Recently, I attended a meeting for a radical disability group. One thing that was brought up is the many divisions in the disability community; how the outside world tends to encourage specific groups to fight for their rights while excluding other groups, particularly those who are stigmatized.

I’ve seen a lot of this. I used to be involved in the autistic rights movement, at least online, back when I thought I could have asperger’s syndrome. (Turns out, I’m just a mentally ill weirdo with nonverbal learning disorder thrown in for added interest.) There’s been a large push to dissociate autism from mental illness; and, well, Astrid probably said it better than I ever could.

This act of saying “Oh, we’re not like those people”, which has been done with many disability communities, is an example of the kind of divide-and-conquer the people in power want us to do. Granted, it’s important to recognize when something is and isn’t a mental illness; for example, there’s been a movement to remove transsexuality from the DSM. However, there’s a difference between simply stating that something is different from a mental illness, and blatant ableism.

I believe that neurodiversity means more than just autism. I’m not autistic, but I have various things about my neurology that can definitely be seen as not “neurotypical”. Besides my mental illness, I have a learning disability (NLD) that’s somewhat similar to autism, and definitely can be seen as outside of the range of “neurotypical”. To me, neurodiversity isn’t just about autistic rights, although that’s an important part of it. It’s about acceptance of people with all kinds of neurology, whether they have autism, a learning disability, a mental illness, are blind or deaf, and the like.

But more important than expanding the meaning of neurodiversity, I think, is creating a more cohesive disability movement. I think that most people with disabilities, regardless of the sort, face obstacles in society, perhaps not as tied to their actual impaiments as society’s perception of ability and disability. As I’ve often heard people say, accessibility is about more than ramps. By banding together as people with disabilities, we can create greater accessibility and acceptance for everyone, not just a group we happen to be a part of.

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