I decided to write this post for Blogging Against Disablism Day which you should check out at http://tinyurl.com/BADday2014 You can also follow them on Twitter: @BADDTweets
The most amazing thing I find about disablism/ ableism is how so few people seem to think it is an issue, yet how many take part in it without even realising. Those who use disablist/ableist terms when there are a wealth of other adjectives to choose from are disablist. Or those who purposefully use disability as a pejorative with which to attack non-disabled and disabled people alike they are ableist. Those who do not vacate disabled seating areas on a bus, or who park in disabled bays when they don’t have a disability, those who organise events but don’t consider the access needs of people with disabilities who could potentially attend, all are guilty of disablism but so few of them will ever realise it.
Then there are those who say that they are allies of people with disabilities, yet speak over and for them without any consideration of whether this might even be wanted or needed. And those who say they are defending real people with disabilities, who aren’t “scroungers”, oblivious to how the scrounger narrative hurts all of us, and makes us all feel unsafe in an ever more frightening world. Admittedly there are those who abuse the system, and yes they are disablist too, but the way to deal with that is not to harm the many, many more people with genuine disabilities and chronic illnesses. Then there are those who only see physical impairments as disabilities whilst furthering negative stereotypes about people with mental illness. And those who advance the idea of the “dangerous mental patient” either through name calling, ignorance, film making, stock purchasing, attraction planning and a myriad of other routes.
Disablism doesn’t have to be explicit. A disablist doesn’t have to be someone who attacks people with disabilities. It doesn’t have to be the right wing politician surprised that they “still allow” people with disabilities to breed. It doesn’t have to be the healthcare worker physically and mentally abusing service users. It doesn’t have to be the people who terrorise people with disabilities in their homes leaving them feeling so hopeless they commit suicide. Though it too often is.
Disablist can be a state, committing warfare against its most vulnerable citizens. Disablist can be a system designed to harm those it professes to protect. A disablist can be a doctor who doesn’t listen to their patient or think about the way in which treatment will impact upon their lives. A disablist can be a psychiatrist declaring those suffering from neurological conditions as mentally unstable simply because the state does not listen to the judgements of the WHO. Disablist can be a school which does not make adequate provision for its students. Disablist can be an entire education system designed in a way which only provides education as the spoils in a long fought war. Disablist can be a system which tells people with disabilities they have to find work yet decreases employment rights and doesn’t force companies to be more accessible.
Disablism can be passive. It can be not inviting a friend because YOU think they are not well enough. It can be forgetting a person who is too sick to make themselves remembered. It can be no longer calling someone, leaving them in desperate loneliness. It can be being complicit through silence in the harmful ways in which state and society treat people with disabilities.
Disablism is everywhere, but too few non-disabled people even realise it exists. Disablism is something we with disabilities must live with every day, because we live in a world which is only designed for non-disabled people. We have to listen to people describe our demands for equal rights as asking for “special treatment”. Do not accept disablism as a fact of life, it doesn’t have to be.