Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Disabled people are heavily discriminated against through the use of words, social cues, and nuances.
Deaf people did not even have rights covered by the American with Disabilities Act until the 1990s and even now it is hard to enforce or regulate. Deaf people don’t have access to resources because of ableism.
Why do people think it is acceptable to use disabilities as insults? Why doesn’t language matter to others? Jokes, euphemisms, and metaphors underly the way society treats each other. Language should matter to anyone who gives a fuck about themself or others and how they are treated.
The concept of discrimination is hard for people to understand when they haven’t been discriminated against themselves the way they discriminate against others. None of the “-isms” can be compared to another for they are different experiences, but the discrimination that allows all "-isms" is the same and that starts with words.
Please read the following articles with excerpts of ideas critical to the work of Deaf Child:
- Don’t use literary devices that present disability as inherently bad
- See especially the use of metaphors
- Ableism is a central concept in disability rights. The term was originally popularized by Thomas Hehir, a special education scholar who defined it as “‘the devaluation of disability’ that ‘results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with nondisabled kids as opposed to other disabled kids.’”
-There are many varied manifestations of ingrained ableism in contemporary society and pop culture, but I see it most often in uncritical use of language based on ableist assumptions - even by speakers or authors who are progressive and who are against ableism as a concept.
- We need to talk about words, specifically ableist words. One all-too-common practice of headline writing and casual speaking is flippantly using ableist vocabulary, which may cause some people real emotional harm. [Including the title of this article as mental health isn't clickbait!]
- The way we use such words is important, however, because it reinforces the bias, discrimination, and outright demeaning behaviors and situations routinely encountered by people with disabilities. It’s an experienced summed up in yet another “-ism” plaguing broader society: ableism.
- In fact, the problem is now so pervasive that the words are written into love song lyrics, movie scripts and deeply embedded within everyday words and phrases. The worst part? Most people don’t even realize it.
- Again, this goes back to comparing something or someone’s behavior with an actual medical condition. Stop it!
- Learning ASL would not only expand their means of communication, but also enrich their understanding about those with disabilities.