“I define ableism as attitudes, actions, and circumstances that devalue people on the basis of disability. It tends to be the "-ism" that's left out of broader conversations about discrimination, but it can be incredibly pervasive, both on interpersonal and systemic levels. It also frequently overlaps with other forms of discrimination, such as racism.
Ableism is deeply rooted in society’s misconceptions and fears related to disability. This lack of understanding and discomfort stems from the fact that disability is perceived as a niche issue, if it’s even thought about at all, or it’s deemed taboo to talk about. It’s left out of school curricula, underrepresented in the media, and too often reduced to either inspiration or tragedy.
I think it's vital to remind people that disability cuts across any and all other identities, and that disabled people comprise more than 15% of the global population. To shift away from ableism, we must learn about disability history, culture, and identity, and recognize that disability is a natural part of the human experience.
Parents and family members can be strong allies in the fight against ableism, so long as they keep in mind that it’s essential to not speak over or on behalf of disabled people. Instead, allyship is about advocating in partnership with and alongside the disability community.
When encountering ableism, consider how you might offer constructive feedback to the person or entity that’s perpetuating it. While there are many cases where public call-outs can be incredibly effective, sometimes it helps to call people in instead, which means having a direct, open conversation to educate someone, share resources, and encourage them to do better moving forward.”
Emily Ladau is a Disability Rights Activist, Communications Consultant, and Author.
Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally
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