Blogging Against Disablism Day: What Is Disablism?

// 1 May 2010

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What is disablism?

Disablism is arranging a meeting in an inaccessible venue.

Disablism is sitting in the ‘priority’ seats on public transport and not offering those seats to a disabled person, if you are not disabled yourself.

Disablism is when a doctor ignores physical health problems because you have mental health problems.

Disablism is parking in a disability car parking space when you are not disabled (even if it is *just for a minute*).

Disablism is using words like retard, psycho, spastic, handicapped and lame.

Disablism is thinking that making buildings accessible is ‘bending over backwards’ and political correctness gone mad.

Disablism is presuming that disabled people are less than you.

Disablism is not hiring a disabled person because of assumptions you have about their abilities or needs.

Disablism is staring at someone because they look different.

Disablism is making assumptions about what someone can and cannot do.

Disablism is making offensive jokes about a group of people on the basis of their impairment.

Disablism is presuming that disabled people’s lives must be awful.

Disablism is casting a non-disabled person to play a disabled person in a play or TV show.

Disablism is disability hate crime.

Disablism is refusing to prescribe contraception to a learning disabled person because they can’t possibly want to have sex.

Disablism is not acknowledging that many disabled people experience discrimination on multiple levels.

Disablism is frequently institutionalised.

Disablism is assumptions.

Disablism is not asking whether your event needs a sign language interpreter.

Disablism is going ahead and doing what you think might help, rather than asking someone what would help.

Disablism is refusing to prosecute men who rape mentally ill or learning disabled women, because the women are ‘unreliable witnesses’.

Disablism is thinking that you don’t need to consider access needs, because disabled people don’t come to your events (and not wondering why they don’t).

Disablism is assuming that someone you haven’t met (or even that you have) is not disabled.

Disablism is presuming that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are dangerous and violent.

Disablism is thinking it is less tragic when a disabled person kills themselves than it is when a non-disabled person does.

Disablism is presumptions about ‘quality of life’.

Disablism is behind all these news stories.

Disablism is sacking somebody when they become ill or disabled.

Disablism is not in the dictionary.

Disablism is telling us we are being punished for something we did in a past life.

Disablism is thinking that if someone doesn’t look disabled, then they are not.

Disablism is ignoring somebody because you don’t understand.

Disablism is thinking that disabled people ‘have it too easy these days’ and are therefore being overly demanding if they want to be able to get into a building.

(cross-posted at incurable hippie blog)

Comments From You

MsChin // Posted 1 May 2010 at 10:20 pm

And disablism denies disabled people’s fundamental human rights.

saranga // Posted 2 May 2010 at 11:03 am

great post.

Emmariot // Posted 2 May 2010 at 5:26 pm

That fact that sick rape fantasy’s among men regarding disabled woman is so common shows how sub-human woman are seen in patriarchal society.

maggie // Posted 2 May 2010 at 8:20 pm

Disablism will continue to florish unless inclusion in mainstream schools becomes the general rule.

Ole Ferme l'Oeil // Posted 2 May 2010 at 10:57 pm

And as far as I Know it seems that there is no french word for “disablism”… not easy to talk to people of something you don’t have words for!

Posie Rider // Posted 2 May 2010 at 10:57 pm

You have a great poetic gift! Channel your talents sister- use your talents for good, like you have here!

seahorse // Posted 3 May 2010 at 12:55 am

Direct and succinct. Liked it.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 3 May 2010 at 8:39 am

Thank you, Posie!

Alex T // Posted 3 May 2010 at 11:45 am


Agreed. But it must be done properly, with appropriate funding, resources and support for all the schools, teachers and pupils concerned. To simply dump children with learning difficulties into a mainstream classroom and expect everyone to get on with it is unrealistic as it means neither the pupil with difficulties nor the rest of the children get the attention they need and the teacher is left with an unmanageable workload and a feeling of failure (I speak from experience – I’m a classroom teacher and my sister, who has severe, profound and multiple learning disabilites, attended both special and mainstream schools).

Laura // Posted 3 May 2010 at 1:17 pm

Thanks for the post it’s very powerful. My mum has MS and does a lot of disability activism however, I’m trying to teach her the potential of the internet for those who may find it difficult to march the streets or attend inaccessable meetings. Does anyone have any links for sites that will inspire her?


Heather // Posted 4 May 2010 at 3:19 am

Disablism is when a doctor ignores physical health problems because you have mental health problems.

Now that rang a bell with me – I have had diabetes over 20 years and doctors are incapable of seeing anything but the diabetes, even when I’m seeing them for something which cannot possibly be diabetes-related (such as falling and hurting myself). Now I don’t class myself as being disabled even though under the DDA I am – but it got me thinking how many other patients have to deal with these attitudes.

Low Visionary // Posted 5 May 2010 at 3:27 am

Great post & very telling. I could add a few more, e.g. Disableism is assuming a disabled life is of lesser value so when a disabled person is murdered the murderer gets a lesser sentence than if they murdered a non-disabled person

NTE // Posted 7 May 2010 at 3:07 am

Excellent post – there’s so much good information here.

Andrea S. // Posted 9 May 2010 at 8:46 pm

In some cultures around the world, men buy into the myth that having sex with a virgin can cure you of AIDS. This can lead some men with AIDS in these communities to rape women who they assume or perceive to be virgins in order to “cure” themselves of AIDS. The assumption often is that women and girls with disabilities must surely be virgins (because who else would want to have sex with them?). Thus, in these cultures, women and girls with disabilities are at particularly high risk of being raped or sexually assaulted, both in general and also specifically by men with AIDS.

More info in this study about HIV/AIDS issues among people with disabilities globally:

Fed up with Disablism // Posted 12 May 2010 at 11:00 am

I just experienced disablism today. Again. My employers made “reasonable adjustments” taking into account my disability. These included starting work 30 minutes later. Then they changed the times of the staff meeting to before I’m due in to work. Knowing that I will arrive after the meeting has started they don’t save a place for me at the table. I have to sit behind my colleagues. I don’t feel a part of the conversation and feel even more humiliated. What’s worse is that the meeting included discussion on how the company was complying with equality impact assessment on its policies and procedures.

I don’t know how to sum that up in a snappy sentence like you’ve done. I guess for me it’s something like Finding disabled people and their needs an inconvenience.

I’m sure other people have similar experiences at work; the subtle institutionalised disablism that works to make you feel crappy(er).

BeccaBootWS9 // Posted 1 May 2011 at 7:40 pm

Hi, I’m not able to take part in BADD by writing a blog this year but I’m planning on posting a list of the blogs on my tumblr and I was wondering if I could include yours.

Please let me know if this is okay.


Philippa Willitts // Posted 1 May 2011 at 7:42 pm

Sure, that’s fine!

Saranga // Posted 2 May 2011 at 1:20 pm

I missed Blogging Against Disablism Day again. Arg. So I am going to crosspost (and link back) to this, if that’s ok.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 2 May 2011 at 4:55 pm

Sure, link away!

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