6 Examples Of What Ablelism Is And Why You Should Care About It

A few weeks ago, I was on Gurl’s Tumblr page, and I came across a message from an anonymous sender. It said:

hey! you guys should do an article or two about ableism. you guys use a lot of ableist language in your posts, and its super easy to cut out ableist phrases without losing meaning. it would be so super nice if you guys did this <3333

First of all, if you’ve ever thought about sending us some criticism, or ideas for pieces, please don’t hesitate to do so! We love getting ideas from our readers–you all know what you want to read about the most, so it’s always cool to hear about what you’d like to see more of, what we’re doing well, and what we’re not doing so well. Which brings us to abelism. This was a great tip for me, because, honestly, I didn’t really know all that much about ableism. I’d heard of it before, and I had a vague idea of what it meant, but  (which, of course, is probably why abelist phrases kept popping up in posts). So, I decided to do what the anonymous sender advised–learn about abelism, write a post on it. So, if you’re interested in learning more too, check out these examples of what ableism is an why you should care about it:


So--What Is It?

Ableism, according to stopableism.org, is defined as "the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities" and also "assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, physical, or psychiatric disabilities." Basically, this just means that the scales are tipped against disabled people in ways that you might not see unless you're disabled, too.

Image source:iStock

Why Does This Matter?

Where do I begin? An ableist society is one that leaves no room for anyone who might be disabled, since it was built to serve only "standard" people. This means that anyone with any sort of disablity, whether it's physical or mental, can feel alienated. Beyond this alienation, it also means that there are constant barriers for disabled people that they are expected to just suck up and deal with.

Image source:iStock

What Are Some Examples Of Ableism?

The biggest example of ableism might be the lack of physical things that disabled people need--wheelchair ramps, braille, accessibility for seeing eye dogs, closed captions on movies, and ergonomic workplaces, to name but a few. Essentially, this is just an overall lack of accessibility that can make life really, really difficult for anyone who is disabled.

Image source:iStock

What If I Can't Change My City's Infrastructure?

It's true that it can be hard to change the actual physical examples of ableism in your school or city. You should also know, then, that there's also a big presence of ableism in words that lots of people use every day that, though not physically harmful or inconvenient like the lack of accessibility, are no less damaging. You probably know not to use "retarded" as an insult, but other words like "crazy," "lame," "insane," and "psycho" can also be considered ableist, since they discriminate against people with mental and physical disabilities.

Image source:iStock

Isn't That A Little...Much?

Some people might say that, I guess, and that worrying about ableist words and phrases is proof that politically correct culture has gone too far. But at the end of the day, there are far worse things than being politically correct--take, for example, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump ( a notable naysayer of politically correct culture) making fun of a reporter's disability. And, after all, "politically correct" basically just translates to treating other people with respect, which isn't actually too much to ask for.

Image source:iStock

What Can I Do About It?

Well, try not to use abelist language, first of all. You can check out words to avoid here, and words to replace them with here. You can also be aware of your own privilege and how that might encroach upon others who are disabled without realizing it--for example, don't use handicapped bathroom stalls if there are others available, and don't get on a crowded elevator if there's a disabled person who also needs to get on. Don't patronize anyone by acting like they have no autonomy, and don't assume that every disabled person wants to be a representative for their disability, either. Definitely do not ask "what happened" or "why are you like this?" Basically, just use your head--if you're in doubt, "treating people like people" is a good rule to live by.

Image source:iStock

Are you familiar with ableism? Do you have any ideas of things we should write about? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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