What Defines Members Of The “Disability Community?”

Five different-colored stick figures representing five types of disabilities

The do we mean when we talk about the “disability community?”

Most obviously, we are talking about disabled people. Here is my own definition of what counts as “disabled”

“If you have a physical or mental condition that you have to think about and plan around every day, then you are disabled.”

But, if I have absorbed one thing over the last several years of disability blogging and immersion in online disability culture and activism, it’s that being one of the disabled population isn’t the same thing as being a part of a disabled community.

Sometimes, when people refer to the “disability community,” they do actually mean the total population of all disabled people, however they define disability. But often I think what we are really talking about is people with disabilities who have a certain approach and orientation to disability as an experience , and towards other disabled people. When we say, “The disability community is concerned about ___,” what we usually mean is that a group of disabled people with some degree of unity and common viewpoint have an opinion about something … not that all disabled people think a certain way.

Now, as soon as you start talking about who is and isn’t part of a “community,” you sound like you are making judgments and encouraging elitism. Maybe that’s unavoidable. All I can say is that I try to keep that to a minimum. Being part of the disability community isn’t necessarily a good thing, and not being involved in it isn’t necessarily bad or inferior. It’s just a different way of being with your disability.

So, what makes a person part of the “disability community?”

First of all, there are a few criteria that are often implied, but I want to reject.

• You don’t have to know or “follow” certain famous disability activists, celebrities, or online “influencers.”

• You don’t have to be a liberal, a Democrat, or a progressive.

• You don’t have to adhere to a strict list of approved positions on key disability issues.

• You don’t have to use only certain approved words and phrases to talk about disability.

Some people may treat these as requirements, but I don’t think they should be. But I do think it’s useful to note some of the common characteristics of disabled people who are in the disability community … in addition to actually having disabilities. For example:

• Whether or not they actually use the word “disabled” or “disability,” they are comfortable identifying themselves in some way as disabled. They don’t insist that their disability is unimportant.

• While they may work to improve their general health and everyday capabilities, they don’t spend much time trying to hide, lessen, or cure their disabilities.

• They know other disabled people and are interested in meeting others. They regularly share and discuss their disability experiences with other disabled people.

• They feel some kind of instinctive emotional kinship with other disabled people.

• They recognize that at least some of the difficulties of living with disabilities come from external factors, such as ableism, discrimination, inaccessibility, and bad policies and practices.

• They are open to the idea of working with other disabled people to make life better for all people with disabilities, not just to solve their own individual problems.

• They have an interest in connecting with other disabled people, disability advocacy groups, and disability culture … in person or online.

• They recognize that to at least some extent, people with many different kinds of disabilities share common experiences, common priorities, and the same basic human rights.

• They have definite opinions and beliefs about disability and disabled peoples’ place in society. These opinions may evolve, and sometimes change, but they are always an important part of their thinking.

How do you describe being a member of the disability community?

A note here about non-disabled people …

My feeling is that family, doctors, therapists, teachers, counselors, and other service provides aren’t part of the disability community unless they have disabilities themselves. Otherwise, the term ally should apply … and that label shouldn’t be treated lightly or like some kind of second prize. Allies are important!

Vlogging Update

Disability Thinking Vlog [an alphabetical journey through disability language] black letters on a white marble background

I am still working on the idea of a YouTube vlog series on disability terminology. Sincere thanks to everyone who has sent me ideas on which words and terms to cover for each letter of the alphabet. Here is the list I have so far:

A    Ableism, Accessibility, Advocacy
B    Barrier-Free
C    Crip, Chronic Pain, Chronic Illness
D    Disabled, Differently-Abled, Discrimination
E    Erasure, Eugenics, Emotional Labor
F    Functioning Labels
G    Guide Dog
H    Handicapped
I    Inspiration Porn, Independent Living, Intersectional
J    _________________________
K    _________________________
L    Long Term Care
M    Medical Model, Marginalized
N    Neurodiversity
O    Oppression, Opioids, Outcomes
P    Prejudice, Privilege
Q    Quad Rugby
R    Representation
S    Self Advocate, Social Model, Special Needs
T    Transition, Transportation, Trauma
U    Undue Burden, Universal Design
V    Vocational Rehabilitation, Venn Diagrams
W    Wheelchairs, Willowbrook, White Cane
X    Xenophobia
Y    _________________________
Z    _________________________

There are still blanks to fill. Note also that I am planning on each episode covering no more than three words, so I won’t be able to cover every possible term. I will probably do Patreon-only episodes on any overflow terms, or terms that are heavily requested. Plus, i might do some biographical episodes for Patreon, on influential names in disability culture … alphabetically of course.

So when is all this going to happen?

I am hoping to record an introductory video this week, partly to promote the idea itself, and partly to experiment with the equipment and settings I’ve got, and practice editing. In the meantime, I still welcome feedback, technical advice, and of course more disability-related words and terms to fill in the alphabet.

Disability Thought Of The Week: Platitudes

Disability Thought Of The Week on a yellow legal pad background

I am starting to think that there’s a single phenomenon we don’t talk about directly in disability culture, but which is at the core of most of the everyday personal foolishness that bothers and annoys disabled people. That single thing is platitudes.

Wikipedia — platitude:

A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, often used as a thought-terminating cliché, aimed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease.

Platitudes have been criticized as giving a false impression of wisdom, making it easy to accept falsehoods:

A platitude is even worse than a cliché. It’s a sanctimonious cliché, a statement that is not only old and overused but often moralistic and imperious. ... [P]latitudes have an aphoristic quality, they seem like timeless moral lessons. They therefore shape our view of the world, and can lull us into accepting things that are actually false and foolish.

Platitudes often take the form of tautologies, e.g., "it is what it is", making them appear vacuously true. But the phrase is used to mean "there is no way of changing it", which is no longer a tautology: "Structuring the sentiment as a tautology allows it to appear inescapable."

At the same time, some phrases that have become platitudes may provide useful moral guidance, such as "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Others, though widely trivialized, may be thought-provoking, such as "Be the change you wish to see in the world".

In disability culture, most platitudes come from non-disabled sources who are apparently trying to “quell” the “social, emotional, or cognitive unease” provoked by our disabilities. And you find platitudes forming the backbone of all that we despise in:

Journalism: “Disability doesn’t stop local teen from pursuing her dreams.”

Motivational memes: “What’s YOUR excuse?” [captioning a photo of a disabled person doing anything unexpected].

Advice: “Look at a disabled person’s abilities, not their disabilities!”

The most interesting thing in the Wikipedia definition is that platitudes are usually true, or at least based on some kind of truth. There’s truth on all of the above examples of disability platitudes, including in most full-blown “inspiration porn.” It’s the blandness, repetition, over-simplicity, and above all the misuse of these truths about disability that make them platitudes. Unfortunately, platitudes about disability seem to be the only way some people seem capable of processing disability. Even some disabled people traffic in disability platitudes, especially during stages in our lives where we are struggling to understand our own disability experiences. But even when they are forgivable, disability platitudes are always cringe-worthy,

See also: bromide, cliché, inspiration porn

Disability Thought Of The Week: Toughness & Vulnerability

Icon of a white silhouette head with a word cloud inside containing words associated with disability thinking, against a light blue background

When I was younger and just becoming familiar with disability activism and culture, one of the main ideas we were supposed to convey was that disabled people were tough. We were resilient, adaptive, persistent, low-maintenance, and easy to get along with. This message was deliberate. Disabled people are constantly underestimated and assumed to be weak, fragile, and just plain weird to be around, so it makes some sort of sense to emphasize the opposite qualities.

Now, roughly 30 years later, it feels like we are coming to grips again with vulnerability, not just as a community, but individually. Part of our message now is that we are not superhuman. We are not endlessly adaptable. Our resilience is not bottomless. Our patience and good cheer have limits. We get tired, anxious, depressed, and angry, and sick ... and not "just like" everyone else does, but in ways that are specific to our disabilities.

I appreciate this more balanced view of disability. It certainly fits my own disability experience, which is a combination of real capabilities and real weaknesses. But sometimes I sort of miss the tough, resilient, easygoing image. Because part of our reality is that we are tough, we are resilient, and given the crap we have to deal with every day, we are incredibly patient and damned delightful. Maybe we can be both. Maybe toughness and vulnerability are the true hallmarks of being a disabled person.

Podcast / Vlog Pitch

Green banner reading "Podcast / Vlog Pitch", with icons representing online audio and visual content

I’m getting an itch to podcast again, or maybe start a vlog. Here’s the idea:

I have in mind an audio podcast or YouTube vlog that would be called something like "Disability Thinking 101" or "Disability Thinking Basics." Each episode would explore a key word or term in disability culture and activism. The audience would be people who are curious about or new to disability issues ... plus, people who have been involved for some time, but would like to refresh their understanding of the ideas that structure the disability community's conversations and work.

Ideally I try to put out an episode every other week, or maybe just twice per month. I would want to have at least one guest for each episode, preferably someone who has some expertise and something to say about the term being discussed. We might also incorporate comments into the conversation by announcing the next upcoming topic, and reading out a selection of comments on the term as part of the next episode. Again ideally, I would hope to keep each episode under 30 minutes long.

Possible terms to discuss ... slightly organized, but not necessarily in this order:

  • Disability
  • Crip
  • Ableism
  • Advocacy
  • Accessibility
  • Accommodations
  • Marginalized
  • Intersectional
  • Erasure
  • Representation
  • Autism
  • Neurodiversity
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Self-Advocate
  • Functioning Labels
  • Institutional
  • Long Term Care
  • Sheltered Workshops
  • Independent Living
  • Social Model
  • Consumer Direction
  • Inspiration Porn
  • Disability Awareness
  • Eugenics

I am posting this idea because I hope to get some suggestions on content, identify people who might want to co-host with me on one or two of these topics, and get a feel for whether a Patreon or similar campaign to support this project financially would be feasible. If you have ideas or want to participate in some way, you can leave a comment below, or email me at: apulrang@icloud.com

Who's Disabled?

Who's Disabled in bold white letters on a dark aqua blue background

People sometimes ask, "Is it okay for me to say I'm disabled?" What do they mean? A variety of things, I think:

• They have some condition that's in the ballpark of disability, but they have struggled personally over whether they themselves want to identify as disabled.

• They view themselves as disabled in some way, but worry that other disabled people won't accept that, or that they will be accused of "appropriating" disability identity and culture.

• They think that if they refer to themselves as "disabled", their friends and families will be sad or disapprove, or worse ... believe they are faking in order to gain some kind of advantage or benefit.

• They are focused on one of the more narrow, specific definitions of "disabled," such as qualifying for Social Security Disability, being entitled to a "handicapped parking" permit, or being covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• They take the word "disabled" very literally, to mean unable to do anything. From this point of view it can seem both inaccurate, (everybody can do SOMETHING), and discouraging ... as if calling yourself disabled is not only descriptive, but predictive.

I've thought about it a lot, and here is the definition of disability that makes the most sense to me. It's a personal definition, not a legal or bureaucratic one:

If you have a physical or mental condition that you have to think about and plan around every day, then you are disabled.

This definition encompasses any physical, mental, cognitive, and sensory impairments. I personally don't include temporary impairments, impairments that are seamlessly adapted, (like glasses for nearsightedness), or ordinary variations in personality, talent, and physical makeup.

Any thoughts?

Disability Blogging Resoultions

Cork bulletin board with a white rectangular piece of paper pinned to it, reading: Resolutions 1., 2., 3.

A blog post by my favorite political blogger had the exact opposite of its intended effect on me. It has encouraged me to blog some New Year's Resolutions. I will, however, try to follow Atrios' advice and set resolutions for myself, rather than sanctimoniously pushing them on others.

Here are my Disability Blogging Resolutions for 2017:

1. I will maintain a consistent weekly and monthly schedule.

This means posting a Weekly Reading List every Monday, a regular blog post on some disability topic every Friday or Saturday, a Disability Blogger Linkup the second Friday of each month, a Monthly Wrap-Up once a month, and an occasional Throwback Thursday repost from the Disability Thinking archives. It’s less than I used to post, but I am busier lately. If I can manage it, quality and consistency at this point is probably better than quantity.

2. I will write more about my own experiences with disability and the evolution of my disability thinking.

To start with I want to do more “I Used To Think …” posts, exploring specific ways my thinking about disability changed from one stage of my life to another. Beyond that, I want to share more about my personal disability experiences, and bring those experiences to bear more often in posts about current disability issues and culture.

3. I will make my writing about disability issues and activism more accessible.

To be honest, this one is also a little bit of a suggestion for other disability bloggers too. I think that one probably harmless way we can “reach out” to people who aren’t dialed in to disability issues … both non-disabled people and disconnected disabled people … is to cut down on the activist and sociology jargon, and when we do use it, explain it. There are good, solid reasons to use terms like “ableism,” “intersectionality,” “eugenics,” “erasure,” "inspiration porn," etc. They give names to real-life experiences that are otherwise hard to describe and pinpoint. But, these terms also tend to widen the gap between people who are active in disability issues and culture, and those who aren’t. Often, the crucial difference is education, or lack of it, and integration in a supportive disability community … or the reverse and very common experience of isolation in forest of non-disability. It’s not just terminology. I want to at least try to make what I write informationally and conceptually accessible to people outside the active disability blogging and activist communities. Being mindful about terminology is just one fairly easy place to start. We’ll see how it goes. And I invite readers and fellow bloggers to give it a try, too.

This seems like a doable list of resolutions. Please feel free to hold me to these commitments as the new year progresses!

Petition

Cartoon style drawing of a petition

I’ve been too busy today to write a longer post, so it’s a good opportunity to share a worthwhile petition. It’s asking the President, (I’m not sure why, but whatever), and the U.S. Patent Office to cancel the trademarking of the term “Invisible Disabilities,” which a nonprofit organization got for itself and is actively stopping anyone else from using.

As this Daily Dot article points out … and should be obvious anyway … “invisible disabilities” is a generic term widely used for a very long time to categorize various disabilities that aren’t apparent to others. This organization, the Invisible Disabilities Association, is basically meant to address the concerns of people with invisible disabilities, so they’re more or less on topic. The problem is that they are trying to claim ownership of a widely used descriptive term that is also viewed by many people to be an identity … something like an ethnicity. Either way, it’s ludicrous and ungenerous, and they certainly didn’t creatively come up with the term, so I have no idea how or why the Patent Office allowed the trademark to go through.

At some later date I might have more to say about the organization itself, which also happens to have a rhetorical style that I find a bit creepy and off-putting. I there may be structural and philosophical reasons for that, but I want to explore the role sentimentality in disability discourse. Is the sweetness and cheerleading approach wrong, or is it just a different cultural and emotional perspective on disability that I personally don’t like?

Disability Etiquette in 3 Questions

Different colored letter blocks spelling out the word "etiquette"

Because we can never have enough guides to Disability Etiquette ...

I’ve been wanting to write a post about "disability etiquette" for quite awhile. Mainly, I want to try to come up with a simple set of guidelines that covers the essentials of what we consider “disability etiquette.” First, I think we have to be clear about what “disability etiquette” is for.

Is it meant to make social interactions less annoying and humiliating for disabled people, so our everyday lives suck a little less? Or, is it designed to make non-disabled people feel more confident interacting with disabled people, so they will interact with us instead of shying away?

Obviously, it’s a little of both, and I don’t think the two goals necessarily conflict. With both in mind, let’s take a shot at a three-point guide, structured by three very basic questions I think non-disabled have about us, and that we have about how we actually want social interactions to go:

Question 1:

Is it okay to ask a disabled person about their disability?

Answer:

It depends on the situation and how well you know the disabled person. If you’re a stranger or an occasional acquaintance, it’s hard to justify asking a disabled person about the specifics of his or her disability. Even if you know them pretty well, if you’re talking about work, or your last vacation, then it’s probably awkward and inappropriate to suddenly say, “You know, I’ve always wondered, what is your disability actually called?” On the other hand, if you are a wheelchair user in the emergency room because you’re violently ill, it’s probably okay for the nurse to ask for some details, even if he or she is a complete stranger.

If you’re not sure whether you know someone well enough to ask, think of an analogy. In a similar situation and level of acquaintance, would you ask whether someone is married or has kids? Would you dig further and ask if they are divorced or widowed? The better you already know and trust someone … and the better they know and trust you … the more it’s potentially okay to ask personal questions like that, including questions about a person’s disability.

Above all, think about why you feel the urge to ask. Do you have a truly practical need to know? Are you asking because you want to know them better as a person? Or, is it just insatiable curiosity, like an itch you’re just dying to scratch? If your motivation is more like the latter, it’s a good sign you should probably leave it alone.

What’s it all about? Appropriateness.

Question 2:

Is it okay to ask if a disabled person needs some help?

Answer:

Asking is the key. It’s almost always nice to ask. Problems arise when people dive in to help without asking, or when they ask, but then don’t listen, or overrule the answer.

If you ask a disabled person if they need help getting into or out of a building, and the answer is, “Yes!”, ask how you can help, and do what you can realistically do to help, according to the disabled person’s instructions. If the answer is, “No thank you,” or even “NO! GO AWAY!”, respect the answer, and don’t take it personally. That's right. Don't. Take. It. Personally. That can be hard to do if you’ve just been snapped at. But, if your original motivation was really to help, then it shouldn’t matter if the answer was polite, rude, or through gritted teeth. If you find yourself feeling personally offended, ask yourself whether your real priority was making the other person’s day a little easier, or was your actual goal to feel a little better about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with boosting your ego a bit by helping others, but things start to get out of balance when that’s why you offer people help.

Of course, if the disabled person takes you up on your offer, first ask how you can help and then follow the disabled person’s instructions. Don’t take “Yes, thanks” as your cue to take charge of the situation. That is exactly the sort of thing that causes many of us to resist help, especially from strangers, even when we probably really do need it. Also, following instructions is critical, even if you're sure you know what you're doing. The disabled person usually knows much better than you do how you can help them, and may also be more aware of the safest ways to do things for both of you.

What’s it all about? Control.

Question 3:

For real now, no messing around … which term should I use? Disabled Person? Person with a Disability? Physically Challenged? Special Needs?

Answer:

This one can frustrating, for sure. It seems like we are always changing our minds and can never agree even among ourselves which terms to use and encourage others to use. Given that reality, your best bet is to take a two step approach to terminology.

Start out using “disability” and “disabled” as your default terms. A lot of disabled people still don’t like “disabled” and “disability,” but it does seem to be the most universally understood and accepted term, applicable to all kinds of disabilities and across all cultures. Whether it makes complete sense to your way of thinking at the moment, it is the most widely accepted way of referring to physical or mental impairments.

If those words are accepted with no comment, you’re fine. If a disabled person objects though, and says they prefer other terms, then respect their preference, whatever it might be.

It’s worth noting that there is currently a debate going on inside the disability community between person-first language … where you say “person with a disability,” and identity first language ... where you say “disabled person” or just “disabled.” If you’re not disabled yourself, you really don’t need to worry about this. Just go with what the disabled person or people you are with seem to like better.

Above all, never lecture to a disabled person on why your preferred terms are correct, and the terms they prefer is wrong or misinformed. You might know something deeper and more significant about disability than a person who actually lives with disabilities everyday, but it's unlikely. In any case, telling a disabled person that they're doing disability wrong is just obnoxious. Don’t do it.

What’s it all about? Respect.

Is there more to “disability etiquette” than these three things … Appropriateness, Control, and Respect? I’m not sure there is.

Three Threats: 1. Populist Backlash

Danger sign, white block letters inside horizontal red oval, surrounded by black rectangular background

From my July 6, 2016 blog post:

“Over the next few days, I plan on writing a series of posts about what I believe to be three of the most dangerous and imminent threats to disabled people in America today. By "threats" I don't mean garden-variety injustices, or everyday ableism ... even though some days they seem to eat away at our souls. I'm talking about specific measures or trends that threaten our actual survival. And by "survival," I mean our economic viability, our physical and psychological independence, and our lives and safety.”

***

Let's start with Populist Backlash.

In this particular election year, it seems right to start with Populist Backlash. Since the term is made up of two distinct words, I’ll start by trying to define them.

Stock photo of a middle aged white bald man with beard and mustache, looking very angry, pointing an accusing finger at the viewer

“Backlash” is a reaction against recent social changes. It is inherently conservative, (Keep things the way they are!), and often reactionary, (Go back to the way things were!). Some people join in backlash because they have always opposed social change. Others get revved up when they feel that social change has “gone too far,” or when social change previously thought to be essentially harmless suddenly seems to threaten the majority’s status and equilibrium.

The word “Populist” implies a movement coming from the “lower” levels of society, rather than elites. Populism can be positive or negative, but in the American political context the term carries a negative connotation, because so much American “populism” has included explicit racism, anti-semitism, and other kinds of scapegoating … blaming other low-status groups for your problems instead of the systems and leaders who are actually responsible.

So, “Populist Backlash” is a movement against resented social change, by people who are themselves of relatively low status, who suffer real or perceived losses of status and privilege, and who vent their frustrations on other low-status or minority groups. It’s important to note, too, that while Populist Backlash doesn’t come from elites, it is very often co-opted and used by elites for their own purposes.

How does this relate to disabled people?

Disabled people are more visible, accommodated, and assertive in society than they were decades ago. Fewer of us live in institutions. Still too many do, but far fewer than used to. You see disabled people more often in everyday life, where we used to be almost invisible. Disability issues still don't get the attention they should, but accessibility, inclusion, and simple non-discrimination are at least recognized and more or less permanent priorities. Disabled people have over the last 30-40 years gone from virtual nonentities in society, dealt with only privately by their families and physicians, to permanent, named members of the broader community. That is a big change, even though we sometimes forget it. And how we view ourselves from the inside is different from how others see us.

From the outside, it can appear that disabled people are entitled to many benefits, privileges, and social sympathies that other underprivileged people can’t seem to get for themselves. People are just minimally "aware" enough to know that there are now more laws and programs designed to meet the specific needs of disabled people. Meanwhile there are fewer such arrangements than there used to be to help people who have other kinds of problems, like under-employment, low income, and discrimination. While disabled people have these problems, too, we at least have programs that are supposed to help us with those things. Non-disabled people mostly don't. They used to, but remember that in the United States, generic "welfare" has been mostly dismantled, shattered into dozens of tiny, narrowly targeted programs that are hard to qualify for and full of holes.

We disabled people know, of course, that even our own targeted programs look far better on paper than they do in real life. Our civil rights laws lack practical teeth. Benefits are hard to get and even harder to maintain with any assurance. The better service models we've developed are almost all vastly under-funded and, therefore, minimally and randomly implemented. But this doesn't matter to people who don't know any of this. To them, it looks like we get everything and they get nothing, even though they feel like they have just as many problems and barriers to deal with, if not more. We even get our own damned parking spaces!

Frustration about these supposedly unearned advantages, coupled with the dark allure of disobeying the dictates of “Political Correctness” can lead people to be shockingly nasty and abusive towards people with disabilities. Actually fighting for better policies to address inequality requires coherent, carefully-tended ideologies and lots of wonky knowledge. Lashing out at your "disabled" neighbor who gets a monthly government check for "doing nothing" is easy. Especially if they look and talk weird. Especially when they, (we), do nothing but complain about not having any power or support.

And now, we have savvy politicians telling people that lashing out in this way isn't impolite. It's not gross or hateful. No! It's honest, brave, admirably non-conformist!

So what? This kind of naked hatefulness against disabled people isn't all that common. Disabled people are far from the favorite scapegoat for Populist Backlash. Immigrants, black people, LGBTQ people, and women seem to share that dubious honor. Is this really a big enough problem to be a danger, not just an annoyance or personal trauma? For one thing, lots of disabled people are also black, gay, immigrants, and / or women. So, for many of us, ableism is just one of a half dozen or more active angles of attack we experience every single day. Ableism may not be the worst, but it doesn't have to be.

The other problem is that this close, personal resentment and unleashing of anger can very quickly lead to harmful policies that would affect far more than our feelings. Scapegoating disabled people, even only occasionally, can jump in a second from purely social and rhetorical, to the very concrete. Especially during an election year ... especially THIS election year ... we need to watch out for hate becoming proposals. We need to be wary of cuts to disability benefits or narrowing of eligibility. We need to be on the lookout for attempts to make the ADA even weaker than it already is. We need to worry that giving people permission to use unthinkable language about disability will help unleash unthinkable policies that will harm disabled people.

This happened in the United Kingdom when budget cuts targeted to disabled people were made politically feasible, even politically attractive, partly by amped-up anger at “benefits scroungers.” As a bonus, political validation of the idea may have, in turn, fueled more hate, setting up a frightening, destructive cycle. It hasn't really happened here yet, but it could.

Where does this backlash come from, and why?

Again, the Populist Backlash I am talking about generally comes from poor and working class people, not primarily from so-called elites. Certain elites will harness it, and they are usually the ones to channel resentment into action, but when they do, they are still mainly relying on non-elite sentiment. Most elites are too polite, or too politic, to partake directly.

Although Populist Backlash against disabled people is almost completely based on misinformation and prejudice, it is weaponized by actual suffering, both emotional and material. As already noted, non-elites feel screwed, and in many ways they are. The problem is that it's easier, somehow, to blame other screwed people who look, speak, and act differently, and who are close at hand, than to blame murky, distant corporations, politicians, and obscure policy structures.

A lot of things feed into Populist Backlash, including basic ableism, but it also relies on the idea of scarcity. It's the idea ... the unquestioned assumption really ... that all good things in society are in short supply. When one group "gets," others necessarily "lose." If disabled people are better off, someone else may be suffering. Maybe it's me.

At the moment, Populist Backlash is more of a warning sign than a danger. But we should absolutely view it as a very serious warning sign of a very real danger, not just to our identity or peace of mind, but to our actual lives.

Next in this series: Re-Institutionalization.