No 'Ableist Warning' required

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Motivational texts are inspiring, but…

I’m realising that ‘Just Do It’ is not always a useful mantra to adopt.

I enjoy a good motivational book or one that helps me maximise my time. These books often recommend the ‘no excuses’ approach to daily action. This is not always realistic or helpful.

I recently finished listening to a really good book by Jeff Haden called ‘The Motivation Myth’. Haden aims to help us get more done. The book focused on developing good processes rather than waiting for motivation to kick in. Another way of championing the’ develop good habits’ ethos. There were some excellent points covered in the book, mostly along the ‘develop a plan, one you follow every day, and carry it out with no excuses’ approach. One example given was Stephen King who writes 2000 words a day ‘without fail’ unless there is something monumental which gets in the way of the writing process (like a ‘death in the family’ kind of reason).

Haden describes many challenges he has completed and goals he has achieved by implementing his ‘no excuses’ mantra. There was an opportunity missed by Haden to highlight more strategically how people with chronic illness, mental health issues or other disabilities may need to balance their plan and ‘no excuses’ approach against the equally important ‘in the moment’ health issues that arise often daily for people with challenges. A plan is fine….. but every day, this needs to be balanced against the realistic challenges of fatigue, pain or other health limitations. Pushing on can be dangerous in those circumstances. Writing that we need to have a ‘no excuses’ approach without acknowledging the different circumstances of a significant number of people where this approach needs to be applied very carefully around specific boundaries could be dangerous, and at the very least, thoughtless or exclusive.

I acknowledge I hadn’t realised this as I was reading the book. I just nodded along in agreement while I was reading. I then factored in my own chronic migraine lifestyle and proceeded to modify the Haden model, without feeling too guilty about it. But what if you didn’t have my perspective. My insight about this new perspective came via a review on Goodreads.com. A reviewer noted that the book should come with an abelist warning.

Ableism is discrimination in favour of able-bodied people (i.e. non-disabled). Able-bodied refers to people who don’t have a disability. People with a disability are often those who have physical or mental conditions which create limitations, but also it can refer to people with other disabilities such as emotional or long term illnesses. Discrimination does not just refer to movement or sensory issues, but includes discrimination that impacts funding, shared resources, security, language, technology, planning, design, writing, representation, event organisation and long term community participation and inclusion, to name just a few.

So often, when we learn new things, we become more aware. Ableism, or ableist, are new words that I am hearing more often. I am hoping that my writing will be less ableist in future. I think in the past, I have been reading ableist works without recognising it, and probably I have been guilty of ablesit writing.

Just after I finished reading ‘The Motivation Myth’, Kurt Fearnley received The Don Award from The Sport Australia Hall of Fame. He is the first paraolympian to win the award. He used his acceptance speech as an opportunity to acknowledge those who have gone before him, men and women with disabilities, who led the way to create opportunities for him to see ‘not just what was physically possible but what was humanly possible’. His message is that we should have the opportunity to celebrate our differences, not be segregated by them. Fearnley calls for Australia to lead the way.

Disability is not lesser, it is just difference. The 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia was the first Commonwealth Games where the paraolympic games were held at the same time (concurrent events). I believe it was a huge success. We need to continue, both in sport and in the our community as a whole, to incorporate non-divisive language, planning and opportunities in the things that we do, to ensure that we celebrate differences together. Let’s ensure that we don’t need to write ‘Ableist Warning’ on anything that we write, or organise, in future if we can.


Photo Credit

Photo by Carl Raw on Unsplash