Karamo Brown – aka the incredibly sage (and cool) culture expert from Netflix’s Queer Eye – has committed to “making small changes in my life to support my disabled brothers and sisters”. And it all begins with his Instagram account…
If you haven’t caught up with Netflix’s Queer Eye just yet, make that your mission this week: the feel-good show’s revival has proven the perfect antidote to toxic masculinity, dragging fashion shows out of the elitist past and into a more gender-fluid 2018. It’s not just a series of heterosexual men undergoing makeovers: they’re also given crash courses in interior design, simple cooking and personal grooming, too.
Most importantly of all, though, is the fact that these men are also given the tools they need to overcome the insecurities that have been plaguing them for years – and this is all down to the efforts of Karamo “Culture Expert” Brown.
The unsung leader of the Fab Five, Brown takes on the role of therapist and life coach. Over the course of the show, he helps AJ Brown come out to his stepmother, encourages a budding stand-up comic to step out of his brother’s more successful shadow, and aids Remi (who performed CPR on his dying father) to make peace with his death.
Above all else, Brown is the one who recognises that these men are so much more than unfashionable ‘nerds’: they are people who have sunken into a cycle of depression, and they need to find excitement and rejuvenation in the little, beautiful aspects of life that keep us going. To build better relationships with those around them. To treat themselves with love and respect. To acknowledge that they’re worth more.
Or, to use Brown’s own words, to recognise their own “swagger”.
It makes sense, then, that a man as in tune with the needs of others as Brown would also be keen to educate himself on how to be a better able-bodied ally to people with disabilities.
Sharing a video on Instagram, Brown shared a message with his fans (whom he addressed as his “dear friends”).
“As a culture I’ve noticed that when it comes to supporting people living with a disabilities… we often don’t think how we can show up or support them unless they are in our family or are a close friend,” he said.
“So I’m committing to making small changes in my life to support my disabled brothers and sisters. You will now see my videos captioned for my deaf or hard of hearing friends. I would love for you to post other ways we can support our brothers and sisters living with a disability.”
Brown added: “In the video I say both ‘disabled people’ and ‘people living with a disability’. I’ve been told that there is a debate over which to use. I used both to make sure everyone feels included depending on your preference.
“Just trying to educate myself so I can support.”
People soon responded to Brown’s solicitation for advice in the comments.
One person said the disability community needs more spaces that are accessible for people in wheelchairs.
“Being in a wheelchair, I find that a lot of places I go aren’t that handicap friendly,” she said. “They need more handicap parking, ramps and automatic door openers.”
Another person said physical descriptions of images and videos can help those who are blind use text-to-speech features on their phones, which tell someone what’s going on in the photo or video.
“I’m hard of hearing and I’m so used to using captions that I find it hard to enjoy going to the movies and watching videos who don’t supply captions for me,” said another. “So this is amazing – thank you!”
One more said: “I work closely with many families who have disabilities and one thing I hear over and over is the lack of respect in using parking spots/bathrooms etc that are designed for those who need it.
“It’s a simple thing that we can all do, respect those spots/places. It’s not OK, not even for a few minutes.”
Others, recognising Brown’s use of both “people with a disability” and “disabled people” thanked him for using both identity and person-first language.
“Many of us disabled people/people with disabilities feel that our disabilities do define us, although not in a negative way,” wrote one. “We want to take ownership of our identities so use identity first language. For other identities we use adjectives, for instance ‘I’m bisexual’, not ‘a person with bisexuality.’”
Another said: “In the field of occupational therapy, we learn to use people first language. So it would be people with a disability. Instead of a deaf or blind person, it would be a person with a hearing or visual impairment. In OT, we strive to see the person first, not the disability.”
Above all else, though, there was one simple piece of advice which all of us could stand to learn from.
“Just make sure to listen to disabled people,” it read.