The Whole View, Season 3 Ep 30: Understanding Ableism w/ Imani Barbarin

Welcome Imani Barbarin to the Whole View! This week, Stacy and Imani break down ableism in society, how and why it happens, and what we can do to better support people with disability and the disabled community. Imani shares her experience with disability, how it’s impacted her, and her journey to acceptance and advocacy. Listen now for an emotionally-charged and eye-opening episode!

Find Imani: 

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Key Takeaways


  • Stacy was first introduced to Imani at the The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) conference. Imani’s talk at the ASDAH conference was one of the most influential for her personal growth that she can ever remember.
  • Imani notes herself as “Comms Director, Disability Blogger, Content Creator, Public Speaker, Model, and Actress” on her Insta-bio. She has Cerebral Palsy from the waist down, is a black woman, and was raised with a disability for her entire life.
  • She likes to pull out the threads and unravel how our society works. Our ideas about ourselves are not formed in a vacuum. They are influenced by preconceived notions about productivity, value, and what we “should” do with our lives.

Understanding Ableism

  • Imani likes the definition of ableism as any interpersonal, societal and structural preferential treatment for non-disabled bodies above over disabled bodies. And this can take the form of evangelization of the social model of disability and understanding how society disables people many times more so than their diagnoses.
  • The definition of a disability underneath the America’s a Disabilities Act is one or more impairments that impact somebody’s ability to do one or more daily tasks. That’s their very baseline definition. But people have this strange idea that there’s this exclusionary list of disabilities that qualify or don’t qualify. Migraines and glasses qualify.
  • It’s not just the idea of having a disability. It’s the social implications that a lot of people cannot contend with. So when Imani tells people, “yeah, well you have is technically a disability,” they end up fighting her on it. It’s because society has conditioned us to see disability has this terrible thing.
  • Glorifying health, or healthism, is not just harmful to the disabled community but to all of us who will experience health challenges in our life. And, that if our support of one another is only predicated upon that person then living their life to our expectations, it’s not really ally-ship.

Ableism & Better Supporting Others

  • If you talk about your health too much, about the ways in which you are discriminated against and cast out, then you have a “disabled mindset.” And you’re no longer viewed as a reliable narrator to your own story.
  • People don’t understand how powerful they are when they don’t believe us about our own experiences. They’re automatically seen as an authority over people with disabilities, and that is extremely dangerous.
  • We have to undo our perceptions about who is valuable in society and who is productive. Like people with disability have inherent value despite what the system tells us. We have inherent value.

Topics Discussed 

  • If we think of Ableism as the basis of discrimination of a person with a disability, that means any condition that impedes our ability to do ONE ore more daily activity. Disability impacts a HUGE part of the population – at least 26% or 61M people have a disability like glasses or asthma. One in 5 people will develop a disability, with black and indigenous folk being most affected.
  • I always think about how the support of some of our “allies” is conditional upon our ability to reflect their own value systems and act like cherubic individuals for the consumption of Nondisabled people.
  • We are the only ones who should be in the pilots seat in our own lives. You can advise, you can support, but you cannot make choices for others.
  • One of the best ways you can start to be a better ally is to listen and learn, like we are doing here, but then to do the work on your self. Stacy loves that Imani focuses on “unpacking the ableism of others by starting with yourself.” As a recovering classic Type A Perfectionist Enneagram 8, this was such a mind explosion moment for Stacy. For example: 
    • Why do I see myself as lazy when I need a rest or break? 
    • Am I performing for productivity so that no one sees me differently or less than?
  • Stacy pauses on this because as a fat woman her whole life, she absolutely felt the need to “prove” her worth via productivity and success. 

Want More? Have Questions?

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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes and NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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