Let’s take a minute to discuss the way we discuss ‘issues.’ Lately, there have been a number of articles about the experiences of disabled students at Georgia Southern. With all of the great discussion I saw taking place, I never once saw the word ‘ableism.’
This is a word which is not as well known as ‘sexism’ or ‘racism,’ but it is every bit as real. It describes the prejudice against people with disabilities. The phrase “But you don’t look disabled!” is just as bad as “But you don’t act black!” (Which is offensive, if you weren’t aware.) The word ableism is important, especially when discussing the lives of disabled students on campus. When we discuss ‘disabilities on campus,’ that is ‘their’ problem. When we discuss ‘ableism,’ it is our problem. It becomes more of a discussion on what can be done by able students to assist their disabled counterparts.
While many people do not know about this word, is important to use in order to give people the language to best describe their situation. We are infinitely capable of learning new words and better methods of communication. Ableism becomes something that is much more tangible and something we can do something about. What have I done to make this classroom a better place for other students? What have I done to make other students feel uncomfortable in this classroom? Take a moment to think about it and take ownership of how our actions are affecting others.