Why I put disability rights before readers

When you’re an indie author, Rule 101 is not to upset any potential readers. But there are times when this rule has to be ignored – and for me, disability rights is one of those times.

This blog post is about the word inclusivity and what it means to me as someone who is partially deaf: it is about access for everyone – not picking and choosing.

definition of inclusivity taken from Google dictionary: an intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who are handicapped or learning-disabled, or racial and sexual minorities

So if I see a Facebook Book Club group calling themselves inclusive because they support those with visual impairments, I will ask them to update their rules to also support those who are hearing impaired.

I feel this request is so straightforward, that the first time I asked, I was shocked at the resistance I met. (With each occurrence, it’s becoming less of a shock.)

The update to the rules that I’m asking for is that a transcript is posted alongside any video where subtitles are not available. (I make the clarification that closed captions don’t count as subtitles – as they are as useless as they are hysterical.)

I feel this is a simple addition to the rules alongside the 3-4 rules these groups already have regarding the use of images and links to support those with visual impairments.

You may wonder why this request matters so much in a Book Club, but Author Live events have become a staple of these groups.

These events are where group members can submit questions to authors and the author in question answers them via a Facebook Live video.

So when I agree to post without coloured backgrounds and post descriptions alongside any images and links (including the title, author and blurb for each book cover), I feel it’s fair for me to ask that a transcript be made available for each Author Live event.

I can’t take part in an Author Live event at the time – and I accept this as just one of life’s irritations. But I’d very much like to be able to check back the next day and read the answers to the questions that the author gave.

For some reason, me not being able to take part in author live events doesn’t matter.

I’ve yet to be given a concrete reason for rejecting my request, with one member of Admin telling me this is MY group and MY rules and I won’t be told to change rules to keep 1 member happy”.
(Please note: capitalisation in original)

When I’m met with such resistance, I ask these groups to remove the word inclusive and to use supportive instead.

I explain that the word inclusive means something very specific to me as a disabled person and that supporting just one disability and not extending your support to another is not being inclusive.

The groups in question have not been willing to update their language usage.

In fact, one reply I had to this request was perhaps you are making this an issue when realistically it is only your personal perception that is causing the problems”.

This type of response is as upsetting as it is offensive. To put it bluntly, it is the ableist equivalent of asking a POC if they’re sure something was “definitely racist”.

I have left these Facebook groups.

Yes, it means I now won’t be able to use these groups to reach out to readers. But I made the decision to put disability rights before access to these readers.

Being able to look myself in the mirror is more important.

Please note: A Facebook group is never your group to run as you wish. If you run a group, you are bound by both Facebook rules and the laws of the country the group is being run from.

Facebook can shut down a group at any point for breaking any such rules or laws. Any secrecy your group may have does not give you the right to break these rules or laws.

I have not reported the groups in question as they are a great resource to many readers and in the end it would be these people who would lose out. But speaking out against these groups is something I feel compelled to do.

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