Cover Image: Demystifying Disability

Demystifying Disability

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Member Reviews

As both a mother of a developmentally disabled child and as a clinician who works only with this group, I found this book to be a new and helpful tool for all of us. It is helpful to me when advocating for my son but also as a clinician who cares about the population that I serve. It would be a great resource to the staff and families who care for this group as well. Reading through the history of the treatment and access to basics like education was interesting. It is incredible how far things have come, albeit, slowly. I have worked in a facility (similar to Willowbrook, but not with the terrible conditions) and have seen the pros and cons of this institutional approach. Our facility has also closed and seeing the lives that the former inpatients, now community residents, are living has been a blessing. 
I think my favorite quote from this book and takeaway message is: "Disabled lives are worth living." This couldn't be more obvious of a point and yet more necessary of a point. Sadly, many people consider disabilities as a reason to not give the same care or consideration or respect to those who are affected by the disabilities, as they would give to an abled person. I have come across this many times in my work. In caring for some of the most profoundly intellectually and developmentally disabled folks, I have seen other healthcare providers fail to act as though these are people, often claiming "poor quality of life" (their presumption because the patients are different from themselves) as a reason to not give the same urgent care. And yet, I can say that there has never been one person with a disability that I have interacted with who was not worthy of love, respect, and dignity. I think this is a message that we all need to keep close when saying, thinking, or doing something that might be disrespectful to this community. Then apply the same to all communities, even those different from ourselves. As with most people, we find some common ground in which to build a relationship and that is no different here.
Thank you for the eARC and good luck to the author on her writing and her advocacy.
Highly recommend. I will have this as a recommendation for all the caregivers that I interact with when seeing folks with developmental disabilities.

#DemystifyingDisability #NetGalley #TenSpeedPress
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I give this book a 10/10 - the content shared here is so important and the book presented everything with such clarity and directness. I walked away from this read a more educated and better ally. HIGHLY encourage this read to everyone - the takeaways and education here is practical, useful, and necessary.
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It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts in order for this review, not because there were any problems with Demystifying Disability because it is absolutely brilliant. I find these reviews the hardest because if I don’t take the time to put my thoughts in order all you will get my dear readers is a lot of nonsensical squeeing and an overuse of capital letters.

Starting at the beginning, the book covers a vast range of material and does so in a format that makes sense and eases the reader into the subject slowly and painlessly. There’s a huge emphasis on learning and being able to make mistakes as long as you are willing to keep learning. It would be nice if there wasn’t such a huge learning curve, but as a white woman I’m aware of my own learning curve when it comes to racism, so I am in no position to fault nondisabled people for having when it comes to ableism. Plus, I would hope that most people who are actually reading Demystifying Disability are already open to the possibility of changing their own perceptions of disabled people and the disabled community. It can be extremely frustrating as a disabled person to keep dealing with ignorance, but I think Ladau puts it best when she says in the introduction “If the disabled community wants a world that’s accessible to us, then we must make ideas and experiences of disability accessible to the world” and that is exactly what Demystifying Disability does.

Ladau starts with basics; “So, what is Disability, anyway?” is the name of the second chapter and it covers everything from the dictionary definition, to what disability means to disabled people and how to talk about disability. This part includes the difference between Person-first language (PFL) and Identity-first language (IFL), and why people in the disabled community choose to use either one. I extremely appreciated Ladua admitting that when she realised her own personal preference, (IFL) she also recognised that she didn’t like being told what to call herself and with that “came an understanding that I couldn’t tell other people what to call themselves”. I was silently applauded Ladau at this stage because this is one of my biggest issues with many people in the disability community; they criticise others for what they do, especially the language they choose to use, but hate being told what they should do themselves. The level of hypocrisy is horrible, and for someone to put it in print in a book about disability is absolutely fantastic.

She continued on this topic by included the controversial term “differently able”, including a quote from a fellow disabled advocate who explained why she prefers to use it. I personally have no issue with the term, but many people do, and they can get quite nasty about it. Instead of choosing to listen to the reasons why people may use it they brand it as “ableist”, and I’ve even seen the word “traitor” get thrown around before. Again, I appreciate that Ladau made a point of including it and pointing out that the real issue is not what disabled people choose to call themselves, it’s when nondisabled people make up ways to “dance around disability” as she puts it. Those are far more harmful, and I hope that certain people within the disabled community understand Ladau’s message here because it’s for them just as much as nondisabled readers.

I could fill this entire review with points about each chapter (I highlighted so many excellent points of this book) but that would defeat the point of you all reading it for yourself. Every single chapter is filled with information, anecdotal evidence from Ladau’s life, carefully collected source material, or guests she has interviewed. Some of their accounts are chilling even to me, a member of the disabled community. Her section on intersectionality in particular gets right to the point and does not waste time in ensuring that the reader understands how serious the reality of prejudice and stigma towards disabled people of multiple marginalised identities is. One interview remained with me long after reading Demystifying Disability. D’Arcee Neal a doctoral student shared his experiences as a Black young man with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. In an interview, he told Ladau:

    “When I was younger, the very first question most white people would ask upon meeting me was ‘When were you who?’ They immeadiatly jumped to the conclusion that I had a spinal cord injury as a result of gang or gun violence.”

Neal’s experience is just one of many that Ladau shares in Demystifying Disability. Some are familiar to me, and some are so shocking that I had to put the book down briefly. At times this will be a hard book to read, but remember that these are events that people lived through. Disability is something that I, and many others, live with every day. The least you and I owe the people that shared their experiences to help spread awareness about what disabled people have to deal with is read them.

One of the chapters that I was most interested to read was the one on disability history, and it was very informative; if you’re American. I still learned a lot from it, however, it only covers the American side of history and as a Brit that means it’s filled with a lot of names and events that mean nothing to me. I think an American reader will get a lot more out of this than I did. While I appreciate that it would have been difficult to include an entire worldwide history in one chapter, it would have been nice if there had even just been a few highlights. 

As I’m reviewing this for GeekDis I need to mention the brilliant chapter on “Disability in the Media”, which was once again based on American media, but this is to be expected with an American author. Media consumption is a personal preference, after all.  Ladau introduces the reader to the discrepancies in disability representation, highlighting the connection between inaccurate representation and discrimination, and how it affects how disabled people perceive themselves. She then focuses on a huge issue; inspiration p0rn. After explaining what it is, Ladau divides it into three types; Overcoming Adversity, Life’s Moments, Great Expectations and Not Your Good Deed. She then challenges the reader to not share inspiration p0rn the next time they come across it, or if they do, share it to call it out. I’m making a point to highlight this segment of the book because in the age of social media, inspiration p0rn is an ever-growing thing and this part of Demystifying Disability is just as important as everything else Ladau writes about.

Ladau continues the chapter by doing some calling out of her own as she goes through some of the most common tropes in media. In a section about the “tragedy” of physical disability she calls out the popular film Me Before You, under stigmatizing mental illness she draws attention to how often pop culture encourages us to gawk at people in crisis, and in freaks and other “abnormalities” she highlights how modern medical dramas like Grey’s Anatatomy dramatise stories of people with complex diagnoses for ratings. It’s not all bad news though; there’s a wonderfully uplifting section as Ladau celebrates positive portrayals of disability representation and tells people what to look for (if you’ve been keeping up with GeekDis you’ll know what I’m about to say…); authenticity. As Ladau says, “people with disabilities know ourselves and our experiences best, and we use them to breathe life into stories both real and imagined”. She continues to explain that disabled creators have always been there, but nondisabled gatekeepers have decided what stories should be told, and slowly things are changing as “the mainstream is letting us in”.

There is a lot of information in Demystifying Disability, and one of the great things that Ladau has done to help make it easy to digest is a quick recap at the end of each chapter in bullet points. This is a book that you’ll want to keep a copy of at hand to back to and re-read when and as you need it. That is what it’s designed for, and there is a fabulous index at the back of the book that makes it even easier for the reader to find what they are looking for again. No one is expecting nondisabled readers to memorise this book, or get it right every time, the point is that we want you to try. That’s why Ladau has created Demystifying Disability and for my fellow disabled readers this is a perfect book to give to people who might not quite understand what you’re going through. Whether it’s a relative, a friend or a colleague, Demystifying Disability is a great book for them to read and then come to you. It takes the weight of expectation off of us as disabled people to answer every single question, and I think that is probably by design by Ladau too.

As I said in my review, this is a book that I have already started recommending to people and I probably will be for quite a while!
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Sometimes, people want to be more sensitive to disabilities, but they simply do not know how to brooch the subject. Ladau writes an incredible book to literally demystify both physical and mental disabilities. Ladau writes in a manner in which you can sometimes chuckle at serious situations and yet there were times when I even cringed because I realized I may have done something on the "do not do" list. Books like this are very important and making us look inward and better ourselves. 

As a librarian, I also appreciated the appendix in which various nationwide resources that are available to people and their caretakers for the various ability levels of people. 

***Thank you NetGalley for providing me with access to this e-preview. This review is based on an ARC.***
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Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review! Receiving this book was like Christmas coming early. I absolutely adored every page. It’s easily made its way onto my list of favorite books in 2021 and now I want the entire world to read it too!

Emily Ladau has created an appealing, easy to understand guide to disability. In six laser sharp chapters, she outlines disability etiquette, defines major terms, provides a quick overview of disability history, and describes the lows and highs of disability representation in the media. Challenging issues like ableism are fully fleshed out with care and subtle humor.

I can’t wait to get my finished copy so I can highlight every page. Then I want to mail it to my entire family, my friends, and everyone I pass on the street. Please add this book to your wishlists ASAP! I think process this information will genuinely fill a gap in your life and make you a better human being. Period.

Even though I’m disabled, my experience is not one-size-fits-all and this book has reminded me that I have a lot of work to do. Ladou’s work has inspired and challenged me.
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Had a great and very informative read of demystifying disability.  Emily Ladau did an amazing job of helping a general audience to understand the disabled community better, and offered great perspective that will allow us all to become more connected.  

See my full video review here:
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This is a great manual for anyone wanting to confront their own ableism. The author provides clear instructions and advice in this "disability primer". Emily Ladau breaks down types of disabilities and discusses the ableist attitudes and structures that perpetuate disability discrimination. She challenges the reader to unlearn ableism and work to confront the obstacles that society creates for people with disabilities. She applies her teaching and examples to real world situations and wants everyone to know that disability is not a bad word. Her candid writing style invites the reader in to learn and grow so that we can all get together to rid the world of this particular "ism".
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A review in one word: brilliant! Emily Ladau has created a wonderful, accessible resource. DEMYSTIFYING DISABILITY is a short, quick, easy-to-consume nonfiction piece all about Disability. Whether you are a first-timer researching about disability, or a veteran; disabled or non-disabled, there is something for everyone in this book. Don’t be scared that this will be a dense read. Ladau successfully uses a strong voice to paint the facts of her statements in a lighthearted, easy-to-digest way. You will not go into this ready to read a 400-page boring textbook from high school, I promise you. This was such an amazing read!! As an Autistic Hispanic trans man, I was very grateful to see Ladau acknowledge that our movement still has a long way to go to fully be inclusive and intersectional.
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Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally by Emily Ladau is an essential read for teens to adults who are educating themselves for the first time or furthering their un-learning/re-learning in how to actively be an ally to the disabled community. 

I loved Ladau’s writing style. She weaves together her own personal experiences, research, and interviews to provide the most friendly and inclusive as possible handbook about disability. 

Demystifying Disability was not my first non-fiction read about disability nor will it be my last. It was well written and left me with much to consider going forward that I wasn’t aware of before. This book is a really great place to start conversations about disability and while it is filled with a lot of information, it did not feel like I was reading a textbook at all. 

I would absolutely recommend this book and believe it belongs somewhere within the secondary grades curriculum.
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This book offers a perfect introduction into looking at how we treat disability and how the world in constructed in the way of non-disabled people in a really easy to follow and light-hearted way. 

There’s six sections all taking a swift look at different aspects of disability from the language we use around it to how it depicted in the media and a swift history of disability in the US. Every part was really enlightening and made me reflect on perhaps how in the past I’ve acted around disabled people and what going forward I can better my interactions. I did like the examination of Allyship in the final chapter as well and is “helping” the best way to put it or is collaboration the better outlook to be offering.

All in all, this book is a must-read for all who are trying to better understand disability. It’s easy to read, covers a breadth of topics without verging into bottom, and it’s a whistle stop tour meant to give you a basis to jolt you into research further with the additional resources at the end. For anyone who considers themselves a disabled ally no matter how good you perceive yourself to be, there’s something to learn in this book.
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This is a much needed book, educating nondisabled people in how to relate to and treat, disabled people with greater respect and decent humanity.  Emily Ladau, the author, is a disabled person. She really would like us to know these basics and I really appreciate her candid, almost, "in your face" approach to her informing.  We do need to be jolted out of our patronizing, hurtful ways, even if we have been unintentional in causing offense and embarassment to the disabled we meet in any given day or way.  

Ladau's do's and don't's have been very helpful in regards to which terminology is better; awareness of how ableist a nondisabled person can be; of creating more accessibility for the disabled people; to learn to respect and see each person, as a person and not as their disability, although that does need to be taken into account; and so on.  I have certainly gleaned a lot to cogitate upon and to "do better" by putting it into practice for the long-haul.

Included in this book are lists of books, films, online videos, and hashtags.  These resource suggestions,  aid in the instruction of the rights and treatment of the disabled.   Understanding leads to insight which leads to better response as a way of life.  Ladau tells of the podcast she co-hosts which furthers this awareness and is another way to learn more.  A helpful index of key words used finishes up the addenda.

                                                           ~Eunice C. Reviewer/Blogger~

                                                                           August 2021

Disclaimer:  This is my honest opinion based on the review copy sent by the publisher.

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Having a disability myself, I have been on the hunt for more fiction and non-fiction that brings light to disability. I found out about this book through Instagram and knew I needed to read it, and was luck enough to receive an eARC.

The first thing I noticed about this book is that it is very readable. It is easy to understand and straightforward in how it approaches topics. As a person with a disability, none of the content was new to me, but I think it would be valuable for those wanting to learn. It covers a wide range of topics and in many ways, leaves no questions unanswered, or provides direction to resources. 

This will be added to my own resources to share with others when they come to me with questions or asking for information and resources.

I appreciated how Ladau approached topics in a positive and hopeful way, providing guidance rather than reprimanding. Though I know many of us are tired of having to do the work for others.
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5 stars 

Readers of this text will find exactly what Landau promises: education but not in the notoriously boring style of a textbook. Through her own experiences and extensive research and interviews of others, Landau provides a well-rounded exploration that, as the title suggests, demystifies disability primarily for those who are not disabled. 

Landau covers an array of subtopics here, but my favorites are the conversation about ableist language and examples of what to do and not do when interacting with disabled folks. After reading the section on language, I immediately found myself making a concerted effort to eliminate a couple of words from my vocabulary. While I know these words have unsavory roots, they are so profuse in my language and in language I hear every day that I hadn't even considered the larger implications. In addition to working to alter my own language, thinking about this section has led me into some already provocative (in a good way) conversations about how we can be more mindful of the language we use in general. 

It's disturbing but helpful to hear about the experiences that various disabled folks - Emily included - have had with generally well intentioned individuals. There's a strong variety of examples, settings, and circumstances, and while some of the instances are particularly painful or cringey, that's the point: not to look away but to learn and behave accordingly. 

As a person who not only works in higher education but who also specifically works in equity and inclusion, it is especially important to me to keep learning and improving, and this book is a welcome addition to that effort. I do think some folks who are a bit more aware of these issues will find some sections more rudimentary than needed, but the vast majority of readers will discover a wealth of helpful resources and info, and even the most engaged folks will come away with useful points and tips. I recommend this one for literally everybody.
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Such a beautiful and lovingly made book.  Demistifying Disability is a truly wonderful effort by Ladau to educate others on the reality of disability and disabled peoples.  I think this should be required reading!
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I cannot recommend this book enough and fully intend to include it as required reading for some of the courses I teach. Demystifying Disability is a welcoming, accessible guide to learning more about the world's largest minority, people with disabilities. I'm not sure how she does it but this book seems as relevant to someone with little to no experience with a disability as it is to someone who both lives and studies disability (me!). I love the way Emily adds dashes of personal stories along with practical strategies. She doesn't overlook intersectionality and disability and also takes on common stereotypes. This book could be read together as a family with children. It's truly useful for people of all ages. It's also a quick read but far from superficial. Even if you are only touching on disability-perhaps as someone planning an upcoming event with a diverse audience-this handbook is a must-have. You'll want it on your shelf so go ahead and pre-order now.
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This book is a wonderful primer for all ages to learn about disabilities and the stigmas that we attach to them. I recommend this for anyone who wants to re-examine the way that they view the world.
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Emily Ladau has written a perfect introductory book for anyone wanting to better understand the needs and experiences of the disability community. The content is easy to follow and uses clear, every day language making it well suited for teens and children alike. It ranges from what I would hope is somewhat self evident advice ("don't ask invasive questions about a stranger's disability") to informative, detailed information about accessibility in public spaces. The particular strength of "Demystifying Disability" is the incredible range and diversity of voices included. Emily Ladau is clearly active in the disability community and wants to introduce the reader to all of her friends. This allows for a variety of forms of disability to be represented and explored. The resource list at the end of the book is particularly helpful and extends learning beyond the pages of the book. I'm excited for this book to be released so that I can start recommending it to friends!
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I was not born with a real disability, nor did I sustain injuries causing visible or invisible disabilities related to GSW/MVA/IED. I'm just an old retired nurse with arthritis and a few other things who used to work head trauma and other rehabs. I've been around enough to value everything the author has to say about those who do have real disabilities whether visible or invisible and the injustices and stupidities that others have subjected them to. This book needs to be in curricula, doctor's offices, libraries, and homes everywhere while we all advocate for inclusiveness and honest sensitivity. This was just the poke I needed to stop complaining and DO something about the lack of entry/egress on Amtrak (the ride is a marvelous, but getting in/out of the car is %). Planning to get a copy for my local library as well!
I requested and received a free temporary ebook from Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
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I would like to thank the publisher of Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy through NetGalley.
I self-identity as a woman with chronic pain and depression and I consider myself disabled. This book is a brilliant, engaging, practical and informative book on disabilities. I would recommend this read to educators, parents and adults who want to be socially conscious citizens and allies.  It's the perfect, introductory, non-fiction book on disabilities.
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An introduction to respect, understand and be an ally to people with disabilities. From the vocabulary to use to the 'etiquette' of being around a person with a disability. The book also touched upon ableism and how to react to it.
The author was very clear and repeated a lot of times that this book is an introduction and not a complete guide because she's only one person so she can't represent the whole disabled experience. She links a lot of ressources we can use to further educate ourselves wich is awesome (there are not only books!). I also love how she used a lot of personal experiences (from her as well as from other people she talked to or read about) as examples. Of course, because she's a wheelchair user, her examples were often about this but she also tried to include a diversity of experiences.

So for me it was a bit too introductory but the author warned me at the beginning! I think her words were always wisely chosen and even though it was stuff I already knew for the most part, it was good to have it solidified AND put in perspective too!
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