Extension: Deconstructing Ableism

Over the past week, we have been discussing and learning about the topic of ableism and the deconstruction of ableism. Compared to other types of discrimination, such as racism and sexism, ableism is not very well known. Ableism is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against individuals with disabilities, enforcing the belief that it is better or superior to be “able-bodied.” Depictions of individuals with disabilities are not seen as comparably offensive to other types of derogatory and unpleasant terms. Culturally, comments regarding disability seem to be more permissible. An important question to raise is why is there this difference? For my extension, I wanted to gain the perspective of an individual who has felt the effects of ableism in society in everyday life.

I found a blog of a man with autism who experienced ableism first hand, walking down a city street. He describes his feelings of seeing an ad on the side of a city bus in Seattle. The ad is from Seattle’s children hospital, has a picture of a smiling child, and has plastered in large letters “Let’s wipe out cancer, diabetes, and autism in his lifetime.” Because the medical rhetoric of describing disability is inundated into society, one may look at this and think this is just calling for cures to medical conditions that affect lives in negative ways. However, autism is not a terminal illness like cancer that is deadly and life-threatening. Society perceives it this way because of the attitudes it holds for autism and disability. For individuals with autism that see this message, it is asking for society to help “wipe out” themselves and people in their communities.

Society’s negative perceptions of disabilities, whether mental or physical, leads individuals to see disability as something that needs to be “fixed” rather than something that is part of someone’s life or someone’s being.  In deconstructing ableism, the negative stereotypes of disability need to be deconstructed.  Disability can enrich lives and is not something that needs to be “cured.” The change that needs to happen is society’s awareness of disability and the harmful effects of ableism.



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