Disability justice is imperative for the liberation of people and the planet. Central to disability justice is a close and honest examination of how ableism shapes our everyday lives and social institutions within a disabling extractive economy. Our comrades in the disability justice movement teach us that dismantling ableism is a collective responsibility and a throughline to ecological justice.
In 2017, MG made a deep commitment to integrating a Disability Justice analysis and practice into our work. One way we have done that is by addressing the accessibility of our offerings. While DJ is about more than access, we’ve learned a lot from groups like Sins Invalid and the Disability Justice Culture Club, that access is a practice of love and a key to the culture shift we need to ensure that no body is left behind. We’re doing our best to put into practice and commit to sharing what we learn within movement spaces and other organizations.
What is Disability Justice?
“Disability justice is a framework that examines disability and ableism as it relates to other forms of oppression and identity (race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship, incarceration, size, etc.). It was developed starting in 2005 by the Disability Justice Collective, a group of “Black, brown, queer and trans” people including Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, Stacey Milbern, Leroy F. Moore Jr., Eli Clare, and Sebastian Margaret. In disability justice, disability is not defined in “white terms, or male terms, or straight terms.” Disability justice also acknowledges that “ableism helps make racism, christian supremacy, sexism, and queer- and transphobia possible” and that all those systems of oppression are intertwined. The disability justice framework is being applied to the intersectional reexamination of a wide range of disability, human rights, and justice movements.
Patty Berne shares the following in the adapted article, “What is Disability Justice”:
“Disability justice activists, organizers, and cultural workers understand that able- bodied supremacy has been formed in relation to other systems of domination and exploitation. The histories of white supremacy and ableism are inextricably entwined, created in the context of colonial conquest and capitalist domination. One cannot look at the history of US slavery, the stealing of Indigenous lands, and US imperialism without seeing the way that white supremacy uses ableism to create a lesser/“other” group of people that is deemed less worthy/abled/smart/capable.”
A disability justice framework understands that:
- All bodies are unique and essential.
- All bodies have strengths and needs that must be met.
- We are powerful, not despite the complexities of our bodies, but because of them.
- All bodies are confined by ability, race, gender, sexuality, class, nation state, religion, and more, and we cannot separate them.
These are the positions from which we struggle. We are in a global system that is incompatible with life. The literal terrain of the world has shifted, along with a neo-fascist political terrain. Each day the planet experiences human-provoked mudslides, storms, fires, devolving air quality, rising sea levels, new regions experiencing freezing or sweltering temperatures, earthquakes, species loss and more, all provoked by greed-driven, human-made climate chaos. Our communities are often treated as disposable, especially within the current economic, political and environmental landscapes. There is no way to stop a single gear in motion — we must dismantle this machine.”
From “What is Disability Justice” (Adapted from Patty Berne’s “Disability Justice – A Working Draft”, Published in Skin, Tooth, and Bone: The Basis of Movement is Our People, A Disability Justice Primer, Second Edition.
For more information about Disability Justice including the 10 Principles and much more, check out Sins Invalid’s Disability Justice Primer: Skin, Tooth, and Bone: The Basis of Movement is Our People or the resources listed below.
- Sins Invalid Website
- Sin’s Invalid Podcast “Into The Crip Universe” – Season One, “Cripping the Anthropocene,” explores the connections between climate justice and disability justice in this era of human-generated climate change
- 10 Principles of Disability Justice
- Disability Justice Culture Club
- Movement Generation’s: Language & Disability Justice Guide
- Nomy Lamm’s overview of disability justice: “This is Disability Justice.”
- Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg’s “10 Questions Why Ableist Language Matters, Answered.”
- Christine Miserandino’s “The Spoon Theory.”
- Cara Liebowitz “10 Examples of Walking Privilege That All Walking People Should Acknowledge.”
- Antena Aire pamphlet, How To Build Language Justice
- Antena Los Ángeles resources for facilitators and organizers building multilingual space and for interpreters working (on-site and remotely) within the language justice framework
- Antena Los Ángeles Multilingual Video Conference Guidelines for Facilitators
- Catalina Nieto’s Language Justice Tips for Virtual Events