#AdvocacyMatters: The Sky Is No Longer The Limit

April 9, 2021 / #AdvocacyMatters

The fight for equity and inclusion for people with disabilities is fraught with ableist language and attitudes. Stories and headlines, in attempting to project inspiration, often remark on “overcoming” or “moving past” one’s disability. This framing presents the disability or condition as the problem which needs conquered, not the barriers our society has built that constrain the way certain people can live, work, and learn.

In a call for new astronauts earlier this year, the European Space Agency announced they were specifically looking a candidate with a physical disability. “ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission,” the posting read. “There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with a physical disability. “

The wording, framing, and attitude around the entire exercise is refreshingly transparent and inclusive. They aren’t seeking someone to “overcome” their disability and travel with astronauts, rather they are explicitly looking for an astronaut who happens to have a disability. “When it comes to space travel, everyone is disabled” current ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti told The New York Times, noting that the solution “is just technology.”

As a movement and as a society, we must recognize that disabilities aren’t obstacles for people to overcome. Our focus should remain on tearing down the barriers that prevent a truly equitable society for people with disabilities. Words matter, attitude matters, and #AdvocacyMatters. The sky is no longer the limit.

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