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Disability is not a costume

Consider this angle if you’re assigned (or are assigning) the annual Halloween “most popular costume” story: not all costumes are about fun and fantasy. Too many make disability into something scary and evil and can reinforce damaging stereotypes.

Consider the Freddy Krueger-type costume, which equates disfigurement and disability with evil.

Or, the “mad” scientist get-up that mocks people with mental illness as do haunted houses with an “asylum” theme.

Also on the offensive costume list: those with bloody, severed limbs, which are insensitive and upsetting to those who have lost a leg, arm, hand or foot during service to their country, or through accident or disease.

If escapism is the main reason to dress up on Halloween, then why do so many costumes make fun of those in the most marginalized segments of society? Think about teens dressed up as “demented” senior citizens using canes, crutches or walkers as comedy props. These costumes are more about ageism than escapism.

Adults and children with disabilities are the best sources for this feature piece because as Cuquis Robledo says in a You Tube video (see below for the link), “the problem with these costumes is that they make people with disabilities feel ashamed, when they shouldn’t.”

For more information:

You Tube:

Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability:

Teen Vogue:

By Susan LoTempio​, board member, National Center on Disability and Journalism
Contact Susan on Twitter @slotempio or via email at