The List: 26 Statements Reflecting Non-Disabled Persons’ Privilege


December 8, 2020

The List: 26 Statements Reflecting Non-Disabled Persons’ Privilege

(Modeled after White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack created by Prof. Peggy McIntosh. The first ten have been taken, with minor adaptations, from her White Privilege article)

1. Most of the time I can, if I wish, arrange to be around people who share my disability status, either disabled or non-disabled.

2. History textbooks include plenty of references to people like me as actors (not objects) who have made contributions to their local communities and nations.

3. I am confident that employment related decisions (not getting hired, not getting a raise, or getting fired) are not made because of how I look. 

4. If I turn on the TV, go online, or open a newspaper, I am likely to see people like me.

5. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization" I am shown people who look like me.

6. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which no other persons share my disability status.

7. I can buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, children’s magazines featuring people like me.

8. I’ve never been told, “but you don’t act like so-and-so”, i.e. others who share my disability status.

9. I am reasonably sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge” I will be facing a person who shares my disability status.

10. My society gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and power of persons with disabilities.

11. I’ve never been told that how I identify myself, in terms of my disability status, is incorrect.

12. Strangers never approach me on the street and insist on praying to heal me.

13. I have never had people point at part of my body and say “sorry” or simply laugh.

14. When I go to the offices of local government I see elected officials and staff who look like me.

15. People never assume I’m begging when they see me waiting on the street for someone.

16. Children like me experience violence four times less frequently than children who do have share my disability status.

17. People like me are role models and leaders in business, government or the non-profit sector.

18. I’ve been led to believe that my personal needs are “extraordinary” or “special”, and as such I should be grateful if and when society decides to be generous to me.

19.  I am confident that assumptions about my mental capabilities will not be made based on my physical appearance.

20. Doctors have never recommended, as a form of non-urgent medical care when I was a child, medication that had a side effect of slowing my cognitive functioning.

21. I've never been told, by a partner, that they hadn't wanted a relationship because of the way my body looks.

22. People don't assume, when they look at me, that I am asexual.

23. People express disbelief when informed that I am in a relationship or that I have a child.

24. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

25. I’ve never been asked by someone, when meeting them for the first time, “what’s wrong with you?”

26. Occasionally people have told me that others had “warned” them about my disability status prior to their meeting me.

Some notes on this list: Prof. McIntosh noted in her original paper on white privilege that her list was the result of her direct experiences, and thus was not to be understood as a universal list of the privileges that all white people experience. Likewise, this list should be understood as a reflection of my personal experience. Given the diversity of types of impairments people may have, I fully expect lists developed by other disabled people to be different, though I also expect there to be common themes of exclusion, vulnerability, and powerlessness. In my review of Prof. McIntosh’s statements of white privilege – I noted 31 of her 46 statements had parallels to how persons with different kinds of disabilities experience the world.

Some notes on the writer: Michael Szporluk has worked in international development for twenty years and has focused on raising awareness about and advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities since 2008. Over the past seven years, he has been an independent consultant. Clients include the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the UNDP Independent Evaluation Office, UNICEF, International Labor Organization (ILO), the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact, Mercy Corps, City of Portland, and others. He is based in Portland and self-identifies as a person with a disability.

Michael shared this list during What is Disability? The Social and Human Rights Model the community of practice he facilitated in November 2020.

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