From Literary Hub:
Recently I have read several articles about disabled people by non-disabled writers. The authors have clearly projected their own fears and prejudices onto the subject of their piece, and spoken for them from that place. If I could say one thing to those authors it would be this: Do not assume that empathy equals experience. You might think you know what it’s like, but you don’t.
For example, if you think that using a wheelchair would make you feel trapped, isolated, broken, and shunned, you might assume a wheelchair user regards themselves as trapped, isolated, broken, and shunned. But they might not. For some of us, a wheelchair represents freedom, the ability to get out and about autonomously; it is a device that makes more possible a life full of friends and work and opportunity—on our own terms.
In other words, one’s empathy can be unreliable. I offer these guidelines to help you find your way beyond it. They are general guidelines for non-disabled writers who may have occasion to write about a disabled person or people. They are (mostly) formulated to apply to all genres and categories of writer, for example, journalists, novelists, bloggers, critics, poets, essayists, academics, and dramatists.
No one can speak for a group unless they have been explicitly elected to do so. I do not pretend to speak for all disabled writers; do not assume all disabled people feel and think the same on this subject.
. . . .
Never equate physical, psychological, or intellectual impairment with loss of personhood. People are people. Period.
Never speak for a disabled person unless you have explicit permission to do so—and then only use direct quotes.
Never assume you know what a disabled person thinks, feels, or wants. Empathy is not experience. There is no substitute for listening.
Never project your experience—your fear, discomfort, or unhappiness—onto us. Your experience is not ours. We might not be afraid, uncomfortable, or unhappy.
Never present your assumptions, projections, or guesses as fact.
Never use disability as “narrative prosthesis.” That is, don’t use a crip as a prop, or an impairment as a signifier of or metaphor for anything (especially evil, degeneracy, or corruption). Do not magically eliminate or fix the disabled person for narrative convenience.
. . . .
Always, before you publish, ask the opinion of readers with the disability you portray. Listen to what they say; believe their experience.
Always, if you are writing fiction (or lyric, or drama), be clear in your bio that you are not disabled; that you are writing from a center you imagine, not one you experience.
Always, if you are writing non-fiction, write from the perspective of a non-disabled person. Make sure you are clear that the piece is about you and your feelings/experience/opinion as a non-disabled person. A serious profile of, say, a disabled artist might be better being written by a disabled writer.
Always, if you draw an analogy between some aspect of your experience as a non-disabled person and the experience of a disabled person, make it clear you are guessing. Bear in mind you could be mistaken.
Always, if you are told by a disabled person that what you’ve written is wrong—even if you don’t understand what the problem is, exactly; even if you meant well and feel hurt by the response—be prepared to accept their criticism. Be prepared to apologize. Learn from your mistake.
Link to the rest at Literary Hub
PG is working on a list of dos and don’ts for those who write about handsome, intelligent and charming males of a certain age.
He regretfully announces that he must wait for Mrs. PG’s list relating to beautiful, intelligent and charming females of a certain age before he can write about her again.