Disability Simulations

Every year, the Disability Alliance and associated Disability Caucus are asked to participate with other groups in disability awareness events that feature disability simulation. To put it simply, we do not participate in disability simulation because we believe that simulations don’t actually work in the way they are intended – and people should just listen to what disabled people have to say and trust them about their experiences (instead of trying to pretend to be them for a day).

Many studies bear out the negative consequence of disability simulation exercises, and we urge other organizations not to host these events, and we urge community members not to participate in these events.

Robin Eames compiled this Twitter thread on social science articles about the negative impacts of disability simulation. One article mentioned that DAC leadership recommends is “Crip for a Day: The Unintended Negative Consequences of Disability Simulation.”

Many disabled writers and activists have also written about how disability simulation is harmful and insulting: why not just take disabled people for our words when it comes to what spaces and designs are accessible or not? There are few other categories of minority identity simulation that people would find acceptable  (and they certainly wouldn’t mistake such simulation for authentic experience!!!).

We know these exercises are intended for good/awareness/understanding, but they often promote just the opposite. A few hours in a device or with a disability device is so different from everyday lived experience, and contributes to more negative feelings about disability – rather than promoting trust in community members or really listening to and learning from actual disabled people.