Beyond Tokenism National Study

You’re in a meeting with ten other people — none of whom look like you. When you try to add to the conversation, people smile at you pleasantly, nod their heads, and continue talking like you aren’t really there. Confused, you try again — after all, they did invite you to be part of their group. But, no matter how many times you try to actually join in, you get the same response. Over fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther called this “tokenism”.

Tokenism is what many people with disabilities and other marginalized groups typically experience when the door to leadership opportunities finally swings open. The results of the National Beyond Tokenism Study, conducted by TASH members, Dr. Mark Friedman, Dr. Ruthie-Marie Beckwith, and Dr. James Conroy can be found in the special edition of this quarter’s American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) journal, Inclusion (vol. 4, no. 3, September 2016). The results provide an in-depth analysis of what is being done to help combat tokenism for people with significant disabilities. The primary conclusion: frequently last to be offered a seat at the table, when given the help they need to fully participate, people with significant disabilities make lasting contributions.

To find out more about what tokenism looks like for people with significant disabilities and approaches organizations around the country are using to combat it check out the September 2016 issue of AAIDD’s Inclusion or go to