There Is No Diversity Without Disabled People.


We live in times when there is so much buzz and talk about diversity. Organizations, institutions, movements all over the world are moving towards being more diverse or at least making efforts to do so and including different groups of people. Any organizations that is openly discriminatory is heavily criticized and some cases people boycott the brand. For example the Dove Real Beauty commercial from 4 years ago that only featured Caucasian women. There was obviously a lot of backlash as a result. How can we possibly forget the year 2016 when the Oscars only had white nominees and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended on social media for several days.

Whenever diversity is mentioned it is always in the context of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. There has never been a loud cry for diversity as there is today. One just has to switch on the TV to see this or better still log onto social media particularly Twitter. Different groups of people are pushing for diversity, “include people of colour, include women, include people regardless of sexual orientation, include all religions” the world is screaming. I fully agree with this but I cannot help but notice a trend there is no mention of people with disabilities in all these conversations which leads me to question is it really diversity if people with disabilities are excluded?

There is no diversity without people with disabilities otherwise diversity is just a buzz word we use to fool ourselves into thinking we are an inclusive society.

Let’s talk about the film industry as an example. Last year #OscarsSoWhite trended on social media and there was A LOT of backlash and even boycott to the award show because no person of colour was nominated for an award, there was “lack of diversity” as people stated. Whilst I agree with this notion, I also have to strongly disagree with the lack of diversity tag. I disagree because this narrative insinuates that only race denotes diversity yet that’s no true, no actors with disabilities were nominated either. How come there was no loud cry about that? In fact in the 89th history of the Academy only THREE actors with disabilities have ever won an Oscar award. This is shocking right? Well not entirely surprising to be honest since 95% of actors who play disabled roles do not have disabilities. I ask again is there diversity without disabled people?

Another industry where diversity is a controversial topic is the fashion industry. Designers all over the world design clothes for able bodied people and cast able bodied people in their fashion shows. The Fashion Spot reported that the Spring 2017 runways were the most diverse in history based on 4 criteria which were race, plus size, transgender and age. Noticeably disability was not one of the criteria because models with disabilities were not included. Where is the diversity in that? In 1998 the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen collaborated with athlete Aimee Mullins who walked in a McQueen fashion show wearing  a pair of wooden prosthetic legs however almost 2 decades later not much has changed in terms of including models with disabilities on the runway. Fashion shows all over the world are still filled with only able bodied people. Hannah Marriott in 2015 reported that when models with disabilities are featured, it is usually by less known designers or it is always in a charity context. Where is the diversity in the fashion industry when models with disabilities are clearly excluded?

The film and fashion industries are just two examples of the many many industries that are excluding people with disabilities. Diversity does not just refer to race, gender, age, sexual orientation or religious beliefs, it also includes people with disabilities. There is no diversity without people with disabilities otherwise diversity is just a buzz word we use to fool ourselves into thinking we are an inclusive society.



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