The Critique of
Ableism
Question
• What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you
think of a person with a disability?
Myths about People
With Disabilities
• They are not intelligent and/or not able to reason
• They can not contribute productively to society
• They are asexual--they can not or should not
reproduce
• They are not desirable and/or do not desire
Refuting the
Disability/Ability Binary
Being disabled is a fact of human life
• Infancy, young adulthood, old age
• People often experience “disability” while functioning in
society.
• Examples?
Compulsory Ableness
• Maintenance of a non-disabled identity is considered
normative (ideal).
• Equality is achieved by trying to make the case that all
human are ultimately the “same.”
• Denies any value in human diversity.
• Disability remains a pathology (negative)
The Ideology of
Ableism
• The ideology (set of beliefs) that the able body is the
ideal body.
• The able body is the only body that is able to produce
value in society.
• Disability is something that has to be:
•
•
•
•
Transformed
Hidden
Contained
Managed
Internalized Ableism
• Is it possible to embrace disability as an intrinsic level
of one’s being-ness?
• What are the inherent social costs of ableism?
• How are the similar/un-similiar to heterosexism,
racism, homophobia?
• What happens if we can envisioned the world through
the lens of disablement?
Does impairment
cause harm?
• Or do the actions, beliefs, and practices of ablelism
cause harm?
• Messages that a disability is negative or less than
• Inability to recognize the whole person, not just the
disability
• Ableism is “business as usual,” disability is something
that has to be tolerated or accommodated.
• History is recounted through the lens of ablebodied,
heterosexuality
• Being socialized into disavowing disability—internalized
shame and self-loathing
History of Disability
• A set of assumptions and practices that promote
differential or unequal treatment of people because of
actual or presumed disability.
• The disabled person emerges as the “other”
• Disability emerges a “problem” that society must
attend to by:
• Assimilation
• Accommodation
• Safety Net
History of disability
in the U.S.
• Disability has been used to justify discrimination, as well as
mark people as inferior, monstrous, or subhuman (Baynton
2001).
• Disability has been tied up with racist discourses, including
eugenics and slavery.
• Down’s syndrome used to be called, “Mongolism” because
doctor’s believed that Caucasions were reverting back to
“Mongolian” racial types.
• Dr. Samuel Cartwright identified the disease of “Drapetonia”
to describe the conditions that made slaves run away.
• Citizenship: Only “able-bodied” immigrants were permitted to
enter the U.S. People considered “defective,” “frail,” “dwarf,”
“lack of physical development” were not considered fit for
citizenship—used to stigmatize dark skinned Europeans
DISABLITY IN A GLOBAL
CONTEXT
• Difference is transformed into a disability by inaccessible
environments, discrimination, and deprivation of equal
rights (Wilson 2011).
• Disability can be thought of as the limitations imposed
on people by the attitudes of others and the barriers
constructed by society (Wilson 2011).
Disability as socially
constructed
• Between 7 to 10 percent of the world’s population
(about 650 million)
• Disability increases as a result of poverty
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•
•
•
HIV/AIDS
Poor prenatal care, poor maternal health (Fistula)
Unsanitary living conditions (Tuberculosis)
Lack of access to safe and accessible drinking water
(Scoliosis)
• Environmental toxins, poisons and pesticides (Cancer,
learning disabilities)
Disability and War
• Landmines
• Bombings
• Amputations of political opponents in ethnic and religious
conflicts
• Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from war, forced migration,
and dislocations man-made or “unnatural” disasters.
• PTSD from torture, unlawful detainment, and
stigmatization/demonization of racial-ethnic and/or
religious groups
Disability as gendered: “Deadly
and Deadening” (Wilson 2011)
• According to the World Health Organization:
• 80% of girls with disabilities are born into poverty
• Excluded from civic events and community gatherings
• Less likely to be married,
• Higher risk for physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Crip theory
• Able-bodiedness and heterosexuality masquerade as an
“non-identity,” or “the natural order of things”
(McRuer 2006).
• Both reify structures and ideologies of race, gender,
and gender oppression.
• Compulsory able-bodiedness produces “disability,” the
same way that compulsory heterosexuality produces
“queerness.”
Is possible to imagine
disability outside of the
context of tragedy or
catastrophe?