Disability is a form of diversity, not a synonym for unhealthy.
Wellness is oblivious to its pervasive ableism.
The idea of wellness centers around being the best we absolutely could be by embracing healthy lifestyles and habits, but makes one big assumption: we are all able-bodied, and most issues are solvable through healthy eating, exercise, and potentially even expensive products. Baked into this is a healthy dose of ableism-preconceived notions and stereotypes towards people with disabilities. Whenever I look at trends surrounding food choices, exercise, or products, the people speaking about them or benefitting are overwhelmingly able-bodied.
For wellness to be fully inclusive, it needs to feature bodies that don’t look and move the way an “ideal” standard might. Most importantly, we need to be part of the industry’s conversations as a demographic that gets told we are unwell, but lives the healthiest lifestyles we can given limitations from our brains and bodies. To dismantle the ableism problem in wellness, this means a large industry needs to begin featuring and consulting people with chronic illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and physical disabilities as well—because being alive, capable of self-acceptance, and being our best selves should truly be for everybody.
Representation and NAUWU principles matter and make things better. I’ve dabbled with Apple Fitness+ within the limits of my chronic conditions. I appreciate the disability representation and diversity I’ve seen on screen so far. More, please.
Beyond their community health activism and their work to establish organizational wellness practices and spaces, the revolutionary groups of the ’60s and ’70s also understood that political education, fighting in the streets, and engendering reforms and services for their communities were inherently therapeutic and empowering. “Part of being a healthy human being is reclaiming your dignity,” says Dr. Bassett. “To stand and fight is an act of self-preservation and an act of reclaiming one’s health.”
The group of teens and young 20-somethings conducted several operations that helped lead to reforms. In Chicago, members followed the model laid out by the Black Panthers and tackled food insecurity with grocery giveaways and a free breakfast program. Additionally, the Young Lords established a free clinic that included a dental program as well as education on health and nutrition. In New York City, it initiated free food programs, provided political education with its Palante newspaper and weekly radio show on WBAI, and recruited members to escort children to school safely. Moreover, they organized famously gutsy actions that served the community with preventative care and forced an otherwise negligent government to take notice and start heeding the needs of marginalized communities.