Playing The Devil's Advocate When Talking About Able-Bodied People Dressing Up As Disabled People For Halloween
In one of my previous opinion pieces I stated that people should not dress up as a disabled person during Halloween. Sometimes people dress up as disabled historical figures and don’t even realize it (and it isn’t even their own fault to some extent). That is because some famous people with invisible disabilities have done a good job of hiding their disabilities, thus giving the illusion that they are not disabled. This is where I think we shouldn’t criticize people for dressing up as historical figures that have a disability. One rule of thumb I go by is “If this person was able to get to where they are without support programs for those with their disability, would they still be successful?”. Another rule of thumb is asking,” When can you use person-first language to describe the person and also have no descriptors change”, that is the time when it is ok to not criticize others who dress up as a historical figure with a disability for Halloween. If at least 10% of all adults have an invisible disability, you are likely to find a handful of people dressed up as historical figures with learning disabilities at any Halloween event.
Whenever people talk about Elton John, Edward Snowden, and Julius Caesar, all epileptics, their disability is almost never mentioned in the conversations about them. One could call Greta Thunberg an activist instead of an autistic activist: since anyone can memorize the amount of CO2 a sweatshop produces. One thing people in the United States don't talk about when mentioning Greta’s rise to fame and success is that she is a “nepotism baby”, even though she attributes her success to her autism. Also Elton John’s, Edward Snowden's, and Julius Caesar's epilepsy didn't get in the way of them doing their work at the height of their careers. Almost all the people dressing up as Greta Thunberg, Julius Caesar, Elton John and Edward Snowden aren't doing so to mock disabilities. In their context, those people are dressing up as famous influencers whose achievements define them more than their disability.
However, unlike the celebrities above, you cannot separate Helen Keller from her disability while having a conversation about her. If Helen Keller didn't have a disability she would just be known as a woman with a university degree. You also cannot separate Temple Grandin from her autism when talking about her, as her autism has played a huge role in her inventions. If Temple Grandin didn't have autism, she might have just been a veterinarian instead of someone who revolutionized the way livestock are treated and cared for.
Another problem within the Halloween costume debate is when able-bodied people treat adaptive equipment like accessories. I've heard of stories of “emotional support peacocks” and “emotional support pigs” pooping on planes, which can lead to people questioning the legitimacy of actual guide dogs. People who need adaptive equipment to do regular tasks is another situation when a person can't separate themselves from their disability, even if they are able to hold a regular job. An example is Walter White Jr from Breaking Bad. Despite the fact that his personality has a bigger influence than his physical disability in terms of his relationships with other people, he couldn't do every day tasks without his adaptive equipment.