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This Woman Wants To Educate You About Ableism

“It’s way easier to oppress a demographic when they are forgotten and/or isolated — and both are applicable to the disability community.”

1. This is artist and intersectional activist Michele Kaplan.

Michele Kaplan

2. Kaplan hosts the YouTube series, Rebelwheels NYC, which addresses “all things disability.”

3. And recently, Kaplan launched a new project: What Is Ableism?

The site exists as a resource to educate non-disabled people about ableism — a word and concept that isn’t nearly as familiar to most as “racism” or “sexism,” but an equally pervasive problem — and to provide resources for people with disabilities.

5. Kaplan says the project was inspired by her observations at protests and on social media post-election, which felt devoid of recognition for the concerns of people with disabilities under a Trump administration.

Ryan Mcbride / AFP / Getty Images

“I was perfectly welcomed at the protests, but at the same time, none of the signs included disabled people and ableism,” Kaplan told BuzzFeed. “Granted, this was far from being a new problem, but it was during this time that I felt an extra helping of panic. It’s way easier to oppress a demographic when they are forgotten and/or isolated — and both are applicable to the disability community.”

6. When Kaplan started doing outreach online in attempt to raise awareness, she was reminded that most people don’t even know the word “ableism,” even though one instance of it gained widespread publicity leading up to the election.

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

“People thought the worst thing that happened to the community was when Trump mocked disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski (which was ableism, but even most of mainstream media doesn’t seem to know the word),” said Kaplan. “And as a result, a lot of people certainly had no idea that the disability community were vulnerable during the upcoming presidency.”

7. Which is where the website came in.

“I found the process of explaining things over and over to be draining and tedious,” Kaplan told BuzzFeed. “That’s when I had the idea to create an outreach site — a place where non-disabled people could educate themselves at their own pace, and disabled people could just share an URL, share a graphic instead of repeating ourselves.”

8. What Is Ableism? has sections on tips for outreach and unlearning ableism, what a Trump presidency means for the disability community, a message to other people with disabilities, and helpful links for further reading — as well as downloadable graphics to share online, or print to post or carry at demonstrations.

9. Kaplan told BuzzFeed she’d like people to take two things away from the project: a better understanding of ableism and its role in intersectional activism, and an openness to help educate others.

“If you identify as intersectional, then your solidarity needs to include the disability population,” said Kaplan. “I’d also like for the disabled population to remember that while intentional ableism is an issue (to say the least), there are also a lot of people who would be willing to be allies, if they just knew where to begin. Sometimes it can feel like it’s us against the world, but it’s not always the case. Remember: We may be vulnerable but we are also powerful.”

10. You can see the full What Is Ableism? project here.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

 
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