We Need to Talk about Ableism


I don’t really hear anyone talk about ableism–the prejudice against the disabled.  Many people don’t know what the term means or that it even exists, which is why I think spreading awareness is important.

Recently, I came across a TED Talk given by Naty Rico (see below), a physically handicapped student at UC Irvine. She spoke about her personal adversities and she even spun her struggle in a positive light by referring to her disability as a diversability, a word used to celebrate disability pride. The overall point of her speech was to spread awareness about ableism and how it affects those with diversabilities.

Although I found the actual video to be pretty educational, I got a much clearer understanding of ableism after scrolling through the comments section.

Comments were along the lines of:
1. “LOL, this is the most retarded [thing] I’ve seen in a while, since when is being normal offensive? ”

2. “I run around cripples just for fun.”

3. “Crybaby.”

4. “How is this an issue? People feel inferior for being disabled? Is that it? Oh I’m sorry I was born with a healthy body, I’ll be sure to saw off my legs just because the snowflake’s feelings are hurt. Kill yourself, seriously.”

From these lovely, uplifting comments, I have concluded that ableism, much like other forms of discrimination, stems from ignorance and complete disregard for other people’s feelings.

I know that hotheaded criticism is counterproductive, but so is being an ableist jerk- so here’s to throwing rules out the window! Despite my best efforts, I cannot resist aggressively responding to the comments above…

1. Your “normal” body is not offensive. Your entitlement, however, is.

2. I run around ableists for fun! And then I stop because I remember that their emotional capacity isn’t as “developed” as everyone else’s.

3. At least she’s not crying about her majority privilege.

4. Yes, people feel inferior for being disabled. However, it would not help them if you sawed off your legs. You can help by increasing their salaries by at least a thousand dollars since they already earn that much less than able-bodied workers. You can go through the 25,165 charges of disability discrimination in the workforce that were filed in 2010 and make sure those people are currently employed. You can also make sure that all public transports are equipped with wheelchair ramps or lifts. Or, at the very least, you can educate yourself- that might make people with diversabilites feel less inferior.

We need to talk about ableism. In the larger scheme of things, we need to talk about privilege and the entitlement that comes with it. As an able-bodied person, I cannot imagine what insecurities and hardships disabled people face. The least I can do is avoid dehumanizing them because there is nothing more eviscerating about a disability than the way people treat you when you have it.

Commentaries are the expressed opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of The Fourcast staff, its adviser or any member of the Hockaday community.

– Neha Dronamraju – Staff Writer –