I wonder what my life would have been like had I known I had ADHD earlier? Would employers have accommodated my need for quiet and solitude to focus? Would they have understood that my neurodiverse brain struggled to conduct a focused and intelligent interview over the phone in a busy newsroom while others all around me chattered away doing the same? I rather doubt it and that would, of course, require me to divulge my hidden disability (had I even known about it).
Attitudes about disability inclusivity are still significantly lacking and there are studies that back this up.
Tessa Charlesworth, a postdoctorate psychology scholar at Harvard University recently told the Harvard Gazette that her research and that of her mentor, Mahzarin Banaji, indicate that attitudes toward people with disabilities have barely changed in more than 14 years. Furthermore, she said, it could take more than 200 years to completely extinguish those prejudices.
“Implicit bias can change,” she’d told the Harvard Gazette. “But so far, it’s only changed for some groups.”
People’s attitudes have changed as a result of “widespread, crosscutting social events,” Charlesworth says in a YouTube video for Harvard Horizons 2021. Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, for example, demonstrate how movements can initiate change. That’s not to say they’re panaceas — there’s certainly a lot more work to be done. Federal legislation and media representation also play roles in promoting awareness and initiating conversations throughout society.
So I ask you: What is the movement people with disabilities need? How can we change the narrative so people like my visually impaired friend Todd Fahlstrom (pictured above with his seeing-eye pup) can find meaningful and well-paying work? He’s got the skills but it is a battle to challenge ableist attitudes that hold him and so many others back.
Please, let me know what you think. And if you are already an activist or want to be one, what can I do to help you?