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Ableism // (also known as ablism, disablism, disability discrimination, and handicapism) is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities, and as inferior to the non-disabled. At the same time on this basis, people are assigned or denied certain perceived abilities, skills, and/or character traits. Discrimination faced by those who have or are perceived to have a mental disorder is sometimes called mentalism rather than ableism.
There are stereotypes associated with various disabilities. The stereotypes in turn serve as a reason for handicapism practices and have an influence on the attitudes and behavior towards the people of the respective group. Also the labeling has effects on the person in each category. Their options for action are limited, and the person's identity changed.
In ableist societies, able-bodiedness is viewed as the norm; people with disabilities are viewed as deviating from that norm. A disability is seen as something to overcome or to fix, for example through medical treatments. The ableist worldview holds that disability is an error or a failing rather than a simple consequence of human diversity, akin to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. Examples of ableism can be seen in society. People with disabilities being spoken for and spoken about, as if they were not present: a lack of autonomy. An example may be ordering at a restaurant, the waiter speaking to an aid or a companion instead of to the person directly.
Other definitions of ableism include those of Chouinard, who defines it as "ideas, practices, institutions, and social relations that presume able-bodiedness, and by so doing, construct persons with disabilities as marginalized […] and largely invisible 'others;'" and Amundson and Taira, who define it as "a doctrine that falsely treats impairments as inherently and naturally horrible and blames the impairments themselves for the problems experienced by the people who have them."
Within communities of people with disabilities, there is disagreement about whether referring to themselves as "disabled" counts as internalized ableism. These groups may prefer the terms "non-neurotypical" or "neurodivergent" for mental divergences, or "non-common-bodied" for physical divergences. For those who do call themselves disabled, most prefer being referred to as disabled people, rather than people with disabilities, because the latter uses person-first language that separates the person from their disability, rather than identity-first language. In effect, it denies that their disability is a part of who they are and thereby denies the ableism itself.
Harpur argues that the term ableism is a powerful label that has the capacity to ameliorate the use of negative stereotypes and facilitate cultural change by focusing attention on the discriminator rather than on the victim or impairment. An individual that expresses hostility towards disabled people is called an able-bodyist; one who focuses on able-bodied people to the exclusion of disabled people may rarely be called an ablecentrist.
Slang words to describe people with disabilities or people suffering from ableism include cripple, daft, feeble-minded, idiotic, madman, and retarded.
In the UK, disability discrimination became unlawful as a result of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and, later, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. These were later repealed but the substantive law is replicated in the Equality Act 2010. Under the Equality Act 2010 there are several types of discrimination that are prohibited. These are direct discrimination (s.13(1) Equality Act 2010), indirect discrimination (s.6 and s.19 Equality Act 2010, harassment (s.26 Equality Act 2010), victimisation (s.27(2) Equality Act 2010), discrimination arising from disability (s.15(1) Equality Act 2010) and failure to make reasonable adjustments (s.20 Equality Act 2010).
The legal definition of disability is:
"A person (P) has a disability if P has a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities". (Section 6(1), Equality Act 2010)
Some conditions (such as blindness, AIDS and cancer) are expressly included; others (such as drug and alcohol addictions) are expressly excluded.
Until the 1970s, ableism in the United States was often codified into law. For example, in many jurisdictions, so-called "ugly laws" barred people from appearing in public if they had diseases or disfigurements that were considered unsightly.
Section 504 and other sections of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) enacted into law certain civil penalties for failing to make public places comply with access codes known as the ADA Access Guidelines (ADAAG); this law also helped expand the use of certain adaptive devices, such as TTYs (phone systems for the hearing/speech impaired), some computer-related hardware and software, wheelchair ramps or lifts on public transportation and curb-cuts at intersections which allow wheelchairs and their users to safely move between sidewalks and crosswalks. In addition these laws prohibit direct discrimination against disabled people in government programs, employment, public transit and public accommodations like stores and restaurants.
The building modification provisions of these directives apply to three general categories of buildings: existing government administration buildings and structures regardless of age; all newly constructed buildings and structures intended for use as public accommodations like stores and restaurants; significantly renovated and/or refurbished buildings and structures and any public accommodation where the cost of modification is slight when compared with the income it generates. The US government also offered significant tax incentives to businesses to make these modifications.
The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of disability and requires that newly constructed multi-family housing meet certain access guidelines while requiring landlords to allow disabled persons to modify existing dwellings for accessibility.
The Telecommunications Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Air Carriers Access Act, Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act and others have codified the notion that persons with disabilities have some of the same rights and privileges as other citizens.
In addition to the federal protections provided by the ADA, California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides additional protections to California employees. Notably, FEHA applies to employers with 5 or more employees and offers more extensive protection than the ADA.
In 2014, a large correspondence experiment to measure disability discrimination was conducted in Belgium by professor Stijn Baert of Ghent University. Two applications of graduates, identical except that one revealed a disability (blindness, deafness or autism), were both sent out to 768 vacancies for which the disabled candidates could be expected to be as productive as their non-disabled counterparts, based on the vacancy information. In addition, the researcher randomly disclosed the entitlement to a substantial wage subsidy in the applications of the disabled candidates. Disabled candidates had a 48% lower chance to receive a positive reaction from the employer side compared with the non-disabled candidates. Potentially due to the fear of the red tape, disclosing a wage subsidy did not affect the employment opportunities of disabled candidates.
- Barriers, such as poor access to transport and buildings for people with disabilities
- People with disabilities are excluded from cultural and social norms that afford pleasure (sex, sex education, sexual health, marriage).
- Mass media: Ugliness and beauty are not only defined arbitrarily but also also serve as evidence of good and evil. Ugliness is equated with violence and fear, a popular subject of horror films. Also, characters like Captain Hook promote the fears of children against disability among adults. Disabled people are depicted as helpless objects of charity and compassion, and disability is presented as a cost factor to raise funds, with resulting benefits referred to as a privilege.
- Charity claims to want to eliminate disability, traditionally used degrading images (in the 17th and 18th century, for a fee, citizens were even able to visit prisons, Workhouses or lunatic asylums, to gape at the "raging lunatic" which there were chained in cages.)
- Autism rights movement
- Compulsory sterilization
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Custom employment
- Disability abuse
- Disability etiquette
- Disability hate crime
- Disability rights
- Disability rights movement
- Inclusion (disability rights)
- List of disability rights activists
- Phillip Davies
- Psychiatric survivors movement
- Social criticism
- Social Darwinism
- Social deprivation
- United Kingdom employment equality law
- Universal design
- Oxford University Press, "Oxford Dictionaries Online: 'ableism'", Oxford Dictionaries Online, Retrieved 12 March 201h.
- Linton, Simi (1998). Claiming Disability Knowledge and Identity. New York: New York University Press. p. 9.
- Wüllenweber, Ernst; Theunissen, Georg; Mühl, Heinz (2006). Pädagogik bei geistigen Behinderungen: ein Handbuch für Studium und Praxis (Education for intellectual disabilities: A manual for study and practice) (in German). W. Kohlhammer Verlag. p. 149. ISBN 3-17-018437-7. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
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- Campbell 2009, p. 5.
- Chouinard 1997, p. 380.
- Amundson & Taira 2005, p. 54.
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network. "Identity-First Language". autisticadvocacy.org.
- Harpur, Paul (2009). "Sexism and Racism, Why not Ableism? Calling for a Cultural Shift in the Approach to Disability Discrimination". Alternative Law Journal. Melbourne: Legal Service Bulletin Co-operative Ltd. 34 (3): 163–167.
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- In Other Words: Writing As a Feminist - Page 50, Sigrid Nielsen - 2012
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- Baert, S. (2016) Wage Subsidies and Hiring Chances for the Disabled: Some Causal Evidence. European Journal of Health Economics, 17, 71-86.
- Linton, Simi (1998). Claiming Disability Knowledge and Identity. New York: New York University Press. p. 111.
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- Campbell, Fiona A. Kumari (2009). Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-57928-6.
- Chouinard, Vera (1997). "Making Space for Disabling Difference: Challenges Ableist Geographies". Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 15: 379–387.
- Griffin, Pat; Peters, Madelaine L.; Smith, Robin M. (2007). "Ableism Curriculum Design". In Adams, Maurianne; Bell, Lee Anne; Griffin, Pat. Teaching for diversity and social justice. 1 (2nd ed.). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-95199-9.
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- Alliance for Technology Access
- Center for Disability Law and Policy
- Ragged Edge Online
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- Nonprofit Research Collection on Disability & Employment Published on IssueLab
- Disability Discrimination Information and News
- Guide to UK disability discrimination law
- Disability Discrimination in the UK
- Handicapism - Disabling Images or Images Disabling? By Justice Jitendra N. Bhatt† in: The Practical Lawyer