In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. One challenge is that autism is an "invisible disability," which does not have obvious physical markers.
Deciding who is and isn’t disabled, who does and doesn’t deserve accommodation, is complicated. Most efforts to distinguish fakers from “real” disabled people usually do more harm than good.
There is sometimes real reason for skepticism. One of the newest weapons in the ongoing politicization of Covid-19 is the trend of people seeking moral and legal cover for their refusal to wear a face mask, by claiming that they can’t wear them because of an underlying health condition or disability.
At the same time, disabled people also know what it’s like to have our disabilities doubted, our claims questioned, and our need for accommodations dismissed. We also know the humiliation of being diagnosed on the fly, based only on our appearance and bystanders’ assumptions. Sometimes we even do it to each other, casting disdain on people with disabilities different from our own.
One of the most common forms of everyday ableism, and one of the worst impulses within the disability community itself, is the instinct ... for some even the passion … for guarding the boundaries of disability. This tendency is heavily fed by sensationalist news, entertainment, and social media. Stories with nothing to them at all, and those with a kernel of truth but blown out of proportion, are repeatedly pressed into a toxic narrative of disability and dishonesty.