Ableism is the act of discriminating against people living with a disability, in favour of those who are not. And it really doesn’t get a lot of press, when it should. There are lots of ableist microaggressions all around us, from things that people say to actions that you might not even think about that way. It can make life more difficult and social situations less welcoming for people with disabilities, which we think should stop sooner rather than later. That’s why we have a list of a few everyday ableist things you might be guilty of doing
Using the disabled toilet
Just because there is a big queue for the bathroom at school, in your workplace or when you are out with friends, that doesn’t mean that you get to skip it and use the accessible toilet. You could be keeping someone waiting who needs to use the adapted bathroom, and if that means that you have to wait a little longer, that’s what needs to be done.
Using the disabled access when you don’t have to
If there are stairs available, why are you using the lift? A lot of people who use wheelchairs or need to walk with an aid find themselves waiting around for a second or even third chance to get into the lift because lots of people decide to use them when they might not necessarily need to.
Don’t jump to conclusions about people using the lifts though, invisible illnesses and chronic conditions are real. But if you know that you and those you are with are able to use the stairs, then do that – you never know what a difference that could make to someone else’s day.
Or being indifferent when a venue doesn’t have any access at all
Ultimately, this is what being an ally is all about. Think about your favourite restaurant, bar or music venue. What about where you watch live sports or your favourite shop? How many of them are accessible to someone in a wheelchair or are easy to navigate if you are visually impaired or need to walk with assistance? There’s a huge amount of businesses around the world that still are not accessible, but could be. You can have a real impact on someone’s daily life if you ask these businesses why they don’t have these accessibility protocols, and find out what you can do to help them adapt.
Talking down to someone with a disability
Just because someone has a disability does not mean that you can talk to them like a child. Ever. That’s kind of it on that one.
Or not believing they even have one at all
Invisible illnesses are a thing, and so if someone tells you that they are living with a disability but they don’t look like that, you should still believe them. This is a really common microaggression that people with all kinds of invisible illnesses experience all the time, and the most supportive thing you can do here is listen, and believe their experiences.
Making assumptions about their disability
Assuming why someone has a disability, or indeed assuming that they wish they didn’t have one at all is really offensive. In fact, a lot of people who use wheelchairs see them as their freedom, and not something that is restricting them. Asking things like “don’t you wish you were normal” is a pretty ridiculous and rude thing to say.
Being an ally can be confusing, but really important. The most important things to remember about being a great ally to a marginalized person is to listen to and believe their lived experiences, use your position of privilege to campaign for equality and always amplify their voices; don’t talk over them.
Find out more about allyship with some of these great articles here.