Disability Allyship #10
Are your festive decorations ableist?
This newsletter is about all things disability AND allyship, to give you a fresh perspective and advice that you can implement immediately to make your world more inclusive of disabled people. As a disabled woman myself, I am on my own allyship journey and I am excited to have you along on the journey.
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#Thought - Period pant companies are smashing it on accessibility - are you?
[Image: A hand wearing an opal ring, is holding up a red card that says, “Changing the world one cycle at a time.”]
I bet you never thought I would say this, but you can actually learn a lot from period pant companies about accessibility. Just as period pant companies have accelerated their accessible design process, so can you in terms of your own accessibility thinking in your organisation, school, or business.
About 2 years ago I wrote a blog on Medium where I discussed all things periods and disability, because periods and disability seemed to be a taboo subject. You can read that Medium blog here - Moon Cups Are Not For Me: the reality of period products for disabled women. Since writing that blog, things have moved on, particularly in the period pants arena.
Modibodi is one of the biggest period pant companies with a global reach, from New Zealand and Australia to the UK and US. In the past few months they have recognised a need for period products that are easy to use and supportive of disabled people who have their periods. And in the past few months they have launched accessible designs that will make period pants easy to use for people with a wide variety of impairments and conditions.
The Boyleg design has a loop and velcro closing system at the hip, meaning that those with limited dexterity in their hands and arms will find it a lot easier to put their underwear on themselves. Their detachable bikini pant has a hook and eye attachment at the hip, allowing for quick release for those who have no or limited movement in their legs and body. And for those wanting something a little more luxurious, they have a Luxe clasp bikini pant— recognising that disabled people also like to look and feel fashionable, even in their underwear.
New Zealand blogger, Cait Ruth, wrote about Modibodi’s pants:
“The adaptive design actually works and is super handy for managing medical devices, and they’re so comfortable. Disability inclusion is often an afterthought for new technologies but these briefs are proof that Modibodi wants to provide their products to everyone who needs them."
And Cait is right, too often disability inclusion is an afterthought for new technologies, for new designs in fashion, health and hygiene wear. With my own impairment, and as someone who has a need for menstruation products, my choices have been limited. It certainly doesn’t feel that way anymore; and this feeling of choice, of inclusion, can be extended into so many areas of society.
And so I put it forth to you, can you be inspired by Modibodi? Can you imagine and then implement where you can improve disability inclusion and accessibility in your line of work/business? Share any ideas you have in the comments.
#Action - Are your Christmas decorations dangerous?
[Image: A gold Christmas bauble hangs on some greenery that also have twinkling lights festooned throughout.]
Do you love to decorate for Christmas? Or any holiday for that matter? I know many of us do and I am no exception. I love all things festive and will decorate my house within an inch of its life if I was allowed (wink wink). Do you decorate a tree with tinsel and brightly coloured baubles? Do you hang a wreath on the front door? Do you put boughs of greenery over fireplaces and wrap some of this greenery along banisters and handrails?
I’m going to be an accessibility party challenger here (not party pooper, cause accessibility brings the party, not poop!)— when I use stairs, anywhere, anytime, I need a handrail to hold onto. Many disabled people need access to very simple supports in the environments that we navigate. But a number of times in my life I have encountered the festive decorating of spiky, rough greenery wrapped around handrails, making it awfully difficult for me to hold onto the handrail to safely get up or down stairs.
So this Christmas have a think about how you decorate and how this might impact some of your loved ones and friends if they come to visit. Here are some alternatives that might be helpful in keeping your house festive, whilst also remaining accessible:
Add bunches of greenery around the balustrade and not the actual handrail. You’re still getting some greenery up the stairs, but you are leaving the handrail free for people to hold onto.
Have non-blinking fairy lights on the tree. Flashing fairy lights may cause issues for a number of people, including people who have epilepsy, people who have vertigo and people with other neurological conditions or balance issues.
Keep as many Christmas decorations off the floor if possible. Yes, having an elf or reindeer lounging around your hallway can become a trip hazard, not just for disabled people! Christmas decorations on the floor can also restrict space for wheelchair users to access all areas of your home or office space.
#Mood - Mainstream media perpetuating ableism… again
[Image: a studio is set up with bright lights shining down onto a white sheet backdrop. Behind the setup are black curtains.]
It has been a massive couple of weeks in politics and the media. What you may have missed in all of this controversy and anger is that the media, once again, in an effort to grill MP’s about their moral ambiguity (and potentially corrupt ways), has used ableism to denigrate and shame. And the disabled community is tired of it.
I am talking about, in particular, when Matt Hancock (a member of the Conservative party here in the UK) was interviewed by Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on ITV’s This Morning, about Matt’s call for children to be screened for dyslexia before they go to high school. Firstly, for transparency, I am not a supporter of the Conservative party, but will give credit where credit is due and say that I think Matt Hancock’s idea may be a good one (of course it depends on how it is implemented etc, so I will hold back on full comment). Secondly, I was also pleased that Matt was talking so openly about his own diagnosis with dyslexia and his confirmation that with support he can do his job as a parliamentarian, thus signalling that those with dyslexia can pursue a career in politics if they wish to. So far, so good.
It went downhill when Phillip Schofield then grilled him on his lack of social distancing during the multiple lockdowns that we have had here in the UK. I agree that politicians should be grilled about issues, laws, behaviours, and the like that negatively affect the community, but not the way that Phillip did it.
Phillip Schofield asked Matt Hancock:
I’m going to be blunt. This is ableist.
And it is language, beliefs, and digs at politicians, using disability as a way to demean, belittle and embarrass someone that has such hurtful implications for the wider disabled community. By so publicly linking someones morals (and in this case breaking of lockdown rules) to their impairment and/or condition signals to the society that that impairment and/or condition makes someone morally ambiguous, a rule breaker, someone bad, someone that we shouldn’t like or forgive.
The same thing happened a lot when Trump was President in the United States— I am not a fan of Trump, I didn’t like his policies, etc, but it hurt when people would judge him on shuffling down a ramp. I shuffle down ramps. I would hate to think that people would think me morally corrupt or unlikable or unable to do my job because I shuffle sometimes. And this isn’t just a media problem, it is also a politically left or right leaning issue too, to use an impairment or condition to shame and belittle.
As a society we have to disconnect disability from bad behaviour and bad morals. Bad behaviour and bad morals are a reflection of someones character and not their impairment or condition. So whilst I am not a Matt Hancock cheerleader, I am not a Phillip Schofield fan at the moment either. Until people in the media understand that they have the power to influence ableism in wider society, we are going to have journalists and presenters asking harmful questions under the guise of “grilling the enemy.”
Did you catch ITV’s This Morning episode where this happened? What did you make of it? Did you pick up immediately the issue with the question Phillip asked? Leave a comment in the thread.
#News - McDonalds groundbreaking accessible packaging
Did you know that McDonalds, in India, have worked with HAVI and Parksons Packaging to create ACCESSIBLE PACKAGING for disabled people— which they delivered on International Day of Person’s with Disabilities 2021. How amazing is this?!?
With more than 21 million disabled people living in India, it is a great opportunity to create, explore and test the possibilities of creating accessible packaging, especially for those with upper limb difference and/or limited dexterity in their hands and arms. What I also love (and what caught my attention in the first place) is the wonderful picture advertising the development:
(Image from McDonalds Corporate Website)
[Image: an Indian woman is sitting at a table in a McDonalds restaurant, a brown tray on the table in front of her with some discarded packaging on it. She is missing part of her right arm. She is holding a burger that is being held in a crescent designed carton with her left hand and right arm. She is chewing on a bite of the burger.]
As someone with upper limb difference, I felt seen in this photo… I felt it strongly, deep in my core; limb difference being shown as just another part of the human lived experience. I can’t even imagine though, how seeing this ad must feel for Indian women with upper limb difference. Points of intersection met, points of inclusion met, points of actual human lived experience met, without layers of harmful and hurtful stereotypes.
Now, my only hope is that they roll the accessible packaging out globally. I’m not a massive McDonalds consumer, but trust me, the moment there is accessible packaging at my local Macca’s I will be there with bells on to try it out.