What is Ableism & Why Does It Matter?

Welcome to the first part of our series on “ableism”. We will look at what ableism means, and why it’s important. Ableism, is not always seen as discrimination.

What is Ableism?

Ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities. If people have beliefs and actions that limit people based on their disability, this is ableism or discrimination. Another example is if people treat others unfairly, or exclude them based on their physical or mental abilities. Ableism can show up in many ways, some of which might surprise you. Let’s take a closer look.

Forms of Ableism

Ableism happens in different ways. The two most common forms are called ” casual ableism” and “systemic ableism”.

Casual Ableism: This type of ableism can be a part of our everyday experiences. It often going unnoticed. It can be small acts of insensitivity. For example, if someone uses hurtful language when talking about someone’s disability. Casual ableism can happen when someone doesn’t respect a disabled person’s preferences, choices or boundaries. Sometimes, the person thinks they know better than the person with a disability.

As an “abled” person … Have you Ever?

Kept offering to help a person with disabilities even after they’ve said they don’t need it? This can be a problem because it tells the person they don’t know their own capabilities and needs. This is an example of ableism.

Systemic Ableism: This type of ableism refers to the attitudes and practices within systems like government, healthcare, or in your community.

As a person with a disability…Have You Ever?

  • Gone to buildings that aren’t accessible? (doors, elevators, washrooms, signs?)
  • Had to follow policies that you think are discriminating against people with disabilities?
  • Seen official documents with hurtful language ?

These are all examples of ableism.

How Ableism Hurts

Ableism affects life for many people with disabilities. It can create barriers and unequal treatment.

Shane Neilson, a well-known advocate for disability rights, says that ableism can lead to treating people with disabilities as if they were “invisible, disposable, and less than human.”

Myths About Ableism

Ableism is often not understood. This can make harmful stereotypes and behaviors. Let’s clear up some of these myths.

  1. Ableism only affects people with visible disabilities: Many people believe that ableism only affects those with disabilities that you can see. However, that’s not true. People with invisible disabilities, like mental health conditions, learning disabilities, or chronic illnesses, also experience ableism. They might not be believed or taken seriously because their disabilities aren’t easy to see.
  2. If facilities are accessible, ableism doesn’t exist: Accessibility is very important to fight ableism, but it’s not the whole picture. Even if a place is physically accessible, ableism can still exist. For example, someone might think that a person with a disability is incapable or is not as good. This is also ableism. Fighting ableism is about making places accessible and changing how we treat people.
  3. People with disabilities always need help: This can lead to people with disabilities feeling disrespected or underestimated. People with disabilities might need assistance sometimes. It is important to know that they have their own skills, talents, and abilities. Offering help without being asked can sometimes make them feel less independent. It’s best to ask first and respect their independence.

Why Should You Care?

Ableism affects all of us, directly or indirectly. Here’s why you should care:

  1. Empathy and Understanding: Understanding ableism helps us empathize with the experiences of people with disabilities. Empathy leads to kinder, more inclusive communities.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion: By challenging ableism, we promote diversity and inclusion. A diverse society is a rich society, benefiting everyone within it.
  3. Personal Growth: Learning about ableism can lead to personal growth. It can give us different perspectives, and make us more aware citizens.
  4. You or Someone You Know Could Be Affected: Disabilities can occur at any time to anyone. If we or someone we care about were disabled, we would want a society free from ableism.


Remember, change starts with awareness. By understanding ableism, we can be part of a more inclusive world. Together, we can create a world where everyone can thrive and be valued for who they are.

In our next post, we’ll explore the history of ableism and how community attitudes about people with disabilities have changed over time. Stay tuned!

One response to “What is Ableism & Why Does It Matter?”

  1. What precisely is your society’s purpose and how is it tied to multiple articles regarding Ableism?

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