Problems with “High Functioning/Low Functioning Labels” By L. Lyubov


High Functioning/Low Functioning labels serve no purpose but to incorrectly categorize people based on assumptions and stereotypes of “functionality.” “High Functioning” to me is not a compliment. It means that people are making incorrect assumptions about my abilities, strengths and challenges based on stereotypes. “High Functioning” erases struggles and therefore conveniently dismisses inquiries for assistance.

Similarly, “Low Functioning” erases one’s strengths and highlights one’s struggles therefore dismissing a person’s contributions and gifts.

But one cannot critique the whole “High Functioning/Low Functioning” mess without critiquing constructions of “functionality.” What do we mean by “functioning?” anyway? Haven’t all of our ideas of “functioning” been constructed by narrow definitions of “work” and “contribution” put in place by a multiply oppressive capitalist society? 

So lets throw out the “functioning” assumptions and questions.

People aren’t machines whose bodies/minds/spirits exist to “function” in some pre-mandated way. In the end, It’s about how we want to connect on a human level.

When the average person imagines “using insurance” or “filling a prescription,” they probably envision swinging by a local Mom and Pop pharmacy and picking up a bottle of antibiotics. When you live with a chronic illness, though, this pedestrian image bears no resemblance whatsoever to the knock-down, drag-out realities of negotiating with for-profit insurance corporations and “specialty pharmacies” that deal exclusively in expensive, often injectable, drugs.

Chronic Illness and the Question of “Access”: A Primer/Manifesto in One Post (RIDES AGAIN)

This post is very helpful for folks (like me) who are constantly battling insurance companies and other medical bureaucracies to get basic, but expensive, life-sustaining long-term meds. Check it out.

(via disabilityhistory)


i just want more fucking stories where disabled characters survive the whole time and also don’t get fucking cured

so that a disabled kid can read a book and see themselves coming out of it alive and as they are because that is fucking important

on privilege denial within disability





I’ve noticed a lot of people lately on tumblr denying their capability to be ableist because they themselves fall somewhere on the disability spectrum. Specifically, I see people react to being called ableist by referring to themselves as “not able” and therefore, lacking the privilege that is necessary to be oppressive.

Not able. There’s a lot wrapped up in those words.

Disability is a spectrum, not a dichotomy. While it’s true that there are people with disabilities and those without, there is way too much variety within disability to simply say that one lacks abled privilege and is therefore exempt from being oppressive towards anyone else with a disability, regardless of what disabilities are actually involved. That’s dishonest, and it’s privilege denial. Because one can lack abled privilege, yet still have able-bodied privilege, or allistic privilege, or many other forms of privilege that I don’t know the names of. My point being that you can have power and be oppressed at the same time when it comes to disability.

I’ll use myself as an example. I do not have abled privilege, although I have invisible disabilities so I may have passing privilege. I have privilege over people who have physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities (to name a few). I have mental illnesses - this does not mean I am incapable of being oppressive towards someone with cognitive disabilities. Even within mental illness there are different levels of privilege. There are certain mental illnesses that are vilified with far greater frequency (ie. schizophrenia) or are more likely to result in institutionalization.

And there are varying degrees of severity. Most of the people I have known in my life have struggled with panic attacks, mild depression or anxiety. None of them ID as disabled and for the most part these problems have not been debilitating. Yet I have seen people who fall into this category attempt to use their experiences as a free pass to perpetuate oppression towards people who are disabled (by their MI’s, or other disabilities). If the only time you bring up being “not abled” is when someone calls you out on being ableist, this may apply to you. It’s not even internalized ableism when it’s regarding disabilities that are different from your own.

Just because you fall somewhere on the disability spectrum, doesn’t mean you are incapable of being ableist.

I think also, even within your own disability group, it’s only internalized when you’re doing it to yourself. When you’re doing it to other people, it’s externalized.

The form of ableism I’m most prone to is thinking I know better than other people how they should be dealing and accepting themselves and getting past passing etc. I can be very dismissive and condescending about that, even with people who are very similar to me.

And I don’t think that’s internalized in any meaningful way. I think it’s just ableism.

Pretty much every person lives within a complex web that involves both multiple forms of marginalization/exclusion and also multiple forms of privilege.  Each form of marginalization compounds all challenges that go with all the other forms of marginalization that exist within the same person.  And each form of privilege may have the potential to alleviate some (but not all) of the impact of the various forms of marginalization we experience.  It is possible for a person to simultaneously experience oppression within one area of marginalization while ALSO inflicting marginalization upon others in a completely different area.  I think some people may see this more clearly if we step outside of the disability frame of reference to look at, say, race and gender.  A cishet white woman does not have gender privilege in comparison to a black man, but she does have race privilege.  A cishet black man does not have race privilege but does have gender privilege.  A white woman can be racist to a black man simultaneously with a black man being sexist to a white woman.  

Moving this back to disability: I am deaf, and I was at Gallaudet University in one role or another for quite a long time (as an undergrad student, then as a staff member, then as a grad student again, and so forth), so I have spent a large portion of my life being pretty well immersed in the deaf community before I started becoming more actively involved with the cross-disability community and steering my career in that direction.  From my observation, deaf people by and large tend to share about the same range of attitudes and assumptions and stereotypes toward blind people, or people with intellectual disabilities, or people with mobility impairments, people with psychosocial disabilities, people with specific area disabilities and so forth as do hearing people in mainstream society.  Any ableist belief you’ve ever seen or heard a hearing non-disabled person say?  Chances are, there’s a deaf person somewhere who believes the same thing.  Any really awesomely great thing that you’ve seen a hearing non-disabled person do or say that shows they really really GET IT about ableism?  Chances are, there’s a deaf person somewhere who has done or said the same thing.

Deaf people are somewhat more likely than the general population to experience certain other types of disabilities in addition to being deaf.  For example, as much as 2 percent of deaf people may have been born with Usher’s syndrome, which means they’re born deaf then gradually develop night vision then tunnel vision.  People with cerebral palsy are somewhat more likely than the general population to also be deaf or hard of hearing, so the ratio of people with cp is probably also higher in the deaf community.  So you would think that deaf people at Gallaudet would “know better” about accommodating disabilities other than deafness.  But as far as I can tell, Gallaudet is both about as great and about as not-so-great as any other random university.  There is a disability support service office on campus that does their job pretty well, at least from my relatively limited and somewhat outdated observation of it.  (I have used their services as a graduate student with attention deficit disorder, and also have interacted with them as an adjunct faculty member with students in my classes who were using their services.)  Some individual professors, both deaf and hearing, are great with accommodating all kinds of disabilities.  And other individual professors, both deaf and hearing, are not so great.

To boil down this long story into a short moral: deaf people are very much capable of marginalizing (or being inclusive of) people with other kinds of disabilities.  Being deaf doesn’t make us immune to saying or doing ableist things to people with other types of disabilities.

And conversely, I’ve seen some cross-disability organizations that are really awesome at being inclusive of deaf people, while other supposedly cross-disability initiatives turn out to not have the first clue about  basic things like planning ahead to ensure sign language interpreters or CART service will be available for their events.

Maybe ableism isn’t quite the right word for all of this.  Maybe we need a new word for the kind of “ableism” that can be committed by a person (or people or group) with one disability against a person (or people or group) with another disability?

But I think this is something we don’t talk about as much as we should.  It’s great that cross-disability organizing is happening, we need to join forces to strengthen our advocacy efforts in all kinds of areas.  And it’s also great in many ways to have a unified cross-disability identity.  But we do sometimes need to step back and talk about ways that people with all types of disabilities may experience some of the same barriers within the cross-disability community that we do in the rest of the world and what needs to happen to remove those barriers.  And we can’t do that until we recognize that people with disabilities often share many of the same hurtful (and harmful) assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward people with disabilities not our own as do non-disabled people.

I also think there is not nearly enough dialogue about how to be more inclusive of people with multiple disabilities.  Many of the places that are wheelchair accessible may fail to be accessible for deaf people and vice versa: where does that leave a deaf person who rides a wheelchair?  And so on for any other pair of disabilities you can come up with.  Bearing in mind that many of the things that cause one disability can cause other disabilities simultaneously, like premature birth or meningitis or certain kinds of genetic syndromes and so forth. Meaning, this is not an esoteric question that only affects a tiny number of people.  One out of seven people on the face of the planet have at least one disability.  And quite a few of us have more than one.

It’s also especially complicated when you’re dealing with the intersections of mental or cognitive disability and physical disability. I hear from a lot of people with physical disabilities that they can’t be ableist because they’re disabled, even though they say or do many oppressive things that affect mentally disabled or cognitively disabled people. I hear it in the opposing direction as well - people saying that physical illnesses are taken more seriously than mental illnesses, when it’s far more complicated than that and many times it actually isn’t. It’s a very common issue. Having a disability in one area doesn’t give you a free pass to be an ass. It is very easy to internalize ableism from society and ignore how it affects other people in favor of our own experiences. And yeah, comorbid disabilities is definitely a conversation that is frequently forgotten or ignored. Like how in those discussions of physical illness vs mental illness, those of us that experience both and have had the same or similar experiences in both areas are completely erased. Or how a physically ill person is treated even worse off than they might have been in a particular situation if they are also mentally ill or cognitively disabled. Etc.


I see this a lot and it makes me sad. I’m not saying that I am perfect (because I more than likely screw up from time to time and I hope that people call me out), but I am in a unique situation. I have invisible disabilities, but I use a service dog making them very visible. While it generally leads to confusion and lots of annoying questions it also thrust me into a rather unique situation: I now have to navigate a world where I must fight for accommodations. WHile the law is on my side, housing and airplanes are two shining examples where I have to jump through huge hoops to have my SD with me. And lets not forget arguing with people about the legality of having my dog with me in public places. 

I never ever thought that I could understand what life was like for someone with a physical disability. Now I see how hard it is to get accommodated in simple every day life. I know I have to plan extra time to do everything b/c of my SD. I can only imagine how much extra time is needed for a wheelchair, etc, esp. when so many places are not wheelchair friendly (and trust me I keep a running tally in my head about what places are accessible and who’s parked illegally, etc when I go out - it’s shameful).

I don’t understand how people can act the way they do. We should be supporting one another and yet we act as though just because we have a disability we can judge others. *shakes head* I simply do not know what it’s like to go through life in a wheelchair. I hope that no one knows what it’s like to go through life with soul crushing PTSD, my insane bipolar, and my laundry list of chronic illnesses, but there you have it. Why are we acting this way?






this is so, so important. as it is stands, you will lose your medicaid and social security benefits if you earn more than $700/month or have more than $2,000 in savings. that makes it nearly impossible to move out of poverty.

Sign the petition!


this is relevant to my life as well as a person on SSI.

my mom made me spend down my life savings that I wanted to use for top surgery so I’d be eligible for SSI (I’m still not anyway) and I’ve had to start over from scratch

it’s moments like this that i really like tumblr. not because of your situation, which sucks - i wish you luck in building up your savings again. but i’ve been reading along with the reblogs, and everyone has such personal stories related to this issue. it just reiterates how important it is. top surgery, dental work, hearing aids - there are so many basic things that this inhumane law prevents folks from having access to. 

THIS IS MY LIFE. PLEASE SIGN. It is very important to me.


So, in case you didn’t notice, there was a bit of a kerfuffle recently on Skepchick about ableism. Turns out, not everyone on Skepchick has the same opinions, and we all make mistakes. But this experience did teach us one thing: we don’t have enough disabled voices on this network. So, we’re starting a sister site for people with disabilities! And we want YOU to write for us (well, if you’re disabled and like writing). Last year we had two posts for “Blog Against Disablism Day.” One was by Chris Hofstader, and one was by me. If you’d like to contribute to this new blog, please apply!

We’re looking for people with physical or mental (or both!) disabilities who are willing to write at least one article every two weeks. The positions are not paid, but you will get more recognition, the chance to talk about your disability, make the world a better place, and be part of a kick-ass international network.

We will be accepting applications until Friday, March 21st, so please get your applications in as soon as possible!

Questions About Applying!

I have a disability! Can I apply?

Yes, please do!

What if I have more than one disability?

All the more reason you should apply!

I have a mental, not physical, disability. Can I still apply?


My disability isn’t officially diagnosed. What do I do?

Apply, and we’ll move on from there.

My disability is really rare. Do you still want me to apply?


I don’t have any real blogging experience. Can I still apply?

Yep! Although if you have some kind of writing examples to share, that would help (we’ll contact you for them after you apply).

I have a serious physical or mental illness, but I don’t personally identify as “disabled.” Can I still apply?


I don’t have a disability, but I think I have really valuable opinions anyway.

Please don’t apply.

But that’s discrimination!

No, it’s not.

This has yet to happen to me, but I know that it will. Because it HAS to. Because EVERY DAMN DAY people look at Sadie and then look at me and go “is she in training?” “You don’t look disabled?” “Well what do you have?” “They make service dogs for [ptsd] now?” Also cue the strange and bizarre looks I usually get because I dare to be out in the community *gasp* working or shopping or, you know, doing normal things.

And to make matters worse my PTSD dog is, like the dog in the link, an American Pit Bull Terrier. To those who don’t buy into media bullshit you know that these dogs are nothing but love, kisses, and loyalty, but to others it just makes people think that my dog cannot be a service dog. This is utter bullshit. There are no “specific breeds” for service dogs. I got my dog to have a dog. She just alerted me to a flashback and wouldn’t stop pounding on my chest until I locked eyes with her, thereby grounding myself in the present. So we trained her to be the perfect SD she is today,



And one day, it’ll happen to me. Because I’m not blind. Because I have PTSD. Because I don’t look disabled.


Because I’m sick of this shit.

One of the most pervasive and irritating tropes about disability is the idea that disabled people are inspiring simply for existing. Going out in public or doing the most simple of daily tasks is grounds for being patted on the head (sometimes literally) and told how inspiring you are. How you’re so brave. You touch people with your very existence. Saccharine smiles follow you around no matter what you’re doing and you are used as a posterchild on inspirational fliers to remind nondisabled people that life could be worse: they could be disabled.

When disabled people try to confront this narrative, to pick apart why it’s so frustrating and hurtful to be viewed as inspirational just for being alive, nondisabled people often get extremely defensive. They say we aren’t allowed to tell them what to be inspired by, or that we don’t understand that they’re just amazed how much we overcome, or they throw any number of things at us indicating that they’re not actually listening to anything we’re saying. We don’t critique social attitudes to tell people how to think. We critique social attitudes to talk about how we think, and how their actions impact us. People can choose to listen to and interpret our critique in a variety of ways, and that’s entirely up to them.

But one thing people seem to miss, or willfully misread, is the fact that none of us are saying that disabled people can’t be inspiring. We’re saying that disability alone is not inspiring, and we’re asking people explore what it is, exactly, that they’re finding inspiring when they look at a disabled person doing something.

Be Inspired By What People Do, Not By Aspects of Their Identity | this ain’t livin’

"We don’t critique social attitudes to tell people how to think. We critique social attitudes to talk about how we think, and how their actions impact us.”

(via brutereason)

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief (or so the amount of ‘inspiration porn’ floating about would have you believe, at least), disabled people are not put on this planet to make you feel better about your own life circumstances. We are not here so you can point at one of us as we smile, for whatever reason, and exclaim “that person can carry on with a smile on their face and just look at them! You’ve got no excuse!”, or the worst which I encounter most frequently, “the only disability in life is a bad attitude”.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude."

With who even knows how many disabled people shut out of work, unable to go to the shops, being mocked and/or attacked in the street, jeered at, stared at, confined to hospital beds or their homes, requiring round the clock care.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude".

With so many on low incomes, without adequate or even stable housing, living below the poverty line, unable to afford food, unable to afford heating, unable to get the care that they need because there isn’t enough money to provide it.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude".

With so many in chronic pain, fighting through each day and using so much energy to do so. Trying to balance the pain or the strain of mental health with work, or school, or even just getting up.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude"

When we’re here trying to survive, putting all our time and effort into trying to stay alive, and you only notice us or care about our well being when we can be inspiration to you.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude"

When you can compare our physiques and lives to yours and be grateful you’re not like us.

— (via emperorvonbears)