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Ableism and Stereotyping

Ableism Ableism means prioritising the needs of non-disabled people. Prejudice and discrimination are aimed at disabled people, often with a patronising desire to “cure” their disability and make them “normal”. In an ableist society, it's assumed that the “normal” way to live is as a non-disabled person. It is ableist to believe that non-disabled people are more valuable to society than disabled people.

Ableism can include, but is not limited to:

  • Using ableist language/slurs

  • Believing people with disabilities have less value and worth

  • Assuming they want to be “healed” or can “overcome” a disability

  • Suggesting they’re “inspirational” for handling everyday activities and routine tasks

  • Assuming they lead an unhappy, limited life and/or can't do things for themselves

I've faced Ableism many times...

I've been told my physical condition is all in my head (while she patted me on the head). This was in high school, I was 15, and I didn't know what my disability was, I had just moved to the country and started a new school only months before. The worst part of this was the woman who did this to me was my support worker in school. She was a 50-something-year-old woman who was being paid to help me, instead, she made me feel like I was faking my physical condition, that I was lazy, she made me hate myself at 15 because I didn’t have the confidence to walk again.

Also, in this school, I went to, a girl who had cancer was told that she won’t get anywhere in life because she failed all of her classes because she was in the hospital for most of school. Now she’s a fantastic guitar player, singer, and songwriter, proving that school is very wrong!

A group of girls said that it's selfish and unfair for me to date someone 'normal', aka not disabled. I wasn’t really into boy talk and stuff in high school, I had a boyfriend that I had been with for 2 years at the time, he was not in a wheelchair. When these girls found out about me dating they got a little defensive as they were not in relationships and were jealous that the disabled kid was. They decided, as a group, to talk to me and explain how I shouldn’t be dating people ‘not like me’ as it wasn’t fair on them.

On a few occasions, people have said I'd be unfit to be a mother because I'm in a wheelchair. Usually, people who are mothers themselves, just having a small chat they’d drop that in. I already know I won’t be a perfect mother but if it came to be I’d do my very best. It’s none of those people's business about my abilities of being a parent, they don’t know my situation. But to tell a teenager who couldn’t wait to start their life that they’d be unfit to be a parent because of their disability is a sick thing to do.

These are only a few of so many comments that have been made about my disability, but these are the ones that stick out most to me, these aren't things you'd say to anyone if they were not disabled.

In other cases, people have said things that have offended me but they didn't mean any harm, they just weren't educated, which is the issue, people should be educated on at an earlier age. Most of my experience with Ableism was when I was a teenager.


A stereotype is a generalised belief about a particular category of people. They are characteristics that society instinctively attributes to groups of people to classify them according to age, weight, occupation, skin colour, gender, etc.

Disabled stereotypes can include, but are not limited to:

  • All wheelchair users are paralysed

  • A blind person cannot be independent

  • An amputee cannot drive

  • Disabled people are incapable of working

  • A disabled person can’t have children

  • People can’t date because of their disability

Gen Hubbard, a content creator, wheelchair user, wife, and mum has some great videos on the topic, here’s her video on how these stereotypes need to stop. I suggest Gen for education from being in a wheelchair to learning about disabilities. She is a fantastic voice for the disabled community while keeping her content educational, fun, and entertaining.

Disabled stereotypes are formed due to poor education on the topics. Thinking that if you use the word disabled you are completely unable to communicate or work. Stereotypes related to disabilities usually include physical, mental health, and educational difficulties in one, therefore people believe if you suffer from one then you have all three. In some cases that statement is true, but in many it’s not. No disabilities are the same and people's bodies handle these conditions differently. There are disabilities that leave some people living lives without knowing they have and some end up physically disabled, despite having the same disability.

For many communities stereotyping is hard and scary. We feel we can’t live our lives normally without being judged or discriminated against. I am someone who is very social and loves going out with friends. I'm not a stereotype of a person in a wheelchair or someone with autism, I am more than that. As I’ve said before, everyone is different, we handle our disabilities differently, you can’t group us all together and think we’re the same or that we’d even get along.

At the end of the day, we are just people trying to get by in life like everyone else. No one should have to go through life feeling the world doesn’t care about them. Please take the time to educate yourself and others to make the disabled people around you feel heard, supported, and loved.

More links to helpful and educational articles:

Every Tuesday for the rest of the month you'll find a Disability Pride Month post here! Come back next Tuesday to learn more about a disabled topic.

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