Shifting Away From Blogging

I have decided to stop regular blogging here at Disability Thinking. I will, however, keep the site going, and use it from time to time to post things I want to share that can’t be shared properly on Twitter or Facebook.

 Word cloud of most used words on this blog, inside a thought balloon

Disability blogging played a major part in my transition from 9 to 5 work at a Center for Independent Living, to a more freelance and introspective approach to disability. I started out with the goal of posting something every day. That worked out well for me for a few years. It got me into the rhythm of regular blogging. It gave me some daily discipline during a time when I could have very easily slipped into pure laziness and probably depression. Most importantly, daily blogging on disability was a terrific outlet for a lot of pent-up thought, ideas, and questions swirling about my head about disability that I had not previously been able to articulate.

Disability Thinking has evolved quite a bit, and I've had some valuable experiences along the way ...

Exploring in-depth topics ... like the nature of ableism, what disability identity and culture mean, what "inspiration porn" actually is, and what exactly we want to say to the non-disabled people we deal with every day. In all of these and other topics I tried to explore beyond the buzzwords, and demystify concepts for non-disabled readers, as well as disabled readers just beginning to explore disability issues in-depth. But really, I was exploring for myself, and inviting others to tag along with me.

Images and videos ... At some point I stopped being quite so impressed with social media photos and videos of “cool people in wheelchairs being cool," especially when they are just images, without any context or commentary. But it’s good to remember that for a lot of people, including a lot of disabled people, seeing images of disability that are cool and empowering, rather than sentimental or pitiful, is still quite new and revolutionary.

The Disability.TV Podcast ... I started out wanting to talk about disabled characters, disability tropes, and what disability on TV says to the world about disability. I discovered that discussion about disability on TV among disability activists is almost entirely focused on representation, that is, whether or not disabled characters are played by disabled actors ... something I had literally never though about before. I also discovered, not for the first time, that I am not good at extemporaneous speaking. On the other hand, I did learn how to make a podcast, including basic audio editing and promotion.

If I'm not going to do regular disability blogging, what am I going to do?

Disability Blogger Linkups ... This has been one of my favorite features of Disability Thinking, using Mr. Linky to create weekly or monthly "linkups" where people can share their disability-related work. I modeled it initially after the LoveThatMax weekend linkups, but it was exciting to see a rather different kind of writing accumulate on my linkups. I feel a little ambivalent about it because it sometimes feels too close to me benefiting from free labor from other disabled writers, at least some of whom should be getting paid. On the other hand, I don't benefit financially in any way, and people post there because they want to, not because I asked them to personally. I will probably continue hosting monthly linkups.

Weekly / Monthly Reading Lists ... In May 2015 I started posting a weekly selection of 5 disability-related articles, eventually switching to monthly. I will probably keep posting these too.

#CripTheVote ... In a way, my involvement in this project evolved out of my blogging. I "met" Alice Wong and Gregg Beratan mainly on Facebook and Twitter, but I wouldn't have been looking for disabled activists on Facebook and Twitter if I hadn't been promoting my blog on these platforms and looking for things to write about. Anyway, we got talking about the then upcoming 2016 elections and whether anyone would be talking about disability issues, and we decided we would see if we could start the conversation ourselves. Nearly three years later, #CripTheVote is easily the most consistently satisfying and meaningful thing I have done since I left my CIL work. It will continue!

Twitter ... I will try to condense my future observations on disability and share them on Twitter. A few years ago I would have thought that was a terrible idea. But I really like how Twitter disciplines me to keep my writing brief and packed with meaning. Plus, you can actually say quite a lot with a reasonably sized Twitter thread.

YouTube Vlogging, maybe ... I still haven't given up the idea of a disability-centered vlog of some kind.

Meanwhile, the blog will stay open, and now and then I may decide to post something. I would also welcome any comments on what people look for in disability-related online media. Maybe an idea I haven’t thought of before will spur the next phase of Disability Thinking.

Bad Ideas About Disability

 Photo of a yellow diamond road sign reading BAD IDEA

I spent some time this morning in an exasperating Twitter discussion about disability terminology. A man started off angrily objecting to the #CripTheVote hashtag for being offensive, and quickly moved on to rejecting almost every common disability term ... including simply “disability” ... as out of date, offensive, negative, etc. The only thing remotely like a workable terminology he would accept was “special needs,” which made some sense since he said he was an educator. I should also point out that the man said he is hearing impaired, which gives his opinion on the subject some authentic credence.

Soon the conversation between him and about 5 other disabled folks boiled down to an absolutely ironclad, and in his view moral belief that “disability” itself doesn’t exist, since everyone has unique abilities and disabilities. I think I am paraphrasing him more or less accurately.

Both views ... about disability terms and about disability itself ... are familiar to me. Both are generally well-intentioned ideas put forward by people who sincerely believe they have a progressive understanding of disability. However, both are also, in fundamental ways, regarded as bad ideas by significant portions of the disability community.

This particular man happened to be extremely obnoxious and condescending, but in a way that is beside the point. He was being obnoxious about ideas that at least some polite and fair-minded people also sometimes advocate. The discussion has prompted me to start working on a new series of blog posts on the most prominent and influential bad ideas about disability.

I don’t mean bad behavior, intentionally offensive language, or simple ignorance. I won’t be citing “ableism” as one of those bad ideas, because it’s much too broad. I won’t include random theories tossed off by someone in the course of a freewheeling conversation. I’m talking about relatively specific, well-intentioned, carefully thought out, and widely circulated ideas about disability that are, unfortunately, bad.

And what do I mean by bad? Since I want to steer clear of categorical judgements like right or wrong, accurate or inaccurate, I’ll count a disability idea as “bad” if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • It makes a sizable percentage of actual disabled people angry or uncomfortable.
  • It fails to accomplish its intended purpose.
  • It tends to lead people ... intentionally or unintentionally ... towards behavior that is harmful to disabled people.

I’m not quite ready to dive in full force on this series. I plan to take my time with it. So over the next few months, my tentative plan is to explore these three bad ideas about disability:

1. Using euphemisms for disability ... (e.g., differently-abled or special needs)

2. Espousing the idea that disability doesn’t really exist.

3. Asserting that there is a limit to the amount of support and accommodation disabled people should expect from society.

If you want to nominate another bad idea about disability, along these lines, feel free to leave a note in the comments.