My thoughts on Ableism
By Amy Grana
Hi everyone! Today I’ll be talking about how I feel about Ableism, and giving you a pretty simple breakdown of what Ableism actually is.
This post may raise some differing opinions – mainly what is or isn’t ableist.. It’s important to remember that we don’t all have to agree to respect each others opinions.
As always, these thoughts are 100% my own and I’ll be writing from my own personal experiences only 🙂 Let’s start by giving a few examples of ableism so we can all understand what exactly ableism is:
Wiki definition: discrimination in favour of able-bodied people.
Some examples of discrimination against disabled people include no disabled access, seeing disability as a fault rather than a difference, and being apprehensive to interact with someone just because they are disabled.
Want to know the worst part? A lot of disabled people are subconsciously ableist towards themselves! Myself VERY much included.
I only recently discovered what ableism was.. I learned through twitter as I follow lots of others within the disability community and I had to research the word to find out what it meant.
It felt like everything clicked together for a moment.. I realised that so many of my thoughts were actually ableist against myself, and that the reasons I had felt uncomfortable around certain people (that were being ableist towards me) actually made a lot of sense.
I’ve explained this in previous posts, but I never accepted my disability until recently.. because of this, I used to have fears like will that person be offended if they can see my prosthetic leg? Will my family be embarrassed to be seen with me in public because I’m an amputee? Would my family/friends rather me stay indoors so their own friends can’t see that I’m disabled?
Of course, these thoughts are awful and even though I felt them about myself I would have NEVER made anybody else think those things about themselves.
The main turning point for me was actually realising what my reaction would be if I met someone with the same disability as me, that said they feel all those things.. I’d say they were wrong and their family would never want them to hide away.. so why was I being so harsh?
I don’t know why I was so ableist towards myself but I have an idea that it stemmed from my extremely low self esteem.. I hated myself because of my disability so I guess that seeped into every other aspect of my life, including believing things that were false.
These tough times really affected my mental health and I can see this now, I would never think those things anymore as I know that my friends and family love me no matter what – and have never seen my disability as a flaw, just a difference.
I’ve had people be ableist towards me having to use my wheelchair and crutches, acting as if my life is doomed just because I struggle to walk.
I’ve had people try to force me into sports that I really couldn’t do just so “I wouldn’t feel left out”.. but I didn’t! I didn’t feel left out at all and I felt like these people just wanted to make themselves look kind by including the disabled person in their sports classes.
I’ve had people call me an inspiration the second they meet me, which of course is meant as a compliment.. but it doesn’t make much sense, does it? They don’t know me, I could be a really bad person! Yet they see I’m an amputee and automatically assume I’m inspiring – even though they know nothing at all about me.
The worst part of ableism for me is people think they are entitled to know all about my disability because they can see it.
They see my prosthetic leg and come over to me (a complete stranger) and ask me how it happened.. I can’t stand this!
Once I had a taxi driver actually get visibly angry because I explained that I didn’t want to answer his question which was what happened to my leg.
As much as I can relate to many others experiences with this kind of discrimination I have to admit that sometimes I do believe ‘ableist’ goes too far.
An example of something that I disagreed with was a video that circulated online recently.
The video is of a baby that was born deaf, being given hearing aids for the first time.. it’s an emotional video where the baby clearly smiles as they can hear their mothers voice for the first time!
Unfortunately, I saw many people share the video calling it ableist and say that it was wrong to have given the baby the hearing aids because the baby should have made it’s own choice when it was older as to whether it should be disabled (deaf) or not.
I really disagree with this, I think the parents did the right thing in letting their baby be able to hear! And I would definitely make the same decision myself with confidence.
Just like everything in life, we all have differing opinions about complex subjects such as ableism so I’m sure there will be many that both agree and disagree with my post today.
I am very proud to be a disabled person at this point in my life, and once I learned what ableism was I made a commitment to myself to try my hardest not to use ableist words or phrases anymore such as: “are you deaf?” when someone doesn’t hear me, “are you blind?” when someone doesn’t see something, “you’re mad/crazy/stupid!” when someone does something out of the ordinary etc.
I didn’t use these phrases much, but realising these were ableist really put a lot into perspective for me as I do get uncomfortable myself when people say things like “you’re walking like you have a pegleg!” to people that don’t have a disability.. as if it’s something to joke about.
It’s natural to make mistakes, so sometimes I may accidentally say/tweet/post something that could be considered ableist, but I’m happy in myself that I’m trying my best to avoid this and be a better human being using better phrasing!
Maybe you’ve accidentally used phrases like this too and not realised! It’s OK! Forgive yourself and move on, we can always improve ourselves.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this post!