Smashing Stereotypes: Assume That I Can – So Maybe I Will! 

By now many of you may have already seen the brilliant viral video from CoorDown aimed at breaking down some of our society’s ingrained assumptions surrounding disability – and more specifically in the case of this campaign – assumptions surrounding Down Syndrome. WATCH HERE.

The lead actress in the 90-second commercial, Madison Tevlin, experiences being knocked back for alcoholic drinks at a bar, sheltered from living alone by her parents, not coached fairly by her boxing instructor, and even denied the opportunity to learn Shakespeare at school – all because those around her made the assumption that she was incapable of doing any of those things. It carries a powerful message and its tagline #AssumeThatICan has resonated deeply with many people within the disabled community, myself included.

We’ve come a long way since the dark days of decades gone by when those of us who were born disabled would likely spend our lives institutionalized or hidden away from public view. Society, as a whole, has progressed its views on disability exponentially, but sadly there’s still work to be done, attitudes to be smashed, and fights to be fought all in the name of better inclusivity.

Now, you’re reading this blog post on Tabifolk, so it’s prudent to guess that you – like me – are a person of the world. You are likely to be a person who enjoys traveling as much as possible and exploring new cultures and environments. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to reinforce the notion that not every corner of the globe is up-to-date and in line with modern-day attitudes towards accessibility, disability, and general equality.

Hopefully, the virality of CoorDown’s exceptional video will reach a far wider audience worldwide and may be the catalyst for a conversation in parts of the world where there’s still a lot of growing room for greater social inclusion.

The last thing that I want to achieve with this post is to add to any pre-existing painful stereotypes, so I am going to refrain from saying where in the world particular instances happened to me – but as an example, I have been in certain regions where even the border patrol staff were spotted (by my friend) sneakily taking photographs of me without my consent, whilst giggling to one another. It was shocking to me that even in such an official capacity, these people were so unfamiliar with disability that they would go out of their way and potentially risk their jobs (although perhaps not really) just to get a cheap laugh at my expense.

Another instance occurred whilst at university in the Netherlands. One of my classmates (again I won’t disclose who they were or where they were from originally) went home after our first day and said to her roommate (who later became my very good friend) that there was an “ill person” in her class and that she didn’t understand why I was allowed to be at the university.

I’ve faced countless refusals to participate in activities and excursions when visiting new countries because tour operators or staff members wrongly assumed that I would be unable to do the thing they were doing, despite going to great lengths to convince them otherwise.

Attitudes, understanding, and education vary enormously depending on where in the world you are and what experiences you’ve had the opportunity to face. Education really is the key and that’s why campaigns such as CoorDown’s are such a massive success and a huge help.

“Assume that I can” is such an all-encompassing sentence that really encapsulates the essence of what we’re fighting for when we strive for better access and greater inclusion. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been congratulated by total strangers for achieving anything ranging from taking a flight on my own to managing to venture out to my local pub for a few beers with my mates. In a society where more people assumed that I could, these moments of glorified “inspiration porn” would be resigned to history, where it belongs.

Published in Travel


  1. I have watched the video numerous times now – I love it!
    Great point relating it to travel and how we may experience different reactions in different countries. It is good to remember that before traveling, but it also means that in the act of traveling itself, we are declaring to the world that not only can we travel, we love to travel. Hopefully those you mentioned in your post will later remember the event and think “wow, people with disabilities are just like us” and have their views change. Maybe if you hadn’t gone, those views would never be changed.

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