Let’s face it. People who are different from us can feel a little scary. For a long time, people with disabilities have been tucked away in group homes and day programs, accompanied by staff when out in the community. It can be intimidating to know how to interact. Creating welcoming and truly inclusive communities starts by making difference less scary, and interactions less intimidating.
So, how can we do that? How do we reduce fear and stigma?
Well, here’s where theory is useful. The authors Bruce Link and Jo Phelan break stigma down into four parts.
First, people notice and label human differences. This is normal.
Second, cultural attitudes give a negative association to the labels. So someone with a disability might get labeled as ‘slow’ or ‘not capable.’
Third, society places labeled persons in distinct categories, like “special needs.”
Fourth, labeled persons encounter status loss: they are seen as “less than” without the same rights and access to the same opportunities. This contributes to unequal outcomes, which, in turn, can confirm negative social attitudes (see Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology 2001. 27:363–85).
We’ve designed Kudoz to disrupt the negative labeling process. We challenge the link between the label of ‘developmental disability’ and the inability to think & learn. We do that by putting people in direct contact with one another to exchange shared passions. We also don’t have static categories. Everyone who uses the platform, whether a Kudoer or Host, is a learner. And everyone can offer an experience in our catalogue.
Ricky, a local blogger, offered a video blogging experience in the Kudoz catalogue. He had no contact with adults with a cognitive disability before Kudoz – nor had his young children. Over a few months, Ricky ran three experiences at his home studio. Each time, he engaged his kids in the experience too. Everyone got to know one another, and exchange their interests. We think the more Kudoz grows, and the more locals host experiences, the more we will confront stereotypes and enable adults with a cognitive disability to experience a status ‘gain’ that can help to equalize outcomes.volume_up