My Body Doesn’t Oppress Me, Society Does

Patty Berne and Stacey Milbern present a social model of disability, explaining how universal design, adaptive devices, and meeting people’s access needs can limit the social, economic, and physical barriers that render physical impairments disabling in an ableist society. Milbern notes that focusing on individual impairments “lets society off the hook” for the structural oppression that renders some bodies and lives more valuable than others. Berne says “we are seen as disposable,” noting that the oppression that society ascribes to the individual body and disability is in fact a violent social construction.

This video is part of the series No Body is Disposable, produced by Sins Invalid and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Video by Dean Spade and Hope Dector. Learn more about the series at http://bit.ly/nobodyisdisposable

For more on the intersections between ableism, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, and disability justice tools and tactics that center disabled people of color and queer, trans, and gender non-conforming disabled people, visit http://sinsinvalid.org or download the Sins Invalid’s “Skin, Tooth, and Bone: A Disability Justice Primer” at http://bit.ly/djprimer.

More about “No Body Is Disposable: A Disability Justice Video Series”

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.

The text above is amended from “Disability Justice – A Working Draft,” by Patty Berne in Sins Invalid’s “Skin, Tooth, and Bone: A Disability Justice Primer.” You can download this critical resource at bit.ly/djprimer.

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