Ableism, Defined

From Wikipedia: “Ableism /ˈeɪblɪzəm/ (also known as ablism, disablism (Brit. English), anapirophobia, anapirism, and disability discrimination) is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled.”

Ableism is something that happens in the autism community regularly. It is essentially discrimination against people with physical or mental challenges. Not just autistic people deal with it. All neurodivergent people do. So do people in wheelchairs, disabled veterans, the deaf, the nonverbal, moms with PTSD, amputees and more.

A few years back, in the Stone Age, before I was aware of my autism, I worked at a grocery store. There was a kid working there who was likely neurodivergent. One day I was very talkative with him and he tells me of this awesome art piece he did of Superman made completely of letters. This was before cell phones and cameras in everyone’s pocket. I realized that he was a pretty cool kid. And everyone made fun of him. And I even got mocked for being friendly with him. I am sure none of these people work there anymore, this was two decades ago.

My sister is on the nonverbal scale. She doesn’t communicate like you and me but that doesn’t mean she’s stupid. I don’t even want to tell you about the ableism she experienced in high school. I actually crossed the graduation stage right after her. It’s in the Fort Worth Star Telegram somewhere. My older sister, her older sister, had to hear girls mocking her constantly. And she kicked their asses. Got her into a bit of trouble.

It’s one of the reasons I homeschool my son. I have heard of autistic children being tied down during meltdowns or being fed bleach to try and “cure” them. Our world is becoming more accepting of people with disabilities but this sadly, like racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and other prejudices, still exists.

I myself have even experienced it. When I was working on a senior play in high school, I was mocked for not looking people in the eyes while talking to them. I have had some jobs where I was denied a promotion because I was considered untrustworthy for lacking eye contact. I even had a job where, when asking for paid time off, after I left the room, My coworkers were told by my boss “that fucking nerd is probably going to a Star Wars convention.” (I wasn’t – it was my son’s birthday). And my son got called the R word in a public place. A tire shop. You did not want to be on the receiving end of my wife at the time. (And it was a customer, the shop was very apologetic and respectful.)

Does your job have an Employee Resource Group (ERG)? Many companies now provide these as resources to employees and if you don’t, roll it up to the right person to start one. It is in the best interest of most companies to accept the opinions of all different types of people. And it is in the best interest of people everywhere for places to accept all people, regardless of faculty.


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