Demystifying Disability | Emily Ladau

Summary of: Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally
By: Emily Ladau


In ‘Demystifying Disability,’ Emily Ladau offers an enlightening guide for understanding and supporting disabled people. The book explores the history and current state of civil rights advocacy for disabled individuals, addressing harmful stereotypes and ableism. Ladau unravels the complexities of disability etiquette, revealing the dos and don’ts of interactions with disabled individuals. The summary delves into topics such as the limitations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, person-first and identity-first language, categories of disability, and ongoing disability movements. Throughout the text, Ladau passionately argues that society must adapt to disabled people instead of expecting them to adjust.

Understanding Disability: A Guide

Emily Ladau, disability rights activist, editor, and speaker, offers a comprehensive guide for people seeking to support and understand disabled individuals. In her book, she illuminates the history and current state of civil rights advocacy for the disabled and provides insight into harmful stereotypes and ableism. Through personal anecdotes and critical theory, Ladau emphasizes the importance of adapting society to fit disabled people, as opposed to the other way around. Her guide also covers the basics of appropriate disability etiquette to promote understanding and empathy. A valuable resource for individuals seeking to learn and do better for the disabled community.

Rethinking Disability

In “Rethinking Disability,” Ladau critiques the limitations of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s definition of disability, arguing it fails to recognize it as a natural part of life. She suggests two categories of speech for addressing disability – person-first language and identity-first language. Ladau emphasizes honesty in language and warns against using unnecessary euphemisms such as “differently abled” or “handi-capable”.

Disability and Marginalization

Leah Ladau explores the intersection of disability and race in America, pointing to the harsh realities of disability prejudice. In the United States, disabled individuals from ethnic minorities experience blatant discrimination that White people with disabilities might not face. Ladau categorizes disabilities into five classes and distinguishes between “apparent” and “nonapparent” disabilities. What some people consider to be part of their identity, others may not. Ladau asserts the importance of recognizing the identity-forming nature of disability, regardless of if it fits into a visible category.

Disability Rights Movements

In the 20th century, disabled people were considered subhuman in the US and subjected to eugenics. Although the Social Security Act of 1935 ensured vocational rehabilitation for disabled people, it fails to protect them from wage discrimination, leading to exploitation. However, the 21st century witnessed the emergence of the Disability Justice movement, including underprivileged disabled populations such as people of color, immigrants, marginalized religious groups, trans and queer people, incarcerated disabled people, and victims of theft of ancestral lands. This book highlights the past oppression and hard-won civil rights victories of the disability community, emphasizing the necessity of disability provisions.

Accessibility Matters

The book delves into the issue of ableism and how society creates exclusion towards people with disabilities. It highlights the importance of accessibility, which refers to the provision of environments where disabled people can move freely. These include facilities such as quiet rooms, braille materials, flexible work hours, and captioning and sign language. The author emphasizes the need for accessibility to ensure that people with disabilities receive the same access and treatment as everyone else.

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