Disability is not about what you can’t do. There are lots of things that most humans cannot do that we do not consider a disability.

  • We do not have infrared vision.
  • We cannot run as fast as a cheetah.
  • We cannot hold our breath underwater for as long as a whale.
  • We cannot use echolocation.
  • We are not telepathic.
  • We cannot fly.

Technically speaking, humans, as a group, are impaired in a lot of ways. But since most people share these impairments, we expect them, and we’ve designed a society that accommodates for these impairments.

Instead of reading each other’s minds, we talk to each other. Instead of running at the speed of light, we drive cars. Instead of breathing underwater, we built submarines. Etc. etc. etc.

Disability is not about what you can’t do. Disability is what happens when what you can and can’t do doesn’t match up to the people around you.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network


Ubuntu is an age old African term for humaneness and is founded on values of caring, sharing, mutual respect, equity and assuming responsibility for the welfare of others […]

Just like there is unity in the body, in families, communities, nations and the whole world, there should not be any division but that individuals should have equal concern for each other. If one individual suffers, every whole community is affected. […] As human beings we are all parts of a big body called society meant to be complete if we enhance each other in order to improve quality of life.

[O]ne of [Ubuntu’s] central tenets is to recognize that ‘to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others’. […] Thus while we are distinctive beings, being human involves recognizing and valuing one’s connectedness to others and recognizing the inherent responsibilities we have towards other people. […]

Individuals have obligations to and rights within the broader collective such as the family or community. Moreover, the sorts of things around which the obligations and rights revolve are all the different kinds of needs that arise in human existence and interaction – including the needs of disabled people.

The [posters] from the students [suggest] that this inherent ‘interdependency’ and ‘mutual responsibility’ of people seemed so important to them, and that there is an important relationship of interdependence between disabled people and the communities within which they live […]

Each individual is embedded within a network of relationships with others that allows them to act collectively and support each other. Thus, an individual set of capabilities (what they are able to do and to be effective) is not only determined through an individual agency, but can result from interactions with other people. This is especially important for disabled people as it means that their ability to effectively exercise their agency is strongly linked to the collective capability of a community, including around addressing disability within that community.

what is equally important about the use of the concept of Ubuntu and the associated emphasis on interdependence is that such understandings challenge much of the thinking about disability in the global North. […] central to this thinking is a discourse of ‘individualism’ that fails to recognise the fundamental importance of the collective in the global South and the value of it for disabled people. […]

Bryson Nsama Kabaso, Sibongile Zembe, Samkange & Samkange, H. Ndlovu, K. Wiredu, J.L. Dubois, J.F. Trani, S. Grech, Colleen Howell, Theresa Lorenzo, Siphokazi Sompeta-Gcaza


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