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Breaking Barriers Identifying Ableism & Disablism

Breaking Barriers Identifying Ableism & Disablism

As we strive for a more inclusive society, we must recognise and address the various forms of discrimination that persist today. One such form is ableism—discrimination against people with disabilities. Often intertwined with disablism, a term that reflects the systemic oppression and exclusion of disabled people, these concepts can be challenging to identify and tackle.

In this article, we'll discuss what ableism and disablism look like, how to spot them, and how we can all work together to create a more equitable and accessible world.

Understanding Ableism and Disablism

Ableism refers to the discrimination, prejudice, and negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. It is rooted in the belief that people without disabilities – referred to as "able-bodied" or "abled" – are superior and that disabled individuals are inherently inferior. This mindset can lead to harmful stereotypes, marginalisation, and exclusion of disabled people.

Disablism, on the other hand, pertains to the systematic exclusion, oppression, and discrimination against disabled individuals.

It encompasses societal structures, policies, and practices that perpetuate inequality and limit the opportunities and resources available to disabled people. Disablism is, in essence, the systemic counterpart to ableism.

Spotting Ableism and Disablism

Ableism and disablism can manifest in many ways, some more subtle than others. Here are some common examples to look out for:

  1. Language Ableist language often perpetuates stereotypes and stigmatisation. For example, using terms like "crazy," "insane," or "lame" as insults or referring to someone as "wheelchair-bound" instead of "wheelchair user." Such language reinforces negative assumptions and can be harmful to disabled individuals.

  2. Accessibility A lack of accessibility in public spaces and services is a clear example of disablism. This can include buildings without ramps, elevators, or accessible restrooms, as well as services that do not provide accommodations like sign language interpreters, alternative formats for printed materials, or websites that are not screen-reader friendly.

  3. Microaggressions These are subtle, often unintentional, comments or actions that perpetuate ableism. Examples include offering unsolicited help to a disabled person without asking if they need it, assuming that disabled people cannot participate in certain activities, or speaking to a disabled person's companion instead of addressing them directly.

  4. Employment Discrimination Disabled individuals often face barriers in the job market, such as inaccessible workplaces or discriminatory hiring practices. This can range from employers not offering reasonable accommodations to job applicants being passed over because of their disability.

  5. Stereotyping and Inspiration Porn Portraying disabled people as pitiable and helpless or inspirational figures overcoming adversity simply because of their disability perpetuates ableism. Disabled individuals should be recognised and valued for their diverse experiences and accomplishments without being reduced to stereotypes.

How We Can All Do Better

To effectively address ableism and disablism, we must first acknowledge their existence and understand how they impact the lived experiences of disabled people. Here are some ways in which we can all work towards a more inclusive and equitable society:

  1. Educate Ourselves Learning about disability rights, history, and experiences is essential for fostering empathy and understanding. Consume content created by disabled individuals, attend workshops, and engage in conversations about disability issues.

  2. Be Mindful of Language Use person-first or identity-first language as preferred by the individual, and avoid using ableist slurs and phrases. Encourage others to do the same and explain why certain terms are harmful..

  3. Advocate for accessibility Support policies and initiatives that promote accessibility in public spaces, services, and workplaces. This can include advocating for more accessible infrastructure, supporting legislation that protects the rights of disabled people, and promoting inclusive practices within your workplace or community..

  4. Challenge Stereotypes and Microaggressions When confronted with ableist assumptions or behaviours, take the opportunity to educate and raise awareness. Share accurate information about disability and challenge harmful narratives..

  5. Amplify Disabled Voices Support and promote the work of disabled individuals, whether it be through sharing their content, supporting their businesses, or engaging with their activism. Ensure disabled people are included in conversations about disability and that their perspectives are valued.
Ableism and disablism are deeply ingrained forms of discrimination that have far-reaching consequences for individuals with disabilities. These forms of discrimination can manifest in various ways, including inaccessibility, social exclusion, and negative stereotypes.

The impact of ableism and disablism can be profound, affecting everything from employment opportunities to healthcare access to social relationships.

We must work to raise awareness about ableism and disablism and take active steps to combat these forms of discrimination in all areas of society. Only by doing so can we create a more inclusive and equitable world for people with disabilities.

Shine Disability Care offers specialised work experience and individualised core supports to people living with disabilities. Our dedicated team provides personalised care and support to help individuals achieve their personal and professional goals. For disability support services, contact us today to learn more and get started.

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