WHAT IS IT?
Thirty-two years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Passed with bipartisan support, this landmark civil rights legislation prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including schools, transportation, in the work force, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. Its general purpose is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
WHAT IS THE LIBRARY DOING TO CELEBRATE?
To celebrate this year, the library’s Yearlong Reading Challenge centered its July category on Books that Feature Disability, our Tough Topics book club met on July 20 to discuss Emily Ladau’s Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally with special guest Katherine Schneider, and our local catalogers have been working diligently to add #OwnVoices as a subject heading to books by authors with disabilities and featuring characters with disabilities. They have also recently added the Honor books for the Schneider Family Book Awards to the awards page in our catalog.
WHAT CAN WE ALL DO?
Engage in disability awareness. 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. We all have a responsibility to be kind, open-minded, treat everyone with respect, and to remember that while we are all different, we are all very alike at the same time. We can all engage in disability awareness, which will strengthen our empathy for one another and dispel the stereotypes we encounter, creating a more positive and inclusive society for everyone. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started down the path of disability awareness including some simple actions you can start taking right away.
- Focus on People First. The most important thing you can remember when engaging with someone with a disability is that they are people first. Learn how to use “people first language,” which describes what a person has, not who they are.
- Watch the words you use. Along those same lines, avoid ableist language. Just as some historically racist and derogatory words have been retired from our vocabulary, so have many ableist slurs once used to dehumanize and stigmatize people. I recommend reading “Ableism/Language” by Lydia X.Z. Brown which offers an array of substitute phrases we can use instead.
- Use Alt-Text to describe your images. Also referred to as alt tags and alt descriptions, alt text conveys the “why” as it appears in a document or the content of an image making it accessible for visually impaired users using a screen reader. You can add alt-text to your images in Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
While these suggestions are not comprehensive, they are a small start to building disability awareness, which just makes us all better. The more we learn, the closer we can get to achieving cultural competency and inclusivity. What are some suggestions you have for building disability awareness? Please add a comment below!