Disability organizations in general “don’t talk about race, and specifically racism and anti-Black racism,” says Sadora Asefaw, who studied the experiences of Black families raising children with developmental disabilities for a master’s degree in environmental studies from York University, and is now working on an independent digital storytelling project about how Black families and families of colour experience disability.
Parents often feel their children are pushed out of programs meant to support them, she says. When Black children with disabilities get older they can sometimes be viewed as more threatening than children who have disabilities but aren’t Black. As a result, they are sometimes asked to leave groups. “Really, what we’re seeing there is the reality of long-standing and ongoing experiences of racism and discrimination,” Asefaw says. It can be harder for Black families to access services: programs often aren’t culturally responsive, and not all organizations that promote anti-Black racism include people with disabilities in these conversations.
“In Canada, what we see is you’re allowed to talk about disability if you’re white,” Asefaw says, noting how few disability organizations have Black leaders. “You’re not allowed to talk about your experiences with a disability if you’re Black, or if you’re a Black mother of a child with a disability and what that experience is like … Everybody’s looking for a place they can come to as their full selves, have agency and where they belong.”