Ableism — Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines the term as “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.” Stop Ableism.org provides a more detailed definition: “The practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.”
As we begin a new year, Enabling Devices provides some suggestions on how to fight ableism.
1. Learn about Ableism
“Oftentimes people are ableist without realizing it,” says disabilities activist Kristen Parisi. “When you tell a disabled person you’re ‘praying for them,’ that implies that there’s something wrong with their disability. Learning about what ableism is will help you change your own behavior.” To get started, Parisi recommends reading disabled activist, media maker, and consultant Alice Wong’s new book, “Disability Visability.” Other good reads about ableism include: “Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment,” by James I. Charleton; and “No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement,” by Joseph P. Shapiro.
2. Hire people with disabilities
In recent years, business owners have begun to recognize the value that people with disabilities bring to their businesses. According to Business.com, hiring people with disabilities can “increase your profit margin,” “diversify your company culture,” “increase company diversity,” and “decrease turnover.” At a time when American businesses are struggling to find qualified candidates, hiring individuals with disabilities would provide “access to a talent pool of more than 10.7 million people with diverse strengths, leadership styles and ways of thinking.” Finally, hiring people with disabilities gives employers federal and state tax incentives.
3. Follow disabilities activists on social media
Whatever you feel about social media, it has given many disabilities advocates a platform where they can express their views about disability rights, as well as everything else. Here are just a few social media influencers you may want to follow:
- Tiffany Yu (@imtiffanyyu) founder of Diversability, “an award-winning social enterprise to rebrand disability through the power of community.”
- Judy Heumann (@judithheumann) is a Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation, a disability rights advocate, and a former diplomat.
- Andrea Dalzell, BSN, RN is the first nurse in New York State to use a wheelchair. She shares her wisdom on Instagram @TheSeatedNurse
Facebook @AndreaDalzell and @MsWheelchairNY2015
- Antwan Tolliver, a fashion designer and gunshot victim paralyzed from the waist down. @freedomisfly
- Richard Corby, creator of the Wheels2Walking YouTube channel which features educational and entertaining videos for wheelchair users.
4. Push for greater accessibility
Advocate for those with disabilities by being aware of your surroundings and noticing whether they accommodate people with disabilities. As Noah Rue writes for Rolling Without Limits.com, “ask questions, such as: “How can someone without full mobility struggle with bus stops? Construction zones? Schools? Restaurants? …What can be done to alleviate those difficulties?”
5. Don’t use ableist labels and expressions
Words matter! It should go without saying that the “R-word” is unacceptable. But other phrases such as “confined to a wheelchair,” or “that’s lame,” “the blind leading the blind,” etc. can be offensive to people with disabilities.
6. Don’t assume that individuals with disabilities must be chronically depressed
“Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean he or she is living a life that’s any less than an able-bodied person’s,” writes Katie Dupree for Mashable. “Like any able-bodied person, people with disabilities adapt to accommodate their own experiences. But that’s not something that makes a person living with disabilities less fortunate or clearly miserable.”