In The Disability Experience: Working Toward Belonging, Hannalora Leavitt provides an overview of the experiences of people with disabilities in North America. This easy-to-follow nonfiction book debunks negative perceptions through case studies that position disability in proximity to readers’ lives. It’s a journey toward empathy for a community of people that have been historically ostracized from participating in fundamental aspects of everyday life.
By discussing the tradition of advocacy and activism, Leavitt steers clear of evoking pity for people with disabilities while simultaneously encouraging the reader to see they have a vital role to play in creating more inclusive and accessible communities.
Leavitt outlines the different types of disabilities – sensory, intellectual, and physical – and draws heavily on the first-hand experiences of people with particular disabilities. Noticeably absent from the text is a discussion of mental illness, despite it being recognized as a disability both by the Government of Canada and Leavitt’s own definition of the term.
The Disability Experience provides few examples of people who are low income, people of colour, or LGBTQ+. In addition, the history of disability presented is distinctly European – with a particular focus on England.
The most beautiful aspect of the book is Wuthrich’s illustrations, which bring softness to often difficult to digest subject matter. The Disability Experience does offer readers who have little knowledge of people with disabilities a crash course in understanding – rather than fearing – the unfamiliar. A more robust and inclusive image of disability would have offered young readers so much more.