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Disability Justice

Library Display, October 2021

WEEK 1: What is ableism?

Week 1. This week's email is about Ableism: how to define it, how to combat it, and resources to further understand its impact.

What is Ableism?

The following definitions were compiled by the University of Arizona:


  • Ableism: discrimination and oppression of disabled people; societal belief that being abled is “normal” and is preferred.  
  • Ableism: A system of oppression that favors being able-bodied/able minded at any cost, frequently at the expense of people with disabilities. (via Stacey Milbern “Ableism is the Bane of My M***********’ Existence” 
  • Internalized Ableism: beliefs that being able-bodied/able-minded is preferable, either weaponized toward yourself or toward other disabled people; modifying, shaming, or policing your own behaviors and actions to appear more “abled”.  
  • Ableism: “A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence and excellence. These constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence and excellence are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, and capitalism. This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable or worthy based on people's appearance and/or their ability to satisfactorily produce, excel & “behave.” Importantly, you do not have to be disabled to experience ableism.” -a working definition by Talila "TL" Lewis (our Disability Awareness Month speaker!) 


Ways to combat ableism in the classroom: 

  • Don’t make assumptions about competency or lack thereof based on disability 
  • Build accessibility into the course and consider access when choosing materials and content 
  • Work with Disability Access Services and students to ensure accommodations are being provided  
  • Utilize principles of Universal Design Learning to accommodate various styles of learning, processing, and thinking 
  • Be cognizant of language and word choice, avoid phrases that invoke disability or mental illness as a negative euphemism   
  • Avoid using "inspiration porn"
  • Be mindful of the accessibility of the physical layout of the classroom set up and group activities


Ways to combat ableism in the office:

  • Design for accessibility and inclusion always, you won't always know if someone in your office has a disability
  • Become educated about accessibility, such as by taking SBCTC's Accessibility Micro Courses
  • Don't make assumptions about ability or disability
  • Make use of captioning in Zoom and video materials produced
  • Consider disability when creating communication for students and meeting with them (offer multiple methods of engagement to provide an inclusive experience)



Further resources: