Why Disability-as-Identity Matters

In my recent piece on the anti-Trump ad “Grace,” I quoted filmmaker (and founder of the vital #FilmDis Twitter chat) Dominick Evans saying:

Dominick Evans, a filmmaker and disability advocate, argued that people in the disability community are the only marginalized group routinely not allowed to speak for themselves. “If this was a story about LGBT discrimination, an LGBT person would be telling that story. It would be horrific for a video about how people of color are discriminated against by Donald Trump to not include any people of color, or for [there to be an ad] about sexism by Trump that does not include women,” he said. “It feels really exploitative to use this issue and speak about a disabled child and about disability and never include us in the discussion, at all.”

Disability is different. People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, and everyone who lives long enough will eventually be disabled. We move in and out of states of disability throughout our lives. It just doesn’t work the same way as other categories of identity, including other groups of marginalized peoples. This difference enables an ad-maker to exclude disabled people, even if that same ad-maker would never think of excluding people of color, LGBT individuals, or women from ads about their groups.

This is why I’m such a believe in promoting the idea of disability (and cross-disability at that) as identity, why generally I’m extremely positive about the moves the disability community has made this political season, and why I’m encouraged by the Clinton campaign’s response over the last few months.

Including people with disabilities in politicized identity categories will improve both representation and actual influence.

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