10 Awesome Books for Adults about Disabilities, Accessibility and Inclusion
You’ve heard it before and have probably uttered the words wistfully yourself: “So many books, so little time….” A good book can be like a cozy, warm blanket on a fall or winter day, providing comfort to its reader. A good book can also transmit ideas so electrifying that it can move people into action and power movements. In the words of award-winning author, John Green, “Great books help you understand, and they help you to feel understood.”
There are many great books, both fiction and non-fiction, that are available out there that addresses or touches on disabilities, accessibility and inclusion. And we encourage you to seek them out. To get you started, we have compiled the following list of 10 amazing books about disability, accessibility and inclusion that were written by equally outstanding authors who identify as persons living with disabilities. We hope you enjoy reading and learning from them as much as we did.
by Zach Anner
“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? Zach lives by the mantra: ‘when life gives you wheelchair, make lemonade.’ If at Birth You Don’t Succeed is a hilariously irreverent and heartfelt memoir about finding your passion and your path even when it’s paved with epic misadventure.”
by John Elder Robison
“Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label ‘social deviant.’ It was not until he was forty that author, John Elder Robinson, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. This diagnosis transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. This moving, poignantly funny memoir describes an incredible life journey that has taken the author from from engineering exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien yet always deeply human.”
by Haben Girma
Described by Oprah as the “millennial Helen Keller,” Haben Girma was the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law. “Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn’t see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents’ harrowing experiences during Eritrea’s thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious. HABEN takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman’s determination to find the keys to connection.”
by Shane Burcaw
“With acerbic wit and a hilarious voice, Shane Burcaw’s Laughing at My Nightmare describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, Shane handles his situation with humor and a “you-only-live-once” perspective on life. While he does talk about everyday issues that are relatable to teens, he also offers an eye-opening perspective on what it is like to have a life threatening disease.” Laughing at My Nightmare was a finalist for the 2015 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.
by Maria Palacios
From the brilliant mind of feminist writer, poet, speaker, and disability educator and activitist Maria Palacios, comes this collection of “crip-terminology” which “brings attention to the every day struggles and obstacles faced by persons with disabilities as it transforms the political incorrectness of the word “crip” into a message of disability power and activism through which we reclaim our bodies and our lives….” Hilarious, defiant and thought-provoking, Criptionary is a must-read.
by Jenny Morris
“In Pride Against Prejudice, Jenny Morris challenges with passion, authority, and conviction, the reality of being different. Covering a wide range of topics: from current and historical debates on the quality of disabled peoples lives; the way disability is represented within Western culture; institutionalization and independence; feminist research and community care; and the politics of the disability movement, Morris asserts that for far too long, non-disabled people have not only defined the experience of disability but have had control over disabled peoples lives. This important book has grown out of an emerging organization of disabled people who are part of a powerful new culture.”
by Kelly Davio
“With equal parts wit and empathy, lived experience and cultural criticism, Kelly Davio’s It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability explores what it means to live with an illness in our contemporary culture, whether at home or abroad..” According to author Sheila Black, “If you want to know what it feels like to be a person with a disability in the 21st century, read this book. From mindfulness to yoga pants, Davio skewers ableist fabrications and brings us to a vital, ebullient, and sometimes terrifying reckoning with our real and shared human experience. She is a very funny writer and also a fearless one. Once I started reading these essays, I couldn’t put them down; they resounded through me like poetry or truth.”
by Nujeen Mustafa, with Christina Lamb
Jointly written with prize-winning journalist, Christina Lamb (who also co-authored the New York Times bestseller, I Am Malala), The Girl from Aleppo “tells the inspiring true story of another remarkable young hero: Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, whose harrowing journey from war-ravaged Syria to Germany in a wheelchair is a breathtaking tale of fortitude, grit, and hope that lends a face to the greatest humanitarian issue of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis. Despite her physical limitations, Nujeen embarked on the arduous trek to safety and a new life. Refusing to give in to despair or see herself as a passive victim, she kept her head high. The Girl from Aleppo is a unique and powerful memoir that gives voice to the Syrian refugee crisis, helping us to understand that the world must change—and offering the inspiration to make that change reality.”
by Jessica Thom
“Meet Jess, aka Touretteshero. Jess has Tourettes Syndrome. Welcome to Biscuit Land is a witty yet stirring first-hand account of dealing with the daily difficulties of Tourettes – a neurological disorder characterized by physical and verbal tics. Jess Thom shares a year of her life, detailing the entire spectrum of her experiences. From arm and leg tics that can occasionally be life-threatening to uncontrollable verbal outburst – she says the word ‘biscuit’ an average of 16 times per minute – Jess manages with the support of a close network of friends and family, as well as encountering strangers who can be unpredictably helpful and harmful. At once funny and shocking, tender and moving, this memoir provides a courageous and optimistic voice in the face of the major challenges, leaving readers with an inspiring message of resilience.”
by Jessica Thom
“Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumour on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness. Home for the Hoges was a bayside suburb of Brisbane. Robert’s parents, Mary and Vince, knew that his life would be difficult, but they were determined to give him a typical Australian childhood. So along with the regular, gruelling and often dangerous operations that made medical history and gradually improved Robert’s life, there were bad haircuts, visits to the local pool, school camps and dreams of summer sports. Ugly is Robert’s account of his life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.”