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There’s an easy and fulfilling way to self-educate about disabilities and the diverse experiences of people that have them.

Deliberately select your books, shows, articles, podcasts and other media so you can learn about people different from you in the flow of your own life.

Kodak Projector by Poettier Vásquez Smith via Behance.

Since diversifying your media is a ‘choose your own adventure’ sort of project, you can align the formats you choose with your usual hobbies and media interests and broaden your knowledge in a sustainable, ongoing way. Perhaps most fascinating, experts say that seeking out people-driven stories and accounts actually increases how empathic you are, even if they’re fictional!

If you’re still not convinced, take a cue from Bill Gates, who advocates for reading and selecting your media carefully. He believes that successful people have to work to maintain their empathy, step out of their bubbles and get up close with the experiences and realities of others.

So, here are some starting resources that we love and that offer a glimpse into a variety of life experiences of people that have one or more disabilities.

📺 Watch a video

I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much by Stella Young (TEDxSydney Talk)

How Autism Feels, From the Inside | Op-Docs from NYTimes on YouTube

I’m Deaf, But I’m Not… from Buzzfeed on YouTube

🎧 Subscribe to a new podcast

Disability Visibility hosted by Alice Wong

Ouch – the cabin fever podcast from BBC Sounds

📚 Curl up with a fiction book

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is a science-fiction novella which explores moral and ethical themes around the treatment of people with mental disabilities

Pages I Never Wrote by Marco Donati is an LGBT young adult (YA) romance about a young man with dyspraxia who has trouble writing but dreams of penning a book

House Rules by Jodi Picoult is about a teen with Asperger’s syndrome and his struggle with his family, the law and his disability

🍿 Get lost in a movie or TV show

Stronger (2017) is a biographical drama about a man who experiences limb loss

Away (2020) is a space-travel Netflix series that explores how characters with different disabilities interact with their environment and develop as teams (we learned about it in this great Forbes article)

📔 Pick up a biography

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby is an account of the journalist’s life before and after a stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome

I Am Not a Label: 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from past and present by Cerrie Burnell is an illustrated and kid-friendly celebration of the diversity of people with disabilities and their great accomplishments

The Little Big Things by Henry Fraser, the philosophical journey of a young man who was paralyzed in an accident at age 17

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School and disability rights activist

📰 Spark your empathy in minutes with online articles

How long Covid forced me to confront my past and my identity by Kathryn Bromwich in which she reflects on how long Covid pulled a disability, a health condition and trauma into the open

The best $1.75 I ever spent: Hand sanitizer that allows me to exist in public by Kelly Dawson. Dawson has cerebral palsy and finds a product that, in a world that excludes her, helps her, “fight her way in”

💡 Expand your mind with nonfiction

I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi is a collection of essays about how Nigerian-American Ikpi navigates her life with bipolar II disorder

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon is the output of a ten-year project exploring compassion and how families accommodate children with physical, mental and social differences, Winner of The Wellcome Book Prize 2014

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong is a literary anthology offering a glimpse into the complexity of lives and communities living with disabilities

💻 Dig into a blog

The Body Is Not an Apology features various contributors united under the mission of “radical self-love for everybody and every body”

Leaving Evidence by Mia Mingus, a writer, educator and trainer for transformative justice

Chloe Tear is an award-winning British blogger sharing her experiences navigating the world of education, employment and everything else to do with life as a young person with disabilities

Sticker by @meirha.

And then what? Make a habit of self-education. Go wherever the next story is, swap recommendations with your friends and colleagues, or perhaps join a discussion online.

True, watching one TED Talk won’t make you a disability rights activist. But as your understanding, empathy and observations develop, you’ll find you can make the small changes, start the small conversations and amplify the unheard voices.

This can lead to a long-overdue shift in society that has historically excluded and simplified the rich experiences of people with disabilities. All you have to do to start is tap into the stories that are waiting for you.

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