Strategies for Change

Independent Living Movement Ireland


In this weeks SFC session we explored intersectionality in its intrinsic link to disability. Intersectionality gives impetus to the reality that all of us have multiple identities and these intersect to make us who we are. It also gives us a way to talk about the oppressions and the privileges that overlap and reinforce our combined selves.

“We come from all sections of Society – all age ranges, all ethnic groups (including Travellers, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, atheist, and so on), all genders, all sexual orientations and are married or single or just people demented with children” – see “Crips are just not Crips” written by our very own Peter Kearns.

So, I am much more then Fiona who has cerebral palsy. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and so much more.

My intersectional identities (a Disabled Woman, Wife, Mother) and the inequalities that I experience as a disabled woman, wife, and mother enables me to make sense of my lived experience of ableism.

Ableism - ILMI | Independent Living Movement Ireland

We (disabled people) are the largest marginalised group in the world, we are stigmatised and experience oppression on so many levels. Disabled people have poorer educational outcomes; are less likely to go to college, are four times less likely to have a meaningful job and are at risk of deprivation and poverty, I could go on and on… see: key statistics for more statistical details.

Oppression has many layers, its Ideological, Institutional, Interpersonal and Internalising.

Ideological oppression is the idea that one group of people is better than another group of people. The dominant group associates positive qualities with itself and negative qualities with the marginalised or “other” e.g., rich people are better than poor people – classism, black people are dangerous, are less intelligent and mentally unstable – racism, disabled people are sick, can’t contribute to the economy, need to be fixed or cured – ableism.

Institutional oppression is the systems and institutions that control and disempower, it determines access, who is able and who is not.

Interpersonal oppression is the way people play out discrimination on each other, it promotes multiple discrimination and such discrimination can, and often does create cumulative disadvantage for many that are labeled disabled.

Last but not least is Internalised oppression, this is the end goal, those that belong to the marginalised group internalise the narratives of the dominate group and play out the roles that they are assigned. It is very important here to note that oppressed groups and individuals can, and do, oppress each another.

It is also very important for me to say here that I am privileged and many of us (disabled people) need to acknowledge this much more. I have some status, some power and its my job, our job to include all of us – people that are not doing this course, those that are living institutional lives, those that have severe impairments, those with autism and those with intellectual impairments.

These people are just as important as we are, they are part of “us” and we need to build a strong belonging”.

So what does this mean for us as a learning group? We (all disabled people) need to fit into and belong to all social movements that effect our lives, be it, the human rights movement, the LGBT movement, the black lives matter movement, the Women’s movement, the Traveller movement and the Disabled People’s movement. Combined we are stronger, and we can build strong narratives that effect meaningful change.

We need to be at all of the tables, we cannot talk about poverty without talking about disability, we cannot talk about educating everyone without talking about disability, we cannot talk about employment without talking about disability and we certainly can’t talk about genuine inclusion without talking to disabled people first. “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

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