Sunday, January 25, 2015

What ableism means to me

to me ableism is a socially constructed idea that there is a certain level of desirable ability possessed by every worthy member of contemporary society. These relative abilities can be manifested in a plethora of different ways whether they be physical, cognitive, emotional, social, or psychological. Those people who fall out of the "normal" range are often considered to  exist on the fringes of society, and generally not "fit" enough to make valuable contributions to, or control the world around them. This socially constructed idea is held in place by a system of ignorance, discrimination, oppression, and  pity towards  people  who demonstrate traits of being "unfit" when compared with society's standards of what is considered "normal".  These traits are therefore known collectively as disabilities which directly  implies they are somehow less than able.

 as a system, ableism is so ingrained into the human condition that most people who are not experienced with, or otherwise oriented to notice it in action are unaware of its pervasive existence in society. As the old saying goes "ignorance is bliss". In this sense I do not mean that most people are even aware of when they are demonstrating ablest tendencies, the word for  willful ignorance is  an ignoramus  in the english language. There are many words in our language that people use in their everyday lives without thinking about its effect on others. This  does not mean that everyone who use those words  intend to offend those who take offense. The same can be said for people whose actions or decisions  offend or negatively affect those  who are harmed by such demonstrations. It is of my own  humble opinion that most reasonable people who are made aware of how they affect those around them tend to at least attempt to amend their behavior. After all, the only effective way to change people's mindsets is through education and example.

The real problem then is those who know better, and willfully disregard how their language and actions affect people disabilities and their allies around them. Unfortunately, because   freedom of speech is held in such high regard in this country, this problem will never completely disappear until it becomes taboo in our society. However, is my belief that through the enforcement of anti discrimination laws along with the increased inclusion of people with disabilities within everyone's daily lives can change people's mindsets, if not at least their public actions.

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