Ableism Awareness Month
Introduction to Ableism and Disability Rights Issues
For several years, autism organizations led by non-autistic parents and professionals have focused on Autism Awareness in the month of April.
Autistic people have pushed back on the Awareness campaigns (and their usual pathologizing, othering frameworks) by asking for less talk of awareness and more acceptance for autistic people of all ages.
This year I was inspired to flip the old script with a new kind of Awareness campaign:
This April is Ableism Awareness Month
Ableism is a cultural disorder that can affect people’s language and communication skills, social relationships, and other interpersonal behaviors.
Symptoms may include:
* Deficits in respectful, disability-inclusive communicate skills; may include the repetitive use of language that discriminated against or excludes disabled people, and a failure to provide communication access to disabled people.
* Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity with disabled people, ranging (for example) from lack of empathy toward disabled people to failure to include disabled people in social activities; in severe forms, may include abuse, homicide/filicide, and/or total apathy toward the abuse of disabled people.
* Restricted patterns of discriminatory behavior, for example: insistence on segregating, mocking, and/or abusing disabled people; unusual interest in “inspiration pornography” that objectifies and demeans disabled people, etc.
Ableism is any form of discrimination or negative bias toward disabled people or disability in general.
Everyone is affected by ableism.
* At any given time, about 1 in 5 people worldwide has a disability.
* People who were not born disabled, or aren’t currently disabled, may become disabled later in life.
* Some people who do not identify as disabled or recognize themselves as disabled are in fact disabled and directly affected by ableism; for example, people with psychiatric disabilities such as depression and anxiety.
* Disability Rights are highly intersectional; civil rights issues for women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people are intertwined with disability issues. Disability rights also overlap with issues such as healthcare, education, poverty, and more.
[sidebar has an image of a caution sign and the following text]
Descriptions of ableism as a disorder is this series are satirical and not to be taken literally.
Ableism is not a form of mental illness or psychiatric disability; in fact, blaming bigotry or prejudice on mental illness or any other disability… IS ABLEIST!
* There is no single cause of ableism; rather, it is a complex and interrelated set of attitudes, assumptions, and prejudicial biases. Ableism develops from a combination of individual prejudice and environmental factors, such as widespread normalization of ableism, misinformation by ableist institutions, and societal lack of inclusion for disabled people.
* Some important risk factors for ableism are unfamiliarity with disabled people and ignorance about disability issues and disability rights. Tragically, an ableist culture that fails to provide access and true inclusion for disabled people has a high risk of worsening the ableism epidemic.
* Vaccines do NOT cause ableism; on the contrary, a large scale program of inoculation against ableism, through the inclusion of disabled people and education for non-disabled people, may protect individual people and major societal institutions from falling victim to ableism.
[Image has a graphic image of a syringe at left, and “erinhuman.com” at bottom right]
Effective treatments for ableism include:
Everyone must make an effort to learn about disability issues and to examine and confront ableist bias ourselves and our communities. We all have a duty to understand and combat ableism.
Inclusion and accessibility are civil rights, not special privileges. It is everyone’s obligation to find out how to make our communities and spaces more accessible, and endeavor to include disabled people.
The rights of disabled people are intertwined with non disabled people’s civil rights; our political activism, our votes, and our policy making should always be inclusive and intersectional.
Center Disabled People
Disabled people must be centered in our own lives and in disability advocacy; this means we have autonomy in our personal lives and we take the lead in disability rights organizations. Non-disabled people should have supporting roles as needed.
Sidebar has an image of two pills and the text, “There’s no magic pill for prejudice.
Remember, bigotry is NOT actually a disease!”
The only evidence backed treatment for ableism is listening to disabled people and learning from us.
- Autism Women’s Network
- Autistic Families International
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- Disability Visibility Project
- National Association of the Deaf
- National Federation of the Blind
- Tone It Down Taupe
- Boycott Autism Speaks
- Walk In Red
- ADAPT direct actions
for more on ableism: