Ableism is believing that people are automatically better, or have better lives, or have better brains or bodies because they aren’t disabled.


Ableism is the belief that people are automatically better people, have better lives, or have better brains or bodies because they aren’t disabled. Ableism often leads to discrimination against disabled people. Some ableism is obvious, like when Jerry Lewis said hateful things about people with muscular dystrophy who criticized his show. Other ableism can be less obvious, like when people treat adults with intellectual disabilities as if they are children. Sometimes people will think they’re not ableist, but will still have ideas that come from ableism. For example, such people might be surprised that disabled people can get married or be parents.

Ableist discrimination is common. People sometimes argue that they are discriminating against disabled people for their own good. Ableism can also happen when disabled people aren’t allowed to make their own choices or to be part of conversations about them. Textbooks, classes, laws, and rules can all be ableist. Ableism can happen in a society or in a specific person. Disabled people can have “internalized ableism”; this means that they believe that their brains or bodies aren’t good enough, or need to be fixed or cured.

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-List of concrete examples

  • When people use slurs like “retarded” or “cripple,” they are using ableist language.

  • When a teacher tries to keep disabled people out of class just because they’re disabled or calls disabled students “slow,” the teacher is being ableist by discriminating against the disabled students.

  • When people talk to a disabled person’s support person, parent, or friend instead of to the disabled person, they are being ableist because they’re assuming the disabled person can’t understand them, can’t communicate, or isn’t worth listening to.

  • A law that discriminates against disabled people by saying that “idiots” and “insane persons” aren’t allowed to vote is an ableist law.

  • A lawyer who won’t install a ramp to his office for a client in a wheelchair and tells the client to go somewhere else is being ableist.

  • A hospital that denies an Autistic person an organ transplant because they are Autistic and for no other medical reason is making an ableist decision.

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