Ableism and #ADA25

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a physically abled and neurotypical person whose life is not directly impacted by ableism. I cannot write about the experiences of people who do have disabilities and are in fact impacted by ableism and I can only amplify the words of those people.

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)

The American Disabilities Act was only signed into act 25 years ago, with its birthday being just a few days ago. The Act is legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disabilities and to make sure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities.Getting the ADA signed into legislation took decades of advocating and in March of 1990, a large scale protest took place at the foot of the Capitol building in Washington DC. That protest eventually became known as the Capital Crawl, as those protesting were people with disabilities literally crawling their way up the 83 stairs in protest.

But just because the ADA has been federal legislation for over two decades does not mean the fight against ableism and discrimination based on disabilities is over. The ADA is far from perfect and the fight for justice will have to continue. Erica McFadden wrote about how after 25 years, there is still not equality for people with disabilities, especially in jobs. Hannah Finnie also wrote about how discrimination against people with disabilities still happens, saying in particular that:

The ADA … acts as a sort of dam for discrimination against people with disabilities: it blocks much previously legal discrimination, requiring larger bathroom stalls for people with disabilities … for instance. But the dam also has a few holes in it, permitting systemic discrimination against people with disabilities to flow through. Discrimination under the guise of religion is one such hole–a gaping one.

And ableism is still something that happens on a regular basis, something that the ADA hasn’t stopped yet. Over at disabledfeminists, there’s a post from several years ago about the five things to know about ableism, including what exactly the term means. There is also a difference between ableism and disableism – both terms are defined below to highlight the differences:

Ableism – a set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

Disablism – a set of assumptions (conscious or unconscious) and practices that promote the differential or unequal treatment of people because of actual or presumed disabilities.

(source)

There are ways, of course, to avoid everyday ableism (including stopping with the inspirational porn), ways to help stop hate crime against people with disabilities, and ways to act as an ally to people with invisible disabilities. It’s also important to acknowledge that mainstream feminism helps to perpetuate ableism (in addition to other -isms…), particularly in regard to using ableist language. It is so important that every able bodied and neurotypical person works against ableism whenever possible.

There are so many things to keep in mind in this discussion as well. Remembering that language can often be problematic is crucial – for example, Lydia Brown wrote over on Black Girl Dangerous about how the term ‘pyschopath’ is both racist and ableist. Also remembering that intersectionality is always important in any discussion, like how Rory Judah Blank wrote about how capitalism, racism, and disability all work to fuck people over.

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