By Carrie Griffin Basas
Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago my friend and colleague Carrie Basas wrote about Disability Rights So White: Disability and Racial Justice. This week she returns with Ableism BINGO. Thanks Carrie for dropping by some wisdom and fun. There is a PDF download of the BINGO card at the bottom of the blog post which Carrie ran through a screen-reader to hilarious results.
A couple years ago, I was at an anti-racism training where the facilitators invited us to reflect on how they had made the space welcoming and how they had not. I listened as others gave feedback. I thought about not saying anything but it had bothered me that the registration page had listed information about gender-inclusive bathrooms and breastfeeding areas but had not explicitly invited attendees to flag any disability accommodations that they might need. I appreciated the access that they had offered, but saw a huge gap. I decided to share that feedback and came away feeling like it wasn’t received well.
In the spirit of my perpetual, uncompensated, and often tiring role as Informal Ambassador of All Things Disability, I also pointed out that I knew that they were good people because I had gone to another one of their trainings. It wasn’t that I questioned their intent or character. Had I not known them from another context, I would have hesitated to register because silence on access can be read as a message that you are not welcome. The next day, the facilitators tried again and did better—they had reflected on their miss and wanted to know more. We started again from a new place. I wanted to help and they wanted to do better; that’s the essence of repair.
I thought about this moment when I was doing that combination of cringing and laughing at Entitlement Bingo. Over the past few months, as I have vented about meetings, conferences, and the occasional school pickup to Erin, she encouraged me to write my own disability-focused bingo. We knew it would be therapeutic for me and maybe even helpful to others.
I have fond memories of bingo nights with my aunties and grandmother. I remember the frenzied management of multiple sheets, fast-action daubers, trash talk among ladies, and the smell of smoke in the air. I also remember the odd door prizes. I never won except once—and that night, I got a pen that vibrated and wrote in multiple colors. There is some irony in giving a vibrating pen to a physically disabled person. I had tried to master penmanship with my fixed elbows (AKA as “chicken wings” around my house) years earlier in school. Did I really need to up the complexity and awkwardness as a teen with a vibrating pen?
The bingo card that I’ve created below was made in a smoke-free environment. You won’t be lighting your auntie’s cigarette or collecting her money at the end, sadly. You can get out your pennies as placeholders, but please don’t give your dimes to a charity that objectifies kids with disabilities.
You might need some definitions as a way of introduction:
Ableism: discrimination against disabled people, along with the privileging of perceived “abled” people’s needs and desires. Ableism can range from hate crimes to denials of accessibility, institutionalization to employment discrimination.
Inspiration porn: We are about to enter that period of memes about the attractive non-disabled high school athlete asking the girl with disabilities to prom. Or perhaps you’ve seen something in your social media that looks like the images in this or even this. Inspiration porn is when we go over the top in celebrating disabled people for doing ordinary things. These representations are usually framed such that a non-disabled person is the true hero. Inspiration porn elevates non-disabled people over disabled people and reinforces the idea that a life with disability is not worth living. Ask yourself if you are inspired: Inspired to do what? If you have no clue, you just consumed some inspiration porn. Don’t tell your mother and please go and wash your hands. Then watch Stella Young’s excellent talk on inspiration porn.
Angry crip (cripple—and yes, I can use that word as a form of my own political empowerment) stereotype: Some folks believe that disabled people are bitter and angry to have the bodies and minds that they do. Therefore, disabled people can feel additional pressure to be acquiescent or even-tempered. We know this pressure is not unique to disability; it just takes different forms here.
Catching people, including yourself, in violations of this card should be an opening, not a closing or judgment. Truth be told, you could catch me in violations of this card at different moments. And I just might have spilled my single-origin hemp latte on the entitlement bingo card. Just because I have a disability does not mean that I do right by all people with disabilities all of the time, whatever my intent.
Happy playing—and know that I won’t judge if you light up while playing this or are slow on the daubers. Just don’t turn me into a meme or park in my spot, okay?
PDF Download of Ableism BINGO Card.
- Accessible Meeting Planning: https://www.section508.gov/content/learn/create-accessible-events
- 9 Ways to Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible: https://sfpirg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/everyday-feminism.pdf
- DisCrit: an excellent book showing how ableism reinforces racism and racism reinforces ableism: https://www.tcpress.com/discrit%E2%80%94disability-studies-and-critical-race-theory-in-education-9780807756676 (I’m currently borrowing the UW library copy so please give me a few more days.)
- Sins Invalid—challenging representations of disability: http://www.sinsinvalid.org/
- Disabled Feminists’ “5 Things About Ableism That You Should Know”: http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/11/19/what-is-ableism-five-things-about-ableism-you-should-know/
- The Body is Not an Apology “Explaining Inspiration Porn to Non-Disabled People”: https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/explaining-inspiration-porn-to-non-disabled-people/
- The Harriet Tubman Collective, “Black Disabled organizers, community builders, activists, dreamers, lovers striving for radical inclusion & collective liberation”: https://www.facebook.com/HTCollective/
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