Announcing a blog project and a call for help

So, there are apparently a lot of people out there who think that cognitive and developmental disability ableism isn’t a thing. That it’s not “real” oppression. This is a meme with disturbing reach and pervasiveness. And it is a myth. 

I want to debunk this myth. 

So I’m going to be writing a blog series on the history of cognitive and developmental disability ableism. Sometime after April is my rough timeline for my first post.

If anybody has any useful resources they can direct me to, I would appreciate it greatly. I want to do this properly, so I’m looking for historical, journalistic, or peer-reviewed articles. I’ll count blog posts as journalistic if they cite their claims appropriately and/or otherwise support their claims with evidence. Particular emphasis on pre-20th century stuff (to establish that historical ableism has been a thing for a while), and stuff that’s still ongoing (the JRC will definitely be making an appearance, among others).

Language restrictions: Due to the fact that I don’t read well in any of my other languages, I need all resources to either be written in English or have an English translation available.

Thanks, all! More updates will be coming on timeline, etc, when I know more.


15 thoughts on “Announcing a blog project and a call for help

  1. alexforshaw says:

    If you have access to a dictionary such as the full Oxford English Dictionary it should contain citations for the earliest written use of particular words such as the R-word. Unfortunately I don’t have the funds to get access myself, but a good library should have paper or electronic copies of this kind of reference work.

  2. Resources on ableism of varying relevance to your topic:
    [Directly refers to intellectual and developmental disabilities]
    [About the significance of ableist language, but primarily dealing with physical disabilities]
    [Another source about ableist language that deals with physical disabilities]

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but I really don’t have any sources that deal specifically with cognitive and developmental disability ableism.

  3. notesoncrazy says:

    This article from Disability Studies Quarterly is not exactly what you are looking for I don’t think – history of disability is only a minor focus and I understand that is your primary aim – but it has quite a few interesting things to say about language surrounding disability, and fundamental flaws with society rejected “disabled” as an acceptable state of being. This article does not distinguish into subgroups such as “physically disabled” or “cognitively disabled” but instead addressed disabled identity as a whole, and uses examples from various types of disability. Mostly, it’s just packed full of really interesting sources, so while it may not be relevant to your interests, I can almost guarantee her References section will be helpful, though I admit it could take a bit of digging.

    From the article:
    “Rehabilitating the Disabled Identity: Finding a Voice.
    The only form of “rehabilitation” currently available for the disabled identity is based on the medical model and focuses on the modification of the psychological state of the individual, a form of rehabilitation that McNamee (1996) refers to in all seriousness as ‘identity adjustment’ (145). It is my contention that it is not the individual person but rather our society which needs rehabilitating.
    I choose to use the term “rehabilitation” here precisely because it is problematic. For, as long as disabled people are relegated the responsibility for fixing their ailing self-esteems, for learning to “cope” with their oppression, and for fulfilling the expectations designated by the norm, they will continue to be burdened by socially sanctioned stigma. I argue that it is the concept of “rehabilitation” in its current form which is largely responsible for creating the disabled identity because it relies on placing the responsibility for change on the individual when the problem is in fact a social one. This is why we need to question the words and phrases which are used to describe disability, to unearth the concepts which inform the meaning that they carry, and to attempt to reshape them in more realistic ways if there is to be any hope of “enabling” the disabled identity.”

    Cannot wait to see this project unfold! I know that you and I have differing opinions on language usage and acceptability, but as firmly as I stand my ground I am certainly not vehement that I will always have these views. I really admire that you are approaching this subject so academically, as I always admire on your blog. (“I don’t need to cite that source, oh wait, ‘what would ischemgeekdo?’ Ok fine I better cite my source.”) Whether the hot-button ableist language issue takes a forefront to this project or whether you focus on exploring ableist history with a less linguistic focus, I really genuinely look forward to reading and learning more. Thanks for undertaking this!

    • ischemgeek says:

      While I might discuss ableist language, it would be more in the context of what was historically acceptable – e.g., use of “idiot,” “cretin” and “moron” as medical terms might come into things when I discuss the turn of the 20th century.

      Right now, I’m debating whether to organize it by topic (there are a lot of things in particular that I want to discuss in detail and it might be difficult to follow and/or disjointed if I try to discuss them all simultaneously) or by timeline (as the way all the things interconnect to make an oppressive reality might be easier if they’re all discussed simultaneously).

      One thing I am not going to do is discuss major players in isolation. The Martin Luther King, Jrs of the word wouldn’t exist without the Oliver L. Browns and the millions of other anti-racists who fought for their rights. So, while I might discuss prominent anti-ableism activists, I will do so using them as an exemplar of the cultural forces at play, rather than as a Great Person Driving Change, if that makes sense. I don’t do this to minimize the good works of the John Franklin Stephens’s and Julia Bascombs of the world, but rather to recognize the works and efforts of the people who stay mostly behind the scenes, whose work is largely overlooked by the greater public.

      Another thing I intend to do is talk about how people with cognitive and developmental disabilities are often erased from their own activism – like, for example, how rights activists with disabilities are called “self-advocates” as opposed to activists. Or how A$ erased autistic people’s work in getting Google to change autocomplete results. And I intend to make the case that stuff like that perpetuates an able savior meme, where they create the image that it’s not discrimination, it’s for your own good and take credit (by implication, if not by explicit statement) for things that disabled people did in the first place.

      But I need to do a lot of reading and figure out how I want to structure this thing. It’s going to be way, way too big for a single blog post.

  4. Ben Belek says:

    This sounds like a truly fascinating project, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with. You might want to discuss, among many other things, the Nazi Euthanasia program during WWII. Inasmuch as ableism is analogous to racism, Action T4 is analogous to genocide. I know very little about this, but I would assume that this series of horrendous actions taken by the Nazi regime didn’t come out of nowhere, but presumably represented an extreme ableist perspective that was common at the time (at least in Germany).

    • ischemgeek says:

      My PhD studies are in something entirely unrelated to the social sciences (chemical engineering) and as I have my candidacy exam in 2 months, that’s where my focus needs to be for now. I will do planning and research, but don’t expect the first post in the series until the summer at the earliest. I may be posting at a different website for it, as I have friends in another blogging project, and while this series is a bit outside the scope of my personal blog, it’s exactly the sort of thing their group blog exists to write about. If I do blog there, I’ll link from here so people can go read if they’re interested.

      I do intend to discuss Nazi Germany, but also the similar movements that took place that the time in Japan and North America. I worry that if I focus too much on one specific culture, it will enable people to other the oppression, despite the fact that ableism has been a global phenomenon for centuries, if not millenia (to borrow the phrasing of Kassiane, how many cultures left disabled babies to die in fields?).

      The more I think about this project, the more I realize just how much I’ve bitten off. It’s rather overwhelming but fascinating at the same time. I’m just trying to decide whether I want to talk from a chronological standpoint or from a phenomenological standpoint. The first would make interconnections easier to see but might get disjointed or overwhelming. The second might obfuscate how each aspect overlaps to create an oppressive reality, but might make for more understandable narratives. I’m torn. But I have at least two months before I have to even try to figure out where to start, so that’s a lot of time to think about it. I’m pleased at the reaction this project is getting – sometimes when I get stuck on something like this, people are all, “ohmygosh will you shut up about it for a bit?!” This time, people are being all, “Tell me more! It’s cool!” So, that’s refreshing.

      • Ben Belek says:

        It is definitely a fascinating project. And also certainly a huge one. The amount of material you would need to process is, I imagine, quite vast. Maybe you should consider starting off with just one country?

  5. I don’t know of any resources off the top of my head but I’ll keep this in mind and pass along anything I come across. This sounds like a huge and fascinating project.

  6. I came across this article today and thought it may be helpful to you:

  7. I’ll have to look for a few things, but one thing of note is that ableism — particularly against cognitive disability — was historically used to justify the disenfranchisement of blacks and women. Which is to say, both groups were characterized that way, and therefore should not allowed to vote. It’s rhetoric that’s used even now. While the “dx”s in question are bogus, the discourse is there, and have also been directed at people with actual cognitive/developmental disorders. (It was also used in defense against that particular discourse — ie: No, we’re not disabled therefore we should be able to vote. Implicit: people with these disabilities shouldn’t.)

    But… don’t take my summary for it. I might be misremembering it on account of seeing a little red. Allow me to locate my source paper.

    • Also, (the history of) immigration law might be interesting. I don’t know if it’s changed, but for a period of time, immigration policy was designed to — among other things — filter out those with disabilities. Baynton quotes the 1907 Commissioner General of Immigration as saying “The exclusion from this country of the morally, mentally, and physically deficient is the principle object to be accomplished by the immigration laws.”

      Life in the intersections can be a motherfucker.

      Anyway, as indicated by my quoting: I found the pdf with the article, which actually includes another one that might be useful. The one that tackles the two topics I mentioned are “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History” by Douglas C. Baynton.

      The other one which may or may not prove useful (and was incredibly painful for me to read) is “The Case of Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson: Ableism, Heterosexism, and Sexism” by Joan L. Griscom. Fair warning: as I said, it’s a difficult read. It essentially has to do with the family of a lesbian taking advantage of a car accident, and the resulting injuries, to take her into their custody and keep her partner away from her. One of the key issues used, was the debate as to what her cognitive faculties were. The level of abuse, neglect, and harm is astounding. Just… warning.

      • autisticook says:

        That reminds me that I read somewhere that if you have an ASD diagnosis, you can only emigrate to Canada if you either have a marriage/spousal reunion visa, or a Canadian sponsor (someone who guarantees that they will be responsible for your income, so that you won’t be able to claim benefits after arrival). Not sure if it’s true, but it doesn’t sound far-fetched from what I know of immigration laws in several countries.

      • autisticook says: has an interesting discussion of the Canadian immigration rules.

  8. Aaaaaaaaand, autisticook just reminded me that my wording was treating America as the invisible default/norm. Er, sorry about that. I actually do realize other countries exist. Honest. *facepalm*

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