Which concrete steps can we take towards a more equitable society? We’ve already enquired about a lot of opportunities to make this world a better place in our previous posts. Still, especially ableism continues to be a major threshold on the many stepping stones to inclusion. Supported by concrete examples, we will explore how to end ableism and create an environment of acceptance and understanding: for a more inclusive world. Let’s find out about the tools we can use to #endableism!
First things first: What is ableism?
Ableism is a form of discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities. It is based on the belief that people with disabilities are inferior to individuals without disabilities. Ableism is a systemic and societal issue that manifests in various forms. This includes physical, emotional and social barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in society.
Here are some examples for ableism:
Physical barriers are obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from accessing public spaces, buildings and transportation. Examples of physical barriers include stairs without ramps, narrow doorways and the lack of accessible parking spaces.
Stereotyping is a common form of ableism. It involves making assumptions about individuals with disabilities based on their physical or mental abilities. For example, assuming that all individuals with disabilities are unable to work or to live independently.
Language and ableism
Ableist language involves using derogatory terms or slurs to describe individuals with disabilities. This includes using the words "retarded" or "crippled" to refer to someone with a disability.
Employment discrimination involves denying individuals with disabilities equal opportunities for employment and/or advancement in the workplace. Refusing to hire someone with a disability or failing to provide reasonable accommodations are examples of employment discrimination.
Excluding individuals with disabilities from social activities and events is a form of ableism. Not inviting someone with a disability to a party because of their disability or not providing accessible seating at events are examples for social exclusion.
The prevalence of ableism and its impact on marginalized groups
Ableism has a significant impact on marginalized groups - specifically individuals with disabilities, their loved ones and supporters. Exclusion from social activities and events can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is very likely to have a negative impact on self-esteem and mental health. As a result of ableism, studies have shown that people with diabilities are three times more likely to experience depression in comparison. They are also inclined to experience higher levels of anxiety.
Consequently, limited mobility and a lack of independence impact the quality of a person’s life. Individuals with disabilities are often denied equal opportunities for employment, education, healthcare and transportation. This is causing people with disabilities economic insecurity and limited access to essential services and public spaces.
Negative stereotypes and attitudes towards individuals with disabilities lead to stigma. Empirical data proves that people with disabilities may endure severe mental health issues because of how society treats them. Since people with disabilities may be perceived as vulnerable and easy targets, violence and abuse can cause severe physical and emotional harm.
As we’ve learned, ableism is an overly prevalent form of discrimination that affects people with disabilities. Yet all too often, ableism can be either overlooked or ignored. Ableism is an insidious form of prejudice that can lead to exclusion of marginalized groups from society. To create an inclusive society, it is therefore essential to put an end to ableism.
Strategies for ending ableism and promoting inclusion
One of the best strategies for addressing ableism and promoting inclusion is to create a culture of respect and understanding. This helps to make everyone feel appreciated and accepted regardless of ability level. Respectful communication, active listening and open-mindedness are essential in creating an environment that is free from ableism.
These tools can help to access a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those with disabilities and promote inclusion:
Education and awareness
One of the most effective strategies for ending ableism is education and awareness. This involves educating people about the experiences of individuals with disabilities, the barriers they face and the impact of ableism on their lives. Helpful measures are workshops, training sessions, and awareness campaigns.
Providing reasonable accommodations is another strategy for promoting inclusion. Making changes to the physical environment, policies and practices helps to ensure that individuals with disabilities can fully participate in society. Examples of such accommodations include wheelchair ramps, sign language interpreters and flexible work arrangements.
Using inclusive language that does not stereotype or stigmatize individuals with disabilities is a necessity. Person-first language (such as "person with a disability" instead of "disabled person") and avoiding derogatory terms or slurs are good examples for ending ableism.
Advocacy and activism
Advocacy and activism involve speaking out against ableism. Take a stand for policies and practices that promote inclusion and accessibility! It also involves supporting organizations and initiatives that work towards these goals.
Creating inclusive workplaces
Actively seeking out and hiring individuals with disabilities as well as providing people with disabilities with equal opportunities for advancement and creating a culture of inclusivity in the workplace is another strategy for ending ableism. A more inclusive workplace that values and includes people with disabilities can also have significant economic benefits. Tapping into the skills and talents of people with disabilities rewards us with more productive and prosperous businesses in return.
Implementing these strategies is supporting our growth towards a more inclusive and equitable society free of ableism.
Corporate social responsibility and the role of businesses in ending ableism
Businesses have a unique opportunity to make a lasting, meaningful change when it comes to ending ableism. The most successful companies actively strive to create a culture of acceptance and understanding. They do this by investing in programs that promote diversity and inclusion.
A few examples of such programs are the use of “inclusion riders” in the hiring process. This requires that of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences come together to form teams. Supporting organizations dedicated to the promotion of diversity and inclusion in their industry or community is another opportunity. Using a company’s platforms to advocate for reducing ableism and discrimination can also be a powerful resource.
Additionally, businesses can also lead the way by being good corporate citizens. Set an example that other businesses can follow! It is essential for companies to focus on creating a culture of inclusion and respect for all by taking meaningful action to promote diversity and inclusion in their workforce, supply chain and customer service.
By doing so, companies help to make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Ultimately, businesses possess the power to have a lasting impact in their communities as much as the world at large by leading the way in inclusion efforts and making a commitment to end ableism.
How can individuals contribute to ending ableism?
It is important to remember that everyone's contributions to ending ableism and promoting inclusion can make a difference. Small actions such as speaking out against ableism and promoting inclusion in everyday conversations with friends, family, co-workers and on social media can set the foundation for a more inclusive world.
Further, advocating for causes that promote inclusion and challenging systemic oppression can create lasting change. Additionally, individuals can support organizations and initiatives that promote inclusion. Another possibility to help is volunteering for organizations that serve individuals with disabilities.
Finally, developing relationships with individuals with disabilities, listening to their stories, and understanding their needs are all essential stepping stones to inclusion. One powerful way to support people with disabilities, for example, is the app BeMyEyes: it connects people needing sighted support with volunteers and companies through live video around the world.
In conclusion, we must recognize and challenge the ableism that still exists today. Shaping a world where everyone is accepted and celebrated requires us to act! With dedication and commitment to promoting inclusion, we can create a more inclusive world. Let’s all work together to break down the barriers of discrimination and promote inclusion – let’s #endableism!
Written by Dana Meichsner