When working with disabled young people, you need to consider their experience of disability within different cultural and social contexts.
Disabled young people are not all the same. Disabled young people come from a diverse range of different backgrounds. Their identities are informed by many factors - things like upbringing, family, friends, where they live, their hobbies and interests, etc. They may have intersecting identities, such as being culturally diverse, queer or of a religious faith or minority, which influences how they experience their disability.
So when thinking about the different models of disability, how you ask questions, and the language that you use, you also need to consider how a disabled young person's context applies and might interact with your work and your service.
First Nations Perspective
A really important context of disability is that of First Nations peoples. In the following video, Damian Griffis the CEO of First Peoples Disability Network Australia, discusses the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disabled people experience and understand disability.
Stories of context
Some of the YDAS co-designers have been generous and shared their own personal experiences of intersecting identities. They will explain how this has influenced their understanding of disability.
"Something that I wish youth workers understood better is that there is so much more that goes into my disabled identity than simply my identities. I am a proud transgender, culturally diverse, disabled person of colour. Every part of my identity plays a part in my experiences being disabled. Whether it’s the cultural barriers or transphobia I face accessing healthcare for my disabilities, or the way being disabled intersects with my cultural identity, for me, my identities cannot be separated from one another. I’ve had experiences where my youth worker has started working with me and has already made assumptions about my experiences with disability because they’ve worked with other disabled young people before.
But just because I have the same disabilities as other young people, it doesn’t mean our experiences will be the same, because I have so many intersectionalities that play into my disabled experience. I think it’s really important for youth workers to take a person-centred approach, especially for diverse young people like me." YDAS Co-designer
"My dad and his family were refugees. When coming to terms with my disabilities and disabled identity, that experience really came into play. When my family came here, they weren't seen as valuable people, and to change this, they did all they could to fit in or be part of a society or cultureassimilate into the new culture. This included adopting and fulfilling many of the values of White Australia, which sadly tend to be quite ableist. This doesn't excuse the ableism I experienced and internalised from my family. However, it is useful to me and people who work with migrant and refugee disabled young people to understand the experience and the impact of it on people's identity journey. For me, it helped me sift through who I was and what it meant for me to be both disabled and valuable as a person." YDAS Co-designer
"I am a second generation Someone who moved from one country to live in another.migrant, which often can come with a disconnect from your culture and community. So to feel connected two big aspects of that can be food and language. However due to my disabilities I couldn't learn to speak Farsi, English was hard enough to learn and that was with 6 years of speech therapy. Which then leaves me with food: food is a big and important aspect of my culture. However, I now have Difficulty swallowing. Taking more time and effort to move food or liquid from a person's mouth to their stomach.Dysphagia, which means my relationship with food has drastically changed. So learning to accept and adjust to my disabilities also requires me to find new ways to reconnect to my Iranian background." YDAS Co-designer
"When deciding what language I felt most comfortable people using around my disability a huge factor towards my preference to identity first language is that's how I describe my other identities. I am a queer person, I am a trans person, I am a middle eastern person. These are all forms of identity first language so when it came to my disability it didn't make sense to use any different language, as I see my disability in the same way I view my other intersecting identities." YDAS Co-designer
"My journey to disability pride was heavy influenced by my queer and trans identity. Before coming to terms with my disability I spent many years learning to embrace my queer and trans identity and unpack my Negative attitudes, feelings, or actions towards transgender people or transness. Internalised means a person still feels those negative attitudes even when they are trans.internalised transphobia. So when I first learnt about the concept of disability pride I already had a way to reach that point. Now it was still hard to develop disability pride, but due to my previous lived experience it was a much smoother process compared to other disabled people who don't have that lived experience to lean upon." YDAS Co-designer
"Growing up in regional Victoria, a 2-hour drive away from the Melbourne CBD, while being chronically ill and disabled meant accessing services was incredibly difficult. The societal views of disability in regional and rural Victoria on disability were very limited, with assumptions and negative perceptions being made. Disabled people were placed into boxes and were ostracised, with limited expectations placed upon us.
It wasn’t until I was 21, after living a few years in the city and started accessing Disability services, that I began to even feel comfortable labelling myself as Disabled and feeling pride in this label. Prior to this, I had a lot of internalised ableism and felt as though I wasn’t able to access these types of services. Growing up in regional Victoria also meant that my ability to access services was restricted, as there was a lack of funding or knowledge in my town and having to go to doctors in the city. This would mean that my parents would have to take leave, to drive me 2 hours to appointments, and 2 hours back home.
The economic cost of being disabled and chronically sick was something that was very unfeasible and fatiguing." YDAS Co-designer