If you look up the word disabled in a thesaurus, you might find other words like incapable, confined, weakened, and lame. As a disabled person, I can say that these descriptions are actually accurate. It is so lame to be confined to society’s outdated and weakened conception of disabled individuals are incapable to live fulfilling lives.
July is Disability Pride Month. Instead of talking about how proud I am to be a part of the disabled community, I wanna emphasize how important it is to continue promoting inclusion by ending ableism. I write and talk about inclusion regularly. Teaching others how disabled individuals are more than capable of contributing to society has always been only of my life goals.
Disabled people are in the largest and most diverse minority within the population, yet most of them struggle with feeling excluded from the rest of the world socially. A way to improve this issue is to disable sources that lead to ableism. Ableism is discriminating against individuals with disabilities solely based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.
Disable Sources of Ableism
Lately, many people have been complaining about how they can’t go into certain places without a mask on. I can’t imagine how much complaining they would do if any of them have to experience the disabled life for a few days.
It has been only several months since masks became required. Disabled people have dealt with not having access to certain places for years. Even though there are regulations in place, many places still don’t have ramps or elevators. The lack of accessible and inclusive services is only discouraging many to want to be out in the community.
A building falling to incorporate accessibility (ramps, elevators, braille writing on signs, etc) into the building design is ableism. So if you are a business owner, remember to include accessibility in the design. You can always get a portable ramp if the building is old.
Even though the media has done with promoting inclusion in film and TV, many still present ableism by casting a non-disabled actor to play a disabled character. For example, Sam Claflin who plays Will Traynor in the film Me Before You is not a quadriplegic like the character. Another example is Kevin McHale playing a wheelchair-bound student on the series Glee. How would society understand disabilities if inaccurate representations are being shown?
Framing disability as inspirational in news stories, movies, and other popular forms of media is the worst type of ableism. Although praise is kind and appreciated, it is the last thing disabled individuals want to deal with, especially when they are just doing regular things. Special people don’t always want special treatment.
If you are interested in knowing a disabled person better, treat him or her as a regular stranger. Don’t treat the person as a show dog. Here are a few tips:
- Use first-person language
- Don’t speak to the person like he or she is not intelligent
- Keep invasive questions to yourself
- Don’t assume you know what he or she needs help with
- Never touch the person or their mobility equipment without consent
Not proacting ableism will help others stop as well. It doesn’t take much to be an ally. Speak up when you see an act of ableism happening. Be informative when people (especially children) have questions. Help the world see beyond the label.