Protesting While Disabled

Protesting While Disabled


When citizens are dissatisfied with the sociopolitical climate, protest and civil disobedience traditionally ensues. Yet, the subjective experiences of activism ranges widely amongst various groups of change advocates. Disabled individuals with intersectional backgrounds experience greater challenges while engaged in protests and rallies; particularly in regard to accessibility, discrimination and social acceptance.

Within the United States (U.S.) alone, people with special needs comprise approximately 25% of the population as the largest minority group. Socioeconomic disparities in regard to financial and health care resources have stymied the ability to actively participate in protests for disabled persons of color, specifically. For example, attending an outdoor, public demonstration requires access to supportive technology. Lower-middle class or furloughed activists who cannot afford assistive equipment are often confronted with a severely problematic scenario. Moreover, in person protests encompass high safety risks including the employment of rubber bullets and tear gas by law enforcement officials, which may require costly health care treatments. 

A lack of affordable options restricts disabled individuals from peacefully and comfortably participating in public demonstrations. Furthermore, the prevalence of ableism, particularly throughout marginalized communities, is detrimental to the emotional and mental health of impaired citizens. 

Handicapable protestors, while representing a diverse yet marginalized group, are confronted with a litany of physical and psychological obstacles that were exacerbated by the current pandemic. Public advocacy and civil discourse regarding disabled lives must be encouraged throughout society in an effort to enhance ableism awareness and promote political representation for individuals with intersectional identities. 

Accomplishments of the disabled community that were achieved by demonstrations are rarely acknowledged. The presence of handicapable activists at the forefront of social movements will bolster inclusive activism, extend socioeconomic opportunities and curtail stigmatization associated with disablements. The provision of wheelchair accessible spaces, sign language interpreters and placards written in Dyslexie font are examples of simplistic strategies that foster inclusivity and equality for all. 

0845 EDT – Author: Tanzil Fatima

One comment

  1. Good article. Definitely a perspective that I have thought about, but not to this degree. Usually I think of those that may be wheelchair bound or required to use an assistive device to ambulate as being left out due to logistical planning or potentially unsafe protest conditions. This article is a good conversation starter as it may cause those who are involved in activism and protest planning to rethink the traditional process. I believe that protests could possibly be a bit more peaceful or controlled if there were more disabled participants as I (and I hope many others) would be more inclined to maintain peaceful conditions as much as possible to avoid increased risk of injury to those who are more vulnerable and not able to immediately hear, see, or run from impending or sudden onset dangers or violent encounters that may occur during a protest or rally.

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