Glitched photograph of white nonbinary person whose head, shoulders and right arm are viewed from multiple perspectives. Rectangular patches are rendered in vivid and distorted colours, covered by horizontal lines, repeated, rotated and displaced. Horizontal bands of multi-coloured noise appear near the bottom and top of the image.
Hypnagogia. Digital glitch collage by the author.

When we think about accessibility, we tend to do so in terms of spaces. The first, and sometimes the only, question we ask is: can people get into this space and move around it? The accommodations we think about at this stage are physical and concrete: things like ramps and push buttons and accessible bathroom stalls.

Next, hopefully, we ask: once people are in the space, are the things they came to the space to experience actually available to them? …


CW: weight loss mention, weight number, exercise, medical neglect

Long description: Photo of Alex sitting on their sofa beside Saffi, a small brown hound. Alex is wearing a black tank top with a mock turtleneck, black pleather leggings, heavy black eyeglasses and dark red lipstick. They are smiling slightly and resting their right hand on their left knee, which is bent up toward their chest. They have their left arm around Saffi who is sitting upright and looking seriously at the camera.

Technically this is about a week late but since I haven’t figured out how to hack my experience of time to work like a normal human’s, it’ll have to do. Also, like basically everything I write, this is fucking long so…be forewarned.

This is the 2 year anniversary of my successful experiment with biohacking my narcolepsy.

In April 2016, I moved back in with my parents after (barely) finishing out a research contract and being unable to find any more work in part because my inability to stay conscious for most…


Pale gray handwritten-style font against dark gray background. Text reads, “WITH not FOR”. The word “not” is underlined with a swooping curve.

How do you create a new paradigm?

Changing the way designers engage with disability is a design problem in itself. How do you get from recognizing an opportunity to create organizational change to actually making that change happen? After all, you’re just one person. You’re working with a limited budget, and you’ve just realized how little you know about any of this. Where do you start?

Good news! Just by asking where to start—you already have. Because the simplest place to start is with yourself. …


Dark gray text against a background of organic-looking mint green and white shapes. A heading in serif font says, “#DesigningWITHDisability New Year’s Resolutions”. Below is a bulleted list with four items. The first three items, with tick mark bullets, say “Speculate through disability”, “Embrace crip time”, and “Choose knowledgeable fearlessness”. The fourth item, with an open square bullet, says, “Stop making checklists”.

As a disability-led self-advocacy organization working to create new paradigms of design through situated knowledge, the questions we most often find ourselves answering are questions asking “how?”

How can we include disabled people’s perspectives?

How do we talk about disabled people without being harmful?

How do we make our events accessible?

How can we benefit from employing or marketing to disabled people?

These aren’t bad questions. People and groups who are asking them have recognized that disabled people are traditionally underrepresented, and systematically excluded from spaces where futures are imagined and decisions are made, and they are trying to address…


I was looking through some PhD studentship listings this morning, when one in particular stopped me in my tracks. It offers an interdisciplinary programme in public health research and decision-making, is based in the UK, and is open to international students. But what caught my eye was this excerpt, near the bottom of the page:

Excerpt of studentship listing. The studentship is offered at the University of Sheffield, and is funded by the prestigious Wellcome Trust. The excerpt begins, “Join the research effort to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Chronic disease accounts for the majority of the burden of disease in the developed world. This burden can be reduced through well-targeted and co-ordinated public health policies. Public Health Decision Science explicitly seeks to identify which combinations of interventions to prioritise for action, and to estimate their return on investment. This programme will prepare graduates for rewarding careers in academia or stakeholder organisations allowing them to contribute to public health decision making to reduce the burden of disease in the UK and internationally.

There’s nothing quite like looking at a position you’d like to apply for and seeing yourself described as a burden.

And yes, I am well aware “burden of illness” is a technical term used in the public health and health economics fields. That’s exactly the…


There was a useful discussion on Facebook earlier this evening about how disabled folks use the word ‘triggered’, so I’m going to talk a bit here about my own usage of it, and why content warnings can improve open discourse.

Using ‘triggered’ inclusively

The use of ‘trigger’ as a psychological term emerged in relation to PTSD. …


Dear Abled people,

When a Disabled person talks about their experience(s) of benevolent ableism and you reply, “they were just trying to be nice” and we say “don’t do that” -

That is not us picking on you. That is you being an asshole, and us saying “don’t be an asshole.”

When we explain to you why saying that is at best unhelpful, and at worst harmful, that is not us ‘thinking we’re perfect’. That is us acknowledging that you have been taught to be an asshole, by a culture rooted in assholery, and spending our valuable time & limited energy to try and help you to become less of an asshole.

So stop being such an asshole, and listen.

Thanks,

A still-irritated crip


The Canadian Houses of Parliament, viewed from the back. The buildings are lit brightly by the sun, but the sky behind them has partial cloud cover. Credit: Taxiarchos228 at the German language Wikipedia.

It is beyond time for us to have a discussion about the history and status of disability rights activism and related policy-making in Canada.

I’m going to preface this by noting that I was born in Canada and grew up in Canada. I lived in Germany for 3 months after undergrad, then in Wales for a year. But the vast majority of my life has been spent as a disabled Canadian in Canada. And yet somehow, I know more about the disability activism occurring in the UK, the US, and even Australia, than here in Canada. Or perhaps I should…


Our physical needs and limits are not the same as yours. [Image: fat white nonbinary person with short blonde hair, lying with their head on a white pillow, looking exhausted.]

Abled people, when a disabled person agrees to do something for, or with you, please realise they are agreeing to something specific and finite.

They have assessed whatever chore or errand or leisure activity is on the table, evaluated it against their energy levels, needs and abilities, and decided whether they can participate in it safely.

So often, abled people are prone to spontaneous changes of, or especially additions to, preexisting plans.

As a for instance, I just told my mum I was going to walk to the super mailbox down the street to check the mail. My mum walked…


Image of a white femme-presenting nonbinary person with medium length reddish blonde hair looking off to their right side. The lighting is Baroque and half of their face is hidden in darkness. The image is blurry, as though the camera caught them in motion, or perhaps they don’t quite really exist.

The topic of identity labels is something I’ve been mulling for a couple of weeks, ever since a Normal acquaintance commented on one of my Facebook posts about intersectionality, asking that ‘we’ “stop attacking generalities”, and suggesting that “beings are best approached by their qualities, not how they are qualified.” I mean, really, I’ve been mulling it for years but that comment, and a couple of recent discussions on Twitter brought it back to the front of my mind. (Incidentally, I’ve noticed that while Normals mostly ignore my posts about disability and even my yelling about capitalism, it’s usually when…

Alex Haagaard

Disability-led design & health justice. Director of Communications for The Disabled List. They / theirs. Tip jar: paypal.me/alexhaagaard

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store