Things I learned about disability and ableism in 2022
It's been one hell of a ride
Hello and welcome to the last issue of The View From Down Here before the New Year!
Whew. Another year gone. I’ve spent 2022 writing and speaking and thinking about disability, whether as a social phenomenon, a journalistic beat, or an often intensely personal experience. It’s been invigorating and sometimes overwhelming - but I like to think I’ve learned some things along the way.
So, to wrap up the year, here they are - the good, the bad, and the downright baffling:
You never know. Perhaps the defining quality of disability is uncertainty. Whether it’s the unexpected resignation of a carer, or waking up with no energy whatsoever, you never quite know what’s coming your way. It’s exhausting and, quite reasonably, fairly stress inducing. I’ve realised I live in a semi-permanent mental brace-position and, while I don’t know what to do about that, I think recognising it is probably a good step
You never know, but in a good way. At some point in the past few years, I became reluctant to just try stuff (a global pandemic may have had something to do with it) or just ask the question. Expectations - always my own - kept getting in the way. Anyway, this year I just tried the stuff. And a lot of the time, it worked just fine. A lot of it was just physical stuff I hadn’t done for a while and so assumed I couldn’t anymore, but there was also deeper things like finding a brill new PA among all the dross or talking to my friends about Complicated Disability Emotions(TM) and finding they did, in fact, understand. Which brings us on to…
People want to learn. Whether its my own friends or the editors who’ve taken a punt, I’ve been taken aback this year by how open people are to talking about these thorny topics. Maybe it’s just me, but this feels… new - especially work-wise. For so long, it felt like editors paid lip service to the need for disability coverage, but now they seem to be seeking it out. Even the below-the-line comments are (mostly) engaged and supportive. It feels different, and exciting, and I no longer worry that I am pointlessly shouting into the void
People want to help. I have a very special group of pals who have been routinely covering the gaps in my care since March. I keep expecting them to get bored of the whole thing, but each month I watch them divvy up the rota with enthusiasm and a big dose of can-do. I hate having to ask, and I hate having to organise a small army, but I do cherish the monthly reminder that, when it matters, people have each others’ backs. It’s a lesson I think I could apply to other parts of life
There is no joy like being in a room of disabled people. It’s kind of amazing that I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn this lesson before, but this year I finally found out what it feels like to be in disabled-majority spaces. It feels great. Uplifting. Liberating. I had no idea that the experience of being in a space could be so powerfully different that it could change how you see yourself and your identity. Personally, I have never been prouder to be part of the disabled community, and I can’t wait to find (and maybe create!) even more of these spaces in the future
Even committed anti-ableists can be ableist. This goes for me. And you. And everyone you know. Ableism is not just a force within interpersonal relationships. It’s also societal; embedded in the institutions and norms that structure everything we do. We all hold assumptions we shouldn’t - and we all need to be better at interrogating the less-obvious but still harmful biases we encounter in ourselves and others. The work is far from done
There is resistance in rest and fun. Claim joy. A lot of this work can be mentally draining. When it’s your job to tackle ableism and you face it every time you leave the house, you can’t exactly switch off. What you can do is look after yourself along the way, whether that’s with a good book or dancing in the kitchen to the Spice Girls. I like to remind myself that for every moment of ableism there is a moment of complete happiness - and I really do believe that finding that joy, revelling in it, sharing it with the people you love, is the greatest act of resistance there could possibly be
What’ve you learned in 2022? Let me know in the comments.
There’s so much more to learn about disability and ableism. And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing next year on The View From Down Here. Why not join us?
Thanks for reading - and for all your support this year.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
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