Disability without stereotypes – People to follow if you want the truth about disability
If you prefer your inspiration without cheesiness, check out Tristram’s favourite people with disability who are smashing stereotypes.
By Tristram Peters
Steadily, society is getting better at normalising disability. As I’ve posited before, people with disability are not inspirational simply for being visibly disabled and out in the world! The days of awkward high-fives and condescending praise are numbered. We’re learning and growing and it’s nice!
Who’s to thank for this? The answer is that more and more people with disability are being featured in the media, which is showcasing their stories without the ham and cheese. These people are cutting down stereotypes and showing the truth of disability.
To celebrate these culture-shifting changes, I thought it’s high time we did a shout-out to these fine folks. These are people you should definitely follow and learn from. And likewise, let us know if there’s anyone you think should be added too!
Adam Hills – The king of disability stand-up comedy
That one time I nearly died from pneumonia (call me melodramatic), I remember checking into hospital and watching TV on repeat. One night, I stumbled across Spicks and Specks, hosted by the comedian Adam Hills, and became hooked for the rest of the show’s run.
However, for the longest time, I never realised Hills had a disability, and that he was born without a foot. But as Hills says, ‘Dull. Move on.’ That’s what’s so refreshing: his disability does not matter at all. It’s a moot point. It’s dull, so move on. Now, Hills hosts the Last Leg in the UK, a show whose origins began as a Paralympic comedy wrap-up in 2012. It meshes humour and disability in an innovative way, and now presents as a straight news recap of the week that was. Prepare for antics and a few mad-as-hell rants.
But Hills’ ability to normalise disability is best exemplified in his stand-up shows, where he always enlists interpreters for the deaf members of his audience. But it’s not without humour, as he makes them sign words to comic perfection. They’re part of the show, not just an add-on.
Check out his routines, check out his shows. Just check him out, okay?
Carly Findlay – Writing about disability and the power of just saying hello
Since I was young, I pretty much always wanted to be a writer (after I ruled out archaeology, not the most disability-friendly of occupations). I was a bit of a nerd and churned through book upon book, article upon article. I still do to this day. And one of my favourite writers is Carly Findlay.
As her website says, Findlay is a blogger, writer, speaker and appearance activist. Her resume is ridiculous. She’s written for most publications rocking around in Australia, appeared on ABC’s You Can’t Ask That, and published her first book – a memoir called Say Hello – only this year.
Her writing is always honest and insightful, tackling ableism in full force, and people would be well served reading her blog or checking out her socials. She takes her skills and does disability training for organisations too.
She will also be editing Growing Up Disabled, an upcoming anthology that features honest accounts of lived experience with disability. If you have a disability, you should definitely submit something! You know you should…
Dylan Alcott – A certified legend in the disability space
Truth be told, Dylan’s everywhere these days. And it’s great. He’s the tennis champion, the Triple J host, the guy from the ANZ ads on our TVs, and the organiser of the innovative and amazing Ability Fest. (You remembered, yes! That same gig I wrote about here.)
I briefly met Dylan at Ability Fest last year and he passionately spoke about the gig and asked us if there was anything he could add for next year. Nothing was too much. He raised nearly $200k for young people with disability, and is doing it all again next month. Check it.
But as a powerchair sports athlete, my favourite thing about the certified legend is what he’s doing to disabled sport. I was lucky enough to attend the Australian Open this year and obviously hustled to one of his matches. It was in the raging sun, but the crowd was in full voice, including the phenomenal Fanatics, who chanted till their voices blew.
At the end of the day, none of us in attendance were watching disabled sport; it was simply sport. We barracked and cheered every point, watching the spectacle play out. So much skill was on show and that’s all that mattered. Wheelchair tennis became mainstream and everyone accepted it without a second thought.
Three isn’t enough – Other follow-worthy people with disability
Okay, okay. Three people just isn’t enough, so let’s hurtle through some other noteworthy people.
Firstly, I also love Zach Anner and his videos. He’s a comedian who also co-writes the TV series Speechless. (You should definitely look at his top-notch workout videos.)
Another YouTube sensation is Shane Burcaw. He’s got the same condition as me (the good ol’ Spinal Muscular Atrophy), and regularly posts videos answering viewer questions with his girlfriend Hannah. If you watch one, you’ll find yourself watching most of them. #fairwarning
And lastly, whatever your political leanings, you’ve got to follow Senator Jordan Steele-John. The first person with a disability to sit in the Upper House, he’s a passionate disability advocate and does so much for the community. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
And that’s all we got time for! But follow these people, like their socials, and share their stories. This is how we break down more stories and show the mainstream the actual truth of disability. It’s that simple.
Top Image: Dylan Alcott Facebook.
Tristram is the Content Manager at Clickability, an Australian disability service directory and Information, Linkages and Capacity Building grant recipient, that allows NDIS participants to rate and review their disability supports. Visit their website clickability.com.au.