#ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow is Necessary Because Realistic Disability Representation is Scarce

Drawing of silhouettes of two heads, showing the exchange of gears and other information symbols, and a lightbulb between them

Recently, I wrote about the most recent instance of “cripping up,” or disabled mimicry, in the film The Upside. Many people were angered by my post and couldn’t imagine why I would be so bold as to critique Bryan Cranston on his most recent role as a wealthy disabled man. Even worse, hordes of people questioned what disabled people had to offer or whether we possessed any talent at all.

The entire discussion around this served as an example of what society in large part thinks about disabled people—a conversation Cranston helped to shape, but had no real stake in. In the following days, the response led me to start #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow. At the very least, disabled people should have a hand in dispelling some of the stereotypes and myths that the entertainment industry regularly traffics in and profits from.

Currently, accurate representation of what it’s like to be us exists mainly on our Twitter timelines. Disabled people have a desire and responsibility to create the representation we need.  This is especially true for disabled Black, Indigenous and people of color and those in the LGBTQ community. Even the AJPlus coverage of the hashtag that included me featured almost exclusively white disabled actors.

As a whole, disabled people possess a wealth of knowledge that rarely leaves the confines of our own community—if that. And often, abled people do not have access to this brain trust until they themselves become disabled. This is information that, had they possessed it earlier, might have eased the transition.

I was born with my disability and I didn’t reach this point of self-love and peace entirely unscathed. It is not a constant. I still need reminders from the people I surround myself with that there are others I can relate to and there are people that see my experiences as valid. We all need reminders that we are heard.

During a time when people openly wonder “what to do with disabled people” or what “use” we are, there is solace in having a moment in which we come together and making ourselves heard. Here are some of the tweets under #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow that make me feel less alone:


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Imani Barbarin is a writer, blogger, public speaker, and social media advocate hailing from the Philadelphia area. A graduate of the Masters in Global Communications program at the American University of Paris, she uses her skills to advocate for the representation, inclusion and empowerment of disabled people at the intersections of race and feminism.

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