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What is Ableism?

Ableism is a set of beliefs or practices that lead to discrimination and prejudice towards people with disabilities. It can also be understood as discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. Ableist beliefs and actions are rooted in the assumption that able-bodied people are normal, while people with disabilities somehow need to be “fixed.” This assumption is incorrect, and the first step in eliminating ableist ideologies is through education about disability.

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While often unintentional, ableist thoughts or actions can be harmful to those with a disability.

Ableism Thoughts & Actions

Ableism can be seen in societies all over the world through a number of different forms. Ableism can be intentional or unintentional and can take the shape of ideas, stereotypes, actions, attitudes, or oppression. In order to give a clearer image of what ableism might look like, here are some examples of ableism in everyday life.

  • Language, news media, or social media posts that frame disability as a horrible accident

  • Selecting an inaccessible location for an event that excludes certain participants from attending

  • Assuming that someone is not disabled if their disability is not visible

  • Speaking for, or down to, someone with a disability


Ableism can also be seen on a much larger scale, such as through these examples:

  • Failing to comply with disability rights laws

  • Failing to design buildings or websites in accessible ways

  • Segregating people with disabilities instead of accomodating them

  • Stating a viewpoint that disregards the dignity of people with disabilities

What can be done to recognize and eliminate ableism?

  • Educate yourself on different disabilities and how to be a good ally for people with disabilities

  • Ask - instead of assume - that you know what a person with a disability needs, and do not speak on behalf of someone else

  • Keep people with disabilities in mind when designing anything that might benefit from a more accessible approach

  • Include people with disabilities in the conversation and where decisions are being made

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