What is the Problem with Ableism?

Social Issues

  • Author Robin Akins
  • Published December 27, 2023
  • Word count 1,597

Have you ever heard of ableism? It's a word denoting a behavior that many don't know, but it's everywhere in our society. Ableism is when people are judged or limited by their disabilities. It's not just about someone being openly unfair; often, it's hidden in the way we talk, think, and act every day.

This way of thinking creates real problems. It shows up at work, in schools, and in public places, making life harder for people with disabilities. They face challenges like feeling left out, finding it hard to get jobs, or struggling with sadness. Understanding ableism is key to changing these issues. This article will dive into what ableism means, why it's a problem, and how we can all help stop it.

Keep reading to uncover the hidden threads of ableism in our daily lives and learn how we can all contribute to creating a more inclusive and understanding world.

Ableism Definition and Examples

Ableism is the unfair treatment of people with disabilities. It's thinking, either consciously or unconsciously, that they are less than others just because of their disability. This wrong thinking can show up in a lot of places, like work, schools, or just out in public.

What Does Ableism Look Like?

Ableism shows up in ways we might not always notice. If a building doesn't have a ramp, that's ableism. It's like saying people who can't walk aren't important. Or at work, if someone doesn't get a job because they have a disability, even though they can do it, that's ableism too.

When people talk down to those with disabilities, like they can't make their own choices, that's also ableism. A frequent behavior that is ableism is not acknowledging the presence of a disabled individual.

The Unseen Problem of Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is when we have thoughts or judgments about people without even realizing it. In ableism, it's thinking or acting badly about people with disabilities without any good reason.

Here's an ableism example. You might not notice, but thinking someone with a mental health issue can't be trusted is ableist. Our Cogentica 2021 survey found that 71% of people have seen others treat disabled people unfairly, and 26.3% have seen a lot of this kind of unfairness. This behavior was more pronounced with non-disabled people than disabled.

These hidden thoughts can make life tougher for people with disabilities. They can lead to capable people not getting jobs, having a hard time in school, or feeling left out. Changing these thoughts is a big part of eliminating ableism.

Ableism is more than just being mean or unfair. It's a big problem that affects how people live. We all need to understand what ableism is and try to stop it. This means treating everyone equally, no matter if they have a disability or not.

Effects of Ableism on Individuals

Ableism doesn't just hurt feelings; it deeply impacts the lives of people with disabilities. The unfair treatment and attitudes they face can lead to serious problems like feeling alone and sad.

Social Isolation

One big effect of ableism is social isolation. When people are treated unfairly or left out because of their disability, they might start to pull away from others. This can happen because they feel like they don't fit in or because they're tired of being treated badly.

Feeling isolated can make it hard for them to make friends or be part of the community. It's not just about being alone; it's about feeling like you don't belong anywhere.

Mental Health Struggles

Dealing with ableism can also lead to mental health issues, like depression. Constantly facing unfair treatment or being looked down on can make people feel really miserable. They might lose hope or feel like things will never get better.

Depression is more than just feeling sad; it can make it hard to do everyday things and enjoy life.

Impact on Self-Esteem

Ableism can also hurt how people view themselves. When they're always treated like they can't do things or like they're not important, they may brgin to believe it. This can make them feel horrible about themselves and lower their self-esteem.

It's hard to feel good about yourself when others are always putting you down.

The Cycle of Discrimination

Ableism creates a vicious cycle of discrimination. It starts with unfair thoughts and actions, then leads to people with disabilities being left out or feeling bad about themselves. This can make it harder for them to stand up for themselves or ask for what they need.

Breaking this cycle means changing how we think and act towards people with disabilities. Understanding the effects of ableism helps us see why it's such a big problem. It's not just about being fair; it's about making sure everyone can live a good life, without feeling alone or sad because of how they're treated.

Ableism in Society: A Broader View

Ableism affects more than just individuals; it has big effects on society too. When people with disabilities are treated unfairly, it changes how things work in jobs, schools, and even in healthcare.

In the Workplace

In the workplace, ableism can mean not hiring someone just because they have a disability. This isn't just unfair to the person; it also means the workplace misses out on their skills and ideas. And when people with disabilities do have jobs, they might face challenges like not getting the support they need or being passed over for promotions.

This can lead to fewer job opportunities and less diversity in the workplace.

In Education

In schools and universities, ableism shows up when students with disabilities don't get the support they need to learn. This could be things like not having materials that work for them or being left out of activities. This can be especially true for people with invisible disabilities, such as dyslexia and some forms of autism.

When students aren't given a fair chance to learn, it can be harder for them to do well in school or go to college, which affects their chances later in life.

In Healthcare

Ableism in healthcare can be really serious. It might mean doctors or nurses don't listen to patients with disabilities or don't give them the same care they give to others. This can lead to health problems not being taken care of properly, which can make people sicker.

When society lets ableism happen, it means we're not treating everyone equally. It's not just about being nice; it's about making sure everyone has the same chance to work, learn, and stay healthy.

Fighting against ableism means changing how we do things in all parts of life, so that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else.

How To Overcome Ableism

Fighting against ableism requires actions both at the individual and societal levels. It's about changing attitudes, increasing understanding, and making policies that include everyone.

Individual Actions

Every one of us has a part to play in fighting against ableism. It begins with taking a good look at ourselves, understanding our own thoughts and attitudes towards disability. This self-reflection is the first step in making a change.

Being open to learning, listening to the experiences of people with disabilities, and educating ourselves about the challenges they face can significantly shift our perspectives.

Recognizing and Challenging Personal Biases

The first step is to recognize our own biases. We need to think about how we see people with disabilities and be honest about any unfair thoughts we might have. Then, we can work on changing those thoughts and actions.

This might mean learning more about disabilities or talking to people with disabilities to understand their experiences.

Advocacy and Support

Supporting people with disabilities is also important. This could be standing up for them if we see them being treated unfairly or helping make sure they have what they need to succeed. Being an ally means speaking up and helping make changes.

Societal Changes

On a larger scale, society as a whole needs to work on fighting ableism. This involves changes in policies, attitudes, and practices.

Inclusive Policies

Governments and organizations should make policies that consider the needs of people with disabilities. This includes things like making sure buildings are accessible, creating job opportunities, and providing education that works for everyone.

Education and Awareness

Education is key to changing how society thinks about disabilities. Schools and media can help by teaching about disabilities and showing people with disabilities in a positive light.

This helps break down stereotypes and shows that people with disabilities are just as capable as anyone else.

Workplace Inclusion

Companies need to make sure they're fair to employees with disabilities. This means not just hiring people with disabilities but also supporting them with accomodations, so they can do their best work. It's about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and included.

Fighting ableism is about making sure that people with disabilities have the same chances as everyone else. It takes work from all of us, but it's worth it to build a world that's fair and inclusive for everyone.

Moving Beyond Ableism

In exploring ableism, we've highlighted its impacts and the ways to challenge it. Tackling ableism is crucial for fostering an inclusive society that respects and values diversity. By recognizing personal biases, advocating for inclusive policies, and educating ourselves and others, we can make significant strides.

Cogentica is committed to this journey, offering support and resources for those affected by disability discrimination. For more information or assistance, please visit our contact page.

Let's strive for a world where equity and inclusion are not just ideals, but realities for all.

Robin Akins is the founder of Cogentica, LLC, a disability advocacy and information site founded in 2015. Dr. Akins is a quantitative psychologist with over 40 years of experience in business, government, and education with substantial teaching experience at the college level. He received his doctorate at Temple University in 1992.

Please contact at robin.akins@cogentica.com

Website: https://www.cogentica.com/what-is-the-problem-with-ableism/

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