The Gatepost Editorial: Stop enabling ableism

We live in a world built for able-bodied people, where disabilities are not seen as “normal” and where those with disabilities are seen as inherently less capable and less valuable to society. 

Ableism at its core is the oppression of and discrimintion against individuals with disabilities, especially if their mental or physical conditions do not meet mainstream perceptions.

Regardless of whether this treatment is intentional or not, the fact that it exists speaks to the under-addressed judgement that plagues the world – the judgement of people with disabilities. 

Whether this hate is rooted in personal ableism or systemic ableism, neither is an excuse for the behavior that ensues from feeling superior. 

Ableism can be found in our language, our laws, and simply: our actions. 

Our world is built for able-bodied people, which makes it more difficult for those with visible and invisible disabilities to function in it. 

While October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor – it is not enough to combat the impact ableism has on people with disabilities.

Rather than spending the time educating themselves on ableism and disabilities, many people expect those with disabilities to adapt to the “standard” way of life. 

Instead, we need to be involving ourselves in conversations about ableism because by staying silent and uneducated, we are part of the problem. 

It wasn’t until 1990 that the United States government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. 

However, the passing of a law is not going to eliminate ableism.

Education can. 

Ableism is not a new concept, and our society has been discriminating against those with disabilities long before 1990, and has continued to do so even after the bill was passed. 

We can pass a bill, but it takes a lot more than a law to change people’s perceptions.

Even our outgoing President, Donald J. Trump, who has a history of mocking individuals with disabilities – has not been held accountable for his insensitive remarks toward those with disabilities. 

From mocking reporter Serge Kovaleski, who is diagnosed with arthrogryposis, to calling President-elect Joe Biden “sleepy Joe” and “slow Joe,” due to his lifelong stutter, Trump has shined a spotlight on one of the worst traits a person can possess: ignorance.

As awful as it is to admit – Trump’s comments are not far off from those many think are OK.

Biden, for example, has been accused of having dementia not just by Trump, but by Americans across the country because he sometimes finds it necessary to rephrase a sentence because of his speech impediment. 

Calling anyone derogatory words – whether it be falsely accusing them of having a disorder, or calling them “psycho,” as Trump has done to so many – is unfortunately still too common.

It shouldn’t be. 

Making statements such as “You’re r******* ,” “You’re being bipolar,” or “You don’t look disabled,” demeans those who are living with these disorders.

These statements should not be used as “edgy” slurs. 

A person is not defined by a word, or their disorder, and our society needs to stop and think about the negative impact words can have on a person.

Those with disabilities are the same as those without. If you wouldn’t call your able-bodied friends, classmates, and family members by a hateful term, what makes it OK to call out someone with a disability? 

We need to address the ableism ingrained into the fabric of our society. We need to call out people who perpetuate this problem, and explain why their words and actions are harmful.

Our country needs an attitude adjustment about ableism.

As human beings, we should be taking the steps necessary to create a world where we can coexist without fear of judgement.

It is not the job of people living with disabilities to educate able-bodied people. Individuals must hold themselves and those close to them accountable for their biases against disabled people.

It starts at home.

It starts with our parents.

It starts with our friends.

It starts with you.