Disability on the page

Helen loves reading and disability activism, and enjoys reading about other people’s experiences of disability. Today she takes us on a quick tour of her bookshelves:

The War on Disabled People by Ellen Clifford offers a comprehensive look at the last ten years and how disabled people have been attacked from various angles.  Whether it’s through benefit cuts, or reduced spending on social services, the last ten years have been a horrific time to be disabled.  Clifford looks at how and why we have reached this point and the role capitalism has had to play. Last year, I had the chance to meet her as part of York Disability Week.

Front cover of the book 'Austerity's Victims' by Neil Carpenter. The subtitle is 'living with a learning disability under cameron and may'

Crippled by Frances Ryan also looks at how the last 10 years of government cuts have impacted on disabled people in the UK. Her writing is woven with the voices of disabled people which reveal just how starkly the changes have affected people’s lives.

Another book that looks at the cuts is Austerity’s Victims by Neil Carpenter.  Carpenter focuses on the impact on people with learning disabilities using case studies, which again, show just how dire things are on the ground for disabled people.

Scapegoat by Katharine Quarmby was an eye opener for me when I first read it five or so years ago.  She provides a detailed, but not overwhelming, review of history and how disabled people have been treated across time.  This helps her explain why people feel negatively towards disability, and how certain situations can exacerbate that feeling resulting in hate crimes.  Like many of these books, there are sections that make for very difficult reading.

Justice for Laughing Boy makes for more difficult reading; Sara Ryan details the events that lead up to her son’s entirely preventable death, and what happened afterwards.

Heading over to America, we have Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, which introduced me to the phrase disability justice. This book focuses on the lives of disabled people who are queer and black, indigenous or people of colour.

Disability Visibility paperback

If you’re looking for something a little less emotionally harrowing, Disability Visability edited by Alice Wong is a good place to start.  That’s not to say it isn’t emotional, but as each chapter is written by a different person, you can pick and chose depending on your mood.  It’s a great way of getting to know new voices in the disability community and see things from different perspectives.  For example, one very eye opening chapter is about a deaf person’s experience in prison.

Made Possible is another anthology, made up of contributions from people with learning disabilities. It looks at successes and includes contributions from a singer-songwriter, an actor, an elected mayor and more!

The compelling Rebekah Taussig’s Sitting Pretty details one person’s account of being a disabled woman in America. She weaves an intimate tale about her life that also gently introduces concepts and ideas such as ableism and intersectionality.

If you are looking to laugh out loud, turn to Shane Burcaw.  His books Laughing at my Nightmare and Strangers Assume my Girlfriend is my Nurse, offer a humorous take on his life as a disabled boy and growing up into adulthood.  With his wife, he also runs a YouTube channel.

If poetry is more your thing, then Stairs and Whispers and Beauty is a Verb are anthologies from disabled poets in the UK and US respectively.

We’d love to hear what you’re reading and what disability related books you’d recommend!

5 thoughts on “Disability on the page”

  1. Great suggestions – thanks. I am looking for a book which takes a longer historical look at the experiences of disabled people in Britain – from medieval times onwards. I am a teacher and have written a lesson on this, but I could do with reading more! Scapegoat looks a bit like it is just recent history? Thanks!

    1. Scapegoat has about 80 pages dedicated to the changing perception of disability since the Greeks and Romans.
      For learning disability history, you could try those they call idiots by Simon jarrett.

      I’ve also written a little on my personal blog – the plan was to cover up till modern day, but life! I either include further reading or sources so there may be something worth looking at there.


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