Challenging the norm of non-disabledness

Taksvärkki’s campaign for this school year “What is stopping you?” addresses discrimination faced by young people with disabilities around the world. In the campaign, disabled and non-disabled young people show how each of us can work to defend the equality of people with disabilities.

Julianna Brandt has worked as a project worker for the campaign. Her duties have included promoting disability inclusion in Taksvärkki’s operations. Julianna has developed Taksvärkki’s global citizenship education materials to be more accessible and designed campaign materials in an expert role.

“Everyone has the right to be an equal global citizen, which means equalizing access to knowledge by making materials plain language and accessible,” Brandt says about the background to the campaign.

Julianna has previously worked as a journalist for Yle’s Vammaiskultti program, for example, when she spoke openly about her own CP disability.

Ableism refers to discrimination faced by people with disabilities. Tell us about examples of ableism in a) everyday life and b) In the media.

“Both are united by the idea that we with disabilities don’t show up anywhere. It is often not even assumed that we would come to an event, for example. People with disabilities still must prove their own abilities and are not seen as equal actors in different areas of life. Often the default is assuming underachievement, which does not indicate the ambition of the disabled person. For example, only certain educational paths are offered to people with disabilities.

a) Disability is still common in everyday life and there is still work to be done in communicating about events. The accessibility or inaccessibility of the space should be mentioned so that it does not always have to be inquired about separately. The constant inquiry into accessibility is again related to the experience of social accessibility.

b) In the media, invisibility and lack of representation are typical. Media images reproduce prejudices, and in interviews with a person with a disability, disability is still made the focus instead of them being interviewed as a person.”

Why is this campaign relevant?

“As far as I know, no similar campaign has been carried out in the past by a non-disability organization. This is the first bigger step for a so-called mainstream NGO to take into account disability inclusion cross-cuttingly. Advocacy for people with disabilities is always topical.”

How can non-disabled people best address discrimination against people with disabilities?

“At least by making sure you don’t use the word disabled as an insult. It is worth having encounters with people with disabilities and treating them with respect. For example, you shouldn’t ask about a person’s ability to function first. Differences in tone of speech are important. You’d rather ask if you want help than if you need help.

You don’t always have to do everything in a hurry or rush someone. Disability challenges the norm of efficiency. The norm of urgency should be discussed in all sections of the population. “

How can disability inclusion be promoted in our daily lives?

“By considering accessibility. Involving people with disabilities in planning and action. There are good examples of Taksvärkki’s development cooperation program. In Sierra Leone, a group of young people with disabilities has been working to implement a Disability Act, e.g. through a weekly radio program. In Malawi, young people use bicycles to pick up people with reduced mobility from home.”

In what areas is there still room for improvement in terms of accessibility?

“On Instagram, alt texts are optional, while they are necessary for the blind. I hope that the climate will change so that taking accessibility into account is not seen as cumbersome. Yes, I understand that subtitling videos takes time. There is still room for improvement in visual factors as well. The different elements should not overlap, and the videos should not autoplay. Moving parts can be too fast and hard to understand. ”

How would you compare the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities with the discrimination faced by other minorities?

“Ableism, or discrimination against people with disabilities, is a form of oppression, as is racism and sexism. It differs from other forms of oppression in that it is so standardized. The norm of non-disabledness is so strong that all the visible examples are presented as non-disabled. Ableism is also less talked about and has a strong culture of bypassing it. For example, the decision-making power of a person with a developmental disability is not listened to or the disabled are ignored as active actors.

Accessibility is often traded with the idea that it benefits everyone, such as people moving with prams or walking sticks. That is true, of course, but then it will always be taken forward from the perspective of the majority population first. I hope that the rights of minorities are important in themselves.”

How can I get involved in the campaign?

“I would encourage you to come along with a bold and gracious attitude. It is important to be merciful to yourself, for you do not have to know everything yourself, but we can learn together. I hope schools see this theme as important.”

Get involve in the campaign!

Text: Tanja Seppänen
Translation: Camilla Bergman
Photo: Suvi Elo