If you are uncomfortable with the thought that you might have to change something as simple as what you say in order to make a huge difference for many other people, click away now.
For those of you who are reading this, thanks for staying with me. Of course we know oppressing people is wrong (at least I hope so!), but what if we're hurting other people with our language and don't even know it? What is ableist language, anyway?
- Slang or comparisons meant to be unflattering.
The second part of this bullet point refers to cringe-worthy sentences such as "he's dumber than the special-ed class" - and I really hope I don't have to explain why this is ableist.
- Sympathy for the caretaker of the individual over the individual themselves.
However...it is much, much harder to be the person with the disability. Yes, it is hard to explain boundaries to some people with intellectual disabilities, but it isn't you who's going to get in trouble if they don't understand it (at least, not once they hit the age of about ten - a little older if they're lucky). Yes, it is hard to communicate with someone who is nonverbal, but it isn't you who's going to run into problems when they find people who are not willing to compromise.
At the end of the day, it isn't you who's disabled. It isn't you who is going to have to be in that person's body and mind for the rest of their life.
- Not respecting the wishes of the individual in situations that affect their disability.
This can be much more serious than going to a movie. If your child doesn't like a therapy designed to help them, it is time to ask very careful questions. Individuals, especially kids, being physically abused at therapy is far from unheard of. If your child is complaining of not wanting to go, that is reason to suspect something bad may be going on.
- (Possibly) Not using person-first language.
However, there are individuals and even communities who prefer to state the disability first - asserting that the disability is a part of them and helps to make them who they are. Some examples of this are the majority of blind people and the Deaf.
- (Possibly) Viewing the disability as something that needs to be fixed.
So you have this disability, and you're the same person you've ever been, and now people are asking you, "Don't you ever wish you didn't have that?" or talking about ways to cure it. Of course, if you didn't have that disability, you wouldn't be you. You'd be somebody different, somebody you wouldn't understand.
"I wish we could cure Disability XYZ" is often heard as "I wish people with Disability XYZ didn't exist."
Thank you for sticking with me through the post. I've done my best to make this a clear list, but it's possible I missed something. As always, I am open to suggestions in the comments.