What Ableism Is and How the “Innocent” Things We Do Can Hurt Other People
This happens when you ask your friend, who’s on a strict diet, to have just a small bite of your delicious cake, because “what could happen?” Or when you park in a parking space that was meant for disabled people, “for just a minute.” Or, when you tell your friend, who’s suffering from depression, to cheer up because “it’s all in their head.” Whether you realize it or not, you are hurting the feelings of those people, diminishing their struggles, and ignoring their needs.
Here at Bright Side, we want to talk about the concept of ableism and the various forms it comes in. Together, let’s have a closer look at how the things we do and say can hurt others, even when those things seem to be pretty innocent to us.
What is ableism and who are ableists?
The term “ableism” has been used since 1981 and it defines “discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities, based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.” In practice, ableism is a set of beliefs, words, and actions that discriminate against people with physical or psychiatric disabilities and fail to respect their rights and needs. The people who practice these acts and share these beliefs are called “ableists.”
In everyday life, ableism comes in all shapes and sizes. It may be when you use the facilities meant for people with special needs, or when you question the necessity to provide them with those facilities at work or in public places. It even occurs when you say to your colleague (who you know is disabled) that they look alright and don’t seem ill, or when you admire the disabled people who just live their life to the fullest, like anyone else. In whatever form it comes, ableism is hurting people and ruining the trust and mutual respect between us.
People share examples of how each of us can be an ableist, and it’s important to know what they are.
A couple of months ago social media users launched the hashtag #YouMightBeAbleistIf that is used to described life situations where we might be hurting the feelings of disabled people, intentionally or not. We’ve browsed through the posts with this hashtag on Twitter and picked some of them that perfectly illustrate the idea of ableism and show it’s different forms. We hope that these posts will help all of us be more attentive toward each other’s feelings and needs.
A truck with an elevator for drivers in wheelchairs
Can you think of any other examples of widely spread ableisms? After reading our article, do you think there were times in your life when you were ableist?