Ableism 101 Part One: What is Ableism? What is Disability?
Welcome, this is the first session in our ableism 101 workshop series. What is Ableism? What is Disability?
Slide 2 Reminders
1) please make sure you sign in on the sheet up front 2) create a name tag with your name and pronouns 3) grab a workbook for the workshop.
Slide 3 Guidelines for this workshop are adapted from AnaLouise Keating’s Teaching Transformation, appendix 2.
- What is shared in this space, stays here. But what you learn here, can leave this space.
- Please be mindful of how much you are speaking and if you are speaking over someone else. Please let folks finish their sentences and thoughts, only one person should be speaking at a time.
- Acknowledge that discrimination and oppression exists in many forms (e.g. sexism, racism, classism, ageism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, fatphobia etc.)
- We will assume people are doing the best that they can. We all make mistakes despite our intentions. However even good intentions can have harmful impacts, therefore when someone says something offensive or inappropriate we will call them in. This is a learning environment and we are all constantly learning and (hopefully) trying to do better.
- We will share information about our groups with other individuals and we will never demean, devalue, or in any way put down people for their experiences.
Slide 4 Access Statement for this space
Please exist in this space in ways that are most comfortable for you. You can stand up, sit down, lay down, stretch, walk around, leave the room, stim, use your electronics as needed. Understand that everyone exists in spaces in different ways, and how someone can best engage and listen might look different than how you do.
Gendered bathrooms & drinking fountains are located just to the left of here after the elevator.
If you need a quiet space, we have two offices that you are welcome to use.
We will have a set break during this workshop, but can take additional breaks if needed.
Anything to add?
We will do short introductions for everyone in the space with your name, gender pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, xe/xem, ze/hir, x, your name, etc.), and briefly why did you choose to take this workshop?
We will be doing short guided self-reflections, with about 3 minutes for each prompt.
Prompt 1: How comfortable do you feel talking about disability?
How comfortable do you feel talking to disabled people?
Prompt 2: What have you been taught about disability (by school, parents, family, media, religious institutions, medical providers etc.)? What have they taught you about the need to be productive and self-sufficient? What values/morals are placed on being abled and productive? What have you internalized?
We will share some of our responses and thoughts in a one-on-one discussion.
- Turn to the person next to you
- One of you will be the speaker and the other will be the listener. The listener will actively listen without interrupting.
- You will share some of your responses and thoughts about the guided questions with your partner for two minutes.
- After two minutes you will switch roles
Slide 10 Large Group Reflection
To share out some of what you discussed or wrote, how did this exercise make you feel? Was there a specific question that stood out to you?
5 to 10-minute break for stretching, bathroom break, brain break
Slide 12 Defining Disability
Disability: someone who is not able-bodied or able-minded; this is not a definitive definition or group.
This includes physical, sensory, mental, cognitive, intellectual, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities and chronic illnesses/chronic diagnoses.
Individuals can be born with their disability/disabilities or they can be acquired later in life.
Often disability is only conceptualized as a “loss-of-function,” a “lack,” or as abnormal and unnatural. This is functioning from a deficit perspective & from the medical model of disability.
Slide 13 Medical Model & Social Model of Disability
These are two of the most common models of disability, there are many more that are discussed in disability studies.
The Social model of disability states that social barriers (such as physical, social, and financial) disable us, not inherently our disabilities.
The medical model of disability, which we all are likely most familiar with, states that disability is an individual issue that needs to be ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’.
Image description: An image of someone in a wheelchair in front of stairs and a sign that reads “Way in → Everyone welcome!”
Two speech bubbles are on either side. The medical model of disability “Her impairment is the problem! They should cure her or give her prosthetics!” The social model of disability “The stairs are the problem! They should build a ramp.”
Slide 14 Disability Identity
- Disabled people can identify in a variety of ways and with a variety of terms:
- Person with a Disability (PwD)
- Disabled Person
- As a specific diagnosis/disability (e.g. blind, Deaf, autistic)
- Neurodivergent or Neuroatypical
- Chronically ill, Chronic pain
- Crip or Cripple
- (Dis)ability Dis/ability
- They do not identify as disabled
There is no one “correct” way for disabled people to identify as this is an individual choice, you should not correct how someone identifies themselves.
Slide 15 Defining Ableism
There are multiple ways to define ableism, here are a few examples:
- Ableism: discrimination and oppression of disabled people; societal belief that being abled is “normal” and is preferred.
- Ableism: A system of oppression that favors being ablebodied/ableminded at any cost, frequently at the expense of people with disabilities. (via Stacey Milbern “Ableism is the Bane of My Motherfuckin’ Existence”)
Slide 16 Defining Ableism Continued
- Ableism a·ble·ism \ ˈābə-ˌli-zəm \ noun: “A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence and excellence. These constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence and excellence are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics and capitalism. This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable or worthy based on people's appearance and/or their ability to satisfactorily produce, excel & “behave.” Importantly, you do not have to be disabled to experience ableism.” -a working definition by Talila "TL" Lewis
- Internalized Ableism: beliefs that being able-bodied/able-minded is preferable, either weaponized toward yourself or toward other disabled people; modifying, shaming, or policing your own behaviors and actions to appear more “abled”.
Slide 17 Ableism Beyond the Individual
Many understand examples of oppression to only be an individual being unjust/oppressive/harmful toward another individual. Such as:
- Rhetorically and through language such as slurs
- Through individual discrimination or cases of inaccessibility
- Physical barriers: such as a lack of ramps, elevators, no sidewalks, no push-buttons for doors etc.
- Design barriers: such as poorly designed rooms that are difficult for people with mobility aids to navigate, furniture that is bolted down or too heavy to move, door knobs that are hard to open, doors that are too heavy to push open, elevators that are hidden and difficult to find etc.
- Representation of disabled people in media: is either lacking or largely negative. As abled people often play disabled characters. Story lines often write disabled characters to be angry, difficult, a predator, a “super crip” aka someone who is disabled that is highly accomplished, or that they only want to be “cured”.
- Invisibility of disability culture and community: disability rights history is not taught to many students, and there is little visibility of disability culture or disability pride movements.
- Forced segregation of disabled people in society: disabled people historically, and currently, have been segregated from abled people. Through lack of access to public transit, through special education programs, and through forced institutionalization.
Slide 18 Ableism Beyond the Individual Continued
- Medical Industrial Complex: defined as “The Medical Industrial Complex is an enormous system with tentacles that reach beyond simply doctors, nurses, clinics, and hospitals. It is a system about profit, first and foremost, rather than ‘health,’ wellbeing and care. Its roots run deep and its history and present are connected to everything including eugenics, capitalism, colonization, slavery, immigration, war, prisons, and reproductive oppression. It is not just a major piece of the history of ableism, but all systems of oppression” (Mia Mingus 2015).
- Insurance: navigating insurance (U.S. perspective) is difficult for most in the U.S. However, many disabled people need to navigate the medical system and insurance more frequently.
- Institutionalization: While many institutions have been shut down in the U.S. due to the de-institutionalization movement, the lack of community spaces that were promised with this movement means that many disabled people end up in jails or prisons or are forcefully institutionalized in psychiatric wards, senior homes etc.
- Forced/Coerced sterilization: While sterilization laws have since been removed in most states in the U.S., disabled children and people are still coercively or forcibly sterilized, showing the prevalence of eugenics today.
- Push for cure at any cost: the vast majority of charity money for disabilities is put towards “curing” these diagnoses and diseases, and not towards the individuals with these disabilities to pay for their care. This shows that the focus is not on the individual they claim to be fighting for, but rather for a “cure” to ensure there are less disabled people in the future.
Financial and Legal Ableism:
- Employment rate & pay per hour: it is still legal in the U.S. to pay disabled people sub-minimum wage, and employment rates for disabled people (varies based on the specific disability) are still very high.
- Accessible housing: there is a large lack of accessible housing options, especially affordable accessible housing options.
- Marriage inequality: still in the U.S. many disabled people will lose their benefits and/or insurance if they get married.
- Financial constraints of receiving benefits: additionally, that disabled people often have to choose between keeping their benefits or increasing their salary.
- Precarity of ADA, ACA, Disability & Social Security: With laws, we need to realize that laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Affordable Care Act, and Disability and Social Security are all precarious and there are constant moves to weaken or remove these laws.
- Immigration & Detention Centers
- The state of detention centers are spaces of creating disability & debility, and have led to the deaths of several migrants.
- Who is allowed to immigrate to the U.S.? Looking at the current president:
- Ken Cuccinelli “‘They certainly are. Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.’’
- Cannot receive a green card if you use public programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, housing assistance –or they believe that you MIGHT use these programs.
- The removal of “medical deferred action” program
- Refusal of medical services and care to individuals who are detained or deported
Slide 19 Ableism Beyond Disability
“Ableism set the stage for:
Queer & trans people to be institutionalized as mentally disabled mentally ill/sexually deviant/”unfit”
Communities of color to be understood as less capable, smart & intelligent, therefore ‘naturally’ fit for slave labor
Women’s bodies to be used to produce children, when, where & how men needed them
People with disabilities to be seen as ‘disposable’ in a capitalist & exploitative culture because we are not seen as ’productive’
Immigrants to be thought of as a ‘disease’ that we must ‘cure’ because it is ‘weakening’ our country
Violence, cycles of poverty, lack of resources & war to be used as systemic tools to construct disability in communities and entire countries”
By Mia Mingus
Slide 20 Ableism & Intersectionality
Intersectionality & Kimberlé Crenshaw
“Intersectionality is just a metaphor for understanding the ways that multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes compound themselves and they create obstacles that often are not understood within conventional ways of thinking about anti-racism or feminism or whatever social justice advocacy structures we have”
“If we can’t see a problem we can’t fix a problem” –Kimberlé Crenshaw
Therefore, because of ableism’s roots in eugenics, anti-Blackness, racism, classism, xenophobia etc. we inherently need an intersectional lens when viewing and discussing the impacts of ableism. And the reaches of ableism go far beyond those who we may understand as disabled or who may identify as disabled.
Slide 21 Ableist Stereotypes
- “Inspiration Porn” or a “Supercrip”
- Pitiful and Tragic
- Dangerous or Violent
- Maladjusted and Angry
- Monster or Super Villain
- Childish or Child-like
- Helpless, Incompetent, Socially Inept
- Asexual OR Sexually Deviant
- Better off Dead
- Only want to be ”Cured
- Disability “Spread”
Slide 22 Content Warning
- We will be discussing ableist language, this means terminology and phrases that may be hurtful to hear.
- If you need to step out for this activity you are welcome to use one of the offices or to wait downstairs or outside.
Slide 23 Ableist Language Activity
You will be split into four groups, you will work together to briefly discuss each of the terms or phrases on your list.
Questions to answer:
- Why is it harmful?
- What alternative words or phrases could I use?
Slide 24 Ableist Language Activity
- “I’m so OCD”
- “Trump is such a sociopath/psychopath!”
- “Ugh I wish I had the discipline to be anorexic!”
- “If I ever became disabled, I’d just have them pull the plug”
- “Deaf, Dumb, and blind”
- “The weather has been so bipolar”
- ”Lol are you triggered”
- “wow you got to park so close! I wish I could use handicap parking”
- “If you could cure your disability/disease would you?”
Slide 25 Ableist Language Activity
- My son isn’t disabled he’s “Differently abled”
- “Wow is that ref blind?” “Blind faith” “Blindly following” ”double blind review” etc.
- “They’ve been all over the place today, they’re such a schizo”
- “You’re so lucky you get extra time on tests!”
- “Oh you’re depressed? you should really try yoga”
- “Special needs” “Special accommodations”
- “Wheelchair Bound”
- Normal people/ Normal bodies
- “You wouldn’t believe the number of people at the airport who could get out of their wheelchair when it was time to board!”
- “I wish I could bring my dog to school!”
- “Wow someone forgot to take their meds today”
Slide 26 Alternative Words & Word Charts
Select one word or phrase from your list and make a word diagram for alternative words or phrases you could use.
Image description: Example of the word "crazy" with alternative words written around it e.g. awe-inspiring, mindblowing, dazzling, weird, bizarre, surreal, unreal, ludacris, unexpected, ridiculous, absurd, hectic, wild, out of control, overwhelming, extravagant, rollicking, inconsistent, random, bold, bright, fast, reckless, violent, rude, unfair, dangerous, unprecedented, talented, wonderful, unbelievable, inspiring, amazing, unusual, nonsense, silly, wacky, colorful, intricate, unique. with a cross through words that are similar and still understood as ableist: deranged, nuts, mad, bananas, bonkers, insane.
Slide 27 Reminders!
Our next workshop in Tuesday, January 28thfor (Brief) History of Disability Activism & Disability Rights