Disability & the Constant Threat of Isolation–Community Accountability–How you may Knowingly & Unknowlingly be Contributing to the Exclusion & Isolation of Disabled People.


 –As Disabled and Chronically Ill people, we experience extreme social isolation.  If we are not isolated in prisons or institutions, we are isolated in our own homes.  Having a Disability means knowing the threat or reality of complete isolation is always present.  It is a lingering fear, a constant re-traumatizing ever-triggering fact of life that we have all been taught to swallow so well.  We’ve been taught that being alone is just another fact—a “consequence” of being poor, disabled—a punishment for being oppressed.

   — As we know, isolation has been used and is still used in both the prison and medical industrial complexes as forms of corporal punishment.  All human beings need a certain amount of human connection.  Without it, one’s health is worsened, depression and anxiety become more intense, and a sense of utter hopelessness kicks in.  In other words–a certain amount of social interaction, & physical touch (for some) is necessary for survival.  When told that you cannot or should not have your basic needs met for an extended period of time, it is easy to internalize these messages—to actually believe that you do not deserve to live.  People who are oppressed and express thoughts of self-destruction are usually met with disdain and fear.  Often behaviors that appear scary or intense are the result of long-term oppression.  What we need is compassion and acknowledgement of the ways in which we have been oppressed, not further pathologization, shunning and fear. 


The Community’s Role in Fighting Isolation/Exclusion of Marginalized Groups:

–Inaccessibility is a big reason that folks are excluded from social events.  Many people just think about physical accessibility but there are many more important factors to include.  People with chemical sensitivities need fragrance-free and scent-free spaces.  People with sensory sensitivities need sensory-friendly environments. For more info, check out:  http://vanessahuang.com/fragrance-free/ , http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2012/01/youre-disabled-demand-access-gtfo.html,  & fuckyeahtriggerwarnings.tumblr.com (to name a few).

–Changing Attitudinal biases/beliefs:  Many neurodiverse folks (including Autistic folks or folks labeled with psychiatric diagnoses) have been criminalized and excluded from events due to misconceptions, bias, and fear.  In order to create lasting, deep change we must look at how our own attitudes and actions lead to exclusion of marginalized folks.  We must understand how exclusion/isolation is a form of systemic oppression/abuse and make sure we are not complicit in maintaining these systems. How can we do this? On-site peer counselors, sensory-friendly chill spaces, non-judgmental, inclusive spaces with folks who do not assume that just because someone does not share their reality, doesn’t mean it’s less real.

–Assumptions about class-background/access to resources:  Living in a very class-privileged city, this is very apparent to me.  A lot of events cost money—20 bucks may not be a lot to someone who has employment-privilege but it is a lot for those of us surviving on social security or welfare.  The most marginalized folks are usually excluded from community events because they cost too much and this excludes/isolates Poor folks.  How can we accomplish this? Sliding-scale or pay-what-you-can events, free rides or accessible car-shares.  Offer rides to the most isolated folks in your communities, offer rides to the unpopular folks, the excluded folks, the nerds, the weirdos, the outcasts.  Lets undo the oppressive popularity game.

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2 Responses to Disability & the Constant Threat of Isolation–Community Accountability–How you may Knowingly & Unknowlingly be Contributing to the Exclusion & Isolation of Disabled People.

  1. Hel says:

    Community spaces are still often pretty physically inaccessible. For instance, there might be a ramp or a flat surface entry but it is narrow, or the event itself doesn’t account for folks with sensory disabilities. But I do think that folks need to start re-framing the conversation about accessibility, like you did here, to include cost and class, and “psych” disabilities as access needs. I also appreciated what you said about the communities themselves needing to start doing this work of reaching out to folks, changing ableist biases and having spaces that aren’t overwhelming.

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