Shared stigma, separate silos: more on the intersection of ageism + ableism
People with disabilities come in all ages, and almost all of us encounter some change in physical or mental capacity as we grow old. Yet, Ashton reminds us that we act as though old people never become disabled and disabled people never grow old.
I’m an activist against ageism, much of which is rooted in fear of becoming disabled. Likewise, much stigma around disability has to do with what I’ve dubbed “age cooties,” as with a reasonably woke friend in her 30s who opted for crutches over a cane after foot surgery because they signal “injured,” not “old.” Of course people with disabilities come in all ages; of course healthy aging can and does involve disability; of course prejudice is not rational. And of course, disability and aging are different, but as I write in this post, ignoring the ways in which they overlap compounds stigma and blinds us to the potential of collective activism.
Both aging and disability are incredibly diverse; how could might create some kind of shared identity or campaign in order to dismantle shared stigma? How could age equality activists learn from the brilliant advocates who got the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed by changing disability from a personal problem into a social one? How might we apply those strategies to reframing the way most people see aging—the one universal human experience? How might the disability justice movement benefit from growing global activism against ageism? (The #AgeingEqual campaign is a superb example.)
My goal is to help catalyze a movement against ageism that’s genuinely inclusive, which means bringing people of different races, classes abilities, genders etc. to the table from the get-go, and making sure all voices are heard (related post here). I’m scouting for those voices, and wondering if you’re interested in being one of them, and/or if you’d pass along this query to others in your community who might be.
Ashton Applewhite is one of the strongest voices of the anti-ageism movement. TED speaker and author of the best-seller This Chair Rocks calling for an end to discrimination and prejudice on the basis of age, she is also the one behind the blog Yo, Is This Ageist?.