…the fly replied, “no I’m not, some of my best friends have disabilities!” The spider said, “your friends don’t count because they don’t look like they have disabilities!” The fly said, “and you’re calling ME an ableist?!”
(Apparently, Bitmoji’s don’t use wheelchairs… hmmm?)
Let’s start by defining the term:
“Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.
The thought that people with disabilities are dependent and require the care and support of someone else is an example of ableism. Sometimes this comes out in the form of people helping people with disabilities without asking them if they need assistance (and of course waiting the affirmative response).”
I know.. wow, right? Now, let’s play Have You Ever?
Here we go…
1) Have you ever parked in spaces reserved for people with disabilities even for a quick moment? This includes parking in, across, or encroaching on the extra space on the side of the space usually striped. (Did you know that converted ramp vans need a minimum clearance of six feet and that not all spaces are created equal? Some are designated specifically for ramp vans and have double the amount of side clearance to help with the scenario pictured below.)
2) Have you ever seen a person park in one of these spaces with the required placard displayed but because they didn’t “appear” to have a disability, you gave them the “side eye” for taking advantage? (FYI- Not all disabilities are visible. Did you know that parking benefits can be lost and the owner fined if a person is caught using someone else’s placard..even if both have a disability? If you need a placard reach out to your local motor vehicle authority.)
3) Have you ever seen a person with a disability attempting something that, in your opinion, might be easier with help? Did you jump in to help without asking if your help was required? Or did you offer the help and the person refused? If so, did you help them anyway, or become outwardly, or silently offended by the refusal? Did you hover nearby to make sure they could really handle it? (Most adults know how and when to ask for help, please trust that a person with a disability knows their limits, sometimes we even embrace the challenge.)
4) Have you ever used a restroom stall reserved for people with disabilities when other stalls were available? (I know the extra space is nice, but a person with a disability, particularly a wheelchair user, in this case, may only have one option and may need to go as badly as you do.)
5) Have you ever told a person with a visible disability that you don’t even notice it because they are so smart, nice, attractive etc?
Well, hopefully, you were honest with yourself about the questions. If you answered “yes” to any of them is not a reflection of the quality of person you are. The questions are intended to create awareness. If we know better, we do better!
I am not a sensitive person (in general), nor am I a withering wallflower. I tend to speak up when something bothers me. That said, over the years, there have been comments made (or overheard), looks I’ve received, access I’ve been denied, judgments and assumptions from people and ways I’ve been treated and seen other people treated, that I have stuck with me.
Just recently, I realized that I’ve worked hard for many years to make people comfortable with my chair and my disability. WHY? I’ve kept feelings to myself at times when I knew I was experiencing discrimination. WHY? I have experienced far more discrimination and prejudice as a person with a disability than I ever have as a Black Woman. Yet it is easier to address racism since ableism is more socially accepted.
The fact that only 17.9 % (in 2016) of people who identified as disabled were employed according to the US Department of Labor (USDOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics speaks to the ableism in this country. And WE are considered the global leader on disability!
Also from the USDOL…
People who have completed higher levels of education were more likely to be employed than were those with less education. At all levels of education, however, people with a disability were much less likely to work than were people with no disability. For example, 26.1 percent of people with a disability who had completed at least a bachelor’s degree were employed in 2014; among college graduates with no disability, 75.9 percent were employed.