Defining Ableism

Excerpted below are quotes from community writing and scholarly studies on the definition, history, and forms of ableism.

Content notes: ableism, racism, sexism, white supremacy, slavery, ABA, cure, defectiveness, eugenics, scientific racism, torture, murder, police violence, state violence, suicide, institutionalization, imprisonment


A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normality, intelligence, excellence, desirability, and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism and capitalism.

This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s language, appearance, religion and/or their ability to satisfactorily [re]produce, excel and “behave.”

You do not have to be disabled to experience ableism.

Source: January 2021 Working Definition of Ableism – TL’s BLOG – TALILA A. LEWIS


  1. Oppression, prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against disabled people on the basis of actual or presumed disability.
  2. The belief that people are superior or inferior, have better quality of life, or have lives more valuable or worth living on the basis of actual or perceived disability.

Source: Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: Definitions

Ableism is a set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or the other. Ableism is intertwined in our culture, due to many limiting beliefs about what disability does or does not mean, how able-bodied people learn to treat people with disabilities and how we are often not included at the table for key decisions.

Source: Ableism – Center for Disability Rights

Ableism – The practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

Disablism – A set of assumptions (conscious or unconscious) and practices that promote the differential or unequal treatment of people because of actual or presumed disabilities.

Source: What Is Ableism? | Stop Ableism

Ableism is an entire system of thinking and doing that hurts disabled people/people with disabilities.

Ableism is a form of systemic, structural, and institutional oppression.

Ableism is racist and white supremacist.

It is anti-Black and anti-Native.

Ableism is capitalist. Ableism is eugenicist.

Ableism is a system of power differentials and power relations, where people whose body minds are considered healthy, whole, functional, sane, stable, strong, and intelligent are granted enormous political, social, cultural, and economic power at the direct expense of people whose body minds are instead deemed sick, broken, defective, diseased, disordered, deficient, weak, unstable, and stupid.

Ableism teaches us which kinds of people count as human and which do not.

Ableism teaches us which kinds of people ought to be allowed to live, to breathe, and to be, and which ought not.

Ableism teaches us which kinds of people should reproduce and which kinds of people should be reproduced.

Ableism teaches us which kinds of children should be allowed to be born and which people ought to be allowed to have children in the first place.

Ableism teaches us who is considered valuable, worthy, and desirable and who is considered expendable and disposable.

Ableism teaches us who is worth living and saving and who, instead, is acceptable collateral damage.

Ableism is at its core a system of oppression that is rooted in, connected to, inextricably tied to, dependent on, and necessary for every other form of oppression.

In particular, ableism is virulently racist and white supremacist.

In particular, in this country, it is anti-Black and anti-Native.

Source: Against Ableism & White Supremacy: Disability Justice is Our Liberation – YouTube

Ableism is not a list of bad words. Language is *one* tool of an oppressive system. Being aware of language — for those of us who have the privilege of being able to change our language — can help us understand how pervasive ableism is. Ableism is systematic, institutional devaluing of bodies and minds deemed deviant, abnormal, defective, subhuman, less than. Ableism is *violence.*

Source: Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: Ableism/Language

Ableism is not “bad words.” It’s violence.

Ableism is the violence in the clinic, in the waiting room, in the social welfare lines, in the classroom, in the recess yard, in the bedroom, in the prisons, in the streets. Ableism is the violence (and threat of violence) we live with each day.

Ableism is the constant apologetics for family members and caregivers who murder their disabled relatives — they must have had it so hard, it must have been such a burden, you musn’t judge unless you’ve walked in their shoes. (In the last few decades, more than 400 disabled people were murdered by relatives or caregivers, and those are only the stories we know about.)

Ableism is the fact that a police officer who shot an unarmed Black man with his hands up decided it made more sense to claim he was actually aiming for the Brown autistic man holding a toy truck beside the Black man.

Ableism is the fact that anywhere from around 40% to 70% of U.S. prisoners are also disabled, and that the forces of white supremacy, racism, and capitalism that keep poor Black and Brown people in prisons are necessarily intertwined with ableist presuppositions about intelligence and emotional capacity. (And that all incarcerated people — disabled or not — as well as many free disabled people can be paid, completely legally, only a few cents per hour for menial labor, and that this is called opportunity and teaching work ethic.)

Ableism is the fact that it is totally legal to torture disabled people in the name of treatment and help and “for your own good” — everywhere from the daily ABA torture sessions focused on normalization at the expense of our own mental health to the extremes of the Judge Rotenberg Center where we are shocked even for flapping or moving out of our seats.

Ableism is the fact that on average, autistic people die 30 years younger than non-autistic people, with suicide as the second leading cause of death. As one friend put it, that’s an act of murder by society, because it is so bad that too many of us decide that it is no longer worth trying to live in a world literally designed to destroy us from the moment we are first born.

They hate us, and we already know it. They aim for us. They mean to kill. They mean to harm. They know what they are doing, and we know it too. There can be no innocence, not for us. Ableism is not some arbitrary list of “bad words,” as much as language is a tool of oppression. Ableism is violence, and it kills.

Source: Autistic Hoya — A blog by Lydia X. Z. Brown: Ableism is not “bad words.” It’s violence.

We believe that ableism is a “system of discrimination,” which means that it influences how people talk about and perceive autism whether or not they are aware of it, and regardless of whether or not they actually believe that autistic people are inferior to nonautistic people. We also believe that language choices are part of what perpetuates this system

Ableism is perpetuated by culturally shared norms and values, as well as ways of speaking and writing about disability and disabled people. These social processes culminate in, and originate from, societal expectations about the abilities required for granting individuals full social rights, agency, and even personhood. Ableism intersects with other systems of oppression, including racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. This means that ableism is compounded by experiences such as racism. In addition, disabled people of color are more likely to experience the effects of ableism than white disabled people.

Source: Avoiding Ableist Language: Suggestions for Autism Researchers | Autism in Adulthood

Defectiveness justifies cure and makes it essential. Across the centuries, how many communities have been declared inherently defective by white people, rich people, nondisabled people, men backed by medical, scientific, academic, and state authority?

Defectiveness wields incredible power because ableism builds and maintains the notion that defective body-minds are undesirable, worthless, disposable, or in need of cure. In a world without ableism, defective, meaning the “imperfection of a bodily system,” would probably not even exist. But if it did, it would only be a neutral descriptor. However, in today’s world where ableism fundamentally shapes white Western cultural definitions of normal and abnormal, worthy and unworthy, whole and broken body-minds, any person or community named defective can be targeted without question or hesitation for eradication, imprisonment, institutionalization. The ableist invention of defectiveness functions as an indisputable justification not only for cure but also for many systems of oppression.

Cartwright and the rest use the ableist invention of defectiveness in order to explain and justify the practices of enslavement, imprisonment, institutionalization, and state violence. In essence, they fortify white supremacy by leveraging ableism.

Entire body-minds, communities, cultures are squeezed into defective. And then that single blunt concept turns, becoming defect. Bullies hurl it as an insult. Strangers ask it out of curiosity. Doctors note it in medical files. Judges and juries hear it in testimony. Scientists study it as truth. Politicians write it into policy. Defect and defective explode with hate, power, and control.

The list of body-mind differences, illnesses, and so-called defects that the medical-industrial complex wants to eradicate goes on and on. This kind of elimination benefits some of us in significant ways-saving our lives or increasing our comfort. At the same time, it also commits damage, routinely turning body-minds into medical objects and creating lies about normal and natural.

…as a widespread ideology centered on eradication, cure always operates in relationship to violence.

As an ideology seeped into every corner of white Western thought and culture, cure rides on the back of normal and natural.

Source: » Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure | Eli Clare

Forced intimacy is a cornerstone of how ableism functions in an able bodied supremacist world. Disabled people are expected to “strip down” and “show all our cards” metaphorically in order to get the basic access we need in order to survive. We are the ones who must be vulnerable-whether we want to or not-about ourselves, our bodyminds and our abilities. Forced intimacy was one of the many ways I learned that consent does not exist for my disabled asian girl bodymind. People are allowed to ask me intrusive questions about my body, make me “prove” my disability or expect me to share with them every aspect of my accessibility needs. I learned how to simultaneously shrink myself and nonconsensually open myself up as a disabled girl of color every damn day.

Forced intimacy is the opposite of access intimacy. It feels exploitative, exhausting and at times violating. Because I am physically disabled and use a manual wheelchair, I often experience forced intimacy when able bodied people push my wheelchair without my consent or when I am in situations where I have to be pushed by people I do not feel safe with, know or who are actively harassing me while pushing me. This often happens when I am traveling and have to rely on strangers for my access needs. I cannot count the number of times a strange man has pushed my wheelchair in the airport, while saying offensive and gross comments to me. These are the moments where disability, race, gender, immigration, class, age and sexuality collide together at once, indistinguishable from one another.

Source: Forced Intimacy: An Ableist Norm | Leaving Evidence

The notion that some people produce more (or less) for the economy and are, therefore, more (or less) valuable -is ableism.

Unsurprisingly, undergirding many US immigration laws, for instance, are theories of “scientific” racism and eugenics – namely, on ideas of racial superiority/inferiority, gendered, sexual and psychopathic deviancy, and prevailing notions of “common sense” racism. Such arguments construct a knowledge system that ties the worth of people to their productivity and proximity to normative constructions of whiteness.

To be sure, then, ableism is part and parcel of white supremacy. According to critical race theorist Frances Lee Ansley, white supremacy is “a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources.” Furthermore, according to Robin DiAngelo, a scholar of Whiteness Studies, white supremacy defines white people “as the norm or standard for human, and people of colour as an inherent deviation from that norm.”

Source: A US immigration history of white supremacy and ableism | Human Rights | Al Jazeera

So intertwined are these oppressions that any attempt to rid the nation of racism without doing away with ableism yields practically nothing. The same is true in reverse. Disabled communities attempting to rid the nation of ableism find themselves having made very little headway because they are still practicing racism.

Source: Emmett Till & the Pervasive Erasure of Disability In Conversations about White Supremacy & Police Violence – TALILA A. LEWIS

Yet the cultural impulse to assume that people with genetic variations are in a constant state of suffering, and that it blights our lives, is so pervasive that it is even internalized by some with genetic conditions themselves.

Such genetic determinism is a new form of eugenic thinking grounded in what the communications studies scholar James L. Cherney calls “common sense” ableism, a belief system that allows people to simultaneously deny any commitment to distasteful eugenic principles while also holding them up. Common sense ableism permits, even encourages, such injurious attitudes.

Utilizing genome manipulation tools and performing genetic selection is tantamount to engaging in what Rosemarie calls “velvet eugenics.” Enforced by laissez-faire commercialism, rather than by the state, velvet eugenics seems like common sense, yet it hides its violence and inequality behind claims of patient autonomy and under a veil of voluntary consent. Ultimately, market-driven velvet eugenics embodies a similar goal of purging unacceptable human variations that campaigns to eliminate the supposedly unfit and inferior have held in the past. Both enact a mandate to exclude people with disabilities from coming into the world.

Source: The Dark Side of CRISPR – Scientific American

[A]bleism is that most insidious form of rhetoric that has become reified and so widely accepted as common sense that it denies its own rhetoricity—it “goes without saying.” To fully address it we must name its presence, for cultural assumptions accepted uncritically adopt the mantle of “simple truth” and become extremely difficult to rebut. As the neologism “ableism” itself testifies, we need new words to reveal the places it resides and new language to describe how it feeds. Without doing so, ableist ways of thinking and interpreting will operate as the context for making sense of any acts challenging discrimination, which undermines their impact, reduces their symbolic potential, and can even transform them into superficial measures that give the appearance of change yet elide a recalcitrant ableist system.

Ableism dominates the thinking of our society as a whole and it clearly operates as a discourse of power and domination.

Recognizing ableism requires a shift in orientation, a perceptual gestalt framed by the filter of the term “ableism” itself. The same texts that broadcast “Ableism!” to those oriented to perceive it are usually read innocently even when viewed from a liberal, humanitarian, or progressive perspective. Ableism is so pervasive that it is difficult to identify until one begins to interrogate the governing assumptions of well-intentioned society. Within the space allowed by these rhetorical premises, ableism appears natural, necessary, and ultimately moral discrimination required for the normal functioning of civilization. Consider a set of stairs. An ableist culture thinks little of stairs, or even sees them as elegant architectural devices—especially those grand marble masterpieces that elevate buildings of state. But disability rights activists see stairs as a discriminatory apparatus—a “no crips allowed” sign that only those aware of ableism can read—that makes their inevitable presence around government buildings a not-so-subtle statement about who belongs in our most important public spaces. But the device has become so accepted in our culture that the idea of stairs as oppressive technology will strike many as ludicrous. Several years ago when I began to study ableism, a professor—unconvinced of the value of the project—questioned my developing arguments by pointing to a set of steps and exclaiming, “Next you’ll be telling me that those stairs discriminate!” He was right.

The professor’s surprise suggests that commonplace cultural assumptions support themselves because the very arguments available against them seem unwarranted and invalid. Interrogating stairs was such an outrageous idea that a simple reductio ad absurdum argument depicted the critique of ableism as a fallacy. As an ingrained part of the interpretive frameworks sanctioned by culture, ableism gets reinforced by the everyday practice of interpreting and making sense of the world.

The problem is not that deviance is bad, it is that ableism teaches seeing it that way. The problem is not that being abnormal is unnatural, it is that ableism teaches valuing normalcy that way. The problem is not that ability resides in the body, and that a body with different skills is inherently unable to function in society, it is that ableism teaches knowing ability that way. Confronting ableism as visual, ideological, and epistemic problems does not require us to set aside efforts to change the material order of society—such as working to provide access to public spaces—but it does empower disability literature, art, slogans, and protests as crucial to the effort to change what disability means.

If we locate the problem in disability, then the ableist absolves his or her responsibility for discrimination and may not even recognize its presence. If we locate the problem in ableism, then the ableist must question her or his orientation. The critic’s task is to make ableism so apparent and irredeemable that one cannot practice it without incurring social castigation. This requires substantial vigilance, for ableist thinking pervades the culture. For example, as I write this, I am tempted to use medical metaphors to explain the task and script something like “we cannot simply excise the tumor of ableism and heal the culture, for it has metastasized and infiltrated every organ of society.” Yet this metaphor relies on an ableist perspective that motivates with the fear of death and turns to medical solutions to repair a body in decay. Using it, I would endorse and perpetuate ableist rhetoric, just as I would by using deafness as a metaphor for obstinacy (“Marie was deaf to their pleas for bread”) or blindness to convey ignorance (“George turned a blind eye to global warming”). The pervasiveness of these and similar metaphors, like the cultural ubiquity of using images of disabled bodies to inspire pity, suggest the scale of the work ahead, and the ease with which one can resort to using them warns of the need for critical evaluation of one’s own rhetoric. Yet the task can be accomplished. Just as feminists have changed Western culture by naming and promoting recognition of sexism, the glass ceiling, and patriarchy—admittedly a work in progress, yet also one that can celebrate remarkable achievements—we can reform ableist culture by using rhetoric to craft awareness and political action.

Source: The Rhetoric of Ableism | Cherney | Disability Studies Quarterly

In ableist societies, disabled people are considered less valuable, or they are even seen as expendable.

Source: Ableism – Wikipedia

COVID has highlighted what disabled people knew decades ago: We are viewed as disposable.

Source: Ableism & Racism: Roots of The Same Tree – Pushkin

One of the cruelest tricks our culture plays on autistic people is that it makes us strangers to ourselves. We grow up knowing we’re different, but that difference is defined for us in terms of an absence of neurotypicality, not as the presence of another equally valid way of being. We wind up internalizing a lot of hateful, damaging, and inaccurate things about ourselves, and that makes it harder to know who we really are or what we really can and cannot do. If no one ever acknowledges that we have a voice, we can forget how to use it. We might even decide not to.

Source: Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking

Our movement, however, needs nothing of respectability politics. Accepting – conceding, surrendering, submitting to – that will only erode our movement until it crumbles entirely. Respectability politics is what’s gotten us into reliance on foundations and nonprofits, and elected officials and bureaucrats, and policies and programs that only benefit the most privileged and resourced members of our communities at the direct expense of the most marginalized. Radical, militant anger – and radical, militant hope, and radical, wild dreams, and radical, active love – that’s what’ll get us past the death machines of ableism and capitalism and white supremacy and laws and institutions working overtime to kill us.

Source: Autistic Hoya: The neurodiversity movements needs its shoes off, and fists up.

There is conscious and unconscious bias about people with a whole continuum of atypical brains and bodies. And when we judge someone’s intelligence based on their spelling and we rule out their capacities as a human being because of their bad handwriting…,we are participating in a subtle and yet very powerful form of institutionalized ableism.

Elevate ableism as one of the injustices of our world.

Source: Normal Sucks: Author Jonathan Mooney on How Schools Fail Kids with Learning Differences

The tenets of DisCrit, as seen in Table 1, guide our analysis of scientific research throughout history and how it has been used to “other” people by defining the norm based on a white supremacist, ableist perspective of the world. Whiteness and ability are property, and the way these power systems play out in the field of education creates our inequitable, oppressive system.

DisCrit is focused on ways that the forces of racism and ableism circulate interdependently, often in neutralized and invisible ways, to uphold notions of normalcy.

Because DisCrit emphasizes the “legal and historical aspects” of disability and race in the U.S. (Annamma, Connor, & Ferri, 2016, p. 19), we focus on the historical developments of dis/ability and race as co-constructed social identities, starting with the 19th century. Although the use of scientific research by white Americans to dehumanize people of color preceded the 19th century, this period in U.S. history provides the most compelling evidence of the co-construction of race and disability through science, medicine, and immigration policy (Dolmage, 2018). This historical context contributes to the foundation of a critical perspective of contemporary issues related to scientific research in education because, as DisCrit affirms, ableism and racism circulate interdependently and “have been used separately and together to deny the rights of some citizens” (p. 19).

In the work of eugenicists, we again observe ableism and white supremacy in the creation of a narrative about who deserves the right to be human and live a full life and the denial of full personhood to those deemed inferior due to language, ethnicity, and perceived ability. While we can study eugenics from a historical standpoint, the fact is that “these eugenic ideas about the value of certain bodies have never gone away” (Dolmage, 2018, p. 4).

Source: Disrupting Dis/abilization: A Critical Exploration of Research Methods to Combat White Supremacy and Ableism in Education

These ableist beliefs defy reality testing, but they persist. As we challenge white supremacy, settler colonialism, gender normativity and violence that targets trans people, we challenge able-bodied normativity. Through this clearing practice, we create Disability Justice.

The histories of white supremacy and ableism are inextricably entwined, created in the context of colonial conquest and capitalist domination. One cannot look at the history of US slavery, the stealing of Indigenous lands, and US imperialism without seeing the way that white supremacy uses ableism to create a lesser/“other” group of people that is deemed less worthy/abled/smart/capable. A single-issue civil rights framework is not enough to explain the full extent of ableism and how it operates in society. We can only truly understand ableism by tracing its connections to heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism. The same oppressive systems that inflicted violence upon Black and brown communities for 500+ years also inflicted 500+ years of violence on bodies and minds deemed outside the norm and therefore “dangerous.” Furthermore, racism, anti-Islamic beliefs, ableism and imperialism come together to feed us images of the “terrorist” as a dangerous Brown enemy, an “other” who is sexually and mentally “wrong.” All this is compounded by the ways ableism, along with queer-hatred and the violence of the gender binary, label our bodies and communities as “deviant,” “unproductive,” and “invalid.”

It doesn’t help anyone to pretend that we don’t have differing bodies, minds, and hearts, desires, needs, and limits — we most certainly (and fabulously) do. A disability justice orientation names ableism as a constructed, violent ordering of bodily difference that our movement works to unmask and undo, but it also recognizes that we currently exist in the world as it has been structured by ableism. Therefore, mixed ability organizing means engaging the tensions between living in this system (which categorizes us, limits us, disables us, and pits us against each other), while also resisting it. The tension between these two facts will be an enduring feature of the struggle for disability justice.

Disability justice encompasses and embraces all bodies, minds, hearts, and forms of embodiment. This emergent movement is unquestionably of, by, and for disabled people of color and queer, trans, and gender- nonconforming people with disabilities, as we are subjected to the greatest violence of ableism, and therefore have the greatest stake in its abolition. Simultaneously, disability justice is ultimately about re-imagining and reinventing all of our relationships with one another, as well as with our own bodyminds. It is about transforming the very material and psychic frameworks that designate some bodies and minds as normative, valuable, and acceptable and others as deviant, worthless, or dangerous. We all have a stake, and role to play, in disability justice, in dismantling ableism and building toward a world where all bodies and minds are recognized and treated as valuable and beautiful. We still have a very long way to go, but we have each other to hold, and be held by, through the journey.

Our understanding of able-bodied supremacy has been formed in relation to intersecting systems of domination and exploitation. The histories of white supremacy and ableism are, after all, inextricably entwined, both forged in the crucible of colonial conquest and capitalist domination. We cannot comprehend ableism without grasping its interrelations with heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism, each system co-creating an ideal bodymind built upon the exclusion and elimination of a subjugated “other” from whom profits and status are extracted.


The system of discriminatory practices and beliefs that maintain and perpetuate disability oppression.

Source: Skin, Tooth, and Bone: A Disability Justice Primer — Sins Invalid

ableism functions as a dehumanizing system that favors able-bodied people at the expense of people with disabilities, producing barriers from internalized ableism and shame, to interpersonal conflicts between non-disabled people and people with disabilities, lack of access to education, employment, and housing, social control imposed through the medical industrial complex and criminalization, and the severe isolation caused by institutionalization and incarceration.

Ableism tells us some bodies are valuable and some are disposable.

In the U.S. context, ableism has been forged with and through white supremacy, colonial conquest, capitalist domination, and heteropatriarchy so that bodies are valued for their ability to produce profit or have it extracted from them, or are otherwise excluded or eliminated through isolation, institutionalization, incarceration, and/or death. Since the 1960s, the disability rights movement has made important strides to establish the civil rights of people with disabilities, increase access for people with mobility and communication impairments, and advance a philosophy of independent living for people with disabilities. However, the wisdom and experiences of people of color and poor people have often been marginalized in the disability rights struggle, and the solutions have often been too narrow to get to the root causes of ableism that keep people with disabilities targeted for criminalization, poverty and isolation.

Source: Ableism is the Bane of My Motherfuckin’ Existence | Barnard Center for Research on Women

“Any form of discrimination is abuse, ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities and internalized ableism is when you inflict that discrimination on to yourself because it’s what society has told you is true. Which yes, is all rooted in White supremacy. Ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia is all the same, just in different forms.”

Source: “Ism” is Code for Supremacy. Ableism and racism stem from the same… | by Eunice Brownlee | Medium

“To end white supremacy, we must dismantle the ableist notion of defectiveness.” He challenged my concepts of access and my understanding of the word defective while he linked the long history of that word with white supremacy. Eli discussed how “intersectional analysis allows us to see how all oppression grows from the same dominant power structure of cisgender — able bodied — white supremacist — capitalist — heteropatriarchy that bell hooks first articulated for us.”

Source: Dismantling the Box of Ableism | National SEED Project

Racism and ableism are often thought of as parallel systems of oppression that work separately to perpetuate social hierarchy. Not only does this way of looking at the world ignore the experiences of people of color with disabilities, but it also fails to examine how race is pathologized in order to create racism. Meaning that society treats people of color in specific ways to create barriers, and these poor conditions create disability. The concept of disability has been used to justify discrimination against other groups by attributing disability to them.

There are countless examples across history of black and brown bodies being pathologized in order to perpetuate white supremacy, and although there are examples of this across race, this piece will focus on the experiences of black people. An analysis of how black bodies have been pathologized in this country should begin with American slavery. The existence of the economic system of slavery relied on the social idea that African Americans lacked sufficient intelligence to participate or compete on an equal basis in society with white Americans. This idea was confirmed with the creation of several diseases specific to Black people. Drapetomania, for example, was a condition that caused slaves to run away “as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation.”1 Similarly, Dysaesthesia Aechiopis—a unique ailment differing “from every other species of mental disease, as it is accompanied with physical signs or lesions of the body”—resulted in a desire to avoid work and generally to cause mischief.2 These are only two examples of disability being created by people in power in order to preserve social order, and yet there are foundational.

To summarize, institutional racism has pathologized brown bodies in order to maintain the status quo while simultaneously failing to acknowledge that the state is responsible for creating environments where disability is inevitable. As a result, ableism will always exist if racism exists because it is a tool of racism, creating societal barriers for people of color creates disability. The social model of disability that the disability community is embracing by definition includes people of color, and yet the disability community is not inclusive of the struggles of people of color. Understanding the connection between these two systems of oppression should unite the disability and people of color communities, and yet little is known about this history. This does negate the experiences of people of color with disabilities, as there are many (myself included) who identify as both a person of color and as a person with a disability. It is true, however, that both these communities’ movements for civil rights have existed in primarily separate spheres. Understanding the historical connection between racism and ableism should lead to a connected effort to disable these systems of oppression. The ultimate goal of meaningful inclusion for the disability community will never be fully realized until black and brown people are also free.

Source: Racism and Ableism – AAPD

The Neurodivergent Experience in Josephmooon’s “So Far So Good”

Our own Ronan is releasing an album. Ronan is lyricist for Josephmooon. You can read the story of their distributed collaboration on their blog:

These songs resonate with my autistic, bipolar, and disabled life. I’m super excited to add them to my favorite playlist, Chronic Neurodivergent Depressed Queer Punk: Punk Rock, the Social Model of Disability, and the Dream of the Accepting Community, where they will become part of my everyday coping.

Below, I’ll share lyrics from each song and relate them to my own, and the broader, neurodivergent experience using selected quotes from community writing.

  • Floats Boat
  • One Word
  • Long Ago
  • Up All Night
  • Out of Tune
  • Captolea
  • Busybodies
  • High in the Sky
  • Cost Time
  • Reusable Money
  • Check For
  • So Far So Good

The album “So Far So Good” will be available on streaming platforms on Oct 1. Preview and pre-order on iTunes.

Listen now.

Floats Boat

Is there something you’re not telling me

You’re not telling me what floats your boat

It can be anything you want it to be

Only you can decide what floats your boat

Let me tell you what floats my boat

It’s writing songs that change the world

Maybe just a little bit I said just a little bit

Can you please tell me what floats your boat

That’s all I want to know

One of The Five Neurodivergent Love Languages is listening to someone infodump. “Floats Boat” is an invitation to infodump about your SpIns.

SpIns and Infodumps

I don’t know who invented the phrase “special interest.” Probably some researcher. Autistic people don’t really love the term because the term “special” has become tied so closely with terms like “special needs,” which we resent.

Nevertheless, somewhere down the line “special interest,” commonly shortened to SpIn (“spin”), became the term for the characteristically-autistic tendency to develop an obsession with something specific and often obscure.

Some special interests are short lived, and some last the lifetime of the person; but, however long they last, they are intense, delightful, and a vital part of autistic culture.

So integral are special interests to autistic culture that autistic people will post about feeling depressed and unmotivated because they don’t have an active SpIn at the moment.

Having a special interest is like having a crush or being newly in love. It is consuming and delightful. We love to share our special interests and a common example of autistic empathy is encouraging others to talk in great detail- “infodump”- about their SpIns.

It is considered a sign of caring and friendship to encourage someone to talk to you about their SpIn- whether or not you actually share their interest- because nothing makes an autistic person happier than discussing, learning about, or sharing about, their SpIn.

It is also quite acceptable in autistic culture to “infodump” on a topic whenever it happens to come up. To autists (an insider short-hand for autistic people), the sharing of knowledge and information is always welcome.

Source: 7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic

“Floats Boat” offers a “sign of caring and friendship to encourage someone to talk to you about their SpIn.” It also offers subversion.

Only you can decide what floats your boat

This recognizes a fact about SpIns: they come from within. They run on intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic.

In preparing a new Afterword for the 25th-anniversary edition of my book Punished by Rewards, I’ve sorted through scores of recent studies on these subjects. I’m struck by how research continues to find that the best predictor of excellence is intrinsic motivation (finding a task valuable in its own right) – and that this interest is reliably undermined by extrinsic motivation (doing something to get a reward). New experiments confirm that children tend to become less concerned about others once they’ve been rewarded for helping or sharing. Likewise, paying students for better grades or test scores is rarely effective – never mind that the goal is utterly misconceived.

Source: It’s Not About Behavior – Alfie Kohn

In autistic communities, we advocate embracing the obsession.

Embrace the obsession. Special interests are “intimately tied to the well-being of people on the spectrum“. “Special interests have a positive impact on autistic adults and are associated with higher subjective well-being and satisfaction across specific life domains including social contact and leisure.” “In my study, I found that when the autistic children were able to access their intense interests, this brought, on the whole, a range of inclusionary advantages. Research has also shown longer-term benefits too, such as developing expertise, positive career choices and opportunities for personal growth. This underscores how important it is that the education of autistic children is not driven by a sense of their deficits, but by an understanding of their interests and strengths. And that rather than dismissing their interests as ‘obsessive’, we ought to value their perseverance and concentration, qualities we usually admire.” “…the autistic children in my study were turning to their strong interests in times of stress or anxiety. And there has certainly been a lot of research which shows that autistic children and young people find school very stressful. So it might be the case that when this autistic trait is manifested negatively in school, it is a direct result of the stresses that school creates in the first instance.” “[E]nabling autistic children to engage with their strong interests has been found to be predominantly advantageous, rather than deleterious, in school environments.” “Furthermore, longer-term benefits have been associated with the pursuit of intense interests, with relatively few negative effects overall, which in themselves might only occur if autistic people are pressured to reduce or adapt their interests.” “Having intense or “special” interests and a tendency to focus in depth to the exclusion of other inputs, is associated with autistic cognition, sometimes framed as “monotropism”. Despite some drawbacks and negative associations with unwanted repetition, this disposition is linked to a range of educational and longer-term benefits for autistic children.

Source: I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.

So, “can you please tell me what floats your boat?”

Maybe I can help you float your boat

We’ll write a song to sing along

And let it float away let it float away

Anything can float your boat

That’s all I want you to tell me

So everyone can see

One Word

I’ve not said the word to you

Afraid that you might say it too

“One Word” reminds me of a high school crush I could never talk to because of the tidal immensity of exposure anxiety and rejection sensitive dysphoria and the resulting situational mutism in their presence.

It wasn’t that the volume was too loud so much as that in the grip of an adrenaline rush everything was sensorily too much. The intense ‘pain’ was that the personal, individual, me-ness in it was unbearable. I was allergic to the experience of my own existence and the experience of hearing my own voice speaking from connected expression as me could, at times, be far worse than the terrible feeling you get hearing your own voice on an audio tape or answerphone.

Exposure Anxiety is the internal parent watching its vulnerable and exposed baby being stolen by the world outside or given away by ‘the self’; being robbed of control by what are felt as ‘outside forces’. Exposure Anxiety is a self-parenting survival mechanism, an intense often tic-like involuntary self-protection mechanism that jumps in to defend against sensed ‘invasion’. When it becomes chronic, it is self-perpetuating – like a boulder hurtling down a hill, gaining momentum. Chronic, uncontrolled, acute Exposure Anxiety is about addiction to your own adrenaline.

Exposure Anxiety makes it difficult to dare ‘expressive volume’ in a directly-confrontational (self-in-relation-to-other) world

Exposure Anxiety is about feeling your own existence too close up, too in your own face.

If I could draw you a picture of acute chronic Exposure Anxiety, I’d draw you a rainbow unseen within heavy stone walls. There’d be places in the stone where the cement had crumbled, been chipped away and some of the colour had come streaming out like a ray of light into the world. I’d draw you a picture of someone inside a prison, an invisible prison with replica selves on the outside, each a contortion, a distortion of the one you can’t see who can’t get out. I’d draw you a picture of someone avoidant with a social person waiting inside for the keys and a way out.

Source: Williams, Donna (2002-09-14T23:58:59). Exposure Anxiety – The Invisible Cage . Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Exposure anxiety (EA) is a condition identified by Donna Williams in which the child or adult feels acutely self-conscious; it leads to a persistent and overwhelming fear of interaction.

Source: Exposure anxiety in autism | Network Autism

EA can be quite crippling as it it causes the person to feel acutely self-conscious and leads to a persistent and overwhelming fear of interaction. And that makes any attention from other people feel potentially threatening so that the child feels ‘exposed’ each time someone looks at him, talks to him or even compliments him.

Source: Autism and Exposure Anxiety. Don’t look at me! – Autism Daily Newscast

I dreamed of just the right situation where I would feel psychologically safe enough to unlock, like the calm of a quiet evening, away from the chaos and judgement of school.

When there’s a full moon in the sky

In the light of the night

“One Word” also evokes my solo polyamorous nature by offering the one word “to you and you and you and you”.

One word to say to you

To you and you and you and you

It wasn’t until looking into solo polyamory I realized I don’t have to feel guilty for having separate needs from my partner. Solo polyamory is the idea that people are autonomous beings who have different needs and wants, and alongside good communication and mutual respect between all partners, no one puts rules on each other because no one owns one another. There’s this expectation in mainstream society that if you’re a couple you should want to be together most of the time - but with solo polyamory, partners respect how much time you can set aside to see them based on work, hobbies and other people who are important to you. There’s no pressure to converge lives the longer you’re dating because with solo polyamory commitment and time together aren’t seen as mutually exclusive. In a solo polyamory group I recently joined on Facebook, I found a thread where a number of people on the spectrum talked about how finding solo polyamory has helped them work through their sensory sensitivities without feeling like there’s something wrong with them. If they need to leave a date because they’ve had too much stimuli for the day, their partners understand because they’ve had those essential conversations on what each other needs as an individual.

Source: How Polyamory Helped Me Advocate For My Needs As A Disabled Person | Thought Catalog

“One Word” is also just a rockin’ love song that’s a bit of a tease.

Long Ago

Long ago is long ago

Or right now right now don’t you know

Rejection sensitivity and exposure anxiety generate a lot of regrets and rumination on those regrets. My regrets come as flashbacks that travel in an instant from the long ago to “right now right now don’t you know.”

Long ago forever in the past

Long ago never can be changed

Pointless to be going back in time

So long ago so long long long ago

I know it’s pointless to go back, but I keep making the trip, usually involuntarily.

In other words, autistic people are indeed traumatised by a wider range of things than the teams were expecting. And diagnostic teams should be considering PTSD after a wider list of possible triggering events.

Source: Ann’s Autism Blog: Autism, Bullying, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Behaviour. The links?

One explanation for ASD and probable PTSD cooccurrence shown here may be that ASD serves as a vulnerability factor for PTSD. Hirvikoski and Blomqvist (2015) found that adults with ASD reported significantly higher subjective stress and poorer ability to cope with stress in everyday life, compared with typical adults. One’s subjective perception of his or her ability to cope with a specific stressor is central in defining the level of experienced distress (Karasek & Theorell, 1990). Individuals with ASD often show executive functioning difficulties (Kenworthy et al., 2008), which may impede their choice of appropriate coping strategies. Another aspect related to ASD that may affect individuals’ subjective distress level following trauma is sensory hypersensitivity (e.g. Horder et al., 2014), a factor that has been associated with vulnerability to PTSD (Engel-Yeger et al., 2013).

Source: Autism Spectrum Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: An unexplored co-occurrence of conditions – Nirit Haruvi-Lamdan, Danny Horesh, Shani Zohar, Meital Kraus, Ofer Golan, 2020

I incessantly script in preparation for social interactions and relentlessly post-mortem the interactions afterwards. I replay some conversations over and over for decades and lifetimes. An anodyne, forgettable conversation for most can be a source of lifelong relived trauma for me. I’m a constantly ruminating engine of regret stuck in past moments I wish I could edit.

One chance to travel back in time

For days or weeks or months or years

Today is all but long ago

So won’t you come to me right now

Some things look so easy

But we can’t go back, no we can’t go back

When it’s not so easy you are not alone

So won’t you come to me right now

Right now right now maybe someday

Long ago is long ago

Now is now and not forever

“Long Ago” captures my yearning to unhook from rumination on what can’t be changed and live in the present. “Now is now and not forever.”

Up All Night

I’m staying up all night

All night all night that’s not right

Staying up all night

That’s what I’ve been doing

Up all night all night all night

Try to stay out of sight in the daytime

I do it a lot

I have been up all night all night all night

That’s not right alright that what I like to do

Well I sleep when it’s day and stay up all night

Insomnia is a research priority for autistic communities. At Stimpunks, we keep the hour-of-the-wolf.

We can joke fondly about it now, but my forty-two-consecutive-month campaign against a full night’s sleep nearly broke my parents. They managed to hone hour-of-the-wolf parenting into a fine art by the end of this waking nightmare.

Source: Kurchak, Sarah. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder (p. 19). Douglas and McIntyre (2013) Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

Sleep is challenging – but crucial.

Autistic burnout isn’t a permanent state, however. One of the best ways for anyone to recover from burnout is rest, particularly sleep, according to Amelia Nagoski, the co-author of the best-selling 2019 book “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Response Cycle.” But autistic people have a harder time sleeping because of their neurological differences, according to a 2019 study.

Autistic people are more likely to sleep for shorter periods of time and experience lower-quality sleep, and they’re more likely to be night owls, the study found. Research on non-autistic adults shows that insomnia is a strong predictor of burnout, suggesting a similar link among autistic people with sleep disorders.

Ms. Nagoski, 44, addressed autistic people’s sleep woes in a recent YouTube video. “This essential thing that is fundamental to wellness is harder for autistic people,” she said.

Source: ‘The Battery’s Dead’: Burnout Looks Different in Autistic Adults – The New York Times

I was an insomniac as a kid. I’d stay up all night loaded with fear, anxiety, and hallucinations.

Over years and decades, the night became less about fear, and more about having the world to myself so I could read and write.

Stay out of sight

That’s how I write

Staying up all night

That’s what I do

How about you

I’m writing this blog post at 2AM, so cheers night-owls writing at wolf-hours.

Out of Tune

Lately I’ve been feeling out of tune out of tune

I don’t know why but I would like to know why

And I want to get back in tune

Out of tune that’s what I am

Being out of tune pains my head

(can’t get out of bed)

Hurts from being out of tune and

I just so want to get back in tune

Out of tune that’s what I am out of tune

Feeling out of tune with myself and the world has been a fixture of my autistic, bipolar life. “Out of Tune” resonates broadly across neurodivergent experience. It makes me cry.

It concludes hopefully, though.

When I get back in tune

My good days will come back and I’ll feel better

If you’re feeling out of tune like I am now

Get back in tune like I said

I will get back in tune

But I don’t know when (hopefully soon)

I know it could take time

But let’s make it happen

Through the self-awareness gained from neurodiversity and disability communities and a chemical assist from Sertraline and Rexulti, I’m sufficiently in tune these days. It took time, but we made it happen.

There will be moments of de-tuning where I once again don’t know when I will get back in tune. I’ll play this song and work my way back with continuous fluid adaptation.

Many of the challenges that come with being autistic are pervasive, meaning they’re with us forever. Even if they aren’t active at all times, they still exist and may reappear when a particular coping strategy gets temporarily taken offline because the brain needs to reallocate resources for a more urgent task.

When this happens, an issue that was previously “fixed” can suddenly appear to be “broken” again.

In fact, nothing has been fixed or broken. We simply have very fluid coping strategies that need to be continuously tweaked and balanced. Because a child or adult goes through a period of having very few meltdowns, that doesn’t mean they’ll never have meltdowns again. If something in their life changes, for example the hormonal storms of puberty, they’ll need to develop new coping strategies. And until they do, they may begin having meltdowns due to the mental, emotional or sensory overload caused by the new development.

Being autistic means a lifetime of fluid adaptation. We get a handle on something, develop coping strategies, adapt and we’re good. If life changes, we many need some time to readapt. Find the new pattern. Figure out the rules. Test out strategies to see what works. In the mean time, other things may fall apart. We lose skills. We struggle to cope with things that had previously been doable under more predictable conditions. This is not regression to an earlier developmental stage, it’s a process of adapting to new challenges and it’s one that we do across a lifetime of being autistic.

Source: Autistic Regression and Fluid Adaptation | Musings of an Aspie


Stay inside said Sheriff Carroll

He looks frightened so I’m holding tight

In my house with a double barrel

Ready to shoot Captolea dead on sight

Oh no there’s Captolea

He’s a killer with a gun and a knife

Stay away from him

Don’t say anything to him

I don’t want to die

I could interpret this as being about depression and reactivity, but I’ll let it stand as a good old-fashioned outlaw murder ballad.


Run away run away

Beware of busybodies

They are everywhere

Beware of busybodies

They just want to know everything

They ask questions yeah

Way too many questions so

Beware of busybodies

If you see them keep hiding

In a bunker if you find one

Beware of busybodies

They are in a lot of places

There they are right there and there

Talking trash about me and probably about you too

Run away, stay away

“Busybodies” reminds me of the “Make it Stop” campaign.

In the video, an autistic student navigates a gauntlet of questions and sensory overwhelm.

I’ve always struggled with questions. My school career was marked by situational mutism in the face of questions. Exposure anxiety and rejection sensitivity made talking difficult to impossible in all but the most psychologically safe circumstances.

I also struggle with answering within the confines of another’s framing. So many neurotypical and abled assumptions and norms are baked in that I can’t answer unless I start by rejecting the framing.

Zero (they/their) on Twitter: “I think the most autistic way to answer a question is to dispute the premise of the question itself. E.g. “would you rather go to a party or a library?” Like, what sort of party? Who’s going to be there? Which library? Are the rules of the library clearly stated and enforced?” / Twitter

Dealing with all of the questions and bad framing, daily, is exhausting.

“Empathy is not an autistic problem, it’s a human problem, it’s a deficit in imagination.” We can’t truly step into another neurotype, but we can seek story and perspective. These videos offer a taste of what it is like to endure the daily gauntlet of neurotypical questioning. To not respond to questions is to be called rude. To not respond will get you publicly color-coded as an orange or red and denied perks that the compliant NT kids get. To not exchange this social styrofoam is to be a problem. Make it stop. Empathize with what it is like to navigate these interactions while dealing with the sensory overwhelm of raucous environments not designed for you.

Source: I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.

Neurodivergent people are forced to attempt understanding of neurotypical people and society. We are constantly judged and assessed by neurotypical standards. We must analyze and interpret in order to conform and pass so that we can get the sticker, the “cool kid cash”, and the promotion. There is almost no reciprocity in return.

Source: The Double Empathy Problem: Developing Empathy and Reciprocity in Neurotypical Adults

There are entire industries of Busybodies pathologizing neurodivergent life, applying bad framing, asking the wrong questions, and “talking trash about me and probably about you too”.

Y’all know the file, right? This has been the thing that had been following me since I started special education. Those things are thick and deep. KGB got nothing on special ed.

Source: The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed

Now listen here busybodies

I’ve got something to say to you

Go away and don’t come back

We don’t want you busybodies

We’re tired of bad questions and bad framing. As an exercise, let’s flip the pathologizing lens.

Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterised by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity. There is no known cure.

Source: NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman review – an enlightened take on autism and difference

Perhaps the most obvious giveaway is an NT’s tendency to make “small talk” or to want to “chat” with you. While small talk appears to be nonfunctional, for NTs it serves a very specific purpose. It’s a good idea to humor them and participate to whatever degree you can tolerate. If you’re patient with them, many NTs will soon feel comfortable enough to move from small talk to more interesting, in-depth conversations.

Source: What is neurotypical?

Another odd behavior neurotypicals exhibit is their habit of “small talk.” From what we can tell, small talk appears to be talking just for the sake of talking. A “how are you doing” results in the same non-answer of “fine.” It seems unlikely everyone everywhere at all times is truly “fine,” so it seems that that is a non-answer to what is in fact a non-question. It has been observed that if you give an actual answer to the question, the questioner gets frustrated and impatient, as though they are annoyed that you would actually answer them. A whole conversation can actually go on like that, with general questions giving rise to pat answers so that you could actually change out any pair of people and you would end up with the same conversations each time. The vast majority of their conversations are not about anything of any substance, and, again, they seem positively annoyed if you try to engage them in such a conversation. As a group neurotypicals seem positively frivolous most of the time.

Source: A Pathological Look at Neurotypical Behavior – An Intense World

High in the Sky

I am high up in the sky

Way above the Northern lights

On the way to the moon

Far above the stars

High up in the sky

Life is never too long

But life can be too short

With people dropping bombs all over the world

From high up in the sky

High up in the sky

I love that second verse. It’s a flash of the autistic sense of justice. I often want to disassociate from a bomb dropping world that is way too intense.

I’m in the sky now, for just as long as I need to be

Almost to the moon that’s my destiny

When I get back we’ll talk about it then

And I can’t wait to see you again my friend

High up in the sky

Avoiding meltdown and burnout requires managing sensory diet, and sometimes that means retreating into your head and heading High Up in the Sky, detaching from an intense world designed against you.

Cost Time

Everything costs time everything

Everything costs time yes it does

Costs time getting out of bed

Doctor says you got your head in the fog

Got to cook and eat your food

Costs time to walk your dog

Costs time no matter what you do

Take a shower and get in the pool

Drive a car hang out with your friends

Go back in time or forward again

“Cost Time” speaks directly to chronic spoonie life. Spoon theory is a popular metaphor for energy expenditure in the disability community.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.

Source: The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino – But You Dont Look Sick? support for those with invisible illness or chronic illness

Everything costs time, especially when you are chronically ill and only get so many spoons.

Reusable Money

Reusable money that’s what I got

Use it every day and I never run out

I spent 10 dollars I still got that 10 dollars

Feels so good, that’s how I get around the world

Reusable money is my precious yes it is

Use it every day for whatever I want

I can’t run out I always have enough money

And it’s really not an option that’s how I get around the world

“Reusable Money” is a rollicking fantasy about having as much money as you can spend and traveling the world.

Beneath that, though, I feel the weight of our journey fighting for scraps in systems designed on “artificial economies of scarcity”.

Bascom tells me that experiences like ours happen because disability service systems are never designed to support people with disabilities but are “about managing access to scarce resources. We start with the assumption that these resources are limited, so you have to prove over and over again that you need them more than anyone else. If we as a society invested more resources in supporting people with disabilities, we could redesign our systems accordingly.”

Source: I Shouldn’t Have to Dehumanize My Son to Get Him Support | The Nation

Society mints billionaires more billions during a pandemic while neurodivergent and disabled people struggle against artificial scarcity in systems designed against us. “Reusable Money” invites a fantasy of fungibility where that money helps us “get around the world”.

Check For

“Check For” is delightfully enigmatic. It’s “some very cloudy ice”.

Check check for you my friend

Check it once check it twice

I’m in a good mood what about you

Just a piece of cloudy ice

Check check check over here

Ain’t nobody got nothin’ to say

Check for a deep pool a deep deep pool

Check for a cold day a very cold day

The Stone Age should’ve made me strong

Banging on rocks all day long

Ain’t got no money, just got this song

Waiting for someone to sing along

Check for the top, the top of us all

Check for a flag but not a flag that is cruel

Check for the guitar I’m playing right now

Check for the rule ‘cuz it’s a good rule

In the Stone Age I did not belong

On my computer all day long

Ain’t got no money then move along

Unless you want to help me sing my song

Check check for you my friend

Check it once then we’ll check it twice ‘cuz

It’s a cold day a very cold day

And you’re some very cloudy ice

I’ll reach for a neurodiversity angle by saying: I would not belong in the Stone Age either. I need my computer. It connects me with other cloudy ice folks who “help me sing my song”.

ANI launched its online list, ANI-L, in 1994. Like a specialized ecological niche, ANI-L had acted as an incubator for Autistic culture, accelerating its evolution. In 1996, a computer programmer in the Netherlands named Martijn Dekker set up a list called Independent Living on the Autism Spectrum, or InLv. People with dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, and a myriad of other conditions (christened “cousins” in the early days of ANI) were also welcome to join the list. InLv was another nutrient-rich tide pool that accelerated the evolution of autistic culture. The collective ethos of InLv, said writer and list member Harvey Blume in the New York Times in 1997, was “neurological pluralism.” He was the first mainstream journalist to pick up on the significance of online communities for people with neurological differences. “The impact of the Internet on autistics,” Blume predicted, “may one day be compared in magnitude to the spread of sign language among the deaf.”

Source: The neurodiversity movement: Autism is a minority group. NeuroTribes excerpt.

Until one day… you find a whole world of people who understand.

The internet has allowed autistic people- who might be shut in their homes, unable to speak aloud, or unable to travel independently- to mingle with each other, share experiences, and talk about our lives to people who feel the same way.

We were no longer alone.

Source: 7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic

One could make the argument that autistic people created the very computer environment autistic people are most comfortable in.

In fact, there is pretty good evidence that most of the science, technology, and arts you enjoy are the products of autistic minds.

Source: Welcome to the World Autism Made – An Intense World

So Far So Good

So far so good

I hope it stays like this forever

So far so good

But the wolf is at my door

Here at Stimpunks, we live in a Cavendish bubble of respite that is designed by neurodivergents, for neurodivergents.

Since reading NeuroTribes, I think of psychologically & sensory safe spaces suited to zone work as “Cavendish bubbles” and “Cavendish space”, after Henry Cavendish, the wizard of Clapham Common and discoverer of hydrogen. The privileges of nobility afforded room for his differences, allowing him the space and opportunity to become “one of the first true scientists in the modern sense.”

Let’s build psychologically safe homes of opportunity without the requirement of nobility or privilege. Replace the trappings of the compliance classroom with student-created context, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and BYOC (Bring/Build Your Own Comfort). Let’s hit thrift stores, buy lumber, apply some hacker ethos, and turn the compliance classroom into something psychologically safe and comfortable to a team of young minds engaged in passion-based learning. Inform spaces with neurodiversity and the social model of disability so that they welcome and include all minds and bodies. Provide quiet spaces for high memory state zone work where students can escape sensory overwhelm, slip into flow states, and enjoy a maker’s schedule. Provide social spaces for collaboration and camaraderie. Create cave, campfire, and watering hole zones. Develop neurological curb cuts. Fill our classrooms with choice and comfort, instructional tolerance, continuous connectivity, and assistive technology.

In other words, make space for Cavendish. Make spaces for both collaboration and deep work.

Source: Classroom UX: Designing for Pluralism

Burnt out friends who’ve stayed within our Cavendish space for peer respite have remarked how hard it is to go past our red gate, the boundary of sanctuary from the waiting wolves of an ableist world.

I like my way want to keep it that way

For as long as I live

Precious to us all to be alive

So far so good

In this world of time

Our Cavendish space has three acres worn with our stim trails. We each have our ways, our patterns, our habits, our stims that soothe us, and we each have space to do them.

“Some autistic people’s needs will conflict with each other. For example, some autistic people may need the TV playing to calm down, as it can help to focus on specific sounds. But for others this may cause more stress depending on their mental state. Additionally, some autistic people may need to stim to feel relaxed and comfortable, or it may be involuntary when they are stressed, but noises they make (e.g. verbal stims), could really stress another autistic person out. I think the key here is space.”

Source: “It’s Not Rocket Science” – NDTi

We’ve been living So Far So Good within a remit of inclusion, access, and constancy.

But wolves are at the door in this world of time.

Disability Dongles: Designing for the Individual, Not the Collective

“I feel like solutions to inaccessibility are often rooted in whiteness, because anyone who doesn’t think about it would think it’s cool but the reality is that they’ve created accessibility for the individual, not the collective and reinforces the class hierarchy because the wealthy would be the only ones with complete accessibility.”

Source: Imani Barbarin on Twitter

This feels like an important aspect of what Liz Jackson calls a “Disability Dongle”. Disability dongles are addressed to the individual, not the collective.

Disability Dongles

A well intended and elegant, yet useless solution to a problem we never knew we had. Disability Dongles are most frequently conceived of and created in design schools and at IDEO.

Source: Liz Jackson | Honoring the Friction of Disability – YouTube

Disability studies, particularly as offered by disabled Black women like Imani Barbarin, re-roots us out exclusive accessibility for the most privileged and into pluralistic accessibility for all. “Disability studies prevents disability dongles.”

This is why it’s absolutely essential to insert disability studies curriculum into design school.

Accessibility is only one part of disability. It’s the how.

Disability studies is the who. It’s the what. It’s the when, the where, and the why.

To be short, disability studies prevents disability dongles.

Source: Liz Jackson | Honoring the Friction of Disability – YouTube


Rejecting the Good Cripple Mythos: This is why we need cripple punk.

The post attracted a flood of hate mail, saying that disability isn’t something to be proud of, that disabled people shouldn’t smoke, or that a movement that “leaves out healthy people” isn’t punk. Trewhella took screenshots of the messages and added them to the post, writing, “This is why we need cripple punk.” Other people with disabilities started reblogging the post to add their own selfies, and tagging posts with cripple punk. To Trewhella’s surprise, a movement was born.

Realizing they were the leader of this new movement, Trewhella slapped together some rules and principles. “Cripple punk is exclusively by the physically disabled for the physically disabled,” they wrote. “Cripple punk rejects the ‘good cripple’ mythos. Cripple punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t ‘tried everything’ […] Cripple punk does not pander to the able bodied.” Unlike the common inspirational depictions of disability, cripple punk allowed disabled people to be bitter, messy, and honest.

Cripple punk grew into not just a movement, but a community.

Source: How a teen punk led a movement for disabled people online – The Verge

I’m glad to see Trewhella and cripple punk get a compassionate write up. The cripple punk community and ethos are foundational to Stimpunks, inspiring our name.

Stimpunks rejects the good cripple mythos and is here for “the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t ‘tried everything’”.

Politically and Culturally-engaged Collaborators, Not Just Users and Testers

Clinical, charitable, and institutional channels serve to weed out isolated, multiply marginalized, independent activists, scholars, and artists—those who may be suspicious of large-scale, centralized approaches to advocacy and the ways they tend to concentrate power. By relying primarily on charities as recruitment channels, Unilever effectively ensured that politically and culturally engaged disabled people were excluded from its research population.

Although Degree Inclusive’s tagline claims it was “built with a diverse disability community,” Unilever did not partner with disabled folks. They partnered with disability charities. It wasn’t until they arrived at a prototype that they invited disabled consumers to test it. The recruitment of disabled “users and testers” is routinely framed as meaningful inclusion, when in fact it is just another way that corporations extract, commodify, and marginalize lived experience while positioning themselves as “doing good” and “leading the way.”

These problems are not unique to Degree Inclusive. In fact, we encounter them routinely within design and branding “for” disability. When companies decide to make something about disability, they typically reach out to whichever organizations have the largest public profile. These organizations are typically charities, rarely disabled-led, and never engaged in disability through a politically and culturally-informed lens. The corporations pursue representational politics and think they are doing identity politics. They are then shocked and dismayed to hear that they’re still doing disability wrong. Then they absolve themselves by saying, “We consulted with people with disabilities, so clearly there’s never any one right way to do things.”

Source: World’s First Adaptive Deodorant | #CriticalAxis: a community driven project from The Disabled List

Before I entered the disability and neurodiversity communities, I was a software developer with a “users and testers” notion of accessibility and inclusion. Community was an awakening. We must engage with politically and culturally-engaged collaborators from the communities we serve and hope to serve, not just users, testers, and spokespeople.

If companies seek to “inspire bold action across the industry,” as Unilever claims, they must begin with taking bold action themselves. That starts with two things: expanding the roles they envision for marginalized people beyond those of spokesperson and user-tester; and interrogating the recruitment channels through which they attempt to reach marginalized creators, collaborators, and communities, asking who exists beyond the reach of those channels and why.

Source: World’s First Adaptive Deodorant | #CriticalAxis: a community driven project from The Disabled List

Flexibility makes a big difference in inclusion.

Flexibility makes a big difference in inclusion.

Source: Disabled People Have WFH For Years. Companies Catch Up

The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge.

Source: Bill Gates Says You Must Provide This Perk if You Want to Hire and Keep the Best Employees |

Flexibility, especially the flexibility gained from working from home, avoids a lot of forced intimacy. It avoids a lot of the accommodations grind. That’s a boon to disabled and neurodivergent workers, and to everyone.

Let workers work from home, and give them a home office budget so they can create their own access intimacy.

Chronic Neurodivergent Depressed Queer Punk: Punk Rock, the Social Model of Disability, and the Dream of the Accepting Community

Everything that was normally supposed to be hidden was brought to the front.

Source: Punk subculture – Wikipedia

The lyrics referred to the way many people viewed fans of punk rock (who often endured stares, slurs and assaults at the time), but they could just have easily been about people diagnosed with mental illnesses, who are frequently looked down upon as crazy, violent and unintelligent.

A long-standing and influential theory regarding disability is the “social model,” initially advanced by Mike Oliver. The social model argues that “disability” does not reside within individuals, but is actually created by a mismatch between social structures and individual capacities. These structures can include obvious physical barriers (such as stairs, which could make it impossible for people in wheelchairs to enter a school or workplace by themselves), but can also include intolerant social attitudes which make it very difficult for people who don’t act in a manner that is considered “acceptable” to participate socially or avail themselves of community resources.

British human right activist Liz Sayce has specifically extended the social model to explain much of the disability that is experienced by people diagnosed with mental illnesses, and has argued for the establishment of “inclusive communities” to facilitate greater community participation among these individuals.

Source: Punk Rock and the Dream of the Accepting Community | Psychology Today

We found community amidst online genderpunks, neuropunks, and cripplepunks conversant in the social model. That community and connection gave rise to the name of our endeavor, Stimpunks.

Here’s some collected listening that covers a gamut of punk and punk-adjacent music on mental health and living in divergent bodyminds. “Everything that was normally supposed to be hidden was brought to the front.” This playlist, in part, seeks to bring to the front. Suggestions appreciated.

(suicidal ideation, addiction, mania, depression, dysphoria, chronic illness, anxiety, overwhelm, panic, meltdown, masking, burnout, exposure anxiety, rejection sensitive dysphoria, OCD, ADHD, ADD, SPD, bipolar, autism)

On Apple Music:

On Spotify:

On YouTube:

It’s about rejecting pity, inspiration porn, & all other forms of ableism. It rejects the “good cripple” mythos. Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t “tried everything”. Cripple Punk fights internalized ableism & fully supports those struggling with it. It respects intersections of race, culture, gender, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness/neuroatypical status, survivor status, etc. Cripple Punk does not pander to the able bodied.

Source: Urban Dictionary: Cripple Punk

Before I discovered Cripple Punk – a term originating as an angry post on someone’s blog and transforming into a global movement for disability pride – it never occured to me that I could like my leg braces.

Source: Cripple Punk: The hashtag that helped me wear my disability with pride | Life

Genderpunk: a colloquial term for culture and resistance against gendernormativity; an identity that in and of itself is a resistance against gender norms, homophobia and transphobia, oppression and societal status.

Your gender has nothing to do with your eligibility to be genderpunk. If you agree with the mindset, no matter how you identify, you can be a part of the movement.

Source: Have A Gay Day : What is ‘Genderpunk’?

It is very rare, as a disabled person, that I have an intense sense of belonging, of being not just tolerated or included in a space but actively owning it; “This space,” I whisper to myself, “is for me.” Next to me, I sense my friend has the same electrified feeling. This space is for us.

Members of many marginalized groups have this shared experiential touchstone, this sense of unexpected and vivid belonging and an ardent desire to be able to pass this experience along. Some can remember the precise moment when they were in a space inhabited entirely by people like them for the first time.

Crip space is unique, a place where disability is celebrated and embraced—something radical and taboo in many parts of the world and sometimes even for people in those spaces. The idea that we need our own spaces, that we thrive in them, is particularly troubling for identities treated socially as a negative; why would you want to self-segregate with the other cripples? For those newly disabled, crip space may seem intimidating or frightening, with expectations that don’t match the reality of experience—someone who has just experienced a tremendous life change is not always ready for disability pride or defiance, needing a kinder, gentler introduction.

This is precisely why they are needed: as long as claiming our own ground is treated as an act of hostility, we need our ground. We need the sense of community for disabled people created in crip space.

How can we cultivate spaces where everyone has that soaring sense of inclusion, where we can have difficult and meaningful conversations?

Because everyone deserves the shelter and embrace of crip space, to find their people and set down roots in a place they can call home.

Source: “The Beauty of Spaces Created for and by Disabled People” by s.e. smith in “Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century”.

Community is magic.

Community is power.

Community is resistance.

–Alice Wong, “Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century