alive and well. Yet many people aren’t aware of how this undermines inclusion and equitable treatment. The same goes for ageism. 

An article in Forbes magazine sums up the sentiments well. The word ‘ableism’ gives voice and substance to real experiences. But it can also discredit people for an offensiveness they don’t see or don’t agree exists. The title of the article is, Words Matter, And It’s Time To Explore The Meaning Of “Ableism.”

The Wikipedia definition explains: “Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. On this basis, people are assigned or denied certain perceived abilities, skills, or character orientations.”

Ableism is expressed in ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices. Physical and social barriers in the environment is also a form of ableism. Usually it is unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.

Different types of ableism

Andrew Pulrang discusses both personal and systemic ableism. Here is his list on personal ableism.

1. Feeling instinctively uncomfortable around disabled people, or anyone who seems “strange” in ways that might be connected to a disability of some kind. This manifests in hundreds of ways, and can include:

• Being nervous, clumsy, and awkward around people in wheelchairs.

• Being viscerally disgusted by people whose bodies appear to be very different or “deformed.”

• Avoiding talking to disabled people in order to avoid some kind of feared embarrassment.

2. Holding stereotypical views about disabled people in general, or about certain sub-groups of disabled people. For example:

• Assuming that disabled people’s personalities fit into just a few main categories, like sad and pitiful, cheerful and innocent, or bitter and complaining.

• Associating specific stereotypes with particular conditions. For example, that people with Down Syndrome are happy, friendly, and naive, mentally ill people are unpredictable and dangerous, or autistic people are cold, tactless, and unknowable.

• Placing different disabilities in a hierarchy of “severity” or relative value. There is a widely held belief, even among disabled people, that physical disability isn’t so bad because at least there’s “nothing wrong with your mind.”

3. Resenting disabled people for advantages or privileges you think they have as a group. This is one of the main flip sides of condescension and sentimentality towards disabled people. It’s driven by a combination of petty everyday resentments and false, dark, and quasi-political convictions, such as:

• Disabled people get good parking spaces, discounts, and all kinds of other little unearned favors.

• Unlike other “minorities,” everyone likes and supports disabled people. They aren’t oppressed, they are coddled.

• Disabled people don’t have to work and get government benefits for life.

A last word

Pulrang concludes with a few reminders. People with disability can be ableist too. They grew up in an ableist society. Ableism isn’t a new ‘ism’ – it is a word that sums up longstanding oppression and injustice. So when it is used, don’t take it as an insult. Ableism is a way of talking about a set of real experiences that people with disability experience. It’s a way to talk about them. 

 

Disability Reporting Handbook

Front Cover of Disability Reporting Handbook showing a young man and woman. They are laughing together. Media Diversity Australia has a handbook for reporting on disability issues. This is a well researched document that covers more than the usual topics. It also has specific “how to” guides for interviewing people with different disabilities. The Disability Reporting Handbook is a good companion to the ABC guide to disability content – see below. 

The Handbook covers the usual introductions to disability and golden rules about language and images. It also covers:

      • Intersectionality with disability in relation to women, First Nations people, people from linguistically diverse backgrounds and LGBTQIA+ communities. 
      • Violence and disability, including support services available.
      • How to guides for interviewing people with disability covering physical, sensory, cognitive, psycho-social and neurodiverse conditions. 
      • A list of Useful Contacts

 “The biggest barrier to full participation in the community for people with disability is attitude. Most Australian’s with disability experience the soft bigotry of low expectations”. (Graeme Innes, former Disability Discrimination Commissioner)

The  contributors have varied backgrounds in media and journalism. They consulted widely in the development of this comprehensive publication. Media Diversity Australia is a not for profit organisation that believes the media should reflect the cultural diversity of Australia. They have another publication, Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories?  

ABC guide to disability content

ABC journalist Nas Campanella. ABC guide to disability content.
ABC Journalist Nas Campanella

Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, has a guide to disability content. The guide covers appropriate behaviour and language in reporting and portraying disability content. It’s applicable to all ABC platforms including social media. It’s a good guide for all journalism and anyone new to interacting with people with disability.

The title of the guide is, Reporting and Portraying Disability in ABC Content. Arranging and conducting interviews, asking questions, language and terminology are all covered. Many journalists are up to date with their language now, but images are still a problem. And there is still a tendency to place people with disability into a victim or a hero role. 

The information about arranging and conducting interviews includes checking on any assistance or support they might need. Saying someone is inspirational is not appropriate. So check facts and don’t run with assumptions.

Photographers and camera operators need similar information to avoid showing pitying pictures or focusing on assistive equipment. Wheelchairs are not the sum total of people with disability.

Images of disability in journalism

The guide gives the following advice: 

    • Avoid portraying individuals as objects of pity. For example, photograph a person using a wheelchair at their level, not looking down on them. Powerful, positive reinforcing images are generally preferred, depending on the editorial context.
    • Only show the person’s disability if it is critical to the story.
    • Avoid focusing on equipment unless that is the focus of the story. Avoid gratuitous cutaways of wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids and other devices.
    • Avoid having the talent’s carers or family in photos or video unless they are also part of the story. Show the talent as having autonomy over their own lives.
    • Avoid showing the person with disability as isolated from the community unless that is the focus of the story.
    • Avoid using stock images as the majority reinforce stereotypes of disability and are of poor quality.
    • Avoid using images of mobility aids, such as photos of wheelchairs, as a generic image for a story about disability.
    • Do consider using people with disabilities to illustrate stories that are not about disability, to show they are a regular part of the community.
    • Do aim for diversity in imagery of people with disabilities – people from ethnic minorities and gender diverse people also live with disability and are often even more marginalised.
    • Do show people with disabilities doing normal things, such as catching public transport or shopping, but avoid making it ‘inspiration porn’. It’s just life.
    • Do show people with disabilities in positions of power and authority.

Image from ABC News website

 

Consulting people with disability

Front cover Consulting with persons with disabilities.
Full guidelines

Consulting people with disability need not be scary or difficult. Not if it is planned well. Yes, of course it takes time, but all consultation takes time. But it is always worth it because it saves time in rectifications later. 

The United Nations Inclusion Strategy has guidelines for consulting persons with disabilities. The main guideline document is very detailed and links with the UN Convention Indicator 5. It covers representative organisations, when to consult, and how to do it. The Easy Read version is very helpful for everyone. 

Front cover of Easy Read Guide Consulting people with disability.
Easy Read version

The Easy Read version encapsulates the key information. It covers the importance of consulting, taking part in decisions, and working with representative organisations. There are links to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals with the promise of “leave no one behind”. 
One key point in this version is that people with disability should be involved in decisions about everything – not just things to do with disability. 

 

Some days don’t have 24 hours

Lots of clock faces piled on top of each other showing different times. Week has seven days and every day has 24 hours. We all know that. But some people don’t have the same amount of time available within 24 hours as others. And it isn’t a case of poor time management. Time gets stolen. So what does it mean when I say, “some days don’t have 24 hours”?

Sheri Byrne-Haber pinpoints the issues in her article in Medium about the disability time thief. Sometimes it’s a few moments here and there, and sometimes it a regular chunk. The whole day is stolen if you can’t get out of bed. Byrne-Haber calls this the Disability Tax. 

People without disability are unaware of those extra moments it takes to do everyday things such as putting on shoes. Other time stealers are searching for websites your device can read, or waiting for someone to open a heavy door. And that is only if you have a disability. If you are a woman or a person of colour with disability you have extra discriminations to deal with.

The title of Byrne-Haber’s article is We don’t all have the same 24 hours. Anyone who thinks that we do lives in a monster privilege bubble.

This article shows why consulting with people with disability is not a matter of setting a date and time and sending out the invitation. The time of day and the place are really important considerations. 

Inclusive Cities: More than a ramp

a series of black icons on white background depicting people of all shapes and sizes, including a baby in a stroller, a person with a can and a wheelchair user. Inclusive cities - more than a ramp.
Some disabilities are invisible

Depending on personal experience, the term “access and inclusion” means different things to different people. The idea of who is currently included and excluded is often framed by this experience. People with invisible disability are easily left out of “access and inclusion”. For example, people with intellectual disability, different cognitive conditions, and people with mental health issues. Consequently, inclusive cities need more than a ramp and tactile markers. 

Inclusion is one group looking at another group and thinking about "Them". Inclusive Cities - more than a ramp.
Inclusion is one group agreeing to include another.

Planning and social policies talk of inclusive cities and social sustainability, but making it happen is another matter. Gains have been made in terms of accessibility for wheelchair users and people with vision impairment. That’s because it is written into the building code. What we don’t have is a code for all the other types of disability that are, at first glance, invisible. People with intellectual disability are one group who find themselves sitting outside of community activities. So, in what ways can we ensure their inclusion in the city?

A literature review of research papers on this topic found some useful information. Australian researchers applied the ‘Inclusive Cities Framework’ to the papers and found that local authorities can take actions to improve inclusion at a local level. For the most part they involved community groups, local businesses and civic activities.

Key points

    • Information and support for community groups, local businesses, potential employees and potential mentors.
    • Shared activities (both structured and unstructured) to share learning, activities and build relationships
    • Conversation and sharing of stories – in formal and informal ways, to share information and networking both across and within community groups and all citizens, whether they identify as having an intellectual disability, as potential employers, employees, and com-munity leaders. 

Inclusion of people with intellectual disability relies on having interpersonal relationships within the community. It has to be more than just being on the member list or in the room with other people. Quality of participation is the point of an inclusive city. 

The title of the article is: Towards inclusive cities and social sustainability: A scoping review of initiatives to support the inclusion of people with intellectual disability in civic and social activities. It is an open access article.

Highlights

    • Aiming to be inclusive for all does not automatically lead to participation for all people.
    • People with intellectual disability continue to be excluded from the full experience of cities – despite an awareness of social sustainability.
    • This paper identifies how people with intellectual disability are impacted by policy and practices around citizen involvement.
    • The experiences of people with intellectual disability inform how the Inclusive Cities Framework is understood and applied to define meaningful participation for all people.

From the Abstract

The inclusion of people with intellectual disability in cultural and civic activities is an important particularly in the context of supporting the social sustainability of our local communities and cities. Local governments and community organisations are poised to play a pivotal role in the inclusion of people with intellectual disability.

We undertook a scoping review of local inclusion building initiatives in Australia and other countries that helped connect people with intellectual disability with their local community. The role people with intellectual disability played in the assessment and evaluation of these resources was also examined.

Analysis of the results offers opportunities to consider the ways in which the personal preferences of people with intellectual disability can be interwoven with structure and levels of participation to improve social inclusion in their local communities.

From the Editor: I wrote a conference paper on inclusion and inclusiveness. See the post on What does Inclusion really mean? 

Manchester and Brussels: A place to grow old

A city square in Belgium showing heritage architecture. People are milling about in the square in Brussels.
Brussels city square

The WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities framework remains a robust method for creating age-friendly places. We can learn a lot from cities that signed up to the WHO Global Network that began in 2007. A book chapter compares Brussels and Manchester as a place to grow old. It shows that different policy approaches result in quite different outcomes.

The first part of the chapter covers introductory material and detail about the 8 domains of the WHO program. The interesting part, especially for local government, is the comparison of approaches and outcomes for Brussels and Manchester. Brussels, for example, focused on social housing for older people and street safety. Manchester focused on lifetime neighbourhoods and quality of life.

Manchester was more inclusive of different ethnic backgrounds than Brussels which also has a diverse population. In short, Brussels was about keeping people safe, and Manchester was about living life. The paper goes on to discuss the barriers to implementing the programme and developing age-friendly policies. There are some good recommendations at the end of this paper which was published in 2015. 

The chapter title is, Developing Age-Friendly Cities: Case Studies from Brussels and Manchester and Implications for Policy and Practice. It begins on page 277.This chapter is one of several interesting papers in Environmental Gerontology in Europe and Latin America.  

You can find out more about the Manchester Urban Ageing Research Group and a short video on what they are aiming to achieve. 

WHO Age Friendly Cities

WHO age friendly logo of 8 petals showing the 8 domains of life.Age Friendly Cities has its founding concepts in healthy ageing. Well if it’s healthy for older people it’s healthy for everyone. These cities should be walkable, compact and have infrastructure that supports liveability. But planning laws haven’t this and continue to address ageing in terms of age-segregated living arrangements. 

Canada was at the forefront of the development of the WHO Age Friendly Cities program in 2006. But that hasn’t been enough to overcome entrenched planning and development processes. No Place to Grow Old: How Canadian Suburbs Can Become Age-Friendly, found that although planners and others have concerns about an ageing population, their thinking hasn’t adapted. Consequently, little has changed in the last ten years. 

The survey found that older people were seen as a special-needs group rather than establishing inclusive policy solutions. The report makes some useful recommendations and the findings are applicable to any urban area in any location.

You can find a list of Australian cities or communities that are members of the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Cities on the WHO website. You can also find out how your community can become a member of the Global Network.

The graphic above depicts the 8 domains of life that need to be considered in making a community age-friendly. 

 

Inclusion, Human Rights and the Market

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.How can we attain our rights within a market-based economy, when those who do not experience social and economic exclusion have the the power of the market in their hands? The cost of inclusion is often said to “cost too much”. This is illustrated in the proposed changes to the NDIS. Cost is also the argument some states are using to stall the implementation of accessible housing. Human rights do not feature in these arguments. 

In Western societies, justice and fairness are not inalienable rights, but a negotiated process based on mutual advantage. According to Mutual Advantage theory we have to be pragmatic about human rights in a market-based economy. The excluded need to bring a benefit to the negotiating table. Rights get enacted only after a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and “the excluded” are assessed as being “affordable”. That is, “can we afford to include them?”. This is the wrong question. It should be, “what does it cost to exclude people?” And who is listening to the position of the excluded? 

Market economists rarely reside in the excluded group fighting for rights. Measuring disadvantage and exclusion is not something they find easy to measure. Yet they do have a cost to individuals, society and the economy. 

For more on this discussion, see my paper from the 2014 Brisbane Housing Forum. The content is once again current. It includes an explanation of Mutual Advantage Theory by Lawrence Becker. 

PDF document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Word document Housing Forum Brisbane 2014  

Reference: Becker, L.C., 2005. “Reciprocity, Justice and Disability”, Symposium on Disability, Ethics, Vol 116 No.1, University of Chicago Press, p 9-39.

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