Meet Daphne Frias: NowThis Next 2021 Honoree

Daphne Frias talks exclusively to NowThis about the importance of inclusivity and representation.

Photo Credit: Daphne Frias
Photo Credit: Daphne Frias

Throughout history, there have always been trailblazers and creatives from every generation who have led the world to the precipice of historical change through grassroots organization, self-expression, reclamation, and so much more. Youth have always been the leaders of our movements toward change, and here at NowThis, we give megaphones to the change-makers of the world.

Daphne Frias is among the 2021 class of NowThis honorees in the category of Disability Rights. Read Frias’ interview below.

What’s a major misconception or belief that you find yourself debunking *in ableist spaces* most often?

I believe that there’s no such thing as a specific ableist space, as ableism exists everywhere. The biggest challenge is convincing people that we are human in the first place. We experience the same things as everyone else. In a lot of organizations decisions about disabled folks are made about us without any consultation from us. We deserve to have autonomy over how we are included, what that inclusion looks like and how we are represented.

Tell us about the words that we need to stop using?

My biggest pet peeve is when people utilize the word “bound” to describe disabled individuals' relationships with mobility devices. Our mobility devices give us the freedom to live in the world and experience life on an equal playing field. We are not bound to anything and the notion that we are is harmful.

The word differently abled is problematic. It perpetuates the notion that disability is gross or unattractive. Disabled is not a bad word. We do not need another word to make disability more palatable in society. If you’re looking for a way to describe our diagnoses, we are disabled. Call us disabled people. Use disability first language because our disabilities are something we are proud of that and want language showcases that.

I want to clarify however, that the disability community is not monolithic. Not everyone will feel comfortable with disability first language. The best standard of practice is to ask people how they would like to be identified. If you’re unable to do that, though disability first language is the way to go.

 

Daphne at the climate strike

What’s the best way for people to be more inclusive?

The first thing you must ask yourself is what is the root for your purpose of inclusion. Is it because you have pity on disabled people and you want to feel like a savior? Or do you actually want to amplify our voices in a way that gives us agency?

In order to be an inclusive ally you also must be committed to unlearning the subconscious threads of ableism that exist in our society. From colloquial phrases to the way disabled folks are portrayed in media there’s so much to dismantle and reflect on.

These are some Instagram accounts I would recommend following to begin that process
@crutches_and_spice
@annielainey
@briscaleese

 

Let’s talk about representation in the media and Television. What would you like to see more of?

This question is so hard for me to answer because I’ve never had characters on television that I could relate to in terms of my disability.

I think when writers are creating characters they have to be open minded about the idea that they can be played by disabled people too. The characters don’t have to be written as disabled to play by a disabled actor.

I think about Ali Stroker playing Ado Annie in the Oklahoma! revival. The character is not written disabled, but with Ali’s embodiment immediately we are taking this sexual character and making people a bit uncomfortable by having to acknowledge that sexuality and disability are not alien each other.

That is exactly what’s needed, to have the general audience understand that disability is commonplace and can exist and happen anywhere. The idea that if a character is disabled the only thing that’s interesting about them is their disability …. is well frankly lazy. We deserve nuanced characters with layers to their identity because *newsflash* that’s how we present ourselves in real life.

Also I’m begging everyone please stop casting able bodied actors to play disabled folks. There are so many talented disabled actors. Cast us.