Bif Notes No. 10 Ableism: A Handi Guide

I quote Ferris Bueller, “Isms in my opinion are not good.” But Bueller’s statement, obviously, falls short and majorly under sells the real danger “isms” represent to the minority groups they exist in opposition to. Whether it be racism, sexism or ableism, or any other discriminatory behavior, the opinions informed by these ideologies have real world ramifications for people facing them.

My experience both personal and second hand has been more extensive in regards to ableism. The older I have gotten the truer that statement becomes. I am more aware every day of the ways in which my life and the lives of other disabled people are affected by ableism.

For those unaware of the concept a brief definition might be necessary. Ableism is discrimination in favor of able bodied people or against disabled people. It is, much like racism and sexism, very much ingrained in society.

Becoming more aware has unfortunately meant that I am rarely surprised when I encounter ableism. I’ve unfortunately come to expect it. There are already so many barriers presented to disabled people, barriers that keep us from working, barriers that keep us from getting married, etc. We face barriers simply going out in public attempting to live our lives.

None of that even includes the ableist attitudes we encounter daily, many times from complete strangers, but also from friends and family, even medical professionals and others who are presumably in our lives to help us. Sometimes we are unable to do anything when we experience ableism. Sometimes it’s dangerous for us to do so. Sometimes we are simply unable to exert the emotional labor necessary.

I am very intentionally not including specific examples of ableist behavior and speech in this piece. I do this partially because I’m writing in part to a disabled audience and they have examples of their own. But another reason is that I want the non disabled people reading this to understand that I shouldn’t have to supply you with specific examples for you to accept that ableism exists and it’s a threat to disabled people. I’m telling you that it is. Disabled people have been saying it for a while. It’s about time for the rest of the world to listen.

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