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When Disability Gets Left Out of Conversations About Privilege

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Recently I saw an article about privilege. This article used a list asking people to step forwards and backwards, according to instructions, to visually represent the privilege and disadvantages they face.

Do not get me wrong: I think that pieces like this are important, and I think this one is effective, but I do have one problem with it. Despite a total of 35 instructions, not a single one said anything about disability.

Most of the points included related to gender, religion, race, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. Disability or illness did not even rate a mention.

I think most of us who have experienced illness or disability would agree that it is often a huge societal disadvantage. Having a disability can often impact our ability to work, or our chance of getting a job when compared to other applicants. It can limit our access to certain places or events, and result in judgment and ridicule. For those of us with invisible disabilities, it can also cause us to be verbally attacked for use of facilities such as disability toilets or parking spaces. Disability often results in marginalization and disadvantage.

Articles like this one, and there are many like it, give us a good insight into the disadvantage and privilege in people’s lives, and are important in sparking the beginnings of social change. But disability remains a point of such disadvantage that it is often not included, even when it is disadvantage we are talking about.

I want to be included. I want to see people like me represented in media, in toys, in television and film, and in articles, surveys, and social experiments that center around disadvantage. Disability is a disadvantage in society, and by not talking about it, it becomes even more so.

I appreciate articles like this one because they matter, but I would like more of them to acknowledge that I and others with disabilities matter too. Include us in that which affects us just as much as the other groups targeted.

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Originally published: April 5, 2017
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