Learning about disabilities and ableism in the fiber arts community

Hey everyone! I wanted to quickly touch on the subject, as it affects many of us fiber arists!

What it means to be disabled: a disability can be a physical, health related or psychological condition that affects the way a person lives their life. It can be visible or invisible. Disabilities are not inherently bad. They exist in comparison to what a typical person is able to do.

What it can affect:

  • Appearance
  • Mobility
  • Senses
  • Skills
  • Emotions
  • Communication
    And more

What ableism is: the concept that society at large is built to benefit able bodied individual. It can take many forms: discrimination against disabled people, the invalidation of their struggles, privilege for the abled.

How it affects us in the fiber arts community:

Physical disabilities can affect our ability to create. It might limit it to a certain degree or prevent it completely.
Motor skills, nerves or muscular conditions might affect speed, tension and precision
Communication and mental health conditions might make it hard to connect to others in the community and create isolation. It means misunderstandings will happen.
Disabilities can also make it really hard to find the motivation to create.

Concrete examples (feel free to add more in the replies):
Sensory processing disorder: I have a difficult time processing what I see and what I ear. My eyes and my ears work really well, but my brain has difficulty interpreting what it perceives. It’s like it gets lost of translation. This can make it hard for me to follow directions, either written, shown or said out loud. For this reason, it can take me a few takes before I get it. This can lead to frustration and keep me off new techniques for a long time until I find the energy to learn.

Executive dysfunction: this affects organisational skills, motivation, time management and many other things. This can make it hard for me to keep track of what I have to do in what time frame (and no, taking notes and using a planner doesn’t help :wink: ). It makes it hard to picture in my mind “I have x amount of time to do this” and I also can’t schedule more than one task at a time without being overwhelmed.

What we can do to make it easier for disabled people:

  • Reacess our expectations
  • Remove demands
  • Show support and understanding
  • Be kind
  • Don’t criticize skill level
  • Make sure to validate people’s struggles
  • Show patience
  • Take the time to explain
  • If someone says they can’t do something: believe them
  • Always ask before giving feedback

And I cannot stress this enough: treat us like full human beings. We all deserve to be talked to like we’re on the same level!

Thanks for reading :blush:


Thank you for taking the time to write this. My kids and I have a variety of disabilities (all invisible) that we struggle with each day. Right now, my biggest one is figuring out how to work.


Working full time takes up all the energy I have. 22 years at the same place of employment as of March. Today is my last day of a two week vacation and I’m not looking forward to returning to work tomorrow

Edited to add: I’m a grand mal epileptic and it is the high dose of anti seizure medication I have to take that saps all my energy




You all have my highest respect <3 society can be harsh to us disabled people


Oh, I admire your persistence greatly. Stayed at the same job for 22 years!!!


If they don’t drive me stark raving mad, I hope to be there at least 5 more years, when I turn 67 and collect social security without penalty and my pension. Just my pension alone wouldn’t be enough to live on here in Silicon Valley


Hmm, there’s not a provision in your company’s retirement system for disability retirement? Then apply for social security disability?
I admit this scenario is not common but I’ve seen some people who can and DO live on that scenario.

But, I hear ya, most of the benefits we work for are barely livable. And you can only earn so much when on social security.


I bet all that must be exhausting indeed! I hope your return to work goes well and is not straining you too much :heart:


I didn’t talk about this in the post but here’s my current situation. I’ll put most of it in a spoiler, as it’s a long story :rofl:

I’m autistic, and have adhd, more details about that and more conditions I have will be below. I found out I was autistic at 28, and found out about adhd just last year, few months ago. For the longest time I had no idea what was even going on, I was convinced I was just lazy, weird and a toxic person to be around. At least now I know what I have to work with and I can work on myself.

More on disabilities

It’s obviously different for all autistic people so don’t take what I say to mean every autistics struggle with this/has a specific ability.

For me it means I lack social imagination (yeah, I know, how do I even create then loll?) Well to make it simpler to understand, it’s hard. I have a very difficult time imagining how things will/should be in my mind. I’m able to picture something I know or something I’ve seen but the theoretical aspect is lost on me. Purple Ella on Youtube came up with a great example saying it’s hard for them to find parking, not just because of the lack of parking, but they lack the logistics, are confused how to go about it. A person would be like “oh ok I’ll circle the block until I find a spot” or, I’ll go down X road and then there will be space there, etc." But often, us autistics lack that skill, of imagining where things will be/how something will be. For me, it means I struggle creating very imaginative, innovative designs cause I can’t picture them. It also makes it hard to come up with ideas, give advice, that kind of thing.

It’s also hard for me to take innitiative. My brain does not know which innitiative to go with or how to even go about it and it messes with my brain so much. For that reason, I cannot get a day job. Most of the time if you don’t read your employer’s mind you’re a bad employee. But I cannot do it. Give me a well defined list pf specific tasks and I will do them. Don’t leave me guessing cause no, I don’t know I should have swept the floor during a calmer period and taken out the trash etc.

And also, this is very hard to talk about as it’s associated with a lot of stigma, but I can’t get any customer service job because of meltdowns and shutdowns. If there’s too much sensory input, it’s likely to trigger a meltdown, plus I have adhd so any confrontation will only add to that. Also likely to make me shut down and I can’t have that in a middle of the store/restaurant/etc. ya know? I remember when I was in uni I was going into meltdowns quite frequently especially during exams and I wanted to stim so badly but I couldn’t cause back then I just thought I was being fussy and childish and what happened was I would often leave during break and go back home for the rest of the day. I would also stay home a lot of the time to avoid the crowd/busy environment that was just so overwhelming. I went through a 5 years long burnout (we call that autistic burnout and it’s really quite common among us) that resulted in depression.

I also realized I was experiencing a certain level of selective/situational mutism. Under a very specific kind of stress, I’ll just shut down, not a word will be able to come out of my mouth, but also I’m unable to speak to certain people no matter the circumstances. For example there are 3 people in the room. I can address myself to one person just fine. Talk out loud even. But I’m unable to talk to that other person, say anything to them/about them/in their general direction. And I stop talking to person number 1 if too much attention is directed at me from the group. And person 3 might be someone I can talk to only under certain circumstances.

I already talked about my issues with fine motor skills and space awareness. Because of that I can’t drive, and there are a few things I really struggle with like handling a knife, writing (and yes, crocheting). It means I have to work twice as much to achieve the same amount of crochet, cause I have to go very slow :stuck_out_tongue:

I also have executive dysfunction that I talked about. A lot of the time it creates issues with testing cause I have a horrible time gathering all info in one space. And when messages come in different conversations I tend to loose track of them/forget who has already replied etc. I also forget directions/deadlines/etc. And as mentionned, it makes it hard to initiate/interrupt tasks. If I stop I can’t get back into it. And if I have a task planned I cannot do domething else before or I loose track. It means I can sit for hours at a time doing nothing until it starts.

I also have CPTSD from childhood trauma and there are lots of things I understood when I realized how much it affected my life. That is also something I learned about last year. Most people wouldn’t think, but it affects your daily functionning and your communication skills a lot. A thing it tends to do is make you very unsure of everything. It makes it hard to make decisions as you always doubt yourself. With this, a lot of what comes up is missing opportunities. Being misunderstood/miscommunicating.

I also have ocd (which I don’t struggle with as much anymore, it was a big thing through childhood/early adulthood). There are still a few things I do that I won’t go into details too much.

I have anxiety (mostly social and generalized anxiety but I do have panic attacks from time to time) and obviously it affects my social interactions and makes it hard to function. I went to group therapy for that and it helped a lot, but it only helps to a certain extent.

And I have PCOS which can make it hard to function. The hormones really mess you up. And the cramps can force you to stay in beds some days.


I am so thankful for finding/learning crochet. I have been struggling with both Anxiety and depression for around 7 years now. My anxiety unfortunately worsened over the years and i have become agoraphobic, so i never leave the house. I was also deemed unfit to work due to my mental disabilities so i thought i would never be able to succeed. But thankfully i found/learnt crochet. I have been crocheting for a year now and it has helped me massively. This time last year i could never imagine making my own patterns let alone selling them in my own shop. But a year later here i am :smiling_face: I was also diagnosed with asperger’s syndrome many years ago, it mainly affects me socially. So when i first joined the community i was very afraid i wouldn’t fit in as i am incredibly shy and not the best at being social. But due to how welcoming and kind everyone has been, it has helped me come out of my shell a bit. So i am very thankful for everyone i have interacted with in the community so far :white_heart:


I don’t know if you knew this or not, but they don’t diagnose aspergers anymore, now it all falls under ASD! have the same thing :slight_smile: I’m glad you found your place in the community. It’s hard for us neurodivergents to feel accepted. And it feels like constantly walking on eggshells when we don’t know how to interact with people. Our intentons are often misinterpreted. Just want you to know if you ever feel the need to talk about it I’m there!


Yes i was aware but i couldn’t remember the name as my diagnosis was so long ago now, thank you! I am always here if you ever need to talk too :smile:


It’s ok it changes so much all the time loll. The DSM is more like the “what’s it called now? manual” XD


So true hahaha


As a former mental health Nurse Practitioner you hit the nail on the head!!


Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your stories, and for such a well-written, accessible, and informative post by @Winternightmare. I really hope a lot of the abled folks on the platform have the chance to read it!

I’m autistic, ADHD, (and all the executive function, object permanence, and sensory issues that come with those) as well as living with chronic pain, mecfs, and hypermobility causing frequent injury. It’s often challenging to explain how that impacts me, and the fibre arts community can be very resistant to understanding why not everyone can do everything with the same ease. It’s also where I’ve found people who are understanding and supportive and I’m so grateful for that!


I can relate with the sensory issues. I do not like certain textures/sounds etc. And i have had a few people in the community remove me as a tester as i prefer soft fluffy yarn than using thin, less soft yarn. I really can’t stand the texture of that type of yarn. It is a shame. I am always here if you ever would like to chat :smile:


I love this post and wish I could share it everywhere. I didn’t find out that I’m ASD and ADHD (with dyslexia and dyscalculia) until a little over a year ago and I never realized how much they both effect my ability to crochet. I used to be really hard on myself for missing stitch counts or missing things in written instructions and it would take me DAYS to even look at my WIP without crying. It wasn’t until finding out about my disabilities that I was able to be nicer to myself about my mistakes and work with my disabilities and not fighting them,

Having a community with others who understand the same struggles can be lifesaving, and Ribblr’s community of people has definitely proven to be a welcoming place for everyone.


I too am neurodivergent and disabled, and it makes stuff really hard even crocheting, but crocheting is one of the few things I can find joy doing. It helps me pass the time, feel productive, achieve joy by making something, and even helps me socialize when I share my projects and talk to others (online) in the fiber community!

I’m autistic (maybe ADHD) and I didn’t know until I was 21 and bullied for it, I’m 26 now. My evaluation proved my bullies were correct, I wish I didn’t find out that way because it was so hard to cope with. I also wish it wasn’t so hard for girls/women and trans folks to get diagnosed, because that’s where I had gone under the radar in my youth. That led to a lot of trauma and I’m unpacking it now that I have closure on why my brain works this way :slight_smile: I’ve known about my anxiety and depression since at least puberty and I was medicated for a long while.

I also do have PCOS which can be painful and makes me want to stay in bed a lot. Crochet keeps me company but I struggle to find (and then keep) an accommodating job due to what I deal with… I usually get very overwhelmed simply Being Perceived and therefore engaging with strangers. I worked a pharmacy job for 2 years where I did not have to engage with patients - I just filled prescriptions behind closed doors… it was so repetitive and I miss it sometimes. I had to quit because I was experiencing severe burnout without knowing the name for it :confused:

I don’t have a PTSD diagnosis but I’m pretty sure I meet the criteria and I plan to work with a therapist about it when I have access to one. I’m using the new year to try to con myself into making appointments, getting medicated, etc… but I’m PDA (pervasive demand avoidant Autistic) and that just makes completing necessary tasks so much of a chore…. I definitely use crochet to procrastinate when I have urgent things to do as well because my brain doesn’t see the importance of the demand, and rather focuses on the inconvenience

It makes me happy to see this topic being brought up and feel so welcome in a community :slight_smile: also does anyone else find fiber work just generally stimmy? There are so many fun sensations about working with yarn! From spinning pretty colors to squishing it to repetitive stitches!