Why not celebrate the diversity of disability?

When it comes to life with a disability, most assume it has to be sad, subpar, or even not worth living. If all someone has ever seen are TV or movies like Me Before You, it’s easy to see why. Despite people with disabilities making up 20% of our population, they are fewer than 1% of TV characters. And only 5% of those characters are actually played by actors who have disabilities (from the Ruderman White Paper on Disability in Television).

If you don’t personally know someone with a disability who is living their life to the fullest, how else would you know it’s possible? Before my dad became a quadriplegic, I had no idea that millions of people around the world live fulfilling lives with disabilities as parents, teachers, students, engineers…as human beings who just do some things differently than what is commonly seen.

The lack of authentic representation of disability in the media and society reinforces negative assumptions about people’s lives.

If you don’t fall into either the stereotypical inspirational narrative or pity narrative of disability, you’re invisible to the rest of the world. The mainstream media needs to do a better job of showing stories of disability that aren’t about overcoming disability, but in the meantime, we can do something to get the ball rolling. Together, we can change that and show what’s possible.

At AbleThrive, we launched a social media campaign in conjunction with the International Day of People with Disabilities in 2016 called the #ThisIsHowI challenge to celebrate abilities and change mindsets.

People with disabilities are sharing photos and/or short video clips of living life to flood social media with real-life examples that will help change the narrative about disability.

Disability doesn’t mean inability, it just takes a little creativity.

Here’s a sample of what’s been shared so far:

Examples like these challenge our perception of what is “normal,” and open the door for diversity to be recognized as the norm. All of us go through life differently, whether or not a disability is involved, and there’s no right or wrong way to do anything. It’s time we shed some light on the lives of people who represent another type of diversity in our society. So, even if disability is totally new for you, share the #ThisIsHowI challenge so we can educate more people who may not otherwise see accurate representations of the lives of people with disabilities. We don’t have to wait for every single person to have a personal experience with disability to advance inclusion in society.

We have to break out of the disability echo chamber and into the mainstream.

It’s not easy to change culture, but together we can show what’s possible. The path forward doesn’t need charity or pity, it needs visibility, representation and inclusion, and it starts with us.

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Follow the #ThisIsHowI campaign on AbleThrive’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

AbleThrive.com is a one-stop platform that offers customized resources for people with disabilities and their families so everyone has a chance to thrive.