I’ve never been an expert on Disablism or Ableism and honestly I don’t want to become one either. I hope Ableism/Disablism is on its way out before I ever fall into the expert category (another “Hail Mary” of a goal).
But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself talking about it a lot, and probably more than I should. A little over a month ago I was asked to give a presentation on ableism and how it can affect accessing services, whether from public or private sector.
I like to hope the end result (the presentation) was a success. It was for me personally, if that counts for anything. But the creative process involved in crafting such a presentation wasn’t a breeze; there were moments when it was the last thing I wanted to do (in fact I tried to get out of it once the panic set in).
How do I explain ableism to people who have never experienced it for themselves? Or worse, how do I explain it to people who may have experienced it and might not know it?
I did the most basic thing possible. I started with the definition, just to get everyone in the room on the same page.
But where do I go from there?
I could’ve told a bunch of stories of my experiences with ableism but that wouldn’t be very helpful on a grander scale. Disabilities are too vast and varied for one person to carry the load (thank goodness, I guess).
My next slide was titled “the ism that’s acceptable.”
Yes, I’m still shocked I wrote that, even sarcastically, almost 2 months later.
I wasn’t implying that ableism is acceptable, and I’m still not.
I did it for the shock value; to make an important point.
Ableism is so entrenched in society that even the disabled can’t always tell if/when they’re being ableist.
I catch myself doing it more often than I’d like to admit so I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one that falls into this trap.
I don’t often change my stance mid-conversation, and perhaps I should, but I will often replay different situations in my head to see if there was anything at all that I could’ve done differently. I’ll often talk to friends with disabilities about ableist moments, or rather whether something was (or was not) an ableist moment.
One of my biggest challenges when it comes to advocacy is finding a balance between not going all “angry cripple” over every possible thing and letting people “get away with” being ableist (which is hard in itself when you can’t even keep yourself from being an ableist on occasion.
Ableism is never OK no matter how common it is in everyone’s everyday life but putting an end to it is going to be harder than I anticipated. Thank God awareness of ableism is on the rise but ending it once and for all isn’t going to be easy, just like every other “ism” out there.
But one question is in the forefront of my mind.
How are we supposed to rid the world of ableism if even the disabled can be ableists?