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Book notes: Demystifying Disability

I recently finished Emily Ladau’s excellent book “Demystifying Disability”. Here are the notes I made.

Disabled people are (full and equal) people. Society and media tropes keep perpuating the myth that they’re not. A11yship is an ongoing journey of “show, don’t tell” with your support.


  • Get non-disabled people to stop treating disabled people as a weird cross between precious gems and alien creatures. “Normal” human functioning doesn’t exist.
  • If you’ve met one person with a disability… you’ve met one person with a disability. The only disability experience someone is an expert on is their own. The way PwD talk about their disability is their choice: Person-first language or Identity-first language.


  • Ableism is attitudes, actions, and circumstances that devalue people that are disabled (or are perceived as disabled). It takes a heavy toll. It implies disabled lives aren’t worth living.
  • We must consider disability within an intersectional framework.
  • Media depictions of disability are often ableist. Representation is often tokenism. Common tropes: inspiration or pity. Positive Portrayals have authenticity. Lived experience trumps any sort of research.
  • Accessibility is about removing barriers to participation, engagement, and understanding so that all people, regardless of ability, can experience the world in a full and equal way.


  • Treat others as you want to be treated: as full and equal human beings.
  • Own up to mistakes and apologise when needed.
    • Keep it short, simple, self-aware.
    • With an openness and willingness to learn. Make amends or reparations. Change behaviour so it doesn’t happen again.
  • It’s usually best to let the subject of the ableism lead, and echo or support them.
    • Before adding your voice, check if you’re actually helping put the fire out, or if you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. Pass the microphone if you’re in a position of privilege.


  • Is a “show, don’t tell” thing. Think of allyship as a journey, not a destination.
  • If you don’t belong to a community and you want to help, why do you associate “help” with that community? “Nothing about us without us”
  • Don’t try to understand disability by trying it on for an afternoon. A game of pretend won’t help you understand a person’s entire life experience and identity. Simulations often evoke pity.