What is Ableism?

 

Many people with disabilities view themselves as not having a disabilitity. Instead their view is that the world just isn’t built for them and that what is truly needed is universal design to allow them to live their lives as easily and as independently as possible.

On July 26, 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into Law.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services.

While the ADA removed many of the physical barriers, there are still forms of discrimination against people with disabilities.  Today, we refer to it as “ableism.”

There are multiple ways to define Ableism, here are two examples:

  1. discrimination and oppression of disabled people; societal belief that being abled is “normal” and is preferred.
  2. A system of oppression that favors being ablebodied/ableminded at any cost, frequently at the expense of people with disabilities.

Many understand examples of oppression to only be an individual being unjust, oppressive or harmful toward another individual, such as: rhetorically and through language like slurs and              through individual discrimination or cases of inaccessibility.

Structural Ableism

Physical barriers: such as a lack of ramps, elevators, no sidewalks, no push-buttons for doors etc.

Design barriers: such as poorly designed rooms that are difficult for people with mobility aids to navigate, furniture that is bolted down or too heavy to move, door knobs that are hard to open, doors that are too heavy to push open, elevators that are hidden and difficult to find etc.

Cultural Ableism

Representation of disabled people in media: is either lacking or largely negative, as abled people often play disabled characters. Story lines often write disabled characters to be angry, difficult, a predator, a “super crip” aka someone who is disabled that is highly accomplished, or that they only want to be “cured”.

Invisibility of disability culture and community: disability rights history is not taught to many students, and there is little visibility of disability culture or disability pride movements.

Forced segregation of disabled people in society: disabled people historically, and currently, have been segregated from abled people. Through lack of access to public transit, through special education programs, and through forced institutionalization.